Menu Close

Tag: Attorney David Gibbs

The IFB River Called Denial

jack schaap 2

Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.

In 2012, Jack Schaap, pastor of Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) megachurch First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, was fired over a sexual relationship he had with a sixteen-year-old girl. The teen was in the church’s Christian school and Schaap was “counseling” her. Schaap was later arrested and convicted, and is now serving a 12-year sentence in a federal penitentiary. (You can read the texts, letters, and cards Schaap sent to this girl here.)

Several decades ago, Jack Schaap’s father-in-law, Jack Hyles, was accused of having an affair with his secretary. The evidence for his affair was overwhelming, but the church rejected the evidence and Hyles remained the church’s pastor until his death.

Sexual and financial scandals are quite common in the IFB church movement. Pastors have sexual affairs, molest children, surf porn sites, cavort with prostitutes, lie, cheat, and steal. They are, in every way, just like the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines they condemn in their sermons. Deacons, Sunday school teachers, church bus workers, Christian school workers, and every-day church members are just like unsaved worldlings too. If the curtain was ever pulled back, it would expose for all to see that IFB pastors, leaders, and members are no different from atheists, Catholics, Episcopalians, Mormons, Methodists, or Southern Baptists. (Please see the Black Collar Crime Series.)

IFB Christian are human beings, capable of doing good or bad things. They are capable of being good, decent, kind, loving people, and they are also capable of being evil, unkind, indecent, and unloving. Much like all of us, they have the power to choose what kind of person they want to be. No matter what their theology tells them about the depraved, sinful condition of the natural, unregenerate, unsaved human heart, they KNOW they have the power to be whatever kind of person they want to be. They KNOW that there are countless atheists, deists, non-IFB Christians, and Catholics who are good, decent, kind, loving people, all without believing the King James Version of the Bible is the Word of God or believing in the IFB God at all.

Every IFB church and pastor has its own list of things they consider sins. Besides the “big” sins such as adultery, fornication, and homosexuality, IFB churches have rules (standards) about things that many non-IFB Christians might not consider a sin. Things such as:

  • Watching TV
  • Listening to secular music or Contemporary Christian music
  • Going to the movies
  • Gambling, playing cards
  • Men and women swimming (mixed bathing) together
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Cursing or using bywords
  • Women wearing pants or shorts
  • Women wearing anything that reveals their “shape
  • Long hair on men, short hair on women

Over the years, I heard IFB pastors, including myself, say the following things were sins:

  • Wearing wire-rim glasses
  • Having a beard
  • Having a mustache
  • Wearing any clothing with “worldly” advertising
  • Going to stock car races
  • Sending your children to a public school
  • Using any Bible except the 1611 King James Bible
  • Not having a Sunday evening or midweek service
  • Not having an altar call
  • Using recorded (canned) music for church specials
  • Marrying a non-IFB Christian
  • Going to a non-IFB college
  • Having non-IFB friends
  • Working on Sunday
  • Letting your children play sports on prayer meeting night or Sunday
  • Not giving at least 10% of your money to the church, along with extra offerings for revivals and missions
  • Eating in restaurants that serve alcohol
  • Allowing women to pray while men are present or teach anyone other than women or children

The IFB church movement prides itself on being “better” than other Christian sects and the “world.” Their literalist belief system and their list of sinful behaviors are the standard every IFB church member is expected to live by. For all their talk about salvation by faith and grace, their religion is all about works, as is every religion, to some degree or the other. They will tell you that a person does not have to do any works in order to be saved, but ask them if a person who refuses to live by the above standards is a Christian and they will likely say, I doubt it.

In the IFB world, “true” Christianity is determined by how well a person adheres to the church’s/pastor’s interpretation of the Bible and whatever list of “standards” they have. Some allowance is given for differences of opinion, but not much. Church members who don’t conform are labeled as worldly, carnal, weak, fleshly, or backslidden.

The stated moral and ethical standard is high — impossibly high. Remember what I said earlier about IFB pastors, leaders, and church members being just like the rest of us? Well, this poses a real problem for them. They take the high moral ground, believing they are superior to everyone else, including other Christians. They consider themselves pillars of moral virtue. But they are not, and when pastors, leaders, and church members get in trouble, as in the cases of Jack Schaap and Jack Hyles, they have a real dilemma on their hands. Their moral and ethical failures expose the bankruptcy of their claim of superiority. Their behavior shows that the IFB emperor has no clothes.

The right thing to do would be to admit their failures, confess their “sins,” and come down from Mount “I am Holier than Thou.” Of course, doing this would mean that they are just like the rest of us, and that ain’t gonna happen.

The IFB scandal starring Jack Schaap and First Baptist Church in Hammond provides for us an excellent example of HOW IFB churches handle having their “humanness” exposed.

First, they deny.  When the Schaap scandal first became public, IFB commenters on blogs, news sites, discussion forums, and social media were quick to deny that Schaap had done anything wrong. The accusations were lies, they said, and they were certain that Schaap was completely innocent.

Second, they marginalize. When they could no longer deny the reality of the Schaap scandal, they turned to letting everyone know that Schaap was a “sinner” just like everyone else, and while his “fall” was regrettable, people should not judge the IFB church movement or First Baptist Church negatively. One bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole bushel. Actually, it can and does.

Third, they attack the critics. Instead of owning the scandal, many IFB defenders decided to attack those who reported the scandal or wrote negative things about Schaap, Jack Hyles, First Baptist Church, and the IFB.

Across the blogosphere, in discussion forums, in blog comments, and emails, the defenders of the IFB attempted to ameliorate the scandal by attacking people such as me. They couldn’t dismiss my impeccable IFB credentials, so they attacked me personally or they dismissed me out of hand because I am an atheist. Why should anyone listen to what Bruce Gerencser has to say, they write. He’s a God-hater. He’s bitter, angry, and has an ax to grind. Besides, he never was a “real” Christian. They try to discredit the messenger so they won’t have to deal with his/her message. The goal is direct attention away from the facts.

Fourth, if all else fails, they attack the victim. Let’s not forget that there is a victim in the Jack Schaap scandal. Schaap’s “sin” was not a victimless one. He had sexual relations with a minor in his church.

Jack Schaap was 56 years old when he traveled across state lines to sexually liaison with a sixteen-year-old church girl. The victim was young enough to be his granddaughter. As a grown, mature man, he should have been in control of his sexuality. Surely he KNEW it was morally, ethically, and legally wrong to have sex with this girl. Schaap had the power to control the relationship he had with this girl. He was the grownup in this story; he was the “man of God”; he was a married man with children; he was the one with everything to lose.

If he had overt sexual desire — a need to get laid — he could have sought out the help of a professional sex worker.  I am sure there are plenty of adult establishments in the Chicago area that Schaap could have gone to in order to get his sexual need met. More than a few IFB pastors have availed themselves to the services of prostitutes. But Schaap chose, instead, to sexually violate a trusting church girl.

In the sleaziest of attempts to justify Jack Schaap’s behavior, his defenders attacked the girl. One commenter on this blog suggested the girl was a slut, that she seduced Schaap. She wrote:

So…what about the teenage girl? How hot was she? How hard did she pursue him? We all know young girls flaunt everything these days to get what they want. a rise from any man they can. especially one in the limelight (our a uniform!) They don’t care if he’s married our not, or if he’s her best friends dad. it’s really sad.young girls are a whoring in our churches.

I responded:

Bullshit.

It doesn’t matter how hot she was or whether or not she flaunted herself before him.

He is a grown, mature man, a few years younger than I. By now, he should have learned how to deal with temptation and keep his penis in his pants.

It is reported that he was counseling this girl. If this is true, then he abused his power and authority and, here in Ohio, could be held criminally liable.

Whatever the girl’s faults, she is not the problem in this story.

She responded:

You men and women be careful. She is closer than we think. the world is full of young sluts stealing our husbands and sons! Praying for Cindy!

And, I responded:

You mean stealing pathetic, poor Christian men who have been taught they are helpless creatures unable to withstand sexual temptation? How about teaching them to be accountable for their own sexual behavior? They have a choice, do they not? Or are they so weak that the slightest temptation turns them into sexed crazed maniacs who are unable to control their lust?

The only right answer to the Jack Schaap scandal, the Jack Hyles scandal, or any other church scandal, is IMMEDIATE, COMPLETE disclosure. Instead of trying to cover the matter up or trying to make it disappear, churches should show they take these kinds of things seriously. What First Baptist Church in Hammond needed was a Penn State moment. They needed to come to terms with fifty years of cover-ups and denials. The deacons and church membership needed to own their own culpability in the Schaap scandal. They are the ones who did nothing about Jack Hyles and his serial-adulterer son David. They are the ones who allowed an abusive, controlling, cultic environment to develop in the church. They are the ones who, like lemmings, sat and listened to Schaap’s preaching, shouting Amen. They are the ones who practiced the Jack Hyles Rule, if you didn’t see it, it didn’t happen.

Instead of having a Penn State moment, First Baptist Church called in attorney David Gibbs, the Ray Donovan-like fixer of IFB scandals. Gibbs has fixed and sanitized countless IFB sex scandals. Instead of encouraging churches to come clean, Gibbs helps them minimize fallout and loss. The goal is not restitution or helping the victims. Instead, it is all about protecting the church’s testimony.

David Gibbs’s law firm, the Christian Law Association, advertises itself this way:

The Christian Law Association exists to preserve Christian liberty for your children and grandchildren.

CLA received in excess of 100,000 phone calls annually, not counting the thousands of pieces of correspondence from those who are in some way facing legal difficulties for doing what the Bible commands. These cases involve Christians arrested for witnessing to others in public, public school students being told they do not have the right to read their Bibles at school, churches being excluded from communities, Christians being fired for sharing their faith at work, and thousands of other shocking assaults on our precious religious freedoms. CLA provides free legal services based in part on the generosity of God’s people.

Missing from this description is helping pastors and churches manage scandal and marginalize victims. Missing is their motto: Protect the Church’s Reputation at All Costs! Minimize Financial Payouts so the Church can Continue to Win Souls for Jesus.

jack and beverly hyles statute
Jack and Beverly Hyles statue

The Joe Paterno statues at Penn State have been pulled down as a public act of contrition, but the Jack Hyles statute remains, a reminder of who it was that built First Baptist Church. One can only hope that public scrutiny will force the IFB church movement to own their “sins” and that dramatic change will be made, resulting in a reduction of predatory acts against children and teenagers. One can hope, but as of today, it is business as usual in the alternate universe called the IFB church movement.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Black Collar Crime: IFB Pastor Jon Jenkins Moves to New Church After Decades of Controversy

jon jenkins

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Earlier this month, I published a Black Collar Crime story about David Beckner, a school teacher at Gaylord Grace Baptist Christian School in Gaylord, Michigan. Beckner stands accused of sexually abusing a female student. Gaylord Grace Baptist Christian School is owned and operated by Grace Baptist Church — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation. (Please see Grace Baptist College, Gaylord, Michigan: Rules and Regulations)

In May, Jon Jenkins, pastor, CEO, and head bwana of Grace Baptist, celebrated his thirty-third anniversary at the church.  And now, two months later, Jenkins has exited stage right, moving on to become the new pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Clayton, North Carolina (formerly pastored by Charles Ennis for fifty-one years).

The Gaylord Herald Times reports that Jenkins leaves behind a trail of scandals and controversies:

In a previous Herald Times story, Jenkins commented on instances of abuse or alleged abuse involving former teachers. Jenkins said he had reported two of the school’s former teachers to police for sexual abuse of students years ago.
Jenkins said he reported former teacher Aaron Willand to Michigan State Police, and later, another former teacher to the Otsego County Sheriff’s Department.

Willand was convicted in Washington state of raping a child and child molestation in 2006. The survivor, now an adult, is also seeking charges in Otsego County for abuse she said also occurred in Michigan. Willand has not been charged in Michigan.
Jenkins said he also reported former teacher David Beckner to the Otsego County Sheriff’s Department in 2011. Eight criminal sexual conduct charges have been officially filed by Otsego County courts against Beckner. The case was bound over to Otsego County’s 46th Circuit Court Thursday.

The sheriff’s department showed no records of Grace Baptist reporting either former teacher to police.
Herald Times’ Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for Michigan State Police reports filed by Grace Baptist show no police reports filed by Grace Baptist with any references to Aaron Willand or David Beckner.

Clark Martin, a former congregation member and volunteer bus driver, was convicted of criminal sexual conduct against a former Grace Baptist student in 2002 and 2003. According to Otsego County court records from that case, Martin had also molested another youth, a 12-year-old boy, in St. Clair County in 1966.

Martin also pleaded guilty in May to criminal sexual conduct charges for allegedly molesting a teen boy in 1991 and 1992.

Former Grace Baptist congregation members Jennifer Mahoney and Matthew Mahoney were convicted in 2013 on felony charges against a 15-year-old girl in Indiana, according to previous coverage by the Tribune Star (Terre Haute, Indiana) newspaper and court documents.

A former Gaylord Teen Spectacular youth conference guest speaker, Jack Schaap, was convicted in 2013 in federal court in Indiana after he transported a 16-year-old girl to his cabin in Northern Michigan for the purpose of having sex with her, according to court documents.

According to previous Herald Times coverage of the Teen Spectacular, Schaap, of Hammond, Indiana, was listed as a visiting guest speaker during the 2011 youth conference, an event that draws hundreds of teens to Gaylord.
Jenkins previously confirmed that each of the above was connected to Grace Baptist as a teacher, through the congregation or as a guest speaker.

….

One former staff member whose daughter was molested by a fellow student previously told the Herald Times she had taken issue with the way Jenkins handled the situation after the abuse occurred off campus.

Sarah Sundelius said Jenkins had not kept the teen offender away from the church and school where her 5-year-old daughter attended and where Sundelius had taught from 2016 to 2018.

Several former Grace Baptist students have also shared their stories about the former teachers who have either been convicted for criminal sexual conduct against minors or are currently facing charges for the same thing.
Several of the victims and alleged victims have also pointed to Jenkins’ role as leader of the church during the time and the requirements to report allegations to police.

While Jenkins has not been accused of sexual misconduct, his lack of leadership and refusal to require background checks for church employees and volunteers until this year certainly has contributed to the sexual misconduct that permeated Grace Baptist and its ministries under his watch. Jenkins’ critics say that he was a heavyhanded authoritarian who ruled Grace Baptist as if it was his own personal kingdom and fiefdom.  I know, I know, typical IFB behavior.

Attorney David Gibbs, long known as a “fixer” for IFB preachers and churches who find themselves facing sexual misconduct allegations, had this to say about Jenkins and his new gig at Fellowship Baptist Church:

His preaching and communication skills are outstanding. His doctrinal positions lined up with our historic Baptist faith. His spirit of compassion for church members and hurting people in the community were exemplary.”
His prior church’s policies and procedures — including the child protection policies and procedures that clearly outline zero-tolerance for child abuse of any kind and require all suspicions of child abuse to be reported to the authorities — were consistent with our church. We believe that if a child is safe anywhere, they should be safe at church.

It is scandalous that Gibbs could say with a straight face “His [Jon Jenkins] prior church’s policies and procedures — including the child protection policies and procedures that clearly outline zero-tolerance for child abuse of any kind and require all suspicions of child abuse to be reported to the authorities — were consistent with our church. We believe that if a child is safe anywhere, they should be safe at church.”

Really? I mean really, Attorney Gibbs? Have you no shame?

Such is life in the IFB church movement. Obfuscation, misdirection, and lies, praise Jesus, three people were saved last Sunday. All that matters is that the soul-saving machinery keeps on turning, regardless of who might be shredded in its gears.

Note

Support group for Gaylord Grace Baptist Church survivors and their supporters, Blind Eye Movement.

Why Parents Should NEVER Let Their Children Ride a Church Bus

jory leedy
Jory Leedy, registered sex offender, child molester, and Evangelical church bus driver

According to an April 13, 2016 WCOP-Cincinnati report, Jory Leedy, a former church bus driver for Target Ministries in Dayton, has been arrested and charged with sexually molesting two boys. Jay Warren reports:

According to a complaint filed by FBI Task Force Officer and Hamilton County Sheriff’s Detective Donald Minnich in U.S. District Court, Jory Leedy, 46, engaged in sexual contact with two boys under the age of 10 on multiple occasions between 2013 and 2015.

Minnich filed the complaint in support of an arrest warrant for Leedy.

In the complaint, the detective details the investigation by the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, which began in December, 2015. Investigators found Leedy first met the two brothers in the fall of 2012, one age 8, the other age 7.

Leedy met the boys while volunteering as a bus driver for Target Ministries in Dayton, Ohio, where he would give rides to and from church services to members of the area’s poorer neighborhoods, according to the complaint.

A short time after meeting them, the complaint continues, Leedy “showed an interest in the boys” and initiated a friendly relationship with their family. This included frequent visits for dinner, playing in the yard, and even becoming a part of the boys’ nighttime routine, when he would tuck them into bed, the complaint states.

In the months to come, Leedy began taking the boys to his church, Crossroads, based in Cincinnati, the complaint states. With the boys’ mother’s approval, Leedy eventually began staying in a nearby hotel room, “so they would be closer to Crossroads.” This continued roughly every-other Saturday evening from the summer of 2013 to the summer of 2015, according to the complaint.

Leedy also began taking the boys on trips out of state — including to North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, New York and New Jersey, the complaint states.

On these trips, the complaint says, the boys testified that Leedy would take showers with the boys, sleep in between them in bed, “tickle” their genitalia, and — on at least one occasion — engage in sexual intercourse and oral sex.

By September 2015, the complaint concludes, Leedy and the boys’ father got into an argument because their father felt Leedy was “overstepping his bounds.” When that argument turned confrontational, Leedy called the police.

The complaint went on to say that this was when officers informed the boys’ parents that Leedy was a registered sex offender. Early on, the boys’ mother had done an Internet search for Leedy, who had falsely identified himself as “Jordan Leedy,” preventing the mother from discovering his registered sex offender status.

According to Montgomery County Common Pleas Court documents, Leedy was found guilty in 2003 of gross sexual imposition after detectives accused him of inappropriate sexual contact with an 11-year-old. According to WCPO news partner WHIO, Leedy was a youth hockey coach in the Dayton area at the time…

Here’s what we know:

  • Jory Leedy was convicted of a sex crime against children in 2002.
  • Jory Leedy is a registered sex offender.
  • According to the latest criminal complaint, Leedy continues to seek out young boys to have sex with them.
  • Jory Leedy drove a church bus for Target Ministries in Dayton, Ohio.
  • Jory Leedy also attended Crossroads Church (which Cincinnati area Crossroads church is not made known in news reports).
  • Target Ministries did not do a criminal background check on Jory Leedy.
  • The parents of Leedy’s latest victims showed an unprecedented and naïve amount of trust in Jory Leedy, a man they knew very little about. They trusted Leedy enough to let him take their children on trips to other states.

Target Ministries has released a typical cover-your-ass press release:

Target Dayton Ministries recently learned that the government has filed criminal charges against a person, Jory Leedy, who formerly attended Target Dayton Ministries on occasion a few years ago.  Target Dayton Ministries is a Christian outreach effort, primarily to poor and homeless adults in the Dayton region.  Hundreds of volunteers from around the region come to Target Dayton Ministries with the purpose to reach and to care for the poor and homeless in the name of Christ. Target Dayton Ministries does not have a children’s ministry or a youth ministry because its primary focus is adult ministry. Target Dayton Ministries has a couple of large vans that we use to pick up adults who want to come to our church for worship and meals. The vans run regular routes and pick up people in the Dayton region at specified locations, where people are waiting to board the vans. After the service has ended, the vans return the people to the same route points to be dropped off.

When Mr. Leedy attended Target Dayton Ministries back in 2012, he did volunteer on occasion to help with immediate ministry needs. On at least one occasion a few years ago, he filled in on an emergency basis for one of our regular van drivers who was not able to drive on a particular day.

Target Dayton Ministries is not personally aware of any connection or contact between Mr. Leedy and the alleged minor victims in the government’s case. Target Dayton Ministries has no record of the minor victims or their parents ever attending one of our services. The only information we have is what we have read in the government’s complaint against Mr. Leedy or what has been reported in the news.

Like you, we were deeply saddened to hear the government’s allegations. We ask that you join us in praying for all concerned, that God will reveal the truth and that he will redeem, heal, and restore the broken lives of those involved.

The leadership of Target Ministries would have people believe that there is some sort of “truth” that has not yet been revealed. They ask people to pray to God and ask him to reveal this supposedly unknown truth. However, based on news reports, there’s not much more truth that needs to be known. The only truth that might yet be revealed is reports of other children Leedy sexually molested between 2002 and 2016. No one who follows these kinds of stories believes that Leedy molested children in 2002 and then took a child-diddling hiatus for ten or so years. Child molesters are constantly on the prowl for new victims. Child molesters know that churches are great places to troll for new victims because Christians are big on love, trust, and forgiveness. Why Brother So and So would never harm anyone, naïve church members think. He is a loving husband and father, and he teaches Sunday school! Yes, and by night he watches child porn videos and rapes children — perhaps even his own.

Though Target Ministries has not publicly said whether they ran a criminal background check on Leedy, I think it is safe to assume that they didn’t, Had they done so, they would have quickly found out that Leedy was a convicted child molester and listed on the sex offender registry. And here’s the thing, criminal background checks are not a sure-fire way to keep child molesters from working with children. Many child molesters have never been caught or arrested. Or, as in the cases of Dennis Hastert, Jerry Sandusky, and Bob Gray, they could sexually molest children for decades before they are caught (often long after the statute of limitations have run out). Churches and parents relying on criminal background checks to flag child molesters are putting their trust in a system that can never reveal every child sex offender. All the system can do is report whether a person has been convicted of a sex crime. There is no possible way to divine what people have done in the past or what they might do in the future, and it is for this reason that I strongly recommend parents STOP allowing their children to ride church buses. As is now clear for all to see, Evangelicalism has a huge problem with sex crimes being perpetrated by pastors and church members. In time, I suspect that these scandals will equal in number the plethora of Catholic priests who have sexually molested children and teenagers. Evangelicalism also has a problem with adult sex crimes — pastors and church leaders using their position of authority to prey on vulnerable women. Throw in the garden variety clergy adultery, and it is safe to conclude that Evangelical churches have turned into sex clubs for perverts and adulterers. (Please see Is Clergy Sexual Infidelity Rare?)

Most churches that operate bus ministries target poor, working class people. Target Ministries states that their ministry is to “reach and to care for the poor and homeless in the name of Christ.”  The poor are easy targets. Desperate for help — be it food, clothing, rent money, or childcare — the poor often trust anyone who comes with hands open and says, let me help you. Believing that good, loving, kind Christians would never, ever hurt their children, the poor are willing to trust churches to properly care for them. I pastored churches in the 1970s and 1980s that used buses to bring thousands of poor children, teenagers, and adults to church. Using advertising gimmicks, prizes, money, gifts, candy, ice cream, hamburgers, bicycles, and a host of other enticements, the church had no difficulty getting children to ride the buses. Many parents viewed the three hours their children were at church as the only time they would have peace and quiet. Here, PLEASE take them, parents seemed to say.

I pastored one church — Somerset Baptist Church, Mt Perry, Ohio — for almost 11 years. For five of these years, we operated four bus routes that brought children in from the surrounding area. This was in the days before criminal background checks. The church was located in one of the poorest places in Ohio. Poverty was on display everywhere one looked. It was easy then, using the aforementioned gimmicks, to attract bus riders. Our intentions, I believe, were sincere. We wanted the bus riders to get saved. Everything we did was geared towards leading people to faith in Jesus Christ. Scores of children and adults made professions of faith. However, in our zeal to win the lost, I have no doubt we didn’t adequately pay attention to what was going on, not only on the buses, but in Sunday school classes and church events outside of the church facility proper.

There were a handful of sex-related incidents that took place during this period of time:

  • One concerned church member told me that an occasional visitor — an unmarried 30-something man — was inviting church children to spend the weekend with him at his nearby farm. This man was Bible-quoting, Jesus-loving  Christian — judging from outward appearances (a horrible way to judge anyone). Based on his mannerisms, I had wondered if the man might be gay. After hearing the report about the weekend stays, I told the man that he was no longer welcome at our church. That was the end of that. This man joined another nearby Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB). I did call its pastor and warn him about this man.
  • One 40-something woman — an occasional bus rider — threw a sex and booze party for church teenagers. It was quite a raunchy affair. I found out about it after the fact. I quickly notified the parents of the teenagers, which led to numerous church teens being grounded. The woman who threw the party was banned from riding the bus. Some of the teens later admitted that she had had sex with several of them. In retrospect, I should have reported this to the police and children’s services.
  • One man — who later became a leader in the church and was active in the bus ministry — was accused of sexually molesting his daughter. Due to the statutes of limitations, the man was not prosecuted. He later moved on to another church.
  • One man — a recent transplant from Kentucky — was, unbeknownst to the church, a convicted child molester. He was accused of attempting to sexually assault a mentally handicapped girl -— a regular bus rider. The alleged assault took place near her home. I reported this to the police, but nothing came of it. The girl soon after stopped riding the bus. This man also had a teenage son who had been charged and convicted of several child-related sex crimes. When I found this out, I instructed the bus driver for that community to NOT pick this family up.

One area where we picked up riders was considered the poorest area in the tri-county area. Incest was common, leading to children born with all sorts of defects. The incestuous behavior spanned multiple generations, so much so that many of these people considered it normal behavior. I naïvely believed at the time that Jesus could cure their incestuous ways. While many of them did get saved, none of them stopped screwing their siblings and cousins. Jesus has not proven to be an effective means of combating sex crimes — or consensual fornication and adultery, for that matter.

At the time, I thought that these were isolated incidents. They certainly were not reasons to stop operating our buses. I now know that bus and children’s ministries are magnets for pedophiles, perverts, and sexually deviant preachers, youth directors, and ministry leaders. The last two decades have brought to light countless reports of sexual misconduct in Evangelical churches and parachurch ministries. Evangelicalism’s defenders can no longer say that these reports are just a few bad apples in a barrel full of sweet, tasty fruit. Virtually every day brings news of an Evangelical pastor, deacon, Sunday school teacher, or ministry worker committing a sex crime. On the good days, all we have are reports of big-name Evangelical pastors committing adultery or covering up the illicit behavior or crimes of others. If the various porn addiction ministry promos are to be believed, the majority of Evangelical men (and pastors) regularly watch pornography. Tell me again, why would ANY parents in their right minds EVER allow their children to ride a church bus?

I am of the opinion that if families plan on attending church they shouldn’t let their children out of their sight. Oh Bruce, you are being cynical. There are a lot of good people in churches. You just hate God, so you have it out for Christians. Damn right I am cynical. I wish I could share the emails I have received from men and women who were sexually molested while attending Evangelical churches when they were young. I wish I could share what I know about people who were sexually molested by their pastor, father, or some other church leader. While these crimes took place decades ago and are beyond statutes of limitations, the damage they caused is an ever-present reality. One woman, a few years ago, told me about being sexually molested as child by a church deacon. Decades later, she revisited this church, and what did she find? There was Deacon Bob singing in the choir. In that moment she was traumatized all over again. I urged her to make this man’s crimes known, but she couldn’t bring herself to do so out of fear of what would happen if she did (the man was friends with her parents). Having a checkered sexual history, the woman felt, would result her story not being believed. And she is probably right. Sadly, sexual assault can and does cause all sorts of sexual dysfunction and acting out. This is then used against the victim. See, you are a whore, the thinking goes. Why should we believe anything you say?

Let me be clear, this post is not meant to be an indictment of all Evangelicals. Most Evangelicals are fine, decent people, even if they have irrational beliefs (my opinion). The issue is not theology as much as it is practice and institutional control. Evangelicals need to stop trusting everyone who says Lord, Lord. Being Christian does not make people impervious to deviant sexual desires. Christians can and do rape, murder, steal, and molest children. There is nothing inherent to Christianity that inoculates its adherents from bad behavior. All one has to do is follow the news to find out that reported sex crimes are common occurrence in Evangelical churches. Just because a man says he’s a preacher doesn’t mean he is worthy of trust. Preachers can and do commit all sorts of crimes. Again, read the news. Pay attention!

Evangelical churches need to stop the cover ups of sexual misconduct. I guarantee you as soon as Target Ministries heard about Jory Leedy’s arrest, they called their lawyer and their insurance company. When Jack Schaap was arrested and charged with having sex with a church teenager, what did First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana do? They called attorney David Gibbs — widely known as the IFB church movement’s fixer. Gibbs’ job is to limit damage and make sure the church survives. Church leaders are told to circle the wagons and stop talking. I have seen such behavior more times than I dare to count. The goal is always to protect, not the victim, but the church. (I was quite pleased to see that David Gibbs’ son is the lawyer for the victims in the Bill Gothard sex scandal. Perhaps he watched his father smooth over one too many IFB scandals.) Evangelical churches need to stop worrying about their testimony and how the scandals might affect their ministries. When rumors of sexual misconduct are heard, church leaders should immediately report them to the police or children’s services. Pastors and church boards need to stop thinking they are Columbo. Do your duty…REPORT IT! Let the authorities determines the validity of the rumors. (Please see How Should Churches Handle Allegations of Abuse?)

Bruce Gerencser