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Tag: Black Collar Crime

Born That Way

born that way after all

I previously mentioned that Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) luminaries Bob Gray, Sr., retired pastor of Longview Baptist Temple, Longview Texas, and Steven Anderson, pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church, Tempe, Arizona are currently in a pissing war over whether homosexuals are “born that way.” Accusatory winds have blown the conflict into far corners of the IFB universe. The burning question facing these defenders of the one true and holy Baptist faith is this: Are homosexuals genetically born homosexual (nature or nurture)?

That IFB preachers are even considering this question is astounding, a sign that LGBTQ people are making themselves known in IFB churches and families. (Please read The Jonathan Nichols Story: Growing Up Gay in the IFB Church.) While there have always been gays in IFB churches, these tortured souls were buried so deeply in the dark recesses of church closets that there was little chance they would be discovered.

In the years since I left the ministry and Christianity, I have reconnected with several men who were children in one of the churches I pastored. These men are proud, out-of-the-closet, sexually active gays.  My mind goes back to the days when these men were young boys and teens who were forced to listen to preaching — not only mine, but that of evangelists and other guest speakers — who regularly excoriated homosexuals for vile, deviant, reprobate sexual behavior. While I have apologized to these men for my hateful, bigoted preaching, I can’t help but wonder how much damage my words did to them.

Over the years, a handful of LGBTQ people wandered into many of the various churches I pastored. While they didn’t announce their sexuality as they came through church doors, over time it became clear that they were physically attracted to the same sex. Sadly, once the whispers of gossip turned into accusations, I was put into the unenviable position of deciding how to deal with them. At the time, I believed that LGBTQ sexual behavior was sinful, and, in some instances, a sign that people were reprobates. (Please see Out of the Closet, Into the Light: According to Steven Anderson, I Am a Sodomite.) I regularly preached against sexual sins, giving adultery and fornication as much attention as homosexuality. The difference was how I went about preaching against homosexuality. Shamefully, I must admit that I used derogatory labels when preaching against homosexuality — words such as queer, homo, sodomite, and fag. I refused to use the word gay because I believed that there was nothing “gay” about the homosexual lifestyle. I remember — oh, I wish I could forget! —  when the AIDS epidemic came to light that I let congregants know that AIDS was God’s judgment of homosexuals. Had I remained an IFB preacher, I have no doubt that I would have been staunchly opposed to same-sex marriage.

LBGTQ people didn’t stay around long in the churches I pastored (with the exception of the men mentioned above, who were forced by their parents to listen to my preaching for years). When whispers turned to accusations, I confronted these “perverts,” demanding they leave the church. In one church, a gay man visited for months before it was discovered that he was a pedophile. Several fathers came to me and said this man was inviting their young sons to spend weekends with him at his nearby farm. Livid, I went to this man and told him he was not allowed to attend the church. When he objected, I threatened to physically throw him out of the church. He left, never to return. In retrospect, I deeply regret how I handled the matter. If the man was indeed a pedophile, I should have reported him to law enforcement. If he wasn’t, I should have tried to help him, though I doubt that there was much I could do because of my homophobic beliefs. That he was accused of being a pedophile was enough to reinforce the stereotype believed by many congregants: homosexuals are child molesters.

Thirty years later, some LGBTQ people in IFB churches are no longer willing to sit by and silently suffer while their preachers rail against homosexuality and same-sex marriage. I have always wondered why anyone would willingly submit themselves to psychological assaults by supposed “men of God.” Children and teenagers have no choice, but adults are free to flee the verbal assaults and attacks on their person. Why stay?

As American society becomes more LGBTQ-friendly, IFB churches are confronted with how best to minister to people whom they consider to be sexual deviants. The Steven Andersons of the IFB world think attacking LGBTQ people in their sermons is the best way to “reach” them. I highly doubt such preaching is reaching anyone for Jesus. In fact, I doubt that reaching “sodomites” for Jesus is the goal of men such as Steven Anderson and Bob Gray Sr. As anyone raised in the IFB church movement can attest, attacking homosexuals from the pulpit is a surefire way to get lots of rounds of “amen!” Preaching against certain sins will always invigorate the righteous, and sexual sins are crowd favorites (even though we now know that IFB congregants are not immune from all of the behaviors they deem sexual misconduct, including homosexuality, pedophilia, incest, adultery, and fornication).

Realizing that the cultural tide is turning against IFB churches and their incessant prattle against sexual sin — particularly homosexuality — men such as Johnny Nixon and Bob Gray, Sr. have cooked up a novel reinterpretation of what the Bible says about homosexuality. Now, these men still believe engaging in homosexual sex, or any sex outside of marriage, for that matter, is a sin, but they now admit that homosexuals are “born that way.” These “eunuchs” are expected to refrain from same-sex sexual behaviors and relationships, and if they are willing to do so, they will be considered Christians. I suspect that the greater goal is to “convert” homosexuals, helping them to see that only by switching sides can they ever know true sexual fulfillment and romantic love. I am left to wonder why, if it is God who determines sexuality, does he make some people homosexual while at the same time saying that homosexual sex is a criminal act worthy of execution. (I refrain from using the LGBTQ acronym because the IFB preachers in question do not consider all sexual identities equally. Their primary focus is on gay men. I know of no IFB church that is accepting of bisexuality or transgenderism.)

My good friend, the late Steve Gupton— an IFB preacher turned atheist who once attended Bob Gray’s church and college and later attended a church named Hyles Baptist Church — made me aware that Jack Hyles worshiper David J. Stewart has weighed in on the Gray Sr./Anderson fight. In a post titled Refuting the Book ‘Born that Way After All’ and the Compromised Preachers Who Support it, Stewart stated:

I was surprised today while listening to a sermon by Pastor Steven Anderson (website). There is an ungodly book (published in 2015) titled, “BORN THAT WAY AFTER ALL,” authored by Dr. David J. Nixon and R. G. Hamm. They also have a website at BornThatWay.org. The book is unscriptural and promotes a wicked philosophy of tolerance for sin. What surprised me is that the website lists Dr. Bob Gray Sr., Pastor Jeff Owens and Pastor Paul Chappell, as being supporters of the book and ministry. The book is an ungodly perversion of the Scriptures!!!

I am trying to understand why Dr. Gray and Pastor Owens would approve of something evil like this. Both of these good men have counseled tens of thousands of people combined throughout their church ministries. So I tread lightly and don’t want to criticize them in my article, this is not my intent. However, I will voice my opinion of this ungodly book “BORN THAT WAY AFTER ALL” and their ungodly “BORNTHATWAY.ORG” website. The book is clearly a sinful attempt to bridge the gap between the ungodly homosexual community and the New Testament Church. Dr. David Nixon and his co-author are trying to straddle-the-fence on the issue of homosexuality. As far as I’m concerned, they are pulling on the same rope as the Devil.

David J. Nixon and R. G. Hamm base their strange doctrine on Matthew 19:12, “For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” Being a eunuch from a mother’s womb simply means, for one reason or another, that a man is born impotent. The Greek word for “eunuch” in Matthew 19:12 is eunouchos, meaning, “a castrated person (such being employed in Oriental bed chambers); by extension an impotent or unmarried man; by implication a chamberlain (state officer).” Here’s some helpful Bible commentary on the topic, “EUNUCH.”

The Bible mentions eunuchs, who are born “THAT WAY” from the womb, which is equivalent to castration. This is not homosexual lust! A eunuch “FROM THE WOMB” cannot procreate, that is, cannot have children. A homosexual can procreate (with a woman if they so choose). Obviously, homosexuals do not come “FROM THE WOMB”! And as I will evidence to you later, many people who profess to be “heterosexual” admit to committing homosexual acts at times. This tosses a monkey-wrench into David Nixon’s retarded hypothesis! Homosexuality is a sin, and Christians won’t be able to help sodomites unless they address the issue as such. God only saves THE UNGODLY (Romans 4:5-6). It is evil to tell homosexuals that there’s really no problem, because God made them “THAT WAY AFTER ALL,” intending for them to become celibate as eunuchs for God. That doesn’t solve the problem, which is, HOMOSEXUALS ARE SINNERS in need of the new birth. Unless a homosexual is willing to confess to God, “I AM A SINNER,” they cannot be saved. You’ve got to admit that you are a sinner to believe the Gospel. You need to know what you’re being saved from!

On their “BORN THAT WAY AFTER ALL” website, they say:

“The gay community is not the battle field, they are the mission field. They are not the enemy, they are the mission itself. We are in a spiritual battle, but if you view them as the enemy, you are fighting the wrong war (Ephesians 6:12). Our book “Born That Way After All” explains God’s unique design and purpose for those who are not attracted to the opposite sex.”

Although I agree that the gay community is a mission field, from a soul-winning perspective; I totally disagree when such reasoning is used to silence Christians about the evils of homosexuality which is targeting, recruiting and hurting America’s children. Hugh Hefner’s perverted Playboy business could be called “a mission field” too. We could say that the dirty magazine business is not the enemy as well. But does that mean preachers and Christians should be silent about such evils? Of course not. Now, more than ever, pastors and Christians need to expose the evils of homosexuality in our society. Silence is not golden, it is yellow cowardice. The false idea that exposing homosexuality as a filthy sin will hinder reaching the gay community for Christ is a big lie!

Homosexuality Is A Filthy Deathstyle (homosexuals account for 75% of all Syphilis cases!). Placing an adopted child into the hands of two homosexual parents (perverts) ought to be considered criminal child abuse! But our nation’s ungodly courts disregard God’s Word. Americans can legally commit adultery, film themselves in bed having sex and upload it to the internet, get drunk, murder their children by abortion, homosexuals can marry and children are forced into their care by adoption, et cetera. In eternity, God will hold people accountable for even their words (Matthew 12:36).

The insane notion that believers will never convert homosexuals to Christianity by calling them “perverts” is totally untrue. When the rich man in Hell begged Abraham to send Lazarus from the dead to warn his five brothers, “lest they also come into this place of torment” (Luke 16:28). Abraham plainly said that if people won’t listen to the Word of God, THEY WON’T GET SAVED, even if they see miracles and supernatural signs. “Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:29-32).

The ungodly book effectively attempts to silence Christians to the evils of homosexuality, portraying sodomites as a needy group who ought to be ministered to (informed that God really made them to be eunuchs) and otherwise left alone. So while naive preachers are spending the rest of their life reaching out to gays with the Gospel, America’s children are being homosexualized. If churches must become worldly to attract the homosexual community, then they’re coming to apostate religion, not Jesus Christ.

Although I disagree with Pastor Steve Anderson’s lack of love for the homosexual community, I must say that Brother Anderson COMES MUCH CLOSER TO BEING RIGHT than today’s compromised preachers who hobnob with gays and won’t preach against them!!! HOMOSEXUALITY IS EVIL. You’re NEVER going to win sodomites to Christ by tolerating their sins. A fundamentalist preacher ought to be a balance of grace and truth, of strength and beauty! Jude 1:22, “And of some have compassion, making a difference.” John 7:7, “The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.” The Word of God condemns the sinful world. That’s why gays reject the King James Bible, changing it into a lie (Romans 1:25). All of the modern PERversions of the Bible completely remove the word “sodomite.” The unscriptural website “BORN THAT WAY AFTER ALL” says they “do not necessarily endorse the term… ‘homosexual’ for several Biblical reasons.” [1] These are wicked people, who are trying to silence fundamentalist Christians about the evils of homosexuality. The idea that preaching and standing against open public wickedness, is a form of hate, is as satanic as can be!!!

….

I love Pastor Jeff Owens and Dr. Bob Gray Sr. I promote their sermons and ministries, because my heart’s desire is to help others in the Lord. I don’t throw people away because I disagree with them on something. I don’t stop promoting someone because they don’t agree with me. My faithful web visitors know that I often promote and expose someone at the same time. Most preachers won’t do that. Dr. Hyles invited Dr. R. G. Lee to preach at Pastor’s School in Hammond, knowing that Dr. lee was in the compromised Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Hyles didn’t demand that someone agree with him 100% on everything, to be his friend. I like that! There’s not one man that I promote whom I agree with on everything. I want to help others. If I find something that helps me, I want to share it with you also, to help you too. YOU are my Epistle. YOU are the book that I am writing. 2nd Corinthians 3:2, “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men.” YOU are my treasure!

Having said that, I love the preaching and teaching of Dr. Bob Gray Sr. and Dr. Jeff Owens. Albeit, I do not agree with them in their support of the “BORN THAT WAY AFTER ALL” book and “BORNTHATWAY.ORG” website, where they are listed. I am 100% in agreement with Pastor Steven Anderson on this issue, because I believe Brother Anderson’s position is 100% Biblical. Romans 1:24-32 plainly condemns the homosexual deathstyle!!! No one is born with a Sodomite tendency. Homosexuality is abnormal, against nature. We are all born with a sin-nature. If the sin-nature is allowed to flourish, uncontrolled and unbridled by moral restraint, anything evil is possible. America was doomed the day in 1963 that the King James Bible was removed from our nation’s classrooms.

All human beings are born with a sin-nature. Romans 5:12, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” We are ALL sinners by nature and by choice. A child doesn’t have to be taught to steal. They have to be taught to be honest. Children must be trained and taught the Word of God. And yet, even having grown up in the best home, with the most faithful Christian parents, enrolled in a great Christian school, attending a strong Bible-believing church—They may still ruin their lives and choose to go into a reckless deathstyle of sin. Having good Christian parents does not guarantee godly children. Certainly, training up a child in the admonition and nurture of the Lord stacks everything in their favor when they become adults, but they are still sinners by nature and by choice. What a proper upbringing DOES give a child is a strong FOUNDATION for the rest of their life. So if the house of their life burns down one day, it can be rebuilt!!! Amen!

No one is “BORN THAT WAY AFTER ALL.” I am not trying to be mean or unkind to anyone. If you are not saved, you’ll never get the victory over sin. Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” If you have homosexual desires as a believer, then there is a Bible verse for you. 2nd Corinthians 10:5, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

You can read all of Stewart’s homophobic rant here.

Stewart’s website features countless articles against this or that sexual sin, leaving me to say “The [man] doth protest too much, methinks.” I so wish that there were a God and I wish there really were a Jack Chick-like This Was Your Life final judgment. Can you imagine what would come rolling out IFB closets come judgment day? (It is rumored that Stewart has a few skeletons in his closet.) All of us have things that we have done that we never want to be brought to light. All of us have done things that we regret or wish we had done differently. The good news is that our embarrassments are safely stored in the back of our closets right next to our white buckskin shoes, platform shoes, frayed blue jeans, maxi dresses, and our dad’s collection of old Playboy magazines.

With one exception, I oppose prying open the closets of others, revealing secrets long buried in the dark recesses of people’s lives. We all have a right to have secrets, things that are no one’s business but ours. I do my best to write openly and honestly about my past and present life. But, there are some things that I can’t or won’t talk about because I find these events embarrassing — even fifty-plus years after the fact.

The one exception I make is for preachers, politicians, and church leaders who deign to be the voices of moral authority; those who demand the Ten Commandments be posted on school walls and self-righteously demand their fellow citizens obey the anti-human moral code found in the Bible (as interpreted by them according to a literalistic, Fundamentalist hermeneutic). These defenders of virginity, the anus, and all things sexual, often don’t practice what they preach. While these “men of God” are preaching against adultery, fornication, pornography, homosexuality, masturbation, short skirts, tight pants, teenage petting, and lustful glances, they are often wallowing in the very sins they condemn. (Behaviors they call sins, anyway. I wouldn’t call these behaviors sins, depending, of course, on context. Sins? No. Bad Behaviors? Maybe.) For these self-absorbed preachers of God’s plan of intercourse — Evangelical, heterosexual, married, missionary position only — I am all for exposing their secrets. It is for this reason I write the Black Collar Crime series. The sooner the truth is known — that preachers are no different from the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world — the better. Imagine how different things would be if Evangelical preachers swung wide the doors of their closets and openly talked about what is buried deep within. I am not talking about criminal behavior here.  Sexual predators who hide in plain sight as pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and church leaders should be aggressively pursued and prosecuted. The secrets I am talking about are the things that are common to man. Imagine how different Sunday morning church would be if preachers admitted that they are human, burdened with the same desires, wants, needs, emotions, and feelings as everyone else. Granted, Evangelicals would have to re-write the Bible and abandon previously held certainties for them to truly reenter the human race. As long as they maintain that the Bible and Christianity are morally superior and demand everyone live according to their interpretation of a bronze-age religious text, preachers shouldn’t be surprised when people take delight in their moral failures.

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.

Shocking News! Southern Baptist Convention Leaders Ignored, Dismissed, and Marginalized Sex Abuse Victims

southern baptist sex abuse scandal
Cartoon by Clay Jones, my favorite cartoonist

An alternate headline would go something like this: OMG! The Southern Baptist Convention Has a Sex Abuse Problem — Who’d a Thunk It?

The media, much like a hog finding an acorn, breathlessly reports that notable Southern Baptist leaders knew that sexual predators were roaming the halls of SBC churches, colleges, seminaries, and youth camps. The media acts like the recently released Guidepost report on sexual abuse in the SBC (read full report here) is new information; that no one knew the depth of the depravity until the report was released. To that, I say, bullshit. Some of us have been writing about sexual abuse in Evangelicalism, in general, and the SBC and the IFB church movement, in particular, for decades. I know I have. (Please see the Black Collar Crime Series.) Our voices, for the most part, were ignored. I was routinely dismissed because I’m an atheist, a bitter, jaded ex-Evangelical with an ax to grind. Even if such claims are true, and they are not, this question remains: is what I write about sexual abuse, pastors abusing their positions of authority for sexual gain, and sundry other crimes committed by so-call men of God, true?

Countless Evangelicals have self-righteously told me: yes, preachers can and do commit crimes, but they are just a few rotten apples among a bushel of Red Delicious apples. As the latest report reveals, there are a lot more rotten apples in that bushel than Evangelical sects, churches, and colleges would have us believe. We are not talking about a few isolated incidences here. I suspect that there are thousands of preachers, evangelists, missionaries, college professors, deacons, Sunday school teachers, youth directors, bus workers, and church janitors who are sexual predators; men (and a few women) who prey on vulnerable children, teenagers, and adults — most of whom have never been prosecuted for their crimes (though this is changing thanks to the Internet and increasing pressure on law enforcement and prosecutors to aggressively investigate and prosecute preachers and other church leaders). We know that these predators will not stop until they are caught; until they are arrested, prosecuted, and imprisoned.

For years, SBC and IFB preachers gleefully pointed out the Catholic church’s sex abuse scandal. “We preach the true gospel and personal holiness, so we don’t have such problems in our churches,” many preachers self-righteously said.

Here’s what William Reeves, pastor of North Platte Baptist Church in North Platte, Nebraska, had to say:

Reeves knows this is a bald-faced lie; a denial of the facts on the ground. As IFB and Southern Baptist preachers are wont to do, all that matters to Reeves is protecting the “good” name of the sect and its churches. That’s why the SBC executive committee, pastors, college presidents, and attorneys covered up sex crimes. All that matters is outward appearance, victims be damned.

Much like a mob family, SBC leaders buried countless sex abuse victims in non-descript, out-of-the-way plots of ground, never to be heard from again. The good news is that a true miracle is taking place. Those buried victims, long thought dead, are very much alive, shouting their stories from rooftops to all who will listen. And they will not be silenced. And as a small, insignificant voice in this battle against predatory preachers, I will continue to leverage this site’s traffic to continue to expose their crimes. As far as the SBC is concerned, several things need to happen

  • The FBI needs to begin an immediate investigation of the SBC Executive Committee and other denominational leaders. It’s evident that some SBC leaders engaged in organized criminal behavior, and, if warranted, should be prosecuted for their crimes.
  • The SBC should establish an accessible database of people accused of sex crimes. Not just those who have been prosecuted. Yes, there is a small — a very, very very small — chance someone could be wrongfully accused. That’s unfortunate, but the overwhelming majority of preachers and other church leaders accused of sex crimes are as guilty as Judas Iscariot. Often, guilty preachers escape punishment due to statutory limitations, so a lack of prosecution is not a statement of innocence.
  • Churches must enact policies that put the safety and welfare of children, teenagers, and church members first. Background checks on an annual basis (state and federal) must be required for a church to remain in the SBC. Churches must use outside investigators to thoroughly investigate new hires. Word of mouth is not good enough. Contacting a pastoral candidate’s previous church is not good enough. I candidated at a number of churches over the years. I still find it astounding what churches DIDN’T ask me. Not one church performed a background check or investigated my past. All that seemed to matter is that I was winsome, an excellent public speaker, and had a wife who could play the piano.
  • Churches should immediately shutter their youth programs and fire their youth pastors. The sheer number of youth pastors accused of sex crimes is such that the risk far outweighs the benefit. Young youth pastors have raging hormones, yet churches think it is a good idea to put them in ministries that afford them close, intimate interaction with teens and college students who also have raging hormones. What could possibly go wrong? According to the Black Collar Crime Series — a lot.
  • Accusations of sexual misconduct should be IMMEDIATELY reported to law enforcement. Don’t investigate, call for a church meeting, or interrogate the victim. It is up to law enforcement, not the church, to determine if a crime has been committed. If churches don’t do this, their leaders should be prosecuted for “failing to report.” Start throwing in jail preachers, deacons, and other church leaders for not reporting allegations of sexual abuse, and I suspect they might start taking the matter seriously.

And let me conclude by saying, Christa Brown was right.

For further information on predatory Baptist preachers, please check out the Baptist Accountability site and Abuse of Faith database.

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: Evangelical Pastor John Lowe II Sexually Assaulted Church Teen, Calls His Criminal Behavior “Adultery”

pastor john lowe II

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.

John Lowe II, the pastor of New Life Christian Church & World Outreach in Warsaw, Indiana, recently stood before his church and admitted that he committed adultery twenty years ago. After Lowe’s “confession,” his victim, Bobi Gephart, and her husband stood before the church and told them the truth about what happened between Gephart and Lowe. First, Gephart was SIXTEEN when Lowe had sex with her. Sex with a minor is sexual abuse, not “adultery.” Lowe used his position of authority to take advantage of a vulnerable church teenager and did so on multiple occasions.

The Daily Mail reports:

Pastor John Lowe II stepped down from the New Life Christian Church after being confronted on stage by Bobi Gephart, a 43-year-old woman who came forward with a microphone to tell their church in Warsaw, Indiana, how he’d groomed her as a teen, starting when she was 16 – the legal age of consent in the state.

Pastor Lowe II had just told the church that he ‘sinned’ 20 years ago by committing adultery, without mentioning how old the woman or girl was at the time. 

He begged for the church’s forgiveness, then received a standing ovation. 

Bobi then stormed towards the stage with her husband, Nate, to say it ‘was not just adultery’ because she was so young at the time. 

‘For 27 years I lived in a prison… I lived in a prison of lies and shame. Lying to protect the Lowe family. For years I thought I was a horrible person, having suicidal thoughts and not realizing what had been truly done to me.

‘I would still be in a prison if my brother had not just approached me two weeks ago with what he had seen as a teenager that bothered him all these years: his pastor in bed with his younger sister.’ 

Turning to Lowe, she continued: ‘I was just 16 when you took my virginity on your office floor. Do you remember that? I know you do.

‘You did things to my teenage body that should have never been done. If you can’t admit the truth, you have to answer to God. You are not the victim here.’ 

Bobi’s husband Nate then added: ‘This is a lie. This is not just adultery. 

‘It’s another level. It happened for nine years. When she was 15, 16, the grooming started.’ 

He presented a pearl necklace that his wife had been given by the church and a ‘purity ring’ that he said the pastor gave her during their affair. 

Nate returned both items and said the pair ‘were not stretching the truth’, but encouraged other women who had been these ‘gifts of the ministry’ to return them too.  

As the couple left the stage, the pastor then faced angry calls from the congregation. 

‘If you did it you need to admit it!’ said one angry church-goer. 

Another yelled: ‘We need to hear from our pastor!’ A third then cried out: ‘Give him the microphone!’ 

Lowe returned to the stage. 

At first he said: ‘I told you I committed adultery and that it went on far too long.’ 

A member of the congregation then shouted out: ‘You didn’t tell us she was 16!’ 

He then relented: ‘It was wrong. I can’t make it right. I can’t make it better. That’s just the way it is. 

‘It’s not all true but it did happen, yes.’ 

Because the legal age of consent in Indiana is 16, Lowe is not likely to face criminal charges for the relationship. 

He has stepped down from the church and has been scrubbed from its website. 

In a statement, the church said: ‘This long-held secret first came to light when a woman in the church came forward and disclosed the relationship to various people within the church. 

‘When confronted by others in church leadership concerning that report, Pastor Lowe confessed privately that the adultery did, in fact, occur.

Please watch the video below to see Lowe’s “confession,” and Gephart’s brave confrontation of the man who robbed her of her innocence.

Video Link

New Life released a statement. That’s what churches do. Make of it what you will. Note the statement does not use the term “sexual assault.” Also note how it paints Lowe as a “good man, gone wrong.” And does anyone seriously believe that no one over the past twenty years knew about Lowe’s assault of Bobi Gephart? Not one person? I see a lot of whitewashing and ass protecting going on in the church’s statement, couched in religious words meant to hide the fact that they had a sexual predator in their midst. Further, it is incumbent on the church to make clear exactly what Lowe’s wife knew, and when. And finally, New Life should immediately discipline Lowe, kicking him out of the church. His criminal behavior, prosecuted or not, should be widely publicized so Lowe never has another opportunity to pastor. And it should go without saying, the church must, without delay, make a confession of its own to law enforcement.

On Sunday, May 22, 2022, Pastor John B. Lowe II addressed the congregation of New Life Christian Church & World Outreach (“New Life”) at the conclusion of morning worship service and confessed that he had committed adultery on several occasions and over the course of time many years ago. When Pastor Lowe offered his confession, he also announced that he would be stepping down from his ministerial role and responsibilities with New Life.

This long-held secret first came to light when a woman in the church came forward and disclosed the relationship to various people within the church. When confronted by others in church leadership concerning that report, Pastor Lowe confessed privately that the adultery did, in fact, occur. The woman in question and her family did attend together and addressed the congregation, indicating that improper sexual conduct first occurred when she was 16 years of age and continued into her twenties. She tearfully described living with deep shame and pain over the ensuing years.

In the wake of what has now been revealed, we are hurting and broken for a woman who has lovingly attended and served in the church for many years, as well as for her husband and family. It is our deepest prayer and commitment to love, support, encourage and help her through a process of healing in any way in which we are able. New Life is likewise devoted to ministering to and with all of our members through this difficult season, that we might not only survive this, but experience together abundant grace, unity healing – all for the glory of God, and the preservation of His church.

Our brokenness extends to Pastor John B. Lowe II, his wife and family as well. For 42 years, New Life has taught and preached a Cross-driven message of repentance, forgiveness and restoration; a ministry of reconciliation which has been both led and modeled by Pastors John and Debbie Lowe. As healing occurs in their hearts, their marriage and family, we are committed to demonstrating the same support, encouragement, counsel and forgiveness that has come to define the collective heart and ministry of this body. As of Monday, May 23, 2022, Pastor John B. Lowe II tendered His resignation with New Life Christian Church and World Outreach.

To all concerned, please be assured that, until now, none of this was disclosed to or known by any of the staff, ministers or personnel of New Life. As with the church in general and the public at large, we too are responding to this without anticipation; praying and striving only to see that the Lord’s good, perfect and eternal plans will ultimately and visibly prevail. Life is messy. Believers are messy. Church is messy. God is not.

Pay particular attention to the end of the video, as the victim walks away from the platform to the back of the church. Notice what many of the congregants did. Rally around Bobi Gephart? Hell no. They gathered around the true victims in this story, Pastor Lowe and his wife. Gaze on the visage of “Christian love,” which on this night, complete with prayers and shouts of praise, gave the appearance of victim shaming. What mattered in their eyes was poor Pastor Lowe, a good man, deserving of love and forgiveness. Yes, he made a mistake, but LOOK! at all the good he has done over the years. And no doubt there will be members who will say to themselves, “well, Bobi was sixteen!” Let the victim-blaming and shaming begin. What’s next? She seduced him (as defenders IFB pastor Jack Schaap’s said about his teen victim)?

To the church members who did express their outrage over Lowe’s “confession,” thank you for speaking truth to power. It’s troubling that you are a minority at New Life, but your willingness to challenge Lowe’s “adultery” claim hasn’t gone unnoticed here in the “world.”

Lowe’s church bio states:

Pastor John B. Lowe II has been faithful in full time ministry for over 35 years. He carries a heart for the local church, yet has reached a world wide audience with an Apostolic calling. His ministry has taken him from the local church to many nations of the world where he mentors lead pastors, conducts faith conferences, marriage and family conferences and more.

Marriage and family ministry, are of high value to Pastor and his wife Debbie. They desire to impart the truth that, God is good His word is true, and it works in our lives.

Pastor John and Debbie Lowe have ministered together for many years and they emphasize living a life empowered by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit.

Through New Life Christian Church they have started ministry to the homeless, community marriage seminars, private Christian education for 21 years, the gift of warmth program to offset heating cost in the winter to the needy, prison ministry, local jail ministry and Celebrate Recovery.

Lowe’s wife, Debra is New Life’s co-pastor. Lowe’s son, Bryan, is the associate pastor, and his daughter Brittney is the community pastor — truly, a family-run business. This alone speaks volumes.

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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: Evangelical Youth Pastor Josh Henley Pleads Guilty to Sexual Exploitation of Minor

josh henley

In June 2021, Josh Henley, a former youth pastor at Washington Avenue Church of Christ in Evansville, Indiana, was arrested on three counts of statutory rape and one count of aggravated sexual battery.

Tristate Home Page reported at the time:

Josh Henley, 32, of Newburgh was arrested in Benton County, Tennessee on three counts of statutory rape. He’s also charged with aggravated sexual battery.

Authorities say there are at least three teenage girls who are confirmed as victims. Henley is being held in the Benton County Jail on a $500,000 bond and will be arraigned tomorrow.

Investigators believe there may be more victims in other states, including Indiana, Oklahoma and Texas. Eyewitness News contacted Evansville Police, the Vanderburgh County Sheriff and the Warrick County Sheriff. They told us they do not have anything in their system about Henley.

Court documents say Henley is currently employed at Washington Avenue Church of Christ in Evansville. Officials at the church declined to comment at this time.

After Henley’s arrest, Washington Avenue Church of Christ fired him: The church released the following statement:

On behalf of our entire church family, the Eldership at Washington Avenue Church of Christ is praying for accountability, healing and justice in light of the recent arrest of Joshua Henley who served as our youth minister for the past three months. Mr. Henley’s employment with the church has been terminated effective immediately and he has been relieved of all duties and responsibilities. We take the allegations against Mr. Henley very seriously and will fully cooperate with law enforcement in connection with all investigations. We are heartbroken by this news and our prayers are with all involved.

ABC-24 reports:

The U.S. Department of Justice said in 2018, Henley was pastor at Holladay Church of Christ in Benton County and coached Holladay Elementary School’s girls’ basketball team. In April 2021, they said he took a position with a church in Evansville, Indiana. Then in June 2021, he drove back to Tennessee to pick up a girl, taking her back to Indiana to “help with his Vacation Bible School there.” Prosecutors said Henley had sex with the girl who had just turned 15. They said the girl told them that Henley had been engaging in sexual activity since she was 13, and asking her to take sexually explicit pictures to send him through a chat app.

Investigators said in 2020, another 15-year-old girl in Evansville said Henley asked her to send sexually explicit pictures to him.

Henley was arrested in June 2021 as he was driving the first girl back to Tennessee. Investigators said after getting a warrant for his cell phone, they found sexually explicit pictures of both girls, and video of Henley having sex with a third girl in November 2020, who had just turned 14.

Today, Henley pleaded guilty. He will be sentenced for his crimes in August.

ABC-24 reports:

A Tennessee pastor and girls’ basketball coach has pleaded guilty to child exploitation charges.

Joshua Henley, 33, who has lived in Benton County, Tennessee, and Evansville, Indiana, is set to be sentenced in August after pleading to charges of producing sexual abuse material involving three minors, transporting a minor across state lines to engage in sexual activity, sending obscene videos and images to a minor, and possessing and transporting child sexual abuse material.

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: Evangelical Pastor Jeffrey Anthony Charles Accused of Sexual Assault

Pastor Jeffrey Charles

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.

Jeffrey Anthony Charles, former pastor of Neighbors to Nations Church in Princeton, Minnesota (previously named Open Door Fellowship Church, Vineyard Christian Fellowship, and now Souls Church), stands accused of sexually assaulting a three-year-old child. Charles was previously convicted of Sexual Abuse, 3rd Degree, in the state of Iowa in 1997, yet he was still pastoring a church when these crimes were allegedly committed. I hope authorities will investigate whether Neighbors to the Nations Church (now Souls Church) was complicit in Charles’ crimes.

Wispolitics.com reports:

Attorney General Josh Kaul and Douglas County District Attorney (DA) Mark Fruehauf today announced that Jeffrey Anthony Charles, age 61, has been charged with one count of Repeated Sexual Assault of a Child, Persistent Repeater, for incidents that occurred from 2005 to 2010.

“We are committed to holding perpetrators of sexual assault accountable,” said Attorney General Josh Kaul. “Thank you to DA Fruehauf for his continued partnership with the Clergy and Faith Leader Abuse Initiative, and for the work of his office and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office in seeking justice in this case.”

According to the criminal complaint, Charles served as the pastor for Neighbors to Nations church in Princeton, Minn. at the time of the assaults and parishioners routinely traveled to Charles’ cabin in the Town of Summit, Wis. The complaint states that Charles sexually assaulted a victim three to four times at his cabin in the Town of Summit, Wis. over the course of five years, when the victim was between the ages of 3 and 7. Charles was previously convicted of Sexual Abuse, 3rd Degree, in the state of Iowa in 1997.

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: Evangelical Pastor JD Hall Arrested on DUI and Gun Charges

jd hall

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.

Jordan “JD” Hall, pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Sidney, Montana, and publisher of the Fundamentalist polemics site Protestia, was arrested on May 11, 2022, and charged with driving under the influence and carrying a concealed weapon while intoxicated.

Religion News Service reports:

A Montana Baptist pastor who has spent years warning that liberals were taking over the Southern Baptist Convention and evangelical churches, was arrested on DUI and weapons charges.

Jordan Daniel “J.D.” Hall, pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Sidney, Montana, and publisher of the online Christian polemics site Protestia, was arrested on May 11 after a traffic stop. According to a copy of the initial offense report obtained by Religion News Service, Hall was charged at 11 p.m. with driving under the influence and carrying a concealed weapon while intoxicated. The DUI charge is a first offense, according to the report. A Sidney police officer observed Hall driving in a bike lane and pulled him over.

Hall allegedly had slurred speech, stumbled and had poor balance, according to a copy of the complaint filed against him, which was also posted online. During the stop, police also allegedly found a concealed handgun. The pastor performed poorly on a field sobriety test, according to the police report, but a breathalyzer did not find evidence of alcohol in his system.

The Montana pastor is best known for his role as a writer for online site Pulpit&Pen, where Hall criticized what he saw as liberal and worldly influences affecting the evangelical church and especially the Southern Baptist Convention. Among the site’s targets were Bible teacher Beth Moore, former Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore (no relation), former SBC President J.D. Greear and Tennessee preacher and Trump supporter Greg Locke.

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In 2014, Hall announced plans to back away from his involvement in SBC conflicts, following the death of the teenage son of one of the church leaders he criticized. Hall and other critics had ridiculed the 15-year-old online, in what radio talk show host Todd Starnes called “theological thuggery.”

“In one sense, I am reaping what I sowed. When you live by the sword, you die by it,” said Hall in in 2014, according to Christianity Today. He had also apologized for criticizing the teenager.

Hall had become active in SBC conflict in recent years — joining other critics who claim the nation’s largest Protestant denomination has turned liberal — and had planned to attend the upcoming SBC annual meeting in Anaheim. The pastor claimed that “me and my boys will control the mics and rebuke is on the agenda.”

The pastor recently filed for bankruptcy, claiming he could not afford to pay legal fees in a libel lawsuit, according to Montana news reports. A transgender activist has sued Hall for libel, claiming “an article about her damaged her reputation,” the Longview News-Journal reported.   

Hall pled not guilty to the charges. He has also been assessed a $585 fine, according to the Daily Montanan, and has a court date set for mid-July. 

After Facebook banned the Pulpit&Pen, the site was renamed “Protestia.” Hall also heads the Gideon Knox Group, which runs a church-based collection of media sites and other media ministries, including the Polemics Report, the Bible Thumping Wingnut podcast network, and an AM radio station. He also founded the Montana Daily Gazette, a conservative news site.

Fellowship Baptist released the following statement:

The following statement from Fellowship Baptist Church is made in response to the events of the evening of May 11th, 2022 involving Pastor Hall, and subsequent findings and decisions made by the church.

Pastor Hall tenured his resignation to the church Thursday after being charged with DUI on Wednesday evening. There was no alcohol in his system and he blew 0.0 on the administered breathalyzer. However, police insisted Pastor Hall failed the administered field sobriety test. Pastor Hall has suffered from documented vitamin D deficiency, which can result in poor coordination, slurred speech, word displacement, etc. This medical issue has been discussed openly for some time and has been the subject of our church’s prayers. Nonetheless, Pastor Hall felt responsibility for bringing the stain of rumor upon the church and thus offered his resignation.

The deacons and elders met yesterday and rejected his resignation in consultation with three well-respected and Godly pastors of other churches, as it was unanimously determined that, as no alcohol was used and Pastor Hall’s coordination/health issues have been well known, this unfortunate incident was not ministerially disqualifying. The deacons, elders, and consulted pastors were apprised of Pastor Hall’s prescription medication, health issues, and spiritual, emotional, and physical state, and expressed great concern for his health and overworking.

The Church Council met soon after and likewise rejected Pastor Hall’s resignation. The council determined Pastor Hall was exhausted, potentially addicted to working, and must rest, do nothing for 3 months, and change his phone number (to not be bothered by outsiders). Additionally, the Council determined that church elders will handle Pastor Hall’s responsibilities along with a former church member (who had moved away) and lay pastor. Church leadership will place Pastor Hall’s wife in charge of when after that period he is well enough to go back to work, in consultation with the elders.

Subsequently, the congregation was apprised of the situation in a special business meeting after services Sunday. In a unanimous vote, they likewise rejected Pastor Hall’s resignation and voted to affirm the Church Council’s findings.

Pastor Hall spoke to the congregation to say he would submit to their requests, would come or go at our pleasure, and agreed to remain in his office at our request. He cautioned us solemnly to be ready for what enemies of Christ would do with his situation and to brace themselves. The congregation spoke openly to assure Pastor Hall he should not be ashamed, that we do not care what the world thinks, as that we know the truth.

Please pray for Pastor Hall and his family during this incredibly stressful season.

Hall blames a severe Vitamin D deficiency for his DUI-like behavior. Even if this is true and it causes impaired behavior, Hall had no business driving an automobile.

Hall will use his arrest to fuel his belief that he is being persecuted by nefarious outside sources or Satan.

If I was making a Top 100 list of Christian Assholes, JD Hall would be Top 5.

Fundamentalist Pastor JD Hall Brags About Breaking the Law

Fundamentalist J.D. Hall “Apologizes” to LGBT Community

The Sounds of Fundamentalism: J.D. Hall and Fred Phelps, Two Peas in a Pod

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.

What Do Sexual Predators Look Like?

bob gray jacksonville florida preaching against elvis
IFB Pastor Bob Gray preaching against Elvis, 1956. Gray would later be accused of sexual misconduct. Gray was a serial pedophile.

Evangelicals tend to be submissive and trusting of their pastors, believing these men are specially chosen by God to teach them the Bible and lead them in paths of righteousness. Roman Catholics treat their priests similarly. When these pillars of moral virtue behave in ways not expected, Christians have a hard time believing that Pastor or Father __________ would ever sexually abuse children, take sexual advantage of teenagers, or manipulate congregants for sexual gratification. They just KNOW that their trusted leaders would never do such things, and even after these men of God are convicted and sentenced to prison, some Christians continue to believe that their pastors/priests are innocent.

Part of the problem is that pastors and priests don’t resemble what many people expect sexual predators to look like. The late Bob Gray pastored Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida for thirty-eight years. He was, by all accounts, a wonderful example of a Christian man who devotedly and resolutely followed after Jesus. Yet, when Gray died, he was scheduled to be tried on charges of sexually abusing twenty-two children. All told, Gray was an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor for fifty years. His predatory ways can be traced all the way back to his days as a student preacher. Gray was, from the get-go, a rotten apple; yet, for many years, he was a revered man of God who pastored one of the largest church in the country. He didn’t “look” like a predator, and neither do most of the men who prey on naive, innocent, defenseless children, teens, and adults.

There are thousands of Bob Grays pastoring churches — from Catholic parishes to IFB congregations. Sometimes these predators spend their lives in one church, grooming entire generations to accept their predatory ways as normal. Other men move from church to church, ever on the prowl for new victims. Those who blindly trust their pastors risk being taken advantage of. Yes, most pastors are decent, thoughtful human beings, but enough of them are abusers that only the naïve among God’s people would blindly trust these men with their children and teenagers. Numerous times a week, Evangelical preachers, mainline pastors, and Catholic priests are arrested and charged with sex crimes. And so are deacons, Sunday school teachers, worship leaders, youth ministers, Christian school teachers, and church volunteers. Churches are magnets for predators. These perverts know that Christians tend to be trusting of others — ignorantly believing claims of salvation and transformation. Even people who were convicted of sex crimes before they were “born again” are often trusted to be on their best behavior. After all, Jesus forgave them of their sins, shouldn’t Christians do the same? Evangelicals, in particular, love stories about “God” giving people second chances. Years ago, a pastor whom I know well told me that his church didn’t do background checks on workers because their past, no matter how heinous, was “under the blood.” In his mind, the precious blood of Jesus was some sort of magic potion that cured pedophiles and sexual predators.

blood of jesus

Several years ago, the Toledo Blade ran an editorial that asked the question, What do Predators Looks Like? Here’s what the article had to say (behind paywall):

A third Toledo pastor now stands accused as part of a sex-trafficking ring that abused teenage girls. And while the idea of clergy members colluding to exploit vulnerable girls shocks the community, it is worth remembering that human traffickers rarely look like villains out of central casting.

Federal prosecutors have alleged that the Rev. Kenneth Butler, 37, the self-proclaimed prophet affiliated with Kingdom Encounter Family Worship Center, is part of the same human-trafficking conspiracy that allegedly involved the Revs. Cordell Jenkins and Anthony Haynes. Those men were arrested in April and are behind bars awaiting trial on sex trafficking and child pornography charges.

To the community, these men appear to be honorable, religious leaders. Authorities say that appearance is a façade.

Experts say that sexual predators who target children will often seek trusted positions in the community that will allow them access to young people and give parents a false sense of security. They seek jobs as coaches or teachers, clergy or youth leaders.

Evil-doers in the movies often look evil. Evil-doers in real life often work hard to look harmless. They look ordinary. They look trustworthy. They do not look as if they were cast to play the part of a villain.

In recent years, society’s understanding of human trafficking has drastically changed to reflect the scope and prevalence of the problem. This is largely thanks to the work of pioneering researchers, one of the most prominent of whom is Celia Williamson of the University of Toledo.

The nation is only beginning to come to grips with the nature and extent of human trafficking. And it is another Ohioan who has been the leader on this issue in Congress — Rob Portman.

But none of this changes the depth of the damage trafficking can do to one life or one family. And the trafficker may be hidden in plain, respectable, sight.

The pastors referenced in this editorial are three respected Toledo pastors.

Since March 2017, I have published over 900 stories detailing clerical criminal — most often sexual — misconduct.  The total number of criminal preachers is much higher, of course, since some arrests don’t make the news and many predators aren’t caught. Some critics, thinking I have an ax to grind, say that the only reason I highlight these stories is that I hate God/Jesus/Christianity and I want to embarrass the Church. Emails from such people are laden with Bible verses or personal attacks, both meant to silence me. What I find interesting is that these people rarely mention the victims, and when they do, they often attack them, suggesting that the sex was consensual or, as in the case of convicted felon Pastor Jack Schaap, the teenage victim was the one who seduced the adult offender. I suspect people attack me because to do otherwise would expose their culpability in allowing sexual predators to prey on church congregants in plain sight.

People of authority, be they pastors, doctors, lawyers, counselors, or teachers, are often privy to intimate details about the lives of those they serve. This access to the darkest, deepest, most vulnerable parts of our lives makes us easy targets for “servant” predators. In the 1960s, my Evangelical grandfather suggested that my mother see a Christian therapist in Lima, Ohio. According to my grandfather, this psychiatrist was a committed follower of Jesus; a man who would deliver my mom from her psychological demons. Why Mom trusted her father I will never know. After all, when she was a child, he repeatedly sexually molested her. But, trust him she did, and this doctor proceeded to get Mom hooked on powerful narcotic/psychotropic drugs. This Evangelical servant of the Lord, once his female patients were addicted, demanded they provide him sexual favors in trade for the drugs. My mom complied with his demands. Is it any surprise, then, that my mom repeatedly tried to kill herself?

We will never totally put an end to sexual abuse. There will always be men (and, to a lesser degree, women) who sexually take advantage of others. When caught, these perverts should be punished, and anyone who enables their behavior should be punished too. Those whose lives were marred and ruined by sexual abuse deserve compassion and care — not blame and guilt. For churches, in particular, fundamental changes must be made to how pastors and church workers are vetted. As things now stand, Christian sects and churches are viewed as enablers and protectors of “men of God” who sexually abuse and take advantage of congregants. Church leaders whine and complain about being unfairly tarred with a broad brush, but the fact remains is that many sects/churches/pastors remain deliberately deaf, blind, and dumb when it comes to sexual abuse. Until the matter is taken seriously, church leaders might as well get used to being tarred. The damage caused by predator preachers is such that I simply don’t have the time to listen to or worry about hurting the feelings of “offended” church leaders. (Please read How Should Churches Handle Allegations of Abuse?) When my email inbox is filled with mail from abuse victims, it’s hard to give any attention to butt-hurt preachers who think their reputation and the “testimonies” of their churches are being hurt by sexual abuse allegations. All I have to say is this: do better.

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: United Methodist Youth Pastor Christopher Reyes Accused of Sending Sexually Explicit Photos to Underage Girl

christopher reyes

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.

Christopher Reyes, a youth pastor at Wesley United Methodist Church in Marco Island, Florida, stands accused of sending sexually explicit photos to an underage girl.

The Marco Eagle reports:

A former youth pastor at a Marco Island church faces charges involving a three-year period where he asked for nude photos involving a girl.

Police arrested Christopher Jaime Reyes, 26, a youth pastor at Wesley Methodist Church of Marco Island, following an investigation that found he exchanged photos of a sexual nature with an underage victim.

According to police, Reyes solicited nude photographs of the victim and sent her explicit photos of himself. Reyes is also accused of attempting to meet the juvenile on several occasions.

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He faces charges of “transmission of material harmful to minors by electronic device or equipment” and “soliciting a child for unlawful sexual conduct using computer services or devices.”

Reyes was employed at the church from 2016-2021.

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: Evangelical Youth Pastor Robert Fenton Accused of Sexually Abusing Church Teen

pastor robert fenton

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.

Robert Fenton, a former youth pastor at Abide in the Vine Church in Owego, New York, stands accused of sexually abusing a church teenager in the 1990s.

WHTM-27 reports:

A former youth pastor from Bradford County has been accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl over 20 years ago during a church-approved “betrothal,” according to the Pennsylvania Attorney General.

Robert Fenton, 52, is being charged with sexually abusing and assaulting a 14-year-old girl from 1996 to 1998 in Bradford County, when he was 26 years old. According to the announcement from the AG’s office, Fenton allegedly claimed that “God wanted the victim to be his spouse” because of a vision he had. The AG further explained that Fenton allegedly got approval from leaders at Abide in the Vine Church to “betroth” the girl to him “with an understanding that no sexual activity would occur.”

The alleged victim, now over 40 years old, first told police about the abuse in 2019, according to the criminal complaint released with the announcement. After the “betrothal,” the victim said Fenton allegedly convinced her parents to take her out of public school so he could visit her at home. Fenton allegedly touched the girl’s genitals and made her touch him.

In 1998, the victim said she and Fenton got engaged, at which point he allegedly made her perform oral sex on him, the affidavit said.

After the wedding was called off because Fenton reportedly got pancreatitis, the relationship ended around August-September 1998. Fenton then allegedly told the girl that she ruined his ministry before moving to Australia. The AG’s Office said that Fenton is a paster at a church in Queensland, Australia.

Once the AG’s office took over the investigation in July 2021, officers interviewed friends of the victim, congregation members, and her parents. Her parents reportedly explained that they were aware of and agreed to Fenton’s betrothal. They also said that the church elders at one point set up a 6-month “no contact” period, during which Fenton and the girl could only write letters. However, the parents claimed that Fenton would “push the boundaries”.

The pastor of the church was reportedly unsupportive of the relationship when Fenton first explained his vision. However, the pastor’s son told the AG’s office that the girl’s family and Fenton pressured the pastor and likened the relationship to Mary and Joseph, with Mary being much younger. The pastor’s son said that his father didn’t know the relationship was sexual.

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Fenton has been charged with Indecent Assault of a Person under 16, Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse with a Person Under 16, Aggravated Indecent Assault, Corruption of Minors, and Statutory Sexual Assault. The AG said his office will work with the U.S. State Department and Department of Justice to try to extradite Fenton from Australia.

“The defendant used his power and authority in his religious community to lie, manipulate and regularly abuse a young girl in his community. I promised we would hold anyone who was abusing children accountable – and Robert Fenton is no exception,” said Attorney General Shapiro. “Survivors experience a lifetime of anguish and trauma trying to overcome the impact of abuse. I want survivors to know – we believe you, and we will not let predators get away with the sexual assault of children.”

The website for Pennsylvania’s Attorney General states:

Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced the charges against former youth pastor Robert Fenton for regularly assaulting a 14-year-old member of his religious community from 1996 to 1998.

Fenton, 52, is believed to be associated with a church in the Queensland area of Australia as a pastor. A letter has been dispatched to the church notifying them of the charges. The Office of Attorney General will seek his extradition in cooperation with the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Justice. He was charged with statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault and related charges. His alleged victim, now in her 40s, reported to the Pennsylvania State Police that the defendant began sexually abusing her when she was approximately 14 years old and Fenton was 26.

“The defendant used his power and authority in his religious community to lie, manipulate and regularly abuse a young girl in his community. I promised we would hold anyone who was abusing children accountable – and Robert Fenton is no exception,” said Attorney General Shapiro. “Survivors experience a lifetime of anguish and trauma trying to overcome the impact of abuse. I want survivors to know – we believe you, and we will not let predators get away with the sexual assault of children.”

In July 2021, the Office of Attorney General in partnership with state police began investigating the case following a referral by the Bradford County District Attorney’s Office. Investigators learned that Fenton was a youth pastor in Bradford County and declared that God wanted the victim to be his spouse. He sought and received the approval of church leaders to “betroth” the victim to him with an understanding that no sexual activity would occur. However, between 1996 and 1998 the victim sustained frequent sexual abuse by Fenton.

Between July 2021 and February 2022, investigators interviewed multiple former church officials and associates of Fenton and the victim. These interviews corroborated the victim’s allegations, stating that they recalled then 26-year-old Fenton was in a “relationship” with the victim and understood them to be “betrothed” with the blessing of their religious community. The victim came forward to law enforcement after leaving the religious community and seeking counseling for the trauma inflicted by Fenton’s abuse.

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.

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Bruce Gerencser