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The Legacy of IFB Pastor Jack Hyles

Jack Hyles Through the Years

Members of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, and people closely associated with Hyles-Anderson College and Pastor Jack Schaap, were astonished at the firing of  Schaap for having sex with a teenager he was counseling, and his later criminal conviction in March 2013. Evidently, these people have a short memory or live in denial. First Baptist has a long history of pastors and other church leaders getting themselves in trouble with the fairer sex. (Please read Chicago Magazine feature story on First Baptist and their sordid history.)

Jack Schaap’s father-in-law, Jack Hyles, had a long-running illicit sexual relationship with his secretary. The evidence against Hyles was overwhelming, yet the church rejected this evidence and Jack Hyles continued to pastor the church until his death in 2001. (Please read The Biblical Evangelist’s report on Jack Hyles)

David Hyles, the son of Jack Hyles and youth pastor of First Baptist Church, had numerous sexual relationships with women in the church. The church quietly sent him away to pastor another church, not telling the new congregation about his sexual proclivities, and he continued to have numerous sexual relationships with women in the new church.

Many people praised the church for publicly exposing Jack Schaap’s “sin.” This is the same church that ignored Jack Hyles’ “sin,” covered up David Hyles’ “sin,” and whitewashed numerous other scandals in the church and college. So forgive me if I don’t think they are acting “better” than the Catholic Church (as one commenter said).

The people of First Baptist Church were taught by Hyles and Schaap that if they didn’t see something it didn’t happen. (Please see Sexual Abuse and the Jack Hyles Rule: If You Didn’t See It, It Didn’t Happen.) They were taught that unless an allegation could be confirmed by two or more witnesses (Matthew 18) they were not to believe it. This kind of thinking resulted in a culture where “sin” was ignored or swept under the proverbial rug — a rug that is so high now that you have to walk up a ten-foot hill to get into the church.

In general, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement abhors scandal and its members do everything they can to cover it up. More important than the sin itself or the victims is the church’s “testimony.” The church’s testimony must be protected at all costs, even if a pedophile in their midst is ignored, as was the case with Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida and its pastor Bob Gray.

For First Baptist Church of Hammond to out Jack Schaap, they had to have been backed into a corner without the option of covering it up or quietly making the “problem” go away. Calling in attorney David Gibbs to “manage” the crisis speaks volumes about the depth of the scandal. Gibbs is considered a “fixer” in the IFB church movement.

The root of the Jack Schaap scandal is found in the ministry, teaching, and doctrine of his predecessor, Jack Hyles. The remainder of this post will focus on him. It is impossible to understand the Jack Schaap story without first looking at Jack Hyles’ forty-two year ministry at First Baptist Church of Hammond (a church that was an American Baptist Church until Hyles pulled it out of the Convention a few years after he arrived there in 1959).

In its heyday, First Baptist Church was the largest church in the United States (and at times, claimed to be the largest church in the world). The church was built around two things: the bus ministry and Jack Hyles.

In 1973, First Baptist saw attendances exceeding 25,000 people. At the center of this huge church was its pastor, Jack Hyles. In the late 1960s and 1970s, Jack Hyles was, as many of us described, the pope of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement. He authored numerous books with titles such as Let’s Go Soul Winning, Let’s Build an Evangelistic Church, Enemies of Soul Winning, The Hyles Church Manual, How to Rear Infants, How to Rear Children, How to Rear Teenagers, Satan’s Bid for Your Child, Marriage is a Commitment, Woman the Completer, and Blue Denim and Lace.

jack hyles 1973
Jack Hyles, 1973

There is a hard-and-fast rule in the IFB movement: the greater the church attendance, the more authority the pastor is granted and the more weight his words carry. I heard countless big-name IFB pastors say, “until you have as many eggs in your basket as I do, you have no right to criticize me.” Pastors with small churches were looked down on and were expected to shut up and learn from those whose baskets were overflowing with eggs.

From 1976 to 1989, I heard Jack Hyles preach numerous times. I traveled to a number of Sword of the Lord conferences, often taking with me people from the churches I pastored. Hyles was a dynamic preacher, a real motivator. He used very little of the Bible in his preaching. His sermons were always topical or textual and were littered with personal stories and illustrations. Hyles was a narcissist. Most of his stories and illustrations were about his own personal life and exploits. His stories about him and his mother are legendary.

Over time, as I became more and more dissatisfied with the IFB church movement, I paid closer attention to the substance of Hyles’ sermons. In particular, I focused on the stories Hyles told. I came to the conclusion that Hyles was a narcissistic liar.

Hyles would often talk about how important and busy he was. In several sermons, he talked about how many people he counseled every week. I sat down and did the math and I concluded it was physically impossible for Hyles to have counseled as many people each week as he claimed.

Hyles was a ruthless man. I watched him, during Q and A time, at a conference at the Newark Baptist Temple,  dress down and belittle pastors for asking the “wrong” questions. He refused to allow anyone to challenge his authority as the king of the IFB hill.

To understand the scandals at First Baptist Church in Hammond, we must understand the gospel that has been preached at First Baptist for over 50 years. It is the same gospel that is/was preached by men like Bob Gray of Texas, Bob Gray of Jacksonville, Curtis Hutson, Dennis Corle, Tom Malone, and thousands of other IFB pastors.

Jack Hyles preached a bastardized version of the Christian gospel. The Hyles gospel has been labeled as decisional regeneration or one, two, three, repeat after me. (Please see One, Two, Three, Repeat After Me: Salvation Bob Gray Style.) I used to label the methodology of the IFB church movement this way:

  • win them
  • wet them
  • work them
  • waste them

(Please see IFB Church Movement: Win Them, Wet Them, Work Them, Waste Them.)

lets go soulwinning
Jack Hyles, Let’s Go Soulwinning

The only thing that mattered was winning souls. IFB Evangelist Dennis Corle told me one time that I should spend more time soul winning and less time studying in preparation to preach on Sunday. All that mattered to him was the number of souls saved.

In the IFB church, the key to church growth is to keep more people coming in the front door than are going out the back. IFB churches are notorious for membership churn — especially when a pastor leaves and a new one comes in.

The Hyles gospel focused on praying the sinner’s prayer. (Please see The Top Five Reasons People Say the Sinner’s Prayer.) Pray this prayer and you are saved. Good works? They were desired and even expected, but if saved people never exhibited any change in their lives they were still considered “saved.” This gospel is prominently on display in the preaching of David Anderson and the writing of “Dr.” David Tee. (Please see Understanding Steven Anderson, Pastor Faithful Word Baptist Church, Tempe, Arizona.)

If a pastor dared suggest that new life in Christ meant a change in conduct, they were accused of preaching “works salvation” (the Lordship Salvation controversy). According to the Hyles gospel, it was all about praying the prayer, and once a person prayed the prayer they could NEVER, EVER be lost again. This is why some people insist that I am still saved, even if I don’t want to be. Once God has you he never lets go.

The Hyles gospel filled churches with people who had made a mental assent to a set of propositional beliefs. Every year, churches like First Baptist Church in Hammond and Longview Baptist Temple report thousands of people being saved. Most of these new converts stop attending after a short while, but this is of no consequence. They prayed the “prayer.” On to the next sinner in need of saving.

The IFB church movement is centered on men. Most IFB churches are pastored by one man who has total control of the church. Most IFB churches are congregational in name only, with the pastor being the autocratic king of the church.

david hyles greatest men
Jack Hyles, David Hyles, Jim Krall, World’s Greatest Men

Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap, and countless other big-name IFB traveling preachers routinely promote the notion of pastoral authority. The pastor, under the authority of Jesus and powered by the Holy Spirit, is the final authority in the church. He is the hub around which everything turns.

IFB churches are not known for their names, but for who their pastors are. IFB church members routinely say, when asked about what church they attend, say: I go to Pastor So-and So’s church.

In a post titled The Cult of Personality, I wrote:

Churches aren’t known for what they believe or even the works they do. They are known for who their pastor is. When asked where he goes to Church, a Christian will often say “I go to Pastor Smith’s Church.”

The focus of everything is on the pastor. He is the mover and shaker. He is what powers the machine. Without him it all fails.

Christian TV, radio and publishing is all about the personalities within the Church. Name recognition is the name of the game.

Does anyone really believe Rod Parsley is a good writer? Yet, his books sell. Why? Name recognition.

Everything is focused on and culminates with the sermon and the preacher.

I had people drive 40 minutes to the  church I pastored in SE Ohio. They loved my preaching. They thought I was the greatest preacher since the last guy they thought was wonderful. Really? As much as I think that I am a pretty good public speaker, they had to drive past 40  churches to get to the  church I pastored. Not one of those  churches had a preacher that could preach competently? ( Well maybe not, after hearing more than a few preachers.)

What happens when the pastor leaves the  church? What happens when the personalities change, when a new preacher takes over? Strife. Division. People leave the church. Why? Because church became about the preacher rather than about Jesus and serving others.

Why is it the pastor’s name is on everything? The sign out front. The bulletin . Every piece of literature the church produces. If it is really is all about Jesus then why does it matter if anyone knows the pastor’s name?

Ah, but it does matter. Many Evangelical Christians are good capitalists (serving a socialist Jesus). They are consumers first and Christians second.  They know people are “attracted” (the attractional method) to the church by the pastor, the programs, the building, etc.

They know the pastor becomes the face of their church. It shouldn’t be this way, but it is, and quite frankly, it is the church itself that must bear the blame for this.

The church members revel in the cult of personality. They love having a name- brand preacher. They watch Christian TV and listen to Christian radio because Pastor/Rev/Dr/Evangelist/Bishop/Apostle so-and-so is on. Take away the names and it becomes as interesting as eating a no-name hamburger at a no-name restaurant surrounded by no-name people . . .

Is it any wonder IFB pastors and churches have the scandals they do? Members are taught to obey their pastor without question. He is the man of God. If he is doing something wrong, God will chastise him. This kind of thinking allows IFB pastors to commit adultery, molest children, and steal from the church without anyone ever knowing about it. I could spend days writing about IFB pastors who have abused their place of authority and committed heinous acts against the people they pastored. (Please see the Black Collar Crime series.)

IFB churches think they are above the world and other churches because of what they believe. They are “Bible believers” and their pastors preach hard against “sin.” Because of this, they have a hard time believing that their pastors or famous preachers could ever commit crimes like Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap, David Hyles, and Bob Gray did.

Bob Gray, pastor emeritus of Longview Baptist Temple had this to say on this blog about the Schaap scandal (I was unable to find the post on Gray’s blog):

May I present the practical side?  There exists more molestation cases proportionately reported in the 42,000 churches of the Southern Baptist Convention than in the 22,000 independent Baptist churches.  Consider the largest denomination in our nation, the Catholic Church, and then think on their sexual transgressions for a while.  This is not to take lightly one person who is violated by a leader in a church.

Look carefully at the argument Gray is making here. The Southern Baptists and the Catholics are worse than we are! Praise Jesus! Such thinking should sicken all of us.

Here is what I know about the IFB church movement. They will wail and moan for a while, but, in a few weeks or months, the scandal will pass, and they will go back to “winning souls” and “preaching hard against sin.” It is only a matter of time before a-n-o-t-h-e-r scandal rocks their churches. Until the IFB church movement repudiates its corruption of the Christian gospel and changes how their churches are governed, there is no hope of meaningful change.

Change is not likely to come because of their literalism, and their belief in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. Armed with certainty, knowing they are right, they will continue to preach a corrupted gospel and allow narcissistic pastors to rule over them.

Posts on Jack Hyles

Posts on David Hyles

Posts on Jack Schaap

Posts on Bob Gray, Sr.

Posts on 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 contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Clergy Sex Crimes: The Stunning Number of Black Collar Crime Reports

black collar crime

It should be clear to everyone by now that Evangelicalism has a huge problem with sexual abuse and sexual misconduct. Hopefully, the Black Collar Crime series has forever shut the mouths of those who self-righteously claim that Evangelicals don’t have the same sort of sexual abuse problem as the Catholics do. I hope, anyway — but way too many Christian zealots are oblivious to their flies being unzipped. Bob Gray, Sr, the retired pastor of Longview Baptist Temple in Longview, Texas, loved to rail against the Catholics over their sexual abuse scandal. Gray, Sr, blindly believed that Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches didn’t have such problems. Evidently, in the mind of Gray, Sr, IFB doctrine is a condom of sorts that protects preachers, evangelists, missionaries, youth pastors, and deacons from committing sex crimes. Of course, we now know that the condom has a hole in it, and IFB leaders are just as likely to molest children, assault teenagers, and sexually manipulate congregants as are Roman Catholic priests. Gray, Sr, knows this, but he ignores it, choosing instead to protect serial adulterer David Hyles and fellate a blow-up doll of accused adulterer Jack Hyles. Countless sex scandals have rocked the Hyles wing of the IFB church movement, yet little is said publicly by men such as Gray, Sr. Wouldn’t it be great if IFB newspaper The Sword of the Lord ran a regular Black Collar Crime column? You know, calling sin, sin, as IFB preachers are wont to do. It should be thoroughly embarrassing to Evangelicals that an atheist’s blog and the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s monthly newsletter do more good in this regard than The Sword of the LordChristianity Today, and CHARISMA Magazine combined.

Recently, Marja asked:

Thank you for your diligence with this [Black Collar Crime] series. You have collected so many examples of black collar crime it’s stunning. Did you have any inkling of this while you were a pastor? Do you think there is something uniquely Christian about this, as it were, or do you think this is a dynamic that is prominent in any community in which you have strong patriarchalism tied to imperatives of religious obedience?

The Internet has fundamentally and forever changed how the public hears of and responds to allegations of sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other sex-related crimes. The same can be said for offending pastors, evangelists, missionaries, professors, and traveling singers. Before the Internet, a preacher could commit all sorts of crimes, and, if not caught red-handed or reported to the police, he could escape punishment. Why? First, many parishioners simply refused to believe that THEIR pastor could ever do such things! This kind of thinking remains a problem to this day. I have posted more than a few stories about offending pastors that have attracted people heaven-bent on protecting their pastor. They will demand I take the post down, saying their pastor couldn’t have committed the crimes he is accused of. I try to remind them of the fact that, according to the Bible, King David was a “man after God’s own heart,” yet he had a sexual affair with Bathsheba and later had her husband murdered. Rarely does this work — these preacher-worshipers refuse to see the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Second, before the Internet, a God-loving, sin-hating predator could quietly leave one church and move on to fresh hunting grounds. His old church was glad he was gone, end of story. A good example of this is the sordid story of David Hyles. David was the youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana. His father, Jack, was the pastor. At the time, First Baptist was the largest church in the United States. David was accused of having sex with teen girls and adult members. When his behavior reached a level where it could not be ignored, David was shipped off by his father to Garland, Texas to pastor Miller Road Baptist Church. The elder Hyles said nothing to people at Miller Road — a church he himself once pastored — leaving them in the dark about his son’s sexual proclivities. And, as sure as the sun comes up in the morning, David Hyles returned to his predatory ways, fucking his way through the church.

Third, IFB preachers/church leaders were taught to protect their church’s “testimony” at all costs. “There are souls in need of saving,” the thinking went. “If people find out about what our pastor/deacon/youth pastor/bus driver/school principal did, why they might not want to come to our church!” I know of countless scandals that were swept under the rug, all in the name of protecting the church’s reputation. Victims were often disbelieved and, far too often, blamed for what happened to them. Sometimes, church leaders would withhold from congregants allegations against their pastors. I know of one church which has had three sex scandals over the past twenty-five years, yet the pastor and church board have never given congregants a full accounting of what happened. The pastor, from the pulpit, encouraged people to “trust” him, that he was taking care of matters. This resulted, of course, in one man committing crimes TWICE at the same church over the course of two decades. So much for taking care of things.  Fortunately, the second offense landed the offender in prison.

Fourth, it was hard to get to local law enforcement and prosecutors to take seriously allegations of criminal sexual misconduct against clergymen. Pastors were often viewed as pillars of their communities, men of virtue, character, and moral integrity. Sadly, some legal authorities who should have known better, believed that clergymen were above the fray; that it was impossible for such “godly” men to commit such crimes. Case in point is the late Mack Ford. Ford operated IFB boys’ and girls’ homes — detention centers — in Louisiana. He was repeatedly accused of criminal behavior, yet he astoundingly escaped prosecution. (Please see Sexual Abuse in the Name of God: New Bethany Home for Girls.) Countless children were harmed by Ford and people employed by him, yet local authorities refused to investigate or prosecute.

These four things, and others, provided cover for clergy sexual misconduct — and other crimes too. Over the years, I would hear whispers about this preacher or that preacher, or hear that Pastor so-and-so suddenly resigned from his church in Ohio and moved in the night to Florida. Such men were accused of everything from molesting children to running off with their secretary, yet I know of only two men who were arrested, prosecuted, and served time in prison for criminal behavior. Sadly, far too many offending preachers had a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

While I don’t think such behaviors are uniquely a “Christian” problem, I believe that certain Evangelical beliefs and practices make such things more likely. First, Evangelicals are known for preaching against sex — any and all sex except for married, one man/one woman, monogamous, missionary-position sex. Puritanical views on sex breed sexual dysfunction and deviancy. It has been my observation that the louder some preachers preach against certain sexual sins, the more likely it is that they are doing the very things they preach against. One such preacher I know spent years having sex with his secretary every Saturday in his office. Bus workers would gather on Saturdays to visit their routes and canvass for new riders. After everyone left the building, the pastor and his lover would hit the carpet. Imagine this! Prior to having adulterous sex, this pastor would lead workers in prayer and give them a short devotional from the Bible. And then on Sundays, he would rain Holy Hell down on the heads of congregants, warning them that God hates sexual sin. (All pastors are hypocrites, but this man took the cake.)

bob gray jacksonville
Bob Gray, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, still clutching his King James Bible as he leaves jail

Second, Evangelical pastors wield great power — authoritarian and patriarchal in nature — over their congregations. Most churches are pastored by one man. In some Evangelical circles, pastors have total control over their churches, deciding everything from who can/can’t be a member to how the money is spent. (There are, by the way, Biblical proof texts supporting this kind of “rule,” but I’ll leave that to another day.) Suffice it to say that way too many churches are controlled and lorded over by their pastors. Now, this in and of itself doesn’t necessarily lead to criminal behavior, but some authoritarian pastors, drunk with power, do cross moral boundaries and commit crimes. It is not uncommon for Fundamentalist churches to be pastored by narcissistic men or sociopaths. Take for example the other Bob Gray — the former pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida. This Gray molested children and preyed on women for fifty years. His church was one the largest in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. I considered him to be one the best pulpiteers I ever heard. I loved to hear him preach. (I vividly remember a sermon he preached on being filled with the Holy Spirit.) Gray was not found out and arrested until near the end of his life. He died awaiting trial for sex crimes. Gray ruled his church with a rod of iron. I have no doubt that there were whispers about “Bro. Gray” over the years, yet out of fear or not wanting to cause a scandal, people said nothing. Authoritarianism will do that, silencing people who see and know that their pastors are perverts or abusers.

Thanks to the Internet and to countless victims unwilling to be silenced, it is now much harder for Evangelical preachers to escape punishment for their crimes. With great courage, victimized men and women share their stories, even when the statute of limitations precludes their abusers from being prosecuted. Light dispels darkness, and as long as I am among the living, I intend to write about clergy sexual misconduct, publish first-person stories about clergy abuse, and publish Black Collar Crime posts. The Evangelical sex scandal is in its infancy. I have published over 500 Black Collar Crime stories. This, I am certain, is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

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What Do Sexual Predators Look Like?

bob gray jacksonville florida preaching against elvis
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

Recently, the Toledo Blade ran an editorial that asked the question, What do Predators Looks Like? Here’s what the article had to say:

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. You can read about their crimes here and here.

Since March 2017, I have published 207 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 axe 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, as a child, he 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? — once by slitting her wrists, leaving her oldest son to find her lying in a pool of blood on the floor when he came home from school, and another time when she pulled her car into the path of a truck, totaling the vehicle, yet surviving the accident.

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 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 “testimony” of their church are being hurt by sexual abuse allegations.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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The David Farren Case: Why I Post Reports of Clergy Sexual Misconduct on Facebook

david farren

Recently, I received several emails and social media comments from Evangelicals complaining about my posting of public news reports detailing clergy sexual abuse and misconduct. One Evangelical preacher had this to say:

Do you feel some sense of gratification by posting articles exposing the “sins of evangelicals?” I have found you will search heaven and earth to publish smut on anyone who professes to be a Christian. Many of your posts are nothing but smear campaigns. You ought to be proud of yourself, pat yourself on the back, nominate yourself for an award. What a wonderful person you are. Kudos Bruce, keep up the smear campaigns, because no doubt in your heart it’s all justified and makes sense. One day Mr. Bruce there will be a reckoning, a DAY OF JUDGEMENT. I will go no further, but I know this, our God offers and extends GRACE to the repentant and guilty sinner. His undeserving favor offered through Calvary!

This man, over the past two years, has left numerous comments on my Facebook page, objecting to virtually everything I post. He is an Independent Baptist, an insufferable zealot who cannot or will not make any attempt to see things from any perspective other than his own. His latest comment was on a post about the arrest of David Farren, youth pastor at Anchor Church (link no longer active) in  Texarkana, Texas. According to the Texarkana Gazette:

A youth pastor at Anchor Church in Texarkana was arrested Wednesday on three counts of sexual assault involving a teen girl. David Farren, 41, allegedly assaulted the girl when she was 16 and 17, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Connie Mitchell said. The girl was allegedly a member of the youth group Farren headed. Miller County jail records show Farren was booked at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday. He is expected to appear before a Miller County judge Thursday for an initial appearance, at which time bail will be set. First degree sexual assault is a class A felony in Arkansas. Each of the three counts Farren is charged with is punishable by six to thirty years in prison.

THV11 added:

Texarkana Police Department detectives conducted an investigation after they were notified of sexual assault allegations. Detectives found that Farren had been sexually assaulting a female (who was 16 years when the assaults began) over a period of four to five months in 2013. At the time, Farren was a youth director at an area church.

….

The TPD says the charge is because Farren was a youth director, it “placed him in a position of trust or authority over the victim.”

TXK Today, had this to say about Farren’s arrest:

David Wayne Farren, 41, appeared at the Miller County courthouse with Texarkana attorney Jason Horton for a first appearance on three counts of first degree sexual assault before Circuit Judge Brent Haltom. Horton handed the judge a motion asking that the case be sealed and that a gag order preventing police and court officials from speaking about the case be issued.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Connie Mitchell expressed strong opposition to the gag order. “I don’t believe this case should be treated any differently than other defendants,” Mitchell said. “We’ve not put gag orders in place in these cases before.” Mitchell asked the court to order Farren to have no contact with minor females, other than immediate family. Horton responded by describing Mitchell’s request as “too broad.”

In response, Haltom reviewed a probable cause affidavit and noted that Farren’s alleged sexual misconduct occurred in a private home, not on Anchor Church property. Mitchell pointed out that Farren’s contact with the girl began when he was acting as her youth pastor. “We do believe there are additional victims that will come forward,” Mitchell said. Mitchell said Farren has worked at a number of area churches heading youth groups including Heritage Baptist Church, Trinity Baptist Church and Faith Baptist Church.

As is always the case with such charges, offenders — saintly pillars of morality and virtue — are vigorously defended by family, friends, and fellow church members. Supporters, armed with anecdotal stories, assure everyone that Pastor/Preacher/Bishop/Elder/ Deacon _____________ did not/could not do that for which he has been accused/arrested/charged. As sure as the sun comes up in the morning, blinkered supporters demand that those who aren’t really in the know, forgo making any judgments about the offenders. In fact, rather than consider that their religious leaders could ever do what they are accused of doing, these woefully naive people suggest that perhaps the victims are the ones who should be blamed. In the case of David Farren, the victim was 16 years old when the sexual assaults began. See, says Farren’s supporters, she is almost of age. Why, I bet she came on to him or seduced him. In doing this. Farren’s supporters re-victimize the girl, ignoring the fact that Farren was in a position of trust or authority over the victim. This means the victim could not have given consent, regardless of her age. Farren, as an authority figure, is duty bound to keep his hands to himself and his pants zipped up. The no-sexual-contact rules that apply to doctors, lawyers, and social workers — those who work with the public and hold their trust — also applies to clergymen. They are held to a higher standard because of the vulnerability of those serve.

Several years ago, Jack Schaap, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana was accused of sexual misconduct with a teen girl he was counseling. (Please see What One IFB Apologist Thinks of People Who Claim They Were Abused.) When the accusations were made public, Schaap supporters defended his honor with comments on social media, blogs, and news sites. Even after all the facts of the abuse were made known, Schaap’s defenders insisted that victim was to blame. Schaap is now serving a twelve year prison sentence for his crime.

Stories such as Schaap’s and Farren’s are quite common. While I have been accused of scouring the internet for “dirt” on clergymen, the truth is I don’t need to do so. Using Google Alerts, I receive multiple times a day news reports about church leaders being accused/arrested/charged/convicted of sexual crimes, spousal abuse, child abuse, theft, robbery, and even murder. These reports are everyday occurrences. And here’s thing: in the two years I have been posting these reports on this blog and social media, only one accuser was found to be lying.  Credulous Christians think that the way things work is that a girl walks into a police station, accusing a pastor of sexually molesting her, and the police immediately arrest the offender. This is NOT how it works. In Farren’s case, this was the process used by law enforcement:

Sexual assault cases are investigated using the highest standard of care and consideration of all parties involved. Only when a majority of evidence is obtained is an arrest warrant approved by the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and issued by a Circuit Judge.

Knowing that merely being accused of sexual misconduct can ruin a pastor’s life, law enforcement makes sure they have a case before arresting the offender. In fact, I would suspect that clergymen abuse claims are treated with great deference, knowing that wrongly charging esteemed church leaders could embroil authorities in controversy. Accusations of sexual abuse are often hard to prove, and it likely that more clergymen get by with their crimes than are arrested and convicted.

There are several reasons why I think it is vitally important to publicize clergy sexual misconduct stories:

  • Rarely are clergymen arrested the first time they sexually molest or abuse a minor. Most often, there are more victims, so publicizing these reports makes other victims aware of their abuser’s arrest. If victims know their abusers have already been arrested, they are more likely to come forward and tell their stories to law enforcement.
  • Christian sects — particularly the Roman Catholic Church — are notorious for covering up sexual molestation and abuse claims. It is likely that the Catholic Church covered up thousands of abuse claims, protecting priests by sending them off to new parishes (new hunting grounds).
  • Evangelical churches are often independent. These churches have no denominational oversight. Sexual misconduct claims are often covered up or explained away. Offending pastors often leave one church and move on to a new church. This provides the offender with a new pool of potential victims.
  • There is no national database churches can check to see if a pastoral candidate has been accused of sexual misconduct or child abuse. Some clergymen are sexual predators, moving from church to church, leaving broken lives in their wakes.
  • One-time background checks are no guarantee that clergymen are moral and ethical. If they haven’t been arrested/charged/convicted of a crime, their background checks would come back clean. Some pastors are psychopaths who are skilled in avoiding detection. The late Bob Gray, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida evaded detection for fifty years. (Please see Stop Baptist Predator articles)  Bill Wininger avoided prosecution for twenty years.(Please see UPDATED: IFB Pastor Bill Wininger Outed as Sexual Predator) David Hyles molested his way through several churches, never facing arrest or conviction for his crimes (Please see UPDATED: Serial Adulterer David Hyles Has Been Restored)
  • Americans wrongly assume that churches are safe for their children to attend. They are not. Most congregants are decent, kind, trusting people. It is this naïve trust that makes their churches easy marks for sexual predators. Far too many churches take the testimonies of new pastors at face value. Oh, they love Jesus, trusting, congregants say. Why, their families are wonderful! Such fine Christian people!
  • Americans wrongly assume that churches exist for the teaching of morals. Publicizing sexual molestation and abuse reports serves as a reminder that churches are not bastions of moral purity.

As long as men of God keep “preying” on people, I intend to keep posting public news stories detailing their crimes. Instead of whining about my motives for posting these stories, I suggest Christians should spend their time making sure children, teenagers, and vulnerable adults are not abused, molested, and taken advantage of by church leaders. (Please see How Should Churches Handle Allegations of Abuse? and Is Clergy Sexual Infidelity Rare?)

Does IFB Preacher Bob Gray, Sr. Have Dementia?

bob gray sr
Bob Gray Sr, retired pastor of Longview Baptist Temple, Longview, Texas

Bob Gray, Sr., retired pastor of Longview Baptist Temple (LBT), Longview, Texas, is widely viewed as an arrogant, stubborn megalomaniac.  Much like numerous other Independent Fundamentalist Baptist IFB) preachers, Gray’s ministry approach is simple: my way or the highway. While Gray, Sr. is now retired, having handed the keys of the kingdom to his son Bob Gray II, he continues preach conferences and write articles for his blog, Solve Church Problems, and other IFB websites. Now 70, Gray is proud of the fact that he has never wavered or changed his beliefs. The truncated, bankrupt gospel taught to him decades ago by Jack Hyles is the same gospel Gray preaches today. Subscribing to what I call the 4 W’s: win them, wet them, work them, and waste them, Gray has churned through thousands of converts building his kingdom on earth. (Please see One, Two, Three Repeat After Me: Salvation Bob Gray Style) Those drawn into Gray’s pernicious form of Baptist Fundamentalism are sure to find themselves battered, bruised, and assaulted as Gray preaches to them what he thinks is old-time, Just-like-Jesus-preached, Christianity.

Knowing these things about Gray, I was puzzled when I read his latest blog post. Titled, The Danger of Being a Bitter and Cranky Old Man, Gray gives seven things he does to keep from being a bitter, cranky old man. I thought, does Gray have dementia? Here’s what he had to say:

1. Preach often about the love and grace of God. If you go back and listen to the sermons Dr. Hyles preached in the last years of his life you will find that he often preached about God’s goodness and God’s love. He made certain that his preaching did not reflect just a fighter’s mentality, but that it reflected a heart of tenderness and love as well. He didn’t lose his fight, but he didn’t lose his sweetness either.

2. Keep helping people. Dr. Hyles has seen what betrayal can do to men. He chose to ignore the betrayal of people who he had helped and just keep helping more people. Someone once asked Dr. Hyles, “What do you do when your personal converts have turned against you?” He answered, “I just get more converts.” What a great answer.  I have converts who have turned against me. But, I have new converts who I won to Christ this past week. Rather than dwelling on the pain of those who have turned on me, I dwell on the joy of those who recently turned to Christ.

3. Don’t take every battle personally. This is important. Dr. Hyles did not allow himself to be the issue even though others often tried to make him the issue. He even tried to stop those of us who loved him from making him the issue. He said, “The issue is the issue. People want to make me the issue because they can’t argue the real issue.” When you allow yourself to be the issue you are dangerously close to becoming bitter and angry.

4. Remember the things that made you sweet before. I love to go back and reflect on the good things. I love to rejoice in what Christ did for me in times when I most desperately needed him. Oh the joy of returning to the places where God did something special in my life.

5. Stay sentimental. I once heard someone say, “Dr. Hyles thank you so much for taking us back to visit the places that were sacred to you.” Dr. Hyles replied, “Thank you for accompanying me to those places. I don’t go just for you to see them. I go to remember what God did for me there.” Sentimentality in moderation can keep you from becoming bitter.

6. Don’t stop needing God. Dr. Hyles once said, “I’m glad that I don’t have a bunch of millionaires who supplement or subsidize my ministry.” He said, “I have friends who have given a lot of money, but I have always rerouted most of that money to others. I never want to be in a place where I don’t need God because I have someone else who is taking care of all my needs.  I want to stay needy because if I stay needy I get to rejoice in God providing. If you’ve ever been poor you know how wonderful it is when something comes that you weren’t expecting and desperately needed. I don’t ever want to lose that feeling. What a great truth. I love it that I still desperately need God in my life.

7. Stay in the book. The Bible is not just a manual for sermons we as preachers can easily begin to think. The Bible is the precious love letter from our Heavenly Father about his precious son. Stay in love with the word of God. May it never become merely your manual for ministry but always be a personal way to know your God better.

After reading these points, I thought, where was THIS version of Bob Gray, Sr. when he was pastoring the Longview Baptist Temple? Ask former members if Gray spent the bulk of his time preaching the love, goodness, and grace of God. Ask them if Gray had a heart of tenderness and love. Ask them how Gray responded when they voiced their disagreements. Ask them if Gray ignored personal slights. Ask them how Gray reacted to those who refused to bow before him and grant him autocratic power over their lives. Ask them what Gray did when people challenged his “pastoral authority.”

Gray concludes his post with this:

I get a little cranky at times. Sometimes I even get mean and angry. I would like to think that most of the time it’s on purpose, but I want to work at making certain that in my heart I’m still filled with God’s love and grace. I don’t want to be that bitter and cranky old preacher that Dr. Hyles feared becoming.

Buried in this paragraph is the real Bob Gray: a man who thinks that getting mean and angry has its place. And Gray is clear. When he is mean and angry, you know when he is assaulting church members with his rules-driven, Puritanical, cult-like demands, he is behaving this way on purpose. As with Jack Hyles and countless other Hitler-like preachers, Bob Gray, Sr. has no tolerance for those who dare to march to the beat of a different drum. When crossed, Gray can, and does, turn into a venomous viper, capable of killing others with his words. (Please see IFB Pastor Bob Gray, Sr. Shows His True Colors)

Several weeks ago, Gray wrote a post titled, Pastor, is it Possible That You are Abusing Your People?  Gray wrote:

 There is much talk especially on the Internet about pastoral abuse. Unfortunately much of this talk comes from disgruntled church members seeking to justify their leaving the church. Certainly there are cases of pastoral abuse, but in this day and age anything people feel infringes upon them personally is deemed as being

There is far too much being called pastoral abuse, which is nothing more than strong leadership. It is much like parental abuse. What my parents did in raising me would be called abuse today.

I am not justifying any kind of real abuse, but unfortunately the word abuse has been broadened in its meaning beyond reasonability. That said it is possible that sometimes a pastor could inadvertently be guilty of abusing his people.

As you can see, in Gray’s version of the world, mentally and emotionally abusing and manipulating church members is just “strong leadership.” Those who have, over the years, complained about Gray’s abusive behavior are “disgruntled church members seeking to justify their leaving the church.” Just remember, rule number one in the IFB Pastor’s Manual states: Always blame others. Gray has spent his 44 years in the ministry blaming sin, worldliness, liberalism, and compromise for the steady stream of people exiting the back door of the Longview Baptist Temple. Perhaps it is time for Dr. not really a Dr. Gray to take a hard look at his own life  (Please see IFB Doctorates: Doctor, Doctor, Doctor, Everyone’s a Doctor) and stop blaming others.

Those who worship at Gray’s feet will likely say I am dead wrong about their demigod. Like the Texas blind salamander and the followers of Jack Hyles, Gray’s devotees refuse to see the man for who and what he is. There’s little I can do to bring such people to the light. I am friends with several people who, at one time, attended Gray’s church and Bible college. I have also corresponded with current and former LBT members. Yes, current members. These are members who dare not voice their disapproval of Gray, Sr. and his son’s fawning over the Hyles family. When the Grays and LBT one Sunday gave serial adulterer David Hyles a warm welcome, these devoted followers were shocked. Evidently, crossing Gray, Sr. will result in a lifetime ban from LBT. Fucking your way across America and committing numerous felonies? Welcome home, Brother Hyles. (Please see Serial Adulterer David Hyles Receives a Warm Longview Baptist Temple Welcome and UPDATED: Serial Adulterer David Hyles Has Been Restored)

Other posts about the erstwhile king of Longview, Texas, Bob Gray, Sr.

Pastor Bob Gray, Sr. Pines for the 1950s

IFB Preacher Bob Gray, Sr. Says “Buy My Book if You Really Care About Souls”

Bob Gray, Sr. Peddles Lie About New American Standard Bible

Lest You Forget Why You Ran Screaming from the IFB Church

Bruce Gerencser