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Tag: Child Abuse

IFB Preacher Mack Ford is Dead

mack ford new bethany home for girls
Abuser and molester Mack Ford is dead.

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

Notorious child abuser and molester, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher Mack Ford died February 11, 2015. Ford, for many years, operated New Bethany Home for Girls in Louisiana, along with group homes for boys in other states.  If you do not know anything about Ford, please read Sexual Abuse in the Name of God: New Bethany Home for Girls.

I have mixed feelings about the death of Ford. On one hand, I am glad the son of a bitch is dead. Others like him: Olen King, Ron Williams, and Jack Patterson, to name a few, are getting old, and death will soon come calling for them too. Lester Roloff,  the man who taught these abusers everything they know about establishing and operating IFB re-education camps, died in a plane crash in 1982. Death will someday come for all of these abusers and the world will be better off without them.

I feel sorry for the dear friends of mine who were abused by Mack Ford and the staff at New Bethany. Like hound dogs on the trail of a rabbit, they did all they could do to bring Mack Ford to justice. Now, he is beyond their reach. Like Bob Gray, a lifelong child molester and pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, Ford died before he could know what it was like to be locked up with no hope of escape. I want my friends to know that I appreciate their doggedness, their willingness to continue to go after those who abuse and molest in the name of God.

There is still much work to do. As long as there are unregulated, unlicensed Christian group homes open for business, we must continue to expose their evil work. We MUST convince state and federal legislators and regulators that these types of homes are dangerous, and are a threat to the safety and welfare of anyone sent to them. While no one would suggest that licensing and regulation is a cure-all, it is the first step in cleansing the land of abusive group homes. We can do better, and we must!

Rebecca Catalanello of the Times Picayune had this to say:

The man who founded New Bethany Home for Girls, where some former students said they were victims of abuse, has died.

Mack Ford, 82, was found dead inside his home shortly before 8 p.m. Wednesday (Feb. 11) by a relative, Bienville Parish Coroner Don Smith said.

Ford’s death appears to be from natural causes, but Smith said his office will be conducting an autopsy.

Ford, a high school dropout turned Independent Fundamentalist Baptist preacher, opened New Bethany in 1971 on a former penal farm turned convalescent home off Louisiana Highway 9 in Arcadia, La., about 50 miles east of Shreveport.

Over three decades until it closed its doors in 2001, New Bethany took in sometimes hundreds of girls a year, according to newspaper accounts and court documents. Ford marketed the school as a home for wayward youth — “a mission project to the incorrigible, unwanted rejects,” he told attorneys in 1997. “Destitute, lonely, prostitutes, drug addicts.”

But many of the former residents who found themselves behind the barbed wire gates of the compound have relayed — to police, media, social workers and others — stories of harsh, physical and mental abuse that included beatings, solitary confinement, and, more recently, sexual abuse…

…Simone Jones, 47, one of the women who said Ford molested her when she was a teenager, said that she learned of his death late Wednesday from Michael Epps, the Louisiana State Police investigator who spent a year looking into the sexual abuse allegations that he took to a grand jury.

“I’m angry,” Jones said. “No justice … There are hundreds of people who are never going to see any type of justice be done.”

Ford’s death comes four days after the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office began investigating whether there may be a connection between New Bethany and an unidentified woman who was found on Jan. 28, 1981, in a wooded area stabbed to death.

The woman, now known as “Bossier Doe,” was wearing shoes and socks not unlike those required of New Bethany residents at the time. A name, “D. Davies,” was written inside her shoes with marker, just as former residents say they had to do.

State officials attempted to close the school in 1980 after Ford refused state inspection. They later raided New Bethany in 1988 and again in 1996 following complaints of abuse at the home — efforts that Ford fought in court, maintaining the state was violating his civil rights because it opposed his fundamentalist Christian views.

“The bureaucrats don’t want us to teach them our faith,” he said in a 1988 sermon following the state’s removal of 28 residents from the home.

But neither he nor anyone else at the girls’ home was ever prosecuted for any of the reported abuse, despite numerous confirmed reports documented by state social workers.

In addition to the girls’ home, Ford opened several boys homes, including in Longstreet, La., and Waltersboro, SC. In both of those locations, abuse allegations resulted in criminal charges, though not against Ford.

In 1981, Longstreet school manager L.D. Rapier was arrested and charged with cruelty to children after four boys ran from the home and told authorities they’d been beaten. The charges were eventually dropped.

In 1983, South Carolina authorities closed the Waltersboro home after they found a 14-year-old sleeping in a windowless padlocked cell, where he had been for several days. Two employees there were charged with unlawful neglect of a child and kidnapping, and they eventually pleaded to a lesser charge of false imprisonment.

Ford continued to live at the former New Bethany compound, located at 120 Hiser Road, in Arcadia, until his death…

…Ford’s estranged son-in-law, former Louisiana College vice president Timothy Johnson, said that Ford’s wife, Thelma Ford, resides in a nursing home.

Thelma and Mack Ford would have been married 66 years this year, according to court documents. Together, they had seven daughters, and adopted two more children, a boy and a girl.

Johnson said that Ford’s family members are unlikely to speak publicly about Ford or his legacy largely because of the great backlash they may face by former New Bethany residents and other critics.

“To do so gets you written about as being complicit or protecting a rapist,” Johnson wrote in an email message…

…Teresa Frye, 47, a resident at the home in 1982, said she was still processing news of Ford’s death on Thursday morning.

For years, Frye has been involved in an ongoing effort to help reconnect former New Bethany students and to raise awareness about the conditions so many children faced in similar boarding homes.

“I’m numb,” Frye said. “But I’m starting to get angry.”

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.

New Bethany Home for Girls: The Dogma that Followed Me Home

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I first published this post by my dear friend Cat Givens years ago. Edited for spelling, grammar, and readability.

When I was growing up in northeast Ohio, my family attended a Baptist church. It was one of those places where you’d meet every Sunday morning and then again Sunday evening. Bible study on Wednesday night. Soul-winning every Tuesday evening. Thursdays were youth group nights, and on Friday or Saturday we may have some other activity and then back again on Sunday.

We learned about heaven and hell. They preached a lot about hell.

I can remember being taught as a young child to tell everybody I came in contact with about Jesus and how to be saved. If I neglected to tell someone, then on Judgment Day this would happen: the person I did not tell would be led before the Lord God. I would be sitting behind God with the rest of the saved people. God would turn the person I neglected away, saying he did not know them. As they were led away, they would see me behind God and scream, “WHY? Oh, WHY didn’t you tell me?” And as they were led away to be cast into eternal fire, damned for all eternity, their blood would be dripping from my hands. Pretty heavy stuff for a kid, huh?

I was a bit of a rebel in my teens, and I’d run away when I got the chance rather than face the consequences at home for my actions. Finally, when I was almost fifteen, my parents were at their wit’s end. I was in the Detention Home for running away yet again, and they sought out help from the “experts”. A nice lady at the United Way told my parents that doctors were having success with rebellious children by hospitalizing them and giving them intense psychotherapy.

My parents met with the doctors, then the doctors met with me. “Yes, they could help me,” they assured my folks. They told Mom and Dad I could be transformed into a willing obedient child and would change my “criminalistic way of thinking”.

I was sent to a local hospital’s psych ward, housed with mostly adults (this was 1974, and there were no children’s wards at that time here). I was locked up with a bunch of strangers. I was shot full of “behavior modifying” drugs which made my physical movement robotic. I also received electroshock therapy treatments. Thanks a lot, Dr. Vallaba! Some of the men abused me while I was in there. I thought I fell in love with a man who said he and Bob Dylan shared a soul.

After the doctors had used up all my parents’ insurance money, they wanted to send me to another hospital in Connecticut. However, Mom and Dad had been talking to the preachers. They had another idea. Off to a girl’s home in Louisiana for me: New Bethany Home for Wayward Girls. I would remain there for a year.

Surely, this would save my soul and make me a compliant teenager, my parents and preachers thought. Unfortunately, at New Bethany, the same type of hellfire and brimstone attitude prevailed. I was not allowed to wear pants, as that was considered a sin. I couldn’t listen to any music besides Southern Gospel, as that was also a sin. I couldn’t talk about my past, as I had no past. I had to be called by my first and middle name because I was to become a new person.

There was an Evangelical preacher who ran the place, Rev. Mack Ford — an acolyte of Lester Roloff. He and his wife, Thelma, founded the home, taking in rebellious teens from all over the country. They also took in the unwanted girls whose parents abandoned them there. We were required to comply with every rule. Not doing so resulted in us getting whipped with a belt. That was the easy punishment. If a girl acted out, often she would be forced, after lights out, to stand in the hallway on her tiptoes with eggs or tomatoes under her heels. If she slipped and squished one, she’d get a whipping with a belt or hit with the switch. Runaways from the home were usually caught, and then, after a sound whipping with a belt from Bro. Mack would be handcuffed to their beds, and a ‘trusted girl” would be given the key. Their meals were served at their beds. These rebellious girls were only uncuffed for bathroom and shower breaks. Once Bro. Mack determined they had sufficiently repented, the cuffs were removed.

Everything we did was strictly controlled. We were told not to trust our conscience, as the Devil could be in there, so only trust the Bible. And trust Bro Mack.

Every day after chores, we would have chapel. There we would learn about hell, how the love of God brought us to this place, and how we must repent of our evil ways and change. Then we had breakfast. After more chores, off to school — a trailer down the street with one teacher and learning packets. It was an ACE school . . . Accelerated Christian Education. (Please see My Life in an ACE School.) After school, it was time for chapel again, and then lunch. Then chores and free time, and then chapel and supper. Even our bathroom breaks were timed, and we actually had to count the toilet paper sheets, begging for more through the bathroom door if we needed it. We were often awakened in the middle of the night. Sleep deprivation — what Brother Mack called “breaking down the will” — was the norm. I could go on and on, but I think the picture is clear. This was a brainwashing Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) cult, and we were the subjects.

After nearly a year, I got to come home. And yes, I was changed. I was a good little obedient Baptist teenager who addressed her parents and all adults as “sir” and “ma’am.”

At my new Christian high school, I was more conservative than most of the staff! We would only have chapel once a week at this school, unless it was “spiritual emphasis week.” During “emphasis” week, we would have chapel every day. Chapel was where we were told about how the devil tries to get every teen to be worldly and do evil. We were ripe for the danger of hellfire! We must be saved. We must repent if we do anything displeasing to god. I recall Mr. Russell, the gym teacher, leading us in prayer, asking God to kill us rather than let us live to set a bad example!

Throughout high school, I loosened up quite a bit. I still believed the dogma, but wasn’t quite so hung up on the rules. I began to read the Bible for myself. It didn’t read the same on my own as it did with a preacher interpreting it for me.

After graduation, I began to think more for myself.  I sought out a therapist who helped me overcome the guilt and confusion.  Gradually, I was losing the dogma and forming my own spirituality. I found god in nature and other human beings. I read about other religions and philosophies, realizing there are many paths to enlightenment. I enjoyed comparing the teachings of my youth to the myths and stories from other cultures and religions. I saw beauty and truth in many forms and rejected the hellfire and brimstone from my upbringing. Or so I thought.

I recently found a movie that was shown to us “wayward girls” at New Bethany. It was about the communist takeover of the United States. I really wanted to see this film again as an adult without expecting a great revelation and insight. The movie, along with another about hell, arrived the other day and I watched them. The acting was way over the top, and the subject matter was absurd. There on the screen, a little boy had a bamboo stick driven through his ears so he could no longer hear the gospel. Communists on horseback terrorized citizens, and the blood and guts spilled! Demons tormented people in hell, and worms ate at the burning flesh of the damned.

What happened next is what shocked me the most. As the choir sang “Just As I Am” and the preacher pleaded with the congregation to come to the altar and get right with God, I felt uneasy and a little sick. Fear and dread took hold, and then the panic! What if it was true? Would my children go to hell and be tormented for all eternity because I chose to raise them as free thinkers?

Mind you, this is NOT how I believe, yet here it was, all this dread and fear and worry. I felt horrible and confused. It was as if a great wave had pummeled me, and I was breathless! I contacted a woman raised similarly and found that she, too, suffered from this occasionally. First, we discussed brainwashing and conditioned response, and then I began to examine more carefully what had happened to me (and others).

It was twenty-plus years of dogmatic teachings that took my emotions and spilled them out in front of me like many dice. I realized that this memory’s emotional effect needed to be changed. I found discussing these reactions with my therapist to be helpful, as were his words of encouragement.  I reminded myself that it was out of love for my children I chose to NOT subject them to this stifling negative dogma. And I’m glad of it, as I would never want them to feel the way I did right then!

What good is spirituality if it does not lift one up? I examined what I actually do believe, and did some reading from some positive authors. I watched the movies again with my husband, and we laughed and shook our heads. The effect was more benign but not gone away completely, so I shall work on these memories some more, bringing in more humor and love. Still, I am amazed this dogma has followed me for so many years.

Has anything like this ever happened to you?

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.

Sexual Abuse in the Name of God: New Bethany Home for Girls

mack ford new bethany home for girls
Mack Ford

As many of you know, I have long been an advocate for those abused at Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) teen group homes (re-education camps). These homes, some of which are still in existence, routinely used violence to force teenagers into “Biblical” submission. Some of the residents were sexually violated. Where was the state, you ask? Sitting on the sidelines, often ignoring the cries of those beaten, abused, sexually molested, and raped.

One such home was the New Bethany Home for Girls, owned and operated by IFB preacher Mack Ford. Ford, who died February 11, 2015, was a protégé of famed abuser Lester Roloff.  The New Orleans Times-Picayune published numerous articles about New Bethany. Unfortunately, many of these stories are no longer available.

Over the years, the victims of Mack Ford and the staff at New Bethany have tried to bring their abusers to justice. Unfortunately, Ford wore a Teflon suit, and nothing seemed to stick to him. Weeks before he died, a grand jury declined to charge 82-year-old Mack Ford.

Rebecca Catalanello, in a Times-Picayune feature article, had this to say (link no longer active):

A grand jury has declined to indict a man accused of raping girls who were under his care at a notorious religious boarding school in north Louisiana decades earlier.

Mack W. Ford, 82, of Arcadia, was the target of what law enforcement officials describe as a year-long investigation into reports he molested young residents at his now-shuttered New Bethany Home for Girls.

A written statement released Tuesday (Jan. 6) by Bienville Parish District Attorney Jonathan Stewart, said “the grand jury was given research and information regarding the statute of limitations with regard to each alleged act and, after deliberation, returned a no true bill.” A no true bill represents a grand jury’s decision not to indict.

Three women who lived at the home in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s traveled from three states to testify before a grand jury Dec. 18 about their experiences with Ford. Other witnesses testified Oct. 15 and Dec. 29, according to state officials.

The women said their grand jury testimony was the closest they felt they had come to achieving justice for the crimes they said were committed against them as young girls in the place Ford once described as “a mission project to the incorrigible, unwanted rejects.” But after a Louisiana State Police investigator notified them by phone Monday evening that Ford would not face charges, the former residents sounded variously dazed, outraged and despondent.

“If he had been indicted for just one thing, it would have been justice for so many people,” said Simone Jones, a 47-year-old police dispatcher in Kansas who told police that Ford raped her in 1982 or 1983. “Why does this man continue to walk free?”

The grand jury convened almost exactly a year after Jones and other former residents journeyed to Bienville Parish to support Jennifer Halter, an ailing woman from Las Vegas, as she fulfilled a dying wish to report Ford, who she said began molesting her shortly after she arrived at the school in 1988 until her 1990 departure. Their trip was documented in an April NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune series that chronicled decades of abuse allegations at the home for which no one was ever prosecuted.

Ford, who still resides at the former New Bethany compound at 120 Hiser Road, has declined to comment about the allegations against him. He could not be reached by phone Tuesday morning, nor could Jesse Lewis Knighten, a nephew who court records show assumed power of attorney for Ford in January 2013.

Halter and Jones said that Mike Epps, an investigator with Louisiana State Police, told them Monday evening that the grand jury decided that the crimes they described were not prosecutable under current law.

“The reason given in the short-term was not that the grand jury didn’t believe us. It was because of the statutes,” Jones said.

Jones told police she was 14 when Ford approached her while she was doing chores, asked her if she was “a pure lady,” unbuttoned his overalls and then forced her to perform oral sex.

Jones said that Epps explained to her Monday that though current law considers oral sexual intercourse to rise to the level of “forcible rape” in some circumstances, at the time she said she was victimized in the early 1980s, the law only considered it “oral sexual battery.” Forcible rape has no statute of limitations, while sexual battery does.

“They let us down again,” Halter said. “I can’t understand why it’s OK for these people to do what they do and walk away like nothing was done wrong. It’s like laughing in our face all over again. What is justice? When is enough enough?”

Halter told police that Ford was chief among her abusers during her time at the home. In interviews with NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, she described repeated abuse, including frequent sexual contact by Ford during choir trips he chaperoned to churches in nearby towns and states — information she said she also reported to police in 2013.

Louisiana State Police Capt. Doug Cain said Epps would not be able to discuss the investigation or the grand jury’s decision. “We have to respect the court’s decision,” Cain said.

Former residents who were aware of the latest police investigation, recalled decades of abuse allegations recorded by state social workers and local police that never materialized in criminal charges.

“This has gone on for years,” said Tara Cummings, a resident at the home from 1982 to 1983. She said that if the statute of limitations was an issue, the state attorney should not have convened a grand jury to begin with…

…Ford created New Bethany Home for Girls 44 years ago on a plot of land 50 miles east of Shreveport, on more than six acres he bought for $30,000 from a 60-year-old widow, according to court records. The site had served as a penal farm and later a nursing home before he turned it into a home for what he called “wayward” girls.

New Bethany was affiliated with the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church. Residents were subject to strict rules, harsh punishment and maintained restricted access to the outside world, according to interviews, news reports and legal documents.

“We are reaching out as a mission project to the incorrigible, unwanted rejects,” Ford told attorneys in a 1997 court deposition. “Destitute, lonely, prostitutes, drug addicts … These kids haven’t been loved and they haven’t had a chance in life.”

Ford was a high school dropout-turned-tire-salesman who said he was inspired to open the school during a retreat in Arkansas. There, he once said in a court deposition, he met two little blonde 12-year-old girls who had been impregnated by their father and was inspired to help such troubled children.

Until its closure in 2001, the school took in hundreds of children and young women from across the state and country.

To some who heard of New Bethany’s mission and others who encountered the school through its traveling girls’ choir it appeared a worthy charitable cause. But records, interviews, news reports and other documents show residents also went to extraordinary lengths to escape the home.

Stories of physical and mental abuse plagued New Bethany for almost as long as it was open, documents and news stories show. Girls who ran away from the school described brutal paddlings and harsh physical punishment. They were rarely allowed to call home and when they did, their calls were monitored, according to accounts.

Runaways often scaled the tall chain-link fence, crawling over the inward facing barbed wire at the top, and ran through dense woods to find someone who might believe them.

State and local officials escorted girls from the property during several raids. But the home was repeatedly allowed to reopen and reenroll children.

Ford became known for his resistance to outside interference. He filed federal civil rights lawsuits twice after state officials from child protective services and the state fire marshal sought to inspect the facility or question children and staff about their complaints of abuse. A federal judge in 1992 dismissed a lawsuit in which Ford asked the government to keep officials from interfering in New Bethany operations. Seven years later, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision determining there was no evidence that state officials were plotting to shut down New Bethany, as Ford complained…

…Joanna Wright, 54, of Houston, sounded tired when she spoke about the grand jury decision this week.

Wright, a preacher’s daughter, arrived at the home in the mid-1970s at age 14, excited for an experience outside what she describes as her insular, fundamentalist upbringing. But she said Ford soon began molesting her and, in 1977, forcibly raped her on the New Bethany compound.

Wright said news of the non-indictment left her feeling numb. She said she had told authorities about what happened to her on several occasions — she said she told a social worker about it in 1993 and spoke to a district attorney in 1998 — and nothing ever came of it.

But in July 2013, haunted and frustrated by her experience and the experiences of those she knows, Wright reached out to Jump, the assistant district attorney in Bienville Parish, and told her she was ready to make a police report in person.

On July 11, 2013, Jump wrote back:

“We are a long way from being able to arrest him. I have to sift through this stuff and talk to someone who was raped at the home and is willing to testify to that fact. And then determine if I can win the case. I don’t think it would be good for anyone [sic] of the victims to go through with what it would take to convict him if we can’t convict him. I will do my best and anything within my power to see that justice is done. But unfortunately justice for some of the victims will not be served on this earth. He will have to answer to God.”

I am personal friends with a handful of the women who were incarcerated (and I mean incarcerated — against their will) at New Bethany. I know from talking to them that their time at Ford’s group home left deep, horrible, lasting scars.

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Mother Jones published several articles about New Bethany Home for Girls: Survivor Snapshots From Teen-Home Hell and Horror Stories from Tough-Love Teen Home — both written by Katheryn Joyce.

Victimized No More is a great repository of information about Mack Ford and New Bethany. Sadly, many of its links are broken due to the Times-Picayune removing (or moving) Mack Ford and New Bethany stories from its site.

Times-Picayune articles:

New Bethany Home for Girls endured 30 years of controversy, leaving former residents wondering why

New Bethany Home for Girls: Timeline

Previous posts about Mack Ford and New Bethany Home for Girls

Teen Group Homes: Dear IFB Pastor, It’s Time for You to Atone for Your Sin

The Dogma that Followed Me Home by Cat Givens

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.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Trent Holbert Charged with Sex Crimes

pastor trent holbert

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.

Trent Holbert, pastor of The Ridge Church (its website is currently down) in Black Mountain, North Carolina, was charged last week with one count of indecent liberties with a child and two counts of statutory sex offense. The Ridge Church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Kentucky today reports:

Trent Holbert, 41, former pastor of The Ridge Church, was arrested last month and has been charged with one count of indecent liberties with a child and two counts of statutory sex offense, the Biblical Recorder reported. He was previously the pastor of Epoch Fellowship Church in Owenton, Ky., as late as 2017.

….

Both The Ridge Church and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina have released statements condemning Holbert’s alleged actions.

“Trent Holbert has resigned from his position as the head pastor of the Ridge Church,” said a statement released Friday from church elder Drew Wheeler. “Our hearts and prayers go out to the family of our former head pastor and the families of all of those involved. The care and protection of children and minors is a biblical and moral mandate that is taken seriously by the Ridge Church. We do not condone such actions as the alleged, and our prayers are with the victims of any such abuse.”

The North Carolina convention’s statement, released Thursday, said leaders were “deeply grieved” by the charges.

“As a pastor, Trent has been a speaker at convention-related events for adults in the recent past,” the statement said. “He underwent background and reference checks prior to his participation in those events. We are not aware that he had any contact or dealings with minors as part of those events. The care and protection of children and minors is both a biblical and moral mandate that we take very seriously. We are praying for everyone who has been impacted by these alleged heinous crimes. N.C. Baptists are offering support to the local association and the church as they face these challenging times, as well. We stand with any and all victims of abuse and are committed to cooperating with authorities during their investigation. We encourage you to contact the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office if you have any relevant information.”

According to WLOS news, on May 18, detectives with the Special Victims Unit of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant at Holbert’s residence. During the execution of the warrant, Holbert was arrested and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile, and electronic devices were seized from the home.

Oh, the Southern Baptists are “deeply grieved” by Holbert’s alleged criminal behavior. Yet, these same Southern Baptists refused to seriously address clergy sexual abuse at their latest national convention. Further, Southern Baptists refuse to establish a database of church leaders who have been accused of sex crimes. What Southern Baptists should be deeply grieved over is their immoral inaction on clergy sexual abuse.

Holbert’s church bio page (which has been scrubbed from the church’s website) states:

Pastor Trent is a gifted communicator and a relational junkie. He loves people and gets his fix from being a positive part of their lives. His ministry mindset is holistic. He believes that God’s plan and design for humans doesn’t stop at spiritual needs. He holds a degree in theology, but as a certified personal trainer and holistic health coach, Trent teaches us how to know our Creator better through optimal physical, emotional, and spiritual health. You can hear him weekly on the Fit For the Kingdom Podcast.

If convicted, Hobert’s bio can be updated to say “gifted communicator, relational junkie, and child molester.”

Black Mountain News article on Holbert starting The Ridge Church.

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.

Beware of Deacon Bob

child abuse 2

The following is loosely based on a true story recounted to me by a Baptist pastor’s daughter.

Every church has a Deacon Bob — a Jesus-loving man who loves getting close and personal with children. Deacon Bob is a hugger. He loves intimate physical contact. Deacon Bob goes from person to person, handing out hugs and warm embraces. Everyone loves Deacon Bob. Knowing no boundaries, Deacon Bob embraces everyone. Deacon Bob focuses his “love” on children. Children love Deacon Bob. He is known for always having candy in his suit coat pocket.  Sunday after Sunday, church children run to Deacon Bob, begging him to give them candy.

Every night, without fail, Deacon Bob and his wife — both lifelong members of Calvary Baptist Church — had their Bible devotions and prayed together. Afterward, Deacon Bob’s wife retired for the night. Deacon Bob told his wife that he would be to bed soon, but first, he needed to study his Sunday School lesson — Deacon Bob taught the fifth-grade girls. Soon his wife was fast asleep, and Deacon Bob sat down in the computer room to study his lesson — a place where he would commune with God undisturbed. Done with studies, Deacon Bob got up from his chair and locked the computer room door. Safe from interruption, Deacon Bob sat down, put on his headphones, and typed in Netscape the internet address for one of his favorite child pornography websites. Soon, Deacon Bob began pleasuring himself as he viewed children being sexually molested and violated. Once he was finished, Deacon Bob felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. Oh, Jesus, I am so sorry for what I have done. Please, Lord, forgive me. I claim the promises found in 1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Thank you, Lord for forgiving me of my sin. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen.

Night after night, year after year, Deacon Bob repeats this ritual — seeking self-gratification and then asking Jesus to forgive him. Deacon Bob started each morning with prayer, reading that day’s entry in Our Daily Bread, and a silent promise to God that he would never look at child porn again. Deacon Bob’s resolve lasted for a day or two, maybe a week, but soon, with deviant passions stirred by church children unaware of who and what he really is, Deacon Bob returned to the internet to seek out images and video sure to satisfy — for a moment — his perverse sexual desires.

Deacon Bob is a sexual predator hiding in plain sight. His church family thinks he’s wonderful — a lover of Jesus and children. He’s just like Jesus, Pastor Billy was heard saying. Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. (Luke 18:16) Deacon Bob just wants to minister to children, sharing with them his love for Jesus. We need more Deacon Bobs in this church! Clueless to Deacon Bob’s true nature and desires, Pastor Billy and the church “trust” Deacon Bob with their children. Sister Eatmore was overheard saying, Why Deacon Bob sure does love children. I would trust him to take my children anywhere.

The whole church thinks Deacon Bob is their very own Mister Rogers — everyone except Margie Buttermore, that is. Sister Buttermore told her husband one Sunday after church, That Deacon Bob sure is friendly with children. I am worried that he might be a sexual predator or a pedophile. Just today, I saw him hug Julia, and as he did, his hand slid down to her buttocks. I think he did that on purpose. Brother Buttermore replied, Oh, Margie, Deacon Bob is a fine man. He teaches Sunday School, sings in the choir, and just last year, he gave a large donation to the building fund. I would KNOW if Deacon Bob is a pervert. Men KNOW these kinds of things. Deacon Bob is NOT a pedophile. Sister Buttermore said nothing more, but she decided to pay attention to how Deacon Bob physically interacted with children.

Week after week, Sister Buttermore watched Deacon Bob, becoming more certain each week that he was not the kind of man everyone thought he was. One Sunday evening after church. Sister Buttermore decided to talk to Pastor Billy about her concerns. And just like her husband months before, Pastor Billy assured Sister Buttermore that Deacon Bob was a fine, upstanding Christian. Years ago, Pastor Billy told her, we had a man in our church who really was a pedophile. Everyone knew he was a child molester. I ran him off before he could hurt any of our children. Deacon Bob is nothing like this pervert.

Several years later, Deacon Bob took his fifth-grade girl’s Sunday School class out to eat — a reward for winning the Sunday School Perfect Attendance Award. Most families dropped their girls off at the local Chuck E. Cheese. Sister Eatmore had something come up at the last minute, so she called Deacon Bob and asked him if he would pick up Julia for the party. Deacon Bob told Sister Eatmore that he would be glad to pick Julia up and safely return her home after the party. Thanks! Deacon Bob. There’s no one I trust more with our children than you. Deacon Bob replied, no problem, Sister. I love our church’s children. I want to help every child come to know Jesus as their Savior.

Just as planned, Deacon Bob picked up eleven-year-old Julia and took her to the party. On the way home, Deacon Bob told Julia to slide over close to him. With nary a thought, groomed for this very moment, Julia complied. Deacon Bob had been hugging her for years. Everyone loved and trusted him.

Several miles away from Chuck E. Cheese, Deacon Bob took his right hand and put it on Julia’s thigh. Julia didn’t seem to mind. Julia, Deacon Bob said, you know Jesus loves you, and so do I. Julia replied, I know, I love both of you too!

Years later, Julia told her therapist what happened the night Deacon Bob drove her home from the party. Twenty years had passed, and Julia had never told anyone about what Deacon Bob had done to her. When Julia graduated from high school, she left home, moving three thousand miles away to San Diego. Julia would travel home to visit her parents from time to time, but she always planned her visits so she wouldn’t have to go to church. She couldn’t bear to go to church — any church.

One year, Julia returned home for her parent’s wedding anniversary. Calvary Baptist wanted to recognize the Eatmores for being faithfully married for fifty years, so they held a party for Brother and Sister Eatmore. Julia’s mom said, Julia, I hope you will come to church for our anniversary party. Please, honey! I know you don’t like going to Calvary, but won’t you do this for us?

Guilted into submission, Julia relented. As she entered the church, Julia looked off in the distance, and there was Deacon Bob — in his eighties now — hugging a young girl. Overcome with grief, guilt, and homicidal rage, Julia ran from the building and walked back to her parent’s home. Brother and Sister Eatmore finally came home and found Julia, tears streaming down her face, packing her bag. What’s wrong, Julia? Sister Eatmore asked. Julia told her mom what Deacon Bob had done to her when she was eleven. Oh honey, surely you must be mistaken. Deacon Bob loves Jesus, and he would never, ever do such a thing. And with that, Julia called Uber for a ride to the airport, never to return to her parent’s home.

Deacon Bob died several years later, leaving behind the testimony of a man who loved Jesus and children until the end.

Did your church have a Deacon Bob? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

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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.

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Bruce Gerencser