An Indiana woman is suing the First Baptist Church of Hammond, alleging its youth minister repeatedly raped her as a teen girl in the late 1970s.
Joy Ryder, who now runs a support group for sex abuse victims, said she is trying to win justice not only for herself, but others similarly abused by the fundamentalist movement’s clergy over the decades.
She alleges officials of the church and Hyles-Anderson College put her at the mercy of David Hyles, son of the church’s charismatic leader, the late Jack Hyles.
She said once her family accused David Hyles of sexual abuse, the church covered up his wrongdoings.
Ryder, who spoke this week with The Times and gave permission to identify her by name, said the federal lawsuit is the only way left to hold church officials publicly accountable.
“You couldn’t go up against their authority. (David Hyles) told me that nobody would believe me,” she said.
She said the statute of limitations has passed on criminal charges, and the church hierarchy has repeatedly refused to respond to her accusations.
Her attorney, Robert Montgomery, filed a civil suit Monday in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
It alleges David Hyles, Hyles-Anderson College in Schererville and the First Baptist Church of Hammond violated state and local law as defined by the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) statute.
Neither David Hyles, who now is affiliated with a different church out of state, nor a spokesperson for the First Baptist Church of Hammond, were immediately available for comment Tuesday.
In the case surrounding the recent lawsuit, Ryder said her parents were church members and employees when she was being raped by David Hyles, then the church’s youth minister and son of Jack Hyles.
She attended Hammond Baptist Schools and Hyles-Anderson College during the 1970s and early 1980s.
She said David Hyles was 25, and she was 14 when he began to pull her aside from church youth groups to flatter her, select her as a member of the church’s traveling music group and gain her trust.
The suit alleges Ryder became concerned about David Hyles stalking her with repeated calls to talk and be with him. It alleges that when this was brought to Jack Hyles’ attention, he responded that Ryder “wasn’t special” and his son “did that with everyone.”
Ryder said she was a high school sophomore when David Hyles first assaulted her in his office at the church’s youth ministry building in downtown Hammond.
The suit alleges David Hyles “pinned her to the floor in his office and raped her.”
The suit alleges: “Multiple other girls accused (David) Hyles of sexual misconduct, similarly, to no avail.”
The suit alleges David Hyles sexually abused Ryder more than 50 times over two years inside church buildings as well as other locations during her travels with the church music group.
The suit also alleges David Hyles once ordered her to his home when his wife was out of town and threatened to reveal her to the congregation as a “slut” and have her parents fired from their church employment.
The suit alleges that once she arrived at his house, he forced her to perform oral sex and later laughed, “Bet you didn’t expect that, did you?” It alleges David Hyles secretly put drugs or alcohol in her food and drink to make her more compliant.
The suit alleges Ryder finally informed her parents of the rapes after two years and brought her father with her to a meeting with David Hyles to confront him.
It alleges that after their meeting, her father personally informed Jack Hyles of the son’s wrongdoing.
It alleges the church responded by giving her father a lucrative job at Hyles-Anderson college “in exchange for his silence and agreement not to take the allegations to law enforcement.”
The lawsuit also alleges the church then moved David Hyles to a church in Texas, where his father had previously been a pastor. The suit alleges child rape and sexual abuse by all church clergy, including those of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist movement, “are widely known” and have led to numerous later investigations, trials and convictions.
My “prayer” is that this lawsuit will be the first of many.
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.
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David Hyles, the son of the late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana (once the largest church in the United States, sporting a Sunday attendance of almost 25,000), is back in the ministry again, helping “fallen” pastors return to the ministry. David Hyles, oft accused of sexual misconduct and criminal behavior, believes his past puts him in a unique place to “help” pastors who have “fallen.” Hyles, as of the date of this post, has never publicly atoned for his behavior. Hyles says God has forgiven him, and that’s all that matters. In his mind he doesn’t owe anyone an explanation for the lives he ruined, including his victims. God has wiped Hyles’ slate clean, and now it’s time for him to reclaim his rightful place among Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) royalty. I have no doubt that his brother-in-law, Jack Schaap, an IFB preacher who is currently serving a twelve-year federal prison sentence for his sexual misconduct with a church teen, feels the same way; that God has forgiven him; that he is still a God-called preacher; that his time in prison has made him a better man and a better Christian. This scenario is played out time after time in the IFB church movement. Once saved always saved, so David Hyles is a still a Christian, regardless of what he does. The calling of God is irrevocable, so David Hyles — a man chosen by God and Jack Hyles — is still a preacher, and he would be sinning against God to NOT be doing what God called him to do.
For readers who are not familiar with David Hyles (or Jack Hyles) I encourage you to read the following posts:
Several years ago, David Hyles briefly blogged at the site Fallen in Grace. My exposure of him in this blog forced Hyles to abandon his blogging efforts. Hyles and I play a game of whack-a-mole. He pops his head up and I smack it. I will continue to do so until Hyles publicly atones for his past and forever ends attempts to minister to trusting (albeit naive) people. Hyles has reconfigured the Fallen in Grace domain, and he is now using it to promote Fallen in Grace: A Ministry of Reconciliation (FIG) — his latest attempt at reinventing himself. According to the site’s About page, FIG’s purpose is to:
…provide tools, encouragement and helps to aid in restoration; both for those who have fallen and those who are involved in the ministry of restoration. We are all about obeying this command; to restore the fallen. This is not a place to argue or discuss people’s sins. It is a place to discover how to resolve the challenges that arise after someone has fallen into sin.
Let me be clear before I go any farther with this post, that when I talk about FIG I am actually talking about disgraced IFB preacher David Hyles. FIG is a ministry of one — David Hyles. Hyles says as much when he writes:
This is not theory. Many of those who are involved in this ministry have themselves experienced a fall in their background, so they do understand, firsthand, the challenges and difficulties of being restored.
Our story is my story, as well as the story of others like me. I am one who experienced falling and for many years struggled with being restored. I learned the right ways and the wrong ways for restoration through my own experiences. My goal is to share these experiences with others who have fallen and with those who are trying to restore others like myself.
Establish national Fallen in Grace Restoration Ministries.
Present ‘How to Restore’ Pastor’s [sic]Training Seminars.
Inspire the many talented and gifted Fallen in Grace.
Provide help in private areas online to restore people’s lives.
Hyles, of course, knows the IFB church movement is rife with sexual and criminal misconduct by pastors, evangelists, missionaries, deacons, college professors, and the like. In Hyles’ mind, these men of God, regardless of what they have done, are still called of God, and once God has forgiven the “fallen,” it is time for them to get back on their horses, riding into battle against Satan, sin, liberalism, and all sundry “sins” IFB churches and pastors oppose.
Thoughtful readers might ask, surely Hyles doesn’t believe that there’s nothing a preacher can do that will disqualify him from the ministry? What about murder? Not even murder. You see, Hyles’ favorite Bible character is — you guessed it — King David. The Biblical David committed adultery and murder, yet he was greatly used by God. The Bible even calls David a man after God’s own heart. In Hyles’ mind, if King David can be restored, so can he and any of the countless other perverts, criminals, and philanderers who lost their ministries. In Hyles’ mind, no sin is unforgivable; no sin is beyond God’s grace; and no sucker is beyond the reach of an IFB preacher in need of cash. (It used to be that divorce disqualified a man from being an IFB preacher. Jack Hyles believed this, yet the divorced and remarried David Hyles must think otherwise.)
While FIG does offer some free materials, most of what they offer requires payment. For example, the Biblical Restoration: A Practical Study costs $50. And for those completing the course — I shit you not — they can receive two college credits from Bob Gray, Sr’s unaccredited online college — Independent Baptist Online College. Bob Gray, Sr. the retired pastor of Longview Baptist Temple, Longview, Texas and a graduate of Hyles-Anderson College, has long been trying to restore David Hyles to his rightful place in the IFB kingdom. Gray, Sr, a man who has spent his life bowed before the King of Kings, Lord Jack Hyles, sees restoring David Hyles as a way to rehabilitate the Hyles name.
In October 2018, FIG will be holding a Restoration Workshop at a place called the Red Barn, located in Middle, Georgia. Hyles does not list, for obvious reasons, the address for the Red Barn, nor does he provide a link to its website. Hyles has this to say about the workshop:
I wanted to send you a special invitation to participate in one of our two Fall Restoration Workshops held here at the Red Barn in middle Georgia. We would be delighted if you and your spouse could attend one of these workshops. I would love for you to learn more about our ministry but also to hear teaching on the philosophies behind restoration. This will be a comprehensive time of teaching these principles and also a great time of fellowship.
We are excited about these workshops and feel it is just the beginning of the training that we will do here at the Red Barn. I hope you will make plans to attend but let us know soon if you plan to attend.
FIG provides a page full of sermon-like articles for fallen preachers. Most of the articles require registration and membership. I assume there’s a cost involved for being a member. You can browse the list of articles here.
A previous iteration (August 2017, Wayback Machine) of the FIG site reveals that FIG primarily exists for the purpose of helping “fallen” (Greek for having sex with underage boys/girls, adultery, fornication and any of the other behaviors and crimes IFB preachers commit; remember, no behavior is so bad that God cannot forgive, and no behavior is so bad that a man called of God can’t be restored to the ministry) preachers regain their places in the ministry. Of course, by helping disgraced preachers, Hyles justifies and validates his own restoration. One need only read Hyles’ article on divorce to realize that FIG is all about the self-justification of his life. In essence, Hyles is saying, God has forgiven me, the slate’s been wiped clean, and you have no right to criticize or judge me. My bad behavior is in the past, buried by God in the depths of the sea to be remembered no more. Too bad Hyles’ victims can’t find that same mind-wiping, life-restoring grace. They live with the deep wounds and scars of their past, often unable to move forward, while David Hyles waltzes around the country screaming, I’M FORGIVEN! WOO HOO! Call 1-666-666-6666 now to book me for a meeting at your church! Let’s get this restoration train rolling!
Paul was the first to admit that he was carnal. He confessed to the fact that he struggled with his flesh. Yet we know Paul was a man who lived a chaste life. Many of the people with whom we deal struggle with same sex attraction. Unfortunately many people have been misguided as to how to deal with this. Their objective is to change the attraction. However sexual attraction is not only a problem for those who have a same-sex attraction. All sexual attraction can be a problem. If a young man has a sexual attraction to his girlfriend he must learn how to deal with that, just as someone who has a sexual attraction to the same sex.
First, take into consideration that attraction is not the problem. The problem is that this world has sexualized attraction. An attraction is not a sin, but when that attraction is accompanied by sexual desires then we have a problem. Some men can see attractive woman while others see a sexual object. The difference is in the mind. So what is the solution?
Paul gives us the answer in Romans 12. The answer is that we must remove the sexual from sexual attraction. That is true whether it be an attraction to same-sex or the opposite sex. If the attraction is sexual then we must remove the sexual from the attraction. Unfortunately our minds have been inundated with sexuality. It is difficult for people to separate attraction from sexuality. Thus we have a society overwhelmed with sexual attractions. A man sees a beautiful woman and because he has a mind that has been consumed by sex he automatically has a sexual attraction towards her.
If one’s mind has been filled with sexual thoughts, they cannot change their minds. Their minds have been programmed. Unfortunately we are not the deprogrammers. Who is? The answer is found in the same passage. It is by the renewing of our minds. But the renewing of our minds comes after we surrender our bodies. So in other words we must make the decision to sacrifice the sexual part of the desire or attraction before the Holy Spirit can transform our minds and remove the sexual from the attraction. Can a man who thinks sexual thoughts every time he looks at a woman have his mind changed? The answer is yes. However he must first make the decision to sacrifice his body. In other words he does not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Then we are transformed not before surrender but after.
The next step is non conformity to the world. We often misunderstand this. Nonconformity means we do not respond to the attraction like the world does. We do not ogle the person with sexual thoughts. We do not make flirtatious or sexual remarks. Our response to the attraction is based upon the fact that we are no longer our own because we have given our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable. It also means we avoid the places and situations where our sexual attraction is fueled or fed. One who has given their body as a living sacrifice can go to the places, including on the internet where this world goes to feed their fleshly desires.
After this is when the renewing of the mind comes. When the mind is renewed then suddenly the sexual has been removed from the attraction. In other words we can see someone as being attractive without having sexual thoughts. It starts with surrender, then to non conformity and finally to transformation. We get it backwards. A man who has same-sex attraction does not have to have same-sex sexual attraction. In other words he may be attracted to other men as friends, but he is not attracted to them sexually. Those who have been involved in a same sex lifestyle must understand this concept. They must surrender their bodies first. They must say I sacrifice my sexual desires because I submit my body to the Spirit of God. In submitting their body they now refuse to be conformed to this sexual society in which we live. Then, and only then, the metamorphosis of their mind begins and they are transformed. Now they can be attracted without being sexually attracted. Now they can have friendships without sexual thoughts. This is where the transformation takes place.
Later in the article, Hyles has this to say about masturbation:
Let me be frank. Masturbation is absolutely a curse to this process. Masturbation is just as much fulfilling the lust of the flesh or the act itself. When you think the thought during that process it is the same as if you had acted it out. You cannot live that thought in your mind to the gratification of your flesh. Many men who once were adulterers commit adultery constantly in front of a computer screen. Many men once involved in same-sex activity commit the same sins in their mind and then with their bodies. You cannot allow your body to be gratified by those sexual impulses. You must give your body as a living sacrifice. You cannot masturbate and be a living sacrifice at the same time.
It’s clear from what I have shared in this post, that David Hyles is still very much an IFB preacher. Thus, it should come as no shock that FIG is operated as a ministry of Family Baptist Church in Columbia, Tennessee — an IFB congregation pastored by David Baker, a graduate of — you guessed it — Hyles-Anderson College. Not only is Baker a Hyles-Anderson graduate, so is Steve Wipf, Family Baptist’s assistant pastor.
Family Baptist Church is a King James-only Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church. Its doctrines are from stem to stern IFB, including its belief that the universe was created 6,022 years ago. The church’s pastor and his wife also seem to support patriarchal thinking when it comes to family; they have eleven children, two of whom are married.
The IFB church movement is quite incestuous, especially the followers of Jack Hyles. Earlier, I made the connection of Bob Gray, Sr, Hyles-Anderson College, Independent Baptist Online College (IBOC) with David Hyles. A similar connection can be made with David Baker. Baker is a graduate of Hyles Anderson and sports a candy stick “Dr” in front of his name, given to him by Texas Baptist College (now Texas Independent Baptist Seminary), another institution started by Bob Gray, Sr. and now operated by his son, Bog Gray II. Baker is a professor at Gray, Sr’s latest enterprise, IBOC. David Hyles’ FIG ministry is sponsored by Baker and Family Baptist. My oh my, what a cozy family that takes care of their own no matter what they have done! Ironically, though sponsored by Family Baptist, FIG is not mentioned anywhere on the church’s website.
The sheer amount of data available on the FIG website could provide me enough fodder for several weeks of blog posts if I were so inclined. Alas, I can only stand so much of this stuff before I want to pull the hair out of my hairless head. I appreciate and thank my friend Steve, a former student at Texas Baptist College and attendee at Longview Baptist Temple, for sussing out exactly what David Hyles was up to these day.
Let me concluded this post with a David Hyles quote that should tell you all you need to know about the man, his beliefs, and his current “ministry” to “fallen” preachers. Speaking to preachers living with secret sins, he tells them to confess their transgressions to God and then:
Tonight go to sleep as though your whole past has been dropped. Die to the past. And in the morning wake up as a new man in a new morning. Don’t let the same one who went to bed get up. Let him go to sleep for good.
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.
Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.
In March 2000, Joe Combs and his wife Evangeline were tried and convicted on numerous criminals charged related to their ritual abuse and rape of their adopted daughter. Joe Combs was the pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Bristol, Tennessee. He previously had been a trusted member of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana and a teacher at Hyles-Anderson College.
The Combses case was brought to memory recently when police arrested “David Turpin and Louise Turpin earlier this month in Riverside County, California, on charges of torture, child abuse, dependent adult abuse and false imprisonment.”
Dalena Mathews and Robert Sorrell, reporters for the Bristol Herald Courier had this to say:
Sullivan County District Attorney General Barry Staubus said news of the Turpin case brought back memories of a case he prosecuted in 2000. “I immediately remembered the Combs trial and started comparing it to what’s happening in [the Turpin] case,” Staubus said in a recent interview with the Bristol Herald Courier.
“The difference is that in the Combs case, it centered on the sadistic, brutal treatment of Esther Combs.”
In November 1998, Bristol Tennessee Police arrested Joseph D. Combs, pastor of the now-defunct Emmanuel Baptist Church on Weaver Pike, and his wife, Evangeline Combs, on charges that they brutalized, Esther, a girl they were raising as their daughter.
The couple and their children were living in the church parsonage at the time the abuse took place.
Grand jury indictments against the couple were the culmination of a multi-jurisdictional investigation that began in February 1997, according to Blaine Wade, who now serves as Bristol Tennessee’s police chief.
Police began investigating when Esther, then 19, was taken to Bristol Regional Medical Center for treatment after she attempted to commit suicide. Hospital staff discovered that her body was covered in layers of scar tissue. It was revealed during the trial that she had more than 400 scars. The case went to trial more than a year later in March 2000. Lawyers questioned 121 jurors over six days before agreeing on the 12-member jury. The 12 jurors selected for the case included five retirees, a nurse, a press room manager, a bread salesman, a fast food restaurant manager and several Eastman employees. The group also included two church deacons and a Sunday school teacher.
Subpoenaed witnesses for the defense included two Michigan lawyers who represented Esther in a civil action against the Combses and against the Indiana adoption agency that placed her with the family.
Esther led a tortured life behind the locked doors of a Bristol church, enduring rapes, beatings and burnings at the hands of the people who should have protected her, Staubus said in his opening statement.
“Inside this locked, closed fellowship hall, there were sinister things going on,” Staubus said.
The couple systematically beat and abused the girl with baseball bats, wood burners, pliers, pieces of tin and metal whips, the prosecutor said. “Mrs. Combs found out about [the abuse], and she blamed Esther and she viciously abused her,” Staubus told the jury.
Along with physical abuse and rape came other forms of cruelty, Staubus said. Esther was starved, denied an education and medical treatment and was “separated out to be the family servant,” the prosecutor said. “You will hear and see evidence of lies, betrayed trust, assaults, injuries, brutality, molestation and even torture.”
Defense attorneys, Spivey and Joe Harrison, said Esther had an ulterior motive. “She has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, and has received compensation for stories she has told to news agencies and newspaper people,” Spivey said.
Spivey said the most important evidence would come from the girl’s five brothers and sisters, who would testify she was a “disturbed young woman who inflicted injuries on herself.”
The jury was shown 58 photographs, which were taken by Richmond on the day the young woman was admitted to the hospital. The photographs showed red, whip-like marks covering the young woman’s back, raised scars on her buttocks and near her genitals, and other scars on her forehead, chin, neck, wrists, arms, breasts and legs.
When the detective tried to uncover the cause of the disfiguring marks on the young woman’s body, she was met by silence, Richmond said.
“Joe Combs told me he did not know she had scars and that he had never seen the scars before,” Richmond said. “He said she was very clumsy and she fell down a lot on the pavement.”
Esther took the stand on the 12th day of the trial, where a standing-room only crowd filled the courtroom. Joseph and Evangeline Combs showed little reaction to the testimony and rarely looked at Esther Combs while she was speaking.
“My earliest memory is of being tied to the high chair and thrown down the stairs by Mrs. Combs,” Esther testified, drawing gasps from the crowd of courtroom spectators.
She testified that the abuse continued for the next two decades as she detailed numerous incidents of abuse by Joseph and Evangeline Combs.
So many people wanted to observe the trial, Judge Beck set up a lottery system to determine which members of the public would get seats for the court session. He said he would not let spectators stand in the courtroom, but on certain days, some were allowed to do so.
A number of witnesses testified on behalf of the defense that the Combs children were “normal, happy children.”
The couple’s other children denied the allegations against their parents.
The former pastor adamantly denied allegations that he raped, tortured or enslaved Esther.
“I love her. I thought she loved me,” Joseph Combs said. “I’m bewildered by all of this. I can’t get my mind around it. It doesn’t make sense.” Combs took the stand, but his wife did not.
After deliberating for just four hours, the jury delivered a guilty verdict. Joseph and Evangeline Combs were found guilty of especially aggravated kidnapping. Joseph Combs was also convicted of aggravated rape, aggravated assault, aggravated perjury and seven counts of rape. Evangeline Combs was also convicted of four counts of aggravated child abuse. The trial ultimately lasted 31 days, one of the longest in Sullivan County history.
On April 26, 2000, Joseph Combs was sentenced to 114 years behind bars. He later died in prison. Evangeline Combs received a 65-year sentence.
What follows is a video from the trial. Warning! This video is graphic:
The fundamentalist Baptist minister charged with kidnapping, raping and torturing a girl he took from a Porter County children’s home was once a respected Bible teacher at Hyles Anderson College in St. John Township.
When the Rev. Joseph and Evangeline Combs allegedly illegally adopted a 4-month old girl from the Baptist Children’s Home and Family Ministries in Kouts, he was “probably the foremost Bible instructor at Hyles Anderson,” said Jerry Kaifetz, a former student at the school and now an ordained minister. The family settled in a comfortable ranch home along a cul du sac in northwest Merrillville, where neighbors say the children were polite, well behaved and said they were not allowed to talk to adults unless their parents were present.
Joyce McGowan, a neighbor of the Combs family when they lived in Merrillville, said the Combses often tried to talk McGowan and her husband into accompanying them to Sunday services at First Baptist Church in Hammond. The Combs children were not allowed to exchange even small talk with McGowan, she said. McGowan also said she recalled the Combses often commenting how often their adoptive daughter seemed to be ill. “She was the one we didn’t see too often,” McGowan said. “She was small at that time, I think she couldn’t have been but 9 or 10 when they moved away. When we did see her, she had the saddest little face you ever saw.”
Prosecutors in Tennessee said the girl lived a hellish existence with her adoptive parents, being tortured and sexually abused as she was brainwashed into believing she was being raised to be the family’s slave because it was “God’s will.” The alleged abuse was discovered when the woman, who turns 21 on Monday, was hospitalized after a suicide attempt last year. Federal court records show the Combses were given the little girl in March 1978 by the operators of the Baptist Children’s Home. The adoption process was never completed. In a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court in Hammond, lawyers for the woman said their client was systematically tortured by the Combses, never allowed to attend school and not told she was adopted or that a judge never awarded custody of her to the Combses. The lawyers are suing the Combses for their alleged abuse and the Baptist Children’s Home for negligence. The lawsuit does not specify the damages being sought.
Kaifetz said Combs left the area, probably in 1985, during a controversy over his sale of Bible study books at the college. He has had no contact with Combs since then, but did see an advertisement for his ministry several years ago in a religious publication.
The Rev. Jack Hyles, the pastor of the First Baptist Church and chancellor of Hyles Anderson College, could not be reached for comment Saturday. Beverly Hyles, his wife, said neither one of them has had any contact with the Combses since they left the area, taking 40 or so Hyles Anderson students with them to start their Tennessee church. “He has called us several times,” Hyles said. “We have not returned any of his calls.”
The woman’s lawsuit says she faces huge medical bills as the result of her alleged mistreatment. Among the injuries the Combses are alleged to have inflicted upon the woman were broken bones, dislocated joints, severe and repeated lacerations and trauma and damage to the nervous system and vascular systems. She is being cared for in Michigan by a foster family and has met both of her birth parents since her suicide attempt, said Gregg Herman, one of her lawyers.
Jennifer Talirico, another former neighbor of the Combses, said she was horrified to learn of the charges pending against the Combses. “They kept to themselves, they certainly weren’t the type to have neighbors over or anything like that,” Talirico said. “But God, I wish I knew what was going on in that house.”
David Hyles is the son of the late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana for many years. During his younger years, David Hyles was the youth pastor at First Baptist. While there, he sexually preyed on women, resulting in his father quietly, in the dead of night, shipping him off to pastor an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) Church that knew nothing of David’s philandering. As sexual predators are wont to do, David Hyles continued his whoring ways, leading to his expulsion from the church. If you are not familiar with the David and Jack Hyles story, please read:
In recent years, David Hyles has been showing up at IFB churches and events, acting as if what happened in the past is ancient history and no longer relevant. Praise Jesus! He has been forgiven! It’s time for people such as myself to move on and give the guy a break. Yes, he was a serial adulterer. Yes, he preyed on women. Yes, he was a despicable human being. But, “Brother Dave’ has played his “washed-by-the-blood, get-out-of-jail-free card. As far as he is concerned, his sin account has been settled and he is free to move forward in the fullness and wonder of God’s mercy and grace. Never mind the fact that Hyles has NEVER given a public accounting of his very public misconduct, and as far as I know he has not contacted nor made restitution to the countless people he has harmed. Doing so, of course, would require him to admit actions that still could be criminally prosecuted.
David Hyles was, as the following comment shows, in attendance at least one of the conference days. A Fighting Fundamental Forums commenter using the moniker Twisted posted a comment a friend of his made on Facebook:
While on a trip in North Carolina with one of our church men, we attended three evening services of the annual National Sword of the Lord Conference on Revival and Soul-Winning. One of the pleasures for me at the conference was to get to see Brother David Hyles, who has been a good friend and encouragement on Facebook. His dad, Jack Hyles, was my favorite preacher. Brother David’s wife, Brenda, took this photo. I thought she did a great job considering the subject matter.
After a period of waywardness, Brother Hyles (David) appears to have been on the right track again for some years now, and he has been trying to use his own restoration to encourage others who need the same. I count him as a friend! For any of you who might have a problem with that, I want to remind you that he is no longer out in a far country nor in the field feeding swine, but he is back at the Father’s house. Stay outside and pout if you want to, or you can come in and enjoy the Father’s celebration of restored fellowship!
Sorry, but I want to puke. According to the aforementioned Facebook friend, it’s time for people to forgive Hyles and move one. First, I have no need to forgive David Hyles. He never did anything to me, so there is nothing for him to apologize for — not that there is any evidence that Hyles (like his father) has apologized to anyone. My goal is to hold a man who was considered one of the “greatest men on earth” accountable for his abuse of countless trusting Christian women. Until Hyles gives a public accounting of his past actions and makes appropriate restitution, I intend to continue to smack him over the head every time I hear of him sticking his bald pate out of the hole he crawled into.
Ladies, your clothes are talking. I hope I can help you know what they are saying. Proverbs 7:10 says, “And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot and subtil of heart.” Quite simply, a harlot wears clothing that purposely draws attention to her body, especially certain areas of her body -bust, legs and backside.
Before I comment on the immodest clothing some women wear, I would like to point out one example that is too familiar to all of us. That example is the Christian woman who appears this way far too often: t-shirt not tucked in, jean skirt or old, casual, yet comfortable skirt, socks and tennis shoes. There may even be a run in her hose. Most likely her hair is pulled back in a ponytail, if given any attention at all. You ask, “If she is modest, what is wrong with that?” My answer is, “Nothing, if she is planning to clean out the closet or go hiking with her kids.”
1. Too many Christian women bring criticism to Christianity because they look sloppy in their appearance.
When they dress this way frequently, they are giving off the message-“I don’t care how I look.” Of course, as daughters of the King, we want to look our best.
2. The tight-fitting garment.
The following is a way to know if a garment fits too tight on top. If your garment cups under the bustline or around the bustline, it is too tight. You can test this in any full-length mirror. You will be surprised at what you see. If your garment cups your bustline as described, you are giving off this message-“Look at my bust.”
3. The too-sheer garment.
The way to know if your garment is too sheer is to see if your undergarment straps (bra and slip straps) can be seen through your outer garments. If they are visible, this could cause thoughts in the mind of a man that you really do not intend. The message your clothes are giving if too sheer is-“Look at my undergarments.”
4. The skirt or dress with a slit.
We all know there is rarely a time when we can purchase a garment with a slit and find that it is already sewn for us to meet our Christian standards. Perhaps you are thinking, “What’s the harm of a few slits? I wear skirts and dresses. That in itself is a big change for me!”
May I give you a good rule of thumb which will answer the above question. A good rule is that your slit should be no higher than two inches from the floor when in an upright kneeling position. Anything higher than that reveals your thigh. Remember, the harlot reveals her merchandise to drum up business. If your slit is higher than the standard given above, you are giving off this message-“Look at my legs.”
5. The too-low neckline.
It is quite frustrating sometimes to shop for a garment which has a high enough neckline to meet our standards. So, many times we settle for what the stores have to offer because we want to stay in style. We can be in style in a modest way without lowering ourselves to the world’s standards.
Find the “U” right below your neck and at the top middle of your collar bone. Now, place your four fingers closed together at the bottom of your “U.” If skin is showing below your four fingers, your garment is too low. Anything worn with a low neckline draws attention to your chest area. Just remember this: “The lower the neckline, the more curious a man gets.” Surely we do not want to put men in that position. I believe many Christian women are ignorantly doing this. When your neckline is too low, you are giving off this message-“Look at my bust.”
6. The tight skirt or tight-fitting part of a dress below the waist.
The following test will determine if your garment fits too tightly below the waist. Stand in front of a full-length mirror. If your skirt cups under your backside or abdomen, it is too tight. One thing I have seen that is a turn-off and quite unbecoming is panty lines showing through a skirt. If the skirt would have been looser, I would not have had to view this, and neither would our Christian men who are trying hard to keep their minds clean. Also, we want to avoid being sensuous. When your skirt is too tight, you are giving off this message-“Look at my backside.”
It would seem that there are only two reasons why women dress immodestly:
1. A mind problem.
Women do not think through how they look each day in front of a full-length mirror. They should take a few seconds each morning to quickly check the bustline, backside, slits, etc.
2. A heart problem.
Women are now aware of the messages they give when they wear certain types of garments or wear them are an immodest way. Some women continue to wear immodest apparel or try to hide behind excuses or simply know better but do it anyway. They need to be reminded that the harlot was “subtil of heart.” “Subtil” means “cunning” or “clever.” In other words, she knew exactly what she was doing. Christian women need not be “subtil of heart.”
Thanks to ever-increasing media scrutiny and the willingness of sexually and psychologically abused people to tell their stories, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches can no longer pretend that they don’t have a problem with sexual predators and child abuse. For years, IFB preachers have — with lustful glee — used the Catholic church sex scandals as sermon illustrations, reminding congregants that IFB churches don’t have such problems. We now know that predator IFB preachers, deacons, Sunday school teachers, and bus drivers, over the years, have had their perverse way with countless church children and teenagers. We also know that more than a few IFB pastors talk a great line when it comes to marital fidelity, but behind closed office, bedroom, and motel rooms, these “pillars of moral purity” are fucking their way through the church membership.
IFB churches are predominantly single-pastor run outfits or pastor/deacon run institutions, These pastors are often treated as demigods and given absolute control of their churches. When rumors of sexual misconduct become known, church members are expected to report the rumors to the pastor and/or deacons. It is then up to church leadership to determine what should be done about the rumors. Sadly, far too often church leaders hide these reports from congregants, preferring to quietly make problems go away. I know of two churches where numerous acts of sexual misconduct took place, yet congregants were never given a complete accounting of what happened. Hiding behind insurance company lawyers and following the advice of IFB “cleaners” such as the Attorney David Gibbs and the Christian Law Association, church leaders keep church members in the dark. Always protect the ministry, the church’s name, leaders are told. If congregants are told ALL the facts, why who knows what might come falling out of church closets!
Frustrated victims and their families have turned to law enforcement and the courts in attempts to hold IFB pastors and church leaders accountable for the vile things that have happened on their watch. In some instances, as in the case of the Catholic Church, settling lawsuits have impoverished and bankrupted offending IFB churches. I would think that IFB churches, now knowing that accusations of sexual misconduct or abuse could bankrupt them and lead to criminal prosecutions, would do their utmost to make sure their churches are safe places of worship. And many have done just that. While I still consider their theology to be psychologically harmful, I am grateful that some IFB church have taken steps to make sure church children and teenagers are not being sexually abused and that adult women are not being preyed upon by predator preachers.
Unfortunately, some IFB preachers think that church members suing is the problem. Using the Bible as a bludgeon, these so-called men of God warn congregants that God prohibits lawsuits against churches and fellow congregants. Thou shalt NOT sue churches, pastors, or fellow church members, IFB preachers often say. Allen Domelle is one such preacher,
In a July 18, 2016 post for the Old Paths Journal titled Suing a Church, REALLY? (link no longer active) Domelle writes:
Every pastor is always cognizant of the fact that one day his church may get sued. In a day when ambulance-chaser attorneys are very willing to represent clients who sue a church, pastors have to make sure they are extra careful with how their ministry is run. Every pastor knows that the Devil is more than willing to use one mishap to encourage someone to sue the church and cause them to face litigation for months, and sometimes years. Satan knows that this litigation will take focus and energy away from what the church is supposed to do; reach the world for Jesus Christ.
What is unexpected is for a church to be sued or threatened litigation by respected Christians. What surprises me is how well-known “Christian” leaders are not afraid to break the glass ceiling and actually file lawsuits against a church, or have their attorney send letters that threaten the church of litigation if they don’t do what the individual wants them to do. Whatever happened to the fear of God? I’m amazed that in recent years some of my pastor friends have had to deal with litigation because of preachers suing their church.
Never in my lifetime would I have imagined churches being sued or threatened with a lawsuit, especially by people who know better. There used to be a time in America when nobody would do anything against a church. Yet, somehow we have come to a low point in Christianity where people have stooped to the spiritual level of the church at Corinth. The church of Corinth was guilty of court litigation against fellow church members because they felt they had been defrauded. The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:6, “Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?” I can only imagine that the Apostle Paul was just as shocked about Christians suing each other as I am.
Let me make this clear; it is just as evil to sue or threaten litigation as it is to attack or change the KJB, play rock music in church, live a sodomite lifestyle, or commit adultery. It is just as wrong for a Christian to sue or threaten litigation against a church or fellow Christian as it is never to run one bus or lead one person to Jesus Christ. Your Christian credentials are out the window if you would even consider suing a church.
My friend, suing a church is a direct contradiction of Scriptures. It doesn’t matter what the reason may be, it is always wrong. Just because others have chosen to disobey the Scriptures doesn’t make it right when you have been wronged. Listen, we have all been wronged, but for the sake of Christ, it is better to be defrauded than to go to law and make a mockery of the name of Christ.
While Domelle doesn’t mention abuse or sex-related lawsuits, there can be no doubt they are included in what he considers sinful acts of litigation against IFB churches and pastors. I find it interesting that Domelle calls such claims “mishaps,” acts inspired by Satan meant to sidetrack churches from their singular purpose — winning souls to Jesus Christ. Evidently, Domelle doesn’t value truth, justice, and restitution as much as does protecting — at all costs — the “good” name of IFB churches and pastors.
While I am indifferent towards IFB preachers suing each other or pastors suing former churches over being fired, when it comes to punishing predatory behaviors, I passionately support victims and their families in their use of law enforcement and the courts to punish offending churches and their leaders. The only way to put an end to rampant abuse is to make it so painful for offenders and their enablers that they will stop treating victims are collateral damage in their war against Satan.
Allen Domelle is best buds with Bob Gray, Sr. Both men are graduates of Hyles-Anderson College, and both sport honorary, pay-for-play doctorates. (Please see IFB Doctorates: Doctor, Doctor, Doctor, Everyone’s a Doctor .) Both men worship Jack Hyles — an IFB demigod who was once accused of adultery. (Please see The Legacy of Jack Hyles.) Domelle, an evangelist, considers the Longview Baptist Temple to be his home church. Longview was pastored by Gray, Sr. for many years and is now pastored by his son, Bob Gray, II.
Both Domelle and Gray, Sr. know about the plethora of rumors concerning sexual misconduct in IFB churches. Several readers have told me that Domelle’s preacher father was caught up in a sexual scandal of his own years ago. Since this scandal allegedly took place before the invention of the internet, I have been unable to verify this claim. Knowing these things, however, casts Domelle’s post in a different light. Of course he doesn’t like congregants suing IFB churches and pastors. Doing so opens up IFB outhouse vaults for all to see (and smell). If these accusations make it to court, defenders of the one true IFB faith know that discovery and sworn testimony will expose hidden secrets, dredging up past sexual misconduct claims.
Over the years, I have spoken privately with several victims of pastor sexual misconduct and child abuse. Their stories are heartbreaking, especially the parts about IFB adults and church leaders who were supposed to love and care for them and didn’t. Putting church “testimony” and reputation first, these abuse enablers shamed victims into silence, often suggesting that what they experienced is their fault of some sort of perverse test from God. Upon hearing such stories, I encourage victims to do three things:
Tell law enforcement
Consult a competent, non-Evangelical lawyer
Publicize your story
By publicizing their stories, other victims often find the courage to tell their stories. As is often the case, IFB sexual predators and abusers rarely, if ever, stop their behavior. This is why victims, if they are able to do so, should use the legal system to punish IFB churches and their leaders for their misconduct. If doing so forces churches to close their doors, so be it. As Tony Barretta famously said, Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time.
Originally written in 2012. Edited for clarity and grammar.
Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor Bob Gray, Sr. (not the pedophile pastor Bob Gray from Jacksonville, Florida) pastored the Longview Baptist Temple in Longview Texas for over thirty years. In 2009 Gray turned the church franchise over to his son and became a traveling preacher. He blogs at Solving Church Problems.
Bob Gray is a prototypical Sword of the Lord, Jack Hyles-loving IFB preacher. He preaches an Antinomian, one-two-three-repeat-after-me, pray-the-sinners-prayer, easy-believism gospel. Gray is of the opinion that winning souls to Jesus is the only thing that really matters. Well that and jetting all over the country so he can preach at conferences and special meetings (winning souls doesn’t pay the bills). Gray, a consummate bean counter, can tell you right down to the person how many people he has personally won to Christ and how many people were saved through his preaching.
Over the past 35 years, the Gray-cartel-led Longview Baptist Temple has won more souls to Christ than actually live in Longview Texas. While the Longview Baptist Temple grew to be quite large under the ministry of Gray, Sr, the number of souls saved far outnumber the number of people baptized and added to the church membership. Gray, like many of his ilk, is only concerned with “getting people saved.” If they never get baptized or become a part of the church? Regrettable, but hey, there are more souls to save (he was taught this philosophy by his idol, Jack Hyles).
Gray is a big supporter of Jack Hyles. He is insistent, to this day, that Jack Hyles was a tower of virtue and that he never did the things he was accused of in the 1980s. Gray, a graduate of Hyles-Anderson College, often takes to his blog to defend the IFB church movement over charges of widespread abuse and sexual misconduct. While Gray admits Jack Schaap, the former pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, who is now serving a 12 year Federal prison sentence for sexual misconduct, should not have had sex with a 16-year-old church girl, he is quick to suggest that Schaap’s behavior is not typical of what goes on in IFB churches.
Many a Fundamentalist preacher has become offended when I lay down the very first rule for saving Christian Fundamentalism: corporate repentance of the preachers. They are all tainted by the guilt of this religious movement upon whom God has shown the evidences of His disdain and contempt. They all need to repent openly, articulate the sins of Christian Fundamentalism before God and before man, attempt some form of restoration to victims, and institute the means to prevent such sins from happening again, if God should choose to spare this religion that they seem to love more than they love Him.
Massi, a former IFB church member and an acquaintance of mine, has made it her mission to hold IFB preachers accountable for abuse that goes on in their churches. Massi recently published The Big Book of Bad Baptist Preachers, a compendium of stories about Baptist sexual predators and abusers.
Bob Gray, Sr. despises Massi. Her post on corporate repentance caused Gray’s head to explode. Over the course of three blog posts, Gray, Sr. shows his true colors; that he is a misogynistic bigot who will go to great lengths to protect and defend the IFB kingdom. What follows are excerpts from these posts.
…Enter “Christian” forums and Blogs that attempt to copy the style of expose journalism. They make it their business to expose things that are really none of any ones business. I expect the lost world to gossip and slander, but I expect better of Christians.
Do not misunderstand me. I believe the internet is a wonderful place to fight error and to teach truth. However, when it comes to matters of a local church, many times they become a place to learn the latest “scoop.”
How is it that heathens like Tricia Lacriox or Jeri Massi can be “trusted” vehicles of information that they and their fellow demonettes desire ONLY for the purpose of destruction? Why would we go to them for our information? Worse yet why would we believe their information?
The answer to that question is troubling. I hear people say it is because that is the only place they find out what is going on. WAIT! Why do you need to find out what is going on and why would you trust avowed enemies to the cause of Christ to be your informers? That is nonsense! It is also evil! Let me help you with something. You do not need to know!
Allow me to give you an example. Where do these information streetwalkers receive their information? A church is dealing with a situation that is horrible. Someone on the inside has information and they give it to the proper authorities in their church and for their ears only. These authorities deal with the problem.
However, there are evil individuals with info who are moles and who will be judged of God for their wickedness. They garner information not for the purpose of helping, but for sharing with those in bloggers sphere who disdain soul winning independent Baptist churches.
Do they report the number of souls saved the previous week, the number of converts baptized, the Sunday school attendance, the lives salvaged, or any good being done? NO! They are like vultures who do not see the beauty, but rather only the carcases (sic) of the dead.
These are haters of soul winning churches. Their STATED goal is to destroy those soul winning churches. They want these churches to go away so they find the things they can use to condemn and twist in order to accomplish their goal. THEN, WE READ IT!?!?
These forums and blogs create arguments, bickering, slander, strife, and discord among the brethren. These demonettes rejoice because they have accomplished their goal of casting a curse on that which they despise. Anyone who questions them is then attacked for “covering sin” or “enabling sinners.” These demonettes are morons! They have no idea what they are writing about…
…I am appalled at the sins of those who besmirch the office of ministry as well as any one, man or woman, who do such despicable acts, but I refuse to indict a whole community because of a few.
I think we are all accountable in some respects because we do not walk closely enough with God to be able to spot such people. However, I know of no one who on purpose allows such things to occur. I only know of gossips who paint a picture without really knowing the truth.
Then people like you Jeri carry their water to incriminate good churches who are doing their best to deal with such wicked people. Get the facts Jeri.
Again, you did not call me. You did not seek the other side of the story and you made a BIG mistake by not doing so. Which makes me wonder about others who have been smeared by your lap top gossip.
If they are guilty lock them up! I have no problem letting people know who the predators are. But, do not indict everyone. Check out the Scriptures on being a false accuser Jeri!
Why do we go soul winning? Because of the fact that “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
Let me see if I understand you correctly…we should not go soul winning because of wicked men who do wicked things? Maybe that is why God does not call women to be pastors. Logic like yours deserves to be studied? Ha!
Jeri Massi, you are in this for you. I have been in the ministry for 40 years and have given my life to help the hurting while your claim to fame is living off of victims.
If you were an honest person you would have contacted me before running to your blog to condemn something you knew nothing of except through the eyes of those haters who lie and supply you with slop.
Why don’t you put out your cigar, shut your Hollywood movies off, put away your favorite beer, find a good Christian man to marry, have some babies, and get a real life!
“Run if you want to, hide if you will, but I came here to stay!”
Please forgive me Jeri! I was under a wrong impression and it really grieves me that I did not see the truth. I did not really know you and I was under a false judgment.
I did know your brother Vince for we graduated together at Hyles-Anderson College. I really liked your brother. I know you and him have had some misunderstandings, but let that be as it may.
I just want to make this thing right with you before it really got out of hand. You see this is a real problem among those of us who are independent Baptist people. IF we are not careful we assume facts not in evidence.
Of course, we are not a denomination and have no headquarters and our only rule of faith and practice is the King James Bible. This is what brings us together.
Thus, we are in loose association with each other organizational wise. We come together based on a Bible principle of “mutual faith.” As a result we are drawn together not by a political or corporate entity but by “mutual faith.” We have no elections and we have no president for we only have our mutual beliefs. Each church is independent of the others.
It is absolutely wrong of me to have entered into this with you at the level I did. Please forgive me! May we go back to the beginning and start over in our conversation. Maybe we can come to a consensus and help many of your friends in the internet forum world at the same time?
Many of these others, with whom you associate, I am just now starting to get my mind wrapped around who they are. I do sense that there is a longing and a searching among you and your friends for truth. I do not dispute that at all. I do however think we have all started off on the wrong foot. Hopefully we can rectify this.
May I begin with Scriptures please?
Romans 3:10, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:”
Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”
Romans 6:23a, “For the wages of sin is death…”
Revelation 20:14, “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”
Romans 5:8, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 6:23b, “…but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Romans 10:9, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Now Jeri would you like to trust Jesus Christ to pay for all of your past sins, present sins, and future sins? If so would you bow in your heart and ask Christ to save you.
I can provide a prayer to help you if you would like, but remember a prayer is just words and a prayer cannot save you. A prayer is communication between you and Christ. Jeri, many people are saved before they ever utter a word or walk an aisle in church. So, if you in child like faith will open your soul and let Jesus know you want to trust Him He will save your soul.
Jesus is a perfect gentleman for He will not force His way into your soul. Jeri, it is not the shed blood, but the shed and applied blood that cleanses a man’s soul.
Jeri I again must apologize I did not realize until I saw your love for Buddha of your basic beliefs. I apologize for mocking your cigars, your love for beer, your love for the filth of Hollywood, and so on. No one can be saved by quitting cigars, movies, or liquor. It is faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that saves a person from going to Hell.
It did not dawn on me of your spiritual condition. Again, I am so sorry!
Matthew 15:14, “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”
Jeri, you are blind and have a spiritual vail over your eyes and truly cannot see. Again, I am sorry I did not see this in the beginning. It appears I assumed something that was just not true about you. JUST A THOUGHT!
Gray concludes, based on what Massi has written, that she is not a Christian. But wait, Dr. Bob, Jeri previously prayed the sinners prayer. Doesn’t that make her a Christian no matter how she lives or what she writes? According to Gray’s soteriology (doctrine of salvation), even a Christian-turned-atheist like me is still a Christian. Once saved, always saved, right Bro. Bob?
Here’s the real issue in this story. Gray, an authoritarian control-freak, is upset because he has no control over what Massi writes. He is furious that he can’t force Massi to submit to his authority.
I love the “advice” Gray gives to Massi:
Why don’t you put out your cigar, shut your Hollywood movies off, put away your favorite beer, find a good Christian man to marry, have some babies, and get a real life!
In other words, shut up Babe. Cook dinner, get laid, and have lots of babies.
The internet has empowered writers to bring to light the dark secrets of the IFB church movement. Prior to the internet, the IFB gatekeepers could control the flow of information. Not any longer. Now there are countless writers airing the dirty laundry of the IFB churches, pastors, and institutions. IFB preachers are watching their kingdoms slip away and there is nothing they can do about it except throw childish temper tantrums as Gray did in the blog posts mentioned above.
Dr. Bob, if you are reading this, I have a message from God for you and the IFB church movement: Mene, Mene, Tekel u-Pharsin
Or to put it into English: God has numbered your kingdom and finished it. You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting. Your kingdom has been divided and given to churches and pastors who love people and don’t abuse them (Daniel 5 with a slight Bruce Gerencser twist).
In the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, no one was bigger than Jack Hyles. IFB churches and pastors measured success by:
In these three areas Jack Hyles and First Baptist Church were the king of the hill.
Like most IFB churches, First Baptist Church was owned and operated by Jack Hyles. No, Hyles didn’t literally own the church, but there was no doubt about one thing, this was the house Jack built. Hyles had unlimited power to rule the church as he saw fit, and even when caught in an inappropriate sexual relationship with his secretary, he was able to wiggle free, and remained pastor of First Baptist Church until he died on February 6, 2001. A statute of Jack and Beverly Hyles can be found in the church courtyard, an ever-present reminder that First Baptist Church owes its existence to Jack Hyles.
People not raised, schooled, and indoctrinated in the IFB church movement often have a hard time understanding how Jack Hyles could wield such power over people. It seems so “cultic” to them, and truth be told, there are elements of IFB belief and practice that are “cultic.” While the IFB church movement is not a cult in the classic sense, it does have beliefs and practices that are harmful to people emotionally and mentally. Because it is a movement built on a foundation of anti-intellectualism, pastors are given an inordinate amount of power over people. The pastor becomes the resident intellectual, even though he is likely no more educated than the people in the pew. The pastor is considered God’s chosen man, the man of God who speaks on God’s behalf. He is uniquely called by God to the ministry and he is to be obeyed. Failure to obey will bring judgment from God, at least according to IFB preachers. (Sermons on pastoral authority are quite common in IFB churches.)
Jack Hyles was considered a god in IFB church circles. He was also revered by many outside of the IFB church movement. People read his sermons in the Sword of the Lord, and cassette recordings of Hyles’ sermons made their way around the globe. He was the Big Kahuna, and when he spoke everybody listened. It is important to understand how popular Hyles was. People would drive hours to hear him preach at a Sword of the Lord Conference. They would hang on his every word. After all, look at the size of his church. This is PROOF that Hyles and God were on a first name basis. When it came time for the invitation, hundreds of penitent Baptists would stream down the aisle to the altar and prostrate themselves before Hyles, praying that God would forgive them of their sins and give them Holy Ghost power to do whatever Hyles was telling them to do.
It is hard for me to admit, even to this day, that I was a part of this; that the churches I pastored participated in this. (I left the IFB church movement in the late 1980s.) It is hard to admit that I was caught up in a religion that encouraged worshiping men as gods. Hyles, like Bob Jones, even had a college named after him: Hyles-Anderson College.
Granted, any time a group of people gather together under a common belief or ideal, there is the tendency to elevate certain people to god-like status within the group. IFB churches do it, Evangelicals do it, and yes, even atheists do it. Look at the typical Atheist/Humanist conference and you see the same speakers over and over. To some degree, it is human nature to fawn over those we think are in some way unique, successful, or who have some sort of special insight.
It has been thirty years since I heard Jack Hyles preach. I heard him preach many times during the heyday of the IFB movement — the late 1960s to the late 1980s. I would attend Sword of the Lord conferences whenever I could . Sometimes, I drove several hours just so I could sit at the feet of great IFB luminaries such as Jack Hyles, Lee Roberson, Lester Roloff, Bob Gray of Florida, Curtis Hutson, John R. Rice and Tom Malone. (Malone was the President of Midwestern Baptist College, the college I attended from 1976-79. Lester Roloff was accused of promoting child abuse, and Bob Gray of Florida was arrested for molesting children.)
What was it about Jack Hyles that drew people to him (and God is not the right answer)?
Jack Hyles was a superb orator. He knew how to use words, cadence, volume, and inflection to deliver sermons that most preachers could never deliver. As oratorical specimens, his sermons were flawless. His sermons rarely had much Bible in them since he typically preached textual or topical sermons, but his sermons were perfectly scripted, with each point and sub point in perfect harmony. When Hyles chased a rabbit down the rabbit trail, he did it on purpose. He was methodical and disciplined in his preaching.
Hyles told a lot of stories about himself, his mother, and his feats as a pastor-god. His stories often made up the bulk of his sermon. Young preachers such as myself hung on every word, every story. Here was a man mightily used by God. It was many years before I could divorce myself from my worship of Jack Hyles enough to see his sermons for what they really were; grandiose brag sessions of a narcissist. I also came to see that the stories Hyles told were often lies or distortions of the truth, though I am inclined to think that Hyles really believed his own narrative.
The IFB church movement prides itself on being anti-cultural. The movement is known for what it is against and not for what it is for. In his sermons, Hyles would rail against Southern Baptists, The National Council of Churches, Evangelicals, pants on women, alcohol drinking, sex, and any other ill he deemed “worldly” or contrary to the received truth of the IFB church movement.
When Hyles would preach against these things, his words elicited deep emotional and physical response. People would shout or say Amen or Preach it, Brother Hyles. People would stream down the aisles to confess their sin, their disobedience to God. The Sword of Lord would report the “number” of people who came forward. (The IFB follows a corporate model, dominated by numbers.) If you want to see how the numbers racket works, read Bob Gray of Texas’s blog. A Hyles disciple, trained at Hyles-Anderson College, he knows exactly how many souls have been saved under his ministry. He is the ultimate IFB bean-counter.
When preaching at a conference, Hyles would often have an afternoon Question and Answer time for preachers. Young, aspiring preachers, along with old struggling preachers, could ask Hyles questions about building a great church. I can’t tell you the number of times I saw Hyles eviscerate a preacher because he asked the wrong question. One time, a young preacher asked a question about how to choose a good youth director — not that Hyles would know since his son, serial adulterer, David Hyles was the youth director at First Baptist. Hyles asked the young man how big his church was and after the young preacher told him, Hyles belittled him and accused him of being lazy. The young preacher should have felt humiliated, but he more likely felt that “God” was speaking to him through Brother Hyles. Hyles, like many top shelf IFB preachers, could be a bully.
Hyles liked to give off an air of invincibility. His illustrations made him seem like a man who could charge into the flames of hell and come out without one hair singed on his head. He told illustrations such as:
There were two men playing tennis and at the end of the game, the loser graciously shook the hand of the winner.
Bro. Hyles, how do you handle losing (code for failure)?
Hyles would thunder, I don’t know, I’ve never lost.
And then he would preach forcefully and loudly about not being a loser, a quitter.
When you take all these things together, it is easy to see why Jack Hyles was, and still is, worshiped. Some consider him the greatest preacher since the Apostle Paul. I understand how people become mesmerized by the Hyles mystique. However, when a person puts some distance between himself and the IFB church moment, he starts to see that the movement is a man-centered, man-worshiping religion. Are their good, decent people in IFB churches? Sure. For whatever reason, they cannot or will not take off their blinders so they can see things as they really are. IFB-preachers-turned-atheists such as myself have little influence over them because they see us as traitors and God haters.
I wonder what it will take to finally bring the IFB house crashing to the ground? Evidently, sexual scandal won’t do it. Maybe it is too much to ask for. After all, the Roman Catholic Church has pedophiles running amok, yet faithful Catholics still show up for mass and give their money to the church. It seems that we as humans quite easily ignore what is right in front of us.