Tag Archive: Independent Fundamentalist Baptist

Will There be Any Women in Heaven? Hint, the Answer is No!

philippians-3-20Caution! Snark ahead! You have been warned.

One of the more bizarre beliefs found within the confines of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement is that there will be no women in Heaven. That’s right, ladies, there will be NO females in Heaven. The thinking goes something like this: God, the father is male and Jesus is male. In Heaven, Christians will receive perfect resurrected bodies just like Jesus’. Thus, everyone in Heaven will be a thirty-three-year-old male. This means, of course, that God promotes and supports Transgenderism for women. Time to get your male on, ladies. Prepare now for eternity in Heaven as a m-a-n.

The late Peter Ruckman, a noted IFB preacher and defender of the King James Bible, had this to say about women in Heaven:

This means that every saved woman in the body of Christ is indwelt by a MAN, at least as far as sexual designations are concerned. Someday, the saved woman will be fashioned “LIKE UNTO HIS GLORIOUS BODY” (Philippians 3:21). (Bible Believers’ Bulletin. May 1986, page 3)

This would mean that every saved woman in the body of Christ will eventually become a THIRTY-THREE AND ONE-HALF YEAR OLD, SINLESS MALE (Phil. 3:20-21). She would be a perfect replica of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). (Bible Believers’ Bulletin. May 1986, page 3)So up in Heaven, ladies, you are going to be a 33 1/2-year-old male just

like your Saviour. If that seems odd or peculiar or distasteful to you Christian ladies, just remember that you have a man living inside of you (1 Tim. 2:5 cf. Col. 1:27), and that your destiny as a child of God is to be conformed to that man’s image (Romans 8:29). (The Book of Luke: The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series, page 636)

Since every Christian in the Body of Christ has a MAN inside him (or her) (Colossians 1:27; John 1:12) and is PREDESTINED to be conformed to the image of that man (2 Corinthians 4:4; Romans 8:29; 1 John 3:1-4; Philippians 3:21), there is no question at all about the future state of every Christian in the Body of Christ, except in the minds of Hebrew and Greek professors and the “vast majority of conservative, Bible-rejecting blockheads.” The believer will appear in glory as a 33-year old sinless male. (22 Years of the Bible Believer’s Bulletin Vol. 1 “The AV Holy Bible” page 110)

Moreover, everyone in heaven is a male…The woman is a “womb-man,” a man with a womb.
(The Books of First and Second Corinthians: The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series, page 343)

The indication is that the only people who get a glorified body like Jesus Christ are people in the Church Age. The only people who get a 33-year-old sinless [male, see p. 596] body are people saved in the dispensation of grace. All others get their eternal life by partaking of a tree, and they go into eternity male and female, exactly like Adam and Eve were before they fell. (The Book of Revelation: The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series page 587)

Is it any wonder then, that in IFB churches who hold such views, women are lorded over by misogynistic men who think God has given them the right, duty, and responsibility to lord over the fairer sex?

My question is whether there will be women in Hell? I wasn’t able to find any IFB preacher taking up this subject, but I did find a few words from their fellow misogynists in Islam. The Islam Question and Answer site says:

Praise be to Allah.

It was narrated from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) that women will form the majority of the people of Hell. It was narrated from ‘Imran ibn Husayn that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “I looked into Paradise and I saw that the majority of its people were the poor. And I looked into Hell and I saw that the majority of its people are women.”

(Narrated by al-Bukhari, 3241; Muslim, 2737)

With regard to the reason for this, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was asked about it and he explained the reason.

It was narrated that ‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “I was shown Hell and I have never seen anything more terrifying than it. And I saw that the majority of its people are women.” They said, “Why, O Messenger of Allah?” He said, “Because of their ingratitude (kufr).” It was said, “Are they ungrateful to Allah?” He said, “They are ungrateful to their companions (husbands) and ungrateful for good treatment. If you are kind to one of them for a lifetime then she sees one (undesirable) thing in you, she will say, ‘I have never had anything good from you.’” (Narrated by al-Bukhari, 1052)

It was narrated that Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) said:

“The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) went out to the musalla (prayer place) on the day of Eid al-Adha or Eid al-Fitr. He passed by the women and said, ‘O women! Give charity, for I have seen that you form the majority of the people of Hell.’ They asked, ‘Why is that, O Messenger of Allah?’  He replied, ‘You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religious commitment than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you.’ The women asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah, what is deficient in our intelligence and religious commitment?’ He said, ‘Is not the testimony of two women equal to the testimony of one man?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘This is the deficiency in her intelligence. Is it not true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?’ The women said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘This is the deficiency in her religious commitment.’”

…..

And Allah knows best.

For Fundamentalist Baptist and Muslim women alike, Hell is their religion, and Heaven is getting as far away from it as possible.

No matter what women say or do in IFB churches, they will always be considered second-class citizens; inferior to men because the Bible says that women are weaker than men and more prone to emotional silliness. Women can’t be preachers, teachers of adults, elders, deacons, or political leaders. According to some IFB preachers, women just aren’t suited for such jobs. God wants women to submit to their husbands and pastors, and busy themselves with house-cleaning, cooking, raising children, and working in the church nursery. For these women, their husbands are their bosses, and it’s their duty to submit to them as unto the Lord. Ponder that thought for a moment. How does Jesus want you to submit to him? With love, commitment, and strict obedience. In patriarchal homes there is a strict order: Jesus, pastor, husband, wife, children, and dog. Upsetting this order, according to preachers of complementarianism, brings God’s judgment. No marriage is a good one without it being perfectly aligned with God’s order for the church and home. Or so preachers say, anyway.

Some IFB women endure such treatment for the sake of their children. It is not uncommon to see such women divorce their husbands once their children are out of the house. I suspect other women take the he that endureth to the end shall be saved approach. They willingly suffer being misused and abused, believing that God will reward them in Heaven for their sacrificial obedience.

But what if Peter Ruckman and his fellow misogynists are right; that women will be turned into men once they arrive at the pearly gates? Think about that fact for a moment, ladies! Imagine spending your life putting up with shit from men, only to find out when you get to Heaven that God hates you too and plans to turn you into a thirty-three-year-old man. Isn’t God’s plan wondrous?

My advice to IFB women is this: RUN! Flee the mind-numbing, psychologically damaging preaching of IFB pastors. If need be, tell your IFB husband that he has two choices: FLEE or separation/divorce. Life is too short for women to give it all up to the wants, whims, needs, and desires of religiously motivated men. There’s no Christian Hell or Heaven awaiting, ladies, so now is the time to make for yourselves your own heaven and hell on earth; hell for the men who demean you and heaven for yourself and those value you as people.

I shall wait for God’s anointed ones to show up and object to what I have written here. The BIBLE says ___________, they will say, and in doing so they will prove, yet again, that the Bible can be used to prove almost anything; that Peter Ruckman with his belief that there will be no women in Heaven is just as credible and believable as Christians who suggest otherwise. Evangelical Christianity is, in effect, a paint-by-number board without numbers. Believers can freely use — thanks to the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God — whatever colors they want to paint their picture. How dare anyone suggest that their particular picture is not a representation of True Christianity®.

Testimony Time: The Blue Light Special at Somerset Baptist Church

blue light special kmart

Older readers might remember shopping at the stores of discount retailer Kmart and seeing what was commonly called a “blue light special.” Blue light specials were sudden discounts offered to shoppers during their shopping experience at Kmart. A store employee would roll a cart with a police-like blue light attached to a pole near the aisle where the sudden discount was going to be offered. At the customer service desk, another employee would announce to shoppers, for example, “ATTENTION KMART SHOPPERS! There’s a blue light special going on right now on GE light bulbs in aisle three!” The employee in charge of the blue light would switch it on. and with its flashing/rotating light, the blue light would guide customers to their exciting just-for-them discount on light bulbs. Woo-hoo!

For eleven years in the 1980s and 1990s, I pastored the Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. I started this church in 1983, and remained its pastor until I resigned and moved to San Antonio, Texas in 1994 to become the co-pastor of Community Baptist Church. For a few years, Somerset Baptist was the largest non-Catholic church in Perry County. The church was known for its fiery redheaded preacher and its International Harvester-colored red and creme buses that bused in church attendees from Muskingum, Perry, and Fairfield counties. Reaching high attendances in the low 200s, this country church reached thousands of people for Christ.

The church also attracted more than a few people who had — in my Baptist eyes, anyway — screwy beliefs. One such person was the mother of a woman who was a member of the church (along with her husband and two children). I had visited this woman and her husband several times at their home, hoping that they would join their daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren in worshiping Jesus at the “fastest growing church in Perry County” — as the church’s sign said, anyway. I knew the woman had some charismatic tendencies, but I thought I could preach all that nonsense right out of her if she would only give me the opportunity to do so.

For those of you who are not aware of what charismatic beliefs are, let me describe them this way: all the miraculous spiritual gifts found in the Bible — healing, raising the dead, speaking in tongues, to name a few — are in force today. The favorite gift of charismatics is speaking in tongues — an unintelligible prayer language God gives to people who are filled/anointed/baptized with the Holy Ghost. As a Baptist, I believed that when a sinner was saved he received all of the Holy Ghost, and there was no more of Him to have. All Christians needed to do was utilize the power that was already within them. Charismatics tended to be an emotionally excitable lot, at least while worshiping Jesus. (I preached at several Charismatic/Pentecostal churches during my tenure at Somerset Baptist.) In their minds, babbling nonsense they believed was given to them by the Holy Ghost was a sign of God’s presence and power. Just turn on any of the dozens of national Christian TV channels and in short order you’ll see tongues-speaking on display.

The woman I mentioned above was a babbler, and this worried me a bit, but I thought that my Bible-saturated preaching would deliver her from charismaticism. Not only did this woman speak in tongues, she also believed that Jesus spoke to her, audibly. That’s right, this woman had conversations with a mythical entity she believed was the Jesus of the Bible.

As was our custom for many years, the church has a testimony time on Sunday evenings. This was time allotted for church members and visitors to stand up and share with everyone in attendance what Jesus had done for them over the past week. Sometimes, these brag-on-Jesus times turned into narcissistic, look-at-what-I-did-done-do for Jesus sessions. Often, testimony time was a time for congregants to lie about their relationship with God. One dear woman, who had been a smoker her entire adult life, stood up one Sunday and praised Jesus for delivering her from the filthy sin of smoking. We had a quite a praise-fest that night, thanking our Lord for delivering Sister R from her addiction. Years later, I learned that Sister R had, in fact, never stopped smoking, and that the only reason she said that she did was so she could have the appearance of a victorious Christian life like the rest of us. Oh, if she had only known that NONE of us, including her preacher, had victory over sin, she might not had felt compelled to lie. Sister R felt so guilty about not being as spirit-filled as the rest of us that she was willing to lie to her friends about her deliverance from smoking. Not long ago, Sister R died of cancer. I do hope that she found peace and rest. While her smoking most certainly contributed to her death, she had other qualities that deserved praise and admiration. Sister R was a kind, compassionate woman, but sadly, in the IFB church she attended, all that mattered was her sinful habit. As her dumb ass preacher used to say, smoking won’t send you to hell, but it sure will make you smell like you have been there! (Please read  Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis, Dinosaurs, and the SIN of Smoking)

On one particular Sunday night, the charismatic lady mentioned above decided to attend church with her daughter. She had visited several times before, and let it be known that she really liked my “old-fashioned” preaching. Prior to my sermon, I asked if anyone had a good word they wanted to put in for Jesus. Several people raised their hands, signifying that they wanted to brag a bit on their Lord and Savior. The charismatic woman excitedly raised her hand, anxious to let everyone know about a recent encounter she had with Jesus. When it came time for her to testify, she popped up  from her seat and said this (as recounted from thirty years ago):

I was asleep last night, and all of a sudden I awoke, feeling a “presence” in my bedroom.  As I stood to see this presence, my eyes saw a blinding blue light. Now, I knew that Satan could present himself as an angel of light, so I spoke to this light, saying, If that’s really you Jesus, please make yourself known to me. And right then and there I heard, Attention K-Mart Shoppers! (Okay, that last sentence was a bit of literary fiction, also known as preaching.)  And right then and there I heard a voice that said, it’s me, Jesus. Praise, the Lord. I knew then that the presence in my room was Jesus.

For those of you raised in the IFB churches, imagine my homicidal thoughts as this woman was regaling congregants with her version of a blue light special. I was oh-so-happy when she stopped testifying, and later let it be known among church members that her testimony was NOT an approved meeting with Jesus. We Baptists only talked to Jesus in English, and only while we were on our knees praying; and even then our talks with Jesus had to align with what the Bible said. In other words, ATTENTION CHURCH MEMBERS! There will NOT be any blue light specials at Somerset Baptist Church.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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.

Missing Out on Life, A Guest Post by Ian

guest post

I was listening to some songs from the late 1980s today. One song led to another, and I started looking at top 10 playlists from ‘88 and ‘89. As I was reminiscing about the songs, I got to thinking about how I used to have to sneak around to listen to these songs.

I loved secular pop music and would tape record hours of music at night, using my boom box, so I could listen in private over the next few days. I would also watch MTV when I babysat, or any other chance I got. During the 80s, there was a heavy emphasis on movie music, so movies and music became tied together in my mind. I missed out watching those movies, and didn’t have constant access to the music I liked, so I was always frustrated because I couldn’t get any fulfillment.

I realized, today, that what makes me melancholy about some music videos and movies is there are huge gaps in my experience with “the world.” There were things I loved or wanted to experience so badly, but they were just out of reach; almost like a mirage in the desert. I liked the styles of clothing people wore. They seemed happy, the boy always had a girl, things just seemed right. Even then, I knew that it was just a video, but I always wanted to have these experiences for myself. An example of this is one of my favorite songs, “How Can I Fall?” by Breathe. It features a very stylized game of stickball on the streets of New York, along with two beautiful girls. I first saw that video and thought it would be so cool to experience something like that, knowing that I would never be allowed to hang out on a street corner and would be in trouble if I was caught with a girl. Neither of those things stopped me from wanting the experience, though.

Video Link

I feel cheated because I was not allowed to have the experiences most other teens had. Even the kids in the churches I attended were given way more freedom than I had. They watched movies (on a VCR, because that was so much different from going to the movies), hung out at the mall, wore stylish clothes, and had friends of the opposite sex. Even those church teens had a more normal life than I did. That was what I wanted, too.

I was told that missing out on those things kept me from trouble. Probably so, but that doesn’t make it any easier to accept. All of the adults, my parents included, lived through the 50s and 60s and enjoyed the normal freedoms children were allowed to have. The restrictions that were placed on me, and all of the Evangelical/IFB teens, from the 70s until now, are rules created by old white men who were pushing back against what they perceived was wrong with society. The rules were set up and enforced so they could keep their power. Those men are no different from the Pharisees that Jesus condemned in the Bible. Outwardly, they seemed holy; inwardly they hated minorities, were whoremongers, adulterers, pedophiles, drunks, and everything else they preached against.

So, now when I listen to the songs from the 80s and early 90s, it is always with a bit of sadness, realizing they represent a time in life when I missed out on many of the things “worldly” youths experienced. And I understand, now, that I missed out because of fearful men who hated anything new.

 

Was Fundamentalist Pastor Bruce Gerencser Mentally Ill?

bruce gerencser 1991

Bruce Gerencser, 1991, Somerset Baptist Academy. Surely everyone can see from this picture that I was a real Christian.

Telling my story often leads people to surmise that they only way someone could believe and behave as I did was to be mentally ill; that nobody in his right mind would live as I did; that only a crazy person would stand on a street corner and preach at passersby; that only a lunatic would sacrifice his life and that of his family to a non-existent God. Dismissing these things with the wave of a Freudian hand is far too easy, and it allows non-Christians to avoid thinking about how their own behavior might be deemed mental illness by those who do not have their beliefs. For example, countless people believe that essential oils can cure all sorts of diseases, as can chiropractic care. Evangelists from the First Church of Essential Oils and First Subluxation Church of the Spine use blogs, social media, newspapers, and face-to-face encounters to preach their gospel, hoping to convert people to their respective religions. The same could be said about homeopathy, iridology, acupuncture, and herbal cancer cures. Consider also that many political systems of thought, much like Christian Fundamentalists, demand fidelity, purity, and obedience. And we must not forget the God-above-all-Gods, American sports — particularly football and basketball. Spend some time around people whose lives revolve around this or that sports team, and it’s hard not to conclude that these people are delusional members of a cult. Yet, all of these beliefs and behaviors EXCEPT Christian Fundamentalism are considered “normal.” Why is that?

It is not helpful to lazily attach the “mentally ill” label to all Christian Fundamentalists. Now, that’s not to say that some Christian Fundamentalists aren’t mentally ill — they are. What troubles me is when non-Fundamentalists look at Evangelical beliefs and practices and conclude that only insane people would believe and live that way. This is a patently false conclusion. We must either conclude that all humans — yes you — have, to some degree or the other, a mental imbalance, or there are other explanations for why all of us believe and practice the things we do. I would posit that we humans are complex creatures, and our ways of life are shaped, molded, and controlled by our genetics, parents, childhood, environment, economic status, physical health, social strata, and a host of other exposures and variations. Thus, when someone reads one or more of my blog posts — say, posts such as My Life as a Street Preacher, I Did It For You Jesus: Crank Windows and Vinyl Floor Mats, and How the IFB Church Turned My Wife Into a Martyr — without thoughtfully and humbly considering the variables mentioned above, they will not come to a reasoned conclusion.

Part of the problem is that each of us has our own definition of “normal,” and we use that definition as the standard by which we judge the beliefs and practices of others. We rarely ask who it was (God?) that made us the “normal” police or why our standard of normality should be the inerrant, infallible rule (get my point now?) by which we determine whether someone is mentally ill or has a “screw loose.” Atheists love to say “each to his own,” except for religion, of course. Fundamentalists, in particular, have heaped upon their heads by atheists judgment and derision, without atheists making any attempt to understand. No need, many atheists say. Fundamentalists are delusional nut jobs — end of story.

Much of my writing focuses on my past life as a Fundamentalist Christian, especially the twenty-five years I spent pastoring Evangelical churches. I have willingly and openly chosen to be honest about my past, including my beliefs and behaviors. In doing so, I hope my story brings encouragement and understanding, and that doubting Christians or ex-Evangelicals might see that there is life after Jesus. What I don’t want my writing to be is exercises for non-Christians, ex-Christians, liberal Christians, or atheists to practice armchair psychology. Psychoanalyzing me — past and present — is best left to my counselor. Whether I was, in the past, mentally ill is impossible to know. I’m more inclined to think that my past is a reflection of someone who sincerely and resolutely believed certain things, little different from the countless other beliefs embraced by humans.

I have suffered with depression most of my adult life. The reasons for my struggle are many. Certainly, religion plays a part, but I would never say that the blame for my depression rests with Christianity alone. Again, I am a complex being, and the “whys” of my life are many. I left Christianity ten years ago. I pastored my last church fifteen years ago. Yet, here I am long removed from God, Jesus, the church, and all of trappings of Christianity and I still battle depression. Why is that? If Christianity is the root of psychological difficulties, one would think that I would have regained mental health once I was freed from my marriage to Jesus. However, that hasn’t proved to be the case. I have learned that depression can affect believer and unbeliever alike.

I hope readers will see my writing as an opportunity to understand, and not judge. When the day comes that I feel that that is no longer the case, I will have written my last blog post.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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.

My Life as a Street Preacher — Part Two

bruce gerencser street preaching crooksville ohio

Bruce Gerencser, street preaching, Crooksville, Ohio — with his son Jaime.

The First Amendment grants U.S. citizens freedom of speech and freedom of religion. These two freedoms are very close to the heart of men who preach on the streets. There is no freer piece of property than a public sidewalk. As long as a street preacher isn’t hindering people walking on the sidewalk or crossing the street, he is free to say pretty much anything to people passing by. Unfortunately, many local business owners and police officers are not well versed in what the law does and does not permit when it comes to street preaching. Many business owners wrongly think that if an obnoxious street preacher – an excessive redundancy if there ever was one — is standing in front of their store preaching or handing out tracts, a quick call to the police will remove the annoyance. However, the street preacher is exercising his First Amendment rights on a public sidewalk, and this means his actions are protected by law.

Sometimes, street preachers get in trouble with the law over evangelizing on private property, or preaching in public places that don’t allow preaching or politicking. For example, street preaching is banned near monuments such as the Lincoln and Washington Memorials. Another forbidden venue is Ohio county fairs. Fairs? Aren’t they public events? No. The various county governments rent/lease the fairgrounds to county agricultural boards. This means, technically, that the fairgrounds become private property for the duration of the fair. The same can be said for many street fairs. Years ago, I entered the Perry County Fairgrounds to preach and hand out tracts to fair-goers. I wasn’t there ten minutes before a fair official and two sheriff deputies told me I had to leave. I told them I wouldn’t be leaving. The fairground is public property, I said. Not wanting to make a scene and arrest me, the officers left me alone. I did what Jesus had “called” me to do and then headed home. Several months later, I received a personal letter from the Ohio Attorney General informing me that the fairgrounds were private, not public property, and that any further preaching or handing-out of literature on my part would result in my arrest. The next year, I stood outside the fairground entrance and, with Bible held high, preached the gospel. I was watched closely by fair officials and law enforcement, but we had no further conflict.

In the late 1980s, I would take a group of men from the church to help me evangelize at the Holy Trinity Catholic Church Garden Party in Somerset, Ohio. The Garden Party was an annual fundraiser for Holy Trinity featuring food, beer, and gambling. The beer and gambling, according to the IFB preacher Bruce Gerencser, were sins against God, so what better way to let those hell-bound Catholics know the truth than by loudly preaching at them. I would stand across the street — about sixty feet away — from the venue, and from there everyone at the Garden Party could hear my sermon. The men I brought along with me either held Bible verse signs or walked the sidewalks handing out Fellowship Tract League tracts.

One year, two sheriff deputies came up to me and said, Sheriff Dixon says you have to stop doing this and go home. I replied, tell Dan I plan to keep on preaching. If he wants to arrest me, go ahead. Imagine what that will look like on the front page of the Times-Recorder. The officers left, and spent the rest of the evening glaring at me from across the street. Later that night, the church’s priest came over to talk to me, asking if I thought I was accomplishing anything by preaching at people. I gave him my spiel about being a God-called preacher, and that I was following in the steps of Jesus, Paul, and the disciples. He smiled, and then said, have a nice evening. As he turned to walk away, he said, By the way, I want to thank you for your stand against abortion. 

Several days after the Garden Party, I had a sit-down with Sheriff Dixon at his office. I made it very clear to him that I intended to continue preaching on Perry County street corners, and that no matter how much his officers harassed me, I was going to continue doing God’s work. Dan, himself, was quite opinionated and bullheaded, so we came to an agreement about my street preaching, with each of us clearly understanding the parameters of what was legal and illegal behavior. (I visited county prisoners on a weekly basis, so Dan knew me in a larger context than just street preaching.)

Over the decade I spent preaching on the streets of southeast Ohio, I had numerous run-ins with law enforcement. I was resolute about going to jail if necessary. No one was going to stop me from preaching the gospel. One weeknight, as I was preaching in front of the Crooksville, Ohio post office, a police car stopped in front me and the officer told me that I had to IMMEDIATELY stop what I was doing. The business owner across the street, the officer said, called to complain, so you have to stop. I looked at him and replied, “No.” NO?” the officer responded. “We’ll see about that!” He hopped back into his car and hauled ass down the street. Ten minutes later, the officer returned, got out of his car, and with bowed head and mumbled words, said, the police chief says I have to let you do this. Just do me a favor, don’t be here after dark. I can’t protect you if you are. I replied, I won’t be. I’m not stupid (though my behavior suggested otherwise).

Street preachers are, to the man, arrogant assholes who have no regard for others. But, they have a constitutional right to be Assholes for Jesus®. Don Hardman taught me from the get-go that I had to be prepared to go to jail if need be; that many law enforcement officers were ignorant of the law and might wrongly arrest me for preaching on the street. The good news was that there were Christian lawyers who would make sure I was released from jail as soon as possible; that no one had been successfully prosecuted for street preaching. Much like Paul and Peter, I expected to be arrested one day for preaching the gospel. There’s no greater feather in the cap of a street preacher than to be arrested for preaching or handing out tracts. Want to make a name for yourself in the street preaching fraternity? Get arrested and spend time in jail for proclaiming the gospel.

Being questioned or harassed by law enforcement was a sign, at least to me, that I was doing exactly what God want me to do; that if God wanted me to suffer for his name’s sake, so be it. I was already somewhat of a local celebrity, so getting thrown in the pokey would only have increased my celebrity status. Little did I know at the time that, sure I was a celebrity, but locals thought I was a fool. That’s okay too, right? The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 4:10, We are fools for Christ’s sake. Praise Jesus!

Stay tuned for Part Three

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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.

My Life as a Street Preacher — Part One

bruce-gerencser-street-preaching-september-7-1990

Bruce Gerencser, preaching on a Zanesville, Ohio street corner, September 7, 1990. This photograph was on the front page of the Zanesville Times-Recorder.

I was a street preacher in the 1980s and 1990s. Yes, one of those guys standing on a street corner, Bible raised high, preaching to anyone and everyone who passed by my corner. I often preached on the street several times a week. I preached at Ohio State University, on the Short North in Columbus, and at numerous local festivals, including the Holy Trinity Catholic Church Garden Party in Somerset, Ohio, the Perry County Fair, and the Moonshine Festival in New Straitsville. I preached on the streets of Ohio communities such as Bryan, Crooksville, New Lexington, Zanesville, Lancaster, and Newark. I also preached on street corners in Washington, DC, near the Mall. Sometimes I preached by myself, but most of the time congregants and Christian school children went with me. Their duty was to hold Bible verse signs and hand out gospel tracts. Every week, the students of Somerset Baptist Academy would load into a dilapidated green fifteen-passenger van and go with the man they called Preacher to reach sinners for Jesus. Their appearance on street corners during school hours (once a week) was disconcerting to one school superintendent. He telephoned me and let me know that the kids should be in school, not on street corners hustling for souls. I asked him if the students in his district had extra-curricular activities during school hours. Of course they did! So that put an end to his objection. A short time later, I stopped taking the younger school children with me out of concern that it looked bad. The older students still went along with me, as did several of the teachers.

Don Hardman, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) evangelist from Fishersville, Virginia, came to Somerset Baptist Church annually to hold what is called a protracted meeting. The meeting would start on a Sunday and last for fifteen days (18 services in all). The Hardman meetings were the highlight of the year. The congregation loved the Hardmans, as did Polly and I. Our youngest daughter, Laura, is named after Don’s wife. (Please read The Preacher: The Life and Times of Donald A. Hardman, A Book Review and Laura’s Light by Laura Hardman, A Book Review.)

Don was a street preacher extraordinaire. I would go with him when he preached on the streets. I didn’t preach at first due to shyness and not wanting to give an inferior performance in front of my friend and mentor. Eventually, the Holy Ghost got a hold of me and I knew I had to start preaching, so I did. Now, the Holy Ghost, of course, didn’t really get a hold of me in any shape, fashion, or form. I did, however, feel a burden for reaching unsaved people and ministering to the homeless. I “felt” a calling to reach the dregs of society for Christ, not only through my preaching, but also through feeding and clothing them. I suspect that my experiences with poverty growing up played a big part in the empathy I had for homeless people.

Some of my readers might want to know what good was accomplished through street preaching. As far as souls being saved, it was a big bust. This didn’t concern me. I saw myself as more of a John the Baptist, a voice crying in the wilderness. In 1739, John Wesley, a street preacher himself, wrote in his journal:

I look upon all the world as my parish; thus far I mean, that in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right, and my bounden duty to declare unto all that are willing to hear, the glad tidings of salvation.

Much like Wesley, I viewed the world as my parish, and preaching on the streets was just my way of being a faithful witness to people who would likely never darken the doors of Somerset Baptist Church. I also believed, that by preaching on the streets, I would shame and embarrass preachers who contented themselves with being Sunday preachers, hirelings who cared little for the lost around them. I learned, however, that most preachers were either afraid to preach on the streets or didn’t care one bit for the spiritual condition of those outside the doors of their churches. Some preachers would compliment me for my zeal, but then say that they weren’t “called” to be street preachers. I reminded them that Jesus, Paul, John the Baptist, and the disciples were all street preachers. This fact did not sway them. I suspect the real issue was that street preaching would interfere with their golf game or their attendance at fellowships and conferences. Laziness, indolence, and indifference are quite common among pastors. Of course, now that I look back on the twenty-five years I spent in the ministry, I wish I had spent more time leisurely attending to my own wants and needs and those of my family instead of street preaching. These days, when I see a street preacher I make sure I share the good news with him — that there is no God, so let’s get a beer.

Stay tuned for Part Two.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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.

I Did It For You Jesus — Crank Windows and Vinyl Floor Mats

1984 chevrolet cavalier

1984 Chevrolet Cavalier

In the late 1980s, while I was the pastor of Somerset Baptist Church, I purchased a 1984 Chevy Cavalier for $2,900. It had 19,000 miles on the odometer. The car was spartan in every way: crank windows, vinyl mats, AM/FM radio, and no air conditioning. I used the car for my ministerial travels, and we also used it to deliver newspapers for the Zanesville Times-Recorder and the Newark Advocate. If this car could be resurrected from the junk yard, it would have stories to tell about Bruce and Polly Gerencser zipping up and down the hills of Licking, Muskingum, and Perry Counties delivering newspapers. All told, we put 160,000 miles on the car without any major mechanical failures. Tires, brakes, and tune-ups, were all the car required.

If the car could talk it would certainly speak of being abused:

  • Polly hit a mailbox, denting the hood and cracking the windshield.
  • Polly hit some geese, damaging the air dam.
  • Bruce hit a concrete block that had been thrown in the road.
  • Bruce hit a black Labrador retriever, causing damage to the front of the car.
  • Bruce hit a deer, causing damage to the bumper and radiator.
  • A tree limb fell on the car, further damaging the hood.
  • A woman drove into the back of the car while it was parked alongside the road in Corning, Ohio. We found out later that this accident broke the rear frame member.

By the time we were finished with the car, it looked like it had recently been used in a demolition derby. We carried personal liability insurance on the car — no collision — so no repairs were performed after these accidents. We certainly extracted every bit of life we could out of the car. It went to the happy wrecking yard in the sky knowing that it faithfully served Jesus and the Gerencser family.

Our Chevy Cavalier is a perfect illustration of our life in the ministry. Unlike Catholics, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers don’t take a vow of poverty. That said, the eleven years I spent as pastor of Somerset Baptist can be best described as the “poverty years.”  I put God, the ministry, and the church before my wife and children. We did without so the church could make ends meet, thinking that God would someday reward us for our voluntary poverty.

Pastoring Somerset Baptist was a seven-day a week job. I was always on call, with rarely a day off. And as a workaholic, I liked it that way. During the late 1980s, for example, I was preaching on the street two days a week, teaching Sunday school, preaching twice on Sunday and once on Thursday. On Wednesdays, I would preach at the local nursing home. On Saturdays, I would help visit the homes of bus riders and try to round up new riders. I also helped start a multi-church youth fellowship. We had monthly activities for church teens. And then there were revival meetings, special services, Bible conferences, watch night services, pastors’ conferences, and the like. Throw in visiting church members in their homes and when they were hospitalized, and virtually every waking hour of my day was consumed by the work of the ministry.  And lest I forget, we also took in foster children, many of whom were teenagers placed in our home by the court. I believed, then, I could “reach” these children and transform their lives through the gospel and regular church attendance. I was, in retrospect, quite naïve.

But, wait, there’s more! — I am starting to sound like a Billy May commercial. In 1989, I started a tuition-free private Christian school for church children. I was the school’s administrator. I also taught a few classes. Polly taught the elementary age children. Many of these children have fond memories of Mrs. Gerencser teaching them to read. Students have no such memories of me, the stern taskmaster they called Preacher.

somerset baptist church 1983-1994 2

Our hillbilly mansion. We lived in this 720 square foot mobile home for five years, all eight of us.

For the last five years at Somerset Baptist, we were up at 6:00 AM and rarely went to bed before midnight. When I started the church in 1983, we had two children, ages two and four. Eleven years later, we had six children, ages fifteen, thirteen, ten, five, three, and one. Our home was patriarchal in every way. Polly cared for our home — a dilapidated 12×60 trailer — cooked meals, and changed thousands of diapers; and not the disposable kind either. Polly used God-approved cloth diapers with all six children. She also breast-fed all of them.

Why did Bruce and Polly live this way? The short answer is that we believed that living a life of faith on the edge poverty was how Jesus wanted us to live. After all, Jesus didn’t even have a home or a bed, so who were we to complain?  If God wanted us to have more in life, he would give it to us, we thought. Much like the Apostle Paul, we learned to be content in whatever state we were in — rich or poor, it mattered not.

I left Somerset Baptist Church in 1994. I am now a physically broken down old man. The health problems I now face were birthed during my days at Somerset Baptist. There’s no doubt, had I put my family first and prioritized my personal well-being above that of the church, that we would be better off financially and I would be in much better health. As it was, I spent years eating on the run or downing junk food while I was out on visitation. I know we surely must have sat down to eat as family, but I can’t remember doing so. Of course, I can’t remember us having sex either, and our children are proof that we at least had sex six times. All I know is that I was busy, rarely stopping for a breath, and so was Polly. It’s a wonder that our marriage survived the eleven years we spent at Somerset Baptist. It did, I suppose, because we believed that the way we were living was God’s script for our marriage and family. We look back on it now and just shake our heads.

I am sure some readers might read this post and not believe I am telling the truth. Who would voluntarily live this way? Who would voluntarily sacrifice their economic well-being, health, and family? A workaholic madly in love with Jesus, that’s who. A man who believed that whatever he suffered in this life was nothing compared to what Jesus suffered on the cross. A man who believed that someday in Heaven, God was going to say him, well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord. I viewed life as an endurance race, and it was my duty and obligation to keep running for Jesus until he called me home. No one can ever say of Bruce and Polly that they didn’t give their all — all to Jesus I surrender, all to him I humbly give.

beater station wagon

$200 beater. Polly HATED this car. What’s not to like, right?

Of course, my devotion to God, the church, and the ministry was a waste of time and money. One of the biggest regrets I have is that I wasted the prime of my life in service to a non-existent God. While certainly I helped many people along the way, I could have done the same work as a social worker and retired with a great pension. Instead, all I got was a gold star for being an obedient slave. I am not bitter, nor is Polly. We have many fond memories of the time we spent at Somerset Baptist Church. But, both of us would certainly say that we would never, ever want to live that way again. We loved the people and the scenery, but the God? No thanks. We feel at this juncture in life as if we have been delivered from bondage. We are now free to live as we wish to live, with no strings attached. And, there’s not a dilapidated Chevrolet Cavalier sitting in our driveway. No sir, we have electric windows, electric seats, air-conditioning, and the greatest invention of all time for a back ravaged by osteoarthritis — heated seats. We may be going to hell when we die, but me and misses sure plan on enjoying life until we do.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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.

Quote of the Day: The High Cost of Fleeing Fundamentalist Religion by Andreea Nica

 

preaching anti abortion gospel lexington kentucky (3)

According to a recent study, those who have a stable religious or secular identity generally report greater well being; however, those who consider leaving religion but stay, tend to experience poorer mental health over time, compared to those who are more consistent in their religious and nonreligious identities. Which begs the question of how leaving impacts well being—particularly for those raised in a religion.

By now many of us are familiar with the data on the “nones.” Nearly four in ten (39%) young adults (18-29) are religiously unaffiliated, and they’re nearly four times as likely as young adults a generation ago to identify as religiously unaffiliated. The primary reasons are skepticism in the teachings of religion (60%), a less religious upbringing (32%), or issues with religious teachings about or treatment of gay and lesbian people (29%).

But a subset of these growing religious nones has lacked examination—those who have left fundamentalist religions. Underexplored is how disaffiliation from fundamentalist groups impact family relations and friendships, as well as the stressors involved in ‘coming out’ as a nonbeliever.

Important to clarify, is that strict, fundamentalist, or “high-cost” religious groups have distinct characteristics of absolutism, fanaticism, and conformity. Absolutism means that religious individuals have a high commitment to and willingness to sacrifice on behalf of the religious group’s goals or beliefs; Conformity entails obedience and discipline of religious members; and Fanaticism is conceived of as one-way communication versus a dialogue between leadership and members.

Leaving fundamentalist, strict religions can have negative health consequences, both perceived and actual, that manifest in the body and mind. Research shows that individuals who come out to family members, specifically as an atheist—a strongly stigmatized identity in the U.S., only slightly more popular than Muslims—report that families often react with anger and rejection, as communication deteriorates and distrust grows. While research is somewhat limited on individuals’ experiences leaving religion more broadly, and coming out to family and friends, it’s generally assumed that there are significant stressors involved that impact well being.

I interviewed individuals who left fundamentalist religious groups, or, what I call, ‘exiters,’ and found that they all have complex stories of ‘exiting’ and ‘coming out’ out to their families. These individuals left religion for different reasons, but some common themes included pursuit of personal freedom not found in the religion, shifts in ideological values that put them at odds with religion, and lack of acceptance for who they were or who they wanted to become in their religious communities.

Religious immersion

The ‘exiters’ I interviewed described their experience in religion as immersive, consisting of a significant time commitment, a high degree of participation, and intense involvement.

Heather, a 29-year-old female exiter of evangelical Christianity, explains her religious experience as deeply connected to family and friends in the community:

I was raised in the church, attending services as far back as I can remember. As a child, we would attend Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and mid-week services. As a teenager, I became highly involved in the youth ministry and served on the leadership team, where I continued to attend Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and mid-week services. The church was a significant part of my family’s identity. It was our primary form of community and where I built many lasting friendships.

Lena, a 29-year-old, female, and exiter of The Church Universal and Triumphant, a new age religious cult, echoes:

There were three weekly important Church services of about 2-3 hours each that I attended with my parents. My school was run by the Church so every day was started with a 30-minute services. I took Holy Communion classes every Sunday afternoon for 2 months one summer when I was 8 or 9. There were four major holy events—“Conferences”—when everyone would gather on the main Church campus and spend a week purely in Church praying and listening to the Church leader. On my own, I prayed every night before bed, blessed my food, prayed whenever I was driving in a car, and did rosaries every night for a good 6 or 7 years. I listened to the Church leader on audiotape in the background when doing homework or falling asleep after about 10 years old and the sound of prayer was constant.

Katie, a 34-year-old, female, exiter of a charismatic, non-denominational Christian religious group highlights:

The church services were known for extreme emotional highs. Worship would last several hours and would be used to work the church members into an emotional frenzy. Often people would dance while waving large flags, some would kneel, some would openly cry, some would be seized with uncontrollable laughter. These behaviors were thought to be the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Losing family and friends

A 30-year-old male, former devout member of an evangelical Christian community, as well as former music leader and church staff member, shares his experience leaving religion and coming out as gay. Ted expressed that although most of his family members are no longer religious, his friendships were deeply effected.

I experienced a certain degree of shunning from several very close friends. We still communicate, but they have definitely put a wall between our relationship. They no longer include me as one of their own. I’m familiar with that guarding because I used to put similar walls up with people who were not part of my religious community as well, so I recognized it right away.

Lena described for me coming out as a nonbeliever to family and friends as a gradual process:

I still haven’t come out to my mother though I imagine she suspects or knows…We used to be close and talked every day into my twenties. Now I call her maybe every three months and talk to her for less than 30 minutes. I find that talking to her and hearing the language of the Church in all her sentences produces a great deal of anxiety. I talk to my sister even less. Whenever I speak with my mother at any length she tells me I am on the wrong path…Lots of microaggressions that often devolve into crying. My sister has let me know that she’s given up on me and she hopes someday I wake up. I think she pities me… I told my father never to speak to me again when I was 24 and have had no contact with him since then, though every few years or so I Google his name to see what he is doing.

Lena’s experience coming out to friends shared a similar sentiment with Ted’s narrative:

I have lost contact with an entire friend group of 10 years. I simply stopped contacting them and not a single one of them has reached out to me either by phone or Facebook to see how I am. There were a good 5 people in that friend group that I thought I was very close to, but since I stopped attending Church events, none of them have contacted me though I know they are all still involved in the Church.

Heather describes her coming out as a nonbeliever to family as “difficult and still a work-in-progress” and further explains:

During my several years [in] transition from religious to nonreligious, I didn’t feel comfortable talking about my beliefs with family and friends. Since discussing matters of faith had been a focal point of these relationships (i.e., praying for each other, encouraging each other with scriptures, etc.), my silence created feelings of distance among family members where strong connections used to exist. My mother expressed disappointment that she could no longer pray with me and longingly recalled the days when I would share scriptures and words of encouragement with her.

Katie shares her departure from a charismatic, non-denominational Christian religious group:

In the last two years that I was a Christian, I struggled with depression and panic attacks. I often received prayer and anointing of oil for my depression and panic. I found myself crying at church, not because I was feeling the ecstasy of God, but because I was overwhelmed with the fact that God would not heal me. I tried everything, including paying hundreds of dollars to have one-on-one healing sessions to expel demons and cut demonic ties from and my family’s past sins. These things still didn’t work and I began to have suicidal thoughts, which I eventually admitted to my primary doctor. I was started on anti-depressants, and for the first time in years, I felt happy. My faith was shaken. God didn’t heal me but these pills did. I quit going to church.

Katie’s relational losses echoes others’ narratives:

The majority of my friend network was from my church and when I stopped going to church, my Christian friendships stopped. I just stopped hearing from them, and it was as if I did not exist at all. I lost most of my friends, and that was extremely painful. I realized that the friendships, based on deep spiritual experiences together, had no foundation like a normal friendship did…I was able to come out to friends who had also left their faith, and we were able to create an actual friendship based on our mutual experiences.

….

— Andreea Nica, Religion Dispatches, The Forgotten Nones: The High Cost of Fleeing Fundamentalist Religion, March 12, 2018

Black Collar Crime: IFB Preacher Robert Ross Accused of Covering Up Child Abuse

robert ross steven winn larry winn

Pastor Robert Ross, Steven Winn, and Larry Winn. The church that preys together stays together.

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.

In February, I posted a story about Steven Winn’s arrest on sex crime charges. In March, I posted a story about Steve Winn’s father, Larry, being arrested on similar charges. Today, their pastor, Robert Ross, has been arrested on charges that he failed to make a child abuse report. Ross is mandatory reporter, yet he did nothing. I have long argued that pastors — if they know about child abuse or a sex crime and don’t report it — should be arrested and prosecuted for failing to report. As long as there is nu punishment for their crimes, pastors will continue to sweep child abuse and sexual assault allegations under the proverbial rug.

According to the report that follows, Open Door Baptist Church in Mesquite, Texas — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist institution — has had at least four members accused of sexual abuse in its fifty-year history.

Sarah Smith, a reporter for The Star Telegram, writes:

The pastor of a fundamentalist Baptist church with two members already facing sex abuse charges was arrested Tuesday on charges that he failed to make a required child abuse report.

Robert A. Ross, the pastor of Open Door Baptist Church in Mesquite, is in the Mesquite jail. Bond has been set at $2,500. The police have not yet responded to a request for comment.

Open Door Baptist Church in Mesquite has had four members accused of sexual abuse in its 50-year history. Members and ex-members say a strict culture that reveres church authorities as nearly unquestionable has led to an environment conducive to ongoing abuse.

A tipster reported the most recent allegations to Mesquite police in late February. They involved a father-son pair described as belonging to a family deeply involved in the church.

Police arrested Steven Winn, 33, who volunteered with Open Door’s youth ministry, and charged him with three counts of sexual assault of a child on Feb. 22. Larry Winn, his father and the church’s 65-year-old bus minister, was arrested a few days later and charged with sexual assault of a child. The cases involve different victims.

In 2011, the church’s then-pastor, Matt Jarrell, committed suicide in a West Virginia jail cell, where he was being held on rape charges. He had a history of sexual assault arrests, at least one of which was known to the church’s assistant pastor, per news reports at the time.

Back in 1988, Donald Lewis — another bus minister — pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault of a child. He died while on probation. One of Lewis’ victims claims that the church’s pastor, Sylvester Matthews, knew of the abuse before his arrest.

….

Steven Winn is accused of having a 14-month sexual relationship with a minor that began when the girl was 15 and a student at the church’s school, Mesquite Bible Academy. Winn volunteered with the church’s youth ministry.

Several congregants said they were long concerned about what they say looked like an obviously inappropriate relationship between a 33-year-old man in power and a teenager.

One former member put it like this: “Anyone with two eyes and an Instagram account could have seen that things didn’t look right.”

The girl, who is still a minor and isn’t being identified by the Star-Telegram, posted pictures of herself and Winn on her page, which the Star-Telegram reviewed. The two sat close — much closer than Open Door usually allows even dating couples —and were spending an excessive amount of time together, said the former member.

….

“I talked to her a couple times on my phone,” another member said. “I was like ‘Hey, you shouldn’t be calling this guy your daddy, he’s just some guy at church.’ And she’s like, ‘You know, it’s none of your business.’ ”

He said he discussed it with friends but ultimately chose not to bring it up to anyone else.

“When you’re in the church, you believe that the pastors are the authorities,” he said. “They know what’s going on. So you would just automatically figure, it’s probably not right that they’re doing that, but I don’t think there’s anything super wrong going on, you know?”

The girl did not respond to a request for comment. The girl’s mother, reached by phone, declined to comment.

After Steven Winn’s arrest, Ross, the pastor, called a members’ meeting, longtime member Austin Guthrie said. Ross gave no details beyond the charges and said that Steven Winn had turned himself into police.

Lt. Brian Parrish, the Mesquite Police Department’s public relations officer, said Steven Winn and his father voluntarily surrendered to police. However, he said, Steven Winn did not come forward and confess of his own accord. Police received a tip on Feb. 18 — four days before Winn’s arrest. The tipster did not know the extent of the assaults, but was concerned about the relationship.

The same tipster who contacted police about Steven Winn spoke to police about Larry Winn, the bus minister for Open Door, in charge of the fleet of school buses painted with the church logo that shepherds children to and from services. When police contacted the alleged victim, she told them that Larry Winn had assaulted her three years ago, when she was 16.

….

The accusations against Larry Winn are similar to those in a case involving Sherry May Sims in the 1980s.

Sims is 46 now, but when she was 12, an Open Door bus minister raped her. The assaults went on for four years, from 1984 to 1988, she said.

Donald Lewis was the bus driver. Lori Clark, who attended Open Door at the time, remembered Lewis as heavyset and graying, always in a suit. Kids nicknamed him the “Candy Man” for the brown paper bag of hard candy he carried.

A different victim, also a minor female, reported Lewis to the Mesquite police in 1988. When the news about Lewis broke, Sims’ parents asked her if anything happened. She said she told them the truth. On May 18, 1988, Sims told her story to the Mesquite police. Later, she told it to a grand jury.

She said she never thought to report it herself.

“He was an authority figure and you didn’t say anything bad about authority figures,” Sims said.

Donald Lewis pleaded guilty. He died while on probation in 1994.

When Sims told her parents what happened, her father met with the pastor, Matthews. Her father, who died last year, told Sims that Matthews said there had been other allegations made to him prior to Lewis’ arrest. Nothing was done.

Matthews is still employed at Open Door. He serves as a senior pastor and a math teacher at Open Door’s school.

….

You can read the entire sordid story here.

Black Collar Crime: IFB Preacher Ronald Burning Granted Parole After Only Serving Six Years for Sexual Assault

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.

Ronald Burning, former pastor of Johnsfield Baptist Church in Ohsweken, Ontario — located on the Six Nations Indian Reservation — was granted parole after only serving a six year prison sentence for sexually assaulting children, women, and men over a thirty year period. Burning was affiliated with Old Time Baptist Church in Buffalo, New York — a staunch King James Only Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church.

The Brantford Expositor reports:

Six Nations pastor Ronald Burning, convicted in 2012 of a series of sexual assaults on children, women and men over 30 years, has been granted full parole from prison.

Now 65, Burning was sentenced in 2013 to 10 years for four counts of indecent assault of a female. two counts of sexual assault, indecent assault of a male, forcible confinement and criminal harassment, He received credit for his pre-trial custody on a 1 1/2 days for every one day served, giving him a total of 612 days of credit.

At his trial, the minister pleaded not guilty. He launched an appeal of the verdict by Justice Kim Carpenter-Gunn but abandoned his fight in May 2014.

It wasn’t until last June, when Burning was before the parole board, that he confessed his full guilt.

He later admitted he had been trying to protect himself and his family by denying his offences.

Before his arrest, the preacher also was principal of an independent school associated with his congregation, Johnsfield Baptist Church on Fifth Line. Throughout his trial, he received strong support from members of the church and American members of the church’s umbrella organization, Old Time Baptist Church in Buffalo, N.Y.

Victims who testified during Burning’s trial included: a woman who was sexually groomed and assaulted as a teen; a second woman who Burning assaulted for 11 years, beginning when she was a pre-schooler; a female church employee who was blackmailed into performing sexual acts; a woman who caught Burning peeping at her through a vent in the women’s washroom in the church; and two men who said the pastor molested them when they were young.

Last December, Burning was granted day parole and has been living in a federal halfway house at an undisclosed location.

According to the Parole Board of Canada’s decision to grant him full release, Burning has been spending weekends at his wife’s home, where he now will take up residence.

The report said Burning has made significant progress since being on day parole.

He has enrolled in a college program where he’s been attending daily classes. And he took a computer course through a native employment centre.

He also has been working on a self-management plan to identify triggers to the “distorted thinking patterns” he had in the past, said the parole board report, adding that Burning had a healing plan that he’s worked on with a church and his wife and daughter, who remain supportive.

The parole board said that Burning is considered a low risk to re-offend because of his “high levels of accountability, motivation and reintegration potential.”

He also is in poor health, the board notes.

“It is the board’s opinion that you will not present an undue risk to society if released and your release will contribute to the protection of society by facilitating your reintegration into society as a law-abiding citizen.”

The board noted that Burning caused long-lasting psychological harm to his victims.

He faces strict conditions, including avoiding contact with his victims and all children under 18 years old. He also must report his relationships to his parole officer and not be in any supervisory role or position of authority over children.

He remains on the national sexual offenders database for the rest of his life.

….

In July 2017, the Brantford Expositor reported:

According to the parole board report, Burning told them he denied his guilt in order to protect himself and his family. He said he decided to accept responsibility after incarceration gave him time to reflect on his life.

“You were selfish and non-accountable,” says the report.“You admitted that you knew what you did was wrong but your desire for sexual gratification was stronger than any misgivings you might have had.”

Burning used his position as a musician, pastor and principal at Johnsfield Baptist Church on Six Nations to target victims, often on Sundays.
During his trial, supporters from both his family and the Six Nations church’s sponsoring congregation from the U.S. were in the courtroom to support the minister.

….
One former member of the church, whose daughters attended the church school, said she was angry that Burning was being released. The woman left the church, horrified the group continued to support Burning, to the point of raising funds for his defence, without addressing the allegation he was facing. “I’ve spoken out against my ex-church in the last four-and-a-half years since we left,” said the woman, who asked that her name not be used. “I’m an administrator of an Independent Fundamental Baptist survivor group on Facebook and involved in several other IFB survivor groups.”

Through testimony during Burning’s trial, it was learned that although complaints about Burning were received by police as early as 2007, it was the end of 2009 when a victim reported she had been sexually assaulted, beginning when she was 17. The woman said Burning began by kissing and fondling her but his actions progressed to fellatio and intercourse.

A second woman testified she had been assaulted for 11 years, starting when she was three or four years old. Burning began having intercourse with her when she was about seven and continued to have sex with her until she was about 15.

Another woman said she rented a house from Burning’s church and worked at both the church and the school. Burning blackmailed her into performing sexual acts, threatening that she would lose her house and job if she didn’t comply.

Another woman reported she saw Burning watching her through a vent in the women’s washroom at the church. Her husband found a chair and mirror at the vent that allowed for a view of the genitals of anyone using the washroom. Another peephole was located in another bathroom.

Two men reported assaults. One said Burning fondled him while he slept and another said when he was seven to nine years old, Burning fellated him on at least 160 occasions.

….

The parole board questioned Burning about the fact that his “pool of victims” included four children under the age of 14.“You were asked why you offended against children. You said they were crimes of opportunity, the children were dependent on you and you felt they would not denunciate you. “You felt entitled and used the power that your position gave you to groom some of your victims and manipulate them.

”Burning confessed to the board that he still thinks of children in a sexual way but he has no inclination now to act upon his feelings. He outlined examples of how he plans to cope with such desires.

….

I find it appalling that Burning only served six years for his crimes; that the parole board determined he was no longer a risk to society. What is the h-e-l-l were they thinking?

In 2012, the Brantford Expositor reported:

A 59-year-old Six Nations pastor sat with his head in his hands after guilty verdicts were read out on 13 of 14 charges Friday afternoon in Brantford Superior Court.

Ronald D. Burning was taken into custody after the verdicts were read, bringing to a conclusion a two-week trial where the six-man, six-woman jury heard from two men and five women in relation to an original 19 charges. The witnesses cannot be identified due to a court-ordered publication ban.

Jurors had deliberated over 14 of the original 19 charges starting Thursday at 10 a.m. At 8 p.m. Thursday they were sequestered for the night and resumed deliberations at 10 a.m. Friday. They rendered their verdicts shortly before 3:30 p.m. Friday.

Burning, pastor of Johnsfield Baptist Church, was found guilty on three counts of sexual assault, four charges of indecent assault, sexual intercourse with someone under the age of 14, forcible confinement, indecent assault, voyeurism, criminal harassment, indecent assault and gross indecency. These charges, some committed on men and some on women, related to incidents that took place between 1971 and 2009.

He was found not guilty on a single charge – sexual assault on a male.

Three of the original charges were stayed by Justice Kim Carpenter-Gunn, who directed acquittal on two other charges because no evidence was presented.

During their deliberations, jurors returned to the court mid-morning Friday to ask a question of clarification. Jurors wanted to know if they could find guilt on a charge where there was only the testimony of one witness and no other corroborating evidence from exhibits presented during the trial or other witness testimony.

The judge said that jurors could use any evidence or testimony to help them assess the context of the witness testimony in question and use that to determine how much weight to give to what that person told the court.

The judge revoked Burning’s bail following his conviction, requiring that he stay in custody until his sentencing hearing.

Defence lawyer Howard Staats had asked his client remain on bail, given he has lived under those conditions for almost two years and had caused no problems.

Assistant Crown attorney Patricia Vadacchino argued for custody.

She also reviewed for the judge how two of the guilty verdicts carry minimum life sentences, three carry minimum five-year sentences and one carries a minimum 10-year sentence.

“Now that we’ve had the jury come back … finding the accused guilty on 13 of 14 charges and the defendant is looking at significant jail time, I don’t see the wisdom of releasing the accused,” Carpenter-Gunn said.

….

The Absurdity of the Billy Graham-Mike Pence Rule

jesus alone with a woman

Jesus, alone with a woman, violating the Billy Graham-Mike Pence Rule. Shame on you, Jesus! I am surprised you escaped with your virginity intact.

Embedded deep into the thinking of Evangelical pastors is the notion that women to whom they are not married are dangerous creatures who must be kept at a distance, lest they tempt men of God to commit sexual sin. As a young ministerial student, I was taught that there were Jezebels in every church, and that I must never, ever allow myself to be alone with any woman who was not my wife. According to my professors and chapel speakers, there would always be women lurking in the shadows of the steeple, ready and willing to “steal” my sexual purity. Men, including pastors, were, by nature, weak-kneed, visually stimulated horn dogs. Allow the doors of your office or study to be shut with you and a woman alone, and, why, anything could happen! This kind of thinking, of course, teaches men a warped view of women and human sexuality. While I agree that humans are sexual beings — a trait necessary for our species’ propagation — it does not follow that every time two people of the opposite sex are alone with each other, sexual intercourse is a real and distinct possibility. Common sense tells us otherwise.

This view of women and human sexuality found its nexus with Fundamentalist Baptist evangelist Billy Graham. Graham had three rules he lived by when it came to women who were not his wife. Graham would not travel alone with a woman, meet alone with a woman, or eat alone with a woman. These rules, over time, were called “The Billy Graham Rules.” While Graham was viewed as a liberal by Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers, his three rules were taught and preached in IFB churches and colleges alike. Simply put, stay away from women who aren’t your wife. Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!  Abstain from the very appearance of evil, the Bible says. Eating a meal with a woman who is not your wife, offering her a ride in your car, or counseling her alone with the door closed, all give forth the appearance of evil. I knew of some pastors who wouldn’t even counsel female church members out of fear that their ministry could be compromised.

Most non-Evangelicals had never heard of the “Billy Graham Rule” until Vice President Mike Pence let it be known that he, too, avoided being alone with any woman who was not his wife. Moderns were astounded by the Vice President’s Puritanical view of women, but to my ears his words were what I had heard over and over again as an Evangelical pastor.

Recently, John Ellis wrote a post for PJ Media extolling the virtue of the “Billy Graham-Mike Pence Rule.” In a post titled, Can Men and Women be Friends? Ellis wrote:

After reading that mega-pastor Bill Hybels has been accused of sexual misconduct, I commented to some friends that we (Christian men) need to be extra diligent in what we say and do around women. I said that because I believe that it’s imperative that Christian men protect themselves and the women around them while serving women. Unfortunately, that’s an increasingly difficult tightrope to walk in today’s climate, to the point that it’s appropriate to wonder if men and women can be friends.

….

Most people within conservative Christianity get that. Most would shake their heads in suspicion if it were discovered that I frequently hung out alone with a female pal, just the two of us shooting the breeze. But the claim that men and women can’t be friends brings with it the charge of patriarchalism from some of the same people who believe it unwise for a married man to hang out alone with a woman who is not his wife (or vice versa).

Often, the disconnect in conversations like this one comes down to how terms are defined. I contend that men cannot be friends with women in the way that “friend” is defined when I’m speaking of my buddies. However, Christian men can and should count Christian women as their sisters in Christ.

….

Sadly, desire for personal purity in the pursuit of holiness often brings with it the accusation of patriarchalism. Vice President Mike Pence was assigned that pejorative after it was revealed that he doesn’t dine alone with women not named Karen Pence. The vice president was accused of creating an environment that makes it harder for women to succeed.

However, as Pence continued to suffer the slings and arrows of those who despise his desire to interact with women “in all purity,” the #MeToo movement was created, as powerful men began to be exposed as sexual predators. Sadly, even in the face of the expanding #MeToo movement, many of Pence’s critics still fail to see the wisdom of the vice president’s personal standards of interaction around women.

….

Serving our sisters in Christ in all purity requires acknowledging the truth that because of sin the issue of sex will always be within reach when it comes to members of the opposite sex. Once again, that’s why most conservative Christians would look askance at me going on an overnight fishing trip alone with a woman who was not my wife. But even beyond obvious examples of overnight trips, men need to be careful about how they interact with women in our day to day lives.

Among other things, Bill Hybels has been accused of giving “lingering hugs.” It’s a good thing that I’m an introvert and don’t like being touched or touching people. If I were a “hugger,” I can’t imagine how I would defend myself against an accusation of a lingering hug.

And that’s not to defend Hybels or to claim that women who are made to feel uncomfortable by the actions of men are wrong for speaking up and defending themselves. My point is that it is incredibly difficult to know exactly how a word, a look, or a touch, even if meant innocently, will be taken.

Because men often view women as little more than objects of pleasure and take advantage of them, many of our sisters in Christ have been deeply hurt in the past. What we as their brothers in Christ say or do can have the unintended consequence of being perceived within the context of past abuse. Among other things, loving our sisters in Christ demands that we be careful not to cause more hurt and harm.

On a lesser scale, it’s also important that Christian men guard ourselves. Since it is easy for our motivations to be incorrectly assumed, we need to make sure that we are acting above reproach around our sisters in Christ.

….

According to Ellis, all men should live according to “Billy Graham-Mike Pence Rule.” I say all, and not just married men, because Ellis, who describes himself as a conservative Christian, likely believes that it is a sin for unmarrieds to have sex. Thus, not only should married men abstain from being alone with women who are not their wives, so should unmarried men. Women, for married and unmarried men alike, are the problem. If married men want to keep themselves morally pure, then they must never, ever put themselves in positions where they are alone with women. For married men, the wife of their youth awaits, legs spread wide, ready and willing to satisfy their sexual needs. Unmarried men have no such fire extinguisher awaiting them — the Apostle Paul said it is better to marry than to burn — yet they, too, are implored to avoid being alone with the opposite sex. So what are these young men to do? Many of them, if they marry at all, do not marry until their late twenties. This means that they must wrestle with unsatisfied raging hormones for twelve to fifteen years. And remember, masturbation — lustful self-gratification that leads to homosexuality — is verboten too. (Please read Good Baptist Boys Don’t Masturbate, Oh Yes, They Do!)

This kind of thinking breeds immature, juvenile men; men who are weak; men who are not in control of their sexuality; men who see women primarily as objects of sexual gratification. Ellis, Graham, and Pence would likely object to my characterization of their beliefs, but it seems clear, at least to me, that women are treated as dangerous, seductive beings who must be avoided lest being alone with them leads to intercourse on office and study floors. This kind of thinking objectifies women, turning them into chattel used for male sexual gratification. Since the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God condemns all sexual behavior except married heterosexual vaginal intercourse, (preferably in the missionary position, and primarily for human propagation), any relationship or circumstance that could, even remotely, lead to moral compromise must be resolutely avoided. (A separate discussion is whether consensual adult sex with someone other than your wife or sex between unmarrieds is necessarily “wrong.”)

As I have stated time and again on this blog, Evangelical men need to grow up and own their sexuality. If they can’t control themselves when around physically and sexually attract women, the fault is theirs. Plenty of men are around women publicly and privately, yet they, somehow, keep themselves from having sex with them. These men have learned how to control their thoughts and behaviors. I have viewed countless women whom I have found attractive. My wife and I, now that we no longer concern ourselves with thoughts of God, judgment, and hell, are free to say to the other, that’s an attractive man/woman. Both of us have found it interesting the type of people the other is attracted to. Men I thought Polly would consider hot often elicit a meh from her — she really likes gay guys. Similarly, the kind of woman Polly thinks I would be attracted to often elicits a shrug from me. It’s liberating to be able to express my thoughts, interests, and desires without worrying that it could lead to adultery — a sin, according to the B-i-b-l-e, that lands offenders in the Lake of Fire.

Polly is around other men at work, yet I don’t worry that she might stray. It would be crazy for her to do so, having a stud muffin like me at home. As a photographer, I am often up close and personal with women, yet my wife doesn’t fret over this. She knows that for Bruce, Polly is his one and only. Now, this doesn’t mean that neither of us has ever been tempted to break our marital vows. We have, but we value our lives with each other and our family far more than we do three minutes and twenty seconds of pleasure. For us, it’s a matter of what’s important to us. There are going to be times when we are alone with people of the opposite sex. That’s life. If someone is flirtatious or even comes on to one of us, we expect the other to exercise maturity and wisdom and handle things appropriately. During the Christmas season, my Santa Claus alter-ego often has women who are quite friendly towards him. I have had more than a few women, young and old, want to get up close and personal and have a photo taken with Santa. In my mind, it’s all fun and games. I’ve found, now that I am in my sixties and have a white beard, that women, in general, are more friendly towards me. I suspect it is my grandfatherly look that says to them I am safe. Certainly looks can be deceiving, but in this case, the only fear anyone should have of this Santa Claus is him getting stuck coming down the chimney.

Men need in their lives women who are not their wives. Men NEED female friends, even the buddy type of friends Ellis says men cannot have. I was well into my late forties before I had female friends. I spent most of my adult life living according to the “Billy Graham-Mike Pence Rule.” Not perfectly, of course. In one church, I picked up a woman for services every Sunday for a decade. She was twenty years older than I, and due to a severe vision problem, she couldn’t drive. One couple who left the church in a huff let it be known that they thought this woman and I were having an affair. We both laughed when we heard this. I gave this couple, in my mind anyway, a “go freak yourselves.”  Several years later, I learned that the male of this couple had repeatedly sexually violated his daughter when she was young. I have no doubt that his wife knew that it was going on too. Yet, they were “concerned” over me driving a woman to church. Child, please.

It took me leaving the ministry and Christianity to realize the value and importance of having female friends. Over the past decade or so, I have been privileged to befriend a number of women. Having them in my life has forced me to change my view of the opposite sex. Evangelicalism is inherently patriarchal and misogynistic — let the screaming and whining begin. Thus, I had a warped, deficient view of women for many years. Much like my views of LGBTQ people, my beliefs about women were largely shaped by what Evangelical men and the women-are-property Bible said about them. Divorcing Jesus — we were in a same-sex marriage — and throwing aside the authority of the Bible allowed me to take a fresh look at my relationships with women. This blog and social media have brought into my life a cornucopia of women, along with LGBTQ people too. My editor is a woman. I doubt, had I been an Evangelical blogger, that our relationship would have worked. Now, not only have my grammar and style improved, but her input has helped me mature as a person. Other women have challenged some of things I have written, asking me to consider their perspective. I remember one woman taking issue with my use of the word pussy. I used the word to imply weakness. However, to women, my use of this word said, women are weak. Once this was pointed out to me, I stopped using it – well, except in the privacy of my bedroom, that is.

And my wife? She loves the new and improved Bruce Gerencser, the man who now views her as an equal, as a partner, as someone whose opinions and ideas have value. Most of all she loves the fact that this man of hers has gone from being the head of the home to being her friend. Not only are we lovers and confidants, we are best friends. We trust each other, each believing that the other will honor, even when alone with the opposite sex, the commitment we made forty years ago. No fling is worth what we have built together over the past five decades. Why in the world would I want to trade the best cooking in the world for a romp in the sack with someone I don’t really know? Polly makes the most awesome sloppy joes I have ever eaten. Better than sex — oh yes they are! Since she tried this new recipe out the first time a few weeks ago, I’ve asked her to make it again several times. Heaven? Oh, my Gawd, it’s on my plate, thank you very much. If given the choice between an illicit relationship and Polly’s sloppy joes, I know which one I am taking. Well, that and the fact that she now does all her cooking with cast iron pans. I can only imagine (to rip off the title of the latest Evangelical porno to hit the big screen) what one of the pans would do to the side of my head.

I hope both men and women will share their thoughts and experiences in the comment section. Are women really as dangerous as Graham, Pence, and Ellis say they are? Comment away!

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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

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Black Collar Crime: IFB Pastor Matthew “Denny” Patterson Accused of Sex Crimes Against Boys

pastor denny patterson

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.

Matthew “Denny” Patterson, pastor of Nolensville Road Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, has been indicted on eight counts of aggravated sexual battery. Most of the victims were young boys. Patterson was known in the area for his anti-LGBTQ crusading.  With rapture-like speed, church leaders have scrubbed Patterson’s name from the Nolensville Road Baptist website. One news report states Patterson resigned from Nolensville Road Baptist last September and moved to Pennsylvania. He was arrested in Pennsylvania on March 8, 2018 and has since been extradited to Tennessee.

Adam Tamburin, a reporter for The Tennessean, writes:

Metro police have arrested a pastor accused of molesting several children across two decades while he was leader of a South Nashville congregation.

Matthew Dennis Patterson, known as Denny, served as pastor of Nolensville Road Baptist Church for more than 20 years. He resigned on Sept. 24.

Days later, members of the congregation came to the police precinct on Harding Place with complaints about his requests to “engage in strange activities” with children, authorities said.

Children at the church told adult members that Patterson had asked them to sit on his face and stomach, sometimes in their underwear, according to a police statement.

Detectives John Thomas and Jacob Masteller from the department’s Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Unit led the six-month investigation into the complaints.

After interviewing multiple church and staff members, police said the detectives identified multiple victims, most of them boys, who were molested from 1998-2017. Police did not say how old the children were at the time of the alleged abuse.

Patterson has been indicted on eight counts of aggravated sexual battery. Each count is linked to a different child, according to police.

Police said more charges relating to additional victims “are anticipated” as the investigation continues.

Nashville police arrested Patterson in Pennsylvania on March 8 — he refused to talk to investigators. Patterson was extradited to Nashville on Friday, and his bond was set at $100,000.

Leaders at Nolensville Road Baptist have been “fully cooperative” with the investigation, according to police.

….

The church appeared to be growing — they bought a second house on an adjoining lot in March 2017 for $150,000, property records show. Patterson touted the purchase as a long-held dream on his Twitter account.

It is an Independent Fundamental Baptist church. In the church’s statement of faith, it cites the Bible as the only authority for faith and practice, belief in the sinful nature of man, biblical family roles and local church autonomy.

Patterson was a vocal opponent of anti-discrimination bills considered by the Metro Council in 2003. The measures were designed to protect jobs and housing for lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

“We want to make sure we keep the pressure on, let them know that anytime they bring this up, we’ll be down here to oppose it,” Patterson told The Tennessean in an article published Feb. 5, 2003.

Mention of Patterson was scrubbed from the church’s website after he left the church last year. But an archived version of nolensvilleroadbaptist.com includes a message from the former pastor welcoming visitors to Sunday and Wednesday services.

In the message, Patterson describes the church as “warm” and “friendly” and tells visitors to expect “soul-stirring music and Bible preaching.”

….

The church’s website describes the church this way:

Thank you for visiting our website. We have tried to make this site as simple and friendly as possible. It is our desire to provide you with information about our church, as well as material that will be a blessing to you spiritually. We are an independent, fundamental, Baptist church. We use soul-stirring traditional music and the focal point in our services is the preaching of God’s Word. We use only the King James Version.

The church’s website has a message for visitors from Patterson (via The Wayback Machine):

As Pastor I want to take this opportunity to invite you to our church. We have a warm, friendly church, and you will feel more than welcome. We are always excited to see guests in our services.

We are a church that believes God is alive and Christ can still save those who turn to Him for salvation. At our church, Christ is the answer for every one of the problems of man [including molesting young boys?]. God stands with His hand stretched out to all people, and so does our church.

You will find soul-stirring music and Bible preaching in each of our services. On behalf of all our people, please accept my invitation to attend our services. We look forward to seeing you soon.

Pastor Denny Patterson
Psalm 19:14

The church’s about page states:

STILL CHURCH

Timeless or trendy? Malls are trendy. Church should feel timeless. With the forceful current of constant change sweeping over every part of our lives, people have the need to connect with something enduring and firm. We believe Christ designed the church to fulfill that need by representing an eternal kingdom and ageless truth with no need to imitate the culture. We want you to know there’s still a church that feels like church. It won’t feel like a rock concert, comedy club, or motivational seminar. It’s not old-fashioned as in 50 years ago. It’s timeless, as in 2000 years ago.

STILL PREACHING

Dynamic, passionate preaching straight from the Bible still brings more lasting change than comedy routines, drama, or motivational talks. Come discover the benefit of Biblical preaching.

STILL HYMNS

Most church music amounts to dumbing down the lyrics and cranking up the volume to build more interest. The hymns we sing still generate an attitude toward God that is anything but lifeless and boring.

STILL REVERENT

Casual is all the rage in American institutions, but God deserves better. While you won’t find a judgmental spirit here, you will find a place that still believes reverence is right for the presence of God.

STILL FAMILY

Our culture’s experiments with the family have left the American home in a mess. We still teach the biblical roles for the family as the best answer and our only hope for stable, unfulfilled homes.

STILL EXCITING

God doesn’t need the Top 40 or the latest fads to be exciting. We still enjoy several timeless practices that stir the soul in a way that strobe lights and dancing in the aisles can never manufacture.

Nolensville Road Baptist Church is an Independent, Fundamental, Baptist church located in Nashville, TN. Our church is easily accessible from anywhere in the greater Nashville area. Our church facilities are located on the South side of Nashville, and we are close to I-24, I-65, and I-40.

And yet for all these “still” statements, the church “still” had a predatory child molester in its midst.

A Channel 5 news report adds:

The indictments stated one of the victims was abused over a six year period.

Another indictment said that between April 6, 2007 and April 6, 2013, Patterson “did intentionally engage in unlawful sexual contact with N.B. (d.o.b. 04-06-2002).”

Officials with the Metro Nashville Police Department said he molested at least eight children over the course of more than 20 years as pastor of Nolensville Road Baptist Church in south Nashville.

Patterson reportedly resigned on September 24, 2017 and moved to Pennsylvania.

Church members learned of the allegations the following day, according to a statement, and reported it to police after speaking with Patterson and obtaining his cell phone and laptop to give to detectives.

A mother of three, who had attended the church on and off for two years, said she did not suspect Patterson of being an alleged molester.

“I didn’t at first but when I look back at it, it kind of makes sense after watching some of the behavior and movements toward certain people now,” said the mother who chose not to reveal her identity.

She added that Patterson event attended her three-year-old daughter’s birthday once, although she does not believe she was abused.

“I can’t really talk to a three-year-old about it because they don’t understand what’s going on. You get scared wondering if it was your child,” she said.

Church members came to the South Precinct to report that children were saying Patterson had them engage in strange activities with him, including sitting on his face and stomach, sometimes in their underwear.

The church spokesperson said in a statement, “Nolensville Road Baptist Church want to let our community know that the sinful actions of one man does not reflect upon church as a whole. We remain committed to truth, transparency in all our operations, and for the care and support for the victims and family who have been victimized by alleged perpetrator.”

….

An April 5, 2018 Times Free Press story states:

A former Tennessee pastor accused of molesting several children while he was a Nashville church leader has pleaded not guilty at his first court appearance.

The Tennessean reports a public defender accepted the case against Matthew Dennis Patterson and entered a not guilty plea on his behalf Wednesday.

….

Police say investigators identified at least eight victims, most of them boys, who were molested from 1998 to 2017.

Patterson has been indicted on eight counts of aggravated sexual battery. More charges related to additional victims are expected.