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Tag: Independent Fundamentalist Baptist

A Family of Eight: Yes, They Are All Ours

gerencser children 2023

My partner, Polly, and I have six children, ages 44, 42, 39, 34, 32, and 30. Our oldest son was a “mistake,” the result of two naive, immature, ignorant young Christian adults lacking comprehensive sex education. Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) sex education is simple and direct: don’t do “it” until you are married, and then only in the missionary position for the purposes of procreation. We decided to go the spermicidal foam route, not knowing it had a high failure rate. Six weeks after we married, Polly informed me she was pregnant. Six weeks before our first anniversary, little Jason was born.

The rest of our children were planned. Polly was what you would call a fertile myrtle. I could look at her and she would get pregnant. Polly breastfed all six of our children, another, somewhat ineffective, birth control method. Our first three children were born over the span of five years. Better birth control methods kept Polly from getting pregnant again, so we thought that three children would be all for us.

Five years later, after immersing ourselves in Evangelical Calvinism and adopting an absolute position on the sovereignty of God, we decided to have more children — as many as God would give us. We believed that it was God who opened and closed the womb, and Polly would not become pregnant unless it was the will of God.

Over the space of the next five years, we had three more children. During the delivery of our youngest son, Polly’s obstetrician told her that she should stop having children; that further pregnancies could kill her. This left us with a dilemma: should we ignore the doctor and trust God, or should we abandon our belief in the sovereignty of God and follow the doctor’s advice? After pondering life as a widowed father with six young children, we decided to obey man, and not God. While we felt guilty for being hypocritical and not standing firm on our convictions, we knew that we made the right decision. God didn’t seem to care one way or the other. 🙂

One day in the mid-1990s, we went to the mall with our children — all eight of us. Our children behaved well in public. When we walked through stores, we walked in a single file line, always to the right, avoiding getting in the way of others. One day, I noticed a clerk out of the corner of my eye counting how many people were in our family. One little, two little, three little Gerencsers . . . I went over to her and said, “Eight. There are eight of us. 🙂

Another time, a loan officer at a finance company asked me how many people were in our family. I replied, “Eight,” to which she stupidly responded, “Don’t you guys know how to use birth control?” I retorted that we had all of our children on purpose, just as God intended.

I am occasionally asked if we had to do it all over again would we have a large family? While we love our children (and sixteen grandchildren) and thoroughly enjoy our relationships with them and their families, if we had to do it all over again we would have stopped after having two or three children. This doesn’t mean we didn’t want our younger children, but it does mean we recognize the financial difficulties we had raising such a large family on poverty wages. Sure, we survived and our children have turned into productive, educated adults, but life was harder than it needed to be not only for Polly and me, but also for our children.

Hopefully, we all live and learn. We make decisions based on what we know at the time. We truly thought that God would meet our needs; that he would never leave us nor forsake us; that he would never leave his children destitute, begging for bread. Instead, we found that God was nowhere to be found; that we were on our own. By then, we had six children, and to some degree have spent most of our lives digging out of a financial hole we dug for ourselves as young adults.

No regrets, just the realization that different choices might have had different outcomes. I say “might.” Who is to say what might have happened if we had chosen a path with two or three children instead of six. Do you have a large family? Why did you have so many children? If you had to do it all over again, would you still have a large family?

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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What Surprised Me the Most When I Left Christianity

leaving christianity

It’s been almost sixteen years since I walked out the doors of the Ney United Methodist Church, never to return. Not long after, I sent out my infamous letter, Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners, to several hundred family members, friends, former church members, and colleagues in the ministry. For a time, I self-identified as an agnostic, but after months of “explaining” what I meant by the term, I decided to call myself an atheist. Strictly speaking, I am an agnostic atheist.

I naively believed that letter recipients would “understand” my deconversion; that they would appreciate hearing my story straight from my mouth, and not third and fourth hand as the Evangelical/IFB rumor mill raged. Boy, was I wrong. To the person, every one of them abandoned me, and many of them personally attacked me in letters, emails, and sermons. One former church member asked me to “explain,” but after I kindly and gently did so, she told me she could no longer be friends with me or talk to me. Another dear friend told me that he found my deconversion too unsettling to continue to be my friend. I saw nothing in their treatment of me that suggested they understood Jesus’ teachings on how to treat your “enemies” or how they should treat people in general. Their responses gave me a bird’s-eye view of how Evangelicals treat people who dare to leave their club. No kindness. No love. No compassion. No respect. Just judgment and condemnation.

Sixteen years later, I have only had one person walk back their words — a lifelong friend who said I was demon-possessed. That’s it. As for the rest of them, their words and behavior were un-Christian, to say the least. You would think that the Holy Spirit might have convinced them of their sins and called on them to apologize for their awful words. No apologies have been forthcoming. I concluded, then, that my former friends, family members, and parishioners believed that the teachings of Christ didn’t apply to them when it came to dealing with an Evangelical preacher-turned-atheist.

As a result, I lost my entire social network. Fifty years of relationships went up in smoke, and it is doubtful I will ever regain an atheist/agnostic/humanist version of what I lost. I paid a heavy price for daring to deconvert. I was penalized for being honest. Sixteen years on, Evangelicals continue to shit on my doorstep. I can’t remember the last time I received a polite, thoughtful, kind comment or email from an Evangelical Christian. Why is that?

I will never understand why people responded to me the way they did. I learned that my relationships were conditioned of me believing the right things. Even though we had lots of other things in common, all that mattered was shared religious beliefs. Once I said I no longer believed, I became their enemy. Yet, they treated me differently than they treated unsaved family, friends, and neighbors. I suspect they believe that I have committed the unpardonable sin or crossed the line of no return. How they could possibly know this is unknown. Evidently, I am no longer worthy of saving. 🙂

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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What Was Your “Life Verse”?

proverbs 3 5-6

I grew up in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. Children were encouraged (conditioned, indoctrinated, and cajoled) to get “saved” at an early age. Many IFB children get saved at least twice: first as a young child and then as a teenager. I professed faith in Jesus at age five, and then I really, really, really got saved at fifteen.

After having a born-again experience, young converts are encouraged to choose a “life verse”; Bible verses that would become lifelong governing principles.

My partner Polly’s life verse was Micah 6:8:

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

Pretty good advice to live by: justice, mercy, and humility.

My life verse was Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

These words governed much of my Christian life: trust the Lord with all my heart. Don’t trust my own understanding. In all my ways, acknowledge God, and if I do so, he will direct my paths.

Did you have a life verse? Did your chosen verse affect how you lived your life? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Virginity and Hymen Worship

awesome sex

Virginity: the state of never having sexual intercourse

Virgin: a person who has never had sexual intercourse

Hymen: a small, thin piece of tissue at the opening of the vagina. It’s formed by fragments of tissue left over from fetal development. The size, shape, and thickness of the hymen are unique and can change over time.

The above definitions are incontrovertible. However, when it comes to defining the word “sex,” opinions vary. Planned Parenthood has this to say:

A virgin is someone who’s never had sex. But people define “sex” and “losing virginity” in many different ways.

A virgin is someone who’s never had sex — but it’s not quite as simple as it seems. That’s because sex means different things to different people, so virginity can mean different things, too.

A lot of people think that having penis-in-vagina sex for the first time is how you lose your virginity. But this leaves lots of people and other types of sex out of the picture.

Some people haven’t had penis-in-vagina sex, but they’ve had other kinds of sex (like oral sex or anal sex) — and they may or may not see themselves as virgins. And there are lesbian, gay, bisexual or pansexual people who may never have penis-in-vagina sex at all. But they probably don’t see themselves as lifelong virgins just because they haven’t had penis-in-vagina sex.

Many people believe rape and sexual assault aren’t sex — it’s only sex if both partners have consent. So if someone was forced or pressured the first time they had vaginal sex, oral sex, or anal sex, they may not see that as “losing their virginity.”

Bottom line: the definition of virginity is complicated, and it’s really up to you to decide what you believe. Some people don’t even care what “virginity” means or think it matters. Stressing about whether you’re a virgin is way less important than how you feel about your sexual experiences. Ask yourself: are you happy with the sexual experiences you’ve had or decided not to have?

As you can see, “sex” is complicated. Does sex only happen when a penis is inserted in a vagina? Does sex require ejaculation? Is it “sex” if it is oral or anal? Is masturbation sex? Is using a dildo or a vibrator sex?

According to Evangelicals, virginity is sacrosanct. Well, female virginity is sacrosanct, anyway. Most of the preaching I heard as a teenager focused on girls keeping their legs closed and their hymens intact. There was no greater sin than for a girl to have sex before marriage. I can’t remember a sermon that focused on boys maintaining their virginity. Of course, if masturbation is considered “sex,” I doubt any Baptist boy was a virgin on their wedding day. 🙂

Evangelicals tend to be hymen worshippers, revering a thin piece of tissue in front of the vagina. The hymen can be broken (euphemistically called popping a woman’s cherry) when a woman has sex for the first time. The problem, of course, is that a woman’s hymen can be broken in other ways too:

There’s a lot of confusion about hymens out there. Many people think the hymen totally covers the opening of your vagina until it’s stretched open, but that’s not usually the case. Most of the time, hymens naturally have a hole big enough for period blood to come out and for you to use tampons comfortably. Some people are born with so little hymenal tissue that it seems like they don’t have a hymen at all. In rare cases, people have hymens that cover the entire vaginal opening, or the hole in their hymen is very small — they may need to see a doctor for a minor procedure to remove the extra tissue. Just like other parts of our body, hymens are a little different for everyone.

Your hymen can be stretched open the first time you have vaginal sex, which might cause some pain or bleeding. But this doesn’t happen to everyone. And there are other ways that a hymen can be stretched open: riding a bike, doing sports, or putting something in your vagina (like a tampon, finger, or sex toy). Once your hymen is stretched open, it can’t grow back.

The Evangelical obsession with virginity causes untold harm, putting unwarranted pressure on teenagers. and women. Like it or not, more than thirty percent of high school students will have sex by the time they graduate. Most people have sex before marriage — including Evangelical Christians. Despite all the fearmongering by preachers over premarital sex and virginity, church teenagers and adults have sex. No amount of preaching can overcome raging hormones and desire. While I was a virgin on my wedding day, it was fear of God’s judgment that kept me on the straight and narrow. My partner would say the same thing. We wanted to have sex before marriage and even came precariously close a week before our wedding to rounding third and sliding into home, but we feared God was going to get us if we did.

If people want to remain virgins until their wedding day, fine. However, they shouldn’t be guilted into doing so. Instead of telling younger people to “just say no,” they are better served if they receive comprehensive, guilt-free sex education. Since most teenagers will have sex before marriage, it is vitally important that they are taught the ins and outs of sex, including the proper use of birth control.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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The Ministry Addiction: Why Preachers Can’t Give it Up

fat preacher

Have you noticed that when many big-name, megachurch pastors and not-so-big name pastors get themselves in trouble, they often resign, disappear for a while, and then show up in a new town, claiming that “God” is leading them to start a new church? Or sometimes, they squirrel themselves away for a year or so, and then the next thing you read they are the new pastor of such-and-such church. No matter what the crime or misbehavior, “fallen” pastors almost always find a path back to the ministry.

The main reason, of course, is that these men tend to be charismatic, winsome leaders who easily attract followers, followers who are willing to let the past be the past; followers who are willing to grant them redemption and forgiveness; followers who are far more interested in the “man” than they are his behavior. (Please see The Evangelical Cult of Personality.) Big-name preachers, in particular, become demigods. People flock to them, hanging on every word, regardless of who they might have had an affair with or sexually molested in the past. Sadly, way too many Evangelicals are stupid and gullible, willing to sacrifice reason and moral decency for the attention of a soiled big-name preacher.

In virtually every other setting, if you commit a crime or have an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate, your career is over. Not so for “fallen” Evangelical preachers. No matter what a preacher does, there is nothing that stands in his way if he wants to go to a new city and start a church. The Internet has changed this dynamic somewhat, but before the Internet, it wasn’t uncommon to hear of preachers who “fell” (or ran) into sin, resigned, and then moved a few thousand miles away to start a new church. (Please see How to Start an Independent Baptist Church.) Anyone can start a new church. If I were so inclined, I could start a new church by Sunday. Why, if all my children and their spouses and my grandchildren showed up, I would have more than twenty-five people in attendance for the first service at First Church of Bruce Almighty. By default, First Church would be tax-exempt, and attendance-wise would be larger than several “real” churches nearby. There’s no secular or religious authority that could stop me from doing so. That’s the beauty (and the danger) of the separation of church and state. Pastor so-and-so can fuck his way through the congregation, get caught, resign, and then pack up, move five states away, and start a new church. Felon Jack Schaap, the disgraced IFB pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana — now out of federal prison — is free to pastor a church again. Remember all the bad shit Jim Bakker did? After he got out of prison, he wrote a book titled, I Was Wrong. Not too wrong, however. Bakker is back on TV, preaching the “gospel” and fleecing anyone and everyone who comes his way. Ted Haggard? David Hyles? Jimmy Swaggart? Perry Noble? Mark Driscoll? The list goes on and on. All of these men made a mockery of their calling, and in some instances committed crimes. Yet, today all of them are still in the ministry. Granted, they haven’t reached the levels of notoriety they once had, but thousands of people have flocked to their new churches, seemingly oblivious to their past sins, indiscretions, failures, and crimes.

Why don’t these “fallen” preachers move on to other jobs or careers? Why do they return to the ministry, drawn to it like a moth to the light? With few exceptions, every disgraced preacher I know later reentered the ministry. Sure, some of them labor in obscurity, often doing little more than preaching at nursing homes or jails. However, most of them find a path back to the ministry, often in the same capacity as before. Several years ago, I posted a story about Pastor Donald Foose. Foose confessed to and was convicted of sexually molesting a teenage girl. After serving nine months of a two-year prison sentence, Foose moved down the road to a new church. After several years at this church, he became its pastor. The former pastor and other church leaders knew about Foose’s criminal past, yet they uncritically believed him when he said, “I didn’t do it.” Worse yet, several men who should have been some sort of check and balance, chose, instead, to give Foose a pass, believing that everyone deserves redemption and a new start. I wonder if these men would be as understanding if it were their daughters whom Foose sexually assaulted? I doubt it.

Why can’t these preachers move on to new employment that’s not connected to their religious past? One pastor I know quite well had an affair with his secretary. While there were extenuating circumstances — his wife was a lesbian who hadn’t had sex with him in 20 years — he left the ministry and started working a secular job. He never pastored a church again. Why is it so many disgraced pastors don’t do the same? Oh, they will get a secular job for a year or two until the heat dies down and people move on, but more often than not, back to the ministry they go.

I am convinced that many of these men are addicted to the ministry. They spent years being the center of attention. People looked up to them, fawned over them, and treated them as if they were gods. I left the ministry in 2005. I miss the constant adulation and praise of others. I miss being the hub around which everything turned. I miss having the respect of others. I miss, to put it bluntly, being DA MAN! Pastors who read this blog know what I am talking about. The close connection preachers have with congregants is fulfilling and satisfying. It is almost impossible to find similar feelings in the “world.” Much like drug addicts craving hits of methamphetamine, preachers crave the attention, flattery, and admiration they receive from congregants. Live off this high long enough, and you can’t imagine not having it. That’s why many pastors with crimes/indiscretions in their pasts end up rebooting their ministries somewhere else. These “men of God” are much like King David as he looked over the rooftops and saw Bathsheba naked, taking a bath. “I have got to have her,” David thought. And have her, he did. So it is with the preachers I have talked about in this post. Their Bathsheba is the ministry.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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What My IFB Upbringing Taught Me About Myself

In the early 1960s, my parents began attending Scott Memorial Baptist Church in San Diego (El Cajon), California. There, the Gerencser family was saved, baptized, and introduced to the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement — my church home for the next thirty years.

At the age of fifteen, I was saved and baptized at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio, a fast-growing IFB church affiliated with the Baptist Bible Fellowship in Springfield, Missouri. In the fall of 1976, I enrolled for classes at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. Midwestern, an IFB institution founded by Dr. Tom Malone, pastor of nearby Emmanuel Baptist Church, prided itself on being a “character-building factory.” While at Midwestern, I married Polly, an IFB pastor’s daughter. In the spring of 1979, we left Midwestern and moved to Bryan, Ohio. Not long after, I began working for my first IFB church in Montpelier, Ohio. I would later plant and pastor three IFB churches.

In 1989, The Biblical Evangelist — an IFB newspaper published by Robert Sumner — released a scathing story accusing Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond Indiana, of sexual misconduct, financial impropriety, and doctrinal error. By then, I had become disillusioned with the IFB church movement over its bastardization of the Christian gospel. The Hyles scandal was the last straw for me. Going forward, I self-identified as a Sovereign Grace Baptist, Reformed Baptist, Evangelical, or just Christian.

While I physically distanced myself from the IFB church movement, its teachings and the damage they caused left a deep, lasting impression on my life. Fundamentalism is hard to shake, especially for lifelong IFB adherents. Why is this?

Let me be clear, the IFB church movement is a cult. Some churches are more cultic than others, but all IFB churches have cultic tendencies. One of the hardest things for me to come to terms with was the fact that I was not only a member of a cult, but I was also a cult leader. I was most certainly a victim, but I was a victimizer too.

Indoctrination and conditioning are keys to turning well-meaning, sincere people into cultists. For children born into the IFB church movement, the indoctrination and conditioning begin at birth or soon thereafter. By the time a child graduates from high school, they have attended almost 4,000 church services and listened to almost 4,000 sermons. Many IFB children either attend private Fundamentalist schools or are homeschooled. After graduation, many children attend IFB colleges such Bob Jones University, Pensacola Christian College, Maranatha Baptist College, Crown College, West Coast Baptist College, Hyles-Anderson, Baptist Bible College — Springfield, Trinity Baptist College, Louisiana Baptist University, Golden State Baptist College, Arlington Baptist University, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, Ambassador Baptist College, Fairhaven Baptist College, Landmark Baptist College, Massillon Baptist College, and numerous other colleges and church-based Bible institutes.

This means that for many IFB children, they know nothing outside of the IFB bubble. Their parents shelter them from the “world,” and in doing so rob them of the ability to think for themselves. How can rational choices be made if you have never been exposed to any other worldview but that of your IFB parents, pastors, and churches?

The title of this post asks the question, ” What did my IFB upbringing teach me about myself?”

My parents, pastors, youth directors, Sunday school teachers, and professors taught me from my childhood forward:

Bruce, you are a sinner

Bruce, you are broken

Bruce, you are evil

Bruce, you are wicked

Bruce, you are an enemy of God

Bruce, you are at variance with God

Bruce, you can’t do good

Bruce, God is going to torture you in Hell for eternity if you don’t get saved

Bruce, you are going to face endless pain and suffering in Hell if you don’t get saved

Even after I was saved, these same people reminded me that I was still a sinner, and that there was no good in me.

Bruce, if you do __________, God is going to punish you

Bruce, if you do __________, God could kill you

Bruce, if you do __________, God could kill your wife or children

Bruce, if you DON’T do ____________, God will chastise you

Week after week, month after month, and year after year, I was beaten over the head with the sin stick and once I became a pastor, I continued the abuse. No one raised this way can escape harm. Is it any wonder that many people who leave the IFB church movement need professional counseling; that their lives are deeply scarred by decades of indoctrination and conditioning?

Let me be clear, these things are not peculiar to the IFB church movement. Similar indoctrination and conditioning can be found throughout Evangelicalism, including denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention, Assemblies of God, and countless unaffiliated churches.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Short Stories: My First and Last All-Night Prayer Meeting

singing group trinity baptist church findlay
Singing Group Trinity Baptist Church, Findlay, Ohio. Bruce Gerencser is the last person on the right, age 15.

As a fifteen-year-old boy at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio, I attended my first all-night prayer meeting. Trinity was a fast-growing Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church, nearing 1,000 in attendance. The pastors and deacons decided that the church needed the men of the congregation to spend a night storming the throne room of Heaven. I’m not sure if there was an exact reason for the prayer meeting, but I suspect it had to do with the church’s troubled building program and the continued evangelization of the lost. At the time, Trinity met in a building on Trenton Avenue. Maxed out seating-wise, Pastor Gene Milioni and the congregation decided to build a large, round building on land donated to them by Ralph Ashcraft on County Road 236 east of Findlay. At the time, the land was farmland. Today, it is surrounded by housing and commercial businesses.

Trinity tried to fund the construction project by selling bonds to congregants. According to Peach State Financial, church bonds are:

a form of fixed-rate financing typically used to finance church expansion. What are church bonds? Church bonds are certificates of indebtedness which are sold by churches to create funds for church construction, purchase, or renovation. The church is acting as the borrower and the bond investors who are often times church members are the lenders.

The church bonds issued by the church are sold by the church broker dealer who acts as the lender who follows certain guidelines in the transaction. The church is not required to sell the bonds.

….

The interest rate earned on church bonds for the investor generally runs from 4.5% to 8.5%. Bank savings accounts and Certificates of Deposit pay only a fraction of this amount. A church bond program is a win-win situation for the church and it’s members.

These bonds were, in essence, loans by church members to the church, featuring handsome interest rates upon repayment. Such bond programs were common among growing IFB churches at the time. The risk, of course, was that the bonds were not insured or guaranteed. While I am not certain of the exact details, I believe Trinity’s bond program was fraught with problems, including running afoul of securities laws and late repayment. The church eventually paid off all the bonds and became debt-free.

On that night in 1972, the “need” was palpable. God was moving and working at Trinity Baptist. The buildings and buses were filled to capacity. Three pastors were on staff full-time. Virtually every Sunday, souls were being saved and members added to the membership. A few months prior, I had been saved, baptized, and called to preach. My heart burned with passion for Jesus and the salvation of sinners. Well, that and girls. Gotta keep it real . . .

At the appointed time, a handful of church men and teen boys gathered in the church auditorium for prayer. Some of the pray-ers, planned on praying all night, while others had signed up for specific times, say 1:00-3:00 AM. I, along with several of my youth group friends, planned on “praying” all night. While we intended to fervently and dutifully pray, the thought of a night away from home with friends proved to be the driving motivation for our attendance. We quickly learned that praying for any length of time was hard. Up until that night, my longest prayers were minutes, not hours long. I found myself running out of things to talk to God about. “Surely, he heard me the first time,” I thought, so it seemed to me a waste of time to keep bugging God about the same things over, and over, and over again. However, I went through the motions, kneeling at the altar with the men of the church. I am sure they thought I was quite a “spiritual” boy. Recently called to preach, I am sure they thought that great things awaited the Gerencser boy. Unfortunately, as time wore on, restless, jokester, goof-off Bruce showed up, and Ray Salisbury, a stern deacon who had a daughter I was interested in, told me that I would have to go home if I couldn’t maintain the proper decorum. All prayed out, I rode my bike home and crawled into bed in the wee hours of the morning. I am sure my pastors were disappointed with my lack of enduring spirituality. I, on the other hand, look back at this story and think, “Man, I was a restless, ornery fifteen-year-old boy. Getting me to sit still for any amount of time was a victory.”

This prayer meeting was my first and only all-night prayer meeting. Have you ever attended an all-night prayer meeting? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Inerrancy: The Bible is Without Error Because It Says It Is

the bible says

Most Evangelicals believe the Protestant Christian Bible is inspired (breathed out by God), inerrant (without error), and infallible (impossible to fail in matters of faith and practice). Evangelicals disagree among themselves over what, exactly, is inerrant and infallible. The original manuscripts (which do not exist)? The extant manuscripts? Certain manuscript families such as the Alexandrian and Byzantine families)? Modern translations? Only certain translations such as the King James Bible?

An increasing number of Evangelicals have abandoned the idea that the Bible is inerrant and infallible, saying it is faithful and reliable in matters of faith and practice, but not without error in matters of history, archeology, cosmology, and biology. Regardless of their viewpoints, all Evangelicals have a high view of Scripture, and many of them reject modern scholarship and higher textual criticism. Evangelicals will say they do “textual criticism,” but only to the degree that their criticisms and interpretations comport with Evangelical orthodoxy. A true textual critic follows the path wherever it leads. Evangelicals, on the other hand, follow a path defined by their presuppositions and theology. The outcome is never in doubt.

Ask the average Evangelical if the Bible translation they hold in their hands, read from, and carry to church on Sundays is inerrant (and by extension infallible), and they will, with great passion and conviction, say YES! When asked to provide evidence for their claim, most Evangelicals will quote Bible verses such as:

  •  All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
  • Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. 2 Peter 1: 20-21
  • The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. Psalm 12:6-7
  • For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. Revelation 22:18-19

Got Questions lists other verses that allegedly teach that the Bible is without error. Some of the verses are a real stretch, thus proving that the Bible can be used to “prove” almost anything.

Bible verses are not evidence, they are claims. The aforementioned verses CLAIM the Bible is inerrant, but provide no evidence that the claim is actually true. In other words, the Bible is inerrant because the Bible says it is. This, of course, is circular reasoning. There is no evidence outside of the Bible itself, that the Protestant Scriptures are without error.

bible inerrancy

Bible inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility are faith claims. Either you believe the Bible is inerrant, or you don’t. Faith allows people to believe things for which they have no evidence. If Evangelicals have empirical evidence for Bible inerrancy and infallibility, faith is unnecessary. Faith is always the refuge of last resort, the house Evangelicals run to when challenges to their beliefs become too much for them to handle.

The Bible is an inspirational book for scores of people, but it is not without error — as any cursory reading of the relevant literature will show us. One need only read a couple of New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman’s best-selling books on the nature and history of the Bible to be disabused of the notion that the Bible is inerrant. The errors and contradictions are there for all to see. Granted, Evangelicals have “answers” for many, if not most, of the accusations of errancy and fallibility. Not good answers; not credible answers; not rational answers — but answers nonetheless.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Black Collar Crime: IFB Pastor Albert Wharton Accused of Numerous Sex Crimes

arrested

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.

Albert Wharton, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor who pastored seven churches, stands accused of 22 felony counts of taking indecent liberties with a child under the age of 13 while in a custodial position and eight felony counts of aggravated sexual assault. No church name is listed.

ABC-8 reports:

A former pastor of an independent Baptist church in the town of Warsaw in Richmond County is facing 30 felony charges relating to multiple incidents the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office alleges occurred at the church between 1981 and 1997.

Albert Benjamin Wharton, 86, of South Carolina, was arrested in South Carolina at 8:42 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 8 by investigators from the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and South Carolina’s Pickens County Sheriff’s Department.

On the same day, Wharton was extradited to the Northern Neck Regional Jail in Richmond County.

Sheriff Steve Smith of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office said Wharton’s arrest was the culmination of a 15-month investigation into more than two dozen alleged incidents that occurred while he was a preacher at Berachah Academy between 1981 and 1997. The academy has since closed.

Wharton was charged with 22 felony counts of taking indecent liberties with a child under the age of 13 while in a custodial position and eight felony counts of aggravated sexual assault.

“Wharton has lived and served seven churches in Virginia, South Carolina, Alabama and Florida over the past four decades,” Sheriff Smith said.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Dr. David Tee Blames “Books” for My Deconversion

dr david tee's library
Dr. David Tee’s Massive Library, Including Ben Berwick’s Favorite Book, Meerkat Mail 🙂

Dr. David Tee, who is neither a doctor nor a Tee, recently decided to let the readers of his blog know why the Evangelical-pastor-turned-atheist Bruce Gerencser deconverted. Tee, whose legal name is Derrick Thomas Thiessen, has blamed all sorts of things for my loss of faith, but now he has decided that “books” are my problem; that if I had only read the “right” books I would still be a Christian.

Thiessen is not alone in his assertion. One former church member told me that books were my problem; that if I would just start reading the Bible again, all would be well. I had a preacher friend, who prided himself in not reading anything except the Bible, tell me that I needed to get rid of my library and just read the King James Bible. He proudly was an ignorant man of one book. He was certain that if I would just start reading the Bible again, my faith would return.

Here’s what Thiessen had to say (all spelling, grammar, and punctuation in the original):

BG [Bruce Gerencser] often complains that we write about him more than any other topic. That is not true, of course, as we rarely write directly about him. We do write about what he has said on his website, which is totally different.

However, this article is about him directly as he is an example of what not to do. While we are writing mainly for pastors, missionaries, and church leaders, what happened to BG can also happen to the layperson in the congregation.

These words apply to you, your children, and your friends as well. Protecting your faith is essential if you want to hear those treasured words, ‘Well done thou good and faithful servant’. But BG did not protect his faith and he is no longer part of God’s family.

The way that he did that was to open his mind and heart to unbelievers. Here is was, a pastor for 25 years, knowing and preaching the truth for 4000 sermons, yet he still let evil take him down. Instead of following the Bible correctly and discerning between right and wrong words, true and false teaching, he may have slowly let false teaching destroy him.

The Bible tells us that the secular world does not have the truth and lives in a dark world. They truly have nothing to offer the believer. When we were young it was said that the church was about 10 years behind the secular world and that statement applied to a variety of issues.

What we have seen in the last 40+ years is that the church seems to be equal to the secular world in adopting sinful teaching. We are not talking about the use of technology in the sermons although that should be dispensed with, we are talking about accepting secular psychological ideas for counseling, theology, as well as life in general.

When that happens we are not shining our light unto a dark world and not only do we put ourselves as Church leaders in jeopardy, we are doing the same for our congregations. Sadly, BG led his family to destruction as well as many people he can through his website and interviews.

He came to this fallen state by doing the following:

“I decided I would go back to the Bible, study it again, and determine what it was I REALLY believed. During this time, I began reading books by authors such as Robert Wright, Elaine Pagels and Bart Ehrman, These three authors, along with several others, attacked the foundation of my Evangelical beliefs: the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. Their assault on this foundation brought my Evangelical house tumbling down. I desperately tried to find some semblance of the Christianity I once believed, but I came to realize that my faith was gone.”

Instead of going to God like Billy Graham did when he felt the call to ministry, BG went to unbelievers. he opened the door to his destruction by ignoring what the Bible says about evil men and accepting their words over God’s.

Evil will use a variety of people to try to take you down. It can be through books, movies, t.v. shows, sexy men and women, as well as questionable situations. having God protect you is the way you need to run the race and finish the course.

“During this time period, I read countless books written by authors from a broad spectrum of Christendom. I read books by authors such as Thomas Merton, Robert Farrar Capon, Henri Nouwen, Wendell Berry, Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, John Shelby Spong, Soren Kierkegaard, and NT Wright. These authors challenged my Evangelical understanding of Christianity and its teachings.”

There is no instruction in the Bible to challenge your faith. Jesus simply said ‘ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free’. Both Paul and Peter warned us about false teachers, false prophets, and that evil men go from bad to worse.

What those verses are telling us is that we do not need to challenge our faith but look for the truth. What we do is put all authors into their proper categories. Is he or she a true Christian writing the truth or are they bringing a different gospel and are false teachers, etc?

That is the question every church leader needs to ask when reading books from all types of authors. if you are in doubt about an author, find their biography and read up[ on their beliefs. That information will help you make the correct determination and how you should be viewing their words.

Non-Christian authors may provide insight into how non-believers think and believe, but that is about all they have to offer a believer in Christ. They do not offer any insights on how to live life because they oppose God who has given us his instructions on how to live life.

We follow God over man, something BG failed to do.

“I turned to the internet to find help. I came upon sites like exchristian.net and Debunking Christianity. I found these sites to be quite helpful as I tried to make sense of what was going on in my life. I began reading the books of authors such as John Loftus, Hector Avalos, Robert M. Price, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Jerry Coyne, and Richard Dawkins.”

This is another thing that should not have been done. Instead of going to Christian websites for help, he went to those who left the faith. What we do not read in his words is if he asked for evidence to support the words of those former Christians and atheists?

He does ask for evidence from Christians yet nothing seems to be asked from those people he read. He simply took their word for it and started down his slippery slope. What BG also did wrong was what Deut. 21:21 says:

“Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall eliminate the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear about it and fear.”

Instead of moving away from those evil people, he embraced them and their words. Disobeying God has consequences and BG has certainly paid for his disobedience. Also, like Bill Mahr who cherry-picked the believers he would highlight in his film Religiosity, BG cherry-picked the churches he would visit:

“I tried, for a time, to convince myself that I could find some sort of Christianity that would work for me. Polly and I visited numerous liberal or progressive Christian churches, but I found that these expressions of faith would not do for me. My faith was gone.”

Liberal and progressive Christianity is not Christianity and should not be given the label of being Christian. Why not go to true Christian churches and get the truth? This action sounds like what Bill Mahr did, and that was to protect his atheism, not find the truth.

BG seems to have wanted to deconvert and went to places that would help him do just that. When in doubt, you do not go to unbelievers or those who bring a different gospel. You go to true believers who have love, compassion, and wisdom and tell you the truth.

….

As Sodom, Gomorrah, Noah’s Flood, and the Tower of Babel are examples of what not to do, so are the life and decisions of BG and every other former Christian. Keep your eyes on Christ and you will never fail.

According to Thiessen, when I began questioning my beliefs, I should have ONLY read books by Evangelical authors. Evidently, he forgot that I had already read these books. I know what Evangelicals believe and practice, inside and out. Why would I waste my time reading books that repeated the same apologetics arguments over and over again? I know all I need to know about Evangelical Christianity.

I am still on a journey of discovery, following the path wherever it leads. I will become a Christian once again if and when I am presented with evidence to warrant me doing so. My “conversion” will take new evidence, not the same-old-shit-new-day stuff. Of course, Evangelicals don’t have new evidence. Their religion is a closed system of thought. Evangelicals pride themselves on allegedly having the same beliefs that Jesus and the apostles had 2,000 years ago. Of course, they don’t actually have the same beliefs, but they think they do. Evangelicals would know better if they bothered to read books outside of their peculiar rut, but such reading is discouraged and, at times, condemned. Thiessen is the norm in Evangelical circles, not the exception.

There’s much I could say in response to Thiessen, but I will refrain from doing so. I have no idea why he decided to use an eight-year-old post, Why I Stopped Believing, to continue his deconstruction of my life. He makes numerous false statements, including “cherry-picking” the churches Polly and I visited after we left the ministry. Here’s a list of the churches we visited. As you will see, we attended a variety of churches and sects; everything except IFB churches. No need to visit IFB churches since that was our background. Most of the churches were Evangelical theologically, though no church was off limits. We were on a journey, willing to follow the path wherever it led. Sadly, Thiessen is stuck in the religion of his childhood, holding on to his tribe’s deity. Now a senior citizen, Thiessen has no real-world experience with any other religion or system of belief but his own. He does not know what he doesn’t know.

Thiessen says I wanted to deconvert, that I was looking for a way out of Christianity. Nothing in my story remotely suggests that this claim is true. In fact, the truth is the exact opposite. I did everything possible NOT to deconvert. I wanted to keep believing. However, I value truth over “want.” I became an atheist because I had no other choice.

Thiessen is free to show what I have “missed” about Christianity, but I am confident no evidence will be forthcoming.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Bruce Gerencser