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Tag: Independent Fundamentalist Baptist

IFB Pastor James Tester Sends Me a Message

pastor james tester

Today, I received a “wonderful” comment from Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor James Tester. Tester pastors Triad Baptist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. In 1989, Tester moved to Hammond, Indiana to attend Hyles-Anderson College. In 1996, Tester left the Jack Hyles’ IFB mecca and moved to Longview, Texas to attend Texas Baptist College — an unaccredited college started by sycophant (ass-kisser, lackey, toady, bootlicker, fawner) Bob Gray, Sr., a Hyles-Anderson alum. After graduating from college, Tester worked for Bob Gray, Sr. at Longview Baptist Temple. In 2003, he was sent out by Longview Baptist to start a new church in Greensboro. North Carolina. (Just what Greensboro needed, another Baptist church, right?) Tester’s children both attended Texas Baptist College — now called Texas Independent Bapst Seminary and Schools.

As you will see from Tester’s comment, he’s a Bob Gray, Sr. fanboy, and much like his idol, he’s comfortable with passive-aggressive behavior and name-calling. I suspect Tester runs his church much like Gray, Sr. ran (lorded over) Longview Baptist back in the day. Today, Longview Baptist is pastored by Gray, Sr’s son. The church’s name has been changed to Emmanuel Baptist Church, and most observers believe the son has moved the church away from some of his father’s extreme behavior. It’s worth noting the Gray, Sr. no longer attends his son’s church. Make of that what you will.

With that background in mind, I give you Pastor James Tester’s comment (all spelling and grammar in the original). My commentary is indented and italicized:

Lol! Check out the author, look at his photo, read his bio and simply consider the source of this article! End of story!

What’s with IFB preachers and their obsession with my looks, weight, body shape, and penis size? Okay, maybe not that last one, but damn, these guys seem to think that if you don’t fit some sort of approved “look,” whatever you say can be dismissed out of hand.

What, in my bio, suggests that no one should listen to me? If anything, my bio reveals that I have a lot of preaching and ministerial experience; that I know what I am talking about.

What Tester is doing here is classic misdirection. Instead of actually interacting with what I have written (the message), he focuses on me personally (the messenger). All that matters is whether what I write is true or is an accurate portrayal of the IFB church movement in general and “Dr.” Bob Gray, Sr. in particular.

Tester says “end of story,” but I ain’t going anywhere. I will continue to expose the IFB church movement until I die. Just today, I had an investigative reporter from a major newspaper call me to talk about IFB churches and their pastors. I am always delighted to provide background information. Who better to get it from than a man who spent years attending and pastoring IFB churches?

Everyone that knows anything about an aggressive soul winning Independent Fundamental Baptist church knows that there are always disgruntles. You almost have as many walking out the back door as you have coming in the front door. There are always those that get offended at the preaching (truth) with many becoming bitter.

There were many times in the Bible where Jesus preached and the people were cut to the heart and drew Him to the edge of the city to stone Him and He escaped out of there hands. Conviction is powerful!

Tester admits that IFB church growth is a zero sum game; that as many people go out the back door as come in the front door. In fact, IFB churches continue to decline attendance-wise. Scores of large IFB churches are shells of what they once were or have closed their doors.

Tester would have us believe that the people leaving IFB churches are disgruntled; that when they could no longer stand getting their toes stepped on, they fled to friendlier confines.

While it is true, some congregants do become disgruntled and leave for other churches, but to suggest this is always the case is laughable. Men such as Gray, Sr., Jack Hyles, and James Tester psychologically abuse church members, bombarding them three times a week with preaching meant to inflict harm. People leave because they are tired of being abused.

Tester, true to form for IFB preachers, absolves Gray, Sr., Hyles, and I suspect, himself, from any culpability or accountability for how their preaching and behavior harms others.

I was there as a member in the most successful years of LBT through the early to late 90’s. I graduated TBC (The Bible College). I worked on staff in the early 2000’s. Sadly, I have seen people come and go. I personally know why many left. I have seen what they became after they left. It was shocking and very sad to see peoples lives totally destroyed, not by Brother gray or the preaching of truth but by sin and rebellion. The result was broken homes, divorced marriages, drug addiction, alcoholism, criminally convicted of crimes etc. Don’t blame God, the church or Bro. Gray for that.

Tester asserts that those who left Longview Baptist Temple have turned to sin and rebellion against God. Why, their departure from the IFB Mecca of Texas, led to broken homes, divorce, drug addiction, alcoholism, and criminal behavior. Can’t blame God or Gray, Sr. for how people turned out after they left Longview Baptist.

Lost on Tester is the fact that Gray, Sr. and Jack Hyles and countless other IFB pastors such as Steven Anderson and Tester himself, preach a truncated, bastardized gospel; a gospel called 1-2-3 repeat after me or decisional regeneration. Simply put, salvation is procured by assenting to a set of propositional truths and praying the sinner’s prayer. Nothing else is required or demanded from sinners. Just “believe,” and go on your merry way.

This kind of gospel, of course, makes no lasting difference, thus the constant turnover. As long-time readers know, Gray, Sr. was a consummate bean counter. All that mattered to him was the number of souls saved. Based on my calculation of the number of people “saved” at Longview Baptist, every person in Longview, Texas is now saved.

The real enemy has always been Satan, sin and people like the author of this article that is trying to sow discord among the brethren.

Ah yes, the real enemies are Satan, sin, and Evangelicals-turned-atheists such as Bruce Gerencser. Again, Tester refuses to see things as they are, blaming others for the decline numerical decline of the IFB church movement.

Tester accuses me of “sowing discord among the brethren.” In other words, my writing causes turmoil among IFB preachers and congregants. And to that charge, I gladly plead guilty. Nothing would make me happier than to see the IFB church movement implode, and church members leave for churches that preach a healthier, kinder, loving faith. Who doesn’t want to put an end to the abuse, right? If every IFB church in the United States closed overnight, it would be a good day.

As for the author having many friends from the old LBT, I can only say, that birds of a feather flock to together. If they are truly “friends” then they are the same in many ways. Think about that for a second. The Bible says in Amos 3:3, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” No one that is a so-called friend to this author (who is a self proclaimed atheist) is right with God (Let that sink in). Anyone that is feeding this author with this kind of trash is like Simon in the book of Acts 8:23 when Peter said to him, “For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.”

Yes, I have “spies” everywhere; people who share with stories about the IFB (and Evangelical) churches in their communities. One such person was the late Steve Gupton. Steve attended Texas Baptist College and the Longview Baptist Temple years ago. Others have contacted me and shared their own Bob Gray, Sr. horror stories. Don’t like people talking out of school? Treat people better. Stop verbally abusing and manipulating them.

I wonder if Tester has bothered to consider the fact that, according to his soteriology, I am still a Christian. I may be a “self-proclaimed atheist,” but according to the gospel preached by Gray, Sr., Hyles, and Tester, I am still a born-again Christian. Once saved, always saved, right? Sweet baby Jesus, Heaven will be my home someday. Tester will likely be my next door neighbor. Awesome!

I’m not surprised by this kind of junk being put out there, if this author was alive in Jesus day he would be saying the same kind of trash about Jesus. He would be criticizing the way Jesus spoke to the Pharisees when He called them a generation of vipers, saying that He is mean and not compassionate in His preaching. He would have written about that fact that He spent time with the sinners and the outcasts of the day saying that He has double standards and lives like those that He choses to be around. He would write articles slamming His doctrine saying that He was teaching and preaching against Old Testament law which is contrary to the writings of Moses. Jesus had many that falsely accused Him in His day. One of His right hand men that worked with him for years, Judas Iscariot betrayed Him. They came out of the woodwork at his mock trail and lied about Him, His teachings and His ministry.

Tester is suggesting that Jesus being persecuted in his day is the same as Bob Gray, Sr. and other IFB preachers being “persecuted” today. My, oh my, what a distorted view of one’s importance.

May this article be an encouragement to those who still believe the Word of God, go soul winning, and believe in the old time tried and proven paths of the KJB. The devil doesn’t like it when we obey Scripture, preach and live truth. That is why articles like this are written. We must be doing something right!

Tester thinks that my opposition to Gray, Sr. and the IFB church movement is proof of his and their rightness; that the only reason I write about them is that they must be doing something “right.”

I will leave it the astute readers of this blog to decide who is “right.” I can say that I have been contacted by scores of current and former IFB pastors, evangelists, missionaries, professors, and church members over the years. Their stories paint a picture of a movement that can be best described as a cult. Tester, of course, will never believe that he is a cultist. Until some sort of personal or theological crisis causes a chink in his certainty, there is no way of reaching him (and others like him). Certainty breeds arrogance, as readers can see, Tester is full of both.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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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.

Shelton Smith, An IFB Preacher Who Ignores His Neighbor and Tweets About It

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Shelton Smith, the editor of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) paper, Sword of the Lord, sent out a tweet that said:

shelton smith tweet

 I responded:

bruce gerencser twitter response shelton smith

IFB preachers:

all thought Smith’s tweet was so wonderful that they made it a favorite.

I have a modern-day story for Shelton Smith and his merry band of let ’em starve, but make sure they pray the sinner’s prayer preachers. Maybe they will recognize what book the story is from:

But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Murfreesboro to Nashville and rummaged in dumpster to find a morsel of food to eat.

And by chance there came down Shelton Smith that way: and when he saw him, he sent out a tweet to his peeps, not bothering to stop, lend a hand, or buy him a meal.

And likewise another IFB pastor, when he was at the place, came and looked upon him, and said “is there not a rescue mission this man can go to?”

But a liberal Methodist, as he journeyed, came where the hungry man was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him. And went to him, bought him a meal, brought him to a Motel Six, and took care of him.

And on the next day when he departed, he took out $100.00 and gave it to the motel owner, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that had fallen on hard times?

And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. Luke 10:29-37

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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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.

Tony Soprano Would Make a Good Independent Baptist Preacher

tony soprano

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

(The terms “preacher” and “pastor” are used interchangeably in this article)

Several years ago, I binge-watched all 86 episodes of the HBO show The Sopranos. Once I started watching The Sopranos, I was hooked. I quickly found out that the HBO version was quite a bit more racy than the sanitized version currently found on various cable TV channels.

The main character in The Sopranos is New Jersey mafia boss Tony Soprano, played by the late James Gandolfini. As I watched episode after episode, it dawned on me that Tony Soprano would make a good Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher.

Now before I detail why Tony Soprano would make a good IFB preacher, I want to make sure every easily offended IFB preacher understands that I am not writing about ALL Independent Fundamentalist Baptist preachers. Yes, there are decent IFB preachers, just like there are non-pedophile Roman Catholic priests. However, the personality and character displayed by Tony Soprano is quite prominent among IFB preachers, so I have no qualms about painting with a broad brush; especially since little is done in IFB circles to deal with the Tony Sopranos in their midst.

The Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement is noted for elevating men to a religious version of rock-star status. Every year, conferences are held that showcase the rock-star preachers of the IFB church movement. These men are treated like gods. People sitting in the pew listening to their oration are awed by their preaching and their stories of God’s power and blessing. More than a few young preachers leave such conferences with their mind made up that they are going to pattern their ministry after So-and-So famous IFB preacher. After all, God gave So-and-So IFB preacher great success, surely God would do the same for the young preacher if he just followed in So-and-So IFB preacher’s footsteps.

Even among IFB preachers who are not on the conference circuit, rock-star status can be gained. I know, for a time, I had such status. From 1983-1994, I pastored the Somerset Baptist Church in Mount Perry, Ohio. I started the church from scratch and the church grew quickly. In a few years, I was advertising the church as “Perry County’s Fastest Growing Church” and “The largest Non-Catholic Church in Perry County.”

Pretty soon young and/or struggling preachers wanted to know my recipe for success. I humbly told them . . . “God,” and then I went on to list the six keys to my success:

  • Aggressive evangelism
  • Bus ministry
  • Regularly visiting in the homes of every church member
  • Great preaching
  • Attracting Christians who had the same vision I did
  • Marginalizing or running off church members who did not share my vision

Having rock-star status afforded me the opportunity to preach at other churches, conferences, youth rallies, and revivals. It would be dishonest of me not to say that I was quite enamored with my success. Yes, I believed it was God working through me, but it was I who was doing it. (I was 26 years old when I started the Somerset Baptist Church.)

IFB churches are almost always pastored by one man. Rarely do IFB churches have more than one senior pastor. Things like a plurality of elders or a church board are often preached against and considered unbiblical. Most IFB preachers I knew, including myself, bought into the Lee Roberson philosophy, Everything rises and falls on leadership. This meant that the success and failure of the church depended on me, the preacher.

Sadly, the focus on one man leads to all kinds of problems. In most IFB churches, the preacher has near absolute power and control over the church. Unless he preaches heresy, steals money, screws a deacon’s wife, or gets caught at the local strip club, his power will likely not be challenged.

The longer a preacher is at a church, the more power he accumulates. Often, when church members try to challenge the preacher’s control, they’ll be run out of the church. Obedience to the Man of God is expected, dare I say, demanded.

Three Bible verses are used to prop up the preacher’s authoritarian rule. After all, if it is in the Bible, it must be obeyed:

  • Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm. (Psalm 105:15)
  • Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you (Hebrews 13:17)
  • Rebuke not an elder . . . (1 Timothy 5:1a)
elisha bears

Never mind that these verses are taken out of context. Countless IFB preachers use these verses to remind church members that they are the men GOD has put in charge of the church. The pastor is the CEO, bwana, potentate, and king of the church. Messing with the preacher means you are messing with God. Church members are reminded about what happens when you mess with God’s man:

And he (Elisha) went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them. (2 Kings 2:23,24)

Mess with God’s man, challenge his authority, and you might get eaten by bears, or some other judgment might befall you.

In most IFB churches, the preacher is the cog around which everything turns. When church members are asked about where they go to church, they often say I go to Pastor So and So’s church. The preacher’s name is prominently displayed on the church sign, church advertising, and printed materials.

Sadly, many IFB churches, due to their preacher-centered structure, suffer serious decline or even closure when the preacher leaves. This is especially true for churches who lose their founding pastor. People are loyal to the man, and when the man leaves, so does their loyalty. If the church survives, it often faces attendance and offering decline as members seek out other IFB churches to attend. Many of the big name IFB churches in the 1960’s-1980’s did not survive the founding pastor leaving.  Those that did survive are but a shell of what they once were. (This same phenomenon is often seen in privately held corporations when the next generation takes over the company.)

Many IFB churches survive the founding pastor’s departure and the resultant attendance and offering decline. A new pastor comes in, states his new vision for the church, and things continue on. In time, the new pastor leaves and the whole process of upheaval and decline continues until the church gets a-n-o-t-h-e-r new pastor. The average church changes its pastor every 30-60 months. Some churches, after years and years of new pastors coming and going, close their doors.

With the above background in mind, let me now show you why I think Tony Soprano would make a good IFB preacher.

Tony Soprano is a charismatic person. He has a way of getting people to like him. People are drawn to him. He can manipulate people to get what he wants from them. Almost every episode of The Sopranos shows Tony Soprano manipulating women, fellow mobsters, family members, political leaders, business owners, and even his psychiatrist to get what he wants.

In Tony Soprano’s world, it is all about getting what he wants. As the boss on the New Jersey crew, he has absolute life and death power. He ruthlessly uses this power to have sex with women, amass large sums of illicitly gained money, and remove anyone who challenges his control of the New Jersey crew.

Tony Soprano is a textbook narcissist. It is all about him. Tony Soprano is, with rare exception, indifferent to the problems of others. All that matters to him is his continued control of the mob kingdom he and his father John and Uncle Jr. have built.  Anyone who gets in his way ends up in a shallow grave or wearing concrete boots at the bottom of the ocean.

Tony Soprano expects people to be loyal to him. No matter what he wants done — say, having his cousin’s fiancé murdered — he expects people to support him. He expects everyone to follow the Mafia Code of Conduct, (Wikipedia article on omertà) even though he, at times, ignores the code.

In Tony Soprano’s world, it is all about power and control. This even extends to his wife, children, and broader family. Tony Soprano is THE man and he expects everyone to bow to his wishes. As anyone who has watched The Sopranos knows, Tony Soprano has on-and-off problems with getting his wife and children to obey him.

Carmella, played by Edie Falco, Tony Soprano’s wife, throws him out of the house because of his philandering. When Carmella tries to file for divorce, she finds out that no divorce lawyer will take her case. Ultimately, she realizes that getting a divorce is impossible and she makes an uneasy peace with Tony.

Tony Soprano is the cog around which everything revolves. He expects everyone to tell him what is going on. Failure to do this often results in Tony punishing someone physically or monetarily, and in some cases, Tony punishes them by “whacking” (killing) them.

Occasionally, those close to Tony try to talk to him about his excesses or errors in judgment (such as Jackie, Silvo, Paulie, Chrissy, Johnny Sack, Hesh, and Bobby). In a few instances, Tony changes his ways, but most often Tony ignores those who try to correct him. Often, attempts made to challenge his actions or behavior result in Tony holding a grudge. Sometimes, these grudges end with the person being killed.

At times, Tony Soprano is conflicted over his behavior. He has twinges of guilt over his infidelity and his killing of once-loyal soldiers and friends. He often talks to his psychiatrist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi, played by Lorraine Bracco, about his guilt and misgivings. He is rarely completely honest with Dr. Melfi, and when she challenges him, he often explodes in anger and ends the therapy session.

I see in Tony Soprano the perfect Independent Fundamentalist Baptist preacher. He is charismatic and friendly. He believes he is right and he is willing to use his power and authority to maintain his rightness. He is a chosen man, rising from the streets to mob boss. His testimony would be quite similar to many an IFB preacher’s testimony of salvation and calling.

Just as the IFB preacher appeals to the Bible as his sole source of authority, Tony Soprano appeals to the Mafia Code of Conduct to govern his actions. And like more than a few IFB preachers who ignore the Bible when it suits them, Tony ignores the Mafia Code of Conduct when he needs to.

Tony Soprano expects others to pay homage to him. He is, after all, the boss. So it is with many IFB preachers. They are the men of God, they are the de facto power and authority in the church. IFB preachers are often lavished with gifts, money, all-expense paid trips, new suits, etc. These things are considered proper expressions of the church’s love for their preacher. After all, where would the church be if Pastor So-and-So were not their preacher?

In many instances, the IFB pastor is regaled like Herod. In Acts 12:21-23 we find:

And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.

While I don’t think there is a god that strikes anyone dead, rock-star preachers go the way of all men. They die and their power and authority die with them. That is, unless they pass their power and authority on to their son, a common occurrence in IFB churches.

In the final episode of The Sopranos, Tony is sitting in a café with his wife and son. His daughter is outside parking her car. Into the cafe walk several men who look suspicious. Due to an ongoing bloody war between the New Jersey crew and one of the New York mafia families, Tony is afraid they are going to try to kill him.

The episode ends with the doorbell of the café ringing as the door is opened. Tony Soprano looks up and then the screen goes dark. Viewers are left to wonder what happened. Was it Tony’s daughter coming through the door? Was it a hit-man?

Unlike Tony Soprano’s fate, we know what is happening to the IFB church movement. It is dying. While some IFB churches continue to attract people, countless other churches have closed their doors or changed their affiliation. Thousands of church members have fled IFB churches in hopes of finding a kinder, gentler, less authoritarian Christianity. Sadly, they often find out that there are Tony Sopranos in every denomination. Many IFB church members end up leaving Christianity altogether. Some embrace other religions or become humanists, agnostics, or atheists.

As I have stated many times before, I am not anti-Christian. I am well aware that there are many fine Christian churches and pastors. While I disagree with their beliefs, I recognize that many people desire and need religion in their lives. My primary beef is with authoritarian IFB churches and pastors and Evangelicals who use cult-like tactics to control people. My wish for the IFB church movement is a swift and sure death. There are better religious choices for people if they dare to look. Why continue to eat steak at Ponderosa (Pound-of-Gristle) when you can eat a thick-cut steak at Texas Roadhouse?

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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.

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Black Collar Crime: IFB School Teacher David Beckner Pleads Guilty, Sentenced to Prison

david beckner

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 2019, David Beckner, a former teacher at Gaylord Grace Baptist Christian School in Gaylord, Michigan, was arrested and charged with sexually abusing a female student. The Gaylord Herald Times reported at the time:

David Beckner, 51, of West Virginia was arraigned Thursday afternoon in 87th District Court on eight criminal sexual conduct charges for allegedly abusing a teen girl in 2006 and 2007 in Otsego County.

Brendan Curran, Otsego County prosecutor, said the official complaint by Michigan State Police was filed June 13 for sex offenses committed upon a teen in Otsego County.

“I have charged David Wayne Beckner (presently residing in West Virginia) with seven counts of CSC 3rd degree and one count of CSC 4th degree, for seven sexual penetrations and one touching of a minor child who was a student of Beckner’s at the time their relationship began,” Curran said in an email.

According to a Michigan State Police news release Thursday evening, Beckner resides in Morgantown, West Virginia, and turned himself in Thursday. The release also said Beckner worked for the Grace Baptist Church from September 2004 until June 2007 before moving out of state.

….

Brianna Kenyon, a former Grace Baptist student, alleges that Beckner abused her as a minor and has publicly shared her story.

“When I grew up in that church, we’re all so isolated from the real world that I always thought I was the only one in the world, let alone in my church, that had ever had anything sexual happen to them. I was so alone for years and years; it wasn’t until I was (into adulthood) that I realized it actually happens a lot.”

Kenyon, 29, said she reported Beckner years ago for criminal sexual conduct to police and to the school’s pastor, Jon Jenkins, in 2011.

In an email, Jenkins said, it would be “a favorable outcome if justice can be achieved for Brianna.” He said, “Grace Baptist Church has always, and continues to stand in favor of justice for the victim.”

Previous Herald Times Freedom of Information Act requests returned no reports from the pastor or church to police of the alleged abuse.

Kenyon said the prosecutor at that time opted to not pursue the case and it was dropped.

….

Early this year, Ruthy Nordgren, now an adult, shared her story with the Herald Times and others publicly.
Nordgren is also a former Grace Baptist student and teacher Aaron Willand was convicted in 2016 of abusing her in Washington state.

Nordgren said she is also pursuing charges in Otsego County for abuse that she said happened when she was a student.

“And when Ruthy messaged me (about sharing publicly in the news), I thought, what could it hurt,” Kenyon said. “I couldn’t really get any justice for myself, and I figured if someone could be helped by my story and (they can see) here’s a girl that survived, and I do live a normal life and I do treat others well and I didn’t use this as a reason to be another monster.”

Grace Baptist Church is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation.

According to the Gaylord Herald Times:

Beckner joins the growing list of people with ties to Grace Baptist Church and school who have been convicted or accused of sexually abusing minors in the last 17 years. Another teacher, a bus driver, youth conference guest speaker and former congregation members are among those already convicted or facing criminal sexual conduct charges.

Despite all of this, Jon Jenkins remains the pastor of Grace Baptist. Last May, Jenkins celebrated his thirty-third anniversary at the church. He has “much” to be grateful for. (That’s sarcasm, by the way.)

Since the original story on David Beckner, Beckner has pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10-15 years in prison.

9&10 News reports:

David Beckner was sentenced to 10 to 15 years behind bars for the third-degree sex crimes.

State police say it happened in 2006 while the victim was a 16- or 17-year-old student at Grace Baptist in Gaylord.

State police initially investigated the case in 2013, but the former Otsego County prosecutor did not file charges.

12-WBOY adds:

According to the Otsego County Prosecutor’s Office, David Beckner, 51, of Morgantown, had previously pleaded guilty to three of seven charges of sexual misconduct against a girl whom Beckner had contact with while she was his student.

Despite the charges coming from Michigan, Beckner was allowed to remain in his Morgantown home during the trial process on “liberty at bond” due to “medical issues,” rather than being remanded to Michigan, according to the prosecutor’s office.

….

During the sentencing, the victim in Beckner’s case took time to speak, and the judge took her words into consideration when he made his sentencing decision. The prosecutor’s office said the charges Beckner received usually bring a 5-year minimum sentence, but Judge George J. Metz gave Beckner a 10-year minimum sentence, instead.

After giving the sentence, Metz said, “There are various reasons for prison sentences: punishment, deterrence, protection of society and rehabilitation. In this case, only the first three apply,” according to the prosecutor’s office.

And Jon Jenkins? Well, he packed up his roadshow and moved to North Carolina to become the new pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Clayton. If you are unfamiliar with what has gone on at Grace Baptist under Jon Jenkins’ watch, please read the Aaron Willand story.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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How to Start a Non-Chartered Christian School in Ohio

ace pace
From an ACE Pace

Here is what you need to do to start a Christian school in Ohio.

  • Start a church
  • Start a Christian school as a ministry, an extension of the church

That’s it.

I kid you not, that’s it.

No rules, no regulations. No curriculum requirements. No teacher requirements. No notification requirements.

Ohio homeschooling regulations — and they are horrendously weak — are far more extensive than regulations for non-chartered religious schools.

Does this mean all non-chartered Ohio Christian schools are educationally deficient? Of course not, BUT many are.

Many Ohio non-chartered Christian schools are owned and operated by Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches. The schools are viewed as an oasis away from the world, a safe haven from the evil influences of humanists, secularists, atheists, socialists, Catholics, Democrats, and Southern Baptists.

By the way, about the first step: start a church? Starting a church is as easy as saying “we are a church” and you are the pastor. According to state and federal law, a church is tax-exempt simply because the church says it’s a church. Many people wrongly assume churches must file for 501(c)(3) status to be tax-exempt. 501(c)3) status is NOT required for tax exemption. It does confer a few extra benefits, such being allowed to send mail as a non-profit, but it is not needed for a church to be tax-exempt.

Now you know all you need to know to start a non-chartered Christian school in Ohio. Remember this the next time you drive by a First Fundamentalist Baptist Church in your community and their indoctrination centers for future generations for Fundamentalist children. Think of the children who are being taught by unqualified, uneducated teachers who believe the Bible is their primary textbook.Should Ohio churches be permitted to have schools? Yes, but surely we can all agree that having no regulations is NOT a good idea; that lack of regulation can and does cause harm to children.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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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 Heart Goes Out to You, or Please Try My Flavor of Ice Cream

ice cream flavors

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Well-intentioned Evangelical Christians read this blog and come to the conclusion that what I lack is love from compassionate, caring Christians.

They assume that there is no love in Fundamentalist Baptist Christianity. They assume Fundamentalist Baptist Christianity is all hate and law, and no grace.

Their assumption is quite wrong. I met many loving people in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, and Evangelicalism at large. Their love may have been conditioned on my fidelity to their brand of truth, but they loved me nonetheless (and I loved them too).

My wife’s parents are Fundamentalist Baptist Christians, yet they love me still.

So a lack of love is not the problem.

I tend to distrust people who tell me up front about how loving they are. Such people are similar to a car dealer who tells you how honest he is or a doctor who tells you how proficient he is. Why do these people NEED to tell me this?

Often, those loving Christians prove to be anything but loving.

Many people think my defection from Christianity was an emotional decision. Certainly, there was an emotional component, but my decision was primarily and ultimately an intellectual one.

The compassionate, caring, loving Christians want me to try their flavor of ice cream. Their flavor is different. It’s not like all those other flavors.

After all, THEY are special, and they want me to be special too.

So, let me ask the compassionate, caring, loving Christians a few questions.

  • Can I deny the Bible is the Word of God and still be a part of your church?
  • Can I question if God even exists and still be a part of your church?
  • Can I deny the Trinity and still be a part of your church?
  • Can I tell everyone at church that hell is a medieval fable and still be a part of your church?
  • Can I pass out books at church by Bart Ehrman and Richard Dawkins and still be a part of your church?
  • Can I espouse universalist beliefs and still be a part of your church?
  • Can I openly affirm pro-LGBTQ, pro-abortion, pro-drug, pro-sex worker views and still be a part of your church?

The compassionate, caring, loving Christians want to convince me that their church is different, that it is special.

But it isn’t.

They know it, and so do I.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Sounds of Fundamentalism: Women Should Never Draw Attention to Themselves

pastor jeff harris

The Sounds of Fundamentalism is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a video clip of Jeff Harris, pastor of Anchor Baptist Church in Hilton, New York ignorantly explaining the Greek word for “apparel.” Three different Greek words are used for “apparel” in the New Testament. Harris, as Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers are wont to do, picks the definition that best fits his archaic beliefs about women and how they should dress. Harris believes women should only wear long, flowing dresses that mute their shape. They mustn’t wear anything that draws attention to their bodies. Harris also says that women should be bashful around others — unlike IFB preachers such as Jeff Harris who are the center of attention everywhere they go.

Video Link

Harris’ bio states:

Pastor Harris was saved at the age of 12 at Calvary Baptist Church in Danville, KY. He surrendered to the call to preach as a teenager and upon graduation from high school he studied at Hyles-Anderson College for one year. He then finished his training for the ministry and was ordained by Clays Mill Road Baptist Church & earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Pastoral Theology from Commonwealth Baptist College (Lexington, KY).

He married his wife Elizabeth (Tyra) Harris in 1999. After a brief stint as a staff member at Clays Mill Road Baptist Church the Harris family moved to Elizabethtown, KY where Pastor Harris founded the Lincoln Trail Baptist Church in September of 2001 (www.ltbc.us). He served as their Pastor until he resigned in July of 2012 to move to Rochester, NY to plant the Anchor Baptist Church.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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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.

Sounds of Fundamentalism: I’m a Baptist, Not a Protestant, Says IFB Pastor Cody Zorn

pastor cody zorn

The Sounds of Fundamentalism is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a video clip of Cody Zorn, pastor of Bible Missionary Baptist Church in Rockwell, North Carolina, explaining how Baptists have never been Protestants. This pseudo-historical nonsense is quite common among IFB churches and pastors. Baptists — the right kind, anyway — are True Christians®, the thinking goes.

Video Link

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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.