Tag Archive: Jack Hyles

Devout IFB Christian Struggles with Understanding my Story

somerset baptist church 1985

Somerset Baptist Church, Mt Perry, Ohio, Bruce and Polly Gerencser and kids, 1985

What follows is a discussion I had today with a devout Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) Christian.  As you will see, Jack (not his real name) genuinely had a hard time wrapping his mind around my story. Schooled in IFB soteriology, Jack cannot fathom someone being saved, and then lost. In his mind, that’s impossible. Yet, here I am. 🙂

Jack: Hey Bruce, I just read a little about your life and your description of how IFB preachers are treated like Demigods. I was saved in 1981 and God changed my life and Christ is my Saviour. I went to Hyles Anderson College for a little bit. I’m back with the Lord. The Lord seems to have restored me and I’m happier and have more peace and am winning souls consistently. Are you saying that none of this is real to you anymore? What about God, and Heaven and Hell and Judgement? I’m just asking I’m not trying to argue. I’m curious about your response.

Bruce: I’m an atheist, so no, I don’t think there is a God, Heaven, Hell, judgment, etc. You might find these posts helpful:

https://brucegerencser.net/why/

Jack: Are you familiar with Dr. Jack Hyles?

Bruce: Yes, I’ve written extensively about Hyles and his son.

Jack: So what about getting saved, you never believed in that?

Bruce: Yes, I was saved, and now I’m not.

Jack: You really believe you were saved? How can you lose your salvation when the Lord comes into your heart?

Bruce: Don’t let your theology get in the way of reality. Countless people faithfully follow Jesus for years and then deconvert.

Jack: You don’t believe in being born again, and the Lord coming into your heart, and you becoming a new creature?

Bruce: Of course I did, but now I don’t.

Jack: So you don’t think that really happens?

Bruce: I “believe” it happened. All religious experiences are psychological in nature. We can believe all sorts of things that aren’t true or convince ourselves that certain experiences were real.

Jack: I believe the Lord really did come into my heart; there has been an internal change that cannot be denied! IT IS REAL! My desires changed, and my outlook, and I’m in the Light now, I see things differently! By faith!

Bruce: It’s “real” because you think it is. You want, need it to be real, so it is. And that’s fine.

Jack: You don’t think peace and comfort and joy and God’s love is real. I experience it!

Bruce: You “experience” what you believe those things to be. Again, all religious experiences are psychological in nature. Devout believers in other religions have similar “experiences.”

Usually, when an IFB Christian contacts me, I roll up my sleeves and ready myself for a bloody fight. Either that or I just say fuck off and turn on Sports Center. I sensed that Jack really wanted to understand my story, so I decided to briefly engage him in a discussion. I thought, “maybe, just maybe, I can get Jack to look beyond his narrow Fundamentalist theology.” I am not sure I accomplished that, but I hope that I planted a few seeds of doubt that might germinate and cause Jack to rethink his worldview. Not every online discussion has to end in hostility and conflict. I am content to put in a good word for reason, skepticism, and intellectual inquiry and move on.

Trained by the late Jack Hyles and his acolytes at First Baptist Church in Hammond and Hyles-Anderson College, Jack believes that once a person prays the sinner’s prayer and asks Jesus into his heart, he is a Christian; and once saved, always saved. In Jack’s mind, there’s nothing I can say or do to separate myself from God (Romans 8:35-39). Because I prayed the sinner’s prayer at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio, at the age of fifteen, I am forever a child of God, and Heaven awaits me after I die. No matter what I have said or done in the intervening forty-seven years, nothing can undo what took place one fall night years ago. I could become a Muslim, commit mass murder, or sexually molest children — it matters not — once saved, always saved.

IFB Christians such as Jack are left with two possibilities after reading my story:

  • I never was a Christian
  • I am a backslidden Christian

The first possibility is absurd. There’s nothing in my past that suggests that I was anything but a devoted, committed, sincere follower of Jesus. The fact that I am now an atheist does not magically erase my past (or the knowledge I have about Christianity and the Bible). The only honest explanation for my past is this: I once was a Christian, and now I am not.

The second possibility is equally absurd. There is nothing in my present life that remotely suggests that I am a Christian. Anyone who reads my blog surely knows that I am not, in any way, a Christian. Not an Evangelical; not an IFB Christian; not a liberal Christian; not a progressive Christian; not a Christian humanist; not a Christian universalist; not a Christian, period. I am a card-carrying atheist, a member in good standing of the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world.

When someone tells me that they are a Christian, I accept their “testimony” at face value. Jack says he has been an IFB Christian for thirty-eight years. I believe him. It’s his storyline. Who better to tell his story than Jack? I just wish that Christians would do the same for Evangelicals-turned-atheists. “But Bruce,” Christians say, “the Bible says yada yada yada yada.” What the Bible purportedly says is not my problem. I get it. Jack can’t square my story with his peculiar theology. Countless Evangelicals have the same problem when they read my story. Again, that’s not my problem. I know what I know. Ask anyone who knew me when I was a Christian: Was Bruce a “real” follower of Jesus; a True Christian®? To a person, they will say, absolutely! Either I deceived my wife, children, in-laws, extended family, friends, college roommates, professors, ministerial colleagues, and congregants, or I really was a Christian. What’s more likely? Trust me, I am not a very good liar. Me not having been a Christian is akin to the moon landing being a hoax.

Stories such as mine will continue to cause cognitive dissonance for IFB Christians such as Jack. All I can hope for is that by reading my story, they will have doubts and questions that will lead to further investigation and inquiry. Fundamentalist Christians can and do change. I once believed as Jack did, and so did many of the readers of this blog. Yet, we are now unbelievers. Deconversion is a slow, agonizing, painful process. Some people cannot bear the questions and doubts, so they retreat into the safety of the house of faith. Others, however, are willing to suffer through the process, believing that truth and freedom await them on the other side. There’s a gospel song that says, we’ve come this far by faith, we can’t turn back now. For people such as myself, we’ve come this far by reason, we can’t turn back now.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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.

Is it a Sin for Women to Wear Pants?

polly-yuma-arizona

Polly wearing her first pair of pants, Yuma, Arizona, 2004

God says:

The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God. (Deuteronomy 22:5)

Jack Hyles, the late pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, said in a  December 2, 1973 sermon:

Some of you pants-wearing ladies, I hope God will get you so under conviction tonight that you’ll hit the mourner’s bench before you go home!  Let me tell you something.  You ladies who wear your “britches,” don’t you laugh at me while I’m preaching the Bible to you.  The Bible says a woman should not wear that pertains to a man.  In this heathen generation, you ladies who wear pants have fallen prey to the unisex philosophy.  You are a part of the unisex movement!  I’m going to prove it to you.  You won’t believe it because you want to go ahead and be a part of it.  You don’t want to be different.  You’re not willing to buck the trend, but you’re hearing one preacher tonight who is happy to buck the trends even if he loses his job because of it.  I started 27 or 28 years ago what I believe, and I am preaching the same thing tonight.  If you get my sermons and listen to them, I preach the same things tonight I preached 28 years ago.  I preached against ladies wearing britches 28 years ago, and I’m not going to stop it just because you can’t find a skirt in a department store any more.

It’s time for some of you deacon’s wives to look like ladies instead of men.  It’s time for some of you deacons to yank them up and say, “Put a skirt on and take those ‘britches’ off!” It’s time for some of you who teach Sunday school classes in our church, to look like ladies and not like men.  The Devil is trying to break down the barrier between the sexes.  When you do anything to aid it, you’re a part of his work.

You say, “Brother Hyles, I heard you on the radio. I didn’t expect this!  You come on saying the radio saying, ‘A happy hello to all of our friends in radio land.  It’s a great joy to meet you this morning.  Maybe the burden is heavy and load is light.  We come on the broadcast not with a kick in the pants but with a pat on the back’” That the broadcast, honey.  In the pulpit, it’s a kick in the pants and not a pat on the back!  The back-pattin’ is on Monday morning, but the pants-kickin’ is on Sunday night!  The Devil is using clothing.  Whether you believe it or not, the book of Deuteronomy is in the Bible and Deuteronomy 22:5 says it is wrong for a woman to wear that which pertaineth to a man.  “Well,” you say, “in those days, the men wore long, flowing garments.” I don’t care what they wore, there was a difference between men and women.  I mean it’s up to the man to decide what he wears.  You say, “My husband is not going to do that!”  Well, you Jezebel, I am!

….

I’ll just say it again. It’s time some of you Christians dress like fundamentalists.  In fashion, men’s magazines and clothing trade journals herald men’s mini-skirts- can you feature it?  Can you feature Jim Vineyard in a miniskirt?  That would set burlesque back two generations!  Get this now.  There are harem lounging pajamas.  Did you know that there are lingerie shops for men, where men can buy silk, satin, and lace gowns and pajamas?  You’re horrified, aren’t you?  Yet you wear your “britches” to the store tomorrow!  Men’s magazines and clothing trade journals herald men’s miniskirts, harem lounging pajamas, earrings and necklaces.  One manufacturer is showing men’s shifts- a rather straight-line dress worn by women.  Their colors, psychedelic prints, are soft pinks.  (Can you imagine Sully in a pink shift?)  Fashion designers admit they are using ladies wearing men’s clothing and men wearing ladies’ clothing as a part of the trend to make America one sex.  You haven’t got enough sense to know it! “Now,” you say, “Preacher, what are you saying?”  I’m saying that God wants there to be a difference between the sexes.  I’m saying, in our generation, ladies ought not to wear whatever men have worn, and men ought not to wear whatever ladies have worn.

In 2002, Catholic Marian T. Horvat  wrote:

The three ladies [from a 2002 photo] are wearing pants, which are inappropriate for women for reasons of both immodesty and egalitarianism. As for modesty, according to the sound Catholic teaching of the past, trousers are immodest apparel for a woman because by their nature they emphasize a woman’s form and invite immodest regard. As for egalitarianism, Cardinal Guiseppe Siri made a superb warning in 1960. He noted that the wearing of men’s dress by women is “the visible aid to bring about a mental attitude of being ‘like a man’” since the clothing a person wears “modifies that person’s gestures, attitudes and behavior.

Millions of Americans attend churches that believe it is a sin for women to wear pants (britches, slacks, jeans, trousers, shorts, capris).  Many of these churches refuse to let non-dress wearing women attend their services. The late Jack Hyles, the one-time pastor of the largest church in America, required pants-wearing women to put paper dresses over their clothing before entering the sanctuary. I grew up in churches where pants wearing was grudgingly allowed, but women who did so were considered rebellious hussies. Evangelist John R. Rice speaks for countless Independent Fundamentalist Baptist preachers when he says:

Oh, women, what have you lost when you lost your femininity! When you bobbed your hair, you bobbed your character, too. Your rebellion against God’s authority as exercised by husband and father, has a tendency, at least, to lose you all the things that women value most. If you want reverence and respect from good men, if you want protection and a good home and love and steadfast devotion, then I beg you to take a woman’s place! Dress like a woman, not like a man. Have habits like a woman. And if you want God to especially bless you when you pray, then have on your head a symbol [long hair/head covering] of the meek and quiet spirit which in the sight of God is of such great price.

The message to women was clear: want to be right with God? Stop wearing pants.

In the mid-1970s, I attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. Midwestern prided itself in being a character-building factory; an institution that turned out soulwinning, hellfire-and-brimstone preachers and missionaries. While women were permitted to take classes, most of them were there to snag a preacher boy, hoping to graduate with an MRS degree. My wife, Polly, was no exception. She came to Midwestern hoping to find a preacher to marry. She found one. However, I think I can safely say that she sure got more than she bargained for when she married me! I am certain, to this day, that Polly’s mom wishes her daughter had married one of those other preachers. Why, she would still be a preacher’s wife, if she had!

Women were not permitted to wear pants at Midwestern. Dresses had to be knee-length. One weekend, Polly and I went on a double-date with another dorm couple. Dorm students were not permitted to travel more than ten miles from the college campus. Wanting to go to the mall, we decided to break the ten-mile rule. Such daredevils, right? Not long after we arrived at the mall, we noticed the wife of Midwestern’s president walking with her youngest daughter. Imagine our surprise to see Mrs. Malone and her daughter wearing pants!  This was an early example of the hypocrisy that permeated the IFB church movement.

Polly was forty-six years old before she wore a pair of pants for the first time. In 2004, we lived in Yuma, Arizona. We thought of ourselves then as far more progressive and liberal than we were when we married in 1978. And we were, but deep-seated Fundamentalism dies hard. I had concluded that many of the church standards and rules we lived with for forty-plus years were legalistic and unnecessary. Polly, fearing that she would burn in Hell if she broke the rules, was not, at the time, as liberal, especially when it came to clothing. One day, we were shopping at Target, and I noticed that women’s capris were on sale. I picked up a pair, turned to Polly, and said, “why don’t you try on a pair of these.” You would have thought I had asked her to strip naked and run through the store. She had that look on her face, the same one she had when I brought home a Christian rock CD (Petra) and played it in our home. She was certain that God was going to send lightning from Heaven and kills us all. I assured her that God didn’t care about what she wore. Now, I didn’t really know that for sure. I just thought that Polly would look nice in capris. After what seemed like forever, I finally convinced Polly that God was not going to get her if she wore pants.

We returned to Ohio in 2005. By then, Polly was a pants convert. Well, except when her mother was around. Polly’s mom is in her eighties and has never worn a pair of pants. Polly was afraid of what her mom would say or think if she saw her wearing pants. Eventually, Polly decided to show her rebellious streak and donned a pair of pants in her mom’s presence. Polly’s uber-rebellious sister had been wearing pants for years. Not Polly. She was a true-blue believer. I still remember the look on Mom’s face when she saw Polly was wearing pants; a look of sadness and disappointment; a look that has been repeated numerous times over the past decade and a half as we continue to shed the bondage of our Fundamentalist Christian past.

Bruce, this sounds crazy! Sure, from the outside, it does. However, when you are in the Evangelical bubble, believing it is a sin for women to wear pants makes perfect sense. Let me outline for you how my thinking went back in the day.

  • The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God
  • The Bible says in Deuteronomy 22:5 that it is an abomination for women to wear men’s clothing
  • The Bible teaches that there is to be a visible difference between the sexes  — hair and clothing
  • Women are to wear modest apparel, clothing that does not expose their flesh or accentuate their shape
  • Men are visually attracted to women
  • Women shouldn’t dress in ways that cause men to lust after them
  • Refusing to dress properly reveals a rebellious spirit
  • Christians are to dress differently from the “world”

These “truths” governed my thinking, preaching, and conduct until I was in my early forties. Perhaps my deconversion actually began then, as I started to question the rules, standards, and regulations that had governed my life. These days, I tell Polly, “hey, it sure would be nice to see you in a dress once in a while. You know, show a bit of cleavage.” My, oh my! How far we have come . . .

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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.

Black Collar Crime: IFB Youth Worker Steven Winn Pleads Guilty to Sexually Abusing Church Teen

steven winn

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

In  February 2018, Steven Winn, an unpaid youth worker at Open Door Baptist Church in Mesquite, Texas, was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a church teenager.

WFAA-8 reported at the time:

Police in Mesquite have arrested a youth pastor’s assistant at a local church and charged him with sexually assaulting a child.

On Feb. 18, police received a report about the sexual assault. Their investigation concluded that Steven Winn, 33, had an ongoing sexual relationship with a teenager for just over a year. She was 15 when the relationship began and 16 when police got involved.

Police said Tuesday that Winn is the assistant youth pastor at Open Door Baptist Church in Mesquite. The victim was a student at the church’s Christian school, police said.

Pastor Bob Ross with the church said Winn was never employed by the church and was a volunteer who served as an assistant to the youth pastor.

“Mr. Winn’s primary duties consisted of helping to drive our teens to various activities such as camp, youth rallies, and summer camp,” Ross said. “He had no official duties or title of any kind.”

Police say Winn worked for the City of Mesquite as a construction inspector in the Public Works Department for 14 years. He was terminated on Feb. 20.

Two days later he was arrested and charged with three counts of sexual assault of a child in Dallas County. His bond was set at $25,000 for each count. A few days later he was charged with three counts of sexual assault of a child in Kaufman County. His bond there was set at $1,000 for each count.

Police say sexual encounters between Winn and the teen occurred in both counties. There were multiple occurrences in each, but prosecutors settled on three cases to charge, MPD said.

Today, Winn pleaded guilty to three counts of sexually abusing a child and was sentenced to four years in prison. After release, Winn will have to register as a sex offender.  According to the Dallas News, Winn still faces one count of sexual assault of a child in Kaufman County. He was indicted on the charge last month.

larry winn

Several days after Steven Winn’s arrest, Larry Winn, Steven’s father, was also arrested on sexual assault charges. The elder Winn was the bus director at Open Door — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation.

The Star-Telegram reported at the time:

A Mesquite church staff member accused of an inappropriate sexual relationship with an underage congregant may have additional victims, police say.

Larry Winn, 65, of Dallas, who coordinated a bus ministry for members of Open Door Baptist Church who needed a ride to and from worship, is accused of sexually assaulting a teenage girl [a different girl from the one assaulted by his son]. He was arrested Thursday.

“Due to Winn’s level of access to children, investigators believe there may be additional victims,” police Lt. Brian Parrish said in a news release.

The elder Winn remains free on a $25,000 bond. Evidently, the family that “preys” together, stays together.

pastor robert ross

Robert “Bob” Ross, the pastor of Open Door, was arrested in April 2018 and charged with failing to report the alleged abuse. He remains free on a $2,500 bond.

The Dallas News reported at the time:

Robert Arnold Ross, 70, pastor of Open Door Baptist Church, was booked into the Mesquite jail Tuesday morning on one count of knowingly failing to make a required child abuse report. His bail was set at $2,500.

….

Police say Ross learned about the abuse on Feb. 1 — more than two weeks before police learned of the accusation — and did not notify authorities.

pastor matt jarrell

And finally, in 2011, Matt Jarrell, Open Door’s pastor at the time, was arrested and accused of raping a woman. He later hung himself in jail.

According to the Star-Telegram:

Open Door Baptist Church pastor Matt Jarrell died in May 2011 in a Charleston, W. Va., jail cell. Days before, Jarrell had been arrested and accused of raping a woman.

The woman told authorities Jarrell picked her up in Charleston when she needed a ride home. Instead of taking her home, he took her to a secluded area and raped her, according to a criminal complaint.

….

The Dallas News reported in 2011 that Jarrell lived a double life while pastoring Open Door Baptist:

Baptist preacher Matt Jarrell was a traveling man. He usually hit the road by himself, leaving behind his wife, four children and the loving embrace of his congregation at the Open Door Baptist Church in Mesquite.

Jarrell, a bear of a man at 6-3 and 285 pounds, hunted moose and preached a sermon last fall in Alaska. He hunted elk in Nebraska with church friends.

But his travels weren’t always for hunting and fellowship.

In 2003, Jarrell traveled to Baltimore, where he was arrested for soliciting a prostitute and illegal handgun possession.

In 2007, San Antonio police arrested him for sexual assault after a woman accused him of forcing her to perform oral sex.

Last weekend, Jarrell’s final trip ended tragically in a jail cell in Charleston, W.Va. Two days after his arrest on a rape charge, he hanged himself in jail. At age 41, the double life he had been leading was over.

….

Like other Baptist sects, the fundamentalist churches don’t allow women in leadership positions. While Open Door Baptist Church has no dress code, most church women wear long dresses or skirts and tops with high necks — no sleeveless tops.

“It’s just respecting the Lord,” said Donna Woodson, an Open Door member for more than 20 years. “It’s nothing … we just feel that we should dress in modest apparel.”

Woodson, 57, said Jarrell was respectful of women.

“He seemed like he really loved his wife, Ginny,” she recalled. “So I’m just shocked to hear any of this stuff. I’m not even sure to believe it.”

Jarrell traveled to Columbus, Ohio, in January to deliver a guest sermon at High Street Baptist Church, another Fundamentalist Baptist affiliate. He began by telling the congregation his personal story of salvation in the mid-1990s.

He was in the Army at Fort Campbell, Ky., when he attended a revival meeting featuring the Baptist preacher Jack Hyles, who was a well-known Baptist evangelist in the Midwest.

“I’m carnal, wicked as hell,” Jarrell told the Ohio congregation, describing the way he was back then. “I used to be a fighter until I got saved that night.”

….

Jarrell’s first brush with the law, as far as The Dallas Morning News can determine, came at 11:40 p.m. on April 15, 2003, in Baltimore, about 60 miles south of York.

Court records and police reports say he solicited a prostitute who turned out to be an undercover police officer running a “john sting.” Police found two handguns in Jarrell’s white Chevrolet truck — a .44-magnum Taurus with a laser sight and a .45-caliber pistol with one round in the chamber and five in the magazine.

Shonte Drake, a spokeswoman for the city prosecutor, said available records don’t make clear whether Jarrell pleaded guilty or was found guilty after a trial.

“In any event, he was convicted and served 18 months probation on the handgun charge,” Drake said.

….

Jarrell’s next brush with the law came in San Antonio on May 24, 2007, when he was arrested after a woman complained that he threatened her with “force and violence” unless she performed oral sex on him. She told police she believed he had “the ability to execute the threat” because he was so big, according to court records.

Jarrell was released from jail on $50,000 bond.

….

A Bexar County grand jury meeting in San Antonio indicted him on a second-degree felony charge of sexual assault on Dec. 19, 2007. Jarrell’s attorney told The News that the case is still pending because of a backlog in the criminal courts.

….

The details surrounding Jarrell’s arrest in West Virginia now seem almost irrelevant. But, for the record, the criminal complaint against him alleges that he met a woman in a bar. She needed a ride home and he offered to help. Instead, he took her to a remote area and sexually abused her in his Toyota Tundra pickup.

The woman escaped after the attack and called police. Investigators said Jarrell first denied the assault, then confessed.

“According to family members, Jarrell was supposed to be in Pennsylvania,” said Lt. Sean Crozier, a Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department spokesman. “It’s disturbing that a man could lead such a dual life with aspects of it on opposite ends of the spectrum — if the allegations were true.”

No one will ever know what tortured thoughts ran through Matt Jarrell’s mind in the moments before he hanged himself two days after his arrest.

Did he pray? Did he believe he was going to heaven or hell?

During the nine months before his death, he told his congregation that he was suffering from liver cancer. During his sermon in January in Columbus, he told his listeners that a malignant tumor the size of a grapefruit was on his liver and that the cancer had spread to his lymph system.

The medical examiner’s office in West Virginia performed an autopsy after his suicide, but the results were not available late last week. Whether the cancer was real or fictional is yet to be resolved.

….

Sadly, Open Door Baptist Church remains open for business, as does its school, Mesquite Baptist Academy. In November 2018, “Dr.” Eric Pittman became the pastor of Open Door.  The church is busily remodeling its building, hoping to bury past scandals under new drywall and carpet. I plan to do what I can to make sure the public knows what happened. I should note in passing, that the late Jack Hyles was mentioned in several of the stories I read about Open Door and its pervert pastors/workers.  It seems that Hyles as a person or his bankrupt theology is never far from sexual scandals. Perhaps it is time for IFB churches and pastors to connect the dots and conclude that Hyles and his theology has caused untold harm, both to children and adults.

The David Hyles Saga

david-hyles-new-man

Over the years, I have written numerous articles about David Hyles, the son of IFB preacher Jack Hyles. David was the youth director at his father’s church, First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, until scandal forced Jack to send his son to a new church, Miller Road Baptist Church in Garland, Texas. David was forced out of Miller Road Baptist due to, once again, sexual scandal. What follows is a recorded interview of Paula Hyles, the former wife of David Hyles.

Video Link

Articles About David Hyles

UPDATED: Serial Adulterer David Hyles Has Been Restored

David Hyles Says My Bad, Jesus

Is All Forgiven for David Hyles?

Serial Adulterer David Hyles Receives a Warm Longview Baptist Temple Welcome

Disgraced IFB Preacher David Hyles Helping Fallen Pastors Get Back on Their Horses

News Stories About IFB Preachers Jack and David Hyles

Articles About Jack Hyles

The Legacy of Jack Hyles

The Mesmerizing Appeal of Jack Hyles

1991 Current Affairs Report: Jack Hyles Stole My Wife

The Scandalous Life of Jack Hyles and Why it Still Matters

Sexual Abuse and the Jack Hyles Rule: If You Didn’t See It, It Didn’t Happen

 

The Sounds of Fundamentalism: Greatest Hits From the IFB Church Movement

bible literalism

This is the one hundred and ninety-sixth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This 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 compilation of video clips from various Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers. This video is a twenty-four minute infomercial for why IFB beliefs and practices can and do cause psychological problems, for both preachers and congregants. Keep in mind that many of the stories you will hear are lies — just good preaching, AMEN!

Video Link

The Sounds of Fundamentalism: True Salvation Requires the King James Bible Says Jack Hyles

jack hyles 1973

Jack Hyles, 1973

This is the one hundred and ninety-fourth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This 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  Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, saying that true salvation can only come through the King James Bible.

Video Link

Liars for Jesus: Evangelical Preachers and Their Sermons, Stories, and Testimonies

liar liar pants on fire

Evangelical preachers, regardless of their theological flavor, are liars. I have known a number of Evangelical pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and professors in my lifetime. Without exception, these men of God, at one time or another lied to their congregants or ministerial colleagues. Now, this doesn’t mean that they set out to deliberately obfuscate or deceive — though some did — but the fact remains these so-called men of God played loose with the truth. I plan to deliberately paint with a broad brush in this post, so if you just so happen to be the Sgt. Joe Friday of Evangelicalism, please don’t get upset.

One way preachers lie is by withholding truth. On Sundays, pastors stand in pulpits and preach their sermons, giving congregants a version of truth, but not the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Evangelical preachers enter their pulpits with an agenda, an objective. Their agendas affect how they interpret the Bible and what they say in their sermons. The Bible, then, becomes a means to an end, be it saving the lost, calling congregants to repentance, raising money, or advancing pet projects.

This means that Bible verses are spun in ways to gain desired objectives. Instead of letting the Bible speak for itself, the text is manipulated and massaged in the hope that congregants will buy what their pastors are selling. And make no mistake about it, there’s little difference between pitchman Billy May and the preacher down at First Baptist Church in Podunk City. Preachers are salesmen with products to sell, and the goal of a well-crafted sermon is to get hearers to sign on the dotted line. (Please see Selling Jesus.)

Another way preachers lie is by giving the appearance that their sermons are God’s opinion on a matter. God speaks through God’s man as he preaches God’s infallible Word, or so the thinking goes, anyway. However, every preacher’s thinking is colored by his past religious experiences, education, and culture. Pastors regurgitate what they heard their pastors preach while growing up, what their professors taught them in college, and what they read in theological books. Every Evangelical preacher walks in a certain rut, interpreting the Biblical text as others do in that rut. Birds of a feather flock together, the old saying goes. Christianity consists of thousands and thousands of sects, each with its own peculiar spin on the Bible. Countless internecine wars are fought over minute points of doctrine and practice. Only within the Christian bubble do these things matter, but boy, oh boy do they matter! Evangelicals, in particular, are known for their bickering over theology and how followers of Jesus should live. This fact is a sure sign, at least to me, that Christianity is not what Evangelicals say it is. If there is one God, one Jesus, and one Holy Spirit who lives inside every believer, it stands to reason that Christians should all have the same beliefs. That they don’t suggests that there are cultural, sociological, and geographical issues at work. How else can we explain the theological differences between sects, churches, and individual Christians? Why, Christians can’t even agree on the basics: salvation, baptism, and communion/Eucharist/Lord’s supper.

Most preachers know about the diversity of theology and belief among Christians, yet they rarely let it be known to their congregations except to call other beliefs false or heretical. It is clear, at least to me, that the Bible teaches a number of “plans of salvation”; that both the Arminians and Calvinists are right; that both salvation by grace and salvation by works are true. Why don’t preachers tell the truth about these things? Is it not a lie to omit them — the sin of omission?  If Christianity is all that Evangelicals say it is and Jesus is all-powerful, surely Christians can handle being given the truth about the Biblical text, church history, and the varied theological beliefs and practices found with Christianity. If pastors want to be truth-tellers, they must be willing to tell congregants everything, including the stuff that doesn’t fit a particular theological box. Imagine how much differently Evangelicals might act if they were required to study world religions and read books by authors such as Bart Ehrman. That will never happen, of course, because it would result in most preachers losing their jobs due to attendance decline and lost income. Truth is always the enemy of faith.

Atheists such as myself know the value of wide exposure to contrary beliefs. After all, our deconversions often followed a path of intense and painful intellectual inquiry. In my case, it took years for me to slide to the bottom of the slippery slope of unbelief. Along the way, I made numerous stops, hoping that I would find a way to hang on to my belief in God. I found none of these resting places intellectually satisfying. I wanted them to be, but my commitment to truth wouldn’t let me. In the years since, I have encouraged doubters to follow their paths wherever they lead. Meet truth in the middle of the road. Don’t back up or try to go around. Do business with truth before moving forward. This is, of course, hard to do, because it requires abandoning previously held beliefs when new evidence is presented. It requires admitting you were wrong. And therein is the rub for many Evangelical preachers: they have spent their lifetimes being “right” and preaching their rightness to their church congregations. To admit they were wrong would cause their metaphorical houses to tumble. So instead of telling the truth, Evangelical preachers lie. They lie because they have careers, congregations, and denominations to protect.

And finally, some Evangelical preachers lie in their sermons, stories, and testimonies because they never let the truth get in to way of telling a good story. I have heard countless testimonies and sermon illustrations, and the vast majority of them were embellished at some point or the other. Not that this is a great evil. We all do it, Christian or not. My problem with Evangelical preachers doing it is that they present themselves as pillars of moral virtue and arbiters of truth. When you ride your horse on the moral high road, you should expect attempts will be made to push you down the ravine to where the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world live.

Preachers know that there’s nothing like a good story to seal the deal with people listening to their sermons. Believing that “the end justifies the means,” preachers shape and mold their stories and testimonies in ways that best lead to desired outcomes. For those of you who were raised in Evangelical churches, think about some of the salvation testimonies you heard on Sundays. Fantastical stories, right? Almost unbelievable! And in fact, they aren’t believable. All of us love a good story, but when trying to convince people that a particular sect/church/belief is truth, surely it behooves storytellers to tell the truth. Instead, preachers color their stories in ways that people will be drawn into them. Every story and every sermon is meant to bring people to a place of decision. A preacher has wasted his time if his sermon hasn’t elicited some sort of emotional response. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this. Politicians, sportscasters, and preachers — to name a few — all use the power of stories to draw people in and get them to make a decision — be it to get saved or vote. Any preacher worth his salt knows how to manipulate people through their use of stories. A boring sermon is one that is little more than a dry, listless lecture. Gag me with a spoon, as we used to say. Give me someone who speaks with passion and uses the power of words to drive home his or her message. As a pastor, one of my goals was to inspire people, not put them to sleep.

Sometime during my early ministerial years, I stopped expecting preachers to be bold truth tellers. I listened to Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) conference speakers Jack Hyles, Curtis Hutson, Tom Malone, and others tell stories that were embellished or outright lies. Hyles, in particular, lied more often than he told the truth. He is famous for telling people how many people he counseled every week. Much like President Trump, Hyles’ statistics didn’t hold up under scrutiny. Hyles could have told conference attendees that he counseled a number of people each week, but instead he led conference attendees to believe that he counseled hundreds and hundreds of people every week. He wanted people to see him as some sort of super hero; an Evangelical Superman. The same goes for his soulwinning stories. While there may have been an element of truth in his stories, they were so embellished that only Kool-Aid-drinking Hyleites believed them to be true.

Such is the nature of preaching. Does this mean that preachers are bad people who can’t tell the truth? Certainly, some of them are. More than a few Evangelical churches are pastored by con artists who want to scam their congregations, troll for children to molest, or seduce naïve church women. Most preachers, however, are decent, thoughtful people who genuinely believe in what they are selling. They want to save souls and help congregants live better lives. Often raised in religious environments where embellishing truth or outright lying was acceptable, these preachers preach in the ways that were modeled to them. Isn’t that what we humans are wont to do? We tend to follow in the footsteps of our parents and teachers. There is nothing I have said in this post that will change this fact. All I hope to do is warn people about what they hear preachers saying during their sermons. Tom Malone, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Pontiac, Michigan and founder of Midwestern Baptist College, one time said during a sermon, “I’m not preaching now, I’m telling the truth!” Dr. Malone meant to be funny, but what he really did, at least for me, is reveal that what preachers preach may not always be the truth. Judicious hearers should keep this mind the next time they listen to this or that preacher regale people with their fantastical stories. Remember, it’s just a story, an admixture of truth, embellishment, and lie. In other words, good preaching. Amen? Amen!

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Twenty-Six Questions From the Search Logs

good question

Twenty-Six Questions From the Search Logs

What follows is a list questions from the search logs. These questions are a handful of the thousands of Google search queries people use to get to this site. In this post, I plan to “answer” these “important” questions. Let these search questions remind you of how Evangelical beliefs can and do psychologically harm people. If this is not the case, then why-oh-why would a rational person ask such questions? No, my friend, Evangelical beliefs hinder critical thinking. How could they not? When a Bronze Age religious text is your go-to book, is it any surprise people end up fretting over the things mentioned in these questions?

Snarkiness and cussing ahead! You have been warned. Now, go and sin!

Is Bethel Church in Redding, California a cult?

Yes, Bethel Church in Redding is a cult. Every crazy, irrational Evangelical/Charismatic belief and practice can be found at Bethel. Bethelmania has spread far and wide, it seems.  A nearby church pastored by Tim and Lisa Hacker has changed its name to Bethel. The Hackers, members of the Bethel Leaders Network, believe God wants them to “make things on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

My advice to people wanting to hook up with the nutters at Bethel Church in Redding is simple: RUN!

Please read Bethel Redding: A Dangerous Evangelical Cult.

Why are Evangelicals so mean?

Evangelicals are mean because their God is mean. All one needs to do is read the Bible to find the ‘Mean God.” This God is the meanest son-of-a-bitch in the universe; meaner than Satan himself. Not that God or Satan exists, but if they did . . .

Evangelicals preach up love, joy, peace, and tithing, but their behavior suggests that they don’t practice what they preach.

Why are Evangelicals so hateful?

Evangelicals are hateful because their God is hateful. All one needs to do is read the Bible to find the ‘Hateful God.” This God is the most hateful asshole in the universe; more hateful than Satan himself. Not that God or Satan exists, but if they did . . .

Evangelicals preach up love, joy, peace, and tithing, but their behavior suggests that they don’t practice what they preach.

Where is David Hyles today?

Hopefully, David Hyles is under a rock somewhere, fearing further exposure of his vile and criminal behavior. Why would anyone want to know where Hyles’ is today? Passionately unrepentant, Hyles is attempting a comeback of sorts.  My goal in life is whack him on the head every time he pops his head up from the rock he is currently hiding under.

Please read UPDATED: Serial Adulterer David Hyles Has Been RestoredDavid Hyles Says My Bad, JesusIs All Forgiven for David Hyles?Serial Adulterer David Hyles Receives a Warm Longview Baptist Temple Welcome, and Disgraced IFB Preacher David Hyles Helping Fallen Pastors Get Back on Their Horses

Is kissing your boyfriend a sin?

Think about this question for a moment. Humans are naturally sexual beings. It is very human to desire to kiss someone you are attracted to. If God is your creator, why did he give you sexual desire and then expect you not to act on it? Silly, right?  Any church/sect that demands you refrain from kissing before marriage is a cult. My advice? RUN!

Please read Is it a Sin to Kiss Your Boyfriend? and Hey Girlfriend: Is it a Sin to Kiss Your Boyfriend?

What is the name of the Ohio preacher who became an atheist?

Bruce Gerencser. You can find everything you would ever want to know about him here. Beware! Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers believe Gerencser is a tool of Satan, a destroyer of the faith once delivered to the saints. His writing has been known to cause fear, doubt, gas, and loss of faith.

How do atheists handle death?

Every atheist is different, so I can’t speak for all atheists. That said, death is inevitable. It stalks all of us, and will one day — all too soon — catch us. Worrying about death is a waste of time. Here’s the advice I give to people to ask such questions:

You have one life. There is no heaven or hell. There is no afterlife. You have one life, it’s yours, and what you do with it is what matters most. Love and forgive those who matter to you and ignore those who add nothing to your life. Life is too short to spend time trying to make nice with those who will never make nice with you. Determine who are the people in your life that matter and give your time and devotion to them. Live each and every day to its fullest. You never know when death might come calling. Don’t waste time trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Find one or two things you like to do and do them well. Too many people spend way too much time doing things they will never be good at.

Here’s the conclusion of the matter. It’s your life and you best get to living it. Some day, sooner than you think, it will be over. Don’t let your dying days be ones of regret over what might have been.

Please read How Does an Atheist Handle the Death of a Loved One?

Who won’t make it to Heaven?

No one will make it to Heaven. Heaven (and Hell) are fictional places used by clerics to ensure congregants remain faithful. They use a carrot-stick approach. Heaven is the carrot, and Hell is the stick. Without the promise of eternal life in Heaven (or the threat of Hell) after death, most churches would close. Why bother with getting up on Sundays, giving ten percent of your income to the church, and listening to boring sermons if there’s no life after death?

Why are black women more loyal to their pastors than their husbands?

I don’t know if this is true, but I do know that black female Evangelicals are quite devoted to their pastors and churches. Pastors can commit all sorts of crimes, yet there is Sister Bertha and the Missionary Union standing behind them, faithful unto the end. I suspect this has to do with being taught to submit to male religious authorities.

Perhaps someone who spent years in a black church can better answer this question.

Why do some pastors stop believing in God?

Where oh where to I begin? Please read the posts on the WHY page for more information on why I divorced Jesus in 2008.

Is Christopher Hitchens in Hell?

Of course not. There is no such thing as Hell, silly boy. Please read Christopher Hitchens is in Hell

Is it a sin for a man to have long hair?

I see IFB preachers are still preaching against long hair on men. Any man focused on your physical appearance is a cultist (and a creep). His goal is to control you though demanding you look and dress a certain way. Please read Is it a Sin for a Man to Have Long Hair?

Was Jack Hyles a false prophet?

The short answer is yes.  Please read The Legacy of Jack HylesThe Scandalous Life of Jack Hyles and Why it Still MattersThe Mesmerizing Appeal of Jack Hyles, and Sexual Abuse and the Jack Hyles Rule: If You Didn’t See It, It Didn’t Happen

Is the IFB a cult?

Yes. All churches and sects, by definition, are cults. That said, IFB churches and pastors often use psychological manipulation and religious indoctrination to control congregants. My advice is simple: RUN! There are plenty of kinder, gentler, human-affirming flavors of Christianity. Check them out. You need not stay in the IFB cult.

Here’s the dictionary definition of the word cult:

  • An interest followed with exaggerated zeal.
  • A system of religious beliefs and rituals.
  • A religion or sect that is generally considered to be unorthodox, extremist, or false.
  • Followers of an unorthodox, extremist, or false religion or sect who often live outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.
  • Followers of an exclusive system of religious beliefs and practices.

Need I say more?

Should IFB wives obey their husbands without question?

Back in my IFB days, I would have said yes, with one qualification: wives do not have to obey commands that are contrary to the Bible. That said, men are far smarter than women, stronger too. I read that in the Bible, so it must be true, right? (That’s sarcasm, by the way.)

Should churches get rid of their youth programs?

Yes, immediately. Don’t pass GO, don’t collect $200. Please read Dear Evangelical Church Leaders: It’s Time to Get Rid of Your Youth Pastors and Youth Departments

Why are Baptists not allowed to play cards?

Many Baptists think playing cards of any kind is a sin. The first church I worked in almost had a split over card playing. Here’s how one Fundamentalist site explains why card playing is sinful:

Playing cards, like reading your horoscope, has become a joke or just a game. However, the Lord does not look at it as a joke or game. There are serious consequences for reading your horoscope as well as using cards or just having them in your home. It has been said that nicknames for a deck of cards is “The Devil’s Bible” and “The Devil’s Picture Book”. At one time the church took a strong stand against the card game. Until recently preachers and churches warned about the dangers of cards.

Some of the most common places you will find a deck of cards (besides our homes) will be with prostitutes, gamblers, thieves, murderers, in taverns, brothels, prisons, insane asylums, gambling dens, etc., but never at a prayer meeting.

The king represents Satan, Prince of Darkness, usurper and foe of our Lord Jesus Christ. The ten card is for the Spirit of lawlessness, in opposition to the moral law in the Word of God. In 1300, clubs were the chief weapons used by murderers, therefore this suit represents the Spirit of Murder and death by violence. The jack represents the lustful libertine, from pimp to adulterer and whoremonger, a moral leper whose chief ambition is to gratify sensual fleshly lusts. The queen represents Mary, Mother of Jesus, but in the card language she is called Mother of Harlots. The joker represents Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Joker means fool and therefore Jesus is held up to ridicule. The joker is said to be the offspring of licentious jack and the queen, Mother of Harlots.

All other cards also have hidden obscene and blasphemous meanings. Nine-tenths of all gambling today is done with these cards. Witches, psychics, and satan-worshipers use playing cards for divination and to cast spells and curses. Born-again believers should not want to be in contact with such a tool of Satan. In Deuteronomy 7:26 we are told not to have abominable things in our homes. It will bring a curse on you and your household. It is time that Christians clean house and destroy the hidden works of darkness.

Is it ever okay to lie?

Yes. Please read Is it Ever Okay to Lie?

Is masturbation a sin?

Many Evangelicals believe masturbating is sinful. In their “clean” minds, since masturbation requires “lust” for matters to rise to the occasion, it is a sexual sin rooted in pride. Not pride over penis size. Everyone knows Evangelical men have small dicks (and Evangelical women never, ever ring the Devil’s doorbell). Since masturbation is generally a solo act, it is wrongly focused on prideful self-gratification. Besides, masturbation will make you blind.

Again, such beliefs are all about control. Evangelicals hold to Puritanical beliefs on sex. No sex before marriage, and that includes masturbation. Silly, I know, but many people believe masturbation to be every bit as sinful as fornication.  If this is so, skip spanking the meat and go straight to intercourse. Trust me, it’s a lot more fun!

Please read Good Baptist Boys Don’t Masturbate, Oh Yes, They Do!

Is Game of Thrones pornographic?

No, and only people who have never seen porn think it is. Yes, GOT has a good bit of nudity (and dragons). But, pornographic? Nope. Want to see REAL porn? Ask your pastor for a list of his favorite porn websites. Maybe, the both of you can check them out together. Nothing better for the soul than searching YouPorn with your preacher.

What religion approves of incest?

Christianity. It is, after all, in the Bible.

How do you witness to an atheist?

You don’t. True-blue atheists are NOT good evangelistic targets, especially if they were previously Christian. There are so many souls in need of saving. Why not go after the low-hanging fruit instead of wasting your time with people who know the score and have zero interest in your Gods?

Please read How to Witness to an Atheist

Is wearing leggings a sin?

No. Now, it may not be becoming for you to wear them. Spend an evening at the local Walmart and you see women who should never, ever attempt to put their size 22 ass in a size 12 pair of leggings. That’s just my personal opinion, so if you want to wear leggings, go for it. Don’t let ANYONE tell you how to dress, especially religious authority figures. Remember, their goal is not social propriety, it’s control.

Please read Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Wearing Leggings is a Sin

Why do liberals hate Evangelicals?

I am a liberal and I don’t hate Evangelicals. I do, however, hate Evangelical beliefs. I know a lot of nice, kind, thoughtful Evangelicals who have horrible, anti-human, anti-progress, anti-science beliefs. Such beliefs deserve a swift death, and I plan to do my part in smothering the life out of them. To use a common Evangelical cliché: I love the Evangelical, but hate the beliefs.

Why doesn’t God stop abortion?

Good question, why doesn’t he? Keep asking yourself that question until you exit the church doors into the fresh air of reason and freedom. God doesn’t stop abortion because he can’t. God doesn’t exist, so how can he stop anything? That why there is war, starvation, sexual violence and other calamities. It’s up to us to fix these problems, not God.

Where is Bruce Gerencser?

Right here. Not dead. Not in Hell. Seek and ye shall find. And please, God dammit, spell my last name correctly when you are using a search engine to locate me. Gerencser, how hard can it be? It’s Hungarian by the way, not that I am, in any way, Hungarian. I am the milk man’s son.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

The Four Ws of the IFB

four-ws-ifb

The Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement began in the 1950s as a response to theological liberalism among American and Southern Baptists. Pastors pulled churches out of their respective denominations and declared themselves INDEPENDENT. In the 1960s and 1970s, many of the Top 100 churches in America attendance-wise were IFB churches. The largest church in the country was an IFB church — First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, pastored by Jack Hyles. All across America, IFB big-shots held conferences to motivate and inspire preachers to do great exploits for God. A lot of emphasis was placed on church attendance. John R. Rice, an IFB evangelist and the editor of  The Sword of the Lord, is famous for saying, there’s nothing wrong with pastoring a SMALL church — for a while. Rice, Hyles, and countless other big-name IFB preachers believed a sure sign of God’s blessing on a church and a pastor’s ministry was increase in attendance — especially a steady stream of unsaved visitors filling the pews.

IFB churches used poor children as a vehicle by which to drive up attendance. Bus ministries were all the craze in the 1960s-1980s. IFB megachurches ran hundreds of buses, bringing thousands of people — mostly poor children — to their services. Churches ran all sorts of promotions and gimmicks to attract bus riders — world’s largest banana split, hamburger Sunday, and free bike giveaway, to name a few. Once at church, children were shuffled off to junior church programs. Teens and adults usually attended the main worship service. IFB churches often had programs to “reach” deaf people and the developmentally disabled (or “retard church,” as it was called back in the day). The goal of all of these programs was to bring hordes of unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines to the church so they would hear the gospel and be saved.

I pastored the Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio for over eleven years. I started the church in 1983 with sixteen people. By the end of 1987, church attendance neared 200 — quite a feat in a poverty-stricken rural area. Somerset Baptist was the largest non-Catholic church in the county. At the height of the church’s attendance growth, we operated four Sunday bus routes. Each week, buses brought in a hundred or so riders, mostly poor children from the surrounding four county area. We also ran a bus route on Sunday night for teenagers. For several years, Somerset Baptist Church was THE place to be. There was a buzz in the services as visitors got saved and baptized. All told, over 600 people put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. And that was the primary goal. A good service was one during which multiple sinners came forward to be saved and repentant Christians lined the altar getting “right” with God.

During my IFB years, I attended numerous soulwinning conferences. These meetings were geared towards motivating pastors and churches to win souls for Christ. I attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan in the 1970s. One of the songs we sang in chapel went something like this:

Souls for Jesus is our battle cry
Souls for Jesus we’ll fight until we die
We never will give in while souls are lost in sin
Souls for Jesus is our battle cry

Midwestern held annual soulwinning contests. The student bagging the most souls for Jesus received an award. Founded by Tom Malone, the pastor of nearby Emmanuel Baptist Church in the 1950s, Midwestern’s goal was to turn out soulwinning church planters. Students were required to attend church at Emmanuel. This provided the church with hundreds of people to run their bus routes, Sunday school, and other ministries. During the 1970s, Emmanuel was one of the largest churches in the United States, with a high attendance of over 5,000. (Today, Emmanuel is defunct.) Everything about the church and college revolved around evangelizing the lost. Students were required to evangelize door-to-door, seeking out lost sinners needing salvation. My favorite story from my days pounding the pavement in Pontiac came one Saturday when a young couple decided to give the two young men banging on their door a surprise. You never knew how people might respond to you when you knocked on their doors, but this couple so shocked us that we literally had nothing to say. You see, they answered the door stark naked!

What follows is the Four Ws plan many (most) IFB churches followed – Win them, Wet them, Work them, Waste them.

Win Them

The goal was to evangelize unsaved people. “Unsaved” included Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and countless other liberal or non-IFB sects.  My goal as a pastor was to go out into the community and knock on every door, hoping that I could share the gospel.

Wet Them

The first step of “obedience” we told new converts was to be baptized by immersion. New converts were encouraged to be baptized right away. Typically, IFB churches had/have a lot more new converts than they do new baptisms. There was a joke that went something like this: why do IFB churches baptize people the same Sunday they are saved? Because most of the new converts will never attend church again! IFB churches go through a tremendous amount of membership churn. It is not uncommon for churches to turn over their entire memberships every five or so years. I was taught not to worry about the churn. Just make sure more people were coming in the front door than were leaving the out the back door.

Work Them

Once people were saved and baptized, they were given a to-do list: pray every day, read the Bible every day, attend church every time the doors are open, tithe and give offerings, witness, and find a “ministry” to work in. Many IFB congregants were pilloried over not working hard enough for Jesus. Pew warmers were subjected to guilt-inducing sermons, reminders that Christians would want to be found busy working for Jesus when he comes again. No matter how much I tried to get congregants to join me in the work of the ministry, most of them showed up on Sundays, threw some money in the offering plate, listened to my sermons, and repeated the same things week after week. There was, however, a core group of people who drank the Kool-Aid, so to speak. Along with their pastor, they worked, worked, worked. The same group attended every service, gave most of the money, and staffed the church’s ministries. They were, as I was, True Believers®.

Waste Them

Eventually, the work, work, work pace wore out even the best of people, myself included. I have no doubt my health problems began back in the days when I believed it was “better to burn out for Jesus than rust out.” I worked night and day, as did the people who followed in my steps. Over time, preacher and parishioners alike ran out of steam. Ironically, the steam venting happened at Somerset Baptist around the time I embraced Calvinism. It was Calvinism, in many ways, that rescued me from the drive and grind of the IFB church movement. Over time, church attendance declined as we stopped running the buses and people moved on to other, more “exciting,” churches. Instead of being focused on evangelization, I set my sights on teaching congregants the Bible through expository preaching. We still were evangelistic, but gone were the days when we were focused on numbers. It was Calvinism that allowed me to take a deep breath and relax a bit — that is, until I moved to Texas be the co-pastor of Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf. For the short time I was in Texas, it was Somerset Baptist all over again, with a Calvinistic twist. I hit the ground running, starting new ministries and churches. Seven months later, I crashed, moving back to Ohio to lick my wounds.

People aren’t meant to be worked night and day. Eventually, they burn out. That’s what happened to me. I truly thought Jesus wanted me to work non-stop for him. However, I learned way too late that we humans need rest and time away from the grind. Many of my pastor friends figured this out long before I did. I considered them lazy, indifferent to the lost in their communities (and some of them were). However, they understood the importance of maintaining their health and spending time with their families. While I eventually came to understand the importance of these things, I wasted the better years of my life.

Were you an IFB pastor or church member? Did your church follow the four Ws? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Clergy Sex Crimes: The Stunning Number of Black Collar Crime Reports

black collar crime

It should be clear to everyone by now that Evangelicalism has a huge problem with sexual abuse and sexual misconduct. Hopefully, the Black Collar Crime series has forever shut the mouths of those who self-righteously claim that Evangelicals don’t have the same sort of sexual abuse problem as the Catholics do. I hope, anyway — but way too many Christian zealots are oblivious to their flies being unzipped. Bob Gray, Sr, the retired pastor of Longview Baptist Temple in Longview, Texas, loved to rail against the Catholics over their sexual abuse scandal. Gray, Sr, blindly believed that Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches didn’t have such problems. Evidently, in the mind of Gray, Sr, IFB doctrine is a condom of sorts that protects preachers, evangelists, missionaries, youth pastors, and deacons from committing sex crimes. Of course, we now know that the condom has a hole in it, and IFB leaders are just as likely to molest children, assault teenagers, and sexually manipulate congregants as are Roman Catholic priests. Gray, Sr, knows this, but he ignores it, choosing instead to protect serial adulterer David Hyles and fellate a blow-up doll of accused adulterer Jack Hyles. Countless sex scandals have rocked the Hyles wing of the IFB church movement, yet little is said publicly by men such as Gray, Sr. Wouldn’t it be great if IFB newspaper The Sword of the Lord ran a regular Black Collar Crime column? You know, calling sin, sin, as IFB preachers are wont to do. It should be thoroughly embarrassing to Evangelicals that an atheist’s blog and the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s monthly newsletter do more good in this regard than The Sword of the LordChristianity Today, and CHARISMA Magazine combined.

Recently, Marja asked:

Thank you for your diligence with this [Black Collar Crime] series. You have collected so many examples of black collar crime it’s stunning. Did you have any inkling of this while you were a pastor? Do you think there is something uniquely Christian about this, as it were, or do you think this is a dynamic that is prominent in any community in which you have strong patriarchalism tied to imperatives of religious obedience?

The Internet has fundamentally and forever changed how the public hears of and responds to allegations of sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other sex-related crimes. The same can be said for offending pastors, evangelists, missionaries, professors, and traveling singers. Before the Internet, a preacher could commit all sorts of crimes, and, if not caught red-handed or reported to the police, he could escape punishment. Why? First, many parishioners simply refused to believe that THEIR pastor could ever do such things! This kind of thinking remains a problem to this day. I have posted more than a few stories about offending pastors that have attracted people heaven-bent on protecting their pastor. They will demand I take the post down, saying their pastor couldn’t have committed the crimes he is accused of. I try to remind them of the fact that, according to the Bible, King David was a “man after God’s own heart,” yet he had a sexual affair with Bathsheba and later had her husband murdered. Rarely does this work — these preacher-worshipers refuse to see the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Second, before the Internet, a God-loving, sin-hating predator could quietly leave one church and move on to fresh hunting grounds. His old church was glad he was gone, end of story. A good example of this is the sordid story of David Hyles. David was the youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana. His father, Jack, was the pastor. At the time, First Baptist was the largest church in the United States. David was accused of having sex with teen girls and adult members. When his behavior reached a level where it could not be ignored, David was shipped off by his father to Garland, Texas to pastor Miller Road Baptist Church. The elder Hyles said nothing to people at Miller Road — a church he himself once pastored — leaving them in the dark about his son’s sexual proclivities. And, as sure as the sun comes up in the morning, David Hyles returned to his predatory ways, fucking his way through the church.

Third, IFB preachers/church leaders were taught to protect their church’s “testimony” at all costs. “There are souls in need of saving,” the thinking went. “If people find out about what our pastor/deacon/youth pastor/bus driver/school principal did, why they might not want to come to our church!” I know of countless scandals that were swept under the rug, all in the name of protecting the church’s reputation. Victims were often disbelieved and, far too often, blamed for what happened to them. Sometimes, church leaders would withhold from congregants allegations against their pastors. I know of one church which has had three sex scandals over the past twenty-five years, yet the pastor and church board have never given congregants a full accounting of what happened. The pastor, from the pulpit, encouraged people to “trust” him, that he was taking care of matters. This resulted, of course, in one man committing crimes TWICE at the same church over the course of two decades. So much for taking care of things.  Fortunately, the second offense landed the offender in prison.

Fourth, it was hard to get to local law enforcement and prosecutors to take seriously allegations of criminal sexual misconduct against clergymen. Pastors were often viewed as pillars of their communities, men of virtue, character, and moral integrity. Sadly, some legal authorities who should have known better, believed that clergymen were above the fray; that it was impossible for such “godly” men to commit such crimes. Case in point is the late Mack Ford. Ford operated IFB boys’ and girls’ homes — detention centers — in Louisiana. He was repeatedly accused of criminal behavior, yet he astoundingly escaped prosecution. (Please see Sexual Abuse in the Name of God: New Bethany Home for Girls.) Countless children were harmed by Ford and people employed by him, yet local authorities refused to investigate or prosecute.

These four things, and others, provided cover for clergy sexual misconduct — and other crimes too. Over the years, I would hear whispers about this preacher or that preacher, or hear that Pastor so-and-so suddenly resigned from his church in Ohio and moved in the night to Florida. Such men were accused of everything from molesting children to running off with their secretary, yet I know of only two men who were arrested, prosecuted, and served time in prison for criminal behavior. Sadly, far too many offending preachers had a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

While I don’t think such behaviors are uniquely a “Christian” problem, I believe that certain Evangelical beliefs and practices make such things more likely. First, Evangelicals are known for preaching against sex — any and all sex except for married, one man/one woman, monogamous, missionary-position sex. Puritanical views on sex breed sexual dysfunction and deviancy. It has been my observation that the louder some preachers preach against certain sexual sins, the more likely it is that they are doing the very things they preach against. One such preacher I know spent years having sex with his secretary every Saturday in his office. Bus workers would gather on Saturdays to visit their routes and canvass for new riders. After everyone left the building, the pastor and his lover would hit the carpet. Imagine this! Prior to having adulterous sex, this pastor would lead workers in prayer and give them a short devotional from the Bible. And then on Sundays, he would rain Holy Hell down on the heads of congregants, warning them that God hates sexual sin. (All pastors are hypocrites, but this man took the cake.)

bob gray jacksonville

Bob Gray, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, still clutching his King James Bible as he leaves jail

Second, Evangelical pastors wield great power — authoritarian and patriarchal in nature — over their congregations. Most churches are pastored by one man. In some Evangelical circles, pastors have total control over their churches, deciding everything from who can/can’t be a member to how the money is spent. (There are, by the way, Biblical proof texts supporting this kind of “rule,” but I’ll leave that to another day.) Suffice it to say that way too many churches are controlled and lorded over by their pastors. Now, this in and of itself doesn’t necessarily lead to criminal behavior, but some authoritarian pastors, drunk with power, do cross moral boundaries and commit crimes. It is not uncommon for Fundamentalist churches to be pastored by narcissistic men or sociopaths. Take for example the other Bob Gray — the former pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida. This Gray molested children and preyed on women for fifty years. His church was one the largest in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. I considered him to be one the best pulpiteers I ever heard. I loved to hear him preach. (I vividly remember a sermon he preached on being filled with the Holy Spirit.) Gray was not found out and arrested until near the end of his life. He died awaiting trial for sex crimes. Gray ruled his church with a rod of iron. I have no doubt that there were whispers about “Bro. Gray” over the years, yet out of fear or not wanting to cause a scandal, people said nothing. Authoritarianism will do that, silencing people who see and know that their pastors are perverts or abusers.

Thanks to the Internet and to countless victims unwilling to be silenced, it is now much harder for Evangelical preachers to escape punishment for their crimes. With great courage, victimized men and women share their stories, even when the statute of limitations precludes their abusers from being prosecuted. Light dispels darkness, and as long as I am among the living, I intend to write about clergy sexual misconduct, publish first-person stories about clergy abuse, and publish Black Collar Crime posts. The Evangelical sex scandal is in its infancy. I have published over 500 Black Collar Crime stories. This, I am certain, is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

What Will the IFB Church Movement Do About Sexual Abuse Allegations?

jack hyles quoteIn the post that follows, I deliberately paint with a broad brush. If what I write doesn’t apply to your church or your pastor, then feel free to ignore my words. Be aware that I am no friend of the IFB church movement. It will be a good day when every IFB church in America is shuttered. IFB beliefs and practices are psychologically harmful, and in some instances physically harmful. There are better, kinder, gentler expressions of religious faith available for people who need it. I have spent the last decade telling my own story and listening to the stories of others. So much pain, so much abuse. The only advice I can give is this: RUN!

The Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement is a collection of thousands of churches who are independent denominationally, fundamentalist (Evangelical) in doctrine, and adhere to Baptist ecclesiology. (Please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?) Under this large tent are churches that voluntarily associate with one another, often gathering around a particular Fundamentalist college (i.e. Bob Jones University, Pensacola Christian College, The Crown College, Midwestern Baptist College, Massillon Baptist College, Maranatha Baptist University, Hyles-Anderson College, Baptist Bible College) or certain geographical locations (please see Let’s Go Camping: Understanding Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Camps). Virulently anti-denominational, IFB churches/pastors pride themselves in being answerable only to God.

Answerable to no one but God — who never says a word to them — IFB churches are often controlled by authoritarian pastors who rule their churches with a rod of iron. Believing that they are divinely called to be pastors and commanded in Scripture to rule over their churches, these so-called men of God far too often become a law unto themselves. Their churches become their possessions, their ministries given to them by God to lead, direct, and control. It is not uncommon, much like in the business world, for IFB pastors to be the CEOs of their churches for decades, and when they retire, to pass their kingdoms on to their sons. Their churches become the family business. Ask IFB congregants where they attend church and they will often reply, not First Baptist Church, but Pastor or Bro. Johnny B. Awesome’s church. IFB churches are pastor-centric. Everything revolves around the pastor and his decrees.

The church culture described above is a perfect medium for sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, and other predatory behavior. There’s little-to-no accountability to anyone except God, and I can safely say that he hasn’t been seen in IFB churches in a long, long time. While an IFB pastor is answerable to his church’s membership, practically speaking, unless he steals money from the church, is caught fucking the deacon’s wife in his study, or some other egregious “sin,” he is pretty much safe from being fired. Over time, such men gain more and more power, so much so that it becomes almost impossible for congregants to get rid of them. I have seen church constitutions — often written by the pastors themselves — that require a seventy-five-percent “yes” vote to remove a pastor.

IFB church members are often taught to implicitly trust their pastors and to ignore any rumors they might hear about them. (Please see Sexual Abuse and the Jack Hyles Rule: If You Didn’t See It, It Didn’t Happen.) Rumors swirled around Jack and David Hyles for years, yet because church members were taught (indoctrinated) to “trust and ignore” the Hyleses escaped being held accountable for their abhorrent criminal behavior. Yes, I said “criminal.” It is clear from the latest Fort Worth Star-Telegram report on sexual abuse in IFB churches that David Hyles committed sexual crimes and his father covered them up. This story has been repeated in numerous IFB churches over the years. Don’t think for a moment that the latest report on sexual abuse is new. This kind of behavior has been going on ever since I was a teenager at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio, five decades ago. It was covered up back then and it is covered up today.

Sexual assaults, rapes, predatory behavior, and adultery are covered up way too often in IFB churches. Protecting the “good” name of the church in the community becomes more important than rooting out predatory behavior. Far too often, victims are either not believed or are blamed for what happened to them. IFB pastors are known for their sermons about how women dress, and how inappropriately dressed women are culpable for how poor, hapless, weak Baptist men respond to their carnal display of flesh. Women (and teen girls) are expected to be gatekeepers; to dress and act in ways that keep church men and teen boys from having lustful thoughts about them. When Jack Schaap, the former pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana and Jack Hyles’ son-in-law, was arrested for sexually assaulting a church teenager he was counseling, more than a few Schaap defenders blamed the girl for seducing him. She was called a slut, a whore, a Jezebel. Schaap was viewed as a tired, overworked man of God who was an easy mark. Never mind the fact that Schaap was old enough to be the girl’s father and that he, through letters, cards, and text messages, sexually manipulated this help-seeking, vulnerable, naive girl. His disgraceful fall into sin was all her fault, according to his defenders.

The title of this post asks, What Will the IFB Church Movement Do About Sexual Abuse Allegations? The answer should be clear to all who are reading: NOTHING! As long as IFB churches remain independent and accountable to no one but the silent God, sexual abuse will continue. As long as congregants are taught to revere, fear, and obey their pastors, it is unlikely that predatory IFB preachers will be in danger of exposure or criminal prosecution. As long as IFB preachers continue to promote warped views of human sexuality and sexual accountability, it is doubtful that predators and abusers will be held accountable for their crimes. And as long as churches value their own reputations more than the innocence of their children and the vulnerability of their women, pastors will continue their wicked ways.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Black Collar Crime: Star-Telegram Report Exposes IFB Sexual Abuse Scandals

david hyles

David Hyles, Present Day

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.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram published a four-part investigative report today by Sarah Smith detailing the rampant sexual abuse found in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. I have talked with Sarah Smith several times over the years. I appreciate her dogged and thorough reporting on what many of us gave known for years: the IFB church movement has just as big a problem among its leaders with rape, sexual abuse, and sexual misconduct as does the Roman Catholic Church. Two decades in the making, reckoning day has arrived for IFB churches, pastors, and colleges. I have no doubt Smith’s exposé will be widely reported.

I can’t wait to see how various IFB luminaries respond. According to Smith’s report, thus far her exposé has been met with silence. For those of us raised in the IFB church movement, this comes as no surprise. I hope law enforcement will pay attention to Smith’s report and prosecute these predators to the fullest extent of the law. Sadly, the statute of limitations will likely hinder criminal prosecution of many of the allegations detailed in Smith’s story. Perhaps, then, victims will turn to civil courts to litigate their claims. Nothing like hitting Independent Baptists where it matters: the offering plate.

What follows is an excerpt from Smith’s report. This excerpt details the alleged predatory and criminal behavior by David Hyles. At the end of this excerpt, you will find links to posts I have written about David and his father, the late Jack Hyles — pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana.

Joy Evans Ryder was 15 years old when she says her church youth director pinned her to his office floor and raped her.

“It’s OK. It’s OK,” he told her. “You don’t have to be afraid of anything.”

He straddled her with his knees, and she looked off into the corner, crying and thinking, “This isn’t how my mom said it was supposed to be.”

The youth director, Dave Hyles, was the son of the charismatic pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, considered at the time the flagship for thousands of loosely affiliated independent fundamental Baptist churches and universities.

At least three other teen girls would accuse Hyles of sexual misconduct, but he never faced charges or even sat for a police interview related to the accusations. When he got in trouble, Hyles was able to simply move on, from one church assignment to the next.

….

In Joy Evans Ryder’s mid-1970s church-driven world, skirts had to go past knees, men and women had to be separated by six inches, and a good daughter’s gift to her father was to save her first kiss for the altar.

A father himself, Jack Hyles was nicknamed the “Baptist Pope” for the sway he held over the nationwide independent fundamental Baptist movement from his power base in small-town Indiana.

His son Dave was tall, skinny and already balding by his mid-20s. He had his father’s eyes that pulled down at the corners. No one would have called him traditionally handsome, but he had his father’s ability to make you feel a part of the in-crowd with a compliment or sarcastic joke. And he could just as easily push you out with a cutting insult.

Dave Hyles had taken an interest in Ryder when she was 14, and it scared her.

One Sunday morning after service, she stood in line to speak to Jack Hyles — the most important person in her world — about his son’s repeated calls to her house. The attention made her uncomfortable, she said.

The pastor sat at his desk and took her in for a moment.

“Joy, you’re not special,” he said. “He does that with everyone. So don’t think he’s trying to do anything with you.”

Not long after, she was raped by Dave Hyles. It continued for two years.

Reached by phone, Dave Hyles declined to comment. The Star-Telegram followed up by sending him a list of written questions. He did not respond. Jack Hyles died in 2001.

At 16, Ryder thought about suicide, fearing she might be pregnant with Dave Hyles’ child. She imagined ramming her car into a telephone pole or a tree, killing her and the baby.

She didn’t think about going to police.

“I went to somebody I thought would be my protector,” Ryder said. “Not my dad, because this shows you how we were taught to think about our pastor, Dr. Hyles.”

Dave Hyles had warned her to stay quiet or he’d get her parents fired. Her father was president of Hyles-Anderson College, a school started by and run from First Baptist Church. Her mother was the school’s dean of women.

To her friends, Ryder looked happy. She was popular, secure in her social status, and had a spot in the church school’s coveted choir, called Strength and Beauty. She liked to run off to the mall with friends every chance she got and had her light-brown hair feathered, Farrah Fawcett-style.

But she was also angry and ready to rebel against the system that entrapped her. She sneaked to movies, wore pants and swiped cigarette packs, all verboten in the church.

At 17, Ryder snapped. She called her parents from a payphone at the church school and told them to meet her at home. She told them everything.

The next time she met Hyles, her father would follow.

He drove behind her to a Holiday Inn, and waited in his car as he watched Ryder walk into a first-floor room and shut the door.

“I’m leaving,” Ryder told Hyles.

He asked what she meant.

“I’m leaving,” she repeated. “I told my parents, and my dad is outside.”

Hyles pulled back the curtain and saw her father’s car. She says he shoved her against the wall, his forearm pressed on her throat.

“What have you done to me? You’ve ruined my ministry. How could you do this to me?’”

He let her go and paced the room. Ryder walked out, got in her car and drove home. Her father followed her. He didn’t confront Hyles.

He did, however, go to Jack Hyles, who dismissed the report about his son because Ryder’s father didn’t record Dave Hyles’ license plate number.

Her father dropped the subject.

Ryder’s father, Wendell Evans, wished he could do it over, he said 35 years later in a notarized statement provided to the Star-Telegram, taken because Ryder was seeking evidence to take to the church.

At the time of the abuse, Evans’ career was blossoming in the church. Pushing Hyles, his boss, on the allegations would have been difficult, he said.

“I mean, Hyles and I were still good friends,” he said. “We marveled sometimes that our friendship survived this situation.”

But in an interview with the Star-Telegram, Evans was not so forgiving of Dave Hyles. He regrets not calling the police on him.

“I think it’s remarkable that in 40 years, Dave didn’t find time to ask forgiveness from his victims and their parents,” said Evans, now 83.

It was not the first time Jack Hyles heard allegations against his son, nor would it be the last. One woman alleged Dave Hyles raped her at 14 when she attended the church’s high school, years before Ryder. The woman’s 10th-grade teacher also confronted Jack Hyles about his son, only to be brushed off.

Dave Hyles’ ministry wasn’t ruined. Instead, he got promoted.

A few months after Evans and Jack Hyles spoke about the encounter at the Holiday Inn, Dave Hyles became the pastor at Miller Road Baptist Church in Garland, Texas — the church his father led before moving to Indiana. Jack Hyles would later say he never recommended his son to any church, but deacons and staffers at Miller Road said their search committee called Jack Hyles about Dave. No one heard any warnings.

Two more women would accuse Dave Hyles of molesting them in Texas. One woman, who went to Hyles-Anderson for college, said she tried to tell Jack Hyles what had happened. He told her not to tell anyone else.

Then, she said, he kicked her out of his office.

….

Dave Hyles left victims across the country. They are still in recovery.

In the 1970s and ’80s, with his dad’s church among the biggest in the country, Hyles cut a celebrity-like figure in the movement — and took advantage of it.

Rhonda Cox Lee felt special when Hyles noticed her out of the hundreds of kids who attended his dad’s church.

The first time anything sexual happened, she said, they were in his office. He sat at his desk, she sat across from him on a chair. He walked around the desk and placed her hand on his groin.

“Do you feel that?” he asked.

At first she thought it was some sort of spiritual test. He was a man of God, after all, and even though it felt wrong, he wouldn’t ask her to do anything wrong. Several meetings later, their clothing came off. She was 14. It felt wrong, she said, but she knew it had to be what God wanted.

“He compared himself to David in the Bible and how he was anointed, and said this is what I was supposed to do,” Lee said. “I was supposed to take care of him because he was the man of God.”

Hyles, she said, alternately promised her that they would be together once she turned 18 and warned her not to tell anyone in the church because if she did, the church would split, America would go to hell, and the blood of the unsaved would be on her hands.

Brandy Eckright went to Hyles for counseling at his church in Garland, Texas, when she was 18, after being molested as a child. She said he soon took advantage of her, and they had sex for the first time in 1982.

“Dave, I thought he was a God,” said Eckright, who like Lee had never gone public with her allegations against Hyles. “I thought if I got pregnant by Dave Hyles, it would be like having God’s baby.”

At 54, Eckright can barely talk about what happened. She’s survived three suicide attempts. She works as a cashier and said she can barely hold down the job.

In 1984, Hyles left Miller Road Baptist Church in Garland after a janitor found a briefcase stashed with pornography featuring Hyles and married female members of the congregation, ex-members said. He and his new wife went back to live near First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, and then moved again.

Dave Hyles has managed to stay out of handcuffs.

Today, he runs a ministry for pastors who have fallen into sin, supported by Family Baptist Church in Columbia, Tennessee, pastored by David Baker.

In 2017, Joy Evans Ryder’s brother emailed Baker, outlining Hyles’ alleged crimes against his sister. Baker took five words to reply: “Thank you for your concern.”

Baker, a Hyles-Anderson College graduate and a military veteran, said he thinks Dave Hyles has been unfairly blamed. Hyles, Baker said, is a good man, with a strong marriage who has helped many people through his ministry.

“He’s someone who made mistakes years ago, and through that brokenness and God restoring him, wants to use what he’s been through to help others,” Baker said. “I’m not going to debate anybody about those issues.”

Dave Hyles, with gray hair and a beard, is pictured on his Facebook page in a red polo shirt and square-rimmed glasses similar to the ones his father so iconically wore. He sends posts in his private Facebook group, Fallen in Grace Ministries, contemplating the nature of sin and restoration.

In a September missive forwarded to the Star-Telegram, Hyles wrote that he had enemies, people who harassed him and slandered him. “In fact, I have come to realize that there is nothing we could do to satisfy them. The more we tried the less we would satisfy them,” he wrote. “So, what exactly do they want?”

david hyles greatest men

Jack Hyles, David Hyles, Jim Krall, World’s Greatest Men

UPDATED: Serial Adulterer David Hyles Has Been Restored

Serial Adulterer David Hyles Receives a Warm Longview Baptist Temple Welcome

David Hyles Says My Bad, Jesus

Is All Forgiven for David Hyles?

Disgraced IFB Preacher David Hyles Helping Fallen Pastors Get Back on Their Horses

Sexual Abuse and the Jack Hyles Rule: If You Didn’t See It, It Didn’t Happen

The Legacy of Jack Hyles

The Mesmerizing Appeal of Jack Hyles

The Scandalous Life of Jack Hyles and Why it Still Matters

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.