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Tag: Jack Schaap

What Do Sexual Predators Look Like?

bob gray jacksonville florida preaching against elvis
IFB Pastor Bob Gray preaching against Elvis, 1956. Gray would later be accused of sexual misconduct. Gray was a serial pedophile.

Evangelicals tend to be submissive and trusting of their pastors, believing these men are specially chosen by God to teach them the Bible and lead them in paths of righteousness. Roman Catholics treat their priests similarly. When these pillars of moral virtue behave in ways not expected, Christians have a hard time believing that Pastor or Father __________ would ever sexually abuse children, take sexual advantage of teenagers, or manipulate congregants for sexual gratification. They just KNOW that their trusted leaders would never do such things, and even after these men of God are convicted and sentenced to prison, some Christians continue to believe that their pastors/priests are innocent.

Part of the problem is that pastors and priests don’t resemble what many people expect sexual predators to look like. The late Bob Gray pastored Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida for thirty-eight years. He was, by all accounts, a wonderful example of a Christian man who devotedly and resolutely followed after Jesus. Yet, when Gray died, he was scheduled to be tried on charges of sexually abusing twenty-two children. All told, Gray was an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor for fifty years. His predatory ways can be traced all the way back to his days as a student preacher. Gray was, from the get-go, a rotten apple; yet, for many years, he was a revered man of God who pastored one of the largest church in the country. He didn’t “look” like a predator, and neither do most of the men who prey on naive, innocent, defenseless children, teens, and adults.

There are thousands of Bob Grays pastoring churches — from Catholic parishes to IFB congregations. Sometimes these predators spend their lives in one church, grooming entire generations to accept their predatory ways as normal. Other men move from church to church, ever on the prowl for new victims. Those who blindly trust their pastors risk being taken advantage of. Yes, most pastors are decent, thoughtful human beings, but enough of them are abusers that only the naïve among God’s people would blindly trust these men with their children and teenagers. Numerous times a week, Evangelical preachers, mainline pastors, and Catholic priests are arrested and charged with sex crimes. And so are deacons, Sunday school teachers, worship leaders, youth ministers, Christian school teachers, and church volunteers. Churches are magnets for predators. These perverts know that Christians tend to be trusting of others — ignorantly believing claims of salvation and transformation. Even people who were convicted of sex crimes before they were “born again” are often trusted to be on their best behavior. After all, Jesus forgave them of their sins, shouldn’t Christians do the same? Evangelicals, in particular, love stories about “God” giving people second chances. Years ago, a pastor whom I know well told me that his church didn’t do background checks on workers because their past, no matter how heinous, was “under the blood.” In his mind, the precious blood of Jesus was some sort of magic potion that cured pedophiles and sexual predators.

blood of jesus

Several years ago, the Toledo Blade ran an editorial that asked the question, What do Predators Looks Like? Here’s what the article had to say (behind paywall):

A third Toledo pastor now stands accused as part of a sex-trafficking ring that abused teenage girls. And while the idea of clergy members colluding to exploit vulnerable girls shocks the community, it is worth remembering that human traffickers rarely look like villains out of central casting.

Federal prosecutors have alleged that the Rev. Kenneth Butler, 37, the self-proclaimed prophet affiliated with Kingdom Encounter Family Worship Center, is part of the same human-trafficking conspiracy that allegedly involved the Revs. Cordell Jenkins and Anthony Haynes. Those men were arrested in April and are behind bars awaiting trial on sex trafficking and child pornography charges.

To the community, these men appear to be honorable, religious leaders. Authorities say that appearance is a façade.

Experts say that sexual predators who target children will often seek trusted positions in the community that will allow them access to young people and give parents a false sense of security. They seek jobs as coaches or teachers, clergy or youth leaders.

Evil-doers in the movies often look evil. Evil-doers in real life often work hard to look harmless. They look ordinary. They look trustworthy. They do not look as if they were cast to play the part of a villain.

In recent years, society’s understanding of human trafficking has drastically changed to reflect the scope and prevalence of the problem. This is largely thanks to the work of pioneering researchers, one of the most prominent of whom is Celia Williamson of the University of Toledo.

The nation is only beginning to come to grips with the nature and extent of human trafficking. And it is another Ohioan who has been the leader on this issue in Congress — Rob Portman.

But none of this changes the depth of the damage trafficking can do to one life or one family. And the trafficker may be hidden in plain, respectable, sight.

The pastors referenced in this editorial are three respected Toledo pastors.

Since March 2017, I have published over 900 stories detailing clerical criminal — most often sexual — misconduct.  The total number of criminal preachers is much higher, of course, since some arrests don’t make the news and many predators aren’t caught. Some critics, thinking I have an ax to grind, say that the only reason I highlight these stories is that I hate God/Jesus/Christianity and I want to embarrass the Church. Emails from such people are laden with Bible verses or personal attacks, both meant to silence me. What I find interesting is that these people rarely mention the victims, and when they do, they often attack them, suggesting that the sex was consensual or, as in the case of convicted felon Pastor Jack Schaap, the teenage victim was the one who seduced the adult offender. I suspect people attack me because to do otherwise would expose their culpability in allowing sexual predators to prey on church congregants in plain sight.

People of authority, be they pastors, doctors, lawyers, counselors, or teachers, are often privy to intimate details about the lives of those they serve. This access to the darkest, deepest, most vulnerable parts of our lives makes us easy targets for “servant” predators. In the 1960s, my Evangelical grandfather suggested that my mother see a Christian therapist in Lima, Ohio. According to my grandfather, this psychiatrist was a committed follower of Jesus; a man who would deliver my mom from her psychological demons. Why Mom trusted her father I will never know. After all, when she was a child, he repeatedly sexually molested her. But, trust him she did, and this doctor proceeded to get Mom hooked on powerful narcotic/psychotropic drugs. This Evangelical servant of the Lord, once his female patients were addicted, demanded they provide him sexual favors in trade for the drugs. My mom complied with his demands. Is it any surprise, then, that my mom repeatedly tried to kill herself?

We will never totally put an end to sexual abuse. There will always be men (and, to a lesser degree, women) who sexually take advantage of others. When caught, these perverts should be punished, and anyone who enables their behavior should be punished too. Those whose lives were marred and ruined by sexual abuse deserve compassion and care — not blame and guilt. For churches, in particular, fundamental changes must be made to how pastors and church workers are vetted. As things now stand, Christian sects and churches are viewed as enablers and protectors of “men of God” who sexually abuse and take advantage of congregants. Church leaders whine and complain about being unfairly tarred with a broad brush, but the fact remains is that many sects/churches/pastors remain deliberately deaf, blind, and dumb when it comes to sexual abuse. Until the matter is taken seriously, church leaders might as well get used to being tarred. The damage caused by predator preachers is such that I simply don’t have the time to listen to or worry about hurting the feelings of “offended” church leaders. (Please read How Should Churches Handle Allegations of Abuse?) When my email inbox is filled with mail from abuse victims, it’s hard to give any attention to butt-hurt preachers who think their reputation and the “testimonies” of their churches are being hurt by sexual abuse allegations. All I have to say is this: do better.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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No Matter What God Tells You to Do, Do It!

never question god

And Samuel said (to Saul), Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king. (I Samuel 15:22,23)

 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29)

Like all despots, dictators, and potentates, the Christian God demands his followers implicitly and explicitly obey him. When he says, JUMP, the only proper response is, HOW HIGH? The Christian God has no tolerance for those who dare to disobey him. Doubts, questions, or concerns are not permitted. John Sammis’ nineteenth-century hymn Trust and Obey says: Trust and obey, for there’s no other way To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Those of us raised in Evangelical churches know all about obedience. Obey God. Obey your parents. Obey pastors. Obey adults. Later in life, women are told that not only must they obey God and their pastors, they must also obey their husbands. As with all cults. obedience is the key to a compliant, easily manipulated group. Jim Jones, once an ardent Evangelical, commanded his followers to drink cyanide-laced Kool-Aid, resulting in the death of over 900 people — including 304 children. Evangelical pastors and Catholic priests sodomize, rape, and molest children who have been taught from a young age to implicitly obey them. Trust me, I am a pastor, are words that have caused incalculable harm to young and old alike. Taught to be blindly obedient, these Christian sheep obey the commands of their shepherds. Once robbed of the capacity to think and reason, church members are easy prey for predator pastors and priests.

Of greater concern is the belief that God directly speaks to Evangelicals. Pastors routinely tell congregants that God spoke to them and told them to do ______________.  Church members, supposedly indwelt by the Holy Spirit, believe God directly speaks to them with an inaudible, small voice (I Kings 19:11-13).  According to the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is given to Christians to be their teacher, voice, and guide:

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26)

But when they deliver you (the disciples) up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. (Matthew 10:19,20)

Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. (I Corinthians 2:13)

But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. (I John 2:27)

According as his (God) divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, (2 Peter 1:3a)

Consider, for a moment, that millions and millions of Americans believe that God lives inside of them and directly talks to them. This should scare us, especially considering that many elected government officials think God talks to them. Do we really want a president who hears voices in his head, thinking it is the Christian God telling him what to do? What if God tells him to launch a nuclear strike on China or Russia? Should Christians such as this be anywhere near the nuclear football?

Several years ago, Randall Murphree, editor for the American Family Association Journal, perfectly illustrated the mind-numbing, reason-killing obedience the Christian God expects from his followers. Murphree recently took a trip to Kentucky to see Ken Ham’s monument to ignorance, Ark Encounter. Reflecting on his visit to the Ark Park, Murphree wrote:

 Answers in Genesis (noted for its Creation Museum in northern Kentucky) is building a full-scale replica of Noah’s Ark in Williamstown, Kentucky, about 30 miles south of Cincinnati. I was blessed to tag along a few days ago when AiG hosted a media tour of the Ark under construction. Wow!

We think we can imagine what it would look like, but to walk up to it in real life took my breath away – 510 feet long (more than a football field and a half), 51 feet high (4-5 stories).

AiG cofounder Ken Ham led our tour, taking us through the four levels and to the top deck, explaining how Noah could realistically have cared for two of each kind of animal on the Ark, pointing out interior framework and structure that will house 132 exhibits lining the long walkways, explaining that animals on the Ark itself will be realistic sculptures but a petting zoo will adjoin the Ark property. And there’s so much more to anticipate.

….

As exciting and stimulating as the Ark was, I began to decompress on the long drive home. An unlikely metaphor came to mind – extreme sports, those over-the-top, beyond-reason, insane physical challenges people are tackling these days.

Extreme! Now, Noah was really into the extreme – extreme obedience! I thought. What he did was impossible for man. But God gave him specific directions, and Noah obeyed, giving himself fully to the calling…

….

Unexpectedly I was suddenly doing some real soul searching, taking a little inventory, and considering God’s direction in my life. Sometimes I think He calls me to a task too great. How often have I not been obedient? My little Ark encounter humbles me and challenges to listen more carefully for God’s voice and be ready to demonstrate – as Noah did – extreme obedience.

Murphree says that God demands EXTREME OBEDIENCE! If God tells you to go into the desert and build a huge boat, do it!  If God tells you to murder your only son, do it! If God tells you to move to Africa and be a missionary, do it! If God tells you to give all your money to the church or a TV preacher, do it! If God tells you to pitch a tent in your backyard and fast and pray for 40 days, do it! Whatever it is that God tells you to do, DO IT!  Any doubt or hesitation is a sin, an affront to the God who holds the keys to life and death in his hands.

obey god

Evangelicals are frequently reminded that God only wants what is good/best for them. So whatever God commands, he means it for their good. God is good all the time, all the time God is good say Evangelicals. Since God is the pillar of moral purity and virtue, Evangelicals can trust him when he tells them to do _____________.  According to the Biblical passage mentioned above, God isn’t interested in sacrifice (religious works). All God wants is for those who worship him to obey his commands. And not just the commands found in the Bible. God can, and does, command Evangelicals to do things that seem crazy to unbelievers. Better to be viewed as crazy than disobey God.

Remove religion from this story and hearing voices in one’s head would be viewed as a sign of mental illness. But because it involves religion, we are supposed to uncritically accept that Evangelicals do what they do because God told them to. Having spent most of my adult life in Evangelicalism, I intimately understand the notion that God “talks” to Christians. God talked to me many times, telling me whom to marry, where to live, what churches to pastor, and whether I should buy something or give money to a religious cause. For five decades, I believed God lived inside of me. I believed God and I were the best of buds. I would pray (talk) to God and he would often respond. When I needed to know what to preach or what direction to lead the church, I always asked God to tell me what I should do. And guess what? God, ever the chatterbox, never failed to tell me exactly what he wanted me to do.

I now know, of course, that the voice in my head was my own. The God who was talking to me had red hair and his name was Bruce Gerencser. (Please see A Few Thoughts on a Lifetime of Praying to the Christian God.) No big deal right, right? Who cares if Evangelicals think God talks to them? No harm, no foul, right? I used to think so, but as I continue to write about my past life as a soldier for the Christian God, I now think otherwise. I now see how believing God talked (leading, directing, showing, moving) to me hurt not only me, but my family. Instead of being proactive and acting as a reasonable, rational adult would, I allowed the voice in my head to keep me from acting responsibly. From selling family heirlooms and collectibles so I could use the money to “help” someone, to living in abject poverty so I could “minister” to God’s people, I know firsthand how “listening” to the voice of God can cause untold heartache and loss.

Every month or so, we hear of stories about someone who killed or severely hurt themselves or others, all because God “told” them to do it. Several years ago, a Muslim woman cut the head off a child because Allah told her to do so. I am sure Evangelicals saw this as an example of what happens when someone listens to the wrong God. However, there are plenty of stories about Evangelicals hearing the voice of God and doing things such as drowning their children, gouging out their eyes, cutting off their penis, or making the top 12 on American Idol or The Voice. I put “God told me to do it” in the search box on Huffington Post and it returned stories such as Teacher Says ‘Higher Power’ Told Him To Attack Kid With Skateboard; Mom Allegedly Tries To Drown Son In Puddle Because Jesus Told Her To; Man Allegedly Stabs Grandma, Blames Archangel Michael; Nurse Thinks Grandmother Was Possessed, Beats Her To Death; Jesus And Mary Told Me To Kill Him Because He Is Satan’s Spawn!

hearing gods voice

Jack Schaap, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) megachurch pastor who is now serving a twelve-year federal prison sentence for having an illicit sexual relationship with a minor girl in his church, told his young lover, “This is exactly what Christ desires. He wants to marry us + become eternal lovers!” Countless religious leaders have used similar lines to seduce women. How do we know it wasn’t God telling them to do what they did?  After all, the God of EXTREME OBEDIENCE might ask Evangelicals to do things the unsaved world might not understand. God expected the first woman, Eve, to sleep with her sons and expected Noah’s grandchildren to have sex with their sisters (or mothers). So why is it shocking to hear that sexual predators such as Jack Schaap and other preachers featured in the Black Collar Crime Series prey on young women because God told them to do so?

The belief that God talks to you is a great way to get whatever you want or to justify your behavior. All Evangelicals need to do is say God told me and discussions are over. God is the E.F. Hutton of the universe: When God speaks, everybody listens. His voice must always be obeyed, regardless of how silly, crazy, or irrational his commands sound. While I am sure that Evangelicals will object to my extreme presentation of their beliefs, am I really being extreme, considering that the Bible is littered with stories of people doing irrational/immoral things? If an Evangelical somewhere says that God told him to move to Montana and build a compound in preparation for the end of the world, should any of us think that the man is a nut-job? Isn’t that EXACTLY what Noah did? Isn’t that what Moses did? How about the Mormons, Branch Davidians, Heaven’s Gate, or the people who took over the federal building in Oregon? What about the Evangelicals who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and tried to overthrow the government? All of these people have one thing in common: they believed God told them to do what they did. Either God is schizophrenic or his followers are.

Did you, at one time, believe God talked to you?  Have you ever made an important decision based on God telling you to do something? Please share your story in the comment section. I promise I won’t call the men in white coats to come and get you. 🙂

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

David Tee Defends Christian Rapists and Sexual Predators

david-hyles-new-man

Many Evangelical pastors preach a gospel of mental assent to a set of theological propositions — believe THIS and thou shalt be saved and go to Heaven when you die. Don’t believe THIS and thou shalt go to Hell when you die. Repentance is changing one’s beliefs, which may or may not result in changed conduct. Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor and editor of the Sword of the Lord Curtis Hutson told me in the mid-1980s (after I exposed Hutson’s distortion of John R. Rice’s view on repentance) that Biblical repentance was a “change of mind.” He explained repentance like this: a person was against Jesus and now he’s for him. This change of mind is all that is necessary to become a Christian; and once a person is a Christian, he can never, ever lose his salvation.

The meteoric growth of the IFB church movement in the 1960s-1980s was largely driven by people praying the sinner’s prayer and asking Jesus into their hearts. While new Christians were expected to live according to the Bible’s teachings (as interpreted by their pastors), this was not a requirement for salvation. Hutson told me that I was preaching “works salvation.” Expecting or demanding people to obey the Bible and its teachings was, in his mind, a false gospel.

According to the many IFB preachers, Christians can and do “sin,” but this in no way affects their standing with God. Christians may be backslidden, out of fellowship with God, or living carnal/worldly lives, but they are eternally and forever saved no matter what they say or do. These sinning Christians might be punished by God for their disobedience (I say “might” since is evident, at least to me, that sinning Christians are rarely, if ever, punished/chastised by God) or lose rewards in Heaven after they die (receiving a log cabin next door to Donald Trump instead of a mansion next door to the Apostle Paul), but their eternal destiny is never at risk.

Key to this soteriological system is the belief that any sin committed by a Christian can be forgiven and expunged simply by praying, confessing your sins, and asking Jesus to forgive you. And I mean ANY! No sin is beyond the grace and forgiveness of Jesus. (If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9) And once forgiven, the slate is wiped clean and the sin is remembered no more. If God forgave a person’s sin, then their fellow Christians should do the same. Forgive, forget, and move on. And most of all pretend the “sin” never happened.

“Dr.” David Tee (David Thiessen) is a good example of how this corrupt, bankrupt “gospel” leads to the defense of all sorts of abhorrent (often criminal) behavior. While Tee claims he is not IFB, his soteriology is indistinguishable from that preached by Jack Hyles, Bob Gray, Sr, David Hyles, Jack Schaap, Tom Malone, Bob Gray of Jacksonville, Curtis Hutson, Steven Anderson, evangelist Dennis Corle, Jack Treiber, Paul Chappel, John Wilkerson, and countess other IFB preachers. It is the gospel taught at colleges such as Hyles-Anderson College, Midwestern Baptist College, Pensacola Christian College, Crown College of the Bible, Tennessee Temple (now defunct), Massillon Baptist College, and other IFB institutions. Aspiring preachers are taught that their number one goal is to wins souls to Christ; to entice people into saying the sinner’s prayer. While newly minted Christians are encouraged to get baptized, join a Bible-believing church, read the Bible, pray, and follow the teachings of the Bible, none of these things is required for one to be a Christian. To suggest otherwise is to be accused of preaching “works salvation.” Thus IFB churches often have hundreds and thousands of reported conversions, yet their church attendances grow nominally. Years ago, I added up all the salvation decisions reported by Bob Gray, Sr, and the Longview Baptist Temple. According to their reported numbers, everyone in Longview, Texas is a born-again Christian twice over. First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana saw hundreds of thousands of salvation decisions under the ministries of the late Jack Hyles, convicted felon Jack Schaap, and John Wilkerson. Yet, First Baptist is a shell of the church it once was. I saw this same methodology used while a student at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan, and a member of nearby megachurch, Emmanuel Baptist Church, pastored by Tom Malone. Today, Emmanuel is shuttered and Midwestern is on life support (and may even be closed).

“Dr.” David Tee has never met a Christian sinner he couldn’t defend. In the past, Tee has defended the actions of serial sex abusers Ravi Zacharias and Bill Cosby. Today, Tee took his defenses of Christian rapists and sexual predators one step further by defending ALL Christians who commit such heinous crimes, including Jack Hyles, David Hyles, and Jack Schaap.

Tee stated (my response is indented and italicized):

[No one is perfect]That is a fact that the unbeliever takes delight in repeating to the believer. Over the years we have come across many websites run and owned by unbelievers that take pride in ‘exposing’ the sins of Christians.

One such site is BG’s as the owner there delights in his series that publishes stories about the failings of those who say they believe and follow God. What makes it so tiring and frustrating to read those websites is the lack of forgiveness on the part of those unbelievers.

Tee is, of course, talking about the Black Collar Crime Series — a series detailing criminal behavior by Evangelical preachers and other church leaders. I do not take “delight” in publishing such stories. I do so because these stories are frequently unreported or covered up. I do so because Christians like Tee want these stories buried in the deepest sea never to be remembered again. Tee is the keeper of rug under which the crimes of so-called men of God are swept: rape, murder, sexual assault, robbery, sexual harassment, spousal abuse, all are welcome under “Dr.” Dave’s rug of many sins.

Keep in mind that Tee’s post is in response to my article detailing the immoral behavior and crimes of Jack Hyles, David Hyles, and Jack Schaap; men who committed all sorts of sexual crimes and harmed countless people.

The Christian life is very hard to live even in its basic forms. There is so much temptation to deal with that staying pure and holy is very difficult. But what doesn’t help is having a bunch of unrepentant sinners keep throwing our sins in our faces and acting like they have done some great deed in exposing the sins of Christians.

Tee is fond of saying that it’s hard to “live” the Christian life. This statement portrays a faulty understanding of the Bible. According to the Bible, Christians have no power in and of themselves to “live” the Christian life. When sinners are saved, God, the Holy Spirit, comes inside them to live. The Spirit is their teacher and guide, giving them all they need for life and godliness. Further, Christians have the Bible, the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God. Not only that, Christians have the church, the fellowship of the saints. Yet, according to Tee, having the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the Bible, and the church aren’t enough to keep Christians from sinning in thought, word, and deed.

I find it interesting that Tee thinks I am not a Christian — an unrepentant sinner. I prayed the sinner’s prayer and faithfully followed and served Jesus most of my life. If salvation can’t be lost, then why does Tee say I am not a Christian? If it is a momentary prayer and acceptance of propositional facts that gains one forgiveness of sins and life eternal, why does Tee refuse to accept me (and many of the readers of this blog) as his brother in Christ? I have never committed any of the crimes Tee defends, yet because I no longer “believe” I am not a Christian, undeserving of a place in Heaven after I die.

We do not need these people to do that as the Christian world has its own people who do the very same thing. What are they gaining by exposing these failings?

Most likely, they are trying to find justification for their decision to reject Christ as their savior. or they want to feel better about themselves so they point out the fact that Christians are not better than they are.

Victims deserve to have their stories heard. Thanks to the David Tees of the world, victims are often marginalized and dismissed out of hand. I have yet to see Tee defend and support a victim of sexual abuse. Instead, he defends predators and abusers. And even when he grudgingly admits these criminals “might” have committed crimes, he thinks their crimes should go unreported or covered up.

Further, Tee thinks the reason I publicize criminal behavior by Evangelical preachers is that I want to justify my unbelief. Again, instead of accepting my story at face value, Tee, as he is fond of doing, smears my character and impugns my motives.

The unbeliever misses two key details in their rush to expose the sins of believers and try to knock them down to size. One of these is the fact that Christians never claim to be better than the unbeliever.

The biggest difference between the two people groups is that the believer admits they are sinners and in need of help to live life as they should or as Christ wants. They do not brag that they are better, they just have a tougher, lifestyle to follow.

Christians don’t brag that they are “better” than unbelievers? Jesus, what world is Tee living in? Evangelical Christianity, in particular, breeds certainty, arrogance, and self-righteousness. Evangelical preachers tell sinners that if they get saved they will receive a new life in Christ, all things become new — new thoughts, words, and deeds. Yet, according to Tee, Christians aren’t any better than unsaved people. Dare I ask, then, why anyone would want (or need) to be a Christian.?

….

Also, those websites [such as this one] documenting these failings are not helping to solve this problem. The believer is already aware of the reasons why other Christians fail. Whether those reasons are accepted by the unbelieving world does not matter.

They do not hold the standard to living the Christian life nor do they design the criteria. What they accept or do not accept is immaterial. The Christian has to live the Christian life according to God’s rules and grace.

Most of the “unbelievers” I know live exemplary moral and ethical lives. Tee believes there is an objective standard — the Bible — by which Christians are to live, yet he makes no attempt to live by these “rules.” Would Jesus defend rapists and child abusers? Would Jesus tell lies about people? Would Jesus misrepresent the beliefs of others? Yet, Tee does all of these things, saying that living the Christian life is “hard.” No, really it’s not. I am an atheist. I generally don’t lie, nor do I knowingly misrepresent the beliefs of others. And I most certainly don’t defend (and forgive and forget) the behavior of sexual predators and child molesters.

The Christian did not become a Christian to follow the secular world and Jesus did not call his followers to follow the unbeliever. he called them to follow him.

Then, please do so, David. Follow in the steps of Jesus, keeping his commands. Practice his teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. Show the world that the Holy Spirit lives inside of you by demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit. So far, your behavior on this site (and yours) shows you are no Christian at all. If you had been a member of one of the churches I pastored, you would have been excommunicated. And for the record, I stopped preaching the bankrupt IFB gospel in the late 1980s. I came to believe that true repentance required turning from sin and committing one’s life to Christ. No repentance, no salvation.

This is important as Jesus faced the same issues as every believer does. his world was filled with homosexuals, etc., false teachers, people who quit on their faith, a host of unbelievers, and more.

Yet, the failings of those around him, including his disciples, did not stop Jesus from setting the right example. Since we are to be like Christ, we cannot let the same groups of people keep us from setting the right example.

Yes, that is tough to do especially when people in your own church are living very sinful lives. But it must be done. The bible says to make our own calling and election sure and the way to do that is by following Jesus not those who fail.

Then, instead of knocking the failures down and exposing them to public ridicule, we seek to restore them to the right way to live. Jesus gave us the bible so we would know how to do that.

Ah yes, Christian rapists, sexual predators, and child molesters should be restored. They should be shown the “right” way to live. Instead of purging these people from the church, Tee thinks they just need to repent and be “restored.” Pray tell, how do you “restore” a rapist, child molester, or a man who beats his wife? Imagine a “restored” child abuser teaching your son’s Sunday school class or working in the nursery. Imagine a preacher who was kicked out of his church for sleeping with numerous female church members being hired to be the pastor of your church. All is forgiven, right? David Hyles was repeatedly forgiven. Church after church embraced him as their pastor or church leader, all the while he was taking advantage of vulnerable congregants. Jack Schaap was sentenced to 12 years in prison for having sexual relations with a church teen he was counseling. And when Schapp gets out of prison, Tee will be waiting for him with open arms. Welcome home, Brother. What’s your sermon on this Sunday?

….

We know that we sin all the time and are in no position to stand in judgment of anyone. The unbeliever thinks there is no such thing as sin and evil but they are mistaken. That thought provides them with the excuse they need to list the sins of Christians who have made mistakes.

The unbeliever is in no position to judge anyone, even a sinful Christian. They have rejected the only salvation they have available and are worse sinners than they claim Christians are.

Listen carefully to what Tee is saying: rape, sexual assault, child abuse, spousal abuse are “mistakes.” Not crimes, “mistakes.”

I challenge Tee to a metaphorical dick measuring contest. Let’s compare lives, David. I would love to hear what evidence you have for your claim that atheists, agnostics, and unbelievers are worse “sinners” than Christians; that unbelief leads to “sin.” In fact, Tee can prove his claim by starting a series on his blog titled the Atheist Crime Series, detailing all the crimes committed by atheists and other unbelievers. Sure, it happens, but Christians are no “better” people than non-Christians. In fact, didn’t Tee admit this very point earlier? Now he suggests Christians ARE morally and ethically better than the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the World. Which is it?

While they may get a little fun at poking their finger at Christians who slip up, that fun is temporary and not fulfilling. it also won’t put any healing salve on their minds as they are still unbelievers faced with going to hell.

That must be torment to them as they cannot escape the message of the gospel no matter how hard they make fun of the believer or point out the latter’s sins.

David, repeat after me, there is no Hell, there is no Hell, there is no Hell. Atheists and agnostics don’t fear mythical beings or places. Just because you say something doesn’t make it true.

[sermon on how hard the Christian life is deleted]

Help those believers who fail, do not follow their example, and lead them back to the right way to live. Do not publish their mistakes so the world hears about them. Instead, show the world the right example so that they have no excuse to publish those sins Christians commit.

Tee thinks crimes [mistakes] committed by Evangelical clergy should be covered up. Their crimes shouldn’t be reported in newspapers or publicized on blogs such as this one. I have yet to read a post by Tee showing support for victims of sexual assault or child abuse. Instead, he defends and supports predators and abusers. Forgive them, God does. And then restore them. To the “world” he says, “move on, there’s nothing to see here.”

Sorry, David, as long as I have breath, I intend to keep exposing predator preachers, men of God who use their authority and positions of power to abuse, assault, and take advantage of children and vulnerable church members.

This post will undoubtedly elicit a flurry of responses from Tee. No matter what I say or do, Tee will continue to defend the dregs of Evangelical Christianity, leaving me to wonder why he does so? As a Christian, I was a defender of weak, vulnerable, powerless people. I would never have defended men such as Jack Hyles, David Hyles, or Jack Schaap. I took a vocal stand against the Hyles mafia. Why is Tee unwilling to defend and protect the “least of these”? What, David, would Jesus do if he were alive today? Would he say to you, “good job covering up crimes committed by notable Evangelical preachers?” I doubt it. I suspect, according to Matthew 25, Jesus would cast you into everlasting darkness. Come to the light, David. Stand with vulnerable men, women, and children. They deserve your support, not your condemnation.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

The Legacy of IFB Pastor Jack Hyles

Jack Hyles Through the Years

Members of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, and people closely associated with Hyles-Anderson College and Pastor Jack Schaap, were astonished at the firing of  Schaap for having sex with a teenager he was counseling, and his later criminal conviction in March 2013. Evidently, these people have a short memory or live in denial. First Baptist has a long history of pastors and other church leaders getting themselves in trouble with the fairer sex. (Please read Chicago Magazine feature story on First Baptist and their sordid history.)

Jack Schaap’s father-in-law, Jack Hyles, had a long-running illicit sexual relationship with his secretary. The evidence against Hyles was overwhelming, yet the church rejected this evidence and Jack Hyles continued to pastor the church until his death in 2001. (Please read The Biblical Evangelist’s report on Jack Hyles)

David Hyles, the son of Jack Hyles and youth pastor of First Baptist Church, had numerous sexual relationships with women in the church. The church quietly sent him away to pastor another church, not telling the new congregation about his sexual proclivities, and he continued to have numerous sexual relationships with women in the new church.

Many people praised the church for publicly exposing Jack Schaap’s “sin.” This is the same church that ignored Jack Hyles’ “sin,” covered up David Hyles’ “sin,” and whitewashed numerous other scandals in the church and college. So forgive me if I don’t think they are acting “better” than the Catholic Church (as one commenter said).

The people of First Baptist Church were taught by Hyles and Schaap that if they didn’t see something it didn’t happen. (Please see Sexual Abuse and the Jack Hyles Rule: If You Didn’t See It, It Didn’t Happen.) They were taught that unless an allegation could be confirmed by two or more witnesses (Matthew 18) they were not to believe it. This kind of thinking resulted in a culture where “sin” was ignored or swept under the proverbial rug — a rug that is so high now that you have to walk up a ten-foot hill to get into the church.

In general, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement abhors scandal and its members do everything they can to cover it up. More important than the sin itself or the victims is the church’s “testimony.” The church’s testimony must be protected at all costs, even if a pedophile in their midst is ignored, as was the case with Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida and its pastor Bob Gray.

For First Baptist Church of Hammond to out Jack Schaap, they had to have been backed into a corner without the option of covering it up or quietly making the “problem” go away. Calling in attorney David Gibbs to “manage” the crisis speaks volumes about the depth of the scandal. Gibbs is considered a “fixer” in the IFB church movement.

The root of the Jack Schaap scandal is found in the ministry, teaching, and doctrine of his predecessor, Jack Hyles. The remainder of this post will focus on him. It is impossible to understand the Jack Schaap story without first looking at Jack Hyles’ forty-two year ministry at First Baptist Church of Hammond (a church that was an American Baptist Church until Hyles pulled it out of the Convention a few years after he arrived there in 1959).

In its heyday, First Baptist Church was the largest church in the United States (and at times, claimed to be the largest church in the world). The church was built around two things: the bus ministry and Jack Hyles.

In 1973, First Baptist saw attendances exceeding 25,000 people. At the center of this huge church was its pastor, Jack Hyles. In the late 1960s and 1970s, Jack Hyles was, as many of us described, the pope of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement. He authored numerous books with titles such as Let’s Go Soul Winning, Let’s Build an Evangelistic Church, Enemies of Soul Winning, The Hyles Church Manual, How to Rear Infants, How to Rear Children, How to Rear Teenagers, Satan’s Bid for Your Child, Marriage is a Commitment, Woman the Completer, and Blue Denim and Lace.

jack hyles 1973
Jack Hyles, 1973

There is a hard-and-fast rule in the IFB movement: the greater the church attendance, the more authority the pastor is granted and the more weight his words carry. I heard countless big-name IFB pastors say, “until you have as many eggs in your basket as I do, you have no right to criticize me.” Pastors with small churches were looked down on and were expected to shut up and learn from those whose baskets were overflowing with eggs.

From 1976 to 1989, I heard Jack Hyles preach numerous times. I traveled to a number of Sword of the Lord conferences, often taking with me people from the churches I pastored. Hyles was a dynamic preacher, a real motivator. He used very little of the Bible in his preaching. His sermons were always topical or textual and were littered with personal stories and illustrations. Hyles was a narcissist. Most of his stories and illustrations were about his own personal life and exploits. His stories about him and his mother are legendary.

Over time, as I became more and more dissatisfied with the IFB church movement, I paid closer attention to the substance of Hyles’ sermons. In particular, I focused on the stories Hyles told. I came to the conclusion that Hyles was a narcissistic liar.

Hyles would often talk about how important and busy he was. In several sermons, he talked about how many people he counseled every week. I sat down and did the math and I concluded it was physically impossible for Hyles to have counseled as many people each week as he claimed.

Hyles was a ruthless man. I watched him, during Q and A time, at a conference at the Newark Baptist Temple,  dress down and belittle pastors for asking the “wrong” questions. He refused to allow anyone to challenge his authority as the king of the IFB hill.

To understand the scandals at First Baptist Church in Hammond, we must understand the gospel that has been preached at First Baptist for over 50 years. It is the same gospel that is/was preached by men like Bob Gray of Texas, Bob Gray of Jacksonville, Curtis Hutson, Dennis Corle, Tom Malone, and thousands of other IFB pastors.

Jack Hyles preached a bastardized version of the Christian gospel. The Hyles gospel has been labeled as decisional regeneration or one, two, three, repeat after me. (Please see One, Two, Three, Repeat After Me: Salvation Bob Gray Style.) I used to label the methodology of the IFB church movement this way:

  • win them
  • wet them
  • work them
  • waste them

(Please see IFB Church Movement: Win Them, Wet Them, Work Them, Waste Them.)

lets go soulwinning
Jack Hyles, Let’s Go Soulwinning

The only thing that mattered was winning souls. IFB Evangelist Dennis Corle told me one time that I should spend more time soul winning and less time studying in preparation to preach on Sunday. All that mattered to him was the number of souls saved.

In the IFB church, the key to church growth is to keep more people coming in the front door than are going out the back. IFB churches are notorious for membership churn — especially when a pastor leaves and a new one comes in.

The Hyles gospel focused on praying the sinner’s prayer. (Please see The Top Five Reasons People Say the Sinner’s Prayer.) Pray this prayer and you are saved. Good works? They were desired and even expected, but if saved people never exhibited any change in their lives they were still considered “saved.” This gospel is prominently on display in the preaching of David Anderson and the writing of “Dr.” David Tee. (Please see Understanding Steven Anderson, Pastor Faithful Word Baptist Church, Tempe, Arizona.)

If a pastor dared suggest that new life in Christ meant a change in conduct, they were accused of preaching “works salvation” (the Lordship Salvation controversy). According to the Hyles gospel, it was all about praying the prayer, and once a person prayed the prayer they could NEVER, EVER be lost again. This is why some people insist that I am still saved, even if I don’t want to be. Once God has you he never lets go.

The Hyles gospel filled churches with people who had made a mental assent to a set of propositional beliefs. Every year, churches like First Baptist Church in Hammond and Longview Baptist Temple report thousands of people being saved. Most of these new converts stop attending after a short while, but this is of no consequence. They prayed the “prayer.” On to the next sinner in need of saving.

The IFB church movement is centered on men. Most IFB churches are pastored by one man who has total control of the church. Most IFB churches are congregational in name only, with the pastor being the autocratic king of the church.

david hyles greatest men
Jack Hyles, David Hyles, Jim Krall, World’s Greatest Men

Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap, and countless other big-name IFB traveling preachers routinely promote the notion of pastoral authority. The pastor, under the authority of Jesus and powered by the Holy Spirit, is the final authority in the church. He is the hub around which everything turns.

IFB churches are not known for their names, but for who their pastors are. IFB church members routinely say, when asked about what church they attend, say: I go to Pastor So-and So’s church.

In a post titled The Cult of Personality, I wrote:

Churches aren’t known for what they believe or even the works they do. They are known for who their pastor is. When asked where he goes to Church, a Christian will often say “I go to Pastor Smith’s Church.”

The focus of everything is on the pastor. He is the mover and shaker. He is what powers the machine. Without him it all fails.

Christian TV, radio and publishing is all about the personalities within the Church. Name recognition is the name of the game.

Does anyone really believe Rod Parsley is a good writer? Yet, his books sell. Why? Name recognition.

Everything is focused on and culminates with the sermon and the preacher.

I had people drive 40 minutes to the  church I pastored in SE Ohio. They loved my preaching. They thought I was the greatest preacher since the last guy they thought was wonderful. Really? As much as I think that I am a pretty good public speaker, they had to drive past 40  churches to get to the  church I pastored. Not one of those  churches had a preacher that could preach competently? ( Well maybe not, after hearing more than a few preachers.)

What happens when the pastor leaves the  church? What happens when the personalities change, when a new preacher takes over? Strife. Division. People leave the church. Why? Because church became about the preacher rather than about Jesus and serving others.

Why is it the pastor’s name is on everything? The sign out front. The bulletin . Every piece of literature the church produces. If it is really is all about Jesus then why does it matter if anyone knows the pastor’s name?

Ah, but it does matter. Many Evangelical Christians are good capitalists (serving a socialist Jesus). They are consumers first and Christians second.  They know people are “attracted” (the attractional method) to the church by the pastor, the programs, the building, etc.

They know the pastor becomes the face of their church. It shouldn’t be this way, but it is, and quite frankly, it is the church itself that must bear the blame for this.

The church members revel in the cult of personality. They love having a name- brand preacher. They watch Christian TV and listen to Christian radio because Pastor/Rev/Dr/Evangelist/Bishop/Apostle so-and-so is on. Take away the names and it becomes as interesting as eating a no-name hamburger at a no-name restaurant surrounded by no-name people . . .

Is it any wonder IFB pastors and churches have the scandals they do? Members are taught to obey their pastor without question. He is the man of God. If he is doing something wrong, God will chastise him. This kind of thinking allows IFB pastors to commit adultery, molest children, and steal from the church without anyone ever knowing about it. I could spend days writing about IFB pastors who have abused their place of authority and committed heinous acts against the people they pastored. (Please see the Black Collar Crime series.)

IFB churches think they are above the world and other churches because of what they believe. They are “Bible believers” and their pastors preach hard against “sin.” Because of this, they have a hard time believing that their pastors or famous preachers could ever commit crimes like Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap, David Hyles, and Bob Gray did.

Bob Gray, pastor emeritus of Longview Baptist Temple had this to say on this blog about the Schaap scandal (I was unable to find the post on Gray’s blog):

May I present the practical side?  There exists more molestation cases proportionately reported in the 42,000 churches of the Southern Baptist Convention than in the 22,000 independent Baptist churches.  Consider the largest denomination in our nation, the Catholic Church, and then think on their sexual transgressions for a while.  This is not to take lightly one person who is violated by a leader in a church.

Look carefully at the argument Gray is making here. The Southern Baptists and the Catholics are worse than we are! Praise Jesus! Such thinking should sicken all of us.

Here is what I know about the IFB church movement. They will wail and moan for a while, but, in a few weeks or months, the scandal will pass, and they will go back to “winning souls” and “preaching hard against sin.” It is only a matter of time before a-n-o-t-h-e-r scandal rocks their churches. Until the IFB church movement repudiates its corruption of the Christian gospel and changes how their churches are governed, there is no hope of meaningful change.

Change is not likely to come because of their literalism, and their belief in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. Armed with certainty, knowing they are right, they will continue to preach a corrupted gospel and allow narcissistic pastors to rule over them.

Posts on Jack Hyles

Posts on David Hyles

Posts on Jack Schaap

Posts on Bob Gray, Sr.

Posts on the IFB Church Movement

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

God Forgives and Forgets and So Should We, Says IFB Christian

david-hyles-new-man

Today, Constance, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) Christian, left the following comment on a 2020 post about serial adulterer David Hyles’ latest sex scandal:

Hello, what God forgives of the past, and looks to what a man is in the present. I have enjoyed Dr. Jack Hyles sermon, “Being Thirsty.” It would be great to hear today, preachers like him. I think he died. That was from the CD collection of “Fundamental Voices.”

Over the past thirteen years, I have received numerous comments and emails from IFB Christians preaching the same perverse gospel of “forgiveness” as Constance does in her comment. In their minds, salvation and subsequent cleansing from sin are transactional — a simple prayer away. After all, the Bible says in 1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. All David Hyles, Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap, and every other miscreant needs to do is “confess” their sins — “I messed up Jesus, my bad” — and really, really, really, really mean it, and Jesus, through his magic blood will forgive them of their sins and cleanse them from ALL unrighteousness. By uttering the right words, their slates are instantaneously wiped clean; their sins are remembered by God no more. And if God has forgiven and forgets, so should we.

People not immersed in the practices of the IFB church movement know that this sin-repent-forgiveness process enables depraved, perverted behavior. If all one needs to do is pray-away-the-crime, there’s no motivation to change their ways. Over the twenty-five years I spent pastoring Evangelical churches, I witnessed countless followers of Jesus come to the altar, confess their sins with wailing and gnashing of teeth, and find cleansing from sinful and, at times, criminal behavior. Come Monday or maybe Wednesday, these same people returned as a pig to the mire, committing the same or similar sins, only to find themselves at the church altar again the next Sunday. Wash-rinse-repeat.

While I didn’t lower myself to join the penitent at the mourner’s bench, I did practice 1 John 1:9 every time I preached. It was my custom to say a silent prayer to God before entering the pulpit, asking him to cleanse me from all my sin, both acts of omission and commission. I wanted to be pure, holy, and right with God before I stood in front of my congregation to preach the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ. No matter what I had done the night before or even that morning, I knew that I had to have a clean sin slate if I expected God to use me to save souls and advance his kingdom.

According to Constance, no “sin” is unforgivable. David Hyles’ alleged crimes and sexual escapades are well known, yet Constance believes that as long as Hyles has said “my bad” he should keep on doing God’s work. Hyles doesn’t believe in restitution, nor does he think he owes anyone an apology. God has forgiven him, and that’s all that matters.

Several years ago, Hyles posted on Facebook:

Some would have us confess our sins endlessly. Instead we should confess them but once and then give thanks for His forgiveness endlessly.

I wrote at the time:

David Hyles believes if he says “my bad” to Jesus, that all is forgiven. No need to make restitution or publicly account for his vile behavior. I talked to God, Hyles thinks, and he said, Hey David, you are my son, I forgive you, end of discussion! Hyles wrongly thinks that his “sin” is between him and God. People such as myself — an atheist to boot — have no right to poke our noses into his sex life — past or present. Ironically, David Hyles supports attempts to legislate private sexual behavior between consenting adults. If Hyles supports government and religious intrusion into the sexual affairs of Americans, shouldn’t his sexual behavior be fair game — especially those acts that were criminal in nature? For Hyles, the blood of Jesus, applied in 1 John 1:9 fashion: if we confess our sins, he [God] is faithful and just to cleanse us from sin and ALL UNRIGHTEOUSNESS, is his get-out-of-jail-free card. Pray, confess, and God wipes his slate clean. A sweet deal, I’d say. One that allows people to commit horrific acts and have them erased by saying a bit of religious mumbo jumbo.

….

It should come as no surprise, then, that the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement is rife with sexual abuse problems. I know of one church where a man was caught TWICE having inappropriate sexual relationships with minor boys, yet today he is faithfully serving Jesus in an IFB church. Evidently, IFB men are free to stick their dicks wherever they want, knowing that God will forgive such sins and wipe slates clean. Never mind the fact that these predators often continue to prey on unsuspecting people, no matter how many times their records are washed clean by Jesus.

Constance is a product of Fundamentalist indoctrination, a believer in grace and forgiveness while enabling child abusers, sexual predators, and all-around bad people. She fails to understand that abusers and predators don’t stop until they are caught and made to stop. God might forgive them, but here on planet earth, we have a duty and obligation to hold child molesters, rapists, and sexual predators accountable for their crimes. Further, it is in the best interest of churches to NOT employ pastors who sleep with congregants or psychologically manipulate vulnerable church teenagers so they can have sex with them. These things seem so fucking obvious to me, yet Constance believes that if God has forgiven an errant preacher, so should she. Preach the Word, brother! Stay Thirsty!

Other posts about David Hyles

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

The Gods Have Clay Feet: A Few Thoughts About Evangelical Pastors

pastors gods with feet of clay

The Evangelical Christian church has many gods. While Evangelicals will profess to worship the true and living God — the God of the Bible — often their true object of worship is human and not divine. Most Evangelical churches have a congregational form of church government. Some churches have adopted an elder rule form of government. Regardless of what form of government a church adopts, there can be no doubt about who really runs the church. The CEO, the boss man, the head honcho is the pastor — also known as the senior pastor, executive pastor, and prophet, priest and king.

The pastor is the hub upon which the wheel of the church turns. He (there are very few she’s) is the man who runs the show. He sets the course for the church. He is a modern-day Moses leading the church to the Promised Land. He is the visionary with a vision that the church is expected to follow. He is, after all, the man of God. He is divinely called by God, a call that cannot be explained with human words. He is the man of God, given a message by God, to speak to the people of God.

He is a man not to be trifled with. He has been anointed by God. He has been set apart by God to do the most important work in the world. His calling is higher than even that of the President of the United States. The congregation is reminded that the Bible says “touch not mine anointed.” They are also told the story about the Elisha, the mocking boys, and the bears:

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

You have been warned, says God’s man. Say anything negative about the pastor and you run the risk of bears eating you; or cancer, heart attack, accident, or death.

The pastor is the Lone Ranger’s Tonto. He is the Green Hornet’s Bruce. He is Batman’s Robin. God and the pastor are joined at the hip. After all, the pastor has a divine calling; a calling that can’t be explained or revoked. In fact, the only way anyone knows for sure a pastor is God-called is because he says he is.

Most Evangelical churches are independent. Even those who belong to denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention are independent. Each church is a local, autonomous entity, accountable to no one but themselves. The Southern Baptist Convention has a HUGE sex abuse problem, yet little is done by the Convention because each church governs itself. The convention has no power over churches or pastors, or so they conveniently claim.

Since most Evangelical churches are independent, there are few, if any, standards or requirements for starting a church. Anyone can start a church. Anyone can claim to be a pastor. Anyone, Anyone, Anyone. In most states, there are no legal requirements for starting a church. The Federal government, by default, treats churches as exempt from taxation. By default, they receive most of the benefits of 501(c)(3) status without actually applying for it. Starting a church is a con artist’s dream. Just tune into a Christian TV channel for proof of this. There are no educational requirements; no ordination requirements. Anyone can become a pastor. It really is that easy. (Please see What is a Church According to the IRS) and You Can do It: How to Start an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church.)

In charismatic/Pentecostal circles, some pastors have added titles to their name. Not content to be called pastor, they demand that they be called bishop or apostle. Several apostles have set up shop right here in the county I live in. Once again, a man is an apostle or bishop because he says he is. God has imparted to the man a special anointing, a special dose of Holy G-h-o-s-t power that raises the man to a higher level in the church. Or so he says.

Now let me try to tie all this together. I am writing under the anointing right now, so it is hard to put this all together for you common folks. But I will try.

We have independent churches with independent pastors without any checks or balances. A man can start a church whenever and wherever. The church becomes his church, the religious equivalent of a corporation. The pastor is considered divinely called by God because he says he is. How dare anyone question GOD!

This type of religion flourishes in America. We are a people who applaud the entrepreneurial spirit. Starting a church is akin to starting a business. We worship personalities: entertainers, sports figures, preachers, playmate of the month, et al. We are a lazy people, content to let others think for us.

So what do we have? Churches operated by entrepreneurial pastors. These churches are often filled with people who love to worship personalities, and in this case the personality is the pastor. Content to let the pastor think for them, run the show, and speak to them on God’s behalf, many Christians have surrendered their autonomy for a seat at the feet of the most awesome, most handsome pastor in town. And man, does he have a hot wife!

The pastor, then, becomes a god. He is given so much control and power that it is almost impossible to unseat god when the church finds out the pastor has feet of clay. I said almost… Daily news reports of pastors committing crimes, seducing church members, sexually abusing children, and stealing money are too common to be just aberrations. I could write for hours about pastors I know who have scandalous pasts, yet they are still pastors. They just moved down the road and started a new church or they stood their ground and ran off their accusers. (Please see the Black Collar Crime Series.)

In the 1980s Jack Hyles, at the time pastor of the largest church in the United States, was accused of sexual improprieties with a married woman in his church. The evidence against him was overwhelming. Yet, he successfully withstood his accusers, and when he died two decades later he was still pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana. The church that Jack built lost thousands of members, but he remained god until he went the way of all humans. (Please see The Legacy of Jack Hyles.)

Jack Hyles’ son David was also accused of sexual improprieties. He left First Baptist and moved on to another church in Texas — a church his father previously pastored. Not one word of his past peccadilloes was shared with the new church. David Hyles continued his sexual exploits and conquests. He had sex with women in the church and was only exposed after compromising photos were accidentally found by someone in the church.

After Jack Hyles died, his son-in-law, Jack Schaap became the Pastor CEO of  Hyles Industries. Like his father-in-law and brother-in-law, Schaap had a problem with fidelity. Schaap was accused of having sex with a church teenager. He was later convicted, and is now serving a twelve-year sentence in a federal penitentiary.

Aberration? Hardly. In many churches, the pastors have incredible power and control. They become gods. The pastor does the preaching, does the counseling, and is the chairman of the board. Everything goes through him. In some churches, the pastor even checks the tithing records to see who is giving and how much they are giving. One pastor I know well was told by the church treasurer that many of the Christian school teachers were not tithing. The next Sunday he publicly berated the teachers and told them that he was going to have their tithes taken out as a payroll deduction if they didn’t start tithing. Never mind the fact the church paid the teachers poverty wages, and if they tithed, they would be well BELOW the poverty line. I know this to be true because my wife worked for the school in the 1980s (this was back in the day when the church paid male teachers more than female teachers).

One pastor here in northwest Ohio decided one Sunday to preach against the evils of attending the prom. When it came time to preach, he instructed the ushers to lock the sanctuary doors so no one could leave. Everyone was going to hear what he had to say. This same pastor had the deacons secretly follow church members to see what they were up to. Young couples considering having children were encouraged (required?) to counsel with the pastor first before engaging in procreation.

Another pastor in Columbus, Ohio had a portrait of him and his wife hung over the water fountain in the church foyer. He joked “that way every time someone gets a drink they have to bow to me.” Funny? Not when you consider the horrific mental and emotional damage caused by these megalomaniacs.

Children who grow up in Evangelical churches are conditioned to accept that the pastor is the final authority. Even in matters of faith, the Bible is not the final authority, the pastor’s interpretation of the Bible is. The church believes whatever the pastor says the church believes. If he started the church, he likely wrote the church’s doctrinal statement, constitution, and bylaws. He determines what is truth and what is error. Remember he is God-called; God speaks through him. End of discussion.

It should come as no surprise, then, that some men aspire to be pastors for reasons other than serving others. It’s the perfect job. No one to answer to but God, and he seems to never have anything to say. Conscientious, faithful men do wonderful work, loving and serving the church; however, far too many men are corrupted by the power they are given. Some men have ulterior motives, and the pastorate becomes a safe place to hide. I know of men who had irregularities in their past and the pastorate allowed them to keep from being held accountable for their past deeds.

One pastor in Columbus had no social security number. He had not filed an income tax return in years. His church paid him in cash. When the IRS changed reporting requirements, requiring evangelists and special speakers to be given 1099s if paid over a certain amount, some churches began giving evangelists and special speakers (pastors) cash offerings. Many a pastor has received a brown-bag offering. Evangelical preachers have incredible, and quite legal, ways to avoid paying income tax. Some incorporate as a charity or a ministry. The ministry has a “board” that is made up of the pastor’s family or friends. By incorporating, they avail themselves of the tax benefits that corporations receive. Pastors buy cars, trucks, travel trailers, and houses and put them in the church’s name. They receive a tax-free housing allowance. Many pastors have little taxable income, even though they live quite comfortably. It is a great gig if you can get it.

One day, the inevitable happens. The pastor — the god — falls from his exalted throne. Over time, people become disillusioned with the pastor. They take issue with his preaching, his vision, his wife, his children, his theology, his suit, his hairstyle, his entertainments, etc. People tire of pastors just like they do the other gods they worship. Perhaps he commits a grievous sin. He has an affair, steals money from the church, or embraces a teaching that the power brokers in the church consider heresy; heresy being anything they disagree with.

All of a sudden, the church remembers that IT has power. Members recall they can take down their god and vote him out of the church. And so they do . . . The god may fight to keep his power, to keep his throne, but most often he negotiates a settlement package, the conditions of surrender, and moves on to another church. The church promises to never let another pastor have the power that he had.

But then a new god comes to the church. A new vision, a new inside track with God. He is a wonderful preacher. His wife and kids are adorable. He is given the reins of the church and once again a pastor is restored to the throne. And so it goes . . .

In no way do I wish to disparage good men and women who conscientiously serve their churches; people who sacrifice and work selflessly day in day out. But they, most of all, should know that what I write is true. The American Evangelical church is overrun with power-hungry, ambitious men who have an eye on their own kingdom and not God’s. They are the god of the church, not the God they preach about. Sadly it seems, in many cases, this is exactly what the church wants.

While I no longer believe in the Christian God, I did spend 50 years in the church. For many of those years, I was on the inside, knowing its secrets, knowing who did what and where the bodies are buried. I know whereof I speak.  I know what I have seen and what I have done myself in the name of God. I know too much and I have seen too much for it to be anecdotal or coincidental.

I am not sure I have any answers. We can’t look to the structured denominational churches for answers.  They too have their own power-hungry gods. They too have scandals, as is clear for all to see with the scandal-ridden Catholic church. It is hard not to at least question whether the Christian church is hopelessly corrupt. Regardless of the good men and women who serve selflessly, perhaps the church is irreparably broken.

Some people, realizing this, start new movements, but, over time, they most often become just like what they opposed and despised. They organize, men gain power, and over time there are new gods to worship. Perhaps the best we can hope for is individuals who take the ethical and moral teachings of Christ seriously and live accordingly. They steer clear of organized religion. They seek no place of power or authority. They seek only to love God and love their neighbor.

I am convinced that Jesus, real or not, has been lost in the mire and corruption of the modern Christian church. I have little confidence that he can be found. He has been swallowed by a Leviathan called Christianity, and if Jesus appeared today, he would most likely be nailed to a cross by those who say they worship him.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Is IFB Preacher Jack Schaap a “Model” Prisoner?

jack schaap 2

In 2012, Jack Schaap, the son-in-law of Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) demigod Jack Hyles, was fired from his job as pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana. Schaap was accused of having an illicit sexual relationship with a teenage church girl he was counseling. Schaap later pleaded guilty, admitting “he had sex with the girl, the girl was under his care or supervision, and he used a computer to persuade the girl to have sex with him illegally.”

Schaap was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison.

In 2014 Schaap’s lawyers asked the U.S. District Court to vacate his 12-year prison sentence. Why? His lawyers argued that his sentence should be mitigated because the girl he victimized was “aggressive” and had prior sexual experience. In other words, it was her fault that Schaap was a pathetic, weak man who took sexual advantage of a teen girl with whom he had a professional pastoral relationship. His lawyers also argued that Schaap received ineffective counsel during plea agreement and sentencing proceedings. His request was denied.

Earlier this month, Schaap petitioned the court for early release on compassionate grounds, citing the poor health of his elderly parents and sister as justification for his release.

According to Schaap, he has been a “model” prisoner.

The Chicago Tribune reports:

Schaap has worked toward being “a model prisoner,” with an “excellent work record with my prison bosses,” he wrote. Schaap also said he is in a vocational apprenticeship sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor.

For several months last year, Schaap wrote he was able to serve as chaplain “preaching in chapel and conducting the communion service for the Protestant inmates” when the prison didn’t have a chaplain.

He also teaches a business plan workshop class and Bible classes in the chapel, Schaap wrote.

“Throughout my time here I have counseled men who had no place to go upon release and have helped get them connected to church-sponsored missions and other alternate care places throughout the country,” Schaap wrote.

In a post earlier this month titled IFB Pastor Jack Schaap Asks for Release from Federal Prison, Says He’s A Good Boy Now, I wrote:

In other words, Schaap is using the “good boy” argument, revealing he has continued to act like an IFB preacher while imprisoned. Years ago, I said when Schaap is released from prison, he will find some way to re-enter the ministry. The calling of God is irrevocable, the Bible says, and I have no doubt that Schaap still views himself as a man of God who just had a little David and Bathsheba bump in the road. Asked about his plans if released — besides caring for his sick sister and elderly parents — Schaap plans to “work to empower missionaries around the world, establish independent missionary schools to train the nationals, and help to establish churches.” I suspect he is presently working with some IFB preachers and fan boys to make this happen.

Remember, in the IFB world, all that’s necessary to wipe the sin slate clean and get a brand-new start is to pray to Jesus and ask for forgiveness. (1 John 1:9) (Please see David Hyles Says, “My Bad, Jesus”.) Schaap will have plentiful opportunities to preach and evangelize once released from prison. He will likely follow in the footsteps of his brother-in-law, David Hyles, believing that no sin is beyond the grace and forgiveness of God; that no one dare suggest that he is no longer qualified for the ministry.

Thanks to a post by former Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) devotee Eric Skwarczynski, we now know that Schaap has been anything but a model prisoner.

In a document asking for Schaap’s compassionate release request to be denied, U.S. Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch II wrote:

“Defendant describes in detail the health challenges his parents are facing. Id. at 1. The government verified the accuracy of those claims by speaking directly with Defendant’s mother, who explained that although she and her husband have the means to move to an assisted living facility, she strongly prefers to remain at her home and hopes to be cared for by Defendant. Defendant makes additional claims in his motion, however, that the government does dispute. He claims he asked for a pre-indictment plea to “show [he] accepted full responsibility and to avoid a lengthy trial period which [he] felt would be detrimental to [his] congregation and to prevent any other staff personnel from being indicted.” Id. That statement is inaccurate in two respects. Defendant did not ask for a plea; rather, the government offered him a pre-indictment and he signed it after sitting through a presentation of the government’s overwhelming evidence of his guilt. Second, contrary to Defendant’s claim, there was never any chance that a member of his staff would be indicted. Although a staff member did drive the victim across state lines at Defendant’s request, that individual had no idea that he intended to engage in illicit sexual conduct with the girl once out of state. Accordingly, the staff member did not engage in criminal conduct of any kind. Similarly unconvincing is Defendant’s claim that he “did not know [he] was violating the law” at the time. Id. If that were true, why arrange for someone else to drive the victim across state lines? And why download a program specifically designed to delete photographs and then use it to destroy pictures of his sexual encounters with the victim? Further, it appears doubtful, given his failure to mention the victim in his motion and his attempt to USDC IN/ND case 2:12-cr-00131-TLS-PRC document 75 filed 06/19/20 page 6 of 13 7 blame the victim in his post-conviction petition, that Defendant truly does “realize the seriousness of [his] crime and accept[] responsibility for it,” as he now claims. Id. Finally, the government obtained evidence from the BOP that tends to refute Defendant’s claim that he has “strived to be a model prisoner” while incarcerated. See Exhibit 1, filed herewith. In 2013 – the year after he was sentenced by Judge Lozano – Defendant admitted putting his “hand under [the] jacket and in the crotch area of a female visitor,” for which he was disciplined. Id. And a year later, Defendant admitted “writing [a] letter and mailing [it] out of [the] facility [where he was housed] to be mailed back in.” Id. Interestingly, when confronted about this latter violation, Defendant “denied knowing it was not allowed” (id.) – much like he now claims that he “did not know [he] was violating the law” by arranging for someone else to transport a minor to Michigan and Illinois so he could have sex with her.”

You can view Schaap’s prison disciplinary record here.

As readers can clearly see, Schaap is not only a liar, but he refuses to accept responsibility for his behavior. Schaap thinks that saying, “I didn’t know” is a credible defense for his lawbreaking. At an early age, I was taught (and later taught my children) that “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” Schaap has a habit of claiming ignorance when he finds himself accused of criminal behavior or violating prison rules.

In his latest attempt to get out of jail, Schaap (speaking of his sexual assault of a 16-year-old church girl he was counseling) stated:

Although there were extenuating circumstances and I did not know I was violating the law, the fact is I did violate the letter of the law and I did plead guilty. I realize the seriousness of the crime and accepted responsibility for it.

” I did not know I was violating the law,” and “I did violate the letter of the law,” Schaap said.

In the aforementioned post I wrote earlier this month, I said:

What extenuating circumstances? Schaap seduced a 16-year-old church girl he was counseling. Schaap had the girl driven across state lines so he could have sex with her. Schaap took advantage of the victim, all so he could fulfill his lustful, vile desires. I see zero extenuating circumstances. What we have here is a man who refuses to own his behavior and face the consequences of said behavior.

Schaap says that he broke the “letter” of the law, that, at the time he was having sex with a minor church girl he didn’t know he was breaking the law. Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit! So Schaap thought it was morally and ethically permissible to have sexual intercourse with a teen church girl he was counseling? Is this the argument his request for release hangs upon?

Any reasonable person reading this story will conclude that Jack Schaap, esteemed pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, knew exactly what he was doing every step of the way; that he put his perverse sexual desires above the psychological and spiritual care of a girl who called him pastor. His behavior, in my eyes, remains despicable and indefensible. And as such, he should serve every bit of his 12-year sentence.

Schaap spent most of his adult life telling Christians and unbelievers alike that the Bible is God’s divine law book, and that ignorance of its teachings is no excuse. Countless Hyles-Anderson students were severely disciplined for breaking the college’s rules. Imagine a student coming before Schaap and Jack Hyles and saying, “I didn’t know that having sex with my girlfriend in the back of the church bus was wrong.” Why, fire from Heaven would be called down upon the student’s head. Students were expected to know and follow the rules to the letter. Evidently, Schaap is a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do, hypocrite.

Over the past three years, I have published almost 700 stories about clergy criminal behavior — mostly sex crimes. I am currently sitting on several hundred more stories that I need to investigate and publish as part of the Black Collar Crime Series. Most of these stories feature Evangelical preachers and church leaders. A common thread that runs through these stories is the refusal of so-called men of God to admit they have committed crimes (and sinned against God). Worse yet, are church members who refuse to accept that their pastors committed heinous crimes. Even after their pastors are convicted (or plead guilty) and are sentenced to prison time, many church members refuse to see things as they are.

I have no doubt that Schaap has numerous supporters; people who think his victim was a conniving, seductive whore who was used by Satan to take down the man of God, (please see The IFB River Called Denial and What One IFB Apologist Thinks of People Who Claim They Were Abused) and that Schaap is the victim, not the teen girl he sexually assaulted.

Those of us who no longer drink IFB Kool-Aid (or never have) see the Schaap saga for what it is: the story of an arrogant, self-righteous preacher who sexually took advantage of a naive, vulnerable minor. He knew the law. He knew the risks. He knew exactly what he was doing. And that’s why Schaap should remain behind bars.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

What One IFB Apologist Thinks of People Who Claim They Were Abused

if you didn't see it it didn't happen
If You Didn’t See It, It Didn’t Happen

Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.

When Jack Schaap, former pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana — now a convicted felon — was accused of having a sexual relationship with a teenager in his church, apologists for the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement and the Hyles/Schaap crime family came out in force to defend their own. They told me things like:

  • He is a man of God and he wouldn’t/couldn’t do such a thing
  • The girl was a whore
  • The girl seduced him
  • The girl was “almost” of age
  • If Schaap hadn’t taken her across the State line, the sex would have been consensual

Before I deal with these claims, let me remind readers of how Schaap groomed this girl; how he emotionally manipulated her so he could have sex with her. Here are some of the messages that Schaap sent the girl:

From a birthday card

I can’t get you out of my mind. I keep thinking about how much I enjoy talking with you, how great you look when you smile, and how much I like your laugh. I daydream about you off an on all day, replaying pieces of our conversation . . .laughing again about funny things you said or did. I’ve memorized your face and the way you look at me . . . it melts my heart every time I think about it. And I catch myself smiling when I imagine what will happen the next time we’re together. You must be something really special, because I can’t remember the last time I felt so strongly about someone. Even though neither of us knows what the future holds, I know one thing for sure – you’re one of the very best things that’s happened to me in a long time.

From a handwritten letter

Hi [Jane Doe],

Because my time with you is so limited, I find great comfort in writing to you. Certainly it is no substitute for being with you – nothing is – in fact, being with you is unlike anything I have ever experienced.

You have a gift of making me feel more alive and more happy than I have ever felt! THANK YOU! I’ve been doing much thinking about you – our brief journey together has been like a spiritual allegory (a story that illustrates a truth . . .

Your life began to deteriorate w/ actions + activities that were self-destructive + that would have brought great tragedy eventually. Then, as your Pastor, I began to counsel you [unintelligible] you to God, the truth, and to a better path of living – that’s what we call Righteousness. Almost immediately, I felt such a profound tug in my heart for you – an intense desire to pull you away from destructive habits + to pull you into pure love + acceptance. I felt the only hope I had to truly make that difference was to pull you 1st to myself – if I could get you to trust me + open your heart to me. I could not have anticipated or hoped for what happened.

You opened your heart wide to me – you made me more than a Pastor/Rescuer – you made me your friend your confidant, your beloved. You gave me your trust, your heart, your love, + your affection. [Unintelligible] must feel when a sinner makes Him more than a Savior – he/she makes Him a beloved lover + friend. I have never felt so truly loved in my life. It is a feeling that is incomprehensible! (off the charts)In our “fantasy talk,” you have affectionately spoken of being “my wife.” That is exactly what Christ desires for us. He wants to marry us + become eternal lovers!

I tried to craftily catch your heart so that I could lead you into a better life. You have caught my heart + I have never felt so loved by anyone! Thank you[Jane Doe]. Thank you for the privilege of helping a struggling teenager. Thank you for opening your heart. Thank you for your trust. Thank you for your love. My hope and prayer is that someday you will comprehend what an impact you have made on your Pastor and friend.

[Jane Doe] you have such a wonderful life ahead of you. I must be careful not to spoil that with any of my selfish fantasy desires. It would be grossly unkind to you for me to hold you captive in any fashion. When we get scared, Jesus sends His spirit to live within us. But He does not personally live with us. He waits until we have fully matured before he takes us to Heaven to live with Him. Yes, there are exceptions, but they are exceedingly so – sorta like [name redacted] (sp?) or a young child dying too young.

I must follow the example of Christ. I have espoused you to Him as a chaste virgin. You are pure + lovely + perfect in His eyes. Now you must mature in His grace until the time he brings you to Himself. Until then, I am here to guide you + help you. [Unintelligible] your heart.

I could only wish you would carry my love for you with you + in you forever. For me to wish for more would only be hurtful to the beautiful life He has planned for you. I will die 10,000 deaths knowing I cannot have you in my life as I would desire. But I would far rather die those deaths than to hurt you in any way by injuring your future.I would gladly do anything for you + I must lay down my life – my desires – for you

I will ALWAYS be here for you [Jane Doe]!! Always And I will carry you in my very soul as a part of me forever. I ‘ve never met anyone like you. Please keep on becoming what you are becoming now. I’ve tried to point you in the right direction. PLEEEAASSE don’t ever go back to what you were when we found each other. That would put my soul in Hell!

I promised you I would do anything to help you – and I have shown you what I mean by that. I still promise you I would do anything TO HELP YOU but I be me let + can you when see to by stop time- time from Text you! hurt would that anything do>part of your life + decision-making. But live your life – the life God has for you. Be 17 + enjoy this great stage of life. I’ll always be watching + always be pulling for you. I will always love you –

FOREVER! Your BFF, Pastor.

From another handwritten letter

Hey Baby, Hope you slept well.

I’m sitting at my table reading the Words that help me through powerful emotions that are surging through me. I miss my Bible Reading partner. It was fun to have our Bible Study yesterday morning. I Have my good music on – “I will trust in You” + the “Power of the Cross.” Good music drives me to the Scriptures to find the strength to go forward when my emotions want me to “freeze” time + go back to yesterday.

No matter how glorious the past, the future is the only direction we can go without dying inside. The past 3 days w/ you were beyond my imagination :! But what I hope you take from this wk. is more than the “magic” we enjoyed but also some better understanding of how incredibly important + special + awesome you are to Jesus! I wanted you to feel + know how much He loves you! I wanted to let some of the hurt + headache – the bad hurt – out of your heart.

This week, [Jane Doe], I tried to climb into your heart and write the graffiti of the Gospel on the walls. I wanted to spray paint in Neon colors that you are Priceless + Precious + are “off the charts” important – yes – to me personally -but especially to OUR Savior Jesus Christ. I’m reading my Bible now to draw a little closer to God – even if it’s a millimeter closer – because if we both get a little closer to Him, we also get closer + stronger + deeper w/ each other.

Every relationship not built around that truth eventually must die – that’s what happened w/ you + J. And that’s why afterwards you pursued “dead” things + “dead”relationships. My passion this week was to show you a living relationship + how to keep it alive! [Jane Doe], however, whenever God takes our love, we never have to[unintelligible] to each other. Keep pursuing Good and we keep living because He is Life!!

I have a special gift for you that I want to give you Sunday if you would stop by my office when you arrive. Also, I really want you to download the App Olive Tree Bible Reader when you get it, I’ll teach you how to use it.These days w/ you are tattooed on my heart + in my mind – Forever!

But these days, also gave me great insight to the profound needs of my teens + young adults. You’ve helped me. Finally, I want to thank YOU for giving me something I was not planning to receive. Through you, I have felt very loved by God. I gave Him my heart when I was 5, I gave Him my life when I was 17. And yes I love Him + know Him +understand much about Him, but, sometimes I just need to “feel” His love in away that only He can provide . . . and this week, through you, I have “felt” His love.

I absolutely cannot thank you enough!! It is obvious to me that God must trust you very much. He gave you the work of caring or ministering to His servant- just as the angel ministered to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemine. Of course,you have been given enormous responsibility. The Scriptures do not tell us what the Angel said, how he arrived or how he left + apparently no one knows to this day – 2000 years later – what happened. That’s a very wise Angel! And so are you, Baby! 1432444!!!!!

From the Sentencing Memorandum of Jack Schaap.

Jack Schaap is not an outlier when it comes to sexual misconduct and abuse in the IFB church movement. His father-in-law Jack Hyles and his brother-in-law David Hyles preceded him at First Baptist in Hammond. Jack Hyles had a least one inappropriate sexual relationship and David Hyles had dozens. The list of abusers and predators that were trained by Jack Hyles and Hyles-Anderson College is long. Taken cumulatively, they make one think there is something very wrong in Hammond and other IFB schools and churches.

bill wininger
Bill Wininger, former pastor of Kingsway Baptist Church

In 2013, Bethany Foeller Leonard alleged that Bill Wininger, pastor of King’s Way Baptist Church, Douglasville, Georgia, molested her 20 years ago when he was the pastor of North Sharon Baptist Church, Grass Lake, Michigan. Several other women came forward and added their voices to Leonard’s accusation. Due to the statute of limitations, Wininger will never face justice for what he did in Michigan, but Leonard”s accusation did result in his resignation from King’s Way. In an unrelated case, Wininger was arrested and charged with four counts of misdemeanor battery of a female church member. He was sentenced to probation and court-ordered counseling.

When Leonard first made her accusation, apologists for Pastor Bill Wininger loudly defended him and said Leonard was lying. Some of you may remember the comments and emails I received when I first wrote about Bill Wininger being outed as a sexual predator.

Apologists for the IFB church movement and Bill Wininger couldn’t call Bethany Foeller Leonard and the other women sluts, whores, home wreckers, or church destroyers. After all, they were little girls, the age my granddaughters are now, when the abuse took place. So, they had to take a different approach when defending the most holy IFB church and Bill Wininger. They attempted to use the time-honored if you didn’t see it, it didn’t happen defense to silence those of us who aired Bill Wininger’s secrets.

Take Jason, a young man who vociferously defended the IFB church movement, King’s Way Baptist Church, and Bill Wininger, even though he said he was not a part of the IFB church movement.  Here is what Jason had to say about the accusations (spelling in the original, emphases mine).

First Comment

Wow. I haven’t heard this much wining in a long time. It’s sad when Christians contribute to the pussifacation of America. I would be ashamed if this is how I had to get 15 mins of fame. When I first saw this I thought this was a joke but then I realized you people are serious. There are consequences that come with attacking a man called by God. Everyone who is pointing a finger needs to realize that no person is blameless. I have not seen one bit of proof that proves any of these theories. My advice… Shut up and worry about your own life and let ALMIGHTY GOD worry about everyone else

Second Comment

The definition of pussifacation is the state in which a society becomes less and less tough. As a whole men and women in America are becoming this way. For example I recently read about a man who’s daughter was allegedly molested. 20 years later he decides to say something about it. To me this man has no backbone whatsoever and has joined many others in the realms of weak and pathetic. Maybe you should talk to ________. She has shown more backbone in here by standing up for herself and the people she loves. My father taught me to be a man. You asked me what if this happened to your daughter. Let me explain that it would never happen to my daughter simply because child molesters target weak people. This is how they get away with what they do. There would be no getting away with anything should this happen to my daughter and justice would not begin 20 years later. IF any of your accusations hold any truth which I doubt considerably then you should get real life smoking gun evidenced and prosecute. Obviously you dont have this or you wouldnt be wasting time here.

Third Comment

Actually I am not in the ifb. I know this crushes your idea of how narrow minded I must be. However I do not see the point of targeting them out specifically or even more so targeting a single church which seems to be what is happening here. Cassandra the point is that without physical evidence of child molestation BW is innocent of this accusation. Without physical evidence of rape BW is innocent of this accusation as well which means that IF another woman was involved it was consensual.

Bruce how else would a woman excuse a relationship with a married man but pawn it off as “molestation”? In this day and age nothing is personal cultural suicide. You give me the evidence that supports these accusations and I will have concern for these alleged victims. Until then I will support innocence until proven guilty by a court of law. I will not take your moth to the flame approach just because someone made an accusation. Didn’t you say “After all, the lies told about a person always make for better news than the truth”? Sounds to me like you have your own koolaid for people to drink. I stand by my words. A year from now they will not be foolish nor will they 10 years from now. You dont want to hear what I have to say because you cant combat it. You deflect everything like you have no idea what to say. Its obvious that you have no idea what to do about my voice so you dismiss me. Sorry to ruin your pity party but there are 2 sides to every story. Here is a thought for you. Instead of blasting away at a man or a church or an entire religion why not open a thread that actually helps people who are truly victims? If your intentions are pure it would not matter what religion or church or person it happened with. Not all victims are from a church or a specific religion. You may even sound like you really care about them instead of sounding like a bitter ex-church member who is using this to harp on the ifb.

Let the words of the greatest preacher since the Apostle Paul, the late Jack Hyles, state the official IFB position on abuse:

the-hyles-rule

If you have not read the posts If You Didn’t See It, It Didn’t Happen and Sexual Abuse and the Jack Hyles Rule: If You Didn’t See It, It Didn’t Happen, I encourage you to do so.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

The IFB River Called Denial

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Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.

In 2012, Jack Schaap, pastor of Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) megachurch First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, was fired over a sexual relationship he had with a sixteen-year-old girl. The teen was in the church’s Christian school and Schaap was “counseling” her. Schaap was later arrested and convicted, and is now serving a 12-year sentence in a federal penitentiary. (You can read the texts, letters, and cards Schaap sent to this girl here.)

Several decades ago, Jack Schaap’s father-in-law, Jack Hyles, was accused of having an affair with his secretary. The evidence for his affair was overwhelming, but the church rejected the evidence and Hyles remained the church’s pastor until his death.

Sexual and financial scandals are quite common in the IFB church movement. Pastors have sexual affairs, molest children, surf porn sites, cavort with prostitutes, lie, cheat, and steal. They are, in every way, just like the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines they condemn in their sermons. Deacons, Sunday school teachers, church bus workers, Christian school workers, and every-day church members are just like unsaved worldlings too. If the curtain was ever pulled back, it would expose for all to see that IFB pastors, leaders, and members are no different from atheists, Catholics, Episcopalians, Mormons, Methodists, or Southern Baptists. (Please see the Black Collar Crime Series.)

IFB Christian are human beings, capable of doing good or bad things. They are capable of being good, decent, kind, loving people, and they are also capable of being evil, unkind, indecent, and unloving. Much like all of us, they have the power to choose what kind of person they want to be. No matter what their theology tells them about the depraved, sinful condition of the natural, unregenerate, unsaved human heart, they KNOW they have the power to be whatever kind of person they want to be. They KNOW that there are countless atheists, deists, non-IFB Christians, and Catholics who are good, decent, kind, loving people, all without believing the King James Version of the Bible is the Word of God or believing in the IFB God at all.

Every IFB church and pastor has its own list of things they consider sins. Besides the “big” sins such as adultery, fornication, and homosexuality, IFB churches have rules (standards) about things that many non-IFB Christians might not consider a sin. Things such as:

  • Watching TV
  • Listening to secular music or Contemporary Christian music
  • Going to the movies
  • Gambling, playing cards
  • Men and women swimming (mixed bathing) together
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Cursing or using bywords
  • Women wearing pants or shorts
  • Women wearing anything that reveals their “shape
  • Long hair on men, short hair on women

Over the years, I heard IFB pastors, including myself, say the following things were sins:

  • Wearing wire-rim glasses
  • Having a beard
  • Having a mustache
  • Wearing any clothing with “worldly” advertising
  • Going to stock car races
  • Sending your children to a public school
  • Using any Bible except the 1611 King James Bible
  • Not having a Sunday evening or midweek service
  • Not having an altar call
  • Using recorded (canned) music for church specials
  • Marrying a non-IFB Christian
  • Going to a non-IFB college
  • Having non-IFB friends
  • Working on Sunday
  • Letting your children play sports on prayer meeting night or Sunday
  • Not giving at least 10% of your money to the church, along with extra offerings for revivals and missions
  • Eating in restaurants that serve alcohol
  • Allowing women to pray while men are present or teach anyone other than women or children

The IFB church movement prides itself on being “better” than other Christian sects and the “world.” Their literalist belief system and their list of sinful behaviors are the standard every IFB church member is expected to live by. For all their talk about salvation by faith and grace, their religion is all about works, as is every religion, to some degree or the other. They will tell you that a person does not have to do any works in order to be saved, but ask them if a person who refuses to live by the above standards is a Christian and they will likely say, I doubt it.

In the IFB world, “true” Christianity is determined by how well a person adheres to the church’s/pastor’s interpretation of the Bible and whatever list of “standards” they have. Some allowance is given for differences of opinion, but not much. Church members who don’t conform are labeled as worldly, carnal, weak, fleshly, or backslidden.

The stated moral and ethical standard is high — impossibly high. Remember what I said earlier about IFB pastors, leaders, and church members being just like the rest of us? Well, this poses a real problem for them. They take the high moral ground, believing they are superior to everyone else, including other Christians. They consider themselves pillars of moral virtue. But they are not, and when pastors, leaders, and church members get in trouble, as in the cases of Jack Schaap and Jack Hyles, they have a real dilemma on their hands. Their moral and ethical failures expose the bankruptcy of their claim of superiority. Their behavior shows that the IFB emperor has no clothes.

The right thing to do would be to admit their failures, confess their “sins,” and come down from Mount “I am Holier than Thou.” Of course, doing this would mean that they are just like the rest of us, and that ain’t gonna happen.

The IFB scandal starring Jack Schaap and First Baptist Church in Hammond provides for us an excellent example of HOW IFB churches handle having their “humanness” exposed.

First, they deny.  When the Schaap scandal first became public, IFB commenters on blogs, news sites, discussion forums, and social media were quick to deny that Schaap had done anything wrong. The accusations were lies, they said, and they were certain that Schaap was completely innocent.

Second, they marginalize. When they could no longer deny the reality of the Schaap scandal, they turned to letting everyone know that Schaap was a “sinner” just like everyone else, and while his “fall” was regrettable, people should not judge the IFB church movement or First Baptist Church negatively. One bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole bushel. Actually, it can and does.

Third, they attack the critics. Instead of owning the scandal, many IFB defenders decided to attack those who reported the scandal or wrote negative things about Schaap, Jack Hyles, First Baptist Church, and the IFB.

Across the blogosphere, in discussion forums, in blog comments, and emails, the defenders of the IFB attempted to ameliorate the scandal by attacking people such as me. They couldn’t dismiss my impeccable IFB credentials, so they attacked me personally or they dismissed me out of hand because I am an atheist. Why should anyone listen to what Bruce Gerencser has to say, they write. He’s a God-hater. He’s bitter, angry, and has an ax to grind. Besides, he never was a “real” Christian. They try to discredit the messenger so they won’t have to deal with his/her message. The goal is direct attention away from the facts.

Fourth, if all else fails, they attack the victim. Let’s not forget that there is a victim in the Jack Schaap scandal. Schaap’s “sin” was not a victimless one. He had sexual relations with a minor in his church.

Jack Schaap was 56 years old when he traveled across state lines to sexually liaison with a sixteen-year-old church girl. The victim was young enough to be his granddaughter. As a grown, mature man, he should have been in control of his sexuality. Surely he KNEW it was morally, ethically, and legally wrong to have sex with this girl. Schaap had the power to control the relationship he had with this girl. He was the grownup in this story; he was the “man of God”; he was a married man with children; he was the one with everything to lose.

If he had overt sexual desire — a need to get laid — he could have sought out the help of a professional sex worker.  I am sure there are plenty of adult establishments in the Chicago area that Schaap could have gone to in order to get his sexual need met. More than a few IFB pastors have availed themselves to the services of prostitutes. But Schaap chose, instead, to sexually violate a trusting church girl.

In the sleaziest of attempts to justify Jack Schaap’s behavior, his defenders attacked the girl. One commenter on this blog suggested the girl was a slut, that she seduced Schaap. She wrote:

So…what about the teenage girl? How hot was she? How hard did she pursue him? We all know young girls flaunt everything these days to get what they want. a rise from any man they can. especially one in the limelight (our a uniform!) They don’t care if he’s married our not, or if he’s her best friends dad. it’s really sad.young girls are a whoring in our churches.

I responded:

Bullshit.

It doesn’t matter how hot she was or whether or not she flaunted herself before him.

He is a grown, mature man, a few years younger than I. By now, he should have learned how to deal with temptation and keep his penis in his pants.

It is reported that he was counseling this girl. If this is true, then he abused his power and authority and, here in Ohio, could be held criminally liable.

Whatever the girl’s faults, she is not the problem in this story.

She responded:

You men and women be careful. She is closer than we think. the world is full of young sluts stealing our husbands and sons! Praying for Cindy!

And, I responded:

You mean stealing pathetic, poor Christian men who have been taught they are helpless creatures unable to withstand sexual temptation? How about teaching them to be accountable for their own sexual behavior? They have a choice, do they not? Or are they so weak that the slightest temptation turns them into sexed crazed maniacs who are unable to control their lust?

The only right answer to the Jack Schaap scandal, the Jack Hyles scandal, or any other church scandal, is IMMEDIATE, COMPLETE disclosure. Instead of trying to cover the matter up or trying to make it disappear, churches should show they take these kinds of things seriously. What First Baptist Church in Hammond needed was a Penn State moment. They needed to come to terms with fifty years of cover-ups and denials. The deacons and church membership needed to own their own culpability in the Schaap scandal. They are the ones who did nothing about Jack Hyles and his serial-adulterer son David. They are the ones who allowed an abusive, controlling, cultic environment to develop in the church. They are the ones who, like lemmings, sat and listened to Schaap’s preaching, shouting Amen. They are the ones who practiced the Jack Hyles Rule, if you didn’t see it, it didn’t happen.

Instead of having a Penn State moment, First Baptist Church called in attorney David Gibbs, the Ray Donovan-like fixer of IFB scandals. Gibbs has fixed and sanitized countless IFB sex scandals. Instead of encouraging churches to come clean, Gibbs helps them minimize fallout and loss. The goal is not restitution or helping the victims. Instead, it is all about protecting the church’s testimony.

David Gibbs’s law firm, the Christian Law Association, advertises itself this way:

The Christian Law Association exists to preserve Christian liberty for your children and grandchildren.

CLA received in excess of 100,000 phone calls annually, not counting the thousands of pieces of correspondence from those who are in some way facing legal difficulties for doing what the Bible commands. These cases involve Christians arrested for witnessing to others in public, public school students being told they do not have the right to read their Bibles at school, churches being excluded from communities, Christians being fired for sharing their faith at work, and thousands of other shocking assaults on our precious religious freedoms. CLA provides free legal services based in part on the generosity of God’s people.

Missing from this description is helping pastors and churches manage scandal and marginalize victims. Missing is their motto: Protect the Church’s Reputation at All Costs! Minimize Financial Payouts so the Church can Continue to Win Souls for Jesus.

jack and beverly hyles statute
Jack and Beverly Hyles statue

The Joe Paterno statues at Penn State have been pulled down as a public act of contrition, but the Jack Hyles statute remains, a reminder of who it was that built First Baptist Church. One can only hope that public scrutiny will force the IFB church movement to own their “sins” and that dramatic change will be made, resulting in a reduction of predatory acts against children and teenagers. One can hope, but as of today, it is business as usual in the alternate universe called the IFB church movement.

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Bruce Gerencser