Tag Archive: Rape

Black Collar Crime: IFB Sunday School Teacher Jonathan Young Accused of Rape

jonathan young

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

Jonathan Young, a Sunday school teacher at Firstborn Baptist Church — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation — in Benson, North Carolina stands accused of raping several church girls.  WRAL-5 reports that Young has been charged with ” six charges of first-degree rape of a child, three charges of statutory rape, two charges of first-degree sexual offense and two charges of indecent liberties with a child.” The charges against Young cover alleged crimes committed between 2004 and 2014.

Several former church members allege church leaders knew about Young’s crimes and covered them up. The church denies doing so. Durwood Young, pastor of Firstborn Baptist, had this to say:

I’m heartbroken by it all because it’s unbelievable. I hate if anyone is hurt on either side but the young man is ruined now. I hate it and I don’t know what else to say about it.

What’s unbelievable is that Pastor Young’s first statement is about being concerned for the “young man” whose life has been “ruined.”  The victims aren’t even mentioned outside of Young “hating [the] hurt on either side.” What is this, a sporting event where you have two opposing teams?

Both the pastor and the perpetrator have the same last name. I was unable to ascertain if they are related.

Updated

A reader with intimate knowledge of this church and the parties involved has told me that Durwood Young is Jonathan Young’s great uncle. This reader also told me that other people in the church have, in the past, been accused of sexual improprieties. If anyone has information regarding these allegations, please contact me.

Black Collar Crime: Focus Church and Pastor Garry Mitchell Shun the Victims and Embrace the Abuser

clarence willie white

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

Garry Mitchell is the pastor of Focus Church in Lewisburg, Kentucky. In April, a grand jury indicted associate pastor and bus driver Clarence “Willie” White  on charges of sexual assault. The victims were children White picked up for church with Focus Church’s van.  Since then, three more alleged victims have come forward. You would think having six allegations leveled against a congregant would cause a church and its pastor to distance themselves from the alleged abuser, especially considering that he previously was convicted in 1980 of third-degree rape. Not Mitchell and the folks at Focus Church. They are resolutely standing behind their man.

Mitchell appeared as a character witness for White, asking that his bond be reduced from a $10,000 cash bond to a surety bond which required no outlay of cash. The judge rejected the bail reduction request.

When Logan Circuit Judge Tyler Gill asked Mitchell:

You understand exactly what the allegations are and you’re confident to put him right back into that same position and drive the bus and be associate pastor pastoring 15- and 16-year-old girls? You’re okay with that?

Mitchell replied,”Yes, we have no issue with him.”

When asked whether congregants felt safe around White, Mitchell replied:

Yes, and the women of our church. He has proven to be a Godly man or I wouldn’t be standing here saying these things and I wouldn’t be putting my reputation on the line.

When asked about White’s previous conviction on rape, Mitchell replied, “It wasn’t until I was here in court the last time and heard the brevity of the conviction 40 years ago.”

When asked about whether the victims would be allowed to return to church, Mitchell told the judge that one of the victims had tried to return to church several times, and he asked her to stay away due to the allegations she made against White.  Mitchell stated, “We asked them until things were worked out not to be involved with us.”

The News-Democrat & Leader reports:

White’s wife bailed him out of the Logan County Detention Center May 18.

Soon after the ND&L spoke with the three additional alleged victims found on Facebook, the newspaper contacted Mitchell via email to inform him of the new information and to ask if he and the church had changed their stance on White, which Mitchell detailed in court.

Mitchell released a statement to the ND&L on behalf of the church’s leadership team and also posted that statement on the Focus Church Facebook page.

Mitchell asked the ND&L to publish the statement in its entirety and “not to change it in any way that includes editing and or deletions without an agreement between (the NDL) and our church leadership first. If you agree, then you will publish this written statement separate from any other articles relating to this issue.”

The ND&L explained to White through email there were a few claims within the official statement that were not mentioned at the bond hearing and appeared to be contradictory. One included the church asking White to step down from any contact with the children and youth ministry, removing him from any leadership role he had with the church children and youth six months before the case came out to the public. This was never brought up at the hearing and questioning by the judge.

Mitchell said the church leadership team had decided they no longer wished for the statement to be printed by the ND&L and wished to listen to the scripture “stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.”

….

Focus Church released the following statement. As you will see, their cover our ass press release contradicts what was said in court:

“Let me begin by saying we made a mistake that you would understand our intentions as a community of faith at Focus Church concerning our stand with Clarence White. We need your help to see and understand our decision to support someone accused of such a terrible thing.

“At the time Lead Pastor Garry appeared in court on behalf of Clarence White. Our ministry had already been dealing with the accusations close to six months. During that period of time, we had implemented safeguards for those who attended each week. We ask Clarence to step down from any contact with the children and youth ministry, removing him from any leadership role he had with our children and youth. After the accusations he was removed from all activities related to children and youth including if he was to be a substitute van driver with his wife.

“Our next course of action was to immediately follow up by asking parents, children and youth if there was any behavior that was a threat to their well being. The answer we got was an absolute ‘no.’ Even though we got that answer we continued to monitor the activity of our children and youth ministry.

“Our church defines itself as ‘a church without walls.’ It is not our nature to ban anyone who desires to attend our services and ministries, nor have we ever placed a banned on anyone. Our desire is to offer Jesus, His salvation, healing and deliverance. We offer an open door policy and we open our hearts to anyone who seeks Jesus and a new life in God.

“Lets make this clear, we did NOT use any money given in our church for ministries to be use to bail anyone out of jail including Clarence White. We understand the true purpose of tithes and offerings they are intended for the building the Kingdom of God.

“Since Clarence posted bail FOCUS church leadership, Clarence and his lawyer have agreed that he would not return to FOCUS church, or any activity or event until the matter of the accusations would be settled once and for all.

“Our decision as a church to support Clarence White was decided on the basis that no proven evidence had been given to justify the accusations. These accusations had not been proven at the time of Pastor Garry’s courtroom appearance. Believing everyone should be treated without judgement we stand with him until proven guilty. If he is proven guilty, then we fully expect judgement and accountability. But like anyone else we will be redemptive and offer forgiveness of God in Jesus name to any person.”

Last month, the Kentucky New Era reported:

A Logan County Grand Jury indicted Willie White, 60, on April 27 for subjecting a 16-year old to sexual contact when he allegedly placed his hand in her back pocket and touched her buttocks for sexual gratification between November and December of 2017.

The jury also indicted White during the same time period for subjecting two more victims to sexual contact. One when he allegedly touched a 15-year-old’s vagina for sexual gratification and another when he allegedly touched the buttocks of a 12-year-old for sexual gratification.

This is one of those stories that just blow me away. I hope, if and when White is convicted, that the victims sue Mitchell and Focus Church. Mitchell and his fellow church members are oblivious to what they should be doing, so perhaps losing everything will help them see the error of their ways. Of course, White could be innocent too, but I doubt it. The previous rape conviction and multiple current allegations tell me that White is a man that shouldn’t be around children — ever.

When asked about reducing White’s bail, the judge replied, “You’ve got all those people at the church, I’ll let them post that bond. Go for it. I have some serious questions about judgment here, but it’s not my judgment I’m worried about.”

Yep. And people wonder why sex abuse victims are hesitant to come forward.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor William “Tim” Smith, Jr. Accused of Attempted Child Rape

pastor william tim smith jr

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

William “Tim” Smith, Jr, pastor of Palmer Church of God in Palmer, Tennessee, was arrested earlier this week after he was found parked in a remote area engaging in sexual activity with a twelve-year-old girl. Smith was also found in possession of Schedule II prescription drugs.

Smith’s bail has been set at $200,000.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Raul Diaz Moreno Found Guilty of Attempted Murder and Rape

raul diaz moreno

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

Raul Diaz Moreno, pastor of Victory Outreach in Merced, California, was convicted today on charges rape and attempted murder. The Merced Sun-Star reports:

A month-long trial ended Friday in Merced County when a former pastor was convicted of raping his two adopted daughters for many years before shooting them and another man in 2016

Raul Diaz Moreno, who once led the Victory Outreach church, opened fire Oct. 28, 2016, shooting one of the girls in the head and the other in the leg outside his home on Beckman Way in Merced. The now 54-year-old Merced man also shot another man who was helping the young women, the Merced Police Department reported.

….

According to news reports, the girls were abandoned by their mother and taken in by Moreno. Not long after, Moreno began sexually abusing them.

Jurors found Moreno guilty on all fourteen charges, including multiple counts of attempted murder, assault, shooting at police, aggravated sexual assault, sodomy by force, lewd acts and oral copulation with minors. Moreno faces a minimum of 120 years in prison.

2016 news story titled, Victim in shooting involving Merced pastor says suspect had dark double life.

 

Southern Baptist Pastor Rick Patrick Reveals His True Character in Offensive Post

pastor rick patrick

Rick Patrick is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Sylacauga, Alabama and the executive director of Connect316, a ministry devoted to combating the increasing influence of Calvinism on Southern Baptist churches and seminaries. Of late, the Southern Baptist Convention has been embroiled in controversy over comments made about women and domestic abuse by Paige Patterson, the troglodyte president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

In 2000, Patterson gave an interview in which he counseled women who were being abused by their spouses to “pray” for their husbands and remain married to them. Patterson, a diehard Fundamentalist complementarian, illustrated his point with a story about how he had given that advice to a woman who had been repeatedly assaulted by her husband. Here’s what he had to say:

Returning some days later with two black eyes, the woman said, “I hope you’re happy.”

I said, ‘Yes, ma’am, I am happy. What she didn’t know when we sat in church that morning, was that her husband had come in and was standing in back, first time he ever came.

In 2014, Patterson related in a sermon how God created women “beautifully and artistically.” He shared with those in attendance a conversation he had with woman and her son. Tom Gjelten a reporter for NPR, writes:

Patterson has also come under fire for a sermon he gave in 2014 about how God created women “beautifully and artistically.” He related a conversation he had with a woman while her son and a friend were standing alongside. As they talked, a teenage girl whom Patterson described as “very attractive” walked by, and one of the boys said, “Man, is she built.”

The woman immediately scolded him, but Patterson said he interjected in the boy’s defense.

“I said, ‘Ma’am, leave him alone,’ ” Patterson recounted. ” ‘He’s just being biblical. That is exactly what the Bible says.’ ”

Yesterday, Washington Post reporter Sarah Pulliam Bailey, wrote about a woman who was “encouraged” by Patterson not to report an alleged rape:

She [the victim] said she had been dating the man she alleges raped her and had allowed him into her apartment the night she said he assaulted her. The two were kissing when he forced himself on her, she said. She said she reported it the next morning to the administrator who handled student discipline. That administrator then reported the incident to Patterson, she said, and she was required to meet with Patterson and three or four male seminarians she said were proteges of Patterson’s. She said she doesn’t remember the specific words Patterson used but that he wanted to know every detail of the rape.

Patterson and other administrators did not report the incident to the police, and she claims that Patterson encouraged her not to, as well, she said. The Post confirmed that a report was never filed with the Wake Forest Police Department.

The woman said she was put on probation for two years, but she doesn’t know why, saying it was perhaps because she was with another man alone in her apartment, which was against seminary policy.

“They shamed the crap out of me, asking me question after question,” said the woman, who attended the seminary until 2005 before dropping out for reasons she said were unrelated to the alleged incident. “He didn’t necessarily say it was my fault, but [the sense from him was] I let him into my home.”

The woman said she recalls Patterson telling her to forgive the man who allegedly raped her. The former roommate said the woman described the alleged assault to him shortly after it happened and later complained to him about her treatment by Patterson and seminary officials.

He was not present for her conversations with seminary officials.

“She wants people to know that this happened to her,” said the former roommate, who now works as an emergency room technician in Raleigh, N.C. “She wants people to know how Patterson is and how he thinks about women and abuse. For him to still be in power eats at her soul.”

The woman shared a letter written to her by Southeastern’s dean of students at the time. In the letter, dated April 9, 2003, Allan Moseley told the woman that she would be put on probation after the incident, with suspension or expulsion as possible next steps if there were subsequent behavior the school deemed inappropriate. “It is evident that your memories of moral lapses with [the alleged assailant’s name] cause you sadness and humiliation,” Moseley said in the letter.

….

Today, “outraged” Southwestern Baptist board members voted to remove Patterson as president of the seminary. He will still have some sort of title or position with the seminary. It takes more than a little misogyny for someone as prominent as Patterson to face banishment.

Some Southern Baptist pastors believe Patterson has been treated unfairly, and that his public lynching is the byproduct of the egalitarian, feminist-driven #metoo movement. Rick Patrick is one such man. In a post made in a private forum, Patrick posted this:

rick patrick post

Text:

This all reminds me of the time I saw a donkey being gang raped by Wade Burleson, Ben Cole, Russell Moore, Ed Stetzer, and Jonathan Merritt [five notable pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention]. As the only person who witnessed the act, I knew I should have reported it at the time, but I was afraid. That poor animal! No donkey should have to suffer like that. Sadly, it’s too late for Hee Haw. But after all these years, I cannot keep quiet any longer.

A short while later, Patrick removed his post and made an “apology” for its content:

rick patrick apology

Text:

Earlier today in a closed Facebook group, I made a poor attempt at satire and the crazy climate of our #MeToo world where accusations from years ago are dredged up and used as weapons to attack people. I attempted to use hyperbole and exaggeration to show that anyone can make even the most heinous charge against someone else, and the person charged will always be presumed guilty until proven innocent.

The post only remained up for about two minutes when I took it down realizing it was a poor and inappropriate attempt at humor, but by that time, certain people had already taken a screenshot and it had gone viral. I apologize to the people whose names I mentioned and for the reference to the donkey. It was wrong and inappropriate. I will not post anything like it again. I especially apologize to anyone who felt I was minimizing the reality of the genuine pain many victims have experienced. Even preachers make mistakes, and I made one today. I am truly sorry. Please forgive me.

Patrick, like many pastors, believes that accusations, allegations, and rumors of sexual abuse should be handled as law enforcement, prosecutors, and courts handle criminal acts. No one should say anything until an “investigation” is conducted. Of course, thanks to the Internet and social media, that’s not how things work today.

First, many victims of sexual abuse have gone to the authorities, only to find out that their allegations are either not taken seriously or they can’t be prosecuted due to statute of limitations. Some victims turn to their church or denomination for help, believing that surely followers of Jesus want justice for sexual abuse victims, and, in the case where the perpetrator is a pastor, youth leader, deacon, or some other church leader, victims think that churches and sects will stand with them and oust the abusers from positions of authority. What victims learn, instead, is that many churches and sects are more interested in protecting their “name” and covering their asses than they are making sure that sexual abusers never have an opportunity to prey on people again.

Is it any wonder, then, that sexual abuse victims turn to the court of public opinion for a hearing of their allegations? Patrick is oh, so worried about due process that he fails to understand what it costs women and men when they make public accusations against clergymen and other church leaders. Once they have gone public, concerted efforts are often made to discredit them and stop them from soiling the good name of Pastor ________ and his church. No person in her right mind, knowing what will happen to her, airs allegations of sexual abuse without them being true.

From time to time false allegations are made, but most of the time the stories told by abuse victims are substantially true. In the last eighteen months, I have published almost five hundred posts in the Black Collar Crime series. These posts detail the crimes committed by so-called men of God. While some of the stories report criminal behavior by Catholic clerics, my primary focus is on crimes perpetrated by Evangelical pastors, evangelists, missionaries, Sunday school teachers, ministry workers, and other church leaders. Once brought to trial, these Jesus-loving criminals are almost always found guilty or they plead out. Where, oh where are all the falsely accused and falsely prosecuted stories, Pastor Patrick? Yes, they exist, but worries about a plethora of false allegations are unfounded.

The real worry is over getting social workers, law enforcement, and prosecutors to take seriously allegations of sexual abuse. The tide is turning, so to speak, but there is much that must yet be done when it comes holding sexual abusers accountable, even if, due to statute of limitations, they can’t be prosecuted. By publishing stories on these cases, I try to provide a readily accessible public record that can be easily accessed by churches, daycares, camps, schools, colleges — anywhere predators seek out new victims — before employing someone. Granted, as the recent story about Pastor Rick Orten shows, some churches believe the blood of Jesus washes away all the sins of the past, making it okay to hire rapists, child abusers, and pedophiles, but I’d like to think that most pastors and churches are against having such people in their midst. Christians are free to believe that God forgives sin and the blood of Jesus washes away iniquity, but if they care about their children and teenagers, they must never let wolves inside the doors of their churches, where they will have easy access to young, vulnerable congregants.

Both Patterson and Patrick have profusely apologized for their statements. Patrick later released another apology that said:

The issue I was addressing was the notion that a person appears to be, in the court of public opinion, guilty until proven innocent, in many cases. No, I do not think that #metoo people are crazy. I confess the timing of a specific charge today made me question the charge. But please let me say, and say very clearly, that I am deeply sorry for the hurt that victims of abuse have experienced. I myself was the victim of physical and verbal abuse as a child. I am indeed sensitive to their pain. I was intending to speak only to the presumption of guilt issue with my inappropriate use of humor. I am truly, truly sorry. I will learn from this, and it will not happen again. Please forgive me.

Should Patterson and Patrick be “forgiven” for what they said?  Evangelicals will, of course, accept their pleas for forgiveness. Once the proverbial pound of flesh has been extracted and numerous mea culpas issued, many Evangelicals will declare the matter settled, saying, Patterson and Patrick repented. Jesus forgave them, and we should too. Time to move on! There are souls to save, abortion clinics to picket, and same-sex marriage laws to overturn. This is what Evangelicals do, forgive, forget, and move on!

What people forget is that Paige Patterson and Rick Patrick are skilled public speakers. Neither man is a young preacher just starting out. They have both preached thousands of sermons and stood before countless crowds sharing their opinions and interpretations of this or that Bible verse or moral issue. Men such as Patterson, Patrick, and Bruce Gerencser — back in my preaching days — say what they mean. Their words are carefully chosen. In Patrick’s case, he KNEW his words would cause controversy, yet he said them anyway. Why? Because he wanted to the notoriety controversy would bring. He wanted to make sure everyone knew what he believed. He said what he intended say. His apology means nothing.

When preachers and politicians are forced to make public apologies for something they have said, I generally ignore their apologies. People tend to say what they really believe the first time, and their apologies are more about damage control than they are a sign of changed opinions. Does anyone really believe that these two aged Fundamentalist preachers have changed their views of women, marriage, and sexual assault? Of course not. The things said by Patterson and Patrick are reminders of the pervasive misogynistic, anti-women, anti-feminism beliefs found in the Southern Baptist Convention and other Evangelical sects. The problem is the religion, and Patterson and Patrick are its poster children. While these men will, for a time, face public outrage, they will weather the storm and continue on in the ministry, preaching the gospel and spreading the good news of complementarianism. Because, that’s what good Christians do.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

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

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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Evangelical Pastor Michael Orten Defends Allowing Rapist to Work at His Church

blood of jesus

Thomas Hopper was convicted in the 1990s of raping and sodomizing a thirteen-year-old girl while holding a razor knife to her throat. He spent ten years in prison for his crimes.  Hopper was also convicted of criminal confinement, battery, and trespassing in the early 2000s. He was also arrested for stalking a high school student. Today, Hopper, a convicted sex offender, is a volunteer worker at Truth Apostolic Church in Madisonville, Kentucky. According to news reports, Hopper leads the church’s care ministry, and is responsible for its nursing home and bus ministry.

When asked about Hopper working at Truth Apostolic, Michael Orten, the church’s pastor, replied:

… this is a situation, if that girl chooses…it takes two to tango, okay?  So if that girl chooses to sleep with him, she’s just as guilty as he is.

Orten later stated:

He was mad and angry, both of them were on drugs. Yeah, that’s still his past. It ain’t like we don’t know nothing about this. Like I said, the media and people are ignorant when they want to turn around and dramatize or hurt somebody.

Orten said that Hopper’s past has been washed clean by the blood of Jesus. The past is in the past, and since Hopper is now a new creation in Christ Jesus:

So what you’re saying is, is the church is no good for forgiveness? Jesus Christ can’t save you? So if you steal a piece of candy from a store because you were young and stupid. And make stupid mistakes. You’re still a thief even though now you’re 40-years-old?

When asked by a reporter, Well, I think stealing candy is a little bit different than rape, Orten replied:

No, it’s not. No, it’s not. No, it’s not. It’s still sin. And if you get caught, there are consequences and you will pay.

Dear Pastor Orten, Yes, it is. Yes, it is. Yes, it is.

The church’s website currently returns a 404-page not found error message.

Black Collar Crime: Unnamed Anglican Priest Prayed for Forgiveness as He Raped Teenager

sexual assault

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

ABC News (Australia) reports that an unnamed Anglican priest has been accused of repeatedly raping a teen girl in the 1980s. While raping the girl, the priest allegedly asked God to forgive him. Here’s an excerpt from the victim’s court testimony:

The court heard the priest told her to pray hard for her dog and stare at the altar, before allegedly pulling her on to his lap.

She told the court he then said: “It’s not like you haven’t done this before” before raping her.

“I thought if I stayed really still it would be over soon. So I stayed really still.”

The court heard the priest muttered “please God forgive me” repeatedly during the alleged sexual assault.

If true, this priest is one sick puppy. I am not familiar with Australian law. Perhaps a reader who lives in Australia can explain why the priest was not named in the news report.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Alvin McNeil Found Guilty on Rape Charge

alvin mcneil

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

In September 2016, Alvin McNeil, pastor of Open Door True Worship Apostolic Church in Mobile, Alabama was arrested and charged with rape. Fox-10 reported at the time:

A Mobile pastor is behind bars after he was indicted by a Mobile County Grand Jury.

Members of the Open Door True Worship Apostolic Church say they’re stunned after their pastor was booked into Mobile County Metro Jail for allegedly sexually abusing a child.

Alvin Norman McNeil, 54, of Prichard, was booked Wednesday night on child sexual abuse and first-degree rape and sodomy charges, according to jail records.

A mother claims McNeil raped her daughter who was 16-years-old at the time and she became pregnant. The mother also says McNeil touched her 11-year-old daughter.

….

Yesterday, McNeil was found guilty on all counts. WSFA reports:

A Mobile County jury convicted pastor on rape and sex abuse of a child charges Tuesday.

Alvin McNeil was the pastor at Open Door True Worship Church in Mobile when he was indicted in 2016. He was arrested after a mother went to police after McNeil raped her 16-year-old daughter and she became pregnant. The mother also said McNeil molested her 11-year-old daughter.

McNeil’s bond was revoked and he was booked into Mobile County Metro Jail. He will be sentenced on May 24.

….

Update

McNeil was sentenced to fifty years in prison for his crimes.

If God is so Powerful, Why Can’t He Stop Christians From Committing Heinous Crimes?

Evangelicals believe that their God is all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful. He is the sovereign of the universe, and nothing happens apart from his purpose, decree, and plan. God sets up kingdoms and takes them down; thus Donald Trump is the president of the United States because God wanted him to be. It’s God, not humans, who ultimately elects people to office. He is the divine ballot box stuffer. This same God is the giver and taker of life. No one dies before the time God has appointed for his or her death. Wherever man roams, the Christian God is found. According to Evangelicals, humans cannot escape God. He is e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e.

If these things are true, I’d love for a Christian to explain to me why it is that God can’t stop his followers from committing heinous crimes? Appealing to free will or sin won’t work. Why? God is in control of everything. If he is in control of everything, then that includes sin. If he is the sovereign over the universe, and nothing happens apart from his purpose, decree, and plan, what does that say about the notion of free will?  If humans truly have free will and can choose as they please, this means that God is not in control; that God’s plans can be frustrated by human volition. (Let the theological wrangling and justifications begin.) Well Bruce, you have to understand ____________. Actually, I don’t. All I am doing here is taking what Christians say at face value. If God is whom Evangelicals say he is, and has the power they say he does, this means that God is culpable for what happens day after day on this dying planet of ours.

Let me ask again, why can’t God stop his followers from committing heinous crimes? If, as Evangelicals assert, God, the Holy Spirit, lives in all believers and is their teacher and guide, why do Christians commit vile, horrendous crimes? Take Matthew Phelps, who stabbed his Christian wife over a hundred times. Explain how a Bible college-trained preacher could commit such a crime. Explain how it is that the news daily reports stories about Evangelical “men of God” committing adultery, stealing church funds, raping teenagers, and sexually molesting children. Why doesn’t Jehovah stop these God-called, Spirit-filled, Bible-reading, praying servants of his from committing these crimes (and others that aren’t reported). Is it that God can’t; that he is powerless to do so? Is it that humans do what humans do, and there is nothing God can do to keep them from doing so? It seems to me, based on an ever-increasing mountain of evidence, that if there is a God who created everything, he is an idle bystander, unwilling or unable to lift a finger to keep his followers from sodomizing boys, sexually assaulting little girls, and preying on adult women.

There was a time when Evangelicals could argue that criminals such as David Hyles or Bob Gray (Jacksonville, Florida) were outliers; that pastors, evangelists, missionaries, Sunday school teachers, deacons, and bus workers who commit crimes are as rare as a dodo bird sighting. Thanks to the internet and the willingness of victims to publicly share their stories, we now know the Evangelicals have just as big of a crime problem as the Catholic church does. And even before the internet, there was gossip about this or that preacher being arrested or run out of his church. Solomon was right when said there is nothing new under the sun.

Evangelical church leaders love to rail against the world and its “sins,” yet these same behaviors are found among the fraternity. Does anyone really believe that Ted Haggard and Jack Hyles are the exceptions to the rule; that yes, preachers can and do commit crimes, but such behavior is rarely found in Evangelical houses of God? I remember a day when Evangelicals thundered against the sins of the world — fornication, adultery, homosexuality, and divorce. Look at our strong, lifelong marriages, pastors would say. Look at our moral purity. We owe it all to JESUS!  Now we know better. Evangelical pastors and their congregants sin just as much as the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. We know that pastors are not the pillars of virtue they claim to be: that they have sex with women to whom they are not married, and surf porn sites just like their counterparts in the world. (Please read Is Clergy Sexual Infidelity Rare?)

It seems, then, that Evangelicals aren’t any different from the rest of us; that all their talk about being new creations in Christ Jesus is just that, talk. Now, this doesn’t mean that Christianity is worthless. People find purpose, meaning, and community through religion. That said, I do wonder if pastors stood before their congregations and said, God is not who and what we claim he is and we are just as fucked up as the rest of the world, what would happen? If the notion of a personal, caring God is destroyed, what’s left for Christians besides Grandma Mary’s cherry pie? If there is no difference morally between the saved and the lost, where does that leave Christianity?

Of course — thanks to cognitive dissonance — my words will be loudly and roundly rejected. There is machinery to maintain and gears to grease. There are offerings to collect and souls to save. Evangelicals dare not let reality get in the way of perpetuating the myth — that Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

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

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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Rape is the Same as Consensual Gay Sex, Says Mormon Quentin Cook

quentin cook

It is commendable that nonconsensual immorality [rape, sexual assault] has been exposed and denounced. Such nonconsensual immorality is against the laws of God and of society. Those who understand God’s plan should also oppose consensual immorality [gay sex, fornication, adultery], which is also a sin.

Mormon Apostle Quentin Cook at the 2018 Mormon General Conference

Black Collar Crime: Methodist Pastor Russell Davis Accused of Rape

pastor russell davis

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

Russell Davis, a Methodist pastor, stands accused of raping a teenager.

WMUR-9 reports:

A Seabrook man is being held without bail after he was accused of raping a child while he was serving as a pastor in the Methodist Church.

Russell Davis, 65, faces several charges in Massachusetts. Seabrook police said they arrested Davis Thursday on a fugitive from justice warrant. The Essex County District Attorney’s Office said he is being held without bail because he is still employed in the ministry and has access to children.

Davis pleaded not guilty in Newburyport District Court to charges out of Rowley, Massachusetts, of rape of a child with force and indecent assault and battery on a person 14 or over, and a charge of rape from Newbury, Massachusetts.

Prosecutors said the allegations involve the same victim and incidents that occurred in April 2004.

According to the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church, Davis was a licensed Methodist minister from 1999 to 2015. His first assignment was in Warren, New Hampshire.

Davis moved among several churches in Maine and Massachusetts after that until his license was discontinued in 2015. A spokesperson for the church would not say why his license was discontinued but said it was not related to sexual misconduct.

It’s unclear whether Davis has been affiliated with any churches in New Hampshire since then.

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An April 9, 2018 Salem News report states:

A former pastor accused of raping a child will have the chance to be released from custody as he awaits trial. A Newburyport District Court judge ordered that he be held on $5,000 cash bail, following a dangerousness hearing on Monday.

While Russell Davis, 65, of Seabrook, was found dangerous by the court, he will be released should he post bail. If released, he will need to wear a GPS monitoring device, live in Massachusetts, stay away and have no contact with his alleged victim and have no unsupervised contact with children under 16. He is due back in court May 16.

Monday’s dangerousness hearing, which is to determine whether a defendant poses too great a risk to his alleged victim or society to be afforded bail while awaiting trial, was originally scheduled for last week. But an Essex County prosecutor told Judge Peter Doyle that Davis’ attorney was not available that day.

On March 30, Davis pleaded not guilty to charges of rape of a child with force, as well as indecent assault and battery on a person 14 or over. Those offenses took place in Rowley in 2004, according to the Essex District Attorney’s office.

In addition, Davis also pleaded not guilty to a charge of rape, which allegedly occurred in Newbury in 2004, the DA’s office said. No information was available about when the allegations surfaced. Davis was arrested a day earlier in Seabrook. A judge ordered all police reports related to Davis’ arrest impounded.

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Black Collar Crime: Methodist Pastor Troy Piccaluga Charged with Statutory Rape

troy piccaluga

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

Troy Anthony Piccaluga, pastor of Eagle Lake and Redwood United Methodist churches in Vicksburg, Mississippi, was arrested yesterday and charged with statutory rape and sexual battery.

The Clarion Ledger reports:

A Warren County minister has been charged with statutory rape and sexual battery, Sheriff Martin Pace said.

The Vicksburg Post reported that The Rev. Troy Anthony Piccaluga, 48, pastor of the Eagle Lake and Redwood United Methodist churches, was arrested Thursday at his home in the Redwood community.

Piccaluga is accused of having sexual contact with two girls between the ages of 14 and 16. The investigation began after the sheriff’s department received information that a juvenile had a sexual relationship with an older male. During the course of the investigation a second victim was identified. The alleged incidents occurred at several locations in Warren County, but Sheriff Pace would not say where.

Piccaluga is charged with two counts of statutory rape and one count of sexual battery. He is being held without bond.

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