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Tag: Sexual Abuse

Why Do Evangelical Pastors Defend and Support Criminals?

god of second chances

As I wade through the neck-deep filth in the Evangelical gutter gathering information for the Black Collar Crime series, one common event shows up in story after story: when these criminals are on trial or they are being sentenced for their crimes, their pastors are on hand to let everyone know that the predator pastor was a good person who did a bad thing. Often, these testifying pastors tell judges and juries that the criminal’s good works outweigh any bad that he might have done; that molesting and raping children or sexually assaulting church members is somehow atoned for by the church member’s or ex-pastor’s good works. These so-called men of God even go so far as to ask the courts to grant the convicted offender probation, promising that the child molester/rapist has turned over a new leaf and has crossed-his-heart-hope-to-die promised that he will never, ever rape, molest, look at child porn, or take sexual advantage of a woman. Why do pastors seem so willing to be character references for criminals?

First, when a church member or colleague in the ministry is accused and convicted of a sex crime, it makes the church and pastor look bad. Churches and their pastors supposedly set the moral standard for their communities. Yet, here’s a fine, upstanding congregant or pastor behaving in ways that make a mockery of Christian morality. So the testifying pastor, by putting a good word in for the criminal, hopes to remediate his church’s reputation. Unfortunately, by testifying, what he really says to the community is that he believes there should be a separate standard of punishment for Christian church members and pastors.

Second, many pastors believe “sinning” church members and pastors deserve a second chance. If Jesus forgave them, shouldn’t everyone else? Think of all the good Child Molester Bob or Rapist Jack could do in the community if they were given probation. Why, they could travel from church to church telling how God delivered them from sexual deviancy. Isn’t God wonderful? Bob says. I stand before you today as a humbled man forgiven by God. I am so grateful that my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ gave me another opportunity to serve him! Later that night, Bob slips into his car and drives the streets looking for another child to molest. God will forgive him, he thinks. Isn’t God awesome?

Testifying pastors seem to forget that our justice system is expected to mete out punishment to those convicted of crimes. Why all the pleas for understanding and forgiveness? These same pastors will preach thundering sermons about God’s judgment of sinners and their impending doom in Hell, yet when it comes to criminal church members and pastors, it is expected that they be treated as if their crimes were insignificant or worthy of special treatment.

Forgiveness is up to the victims and not the courts. Courts are supposed to weigh facts and evidence and render appropriate judgment. Testifying pastors are callous and tone-deaf when they ask courts to grant convicted congregants and pastors probation or community service. Should not the victims be their primary concern? Yet, in case after case, pastors re-victimize victims with their unwavering love, compassion, and support for rapists, child molesters, and those who use their positions of power to take advantage of others.

Third, some testifying pastors don’t believe the crime was as bad as prosecutors made it out to be. Yes, Youth Pastor Jim was thirty and in a position of authority, but come on, the girl was sixteen, Why, she was a-l-m-o-s-t an adult. I wonder if pastors who think this way would do so if it were THEIR daughter Youth Pastor Jim had sex with in his church office? I doubt it.

Fourth, some testifying pastors simply refuse to live in the real world. Surely, there must be some other explanation for Suzie accusing Deacon Joe of molesting her. Deacon Joe is a fine family man, the pastor says. I’ve known his family for forty years. I assure you that Deacon Bob could never, ever — I mean NEVER — molest his daughter. (Deep down he believes Suzie is possessed by a demon.) Even after the judge says GUILTY! some pastors refuse to believe the truth staring them in the face; that they didn’t know this or that pastor or church member as well as they thought they did.

Child molesters and sexual abusers can hide their behavior for decades. It is often only when children become adults that they have the courage to speak about what their father, pastor, youth pastor, deacon, teacher, or Sunday school teacher did to them. Testifying pastors wonder, why didn’t they come forward sooner? It sure looks like they did so for the money.  Evidently, such pastors expect children to act like adults, refusing to see that when an authority figure has power over someone, a victim often becomes incapacitated by fear or loss of love from family and church. It’s not that they don’t want to report what has happened to them — they can’t. And often, when victims DO speak up, what happens? They aren’t believed or they are accused of being culpable for what happened to them. This is especially the case with churches on the right-wing fringe of Evangelicalism. More than one girl has been forced to stand before her church and “confess” her sins.  Imagine being raped by a church leader, only to be forced to apologize for being such an easy target for the rapist.

I have some advice I would like to give to testifying pastors. SHUT THE HELL UP! Don’t testify. Don’t be a character reference. Don’t talk up the abuser’s good works and family. Instead, support the victims and their families. Help them find professional care for their psychological scars. Let the criminal face the just consequences of his behavior. Surely you have not forgotten that the Bible says that a man reaps what he sows. There will be plenty of time for you to minister to your convicted church member or colleague in the ministry. In open court is not the time or place.

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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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Gregory Adams Accused of Multiple Sex Crimes

pastor gregory adams

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.

Gregory Adams, pastor and prophet of Life Song Ministries in Citronelle, Alabama, stands charged with two counts of rape in the first degree, two counts of rape in the second degree, three counts of sodomy in the first degree, and two counts of sexual abuse. 

WDHN reports:

A Citronelle pastor was indicted on nine charges of sex abuse, with some of the alleged victims being as young as 12 years old. 

Gregory Renee Adams was indicted on five counts of rape, two counts of sodomy and two counts of sexual abuse by force. The sexual abuse spanned decades and state lines, according to court testimony. 

Investigators with Mobile Police believed Adams used his position as a pastor to meet his victims and force them into sex. Investigators said Adams would frequently travel to churches in Citronelle, Ala. and Waynesboro, Miss. There, he would meet his victims, according to investigators.

Four people came forward claiming that Adams sexually assaulted them. Two of the victims said the abuse started when they were 12 years old. 

Adams told his victims that he would decide if they went to heaven or hell and used “holy oil” as a lubricant to sexually abuse some of his victims, according to court testimony.  

WKRG adds:

The sexual abuse and assault would allegedly take place in his home as well as in the victim’s home.

Another one of his possible victims, who was also 12, said she was staying the night at Adams house before a missionary trip to Arkansas when the first sexual assault occurred.

A third possible victim alleges she was a parishioner at Adams church and met him during her adult years. She claims Adams is the father of her child and had unwanted sexual intercourse with him.

A fourth possible victim alleges she was friend’s with Adam’s children and was raped at his home.

The investigator testified that Adams used his power as a pastor to make his victims fear him.

According to testimony, Adams told one of his victims if she didn’t have sex with him, God would strike her down with lightning.

Adams allegedly told his victims he chooses who goes to heaven or hell.

Testimony alleged Adams used “holy oil” as lubricant to sexually assault some of his victims.

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.

Black Collar Crime: Southern Baptist Pastor Michael Canter Accused of Sexually Abusing Church Teenager

pastor michael canter

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.

Michael Canter, pastor of Valley View Baptist Church in Abingdon, Virginia, stands accused of sexually abusing a church teenager at an overnight sleepover. Valley View is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Department reports:

After receiving a report of an alleged sexual assault and after an investigation thereof, Washington County Virginia Sheriff’s Office detectives arrested Michael Canter, age 38 of Abingdon, Virginia, without incident on September 8, 2022 on multiple sexual assault charges against a juvenile female. At the time of his arrest, Michael Canter, a lifelong resident of Washington County, Virginia, was serving as the pastor at Valley View Baptist Church in Abingdon, Virginia. Canter was charged with Taking Indecent Liberties with a Child, two counts of Aggravated Sexual Battery and Attempted Object Sexual Penetration. Canter is currently being held at the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail without bond.

The Roys Report adds:

Michael Steven Canter, 38, faces charges of taking indecent liberties with a child; two charges of aggravated sexual battery; and one charge of attempted object sexual penetration, the sheriff’s office indicated in a press release.

When he was arrested, Canter was pastor of Valley View Baptist Church in Abingdon, in far west Virginia, the sheriff’s office stated. He has pastored the church since 2015, according to the church’s Facebook page.

….

A 17-year-old told sheriff’s deputies last month that Canter had groped her multiple times a few days earlier, during an overnight church event he organized, the criminal complaint stated. The reported assault traumatized the girl, who has sought counseling and medication to cope, the complaint added.

The complaint also states a second person corroborated the girl’s account.

A detective told local TV station WJHL that there could be other victims, too. They encouraged anyone with information to come forward.

Canter has been held without bond in the Abingdon Regional Jail since late September 8, according to the sheriff’s office and VINELink inmate records.

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.

Black Collar Crime: Christ of Christ Pastor Roberson Douge Accused of Sex Crimes with Teen Girls

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.

Roberson Douge pastor of Apostolic Church of Christ in Palm Bay, Florida, has been charged with 10 counts of lewd and lascivious battery and 10 counts of unlawful sexual activity with certain minors.

Florida Today reports:

Roberson Douge, 42, the pastor of the Apostolic Church of Christ, 1402 Norman St. NE in Palm Bay, was charged with 10 counts of lewd and lascivious battery and 10 counts of unlawful sexual activity with certain minors following an investigation into suspected, inappropriate behavior, police reports show.

Detectives said there may be other potential victims, and have asked anyone with information on the case to come forward.

“We really don’t know if there are other victims. We are not sure. That’s why we put the plea out there,” said Lt. Mike Rogers, spokesperson for the Palm Bay Police Department.

Douge, arrested at his home in Palm Bay Wednesday by Palm Bay police, is also the owner and operator of Tiger Claw Kung Fu, a martial arts training facility in the city.

The investigation began Monday after someone came forward to tell Palm Bay detectives that two girls were in illicit relationships with the preacher. 

One of the teens had reached out to a friend to tell her she was struggling with personal issues, when both realized they were involved with inappropriate sexual relations with Douge.

The girls told police they attended the church. One girl said the pastor would drive her home, touch her, and later engage in sex in the vehicle, according to an affidavit. 

The other girl told investigators the pastor would drive her to empty lots for sexual contact outside of the church. The pastorl also engaged in sexual encounters with the teens in the church bathroom, the church van and his office, according to police. 

Detectives arranged to record a phone call between one of the girls and the pastor.

The pastor, who spoke in Creole and English during the recorded call, begged the girl not to reveal their relationship, fearing the disclosure would ruin his family and devastate his children, police reports show. Douge also apologized. 

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.

Life with My Fundamentalist Baptist Grandparents, John and Ann Tieken

barbara tieken 1940s
My Mom, Barbara Tieken, 1940s

My mom was born in 1938 to John and Jeanette Tieken. John owned a farm in Missouri. He was also a pilot and an airplane mechanic. I don’t know much about my mom’s childhood, but three stories come to mind. (Please see John.)

Mom had a younger brother, Steve. Their dog had puppies that John didn’t want. Instead of giving them away, John forced his son to put them in a burlap bag, take them down to the creek, and drown them.

Mom told me towards the end of her life that John had repeatedly sexually molested her. (Look at the picture of my mom above. This is the little girl John molested.) When Mom confronted him about his crimes, John, now a Fundamentalist Baptist Christian, pleaded the blood of Christ over his SBC — sins before Christ. As you shall read later in this post, John did a lot of sinning post-Jesus too. John told my mom that “God had forgiven him and so should she!” No apology, no attempt to make amends. Just cheap, meaningless Christian cliches. This would be John’s approach throughout my life with him. Not one time did I ever hear him say he was sorry or wrong.

John was a violent drunk during my mom’s childhood. His wife Jeanette was an alcoholic too. (Grandma would later quit drinking cold turkey. I had a close relationship with her.) Their alcoholism created such dysfunction for my mom and her brother that a Missouri court took them out of their home and placed them with their grandparents.

John and Grandma divorced. John then married a woman named Margaret. They too would divorce. Mom had a close relationship with Margaret, corresponding with her for years. I remember reading several of her letters. John left Missouri in the 1950s/1960s and moved to Pontiac, Michigan (Waterford Township). He married a Fundamentalist Christian divorcee named Ann. She had a son named David who was a few years older than I.

Sometime in the 1960s, the alcoholic John Tieken was gloriously saved by Jesus at Sunnyvale Chapel — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation without the label. (Sunnyvale is now defunct.) My first memories of my grandparents come from this period of time. As I pondered what to write for this post, it dawned on me that I only have two good memories of my grandparents. That’s it. Try as I might, I can’t recollect any other good experiences with them. There are reasons for this as you shall see in a moment.

John may have been saved and alcohol-free, but he was still a violent man — at least to some family members. My siblings and I would stay with the Tiekens during the summer. One day, David, who was an avid high school baseball player and fisherman, was sitting at the dinner table with the rest of us. John said something to David and he smartly replied. John stood up from the table, and with a balled fist he struck David in the face, knocking him off his chair. I would also face his wrath one summer day. My younger brother and I were playing in the garage. We found an old Bell telephone, which I proceeded to take apart, doing what boys do. When John found out, he beat the living shit out of me; the worst beating I ever received besides the one my Dad’s farmer brother gave me for moving his beer. There would be many violent outbursts from John over the years, reminding me that Fundamentalism and violent temperaments don’t go well together.

One deep, dark secret in my life comes from my childhood with the Tiekens. As I mentioned previously, my siblings and I would spend time in the summer with them, both by ourselves and with our mom. Ann would have my brother and I get in the bathtub to take a bath. While bathing, Ann would come in and show us how to “clean our genitals.” She “taught” us this lesson several times. It would take years for me to realize that she was sexually molesting us.

I did say that I had two good memories of John and Ann, so I will share them now. John, a pilot, and mechanic, was the co-owner of T&W (Tieken and Wyman) Engine Service at Pontiac (Michigan) Airport. My first fond memory of John was when he took me up in a twin-prop cargo plane he had just overhauled. Boy, was that fun (and terrifying).

tigers indians 1968

My other fond memory dates back to the summer of 1968, the year the Detroit Tigers won the world series. For my eleventh birthday, John took me to watch the Tigers play the Cleveland Indians. I remember John buying me a pennant. On this day, I felt close to my grandfather. Just a grandfather and his oldest grandson enjoying their favorite sport. Alas, this would be the first and last time we did anything together.

John and Ann were devout Fundamentalist Baptists. They attended church every time the doors were open. John became an in-your-face soulwinner — a bully for Jesus. No matter where he went, he felt it his duty to witness to people, often embarrassing family and friends. He was also a big proponent of loud prayers before meals at restaurants, letting everyone around us know that we were born-again Christians.

I enrolled for classes at Midwestern Baptist College in the fall of 1976, as did my future wife, Polly Shope. Midwestern was located in Pontiac, Michigan so this put me in contact with John and Ann. Polly quickly learned, as I had long known, that the Tiekens were domineering and controlling. By the time we started our junior year of college, we had distanced ourselves from them.

I saw John and Ann maybe once a year — Christmas at my mom’s home — from 1979 to 1986. By then, I was pastoring Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio — a fast-growing IFB congregation that eventually reached a high attendance of 206.

John and Ann came to visit the church twice in the eleven years I was there. One Sunday, John thoroughly embarrassed me in front of the entire congregation. The building was packed. This was during the time when the church was growing rapidly. After I preached and gave an invitation, I asked if anyone had something to share. John did. He stood and told the entire congregation what was wrong with my sermon. I wanted to die (and murder him).

The last time John and Ann came to visit was in 1988. We were living in Junction City at the time. After church, we invited them over for dinner. John spent a good bit of time lecturing me about my car being dirty — the beater we used to deliver newspapers. According to John, having a dirty car was a bad testimony.

After dinner — oh, I remember it as if it were yesterday! — we were sitting in the living room and one of our young boys got too close to John. What did he do? He kicked him. I knew then and there that, regardless of his love for Jesus, he didn’t love our family, and he would always be a mean son-of-a-bitch.

From this time forward, we had little to no contact with the Tiekens. Sometime in the late 1990s — I was pastoring Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio, at the time — Ann called me a few days before John’s seventy-fifth birthday and said she was having a party for him and expected our family to be there. When I explained that we couldn’t attend (it was on a church night and Polly had to work), Ann launched into a vitriolic tirade, telling me what a terrible grandson I was. Vicious and vindictive as always, Ann told me I had a terrible family.

Finally, after forty years, I had had enough. I told her that should have worried about the importance of family twenty years ago. I then told her that I was no longer interested in having any contact with them. And with that, I hung up the phone. I had finally learned to cut these toxic people out of my life — almost.

A few years later, I heard through the family grapevine that John was dying from colon cancer. I traveled three hours to Pontiac to visit him. Why? I don’t know. When I entered his hospital room, Ann wasn’t there — a small favor from God, I thought at the time. John was sedated and unable to communicate. I stood there for a few moments, with tears trickling down my face (as they are now). And then I walked away. He died a short time later. I did not attend his funeral. I knew it would be a masturbatory celebration of John, the Fundamentalist Baptist soulwinner. I had no appetite for yet another lie.

I never expected to see Ann again. When I said I wanted nothing to do with John and Ann, I meant it. They had caused so much pain in my life. I had no interest in my children knowing anything about them (and they don’t). In 2003, I began pastoring Victory Baptist Church in Clare, Michigan — a Southern Baptist congregation. Unbeknownst to me, Ann had remarried and moved to Clare. She lived five minutes from our home in White Birch — a gated community outside of Farwell. What are the odds, right? Was God punishing me?

Ann attended a nearby Southern Baptist church. One Sunday, I looked out the church door while I was preaching and saw Ann sitting in the parking lot with her husband and David’s son. (David was murdered in Detriot in 1981, at the age of twenty-six.) After the service, I briefly talked to her. The next Sunday, Ann visited Victory Baptist, and after the service invited us over to dinner later in the week. I didn’t want to go, but I thought, what kind of Christian am I? Surely, I can forgive her and let the past be the past.

And so we went. Things went fairly well until Ann decided to let me know — as if it was a fact that everyone knew — that my dad was not really my father. I showed no reaction to this revelation, but it stunned me and cut me right to the quick. I knew my Mom was eighteen and pregnant when she married Dad, but I had never before heard what Ann was telling me. Why did she tell me this? What good could ever come of it? Two years ago, I took a DNA test, confirming that my father was actually a truck driver from Chicago. So Ann was right. But the fact remains that this was not hers to tell; that she did so to hurt me. I never saw Ann again. Last I heard, her husband died and she was in a nursing home.

Members at Victory Baptist were excited to find out that I was the oldest grandson of Gramma Clarke (her new married name) — a fine, kind, loving Christian woman if there ever was one, they told me. All I ever told them is that things are not always as they seem.

Years later, Ann did a Facebook search on my name and “found” me. She sent me a message that said:

What ? An athiest ?? Sorry Sorry Sorry !!!What happened ? How’s Polly & your family??

Nine years, and this is what she sent me. I sat down and wrote her a letter. You can read it here.

I wrote:

I don’t wish you any ill will. That said, I don’t want to have a relationship with you, especially a pretend Facebook friendship. Ooh Look! Bruce got reconnected with his estranged Grandmother. Isn’t God good!!

Not gonna happen. I have exactly zero interest in pursuing a relationship with you. It is too late.

My “good” memories of you and Grandpa are few and far between (and I haven’t even mentioned things that I am still, to this day, too embarrassed to mention). You really don’t know me and I don’t know you. And that’s okay.

Life is messy, Ann, and this is one mess in aisle three that no one can clean up. I have been told that I have a hard time forgiving and forgetting. This is perhaps a true assessment of me. I told Polly tonight that I am quite willing to forgive but it is hard to do when there is never an admission of guilt or the words I am sorry are never uttered. How can there be since the blood of Jesus wipes away every shitty thing a person has ever done? Talk about a get out of responsibility for sin card.

I am sure you will think I am just like my mother. I am.

You know what my last memory of my Mom is? After I tearfully and with a broken heart concluded my 54-year-old Mom’s graveside service, Grandpa Tieken took the “opportunity” to preach at us and tell us that Mom was in Heaven. Just days before she had put a gun to her chest and pulled the trigger. We all were reeling with grief and pain and Grandpa, in a classic Grandma-and-Grandpa-Tieken moment, decided to preach instead of love.

A comment by Amy B actually provoked me — in a good way — to write this post tonight:

I’m astonished (and impressed) that you feel no bitterness towards your grandfather. I hate his guts, and I never met the man!

I certainly have plenty of reasons to be bitter towards John and Ann (I refuse to call them Grandpa and Grandma). Not wanting to write a tome, this post is just a summary of the heartache and harm caused by John and Ann. I am sure some Christians might think that my unwillingness to forgive them is a sign of bitterness. That’s the problem with Christianity and its demands that we forgive people no matter what they do to us, Fake, syrupy “love” demands they “forgive” regardless of the pain and trauma caused by others.

I reject this kind of thinking. I don’t owe anyone forgiveness, though I have asked for forgiveness and forgiven others countless times. In the name of God and in accordance with the teachings of the Bible, John and Ann showed nothing but contempt for me, my mother, and my younger siblings. We never measured up. They used money and gifts to manipulate us, demanding that we conform to their exacting Biblical standard. Imagine my surprise years later when I learned that Ann was a Valium addict. Even she couldn’t measure up.

John and Ann were big fans of Bill Gothard and his Institute in Basic Life Principles seminars. Year after year, John would badger me about attending the Detroit seminar, saying he would pay for it. I always said no, thinking that I could see no discernable difference IBLP made in their lives, so why should I bother?

I am now sixty-five years old. What am I to make of the terrible wound John and Ann left on my life? Some family members, mainly my uncle Dave’s family and my mom’s younger brother, Steve, view John and Ann differently from the way in which I do. Were their experiences so much different from mine? I don’t know. It seems more likely to me that Evangelical Christianity, with its dysfunctional teachings about love and forgiveness, keeps them from honestly giving an account of their experiences with John and Ann Tieken. The blood of Jesus continues to cover up trauma that caused untold heartache and harm.

I don’t blame them for doing so, but that’s not the approach I take. Instead, I value responsibility, accountability, repentance, and restitution. John and Ann wanted forgiveness without these things, and I am not going to give it to them. That I write about my life with John and Ann Tieken infuriates some people in my extended family. They want me to leave the deep, dark secrets of the past buried in the sea of God’s forgetfulness. How do we learn to do differently if we don’t tell our stories? I want my children to better understand me as a man. What better way to do that than tell my story — painful warts, and all? I want my grandchildren to know me as I am, not as a caricature or a facade. These experiences have made me into the man I am today. When people confide in me, speaking of the trauma they experienced in their lives, I understand. I am a deeply marred and wounded man, but I survived. That’s the key. I SURVIVED! I wish Mom were alive today so we could toast our survival together. Instead, the most important person in my life, save Polly, is dead, having killed herself at age 54. When I think of John and Ann Tieken, I can’t help but lay much of the blame for her suicide at their feet. They could have loved Barbara and her children, but they chose not to (or loved them in a warped Evangelical way). They could have helped by giving of their time and money, as Jesus would have done. Instead, they judged and berated us for not measuring up, withholding material help because we weren’t doing things the right way. Mom’s life was a mess. John and Ann could have lent a hand, loving her as they were commanded to do so in the Bible. Instead, they micro-judged every part of her life, raining judgment on her head, and when I got older they did the same with me, my wife, and our children. Is it any wonder that I wanted nothing to do with them; that when John died I felt nothing; that when I hear of Ann’s demise, I will likely feel the same? Whatever feelings I might have had for John and Ann Tieken died two decades ago. They are little more than a chapter in my autobiography now — that is except for the ugly marks they left on my life. These deep wounds will never go away. All I know to do is keep telling my story, and when I feel John and Ann closing in, call my therapist and say, let’s talk.

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.

Dear Southern Baptist Pastors, Please Stop Saying “We Didn’t Know”

see hear speak

We now know that Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) leaders hid, covered up, and ignored hundreds and hundreds of cases of sexual misconduct by SBC pastors, worship leaders, teachers, evangelists, youth leaders, missionaries, deacons, and college professors. The published list of the offenders is but the tip of the iceberg. It is likely that thousands of allegations of sexual assault, sexual abuse, rape, and other sex crimes were not investigated or taken seriously. Add to this number stories about preachers who used their position of authority and power to take sexual advantage of (primarily) women or were garden variety adulterers and fornicators, and it’s hard not to conclude that the SBC is many things, but it is definitely not Christian. We are not talking about a few bad apples here.

Several years ago, my wife and I, along with our children and grandchildren picked four thirty-gallon trash cans of apples from our trees. Due to Polly having serious bowel problems that resulted in her having major surgery and spending several weeks in the hospital, one of the cans of apples remained unprocessed. The apples sat in the can for weeks, and as they rotted, we could smell their sweet, alcohol-like aroma in the kitchen as the fall air wafted through the windows. Eventually, I dumped the apples on our compost pile. I view the current state of the SBC much like I do that rotting garbage can of apples. Sure, there were some unrotted apples in the can, but the decaying apples around the “good” apples made them unusable. I have no doubt that many SBC pastors are good men with character and high moral standards. However, in the midst of these good men are violent predators who used their positions of authority to prey on vulnerable children, teenagers, and women (and yes, boys and men too).

It is these “good” preachers I want to address. It has been fashionable of late for “good” Southern Baptist preachers to express outrage over the current sexual abuse scandal, often saying WE DIDN’T KNOW! It is to these preachers I say BULLSHIT! Don’t tell me you didn’t know. I know better. I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five years. I knew a number of Baptist pastors, missionaries, and evangelists. I attended numerous pastor’s fellowships and conferences where preachers would get together for preaching, food, and fellowship. And what else did we do? We talked about rumors. We were the gossips we preached about on Sundays. I heard countless stories about preachers committing crimes, having affairs, and all sorts of immoral behavior. We knew, yet, for the most part, we did nothing.

While I did my best to deal with such misconduct within the churches I pastored (and deplatforming preachers I heard rumors about), when it came to these things happening in other churches, I did what many SBC pastors do now, I said “that’s a local church problem.” I hid behind my ecclesiology, saying that it was up to an offending pastor’s church to deal with his misconduct. When such things happened in the churches I pastored, I didn’t hesitate to call law enforcement or child protective services. Sadly, when I heard about similar behavior by preachers, deacons, and leaders in other churches, I took a “not my church, not my problem” approach. Oh, I might distance myself from an offending preacher, but I never went the extra mile by reporting these so-called men of God to the authorities or passing on what I had heard to their churches. I was taught at Bible college that a preacher should never meddle in another church’s problems. While that is generally good advice, when it comes to knowing that a preacher is engaging in criminal or harmful behavior, it is always right to say something. Of course, doing so could cause all sorts of problems and loss of friendships. Sadly, some churches don’t want to know if their pastor is engaging in immoral and unethical behavior. In their minds, protecting the church’s “testimony” is more important than rooting out predatory preachers.

So, to the SBC preachers saying “we didn’t know,” I say, yes you did. You heard the rumors; you heard the gossip; you saw and heard things that troubled you; you had suspicions. You had enough knowledge that you should have demanded the SBC executive committee do something. You knew enough to demand that your state convention or area missionary get rid of the rotting apples in your midst. While you can’t do much about the past, you can, going forward, stand with and protect victims. You can, and you must, demand that predators be removed from their churches, local church autonomy be damned. When asked to choose between theological beliefs and vulnerable people, you must choose the latter.

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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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Updated: Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Jamie Worley Pleads Guilty to Harassment, Avoids Prison

pastor jamie worley

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 2018, Jamie Worley, a pastor at Powell Valley Church in Gresham, Oregon, was convicted of numerous sex-crime charges.

Garrett Andrews, a reporter for The Bulletin writes (behind paywall):

When Jamie Worley’s attorney made his closing argument, last week, he told jurors only one of two things could be true: Either his client’s accuser had created her story, or that Worley was indeed the “monster” portrayed by the prosecution.

Wednesday afternoon in Deschutes County Circuit Court, the jury provided the answer.

James Daniel “Jamie” Worley, 45, a Gresham pastor and onetime Bend resident, was found guilty of seven sex-related felonies against a former family member in a case that stretches back six years and involves abuse that took place around the turn of the millennium.

The jury was unable to reach a verdict on eight other counts. Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel said his office will decide in the next few days whether or not to try Worley again on those charges.

The verdict shocked Worley and the family and friends who packed the courtroom. A jury in an earlier, related case in Tillamook County had found Worley not guilty on several charges, and deadlocked on others.

In casual exchanges this month around the Deschutes County Courthouse, Worley expressed cautious optimism he’d again be found not guilty. He wanted to move on with his life, he said.

None of the six men and six women seemed to look at Worley as they filed past him on Wednesday.

“Why?” a red-faced and tearful Worley asked himself repeatedly after the verdict was read. He said it looking toward the ceiling with his hands turned up. He said it again as he looked at the jurors who spent four weeks hearing evidence and four days deliberating.

Worley was originally arrested in 2014, based on accusations made two years earlier. The family member described abuse that took place between 2002 and 2004, when Worley and his then-wife lived in Bend.

….

Following Wednesday’s verdict, Worley’s current wife, Joanne, said the family hasn’t given up. “He is innocent,” she said multiple times. “There is so much the jury didn’t get to hear.”

After the verdict was read, Worley’s distraught mother, Connie Worley, startled the courtroom. She pointed at Judge Beth Bagley as she was leaving, wagging her finger.

“You,” Connie Worley said. “You.”

….

A May 1, 2018 report in The Bulletin states:

Former Gresham pastor James Daniel “Jamie” Worley was sentenced to 12½ years in prison Monday in Deschutes County Circuit Court for sexually abusing a family member when he lived in Bend in the early 2000s, when his victim was between age 5 and 7.

Worley’s recent trial lasted four weeks before a jury returned guilty verdicts on March 14.

The drama on Monday came down to whether Judge Beth M. Bagley would choose to run three 75-month sentences concurrently — as the defense had asked — or consecutively, as the prosecution asked.

Bagley said that despite an expert witness who testified Worley represented a low level of risk to the community, the pain he caused his victim needed to be addressed in her sentence.

“We as a society say child sexual abuse is intolerable,” she said.

Bagley ultimately gave Worley two consecutive 75-month sentences, with the third to run concurrently.

Worley, 45, was additionally given 10 years post-prison supervision during which the only children he may spend time with are his own.

He also now owes about $20,000 as a result of this case. He was ordered Monday to pay $12,000 in compensation to his victim for the therapy she’ll undertake as a result of the abuse.

….

Worley’s conviction was later overturned. He was subsequently retried, entering an Alford plea to one count of misdemeanor harassment.

The Bulletin reported at the time:

Following an assist by the U.S. Supreme Court, a onetime Bend resident remains a guilty man, but one no longer guilty of child sex abuse.

In a short hearing Monday in Deschutes County Circuit Court, James Daniel “Jamie” Worley, 48, pleaded guilty by Alford plea to one count of misdemeanor harassment, having once faced more than 30 counts of child rape.

In an Alford plea, a defendant accepts responsibility for a crime without admitting guilt.

Worley’s plea deal includes no jail time. Harassment is a Class B misdemeanor and as such, he won’t have to register as a sex offender. He was ordered to have no contact with the victim for three years.

A $12,000 fine imposed at his last trial, which he has paid, remained in place.

In March 2018, a jury convicted Worley of seven sex-related felonies against a child, and he was sentenced to 12 years in prison. He appealed his conviction on the basis of the unconstitutionality of nonunanimous jury verdicts.

Prior to 2020 in Oregon, only 10 of 12 jurors needed to vote guilty in order to convict.

That April, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Ramos v. Louisiana, striking down nonunanimous jury laws in Oregon and Louisiana and sending back hundreds of cases for re-trial, including Worley’s.

Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel opted to re-try him, maintaining he believed Worley was guilty.

Hummel spoke out against Oregon’s nonunanimous jury law in an article about the law and the Worley case in The New York Times. In the same article, Worley professed his innocence: “I did not do these things. What more can I say than I didn’t?” he’s quoted as saying.

The allegations against Worley were first made in late 2012 and concerned abuse said to have taken place in the early 2000s, when Worley and the victim lived in Deschutes County.

In 2014, he was indicted by a Deschutes County grand jury, charged with more than 30 counts of child rape. He was arrested at his home in Gresham, where he worked as a pastor.

The trial was delayed by a different trial with the same victim in Tillamook County, where Worley’s family had also lived. The jury there ultimately found him not guilty of several charges and deadlocked on others.

New York Times article on Worley’s case.

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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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Black Collar Crime: Southern Baptist Leader Joe Knott Terrified Over What Will Happen if Convention Tries to Stop Sexual Abuse in Their Churches

joe knotts

Southern Baptist executive member Joe Knotts recently stated:

I am terrified that we are breaching our long-standing position of being a voluntary association of independent churches, when we start telling churches that they should do this or do that to protect children or women.

I guarantee you women and children are going to be victimized no matter how much — and that is going to make us potentially targets of great class-action lawsuits, which could be the end of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The Roy’s Report, June 2, 2022

I am speechless. Until the Joe Knotts of the world are run out of the Southern Baptist Convention, no real and lasting change will take place. He is part of the problem, not the solution. For Knotts and others like him, ecclesiology is more important than protecting children and women (and men too) from sexual predators who freely roam the halls of Southern Baptist churches. Why, if the SBC does anything to protect children and women from abuse, it could open the Convention to lawsuits. Your point, Joe? The executive committee, along with countless churches, pastors, and other leaders should be held accountable for the abuse that has happened on their watch. That’s the price that must be paid for decades of concealment and inaction.

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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Shocking News! Southern Baptist Convention Leaders Ignored, Dismissed, and Marginalized Sex Abuse Victims

southern baptist sex abuse scandal
Cartoon by Clay Jones, my favorite cartoonist

An alternate headline would go something like this: OMG! The Southern Baptist Convention Has a Sex Abuse Problem — Who’d a Thunk It?

The media, much like a hog finding an acorn, breathlessly reports that notable Southern Baptist leaders knew that sexual predators were roaming the halls of SBC churches, colleges, seminaries, and youth camps. The media acts like the recently released Guidepost report on sexual abuse in the SBC (read full report here) is new information; that no one knew the depth of the depravity until the report was released. To that, I say, bullshit. Some of us have been writing about sexual abuse in Evangelicalism, in general, and the SBC and the IFB church movement, in particular, for decades. I know I have. (Please see the Black Collar Crime Series.) Our voices, for the most part, were ignored. I was routinely dismissed because I’m an atheist, a bitter, jaded ex-Evangelical with an ax to grind. Even if such claims are true, and they are not, this question remains: is what I write about sexual abuse, pastors abusing their positions of authority for sexual gain, and sundry other crimes committed by so-call men of God, true?

Countless Evangelicals have self-righteously told me: yes, preachers can and do commit crimes, but they are just a few rotten apples among a bushel of Red Delicious apples. As the latest report reveals, there are a lot more rotten apples in that bushel than Evangelical sects, churches, and colleges would have us believe. We are not talking about a few isolated incidences here. I suspect that there are thousands of preachers, evangelists, missionaries, college professors, deacons, Sunday school teachers, youth directors, bus workers, and church janitors who are sexual predators; men (and a few women) who prey on vulnerable children, teenagers, and adults — most of whom have never been prosecuted for their crimes (though this is changing thanks to the Internet and increasing pressure on law enforcement and prosecutors to aggressively investigate and prosecute preachers and other church leaders). We know that these predators will not stop until they are caught; until they are arrested, prosecuted, and imprisoned.

For years, SBC and IFB preachers gleefully pointed out the Catholic church’s sex abuse scandal. “We preach the true gospel and personal holiness, so we don’t have such problems in our churches,” many preachers self-righteously said.

Here’s what William Reeves, pastor of North Platte Baptist Church in North Platte, Nebraska, had to say:

Reeves knows this is a bald-faced lie; a denial of the facts on the ground. As IFB and Southern Baptist preachers are wont to do, all that matters to Reeves is protecting the “good” name of the sect and its churches. That’s why the SBC executive committee, pastors, college presidents, and attorneys covered up sex crimes. All that matters is outward appearance, victims be damned.

Much like a mob family, SBC leaders buried countless sex abuse victims in non-descript, out-of-the-way plots of ground, never to be heard from again. The good news is that a true miracle is taking place. Those buried victims, long thought dead, are very much alive, shouting their stories from rooftops to all who will listen. And they will not be silenced. And as a small, insignificant voice in this battle against predatory preachers, I will continue to leverage this site’s traffic to continue to expose their crimes. As far as the SBC is concerned, several things need to happen

  • The FBI needs to begin an immediate investigation of the SBC Executive Committee and other denominational leaders. It’s evident that some SBC leaders engaged in organized criminal behavior, and, if warranted, should be prosecuted for their crimes.
  • The SBC should establish an accessible database of people accused of sex crimes. Not just those who have been prosecuted. Yes, there is a small — a very, very very small — chance someone could be wrongfully accused. That’s unfortunate, but the overwhelming majority of preachers and other church leaders accused of sex crimes are as guilty as Judas Iscariot. Often, guilty preachers escape punishment due to statutory limitations, so a lack of prosecution is not a statement of innocence.
  • Churches must enact policies that put the safety and welfare of children, teenagers, and church members first. Background checks on an annual basis (state and federal) must be required for a church to remain in the SBC. Churches must use outside investigators to thoroughly investigate new hires. Word of mouth is not good enough. Contacting a pastoral candidate’s previous church is not good enough. I candidated at a number of churches over the years. I still find it astounding what churches DIDN’T ask me. Not one church performed a background check or investigated my past. All that seemed to matter is that I was winsome, an excellent public speaker, and had a wife who could play the piano.
  • Churches should immediately shutter their youth programs and fire their youth pastors. The sheer number of youth pastors accused of sex crimes is such that the risk far outweighs the benefit. Young youth pastors have raging hormones, yet churches think it is a good idea to put them in ministries that afford them close, intimate interaction with teens and college students who also have raging hormones. What could possibly go wrong? According to the Black Collar Crime Series — a lot.
  • Accusations of sexual misconduct should be IMMEDIATELY reported to law enforcement. Don’t investigate, call for a church meeting, or interrogate the victim. It is up to law enforcement, not the church, to determine if a crime has been committed. If churches don’t do this, their leaders should be prosecuted for “failing to report.” Start throwing in jail preachers, deacons, and other church leaders for not reporting allegations of sexual abuse, and I suspect they might start taking the matter seriously.

And let me conclude by saying, Christa Brown was right.

For further information on predatory Baptist preachers, please check out the Baptist Accountability site and Abuse of Faith database.

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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.

Bruce Gerencser