Tag Archive: Sexual Abuse

David Hyles Says “My Bad, Jesus”

david hyles

David Hyles, Present Day

For forty-two years, Jack Hyles was the king of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana. During his tenure, Hyles’ son David served as youth pastor. After his son became enmeshed in a sex scandal, Jack Hyles moved David to Garland, Texas so he could assume the pastorate of Miller Road Baptist Church. There, David Hyles continued his predator ways. Once pictures of Hyles with naked female church members were discovered, he was fired. If you are not familiar with Jack or David Hyles, please read The Legacy of Jack Hyles, UPDATED: Serial Adulterer David Hyles Has Been Restored, Serial Adulterer David Hyles Receives a Warm Longview Baptist Temple WelcomeThe Scandalous Life of Jack Hyles and Why it Still Matters and The Mesmerizing Appeal of Jack Hyles. Rumor has it that David Hyles is planning on making a comeback. As far as I know, Hyles has never publicly apologized for past sexual misconduct. There are three reasons that Hyles refuses to address his immoral past. First, he is the son of Jack Hyles, and if there is one thing that we know about Hyleses, it is that they NEVER admit making mistakes or being wrong. David Hyles’ father was a narcissistic megalomaniac who saw admitting wrong as weakness. He taught countless First Baptist members and Hyles-Anderson College students what I call the Jack Hyles Maxim: If You Didn’t See it, It Didn’t Happen. (Please see If You Didn’t See it, It Didn’t Happen.) David Hyles, taught well by his father, has yet to confess the error of his ways.

Second, David Hyles knows that he could be held criminally liable for some of his past actions, including the bizarre death of his 15-month-old son. It is likely that Hyles had illicit sex with numerous women. Some of them might have been minors. As his preacher-brother-in-law Jack Schaap learned, sex with minors can land you in prison. Schaap, who became pastor of First Baptist after the death of his father-in-law, had a sexual relationship with a minor girl he was counseling. Schaap is serving a 12-year federal prison sentence for his crimes.

Third, David Hyles’ theological beliefs are such that restitution and public confession are unnecessary.  Hyles wrote the following on Facebook:

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

blood of jesus

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

This is why men such as Bob Gray, Sr. and Bob Gray II, past and present pastors of the Longview Baptist Temple, can warmly welcome David Hyles into their church. Hey, the Grays think to themselves, God has forgiven David Hyles. Who are we to withhold forgiveness from him. If God can forgive the David of the Bible, surely God can forgive the David who once preyed on the young women of First Baptist Church.

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

In 2015, David Hyles wrote a book titled Jack Hyles’ Passion for Sunday School. The forward was written by his mother Beverly Hyles and the book was published by Hyles-Anderson graduate and Jack Hyles worshiper Bob Gray, Sr. I wonder if David Hyles will use the proceeds from his book to make restitution to the people he has harmed? I wonder if Bob Gray, Sr. will forgo his profits on the book and use them to set up a fund to pay for psychological therapy for those who lives have been destroyed by Jack Hyles, David Hyles, Jack Schaap, and those who have followed in their footsteps? Not a chance. Prayers have been prayed, time to move on. What about those who can’t move on, people who could be greatly helped if David Hyles or other sexual predators at the very least admitted what they did? Shouldn’t David Hyles and those who continue to shamelessly support him do everything they can to bring wholeness to those so deeply harmed by his debauchery? Of course not. These “sins” happened years ago. Time to forgive, forget, and move on. Follow in the footsteps of David Hyles! Stop being bitter or angry. A brand new life awaits those who will just pray the magic prayer. Imagine how many souls could be saved if everyone just forgot about the past and got busy preaching the old-time gospel. Or so goes the thinking of David Hyles and those who continue to carry the water for the Hyles family. I, for one, will continue to periodically remind readers of past IFB transgressions, hoping that offenders will one day make restitution, victims will find peace, and predator-friendly churches are metaphorically burned to the ground.

First Baptist Church of Hammond Sued Over Fraudulent Investment Scheme

jack schaap 2

Former pastor and convicted felon Jack Schaap continues to cast a long shadow over the First Baptist Church of Hammond congregation. According to the Northwest Indiana Times, Schaap and Deacon Thomas Kimmel pushed a fraudulent investment scheme that resulted in church members losing their investment. In 2014, Kimmel was convicted of fraud, sentenced to 22 years in prison, and ordered to pay $16.5 million in restitution. Schaap, who is serving a 12 year prison sentence for having sex with a church teenager, received a one percent commission on each church member’s investment. Kimmel received a ten percent commission. Neither man disclosed these commission to the church.

Two former First Baptist families are suing the church to recoup their lost investment. Kyle Telechan, a reporter for the Times had this to say about the latest First Baptist scandal:

The First Baptist Church of Hammond is being sued by two couples for money they said was lost in an investment scheme pushed by a former deacon who allegedly was hired by the church to provide “one-on-one financial counseling.”

….

The lawsuit against First Baptist Church of Hammond, Inc., was filed this week by Joseph Elwell, Crystal Elwell, Robert Baldwin, and Deborah Baldwin, individually and as custodian for her two minor children. The Elwells are former Schererville residents now living in Yuma, Arizona, while Deborah Baldwin is a former Crown Point resident now living with her husband, Robert, in Kiel, Wisconsin.

Rick Hammond, an attorney representing the church, said Friday the church “believes the charges are baseless. That there has been absolutely no wrongdoing on behalf of the church and the church stands by its good works and the missionary work it has been doing in the community and around the world,” for decades.

“There are times when individuals may engage in wrongful conduct, but,” he said, “many people want to take that as an opportunity to wrongfully criticize the church.”

According to federal prosecutors, Kimmel sold investments in Sure Line Acceptance Corp. in churches across the country. The federal indictment against Kimmel characterized the corporation as a Ponzi scheme where investors were paid their interest from new investor money.

The lawsuit seeks to recover approximately $225,000 in losses supposedly incurred by the Elwells and $235,400 incurred by the Baldwins.

According to the lawsuit, by January 2006 Schapp (sic) had hired Kimmel to act as an employee of First Baptist Church for the purposes of providing financial advice, debt counseling, budgeting and investment advice for members of the First Baptist Church. Schaap allegedly informed church members during services that Kimmel “was the church’s financial adviser with offices on church premises and was available to members of the church for financial advice.”

The lawsuit states that Kimmel also “represented to parishioners” he had invested $450,000 of his own money in Sure Line and First Baptist Church of Hammond and Schaap had invested $1 million in the corporation.

According to the lawsuit, First Baptist Church and Schapp (sic) could “have terminated Kimmel’s ability to provide financial services to parishioners, solicit the Sure Line Investments, and the right to use First Baptist Church Office for the same purposes at any time.”

The lawsuit contends an attorney named David Gibbs, retained by First Baptist Church, advised Schaap around November 2007 they should not be offering Sure Line Investments to parishioners “because it could violate Indiana law and the parishioners were largely unsophisticated investors.”

“There are times when individuals may engage in wrongful conduct, but,” he said, “many people want to take that as an opportunity to wrongfully criticize the church.”

According to federal prosecutors, Kimmel sold investments in Sure Line Acceptance Corp. in churches across the country. The federal indictment against Kimmel characterized the corporation as a Ponzi scheme where investors were paid their interest from new investor money.

The lawsuit seeks to recover approximately $225,000 in losses supposedly incurred by the Elwells and $235,400 incurred by the Baldwins.

According to the lawsuit, by January 2006 Schapp had hired Kimmel to act as an employee of First Baptist Church for the purposes of providing financial advice, debt counseling, budgeting and investment advice for members of the First Baptist Church. Schaap allegedly informed church members during services that Kimmel “was the church’s financial adviser with offices on church premises and was available to members of the church for financial advice.”

The lawsuit states that Kimmel also “represented to parishioners” he had invested $450,000 of his own money in Sure Line and First Baptist Church of Hammond and Schaap had invested $1 million in the corporation.

According to the lawsuit, First Baptist Church and Schapp (sic) could “have terminated Kimmel’s ability to provide financial services to parishioners, solicit the Sure Line Investments, and the right to use First Baptist Church Office for the same purposes at any time.”

The lawsuit contends an attorney named David Gibbs, retained by First Baptist Church, advised Schaap around November 2007 they should not be offering Sure Line Investments to parishioners “because it could violate Indiana law and the parishioners were largely unsophisticated investors.”

While Jack Schaap supporters — yes, he still has them — will place all the blame on Kimmel, those of us who understand how First Baptist Church operates know that the authoritarian Schaap had full knowledge of what Kimmel was doing. Schaap and Kimmel used trusting congregants as a means to amass wealth. In Schaap’s case, not only did he sexually prey on a trusting church teenager, he also financially preyed on numerous church families. And if it is true that Schaap indeed had $1 million invested in Sureline Acceptance Corporation, perhaps someone should be asking where this money came from.

The financial aspects of the lives of former pastors Jack Hyles and Jack Schaap and First Baptist Church have never been investigated. Those of us who spent years in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) have heard countless stories about the largess of Hyles and Schaap. While these anecdotal stories make for wonderful sermon illustrations, few bother to question their veracity. Defenders of Hyles’ empire would have people believe that Hyles and Schaap were selfless servants of the most high God. My gut tells me that these men are really far different from the persona presented to the thousands of people who called them pastor. To those who would suggest that Kimmel’s and Schaap’s investment scheme had nothing to do with Jack Hyles, I say this: Jack Hyles conditioned generations of congregants to accept without question his “leadership.” Hyles’ son-in-law Schaap followed in his father-in-law’s authoritarian footsteps. Both men were megalomaniacs who — in the name of God — abused, misused, and took advantage of countless church members. Until First Baptist congregants are able to see this, they will continue to be easy prey for so called “men of God.”

Note

Story on Thomas Kimmel’s conviction and sentencing.

Class action lawsuit filed against First Baptist.

 

If Salvation is by Grace and Not by Works

salvation by works

I recently wrote a post about Evangelical outrage over Montel Williams suggesting that the heart of Christianity is good works. Countless Evangelicals schooled Williams about salvation, reminding him that good works play no part in salvation. According to these Evangelicals, salvation is by grace — God bestowing his unmerited favor upon sinners. Are these Evangelicals right? It depends on which Bible verses you read. For example, Ephesians 2:8,9 says: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; Not of works, lest any man should boast. Seems to the settle the question right? Salvation is by “grace through faith and not by works.” However in the very next verse the Bible says: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. This verse seems quite clear, well as clear as any Bible verse can be; that those whom God saves are ordained (chosen) by God to have lives that demonstrate good works. There are numerous ways one can argue this issue, but anyone with even a modicum of understanding about the New Testament certainly knows that the Bible makes a clear connection between salvation and good works. People who claim to be Christians yet live in ways contrary to the teachings of the Bible are, at best, Christian in name only. The Jesus who said Follow me surely expects his followers to believe and obey the teachings of the Bible. After all, according to Evangelicals, the Bible is God’s inspired, inerrant, infallible word. It’s God’s blueprint for life, a sure road map for the journey between birth and eternity. Why then, all the Evangelical outrage over Williams’ comment?

A large number of Evangelicals believe that salvation is some sort of  magic pill or eternal fire insurance. At some point in their lives they have had some sort of “experience” with God and now they are Christians. For these Evangelicals, all that matters is believing the right things. And in recent years, believing the right things has come to mean having the right political beliefs. Williams’ comment was in response to Evangelical outrage over transgendered people using the wrong bathroom. Williams rightly pointed out that Evangelical hatred and bigotry towards transgenders was un-Christian. How dare Williams suggest hateful, bigoted Evangelicals aren’t being very Christian! These Evangelicals can recite John 3:16 and parrot “God’s Simple Plan of Salvation,” and that is all that matters. They might believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, but fuck those perverts who want to use what Evangelicals consider the wrong bathroom.

These Evangelicals are being quite hypocritical, are they not? If salvation is NOT by good works, how dare they expect or demand people to live by the teachings of the Bible? Aren’t these the same Evangelicals who oppose homosexuality, same-sex marriage, premarital sex, or any other form of sexual expression except a monogamous married heterosexual couple having sex via the missionary position, yet commit the very sexual sins they condemn?  And aren’t these the very same people who make all sorts of moral demands that they themselves are unable to keep? Why should any of us — transgenders included  — follow ANY of the teachings of the Bible? If Evangelicals can’t practice what they preach, aren’t they being hypocritical? Of course they are.

These Evangelicals (and I say these because some Evangelicals do think good works are essential to Christian faith) are the worst that Christianity has to offer. They demand that everyone submit to their religion’s teachings, yet they are ignorant of those very teachings. They expect everyone to obey their interpretations of the Bible, yet they exempt themselves from doing the same. When questioned about the disconnect between what they say they believe and how their live their lives, these Evangelicals remind their critics that they are works in progress or that they are resting on the promises of God. These Evangelicals are ignorant of much of what the Apostle Paul had to say about behavior, choosing to focus on God’s super-duper grace-filled plan for their lives — grace that Dietrich Bonhoeffer called cheap. All that matters to them is where they will spend eternity when they die — heaven. Well that and making sure that there are no transgenders using the wrong bathroom.

You see, these Evangelicals actually DO believe in salvation by works. Every Evangelical has internalized some sort of moral code by which they, in theory, govern their lives. They think that this moral code comes straight from the mouth of God. And if it comes from God, shouldn’t everyone behave the same way? These Evangelicals, despite what they told Montel Williams, believe that there ARE certain behaviors that preclude people from being Christians. Will there be any LGBT people in heaven? Not according to these Evangelicals. In fact, their list of people who will not be in heaven is quite long. These Evangelicals speak out of both sides of their mouth, decrying anyone who says salvation is by works, yet at the same time saying that there are certain behaviors that will land people in hell (and most of these behaviors are sexual in nature). Quite frankly, if THESE Evangelicals will be in heaven, I am quite happy to spend eternity in hell with  Mother Theresa, Gandhi, Prince, homosexuals, Christopher Hitchens, transgenders, same-sex couples, liberals, abortionists, and Barack Obama. According to these Evangelicals, Dennis Hastert and countless other Christian perverts get a free pass because they told God, sorry, and promised to never, ever sexually molest children again. Yet, when Catholic priests diddle young boys and later ask God’s forgiveness, they still go to hell when they die. Why? Because Catholics worship the wrong Christian God. And around and around the Evangelical merry-go-round goes.

 

 

Why Parents Should NEVER Let Their Children Ride a Church Bus

jory leedy

Jory Leedy, registered sex offender, child molester, and Evangelical church bus driver

According to an April 13, 2016 WCOP-Cincinnati report, Jory Leedy, a former church bus driver for Target Ministries in Dayton, has been arrested and charged with sexually molesting two boys. Jay Warren reports:

According to a complaint filed by FBI Task Force Officer and Hamilton County Sheriff’s Detective Donald Minnich in U.S. District Court, Jory Leedy, 46, engaged in sexual contact with two boys under the age of 10 on multiple occasions between 2013 and 2015.

Minnich filed the complaint in support of an arrest warrant for Leedy.

In the complaint, the detective details the investigation by the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, which began in December, 2015. Investigators found Leedy first met the two brothers in the fall of 2012, one age 8, the other age 7.

Leedy met the boys while volunteering as a bus driver for Target Ministries in Dayton, Ohio, where he would give rides to and from church services to members of the area’s poorer neighborhoods, according to the complaint.

A short time after meeting them, the complaint continues, Leedy “showed an interest in the boys” and initiated a friendly relationship with their family. This included frequent visits for dinner, playing in the yard, and even becoming a part of the boys’ nighttime routine, when he would tuck them into bed, the complaint states.

In the months to come, Leedy began taking the boys to his church, Crossroads, based in Cincinnati, the complaint states. With the boys’ mother’s approval, Leedy eventually began staying in a nearby hotel room, “so they would be closer to Crossroads.” This continued roughly every-other Saturday evening from the summer of 2013 to the summer of 2015, according to the complaint.

Leedy also began taking the boys on trips out of state — including to North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, New York and New Jersey, the complaint states.

On these trips, the complaint says, the boys testified that Leedy would take showers with the boys, sleep in between them in bed, “tickle” their genitalia, and — on at least one occasion — engage in sexual intercourse and oral sex.

By September 2015, the complaint concludes, Leedy and the boys’ father got into an argument because their father felt Leedy was “overstepping his bounds.” When that argument turned confrontational, Leedy called the police.

The complaint went on to say that this was when officers informed the boys’ parents that Leedy was a registered sex offender. Early on, the boys’ mother had done an Internet search for Leedy, who had falsely identified himself as “Jordan Leedy,” preventing the mother from discovering his registered sex offender status.

According to Montgomery County Common Pleas Court documents, Leedy was found guilty in 2003 of gross sexual imposition after detectives accused him of inappropriate sexual contact with an 11-year-old. According to WCPO news partner WHIO, Leedy was a youth hockey coach in the Dayton area at the time…

Here’s what we know:

  • Jory Leedy was convicted of a sex crime against children in 2002.
  • Jory Leedy is a registered sex offender.
  • According to the latest criminal complaint, Leedy continues to seek out young boys to have sex with them.
  • Jory Leedy drove a church bus for Target Ministries in Dayton, Ohio.
  • Jory Leedy also attended Crossroads Church (which Cincinnati area Crossroads church is not made known in news reports).
  • Target Ministries did not do a criminal background check on Jory Leedy.
  • The parents of Leedy’s latest victims showed an unprecedented and naïve amount of trust in Jory Leedy, a man they knew very little about. They trusted Leedy enough to let him take their children on trips to other states.

Target Ministries has released a typical cover-your-ass press release:

Target Dayton Ministries recently learned that the government has filed criminal charges against a person, Jory Leedy, who formerly attended Target Dayton Ministries on occasion a few years ago.  Target Dayton Ministries is a Christian outreach effort, primarily to poor and homeless adults in the Dayton region.  Hundreds of volunteers from around the region come to Target Dayton Ministries with the purpose to reach and to care for the poor and homeless in the name of Christ. Target Dayton Ministries does not have a children’s ministry or a youth ministry because its primary focus is adult ministry. Target Dayton Ministries has a couple of large vans that we use to pick up adults who want to come to our church for worship and meals. The vans run regular routes and pick up people in the Dayton region at specified locations, where people are waiting to board the vans. After the service has ended, the vans return the people to the same route points to be dropped off.

When Mr. Leedy attended Target Dayton Ministries back in 2012, he did volunteer on occasion to help with immediate ministry needs. On at least one occasion a few years ago, he filled in on an emergency basis for one of our regular van drivers who was not able to drive on a particular day.

Target Dayton Ministries is not personally aware of any connection or contact between Mr. Leedy and the alleged minor victims in the government’s case. Target Dayton Ministries has no record of the minor victims or their parents ever attending one of our services. The only information we have is what we have read in the government’s complaint against Mr. Leedy or what has been reported in the news.

Like you, we were deeply saddened to hear the government’s allegations. We ask that you join us in praying for all concerned, that God will reveal the truth and that he will redeem, heal, and restore the broken lives of those involved.

The leadership of Target Ministries would have people believe that there is some sort of “truth” that has not yet been revealed. They ask people to pray to God and ask him to reveal this supposedly unknown truth. However, based on news reports, there’s not much more truth that needs to be known. The only truth that might yet be revealed is reports of other children Leedy sexually molested between 2002 and 2016. No one who follows these kinds of stories believes that Leedy molested children in 2002 and then took a child-diddling hiatus for ten or so years. Child molesters are constantly on the prowl for new victims. Child molesters know that churches are great places to troll for new victims because Christians are big on love, trust, and forgiveness. Why Brother So and So would never harm anyone, naïve church members think. He is a loving husband and father, and he teaches Sunday school! Yes, and by night he watches child porn videos and rapes children — perhaps even his own.

Though Target Ministries has not publicly said whether they ran a criminal background check on Leedy, I think it is safe to assume that they didn’t, Had they done so, they would have quickly found out that Leedy was a convicted child molester and listed on the sex offender registry. And here’s the thing, criminal background checks are not a sure-fire way to keep child molesters from working with children. Many child molesters have never been caught or arrested. Or, as in the cases of Dennis Hastert, Jerry Sandusky, and Bob Gray, they could sexually molest children for decades before they are caught (often long after the statute of limitations have run out). Churches and parents relying on criminal background checks to flag child molesters are putting their trust in a system that can never reveal every child sex offender. All the system can do is report whether a person has been convicted of a sex crime. There is no possible way to divine what people have done in the past or what they might do in the future, and it is for this reason that I strongly recommend parents STOP allowing their children to ride church buses. As is now clear for all to see, Evangelicalism has a huge problem with sex crimes being perpetrated by pastors and church members. In time, I suspect that these scandals will equal in number the plethora of Catholic priests who have sexually molested children and teenagers. Evangelicalism also has a problem with adult sex crimes — pastors and church leaders using their position of authority to prey on vulnerable women. Throw in the garden variety clergy adultery, and it is safe to conclude that Evangelical churches have turned into sex clubs for perverts and adulterers. (Please see Is Clergy Sexual Infidelity Rare?)

Most churches that operate bus ministries target poor, working class people. Target Ministries states that their ministry is to “reach and to care for the poor and homeless in the name of Christ.”  The poor are easy targets. Desperate for help — be it food, clothing, rent money, or childcare — the poor often trust anyone who comes with hands open and says, let me help you. Believing that good, loving, kind Christians would never, ever hurt their children, the poor are willing to trust churches to properly care for them. I pastored churches in the 1970s and 1980s that used buses to bring thousands of poor children, teenagers, and adults to church. Using advertising gimmicks, prizes, money, gifts, candy, ice cream, hamburgers, bicycles, and a host of other enticements, the church had no difficulty getting children to ride the buses. Many parents viewed the three hours their children were at church as the only time they would have peace and quiet. Here, PLEASE take them, parents seemed to say.

I pastored one church — Somerset Baptist Church, Mt Perry, Ohio — for almost 11 years. For five of these years, we operated four bus routes that brought children in from the surrounding area. This was in the days before criminal background checks. The church was located in one of the poorest places in Ohio. Poverty was on display everywhere one looked. It was easy then, using the aforementioned gimmicks, to attract bus riders. Our intentions, I believe, were sincere. We wanted the bus riders to get saved. Everything we did was geared towards leading people to faith in Jesus Christ. Scores of children and adults made professions of faith. However, in our zeal to win the lost, I have no doubt we didn’t adequately pay attention to what was going on, not only on the buses, but in Sunday school classes and church events outside of the church facility proper.

There were a handful of sex-related incidents that took place during this period of time:

  • One concerned church member told me that an occasional visitor — an unmarried 30-something man — was inviting church children to spend the weekend with him at his nearby farm. This man was Bible-quoting, Jesus-loving  Christian — judging from outward appearances (a horrible way to judge anyone). Based on his mannerisms, I had wondered if the man might be gay. After hearing the report about the weekend stays, I told the man that he was no longer welcome at our church. That was the end of that. This man joined another nearby Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB). I did call its pastor and warn him about this man.
  • One 40-something woman — an occasional bus rider — threw a sex and booze party for church teenagers. It was quite a raunchy affair. I found out about it after the fact. I quickly notified the parents of the teenagers, which led to numerous church teens being grounded. The woman who threw the party was banned from riding the bus. Some of the teens later admitted that she had had sex with several of them. In retrospect, I should have reported this to the police and children’s services.
  • One man — who later became a leader in the church and was active in the bus ministry — was accused of sexually molesting his daughter. Due to the statutes of limitations, the man was not prosecuted. He later moved on to another church.
  • One man — a recent transplant from Kentucky — was, unbeknownst to the church, a convicted child molester. He was accused of attempting to sexually assault a mentally handicapped girl -— a regular bus rider. The alleged assault took place near her home. I reported this to the police, but nothing came of it. The girl soon after stopped riding the bus. This man also had a teenage son who had been charged and convicted of several child-related sex crimes. When I found this out, I instructed the bus driver for that community to NOT pick this family up.

One area where we picked up riders was considered the poorest area in the tri-county area. Incest was common, leading to children born with all sorts of defects. The incestuous behavior spanned multiple generations, so much so that many of these people considered it normal behavior. I naïvely believed at the time that Jesus could cure their incestuous ways. While many of them did get saved, none of them stopped screwing their siblings and cousins. Jesus has not proven to be an effective means of combating sex crimes — or consensual fornication and adultery, for that matter.

At the time, I thought that these were isolated incidents. They certainly were not reasons to stop operating our buses. I now know that bus and children’s ministries are magnets for pedophiles, perverts, and sexually deviant preachers, youth directors, and ministry leaders. The last two decades have brought to light countless reports of sexual misconduct in Evangelical churches and parachurch ministries. Evangelicalism’s defenders can no longer say that these reports are just a few bad apples in a barrel full of sweet, tasty fruit. Virtually every day brings news of an Evangelical pastor, deacon, Sunday school teacher, or ministry worker committing a sex crime. On the good days, all we have are reports of big-name Evangelical pastors committing adultery or covering up the illicit behavior or crimes of others. If the various porn addiction ministry promos are to be believed, the majority of Evangelical men (and pastors) regularly watch pornography. Tell me again, why would ANY parents in their right minds EVER allow their children to ride a church bus?

I am of the opinion that if families plan on attending church they shouldn’t let their children out of their sight. Oh Bruce, you are being cynical. There are a lot of good people in churches. You just hate God, so you have it out for Christians. Damn right I am cynical. I wish I could share the emails I have received from men and women who were sexually molested while attending Evangelical churches when they were young. I wish I could share what I know about people who were sexually molested by their pastor, father, or some other church leader. While these crimes took place decades ago and are beyond statutes of limitations, the damage they caused is an ever-present reality. One woman, a few years ago, told me about being sexually molested as child by a church deacon. Decades later, she revisited this church, and what did she find? There was Deacon Bob singing in the choir. In that moment she was traumatized all over again. I urged her to make this man’s crimes known, but she couldn’t bring herself to do so out of fear of what would happen if she did (the man was friends with her parents). Having a checkered sexual history, the woman felt, would result her story not being believed. And she is probably right. Sadly, sexual assault can and does cause all sorts of sexual dysfunction and acting out. This is then used against the victim. See, you are a whore, the thinking goes. Why should we believe anything you say?

Let me be clear, this post is not meant to be an indictment of all Evangelicals. Most Evangelicals are fine, decent people, even if they have irrational beliefs (my opinion). The issue is not theology as much as it is practice and institutional control. Evangelicals need to stop trusting everyone who says Lord, Lord. Being Christian does not make people impervious to deviant sexual desires. Christians can and do rape, murder, steal, and molest children. There is nothing inherent to Christianity that inoculates its adherents from bad behavior. All one has to do is follow the news to find out that reported sex crimes are common occurrence in Evangelical churches. Just because a man says he’s a preacher doesn’t mean he is worthy of trust. Preachers can and do commit all sorts of crimes. Again, read the news. Pay attention!

Evangelical churches need to stop the cover ups of sexual misconduct. I guarantee you as soon as Target Ministries heard about Jory Leedy’s arrest, they called their lawyer and their insurance company. When Jack Schaap was arrested and charged with having sex with a church teenager, what did First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana do? They called attorney David Gibbs — widely known as the IFB church movement’s fixer. Gibbs’ job is to limit damage and make sure the church survives. Church leaders are told to circle the wagons and stop talking. I have seen such behavior more times than I dare to count. The goal is always to protect, not the victim, but the church. (I was quite pleased to see that David Gibbs’ son is the lawyer for the victims in the Bill Gothard sex scandal. Perhaps he watched his father smooth over one too many IFB scandals.) Evangelical churches need to stop worrying about their testimony and how the scandals might affect their ministries. When rumors of sexual misconduct are heard, church leaders should immediately report them to the police or children’s services. Pastors and church boards need to stop thinking they are Columbo. Do your duty…REPORT IT! Let the authorities determines the validity of the rumors. (Please see How Should Churches Handle Allegations of Abuse?)

Our Pastor Looked at Child Pornography and Took Inappropriate Pictures, but He’s a Really Nice Guy

father stephen pohl

I have known Stephen Pohl since the day he was born. I seriously doubt that these allegations will be proven. He said mass at my mothers [sic] passing and has been a friend to my family for over 50 years. It is painful because we are again seeing the pillory [sic] of another priest. Father Joe Hemmerly has been dogged by allegations all stemming from putting Lotion on the Sun Burn of a camper at the summer camp he ran. Many priests are unfairly targeted and I will be seriously surprised if these allegations pan out.

Father Stephen Pohl Supporter

Another day, another catholic priest is arrested/charged/convicted of sexually molesting children. In August, 2015, Stephen Pohl, 57, a pastor at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church in Louisville, Kentucky was arrested and charged with the possession of child pornography. According to the Courier Journal, Pohl “admitted to accessing the pornographic images of nude underage boys on computers at the church rectory and office between January and August 2015.” In January, Pohl admitted his guilt and signed a plea agreement that could result in him spending 33 months in a Federal penitentiary. Pohl would also be required to register as a sex offender and face a “lifetime of supervision by the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services.”

According to Courier-Journal report:

The federal case began after a 10-year-old St. Margaret Mary student told his mother that “Father Steve” singled him out at an after-school club to take a series of “weird” photos on his cell phone. The youth posed with his hands on his knees and legs spread apart, following the priest’s orders, according to the affidavit.

When the parents eventually confronted Pohl about the pictures, the affidavit details, they saw similar pictures of another child on the priest’s phone and reported it to law enforcement.

According to another Courier-Journal report, Louisville Metro Police Crimes Against Children Unit detective Dan Jackman is quoted as saying:

“One can clearly see up the child’s shorts and underwear,” Jackman wrote of one of the photos while another is “focused on the child’s genitals.”

You would think that St. Margaret Mary parishioners would be calling for Father Pohl’s head. Nope. According to WLKY, several Pohl supporters have written U.S. District Judge David Hale, asking him to be lenient when sentencing Pohl on March 29th. After all, Pohl is “presently working with a psychologist. It has assisted me in understanding what is happening here.” What is happening here? What is happening is that a Catholic priest is sexually attracted to boys and he got caught accessing internet child pornography. He also took photographs of young St. Margaret Mary boys. What more does anyone need to know? Pohl is a pedophile. Does anyone honestly think this was Pohl’s first time looking at child porn? Does anyone seriously think that he looked but didn’t touch? Not me.

While I don’t think Pohl should be locked away for life, I have serious reservations about any treatments that purport to “cure” pedophiles. If there is no cure, should men such as Pohl be permitted to roam free in public? Should they — after 20 hail Marys and 50 Our Fathers — be permitted to return to the church and have access to children? I hope not. Pohl should NEVER be permitted to be alone with children.

And what’s with those who write letters of support? I have noticed in other sex crime cases involving children/teenagers and clergymen that these predators always have supporters urging the courts to not be too hard on the convicted felon. Several years ago, Jack Schaap, former pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, was convicted of a sex crime and sentenced to 12 years in prison. I was astounded by all the letters that were written in his support. Schaap’s supporters commented on this blog, suggesting that Schaap was not to blame for his crimes. He was tired, had medical problems, the girl seduced him, said Schaap supporters.

Why is that many Christians are unable to see people as they are? I suspect the main reason is cognitive dissonance. On Sundays, members see nice, loving, kind, and supportive Father Pohl or Pastor Schaap. During the week, these “nice” men are surfing child porn sites or shagging church teenagers. Every year, hundreds of “nice” preachers are arrested, charged, and convicted of sex crimes. How can these things be? cry church members. On Sundays, these men preached sermons, blessed the communion elements, and glad-handed with parishioners after services. During the week they visited the sick, cared for widows, and took groceries to the hungry. Everything about their lives said, these are “nice” men. Yet, in the shadows of their lives, these men committed crimes that Christians and atheists alike find reprehensible. The cognitive dissonance is so great that parishioners convince themselves that their sexual predator pastors and priests are misguided and weak — but still “nice” men. Yet, when asked if they would let their children or grandchildren spend an unsupervised weekend with these men, I suspect most parents and grandparents would emphatically say, NO!

I have long argued that the Christian notion of atonement and forgiveness gets in the way of people seeing sexual predators as they are — men who prey on trusting, defenseless children and teenagers. No amount of prayers, magic mumbo-jumbo at an old-fashioned altar, or confessions can erase the fact that these men committed heinous crimes. They are not “nice” men. They are sexual predators who deserve punishment for their crimes. Let the mothers of convicted sexual predators tell the courts how nice their sons are. That is what mothers do. Church members should spend their time helping the victims and making sure such crimes NEVER happen again. Louisville Catholics should be demanding a full accounting from diocese officials. What did they know and when did they know it? Were they aware of Pohl’s perverse desires? If they were, what steps did they take to make sure he no longer had access to parish children? As is the case in many Catholic parishes, sex crimes by priests are buried with the hope that they will remain so until the statute of limitations runs out. Just what Jesus would do, right?

Notes

Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests (SNAP)

According to SNAP, “Stephen Pohl is at least the 65th Louisville Catholic cleric to be accused of child sex crimes.”

Evangelical Missionary Matthew Durham Sentenced to 40 Years in Prison for Molesting Children

matthew durham

Evangelical missionary Matthew Durham was sentenced Monday to 40 years in prison for sexually molesting children while working at Upendo Children’s Home in Nairobi, Kenya. Durham, 21, “engaged in sexual acts with multiple children, male and female, aged between 4 and 10 years.” Casi Marlowe, a writer for Dead State, reports:

A U.S. federal court passed a 40 year prison sentence on a former missionary from Oklahoma for molesting children at a Kenyan orphanage. Twenty-one-year-old, Matthew Lane Durham, was accused of molesting eight children at the Upendo Children’s Home in  Nairobi, Kenya in 2014.

Although Durham claimed he did not molest the children, prosecutors revealed he told staff members at the children’s home that he had been possessed by an “evil spirit.” He also claims he doesn’t remember the crimes.

During a preliminary hearing, prosecutors revealed that a live-in caretaker at the orphanage said the children reported that Durham either touched them sexually or encouraged them to touch themselves while he watched. According to a criminal affidavit, Durham was confronted by the founder of Upendo along with several church members, where he allegedly confessed to his crimes.

Despite pleading not guilty to 17 charges last June, a federal judge found Durham  guilty on seven counts, including engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places. However he was acquitted on three of the counts by US  District Judge David Russell in January because the judge felt prosecutors failed to establish enough evidence that Durham had engaged in sexual acts with with (sic) one of the victims.

Prosecutors argued Durham used his position as a missionary to win the trust of the children in order to prey on them. But Durham’s attorney claimed his handwritten and taped confessions were coerced.  Officials at the children’s home only reported Durham to the authorities after sending him home to the United States.

….

In 2014 Durham told friends that he was possessed by a demon. Here are several screenshots of text messages Durham sent to his friends prior to his return home from Kenya.

durham text 1

durham text 2

durham text 3

Link to PDF of messages

Here is several screenshots of part of the July 18, 2014 amended Federal criminal complaint against Durham:

durham statement 1

durham statement 2

Full text of amended criminal complaint

Readers might remember my posts on Durham after he was arrested in 2014. Durham will be an old man before he is released from prison. I hope his story will serve as a warning to Evangelicals who use their position of authority to abuse, sexually assault, molest, and rape those who trust them to do no harm.

Notes

Durham attended and graduated from Crossings Christian School , an Evangelical institution located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. His mother is a fourth grade teacher at Crossings.

2014 Heavy story on Durham

2014 Christian Post story on Durham

Another 2014 Christian Post story on Durham

2015 KFOR.com report on Durham’s trial

Another 2015 KFOR.com report on Durham’s trial

2016 PDF file of judge’s decision to dismiss three of the charges against Durham

Video of Durham’s confession to children’s home director

Video Link

 

How Should Churches Handle Allegations of Abuse?

child abuse

How should churches handle allegations of abuse? Let me state right up front that I do not think churches shouldn’t “handle” anything.  This is what gets churches, pastors, and church leaders into trouble to start with. Instead of immediately doing the right thing when someone makes an allegation of abuse, pastors and church members often:

  • Consult with the pastor
  • Consult with the deacons or some other church board
  • Call a denominational leader and ask what they should do
  • Consult with a few church members to chart a course of action
  • Pray about it
  • Seek out counsel from other pastors
  • Wait to see if the “problem” goes away
  • Interrogate the individual or the person making the allegation
  • Investigate the “character” of the person making the allegation

All of these things are the WRONG things to do. Far too often, the church or pastor is more concerned about protecting the church’s testimony in the community than  protecting the person who might have been abused. As a result, it often appears to the community that the church is more interested in its own reputation than ending and prosecuting any abuse that might be going on.

In most states, pastors and church leaders are required by law to report suspected abuse. It is not up to the church or the pastor to decide if the allegation is valid. That’s what the police, prosecutor, and child protective services are for. They will investigate and act accordingly. Even in cases where the abuse took place years before, once a church or a pastor has knowledge of the allegation, both have a moral and ethical responsibility to report it. A failure to do so can, in many states, leave the church or pastor criminally liable (and I wish more prosecutors would charge and prosecute pastors and church leaders for failing to report).

Once an allegation has become common knowledge, it is in the church’s best interest to make a public statement about the allegation. Yes, it is up to the police and the courts to determine guilt, but the church can state exactly what has been done in response to the allegation. They can further state what they will do to make sure that abuse does not happen in the future. It is not enough to just tell the church, the board, or write a generic letter to church members.

child abuse 2

I know of one church that has had several problems with sexual abuse in their bus ministry. The pastor of the church has never fully disclosed to the church the complete details of what happened. Outside of several news stories, the public has no idea about what the church did or didn’t do in response to the abuse. The pastor says to the church members, trust me and he says to the world, it is none of your business.

Churches like this want people to come to their church and they want people to trust them. However, the sex abuse scandals in the Catholic church, the Evangelical church, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church, and countless unaffiliated churches, are a poignant reminder that no one should, by default, trust a church or a pastor. I, for one, would not let my children or grandchildren out of my sight while attending church. I know too much and I have heard too many stories. If this makes me untrusting, cynical, or jaded, so be it. Better to be this way than naïvely turn people I love over to someone I don’t really know in the hope that they are what they say they are.

Some churches give the illusion that their place of worship is safe. They tell new families: we do criminal background checks on every worker in the church. While this is certainly a good idea, a one-time background check accomplishes what? If the person has never been arrested or convicted of a crime, his or her background check would come back clean. Background checks are little more than a band-aid over a festering sore.

I know of one pastor who refuses to do background checks. His rationale for refusing to do them? After a person is saved, past sins are “under the blood.”  The person, no matter what he or she may have done in the past, is completely forgiven by God (after all, God forgave Paul, the murderer and David, the adulterer/murderer, right?). This kind of naïve thinking is why churches are havens for predators. It is not hard to stand before a congregation and give a wonderful testimony of God’s saving grace, yet be a predator. It is quite easy to learn religious lingo. My family and I could dress up this Sunday, go to church, and every one of us would likely be considered a wonderful Christian. We know the talk, the walk, the songs. We know how to do Evangelical. Yet, in real life we are atheists, agnostics, Catholics, and Buddhists, and most of us are ― shudder to think of it ― Democrats.  Anyone who has spent any time at all in church can easily fake it.

But, Bruce, the Holy Spirit will let the church know they aren’t real Christians. Do you really want to trust the welfare of the church children and teenagers to the Holy Spirit?  Are you really saying that a Christian could NOT be a pedophile, abuser, or predator?

I am often asked about how I handled abuse allegations when I was a pastor. Simple. I reported them each and every time. When I heard of an allegation of abuse, even if it was a second-hand report, I immediately called Children’s Services.  Years ago, we had a couple with a baby living in our church basement (they had been homeless). One day, I came into the basement and the baby was screaming uncontrollably. I went to check on the child and I asked the mother why the child was screaming. She told me she didn’t know. I suggested she should take care of the child. Her reply? When she was done eating she would get around to it.  This, along with several other things I had noticed, was enough for me. I called Children’s Services and they came out the next day to investigate. The couple was told that any further complaints would result in them losing the child. They knew I had reported them and they were furious. Me? I couldn’t have cared less about what they thought. It was the baby who mattered.

We operated a bus ministry for many years. There were several instances where abuse was suspected and I reported it. In one case, an older woman was throwing booze and sex parties for church teens. When I found out about it I told their parents and reported the woman. It was a no-brainer, even if every boy in the church thought the parties were wonderful.

Years ago ― well everything is years ago now ― I helped my father-in-law start a church. One day, the infant of one of our church families died suddenly. It was ruled as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Weeks after the death, the grieving father came to my father-in-law and confessed that he had shaken the baby to death. My father-in-law came to me and asked what he should do since the man told him this in confidence. I told him he had to report it to the police. He did, and the man went to prison.

When I was counseling people, I made it clear that if they were going to confess to abuse or a felony, I was obligated to report it. I have never believed that what is said in confidence must always remain so. When a young man confessed to me that he had murdered his girlfriend, I encouraged him to turn himself in, and then I let the police know what he had told me. I later gave a sworn affidavit in the case, Fortunately, the man pleaded guilty and I did not have to testify.

Granted, these are exceptional circumstances. The people I pastored knew that they could trust me with their secrets. As long as their secrets didn’t involve abuse or a felony, the secrets were safe with me. People often have a need to unburden themselves of past actions and “sins,” and they do so by talking to a pastor or a priest or a good friend. When people write me and tell me their stories I always let them know that their correspondence with me will be kept confidential. However, if they confess to murdering their spouse or molesting a child, I would report it immediately,

This does not make me a saint. However, when it comes to dealing with abuse and helping those who have been abused, I am always on the side of the abused. My mother was sexually abused as a child by her father, raped by a brother-in-law, and sexually molested by a Christian psychiatrist (and they all got away with it). I have a dear family member who was sexually abused by her IFB father. (her abuser has been in prison for over 20 years). Add to this the horror stories I heard while counseling church members and the emails I now receive from people who have been abused. I hope you will forgive me if I am passionate about this issue.

As far as I am concerned, it is quite simple for churches or pastors when it comes to how to handle allegations of abuse. REPORT IT IMMEDIATELY. Then take the necessary steps to make sure that abuse does not happen in the future. It is tragic that some churches are magnets for sexual predators. In these churches, lt seems that every few years a church member, pastor, deacon, youth pastor, bus worker, or a Sunday School teacher is being accused of abuse.  Perhaps churches such as these should be forced to have the equivalent of what we have here in Ohio for drunk drivers. Some judges require people convicted of DUI to get yellow license plates. Perhaps repeat offender churches need some sort of yellow license plate that warns the public that the church has been a haven for abusers or predators.

080416

15 Astounding Predictions for 2016 by Atheist Bruce Gerencser

end of the world

This is the time of year when Evangelical soothsayers, psychics, and Nate Silver (ESPN 538) make predictions for the coming year.  I thought, in keeping with the spirit of the New Year, that I, the atheist version of Carnac the Magnificent, would make a few predictions of my own. Here’s my 15 Astounding Predictions for 2016.

  1. Richard Dawkins will say something stupid.
  2. Neil deGrasse Tyson will say something brilliant.
  3. The Pope will not get laid.
  4. Evangelicals will continue to say the rapture is nigh.
  5. At least three Evangelical preachers will be arrested and charged with molesting children and 25 others will be accused of sexual misconduct.
  6. Evangelicals will continue to say atheists hate God and secretly want to have wanton, immoral sex.
  7. Franklin Graham will be exposed as a cross dressing transvestite.
  8. Evangelical Calvinists will continue to say their critics don’t understand Calvinism.
  9. Bart Ehrman will write another book. It will be titled Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented their Stories of the Savior. I predict it will be released on March 1, 2016
  10. Donald Trump will say bat-shit crazy stuff and his followers will love it.
  11. Evangelicals will continue to think that Christianity is under attack and that secularists are trying to make Christianity illegal.
  12. Tea Party Republicans will continue to think that the lame stream media controls America and that Muslim socialist Barack Hussein Obama is coming to take their guns.
  13. The day after Thanksgiving, Fox News will say that there is a War on Christmas.
  14. One Million Moms will continue to be outraged over nudity, cursing, and gay kissing on TV. This year they will find their lost remote and learn that if they push the channel button it changes the channel.
  15. Democrats will win the presidency, a sure sign that the Antichrist is preparing to usher in the new world order.

A “Jesus First” Christian and Follower of Jack Hyles Shows Me Some Love

jack hyles 1973

Jack Hyles, 1973

I received the following email from a woman with the moniker Jesus First in her email address:

So glad that you read every email. I agree with the “older” Florida woman who told you the truth. There was No evidence that Jack Hyles ever did anything wrong or he would have been fired too. There was No affair. How sad that you spend alot (sic) of time writing and writing and writing about the sins of others and never consider that God will judge you one day. You look sickly, are you leaving this earth soon?. Also Linda Hyles’s damnable statements about her family would be thrown out of a law of court. There is no truth to her sick boring speech. She is in a cult now, that stupid fool. She ran to her father’s funeral to get her “share” of money, I sure hope she didn’t get any. Johnny couldn’t stand her lies and divorced her 19 years ago. Apparently she couldn’t get another man since she uses her ex’s name.

I continue to be amazed by those who live in denial over what Jack Hyles did years ago. The evidence of his infidelity is there for all to see and either Jack Hyles was an adulterer or there was a colossal conspiracy to make him look like one. My money is on GUILTY as charged for the late Jack Hyles, the narcissistic, megalomaniac former pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond Indiana. Hyles’ son David and son-in-law Jack Schaap followed in his adulterous footsteps. While David Hyles escaped punishment for his crimes, Schaap is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence for his. Jack Hyles escaped punishment for his adulterous behavior. He was instrumental in facilitating his son’s philandering by securing a new church for him to pastor after his illicit behavior with female First Baptist congregants was revealed.

As is often the case with Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) sexual predators, they escape prosecution, only to set up shop again in a new town or state. With a fresh pool of potential victims, these men continue to abuse until someone, be it a church member or an abuse victim, says ENOUGH and goes to law enforcement authorities and reports the abuse. Even then, the statute of limitation frequently precludes abusive pastors from being prosecuted for their crimes. Often, their victims turn to the internet and public sites like this blog to expose the offending pastor’s criminal behavior. In doing so, they hope that this will keep the pastor from ever being able to use a church as a cover for his crimes.

I find it interesting that most of the email I get from defenders of Jack Hyles comes from women. I can’t quite figure out why this is so. Maybe some of the women who read this blog can help me with this.

If this email is an example of putting JESUS FIRST, I shudder to think what would be written if someone put JESUS SECOND.

Life: It All Depends on Where You Are Standing

Photo by Ken Kistler, Public Domain

Photo by Ken Kistler, Public Domain

As you know, I spend a lot of time writing about my past: people, places, and events that are very much a part of the fabric of my life. I try to be as truthful and accurate as possible when I recount the past, but I am ever aware of the fact that I am giving an account of things as I remember them. Having read a good bit about the brain and memories, I know my retelling of my past may or may not be accurate. As best I can remember, I try to give an honest accounting of my life.

I have a younger brother and sister, and it is amazing how differently we each view events that happened in our childhood. Who is right? I’ve come to understand, we all are. The story we tell depends on where we were standing at the time.  As a 15 year old boy and the oldest son, my view of our parent’s divorce , is much different from that of my 11-year-old sister. The same can be said about many of our shared seminal experiences.

I live with a lot of guilt. I am prone to depression and I can be quite pessimistic. I have faced long, deep bouts of depression, times where I have felt that death would be too good for me. With my words, theology, and religious practice, I hurt people. Or so I think. I’ve come to have these feelings because I am looking back at my past with the eyes of a 58-year-old man. How could I have been Bruce Gerencser, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist preacher? Who is that man, I ask myself. Thanks be to Zeus he no longer exists, having been slain by reason and maturity, but I still live with the memories of the past.

I am Facebook friends with several of the kids who were members of Somerset Baptist Church, a congregation I pastored from 1983-1994. I was their pastor through the formative years of their life. Not only did they sit under my preaching 3 times a week, they also attended Somerset Baptist Academy, a private Christian school I started in 1989. I often feel I hurt them and let them down. I think back to how narrow I was over things like certain kinds of clothing, music, physical contact between the sexes, movies,  and TV. If these children hated me, I wouldn’t blame them. Thankfully, they don’t.

When I talk to these former students, I hear their perspective on our shared experiences. All of them are in their 30s now and many of them are married and have children. Several of them are gay. Their religious persuasions run from atheism to liberal Christianity. None of them retained the fundamentalist Christianity of their youth. From their vantage point they recall things quite differently from the way I do. Several of them recall my wife teaching them to read. One man mentioned going back to the old church grounds and playing another game of kickball for old times sake. Again, what we remember depends on where we were standing at the time.

I recently re-read several posts I wrote about fundamentalist Baptist evangelist Don Hardman and his wife Laura. (please see Laura’s Light by Laura Hardman, A Book Review and The Preacher: The Life and Times of Donald A. Hardman, A Book Review)  As I read these posts I felt twinges of guilt and sadness. When I was a pastor, I had no closer friends than Don and Laura Hardman. I loved them like they were family. When they came to our church it was the highlight of the year. For 15 days we would focus on God and his Word. Every day Don and I would go out evangelizing and street preaching. The church loved the Hardmans and graciously gave of their money and food to help them.

From my vantage point as pastor of Somerset Baptist Church, I have nothing but good memories and feelings when I think of Don and Laura Hardman. I never saw them fight and I never had a cross word with them. Even when we parted company for a few years over my Calvinistic beliefs, we remained friends. In the early 2000s, the Hardmans came to Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio, a church I was pastoring at the time, and conducted a week long meeting. We had a great time, but I knew that I could not have them back. While they remained right where I met them in 1987, I had changed. My view of God, the Bible, politics, culture, and other Christian sects was evolving. Yet, we remained friends until 2008, when my deconversion permanently fractured the relationship.

Here I stand in 2015, no longer a Christian, now an atheist. My view of the past is clouded with the tincture of time. While I still have fond memories of evangelist Don Hardman’s protracted revival meetings, I have come to see that the preaching and the theology behind it was psychologically controlling and damaging. This is how I view much of my preaching as well, especially the first 15 years or so. Over time I matured. I began preaching expositionally and I turned from a Bible-quoting, hellfire-and-brimstone-preacher to more of a teacher of the Bible. Oh, I was still quite passionate about God, the Bible, and how we ought to apply it to our lives, but I was much more careful about using the Bible in context and letting the text speak for itself. While the Hardmans remained steadfast and unmovable throughout our friendship, my understanding of them changed. Again, my vantage point changed, resulting in me viewing the Hardmans differently.

Polly, my wife, and I have known each other for almost 40 years. Last July we will celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary. A year ago, I uploaded a bunch of old pictures to Facebook: family pictures; pictures from the Somerset Baptist Church, and pictures from Our Father’s House. As I uploaded these photos I began to weep. The memories of years gone by flooded my mind; memories of the people I pastored and the children I taught at Somerset Baptist Academy; memories of my wonderful wife and our little babies. Good memories. Wonderful memories.

Now, having a different perspective, I view the events recorded in these pictures differently. Is this maturity? I don’t know. Time changes how we view the past.  What were once wonderful memories are now clouded by what I now know about the emotional and mental manipulation I perpetrated on those who called me Pastor. As I have shared before, I am in a unique position. I am both a victim and a victimizer. I followed in the footsteps of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers who emotionally and mentally scarred my life. Victimized by their manipulation, I in turn victimized those who were members of the IFB churches I pastored. It’s an ugly cycle of abuse that I was fortunately able to put an end to during my latter years in the ministry and subsequent post-Jesus life.

So it is with Polly. While she and I walked side by side through the years we spent in the ministry, Polly’s viewpoint is very different from mine. I was the leader of the church and the center of attention. People, for the most part, respected me, loved me, and supported my work as a pastor. For Polly it was different. Like many pastor’s wives she was my gofer. She did what others didn’t or wouldn’t do.  No one in the nursery? Polly filled in. Entertain people every Sunday for 20 years? Polly did it without a complaint, even when her pastor husband forgot to tell her so and so was coming over for dinner. She quietly submitted to  a life as the helpmeet of a poorly paid, Type A, constantly-working, never-home, Baptist preacher.

Polly did without.  Our entire family did without, but Polly more so than me the children and I. She never said a word. She quietly lived in ramshackled houses and drove cars that were better suited for a demolition derby.  She made do with what she had. This much I know, I do WISH there was a heaven, because Polly deserves a huge mansion right next door to Dottie Rambo’s Log Cabin.

Video Link

However, since there is no heaven, all I can do is make sure that Polly has the best life possible for the rest of this life. She deserves it!

It should come as no surprise then that Polly remembers the past much differently from what I recall. One time I said, wouldn’t you like to go back to __________church? Immediately she replied, No I wouldn’t. I was surprised by her quick and negative response. I asked, why not? I then quickly learned, from where Polly was standing, that her view of this church was very different from mine. Who is right? We both are.

I have written a good bit about the abuse that went on, and continues to go on, in Baptist group homes. (please see Sexual Abuse in the Name of God: New Bethany Home for Girls, Teen Group Homes: Dear IFB Pastor, It’s Time for You to Atone for Your Sin and The Dogma that Followed Me Home)  The stories that some people share from their time in these facilities break my heart. I want to personally find these abusive miscreants  and beat the shit out them.  They deserve to have punishment heaped upon them. They hurt  people that I love and respect, and the fact that these dear friends of mine still suffer from the abuse received from men like Mack Ford angers me to this day. Every once in a while, someone will come along and leave a glowing testimony from their time in the same facilities. They loved their time there. They were helped and their life is the better for it. How can this be? Surely, someone is lying, right? Not at all. While it is possible that someone is lying or they are living in denial, more often than not, the difference is simply a matter of where the person was standing in relation to the person, place, or event.

Time shapes how we view the past. For me, I am finding that the further a person, place, or event is in the past, the fonder my memories are. I suspect that’s how we as humans cope with life. The tincture of time often brings healing, and it also allows us to gain enough distance from the negative things in our past that they no longer feel harmful or threatening. While time rarely heals all wounds, it does allow us the space and distance necessary to be at peace with those things that cut us to the quick. Perhaps that’s the best we can hope for.

[signoff]

Overheard in the Break Room: How Some Local Evangelicals View the Josh Duggar Story

josh duggar

Josh, I Barely Touched My Sisters Genitals, Duggar

Overheard at work by Polly, two God fearing Christians discussing Nineteen and Counting and the Josh Duggar scandal:

  1. Josh Duggar was set up
  2. Someone is out to destroy this w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l Christian family
  3. The cops leaked the story
  4. He was ONLY fourteen

Yep, pretty well sums things up. *sigh*

Pastor William ‘Pete” McCullers Arrested in Dothan, Alabama

william pete mccullers

Pastor William ‘Pete’ McCullers with his wife Linda

William ‘Pete’ McCullers, associate pastor of Tabernacle of Praise Church, Chipley, Florida, was arrested today in Dothan, Alabama. McCullers is expected to be charged “with at least 10 counts of lewd and lascivious acts on four children under 12 years old.” The church has no website and their Facebook page has been disabled.

McCullers, age 64, graduated from high school in 1968. Think about that for a moment.  This guy is an old man. What makes a man who is grandfather age molest young children? Those of us who have spent years reporting on and working with sexual abuse victims know that it is unlikely that these children are McCullers first victims.  Now that McCullers has been arrested, it will be interesting to see if other victims come forward.

tabernacle of praise church chipley

Tabernacle of Praise Church, Chipley, Florida

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