Tag Archive: Sexual Assault

What Andy Savage, Mark Driscoll, and Ted Haggard Have in Common

bruce gerencser 2002

Bruce Gerencser, 2002

Andy Savage, Mark Driscoll, and Ted Haggard are all Evangelical pastors who have checkered pasts. Twenty years ago, Andy Savage sexually assaulted a church teenager. While pastor of Highpoint Church in Memphis, Tennessee, Savage admitted his crime. Unfortunately, he was never punished due to the statute of limitations expiring. Savage later left Highpoint. (Please see Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Andy Savage Gets Standing Ovation for Admitting He Sexually Assaulted a Teenager and Black Collar Crime: Dominoes Continue to Fall Over Andy Savage Scandal.) Mark Driscoll was the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. Accused of having an autocratic management style, verbally/emotionally abusing congregants, plagiarism, and “squishy book-promotion ethics,” Driscoll resigned. Three months later, Mars Hill closed its doors. Ted Haggard was the president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and the pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Haggard, a closeted bisexual, used crystal meth, cavorted with a male prostitute, and had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a male congregant. In late 2006, Haggard was fired from New Life and resigned his position with the NAE.

All of these men were married, had children, and pastored multi-million-dollar churches running thousands in attendance. All of these men were Evangelical in doctrine and well respected by congregants and colleagues alike. All of these men traveled the Evangelical conference circuit, speaking to thousands of people. These men were widely considered to be preachers God was mightily using to advance his kingdom. Yet, Savage, Driscoll, and Haggard fell from their lofty perches and were drummed out of their churches.

End of story? Surely you jest! Evangelicals are quite forgiving and love a good comeback story. In 2010, Ted Haggard started a new church, St. James Church, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In 2016, Driscoll birthed a new congregation, The Trinity Church, in Scottsdale, Arizona. And Savage? He is ramping up a new church plant, Grace Valley Church in Eads, Tennessee.

“Bruce, how can these guys do what they did and still be pastors?” Simple. Savage, Driscoll, and Haggard are independent contractors, free to do what they want, including starting new churches. There are no federal or state laws that forbid these men from setting up new non-profit churches (businesses). (Please see How to Start an Independent Baptist Church.) Anyone, including you, can gather a handful of people together and start a church. It’s really that easy. In 2015, comedian John Oliver proved just how easy it is to start a new church, by setting up a non-profit religious organization called Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption. Oliver later closed the church and donated the “offerings” to “Doctors Without Borders.”

Why didn’t Savage, Driscoll, and Haggard admit that they were no longer Biblically qualified to be pastors? 1 Timothy 3 gives the qualifications for pastors, and none of these “men of God” met the Biblical standard. Truth be told, I don’t know of any man who meets the qualifications. The Bible says:

This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

And let’s not forget about Galatians 5:19-21:

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

And finally, pastors should be expected to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit, yes? Galatians 5:22,23 says:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Taking these three passages of Scripture together, it’s clear that Savage, Driscoll, and Haggard have no business being pastors. In fact, no man is qualified to be a pastor. What about you, Bruce? Were you qualified? Absolutely not. At best, I was a “two out of three ain’t bad” kind of preacher. I really, really, really wanted to be a pastor, so just like every other man to ever pastor a church, I rationalized my shortcomings, telling myself that I would work hard to become a better man and preacher. All in all, I was a feeble, frail, fallible man who hopefully did more good than harm.

In the fall of 1995, I left the pastorate of Olive Branch Christian Union Church in Fayette, Ohio. I was at Olive Branch for seven months. A quick overview of my ministerial career reveals that I either stayed at churches for a long time or left after a few months — seven months to be exact. That’s right. I left three of the churches I pastored after being there for only seven months — started in the spring, left in the fall. I am sure there is some Freudian shit in there somewhere to unpack.

After leaving Olive Branch, I moved five miles down the road and started Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio. I pastored this church for seven years. One day, I received a letter from a ministerial colleague of mine. He and I met when I was pastoring Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. Dick, at the time, was the pastor of an IFB church in nearby New Lexington. The previous pastor had left due to allegations of misconduct. This was Dick’s first and only church. The church had a lot of internal problems. I thought of Dick — a kind, decent man — as a sacrificial lamb. His congregation ripped him to shreds. After a year or so, Dick resigned and returned home to southwest Ohio, never to pastor again.

Dick’s letter was quite pointed. Due to my recent moves from church to church to church, Dick questioned my emotional stability and suggested I reconsider starting a new church. I remember how offended I was by his words. I thought, “Didn’t he know I was a divinely called man of God? Didn’t he know I was just following God’s will?” I never spoke to Dick again, but years later after a size sixty bit of hindsight, I concluded that he was absolutely right. I should have hit the pause button and reevaluated my life. It would be another decade before I stopped thinking that being a pastor was the sum of my life; that not pastoring a church was a betrayal of Jesus and all I held dear. It took me years after that to regain any sense of self. Jesus and the ministry had swallowed up Bruce Gerencser. I lost any sense of personal identity and self-worth. To this day, I see a secular counselor on a regular basis. Therapy is essential to me recovering any sense of mental wellness.

The title of this post is “What Andy Savage, Mark Driscoll, and Ted Haggard Have in Common.” Let me add my name to theirs, and the names of every Evangelical preacher. I am going to admit something here that most preachers will NEVER admit: preachers love the adulation they receive from congregants. They love being the center of attention. They love being the hub around which everything turns. And it is for these reasons fallen, disgraced preachers have a hard time quitting the ministry. Think of all the preachers you know who were drummed out of the ministry, only to start a new church or assume the pastorate of an established church months or years later. I could spend weeks detailing the stories of such men.

“Bruce, why can’t these men quit the ministry?” They are addicts. Standing before fawning congregants on Sundays and being thought of as THE MAN is like crack cocaine. Once you feel the rush, you want more, regardless of what you have to do to get the drug. Preachers need the thrill they feel when doing the work of the ministry. I am not suggesting that all pastors are bad men — they are not. But preachers need to be honest about the emotional and psychological “bump” they get from preaching and ministering to others. It is okay to admit this, preachers. You are human. 

I started blogging in 2007. Come December, this current iteration of my blog will celebrate its fifth anniversary. In many ways, this blog is my “church.” Thousands of people read my writing. I reach far more people now than I ever did as a pastor. When my work is well-received, it pleases me and spurs me on to continue writing. My counselor tells me that I am still a preacher; that I have just changed teams. Perhaps. I will leave it to others to make such judgments. I do know that I find writing emotionally gratifying. Whether one hundred people are reading it or five thousand, I am driven to continue to tell my story. That some people find my writing helpful is all the more reason to keep on preaching the humanist gospel.

That said, there are differences between the twenty-five years I spent in the ministry and being a writer. The Evangelical churches I pastored were captive audiences. I was an authority figure, someone given the power to guide, direct, and correct their lives. Today, I pastor a “church” of thousands, yet I have no authority over anyone. Readers are free to come and go; love me or hate me; praise me or ridicule me. Church members were required to tithe and give offerings. Readers are under no such compulsion. They are free to donate, or not. Either way, the “church” remains open for “whosoever will.”

I hope my honesty has not caused you to think any less of me. I know this post will give my critics more ammunition. There’s nothing I can do about that. It is far more important for me to give an open, honest, pointed accounting of my life. I trust you found my words insightful and helpful.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Elizandro Montoya-Salazar Accused of Sexual Assault

pastor elizandro montoya-salazar

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.

Elizandro Montoya-Salazar, pastor of Lalgesia Apostolica of the Faith in Jesus Christ Church (no website) in Elgin, Illinois, stands accused of sexually assaulting a minor girl.

The Daily Herald reports:

An Elgin pastor sexually assaulted and abused a teenage girl while giving her a ride home from a church event in November 2018, according to a police affidavit used to obtain a search warrant.

The attack happened some three months after Elizandro Montoya-Salazar, 46, of 0-99 block of North Lord Avenue, Carpentersville, asked the girl if she “liked liked him,” according to the affidavit. Montoya-Salazar was charged recently with criminal sexual assault of a victim 13 to 17 years old and four counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a person in a position of trust and authority, all felonies.

….

He appeared in court Wednesday, where his bond conditions were changed to allow him to have supervised telephone contact and video visits with his children. He is being held at the Kane County jail on $300,000 bail, meaning he must post $30,000 to be released while the case is pending.

According to a police affidavit used to secure a search warrant for Montoya-Salazar’s cellphone and documents at the Lalgesia Apostolica of the Faith in Jesus Christ Church, 37W080 Hopps Road, the victim reached out to a female volunteer at the church in August 2019 regarding the attack.

The girl was upset and didn’t want to say what happened or who did it, but she texted the church volunteer Oct. 5, saying she had told her parents that Montoya-Salazar assaulted her and her parents were filing a report with Elgin police, according to the affidavit.

The volunteer reported to two other pastors at the church that the victim said, via text, that Montoya-Salazar had assaulted her. The volunteer said Montoya-Salazar preached at the church the next day, according to the affidavit.

“He preached at the church the next day.” Need I say more?

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Victor Trevino, Sr. Sentenced for Failing to Report Child Abuse

victor trevino sr

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.

Victor Trevino, Sr, pastor of The Bread House South in Lansing, Michigan, was sentenced to eighty hours of community service for failing to report child abuse allegedly perpetrated by his youth pastor son, Trevino, Jr.

WILX-10 reports:

Victor Trevino Sr. was sentenced Thursday to 80 hours of community service for not reporting the abuse allegedly done by his son.

Trevino Jr. is a youth pastor at the Bread House South church. Prosecutors say he had inappropriate contact with a minor between 13 and 16 years old.

He faces nine charges, including four counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of child sexually abusive activity, one count of accosting a child for immoral purposes and two counts of using a computer to commit a crime.

He’s also charged with five counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a child under 13 years old and one count of second-degree criminal sexual assault in a different case.

Andrea Bitely, a spokeswoman for Trevino said, “Pastor Trevino is committed to performing the community service ordered today and offers prayers of healing and strength for all involved.”

Trevino Sr. pleaded guilty in August to the misdemeanor and must also pay $400 in fines and costs, said Scott Hughes, an Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office spokesman.

The good pastor “offers prayers of healing and strength for all involved.” Really? How about reporting allegations of sexual abuse the moment you hear of them? How about protecting the children in your church? While it is refreshing to see a pastor prosecuted for failing to report, I am not sure a $400 fine and eighty hours of community service fit the crime. Just once, I would like to see an offending pastor do actual jail time for failing to report abuse. In Trevino Sr’s case, once he completes his community service hours and pays his fine, it is likely charges will be dismissed. Can’t do anything to besmirch the character of a man of God, right? I wonder if The Bread House South and its denomination will discipline Trevino, Sr. for his sin? Lest everyone involved forgets, the Bible says in James 4:17:

Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

Trevino, Sr. knew to “do good” and did it not. God calls that sin. I call it a gross abrogation of personal responsibility for church children.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Youth Pastor Victor Trevino, Jr. Accused of Sex Crimes

victor trevino jr

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

In June 2019, Victor Trevino, Jr, a youth pastor at The Bread House South in Lansing, Michigan, was accused of sexually assaulting two minor girls.

WILX-10 reported at the time:

A youth pastor at a church in Lansing has been charged with sexually assaulting a minor in 2 separate cases. Victor Albert Trevino Jr. has been arraigned on a total of 15 charges between the two cases.

Trevino is a youth pastor at the Bread House South church. Prosecutors say he had inappropriate contact with a minor between 13 and 16 years old. They also say Trevino repeatedly tried to convince her to have sex with him. He’s facing 9 charges in the Lansing case.

In August 2019, Trevino waived his right to a preliminary hearing.

WILX-10 reported:

WILX reported in June, 2019, that a girl younger than 14 came forward with allegations that Trevino repeatedly molested her at his family home in Holt.

She said Trevino often hosted sleepovers for kids from church.

The girls said he touched her inappropriately six times between October, 2018, and March, 2019.

After the girls mother was informed, she took her daughters phone and recorded pictures and videos on Snapchat from Trevino that included images of male genitalia.

Black Collar Crime: Mennonite Aid Worker Jeriah Mast Pleads Guilty to Sexually Abusing Minors

jeriah mast

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.

Earlier this year, Jeriah Mast, a former Mennonite aid worker for Christian Aid Ministries in Berlin, Ohio, was arrested and charged with sexually abusing five minor boys. More charges await him in Haiti.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported at the time:

Jeriah Mast, 37, of Millersburg, Ohio, was indicted Monday by a Holmes County grand jury for offenses that occurred in that county, according to the indictment. Mr. Mast turned himself in to the Holmes County jail on Tuesday evening and is being held on a bond of $250,000 cash surety, according to the jail. He is scheduled for arraignment Wednesday afternoon.

He faces seven felony charges of gross sexual imposition and seven misdemeanor counts of sexual imposition.

He is accused of sexual offenses against five different minors.

he charges of felonies are for alleged offenses against minors under 13, and the charges of misdemeanors are for alleged offenses against minors under 16. The indictment says that the offenses took place between 1999 to 2008.

A Haitian court is seeking Mr. Mast’s return to that country for him to face similar allegations. He left Haiti this spring after allegations arose of his sexually abusing minor boys over a period of years. A Haitian attorney told the Post-Gazette he represents five alleged victims of Mr. Mast.

Christian Aid Ministries of Berlin, Ohio — which is supported by various Mennonite, Amish and related groups — said in an earlier statement it “promptly discharged” Mr. Mast earlier this year when it learned of recent allegations against him in Haiti. He has not yet returned to appear before the Haitian court in the city of Petit-Goave to face the allegations.

Both Christian Aid Ministries and Mr. Mast’s church said he made confessions of sexual offenses.

The ministry placed two of its leading staff members on leave last month after its board learned that they knew as far back as 2013 that Mr. Mast had confessed to “sexual activity with young men that had taken place several years prior,” yet allowed him to remain at work for the ministry until this year.

Did you catch the fact that two Christian Aid Ministries staff members were put on leave for failing to report Mast’s predatory sexual activity with young men? Put on leave? Really? How about firing and excommunicating them for helping to facilitate the ongoing abuse of Haitian children?

Today, Mast pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two Holmes County, Ohio boys. Per the plea agreement, Mast will serve no more than five years in prison for his crimes.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports:

Jeriah Mast, 38, of Millersburg, Ohio, had faced 14 counts alleging he abused five minors between 1999 and 2008. On Wednesday, 12 counts were dismissed as part of a plea agreement. Mr. Mast pleaded guilty to two felony counts of gross sexual imposition in connection with molesting two boys.

One incident happened in late 1999 or early 2000 and involved a 12-year-old boy; the second happened in 2005 or 2006 and involved an 11- or 12-year-old boy, Holmes County Prosecutor Sean Warner said during the hearing at the Holmes County Courthouse.

Mr. Mast denied that he abused the boy in the first incident — in which the boy’s mother said she walked into her son’s bedroom to find Mr. Mast under a blanket with her son — but he nevertheless pleaded guilty.

He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine, although both the prosecution and defense as part of the plea agreement recommended he serve no more than five years in prison.

Holmes County Judge Robert D. Rinfret emphasized in a hearing Wednesday that he was not bound by that sentencing recommendation.

“This is horrendous,” Judge Rinfret said of the crimes. “This is awful.”

Sentencing was set for Nov. 5.

The Ohio charges were filed in July after Mr. Mast confessed to the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office in May that he abused boys over a period of about 15 years in both Ohio and Haiti, where he was working for Christian Aid Ministries, a Berlin, Ohio, organization supported by various Mennonite, Amish and related groups.

Mr. Mast told authorities that he abused four victims in Holmes County; a fifth victim — the one Mr. Mast denies abusing but pleaded guilty to — later came forward.

Mr. Warner, the prosecutor, said Wednesday that the plea agreement was offered in large part because further investigation of Mr. Mast’s May confession showed that all but two of the victims were 13 or older at the time of the abuse. That meant five of the seven felony charges Mr. Mast had faced became misdemeanor charges — and that meant the charges were beyond the statute of limitations to prosecute.

Please see the Post-Gazette series Coverings for complete coverage on Mast’s crimes and sexual abuse within Amish/Mennonite communities.

Black Collar Crime: Baptist Pastor Curtis Brown Accused of Rape

pastor curtis brown

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.

Curtis Brown, pastor of Grace Baptist Chapel (church website has been disabled) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, stands accused of sexually assaulting a five-year-old boy.  Grace is a King James-only Missionary Baptist congregation. Brown resigned after his arrest. According to news reports, Brown pastored Grace Baptist for over eighteen-years.

KRQE reports:

Curtis Ray Brown has been charged with criminal sexual penetration and criminal sexual contact of a minor. The charges stem from an August 23, 2019 incident in which authorities say Brown sexually abused the boy while he stayed at his home overnight.

A criminal complaint states that the boy would spend Tuesday afternoons after school with Brown and details that after staying with Brown, the 5-year-old boy told his father of his “secret.”

According to police, the child’s father then confronted Brown, who allegedly didn’t deny the allegations, and told the child’s father “it just happened,” and “started in the shower one day.”

The child’s father told authorities of a Facebook messenger “group chat” in which the child’s mother, Brown, and other members of his family are a part of, and that Brown had allegedly apologized for his actions.

Screenshots of the chat message were provided to police and were transcribed in the criminal complaint which reads in part:

“I know no amount of words or actions can undo the damage that I have done. I can only express my shame and disgust in what I have done. I am truly sorry for what I am putting our family through. “

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Nicholas Martin Accused of Sexual Assault

nicholas martin

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.

Nicholas Martin, youth pastor and worship leader at North Belmont Church of God (no web presence) in Belmont, North Carolina, stands accused of sexually assaulting a fourteen-year-old girl. Since Martin’s arrest, he has been accused of sexually assaulting three other children.

The Gaston Gazette reports:

Three more accusers have come forward to say a Gaston County preacher already facing child sex crimes also sexually assaulted them, according to prosecutors.

A 14-year-old girl and her parents came to Gaston County Police late last week to say 24-year-old Nicholas Martin had sexually assaulted the child. Police arrested the North Belmont Church of God music and youth pastor on Saturday on four counts of indecent liberties with a child.

He was booked into Gaston County Jail under a $1 million bond.

Since those charges came to light, three more people have contacted police.

On Monday, District Court Judge Pennie Thrower declined to reduce his bond. His attorney had asked for a bond of $50,000, arguing Martin has no prior criminal history and lives at home with his wife.

Some of the new alleged incidents occurred in the home with Martin’s wife present, according to prosecutors.

“When we have allegations involving someone who is connected to the community like this person was an associate pastor, we have to act quickly,” Gaston County Police Capt. Billy Downey said before court.

Officials said Martin committed several crimes involving the 14-year-old accuser from October 2018 until September 2019.

Arrest warrants show he got a 14-year-old drunk before abusing the victim on several occasions.

 

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Rick Iglesias Accused of Sexual Assault

pastor rick iglesias

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.

Rick Diego Iglesias, the former senior pastor of Pleasant Valley Church in Winona, Minnesota, has been charged with three counts of first-degree criminal sexual assault, including heightened charges because the good pastor held a position of authority over the victim.

The Winona Post reports:

In late July, Winona Police Department investigators interviewed the alleged victim, who reported that he or she was repeatedly abused and raped over roughly three years, from 2010 to 2012, according to the criminal complaint.

Iglesias served as the senior pastor at Winona’s Pleasant Valley Church from 1994 to 2014 and more recently worked as a pastor in Mars, Penn. In a statement, Pleasant Valley Church Senior Pastor Chad Ellenburg called the news “devastating.” He wrote, “We are heartbroken for [Iglesias’] wife, Nancy, and son, Brennan, as we cannot imagine the pain and devastation they are experiencing at this time. We are also hurting for the victim, but thankful that they had the courage to come forward. We are praying for them as well as anyone who might be affected here at Pleasant Valley or in this community.”

“We are also deeply grieved that our former pastor, by his actions and deception, failed to faithfully represent Jesus Christ and his Gospel,” Ellenburg continued. “We have done, and will continue to do, everything we can to fully cooperate with the authorities. We will also continue to support and pray for the family, the victim, and those who will carry the responsibility of pursuing justice in this situation.”

Iglesias faces 30 years in prision, if convicted.

In 2007, Iglesias was interviewed by Trevin Wax for a The Gospel Coalition article. TGC has removed the article from their site, but I was able to find a cached copy of the interview. Here’s an excerpt:

I began by asking Rick about his spiritual background and his call to ministry. Rick grew up in a family environment that took seriously the commands of God. Though his family was Roman Catholic, Rick believes his early family life equipped him for future service in the way that “God was honored, prayer was valued, the church was central and service to others was modeled.” Rick’s religious upbringing shaped his values and experiences.

Rick came to saving faith in Christ during his freshman year in college through the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. During those years in college, Rick was discipled by other Christians and through his experiences he received a “greater vision for God’s purpose in the world and my part in that.”

As he began participating in local church ministry and foreign mission trips, Rick began to sense the Lord speaking to him about a calling to full-time ministry. To clarify this call, Rick spent extended times in the Word seeking to discern God’s call on his life. “I recall spending a weekend away during my senior year in college with a pastor friend, and as he prayed over me, he prayed a simple prayer, but one that the Lord used at that point in my life: ‘Rick, be like Jesus! Have compassion on the troubled, helpless crowds that have no Shepherd! Be ashamed to die until you have won a major victory for the unreached of the world.’” God used the encouragement and support of godly men around Rick to clarify his calling. “I’ve always believed that you need a specific call not to be in ministry. God calls us to change the world. I believe He called me through circumstances, the Word, people in my life, and an inner peace that continues to this day,” he says boldly. Though Rick understood that God had called him to the ministry, he had some doubts as to how that would all take place. He served full-time at a church for seven years in a college ministry before going to seminary. His journey to seminary was a leap of faith, for he had no money, time, or desire to devote four years to study. Yet, the Lord spoke through his Word and through the generosity of faithful Christians supplied all his financial needs while in seminary.

“Every time that God has spoken and I have tried to respond with obedience, He has more than met me where I needed Him to be,” he testifies.

Rick has never faced any doubts about being in full-time ministry, although rough leadership meetings or discouraging emails occasionally threaten to steal his focus. During the tough moments of ministry, Rick is sustained by the transformation he sees taking place in his people’s lives. “We have front row seats to the life-transforming acts of God!” he says. Being in ministry is a privilege.

When asked about the necessary character traits that Scripture demands of church leaders, Rick mentions two that encompass many others: a passion for God and a compassion for people. “If you have a passion for God, you will be honest and faithful, and you will love the Word, live out your faith, and develop a whole host of traits that God calls us to exhibit as we walk with Him. If you have compassion for people, you will be compassionate and patient, passionate toward the lost, and a whole host of other traits that we need to model in our relationships with people.” The rubric of “loving God” and “loving people” comes from Jesus himself. Therefore, Rick believes that our character traits will come from this perspective.

Rick’s personal struggle is maintaining an “all-consuming passion for God” every day. Though he prays and spends time in the Word, he finds that a burning passion for God’s presence often eludes him. Rick’s goal is to “be connected to Jesus each and every day, to walk so closely that I hear his heartbeat for the lost, for the least, for the lonely, for those that he places in my path.” Keeping that desire at the forefront of his spiritual life is his deepest struggle.

Rick mentions several ways he protects himself from temptation. He meets with two pastor friends every week for accountability. “I have been meeting with these pastors for over 12 years now, so we are transparent and free to share some of the ugliest aspects of our lives,” he says. He also has safeguards on the computer to ensure that internet pornography does not become a snare. He carries a small card in his wallet that lists all the blessings that come from his ministry and what would happen if he were to fall. “Remember – temptation is an opportunity to do good!” he says.

When asked about temptations that plague other ministers, he lists off character flaws and actions such as selfishness, pride, being an overbearing authority figure, compromising integrity, lack of sexual purity, and lacking balance between ministry and family.

…..

Iglesias resigned from Pleasant Valley Church in 2014. The Winona Post reported at the time:

Although he seems too humble to admit it, Rick Iglesias is the kind of man who cannot walk into a room without a few people rushing over to greet him with a strong handshake or an enthusiastic hug. Iglesias’ magnetism can be attributed to many things, from his friendly demeanor to his ever-present grin, but for many, it is his service as lead pastor of Pleasant Valley Church (PVC) for 20 years that stands out above all. “Our focus is to have a real, strong community presence,” Iglesias said. “[We try to have a] positive impact on the community in many ways.”

After resigning from his position this past fall, Iglesias is still very much active in the Winona community, evidenced from his time spent at Winona Senior High School (WSHS) talking to Spanish classes, as well as the abundance of people who make an effort to stop and thank him for his service over the years. His continued community involvement is not surprising; Iglesias and his wife Nancy have called Winona and PVC home since moving to Southeast Minnesota from suburban Chicago in October of 1994. For the past 20 years they have built a life together that includes their son, Brennan, a senior at WSHS, so it will be a bittersweet moment when Iglesias and his family move sometime after Brennan’s graduation in the spring. “When my wife and I came to Winona, we wanted to get involved in the community,” Iglesias explained. “We want to give back to Winona as much as we can.”

Over his tenure as lead pastor Iglesias has helped to shape the lives of people across many demographics, but he admitted to holding a special affinity toward young adults in the community, including college students and those with young families. “We have really strong ministries with youth,” he explained. “We try to make Christianity practical and accessible.” Prior to arriving in Winona, Iglesias worked at a college ministry, and was surprised at the lack of involvement between the church and Winona State University, Saint Mary’s University and Minnesota State College–Southeast Technical. “Here’s a town with three colleges and frankly, there was not a lot going on,” Iglesias remembered thinking. “We need to focus on the next generation.” In the coming years Iglesias, along with fellow PVC administrators and members, focused on how to involve the younger population of Winona, and started initiatives such as ministries aimed at middle school, high school and college students, Monday night contemporary service, and classes to help with money management and other life skills. “I’ve had college students come up to me and tell me ‘PVC has made all the difference [in] my college experience,’” Iglesias said. “There is no success without successors.”

….

Black Collar Crime: Jason Ramsey Pleads Guilty to 50 Child Sex Charges

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.

Jason Lee Ramsey, a church-going man from Rocky Point, North Carolina, pleaded guilty Monday to 50 child sex charges. Ramsey befriended  the victim at church. She was 13 at the time. This led to three years of sexual misconduct. Ramsey will spend 30 years in prison for his crimes.

Star News Online reports:

Ramsey befriended the victim at church when the victim was 13. A year later he began raping her, and carried on a sexually explicit correspondence with her for the next three years.

When she turned 18, the victim told her parents about the abuse, which took place in both New Hanover and Pender counties.

“Thanks to the bravery of this victim, a child predator is going prison for nearly three decades,” David said in the release. “The Kure Beach Police Department conducted a stellar investigation, which made this plea possible and spared the victim the trauma of having to testify in court.”

An investigation by local detectives who trained at the National Computer Forensics Institute uncovered sexually explicit images and texts on Ramsey’s computer, leading to additional charges.

In addition to decades in prison, Ramsey will have to register as a sex offender for life.

The name of the church is not mentioned in any public news reports.

Black Collar Crime: IFB Pastor Garry Evans Found Not Guilty on All Charges

pastor garry evans

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 October 2017, I posted a story detailing sexual abuse allegations against Garry Evans, pastor of Rushville Baptist Temple in Rushville, Indiana.  Rushville Baptist is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation.

RTV-6 reported at the time:

A 72-year-old pastor in Rush County is accused of molesting multiple young children in his congregation.

Garry Evans, Pastor of the Rushville Baptist Temple was arrested Wednesday evening during a traffic stop.

According to court documents, the investigation began after a 3-year-old child who attends the church told her mother that Evans had taken her into his office to give her candy then “pulled his pants down” and made her touch his genitals.

Shortly after the investigation began another mother came forward saying her 7-year-old and 5-year-old claimed they had also been touched by the pastor. Both girls told investigators that “The Pastor” gives the kids candy when they go into his office alone, and touches them or makes them touch him. The youngest girl told investigators that it started happening after she started kindergarten in August.

And another mother with two young girls at the church also came forward with a similar story.

Rushville Police Chief Craig Tucker said a woman also came forward and said she had been molested by Evans decades ago, in a different community. That woman helped police pursue the new cases, but it is unclear if charges can be sought in hers.

Evans is charged with three counts of child molestation, four counts of sexual battery and five counts of child solicitation. He is currently being held without bond at the Rush County Jail.

….

In November 2017, the Rushville Republican reported:

The Rush County Prosecutor’s Office filed more charges Thursday against Garry Evans, the Pastor of the Rushville Baptist Temple Church. The new charges stem from allegations from a new alleged victim, identified in Court filings as a six-year-old. The new charges include Child Molesting, a Level 4 Felony, and Child Solicitation, a Level 5 Felony.

Evans previously was charged with Child Molesting, Child Solicitation, and Sexual Battery involving five alleged victims. Evans posted the $20,000 bond soon after it was set by the Judge. Along with the new charges, the Prosecutor filed a motion to increase Evans’ original bond. Rush County Prosecutor Phil Caviness explained that the fact that these charges bring the number of alleged victims to six justifies a higher bond than the standard Level 4 Felony case, and added that his office was seeking Evans to be monitored by the Rush County Community Corrections Program if he is released on bond. “We feel that given the charges, GPS monitoring and protective orders for all of the alleged victims and their families are important conditions of bond in this case,” Caviness said.

Court documents indicate that these new alleged incidents occurred sometime between the Fall of 2016 and Summer, 2017, but were disclosed after the first charges were filed against Evans. Trial for these charges currently is scheduled to begin on Feb. 20, 2018.

After these latest charges were filed, Evans attempted to commit suicide.

In February 2018, Evans was arrested and charged with criminal trespassing. His wife was also arrested. The Herald-Tribune reported at the time:

A report of criminal trespass received by the Rushville Police Department Jan. 29 led to the arrest of Pastor Garry Evans, 72, and his wife Gay Evans, 70.

The elder Evans had been released from jail after posting a $20,000 bond following his initial arrest in October 2017 regarding a number of allegations of inappropriate activity with minors, according to earlier editions of the Rushville Republican. A condition of his bond required that Evans be placed on GPS monitoring by the court.

Although innocent until proven guilty, Evans was initially charged last fall with three counts of child molestation, a Level 4 felony; four counts of sexual battery, a Level 5 felony; and five counts of child solicitation, a Level 6 felony.

Additional allegations and charges were filed with the courts in November 2017 when another minor child came forward. Following the second arrest, Evans, the longtime pastor of the Rushville Baptist Temple, unsuccessfully attempted to take his own life and, as a result, was hospitalized for an extended period of time.

The couple’s most recent legal troubles began when the pair appeared Jan. 28 at a Rushville residence stating they wished to see a family member they believed to be inside. The tenant reported they would not leave until they spoke with the individual. The tenant and complainant in the case informed the Evanses that they were not welcome at the property and needed to leave. The couple refused and demanded to speak with the relative.

Following several attempts to get them to leave, the complainant stated that she felt threatened and retreated into the residence, where she retrieved a firearm. The woman returned to the door and again told the couple to leave, but they refused. At this time, Gay Evans attempted unsuccessfully to take the firearm from the resident. The complainant then locked herself inside and stowed the firearm.

A few moments later, the resident observed Garry and Gay Evans looking in a vehicle on the property. The complainant then chased the pastor and his wife off her property with a baseball bat.

As a result of the incident, warrants were issued for the arrest of Garry Evans and Gay Evans for criminal trespass, a Class A misdemeanor.

The pair were taken into custody Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 30. During the course of the arrest, Gay Evans became verbally abusive and physically resistant toward officers and as a result was additionally charged with resisting law enforcement, a Class A misdemeanor.

….

Earlier this month, Evans’ trial began, culminating with the jury acquitting him on all counts. As of today, the prosecutor’s office has not made a public statement in relation to Evans’ acquittal.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Emanuel Rodriguez Charged with Sexual Assault

pastor emanuel rodriguez

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.

Several weeks ago, Emanuel Rodriguez, pastor of Calvary Assembly of God Church in Council Bluffs, Iowa, was picked up on a Nebraska arrest warrant that charged  him with two counts of third-degree sexual assault of a child.

KETV reports:

Omaha police believe a church pastor based in Council Bluffs sexually assaulted two little girls.

Emanuel Rodriguez, 44, is under arrest and in custody at a jail in Minnesota on Sunday night. The Omaha Police Department thinks Rodriguez’s alleged crimes happened in its jurisdiction and in one case, date back to 2016.

A sworn affidavit filed in Douglas County led to police issuing an arrest warrant for Rodriguez. He faces two counts of third-degree sexual assault of a child.

According to court documents, Omaha police learned of the allegations last week. Two young girls and their mothers approached advocates at Project Harmony to report the alleged assaults.

Investigators said the victims told them Rodriguez would place his hands on them while he and the child were under blankets. The victims also told investigators Rodriguez allegedly sexually assaulted them inside two of his former homes in Omaha.

Now behind bars in Nebraska on a $500,000 bond, Rodriguez and his wife Veronica face witness tampering charges.

KETV reports:

Prosecutors said 44-year-old Emanuel Rodriguez had his wife, 42-year-old Veronica Rodriguez, contact his accusers’ families to get them to drop the case.

“The co-defendant and his wife read a text message that she sent to the victims’ mothers asking that they let this stuff go,” said deputy Douglas County attorney Tony Clowe in court.

….

Thursday, Judge Marcela Keim set the couple’s bond at $75,000 and ordered them to have no contact with accusers.

Rodriguez is a member of the Christian rock group 70xForgiven.

Something tells me that Rodriguez won’t be forgiven seventy times seven over his alleged abuse of these young girls. What’s needed now is justice.

Black Collar Crime: Catholic Subdeacon Hurmiz Ishak Convicted of Criminal Sexual Conduct

hurmiz ishak

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.

Hurmiz Ishak, a subdeacon at St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church in Troy, Michigan, was convicted last week of one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

The Oakland Press reports:

Ishak’s victim was 14 at the time of the assault, which took place in 2017 and 2018 at St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church, where Ishak has been a member for 21 years.

Ishak had faced three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, with alternate charges of third-degree criminal sexual conduct if the jury determined Ishak wasn’t in a position of authority over the victim. He was acquitted of the two other charges.

During the trial which started late last week, jurors saw Ishak’s recorded interview with a Troy police detective where he admitted to participating in some sexual activity with the teen boy at the church. He also said he did some of the acts at the boy’s request.

Ishak’s attorney, Jalal Dallo, had built a defense partly on a claim that a language barrier posed issues during Ishak’s interview with police. Assistant prosecutor Christopher George, however, dismissed that, noting Ishak has been in the United States since the 1970s and an interpreter was present via speaker phone during the interview — and rarely needed. He also noted Ishak used slang when describing the sexual activity.

The boy testified Monday, describing sex acts with Ishak which he subsequently reported to church officials in October 2018, who then contacted Troy police. Among the other witnesses jurors heard from were two other alleged victims of Ishak, a teenage girl and an adult woman, who both claim Ishak acted inappropriately with them at the church. The adult woman was a teenager at the time, and was reportedly advised by her mother to keep the allegations to herself because otherwise she’d be ostracized and “treated like damaged goods” by the Chaldean community.