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.
Robbie Shugert, a youth worker at Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Portsmouth, Ohio and a public school teacher, stands accused of various sex-related crimes involving teen boys.
Boyd Robert “Robbie” Shugert, 24, was arrested on sex-related charges involving teenage boys.
He has been a teacher in Scioto County, as well as a youth group volunteer and volunteer with an area choir.
According to deputies, Shugert solicited for sex acts and took naked photos of teen boys while they were sleeping and in the restroom stall.
Detective Jodi Conkel said most victims didn’t even know.
“They were shocked. I was the one that had to tell them that that took place.”
Conkel said a concerned parent came forward on Easter Sunday.
Shugert was arrested by deputies in a restaurant parking lot in Rosemount. He believing he was meeting a 15-year-old boy for a sex act and was willing to pay $200. But it reality, Conkel said had been messaging back and forth with her on Snapchat.
Since his arrest became public Monday, “we’ve had multiple victims come forward. They’re multiplying,” Conkel said.
Shugert was hired in the fall as a math teacher at Clay High School.
Superintendent Todd Warnock declined to be interviewed but said Shugert’s on unpaid leave. He has until noon on Wednesday to resign.
Deputies believe, at this time, no criminal acts took place on school grounds or because he was a teacher. One parent said he was well liked.
Shugert allegedly met his victims through volunteer positions, one with a local choir and as a youth group volunteer with Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Portsmouth.
“When you have an adult, a person like that, that person preys on children. They’re good at that,” Conkel said. “That’s what they do. These kids, they’re victims. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
Cornerstone Pastor Tim Roth said Shugert has been a longtime attender there, on the church’s praise team and youth group volunteer for the last three to four years.
“We were shocked and saddened and stunned to hear of Robbie’s arrest,” Roth said.
Roth said church policy requires two adults at all times at youth group functions.
Shugert later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seventeen years in prison.
Franklin “Frank” Raddish, pastor of Capitol Hill Independent Baptist Ministries and a staunch defender of Roy Moore, had this to say about women, LGBTQ people and pedophile:
More women are sexual predators than men. Women are chasing young boys up and down the road, but we don’t hear about that because it’s not PC.
These people aren’t the good neighbor next door, they’re out to target young children. They must recruit their heritage. As many of them will die from AIDS, the only way they can keep their numbers is to recruit. Pedophiles and men dressing like ladies, their objective is recruitment of children.
The pedophiles will be here tomorrow. The men who dress like women will be here. The world wants to educate our children to be tolerant of homosexuals. The homosexuals can’t grow in number unless they recruit. How do they recruit? They sodomize. That’s the only way.
Let’s not forget amidst all of the uproar over Roy Moore that a sexual predator currently occupies the Oval Office. What follows is a video about Donald Trump’s predatory ways — detailing the abuse stories of sixteen women who have accused Trump of sexual improprieties.
Louis Brouillard, 96, spent a lifetime sexually molesting church children. Told by Catholic church officials to ” try to do better and say prayers as a penance,” Brouillard now faces eighty-seven lawsuits over lifelong predatory behavior.
Haidee V Eugenio, a reporter for the Pacific Daily News, writes:
A priest accused of sexual abuse was sent from Guam to Minnesota for “help with his personal problems” in 1981, and later barred from serving as a priest after questions arose about a house guest from the island, according to a statement from the Diocese of Duluth.
Louis Brouillard, 96, is accused of sexually abusing minors in 87 lawsuits filed since the beginning of the year. He served as a pastor, teacher and Boy Scout leader on Guam, and he has admitted to molesting 20 or more boys here.
In three recent lawsuits, he is accused of paying to bring boys from Guam to Minnesota, where he continued to abuse them. One of the lawsuits alleges he moved a boy into a two-bedroom retirement home apartment where he lived with his elderly parents.
Brouillard would have been about 60 at the time.
“Father Bouillard was sent to the Diocese of Duluth in 1981 in the hope that he would receive help with personal problems,” said Kyle Eller, communications director for the Diocese of Duluth.
“While in the diocese, he did assist at several parishes. In 1985, Father Bouillard’s faculties to serve as a priest in the Duluth Diocese were revoked after questions were raised about a guest from Guam staying with him,” Eller wrote.
Brouillard, who continues to receive a monthly retirement check from the Archdiocese of Agana, was ordained as a priest on Guam in 1948 and served here until 1981. He is being deposed in Minnesota this week in connection with the Guam lawsuits.
In 2013, Brouillard’s name appeared on a list of priests released by the Diocese of Duluth with credible allegations of child sexual abuse against them.
Although the Diocese of Duluth did not specify the nature of Brouillard’s personal problems, he had at least one criminal sexual conduct complaint filed against him shortly before leaving the island, according to a lawsuit.
In 1980, Brouillard was moved to St. Williams Catholic Church in Tumon, now the Blessed Diego de San Vitores Church, according to a lawsuit. While at St. Williams, according to a separate lawsuit, he was named in a criminal sex abuse complaint filed with police.
Former altar boy and Boy Scout Felix Manglona said he was abused by Brouillard when he was 13, and “after several years passed, Felix was assisting the statistician at the Guam Police Department under the cadet program. While performing his daily duties to review police reports and collect data, Felix reviewed a police report pertaining to Brouillard. Upon information and belief, an incident occurred at the St. Williams Catholic Church in Tumon involving Brouillard and a minor boy, resulting in a sexual abuse complaint being filed against Brouillard,” the lawsuit states.
Brouillard’s sexual activities involving children had been known to church officials for at least a decade before he left the island, according to an affidavit Brouillard signed last year.
“My actions were discussed and confessed to area priests as well as Bishop Apollinaris Baumgartner who had approached me to talk about the situation. I was told to try to do better and say prayers as a penance,” he said in the affidavit.
Baumgartner died in 1970.
While at St. Williams, according to a lawsuit, Brouillard abused an altar boy, identified in court documents only as F.S.L. to protect his privacy. In 1981,when Brouillard moved to Minnesota, he invited F.S.L. and a friend to spend the summer with him. While there, according to the lawsuit, the boys were sexually abused.
Another lawsuit, filed by plaintiff J.T., stated that he was abused by Brouilard on Guam from 1972 to 1976. Around 1981, Brouillard brought him Minnesota, telling his parents he would be able to attend college there.The lawsuit said Brouillard tried to rape him in Minnesota.
More than 140 sex abuse lawsuits have been filed against the Archdiocese of Agana, 16 clergy members and three others affiliated with the church since the beginning of the year.
By now, regular readers of this blog who follow the Black Collar Crime Series know that Evangelicalism has a Catholic church-sized problem with sexual assault, sexual abuse, and rape. For years, Evangelical churches and pastors pointed fingers at the Great Whore of Babylon — the Roman Catholic Church — condemning its ever-growing sexual abuse scandal, all the while ignoring the increasing number of sex-related scandals in their own ranks. It is clear, at least to me, that Evangelicals have no high moral ground when it comes to sex crimes; that Evangelical pastors, deacons, elders, Sunday school teachers, Christian school teachers, bus drivers, worship leaders, and choir directors can and do rape, assault, and abuse. Add to this the consensual affairs, cavorting with prostitutes, and being “addicted” to porn, and it seems, despite all the preaching against sexual sin, that so-called men of God are not practicing what they preach.
I am in no way suggesting that a large number of Evangelical pastors are sexual predators. I have no doubt that many pastors are true to their marital vows, don’t prey on children, and generally try to practice what they preach. (Please read Is Clergy Sexual Infidelity Rare?) That said, many Evangelical churches do a poor job of keeping congregants — especially children and teenagers — safe from abuse at the hands of men given the responsibility and authority to lead them. Churches wrongly think that if they do a one-time background check and it comes back clean that they have done their due diligence. However, background checks only show criminal convictions, and if not done regularly, such checks would not catch convictions after the original background check was performed. Churches should annually run thorough background checks. When interviewing men for open pulpits, churches should call the candidates’ previous churches to see if there were any whispers of sexual misconduct. It is astounding how many churches hire men with checkered pasts, not bothering to check on whether they have left behind at their previous jobs allegations of sexual impropriety.
Evangelical churches are often quite sensitive to how they are viewed in their communities, knowing that rumors about sexual scandal could damage their reputations. This is why, instead of obeying reporting laws and putting the needs of victims first, many churches, when they hear of sexual misconduct, investigate it themselves and try to cover it up. In doing so, churches often violate state sexual abuse reporting laws. Sadly, prosecutors have been hesitant to prosecute pastors and church leaders for not reporting abuse. Imagine how different things might be if a few pastors were sentenced to a year in the county jail for failing to report sexual abuse. I bet that would get their attention, and result in more churches following the law. (Please read How Should Churches Handle Allegations of Abuse?)
Many Evangelical churches are independent or part of loosely affiliated sects such as the Southern Baptist Convention. Since each church governs itself, there is no central authority that handles claims of abuse or disciplines pastors accused of criminal behavior. Every church is its own final authority, and far too many churches have been willing to shove clergy sexual misconduct under the proverbial rug rather than see their pastors criminally prosecuted and their victims receive justice. Even worse, victims are often shamed into silence. Jesus forgave us, shouldn’t we forgive others? victims are told. Pastor said this was all a big misunderstanding, and he promises, before God himself, that he will never, ever do anything like this again! Will you forgive him? And by doing this, churches abuse victims all over again and predator pastors are free to continue trolling the church membership (or a new church’s membership) for fresh victims.
The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in America, yet, as of this date, they refuse to establish a centralized database that tracks allegations and prosecutions of pastor/church leader criminal conduct. Southern Baptist leaders say that they must protect pastors from false allegations, and developing a database of accusations would “convict” pastors without the benefit of a trial. While false allegations are always possible, they are actually very, very rare. At the very least, a database of allegations would help when looking for patterns of misconduct. Using the “where there is smoke there is fire” approach, when a pastor has several accusations lodged against him, it is likely that he is up to no good.
An overarching problem in Evangelical congregations is that people are naïve and too trusting. I have posted numerous Black Collar Crime reports detailing congregations who refused to believe that their pastors could ever do such terrible things. Often, they will defend their pastors, accusing me of trying to smear or discredit their churches. After all, I am an atheist, a tool of Satan, so anything I write can’t be trusted. However, the content for the Black Collar Crime Series comes from news and police reports. I only report what can be verified. As a result, offended church members, in time, learned my reports were correct and their pastors were indeed capable of everything from rape to murder to theft. Pastors are not above the fray morally or ethically, and as long as the sheep think they are, predator clergy will continue to prey on and fleece the flock.
Recently, I posted an article about Mitch Olson, pastor of Grace Ministry Center in Kimball, Michigan, being accused of sexually assaulting a woman during an anointing ritual. When confronted by church leaders, Olson said his hand must have slipped in the anointing oil. (Please read Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Mitch Olson Accused of Sexually Assaulting Church Member.) The woman Olson allegedly abused is an adult who had been a member of Grace since sixth grade. When people read stories such as this one — especially readers who never Evangelicals — they often wonder why the woman just didn’t say NO or fight back. Surely, as a grown woman, she knew that it was wrong for her pastor to be “anointing” her breasts, buttocks, and genitals. Shouldn’t she bear some culpability in what happened? Isn’t this really just a matter of consensual behavior gone awry?
Pastors are, by law, considered authority figures, and as such are held to a high standard of moral and ethical conduct. Because pastors are often intimately involved in the lives of their parishioners — much like doctors, lawyers, and counselors — there is always a danger of people being manipulated and controlled, leading to abusive behavior and sexual misconduct. Pastors often know the dark, deep secrets of their parishioners, and this gives them power over their congregants. Professional lines can quickly become blurred, resulting in criminal misconduct. While pastors can and do have consensual sexual affairs with women in their church, often these affairs are actually abuses of authority and should be treated as such.
In the case of Mitch Olson and Justine Morden, the victim had spent her formative years in Grace Ministry Church, with Olson as her pastor. Morden deeply respected and trusted Olson. I am sure she never thought that Olson would sexually take advantage of her. Remember, most Evangelicals are taught that their pastor/pastors/elders are their spiritual leaders and guides. Called “men of God”, these pastors are often viewed as the rulers of their churches. Given great power, authority, and control, Evangelical pastors can, with impunity, misuse and abuse their congregations. In some Baptist circles such as the Southern Baptist Convention and the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, pastors often have absolute control over their churches, acting more like kings and potentates than humble servants.
It should not come as a shock to the reader to learn that, because congregants are often raised in such authoritarian, controlling churches, many of them lose their ability to discern harm or misbehavior. Why, Pastor Bob would never, ever harm me. He loves and cares for my soul and prays for me daily! When congregants lose discernment abilities, it is not hard then for a pastor to manipulate church members into doing whatever it is he wants them to do. This is especially the case for women who have spent their lives being taught that God commands them to be submissive to male authority — their fathers when they are young, their husbands when they are married, and their pastors when it comes to spiritual matters. Totally disarmed and subservient to men, women become easy targets for pastors to take advantage of.
It is clear that many sexually abused Evangelical women didn’t “let” their abusers do anything. Thanks to their immersion in cult-like teachings and behaviors, along with misogynistic, patriarchal views of the fairer sex, it is evident that many women are like lambs to the slaughter, easy marks for those out to take advantage of them. As Justine Morden and countless other Evangelical women have learned, just because a man calls himself pastor doesn’t mean he should trusted. While scores of predatory clergy are exposed and convicted every year, countless others fly under the radar, using their positions of power and authority to take advantage of trusting, unsuspecting women. Until churches and sects are willing to out these predators and publicly burn them at the stake — so to speak — they will continue to wreak havoc and destruction.
This post is focused on women because the overwhelming majority of Evangelical clergy sexual abuse consists of male pastors abusing female teenagers and women. This does not mean I am ignoring male-on-male abuse or child sexual abuse. It too is a problem, but for this post alone, I have focused on the question raised in the title.
David Hyles is the son of the late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana for many years. During his younger years, David Hyles was the youth pastor at First Baptist. While there, he sexually preyed on women, resulting in his father quietly, in the dead of night, shipping him off to pastor an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) Church that knew nothing of David’s philandering. As sexual predators are wont to do, David Hyles continued his whoring ways, leading to his expulsion from the church. If you are not familiar with the David and Jack Hyles story, please read:
In recent years, David Hyles has been showing up at IFB churches and events, acting as if what happened in the past is ancient history and no longer relevant. Praise Jesus! He has been forgiven! It’s time for people such as myself to move on and give the guy a break. Yes, he was a serial adulterer. Yes, he preyed on women. Yes, he was a despicable human being. But, “Brother Dave’ has played his “washed-by-the-blood, get-out-of-jail-free card. As far as he is concerned, his sin account has been settled and he is free to move forward in the fullness and wonder of God’s mercy and grace. Never mind the fact that Hyles has NEVER given a public accounting of his very public misconduct, and as far as I know he has not contacted nor made restitution to the countless people he has harmed. Doing so, of course, would require him to admit actions that still could be criminally prosecuted.
David Hyles was, as the following comment shows, in attendance at least one of the conference days. A Fighting Fundamental Forums commenter using the moniker Twisted posted a comment a friend of his made on Facebook:
While on a trip in North Carolina with one of our church men, we attended three evening services of the annual National Sword of the Lord Conference on Revival and Soul-Winning. One of the pleasures for me at the conference was to get to see Brother David Hyles, who has been a good friend and encouragement on Facebook. His dad, Jack Hyles, was my favorite preacher. Brother David’s wife, Brenda, took this photo. I thought she did a great job considering the subject matter.
After a period of waywardness, Brother Hyles (David) appears to have been on the right track again for some years now, and he has been trying to use his own restoration to encourage others who need the same. I count him as a friend! For any of you who might have a problem with that, I want to remind you that he is no longer out in a far country nor in the field feeding swine, but he is back at the Father’s house. Stay outside and pout if you want to, or you can come in and enjoy the Father’s celebration of restored fellowship!
Sorry, but I want to puke. According to the aforementioned Facebook friend, it’s time for people to forgive Hyles and move one. First, I have no need to forgive David Hyles. He never did anything to me, so there is nothing for him to apologize for — not that there is any evidence that Hyles (like his father) has apologized to anyone. My goal is to hold a man who was considered one of the “greatest men on earth” accountable for his abuse of countless trusting Christian women. Until Hyles gives a public accounting of his past actions and makes appropriate restitution, I intend to continue to smack him over the head every time I hear of him sticking his bald pate out of the hole he crawled into.
Andrew Jackson, youth pastor for The Victory Tabernacle of Hot Springs United Pentecostal Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas was convicted Thursday of rape. Jackson could face up to eighty years in prison for his crimes. Steven Mross with the Hot Springs Sentinel Recorder reports:
A former youth pastor accused of raping two teenage girls in 2014 in Hot Springs was convicted Thursday after a four-day trial in Garland County Circuit Court and could face up to 80 years in prison.
Andrew Lee Jackson, 31, who lists a White Hall address, was found guilty of two felony counts of rape, with the eight-man, four-woman jury recommending a sentence of 40 years on each count. Jackson, who was taken into custody after the verdict and is being held on zero bond, is scheduled to be formally sentenced April 11. Judge Marcia Hearnsberger will decide at the sentencing hearing whether to run the sentences concurrently or consecutively.
The jury deliberated for about 90 minutes before finding Jackson guilty and less than 30 minutes to recommend the sentence. Lawrence noted Hearnsberger did not instruct the jury to decide on consecutive or concurrent and would be making the decision herself.
Jackson was originally charged with 13 counts of rape, with 10 involving one victim, who was 16 at the time, and three involving the younger victim, who was 13 at the time, one for each incident of rape, but Lawrence said they amended it to two counts, one for each victim, before the trial since each count is punishable by up to life in prison.
The jury heard three days of testimony beginning Monday, including testimony from both victims, Garland County sheriff’s investigators, the girls’ therapist, Jackson, his wife, and his pastor from childhood during the guilt phase.
Lawrence said they also presented cellphone evidence involving text messages sent between Jackson and the two victims that corroborated the victims’ allegations, and she noted that she felt it was a significant factor in the jury’s decision.
They also presented witnesses who “saw various things” which also corroborated the victim’s story, including one who “walked in” on Jackson and the 16-year-old “under the covers” and another who testified about being involved in a three-way phone call with Jackson and one victim.
She said the victims, who each went through three years of counseling and therapy, were both “able to take the stand and talk about what happened to them,” and it was clear the jury believed them.
While the charge involving the 13-year-old was based solely on her age at the time, Lawrence said she used a different approach with the 16-year-old, arguing Jackson was essentially her guardian because she was living with Jackson and his wife at the time the rapes occurred.
“Even though he wasn’t her parent or foster parent, he still qualified as her guardian because she had moved in with him and his wife,” she said, noting that under the law he was then guilty of rape if the victim was younger than 18 years old.
She told investigators she would often spend the night at the Jackson home, sleeping in the living room with Jackson and his wife on a sectional sofa separated into three pieces. She said at one point Jackson told her he “felt like a monster” for what he had done, although she was uncertain what all happened during the encounter because she was asleep.
She said she knew she and Jackson first had sexual relations about a week before the start of school in August on the sectional in the living room while his wife was asleep on the other section.
Jackson was arrested on Dec. 22, 2014, and charged with three counts of rape.
The victim’s sister, 16, was interviewed at that time about any possible sexual contact she had with Jackson, but initially denied anything had happened between them.
The sisters shared a cellphone and had both communicated with Jackson on the phone. In reviewing text messages from the phone, investigators felt confident the 16-year-old was also a victim of sexual abuse.
On Sept. 21, 2016, the sister was interviewed again at Cooper-Anthony and disclosed she had sexual intercourse with Jackson “at least 10 times,” beginning in August 2014 and continuing through October 2014.
She stated the rapes occurred in a bedroom at Jackson’s home and the first time he had covered her mouth while he raped her. She punched him at one point during the rape trying to get him off her. She said Jackson threatened her, telling her if she told anyone he would burn up her family’s house with her and her family inside.
She said Jackson continued to have sex with her almost weekly for nearly three months and that she was scared what he might do if she told anyone.
When questioned, Jackson confirmed he and his wife would sleep in the living room on the sofa sections, but denied the victim’s accusations and insisted his only relationship with her was that of youth pastor.
Wright noted that in mid-December 2014, he viewed “inappropriate text messages” extracted from the victim’s phone, which indicated Jackson had “much more than a youth pastor relationship” with the victim.
In the texts, Jackson made such comments as “I love you so much” and “I missed you this weekend terribly” and “I’m sorry I can’t be with you.”
Why is it that many Evangelical Christians have a hard time believing that pastors, evangelists, parachurch leaders, Christian university presidents, and other notable Christian leaders commit crimes such as sexual assault, rape, child abuse, murder, fraud, or otherwise engage in behaviors deemed by faithful Christians to be sinful? Every time I write a post about a pastor or some other Christian leader committing a crime or behaving in ways that make them out to be hypocrites, I end up getting comments and emails from people objecting to my publicizing the story. Often, these objectors leave comments that suggest that they have some sort of inside knowledge about the matter, and once the “truth” comes out the accused will be vindicated. Other objectors will take the “they are innocent until proven guilty” approach, subtly suggesting that these kinds of stories should not be publicized until there has been a trial and a conviction. With righteous indignation they attack me, the messenger, for daring to publish anything about the stories, warning me that God is going to get me for causing harm to his servants and his church. And when the trials are over and convictions are handed down, do these same people return to this site with heads humbly held low, confessing that they did not know these men and women as well as they thought they did? Of course not. If anything, they will demand forgiveness for the offender. After all, we are all sinners in need of forgiveness, right?
Last year, I remember a number of people getting upset with me over my publicizing on Facebook their pastor’s criminal behavior. He didn’t do it!. I KNOW this man! I’ve been friends with him for 20 years! He led me to Jesus! It’s just the word of a confused teenager against the word of an honorable, devoted man of God. It was interesting to watch all these outraged people disappear once multiple girls came forward from several churches and said that this pastor had taken sexual advantage of them. Why is it these church members had a hard time believing that their pastor committed felony sexual crimes?
When Jack Schaap was accused of carrying on a sexual affair with a teenage girl he was counseling, scores of outraged members and supporters of First Baptist Church in Hammond Indiana came to this blog and declared Schaap’s innocence. These are the same people who, to this day, believe that Schaap’s father-in-law, Jack Hyles, never carried on with his secretary, and these same people, while not condoning David Hyles’ heinous crimes, demand that he be given favorable treatment since God has forgiven him. Who are we to condemn, if God has forgiven him, they said. He that is without sin let him cast the first stone! Judge not!
Bob Gray, the one-time pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville Florida, was accused of sexually molesting young children. Countless Gray supporters said that their pastor could never do such a thing, yet we now know that it is likely he had been a sexual predator for most of the fifty years he spent in the ministry. How is it possible that a pastor who was considered by many, including myself, to be a Holy Ghost-filled man of God, could, for decades, sexually harm children, yet no one know about it (or at least was willing to report it)?
Last week, Justin White, pastor of First Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana was arrested on felony charges of insurance fraud and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Come to find out, White was a heroin addict. I found myself asking, how is it possible that a man could preach three times a week and lead a large church while on heroin? Those must have been some pretty awesome and inspiring sermons. Did church leaders know that White had a heroin problem? It seems likely that they did. In 2015, White went out of state for thirty-two days to a rehab center, returning clean to a none-the-wiser church congregation. If news reports are to be believed, White’s recovery was short-lived, resulting in him committing insurance fraud to pay an $11,000 debt he owed to a drug dealer. Despite the evidence and White’s subsequent resignation, there are congregants who believe that their pastor is innocent of all charges. Why do these church members, and others like them, have such a hard time believing that the man who stands in the pulpit on Sunday can be someone other than who he says he is?
These same people have no problem believing that non-Christians commit all sorts of crimes. When newspapers report the crimes of unbelievers these followers of Jesus shake their heads and say if they only put their faith and trust in Jesus all things would become new for them. In their minds, Jesus is an antidote for bad and criminal behavior. And, to be honest, he often is, or at least the idea of Jesus is an antidote for behavior deemed sinful or unlawful. Countless alcoholics and drug addicts clean up after having a come to Jesus moment. While I could write much about why this is so, the fact remains that in some instances having some sort of conversion experience leads people to change their ways. If Jesus really is the antidote for sin and the answer for what ails us, why then do so many Christians fall (or run) into behaviors that are considered sinful or criminal? Why is there no difference behavior-wise between nonbelievers and believers?
The reason then that Evangelicals have a hard time believing their pastors could ever commit the crimes they are accused of is because they think — despite evidence to the contrary — that people are protected from moral and ethical failure by their Christian salvation and the presence of the Holy Spirit living inside them. This is why the Black Collar Crime series is so important. The series is a public reminder of the fact that religion, in and of itself, does not make anyone a better person. It can, and perhaps at times does, but there are countless people who are nonreligious or who are members of religious sects Evangelicals have deemed false who live exemplary lives. Religion is not a prerequisite to goodness. And because Evangelicals refuse to understand this, they find it difficult to accept that the men and women they hold up as pillars of morality and virtue can really be perverts and criminals in disguise.
While we should generally trust people, we should not do so blindly, and therein lies the problem for many Evangelicals. They are taught to obey those that have authority over them. They are reminded that gossip is a sin and that church members should not believe an accusation against an elder (pastor) unless it can be firmly established in the mouth of two or three witnesses. Jack Hyles was fond of saying, if you didn’t see it, it didn’t happen. Countless Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers have used this very line to turn back whispers about their sexual infidelity or criminal behavior. You keep your mouth shut now. If you didn’t see it happen, you have no business talking about it. I’m sure former IFB church members can remember blistering sermons about gossip and about the dangers of speaking badly about the man of God. Remember those boys who mocked the man of God in the Bible? Why, bears came out of the woods and ate them. Best keep your tongue quiet, lest God send bears to eat you. How often do Evangelicals hear sermons about not touching God’s anointed? Mind your own business, church members are told, and let God take care of the preacher. If he is sinning, God will punish him. But here is the problem with this kind of thinking: God doesn’t punish sinning preachers. They just keep on sinning and sinning and sinning. They will keep on molesting little boys and girls, raping teenagers, and sleeping with vulnerable congregants until real flesh-and-blood human beings make them stop.
Think of all the times that church leaders heard rumors or reports about clergy misconduct, yet did nothing. They were more concerned about the testimony of the church than they were the victims. Think of all the times that church leaders heard rumors or reports about clergy misconduct, conducted their own investigations, and once finished, buried the accusations or elicited a promise from offenders that they would never, ever do again that which they were accused of. After all, since Jesus has forgiven them, shouldn’t the church? The short answer to this question is HELL NO! When clergy commit criminal acts that harm other people, they must be held accountable. This is why states have mandatory reporting laws. When church leadership hears of reports of possible criminal sexual misconduct they are required to immediately report these actions to law enforcement. It is not their responsibility to investigate or mete out punishment. We have a legal system that is responsible for investigating crimes and bringing offenders to justice. I wish more churches would be prosecuted for failing to report. If a handful of church deacons or elders had to spend time in jail for not reporting or covering up crimes, perhaps this would put an end to these men and women placing their religious institutions’ reputations above the welfare of those who have been victimized.
I spent twenty-five years in the ministry. From the time I was fifteen to the age of fifty-one, I was a member of the preacher fraternity. I know what went on behind closed doors. I know about scandals, sexual affairs, fraud, and suspected criminal behavior. I know where the bodies are buried. I know the real story behind Pastor So-and-So’s abrupt call to a new church. I know why certain missionaries had to come home from the field, never to return. I know that preachers are not any different from the people they pastor. Yes, most pastors are good people. Yes, most pastors generally desire to help others. What is also true is that some pastors are lazy and see the ministry as a way to make a quick and easy buck. It is also true that some pastors watch pornography and have sexual affairs with people in and out of their churches. People are people, and the sooner that church members understand this, the better. Stop putting pastors on pedestals. Stop thinking that pastors and their families are in any way better than anyone else. They are not, and I wish that pastors would stand before their congregations on Sundays and be honest about this.
The reason they don’t, of course, is that few congregants want honesty and transparency. Instead, they want pastors who are victorious over sin. They want pastors who are above the fray. They want winners! They want men and women they can look up to as examples of moral purity and virtue. Years ago, I remember admitting in a sermon that I knew what it was to lust after a woman. My objective was to let congregants know that I was just like them, that I was not in any way morally superior to them. After the service, a man came up to me and told me that he was upset over my confession. In no uncertain terms, he let me know that he didn’t want to hear about my sins or failures. He wanted a pastor who was a shining example of holiness and righteousness. In other words, he wanted me to be God. Needless to say, this man did not last long in our church. He quickly found out that I was, like the apostle Paul, the chiefest of sinners.
Have you ever attended a church where the pastor, deacon, Sunday school teacher, or some other revered leader in the church was accused of criminal behavior or sexual misconduct? How did the church respond to these accusations? Were some of the members unwilling to believe that the accused could do the things he or she was accused of? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section.
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
Seven months ago, Ken Adkins, pastor of Greater Dimensions Christian Fellowship in Brunswick, Georgia was arrested and charged with “three counts of child molestation, five counts of aggravated child molestation, two counts of enticing a child for indecent purposes and one count of influencing a witness.” Adkins defense rests not on his innocence, but his contention that the victim was an adult when he sexually took advantage of them. Right victim, wrong year.
Pastor Ken Adkins, who has been in a Glynn County jail for seven months on charges he molested a teenage boy six years ago, turned down a plea deal Friday.
Prosecutors offered Adkins a sentence of five to 30 years if he were to plead guilty to child molestation, but his defense team turned it down. Adkins has said he is innocent of all charges.
Adkins, 56, a pastor of the Greater Dimensions Christian Fellowship, was denied bond in September on child-molestation charges, and indicted by the Glynn County grand jury last month on three counts of child molestation, five counts of aggravated child molestation, two counts of enticing a child for indecent purposes and one count of influencing a witness.
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, a young man told investigators that Adkins molested him in 2010 when he was a member of Adkins’ church as a boy younger than 16.
Prosecutors said they not only have explicit text messages and photos sent from Adkins phone, they also have a young woman’s testimony in which she makes allegations of sex crimes. The woman, who was in the youth ministry at Adkins’ church at the time, said that Adkins watched her and a teenage boy have sex in a Brunswick hotel several years ago.
The woman says after the incident, Adkins touched her inappropriately.
Adkins’ attorney, Kevin Gough, argued that the alleged incident didn’t take place in 2009, but instead a few years later, when the boy called a victim in the case was an adult.
“The charges set forth in the indictment allege that the crimes took place when he was under the age of 16, so the timeline is very important to this,” Gough said. “He has maintained his innocence, and we look forward to his day in court.”
A judge said he is also taking into consideration the account of a police officer, who interviewed the victim and the young woman and Adkins during his investigation, before he makes a ruling on what evidence will be admissible when the trial begins April 3.
In Georgia, aggravated child abuse is considered a capital crime. While the death penalty is not considered likely, Adkins could face up to life in prison if convicted.
You might remember that Adkins is one of the pastors who said the Pulse Club victims got exactly what they deserved.