Tag Archive: Southern Baptist Convention

Dear Southern Baptists, Your Doctrine is the Problem

southern baptist men

Southern Baptist Men 6,022 Years Ago, Still Holding to the “Truth” Today

Coarse language ahead! You have been warned.

The Southern Baptist Convention is holding its annual shindig this year in Dallas, Texas. Ten thousand messengers (delegates) will fuss and fight with each other over doctrine, culture, and who should run the denomination’s institutions. Thanks to recent revelations about Paige Patterson and Andy Savage, along with allegations leveled against Frank Page, the SBC has decided to get “serious” about sexual abuse and how women, in general, are treated by SBC churches, pastors, and denominational leaders. Resolutions will be offered up, and some will pass, and, happy as a seal with fish, Baptists will say, SEE, we took care of our sexual abuse problem; we changed how women will be treated in the future. And to all this I say, bullshit.

In 2007, messengers were asked to approve establishing a national database of pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and other church leaders who have been accused and/or convicted of sexual abuse and other sex related crimes. The “godly” messengers said “no.” That’s right, they said “no.” Eleven years later, this issue will be brought to the floor once again. It will be interesting to see how serious SBC churches really are about predatory, criminal pastors in their midst. A “no” vote will tell everyone that the SBC doesn’t really want to know what’s going on in their churches; that is unless a church tries to ordain a woman or gay man. Then, by God, their Baptist boners are at full attention, ready to screw anyone who dares to be anything but a conservative cisgender male who has sex in the missionary position.

Messengers passed a resolution condemning adulterous affairs by pastors. And what effect with this resolution have? Imagine Pastor I. LvJesus at First Baptist Church in Anywhere, Alabama hearing of this resolution and saying, Well, Sister B. Submissive, I guess we need to quit having sex in my office. The messengers have spoken! Resolutions such as this one are feel-good measures; all the while at home, SBC pastors are “feeling good” too, but that’s because they are having oh-so awesome extramarital motel sex. Resolutions are akin to Nancy Reagan’s ‘Just Say No’ anti-drug-use campaign. Well-intentioned, perhaps, but illicit drug use continues unabated, and something tells me that SBC preachers with a mind to cheat on their wives will continue to do so. The Holy Spirit is no match for sexual desire, especially with sex that has a bit of danger attached.

Messengers also passed a resolution emphasizing the dignity of women and lamenting how women have been treated in SBC churches. Of course, this same resolution reminded women that could only serve the church in “Biblically appropriate ways.” The resolution also reminded women that they were to submit themselves to their husbands as unto the Lord. As you can see, nothing has changed. The increasingly Fundamentalist SBC will continue to treat women as second-class citizens. Complementarianism will continue to be the official doctrine of the Convention. And as sure as the sun comes up in the morning, misogynistic pastors will continue to use the Bible to beat Baptist women into submission. Until the SBC abandons complementarianism, women should not expect meaningful change, nor should they accept the bones the men who are running the show throw their way. Perhaps it is time for Southern Baptist women to rise up and say FUCK YOU to their handlers and move on to women-affirming denominations.

Note

News sites routinely report that the Southern Baptist Convention has 15 million members. Here’s the truth behind this statistic. Yes, there are 15 million people on the church roll, but on any given Sunday over half of them are someplace other than a Southern Baptist Church. In 2003, I pastored a small Southern Baptist church in Clare, Michigan. It had dozens of families on its membership roll who no longer attended the church. One of my first steps as pastor was to clean up the roll, sending letters to everyone on the roll, reminding them that membership required regular church attendance. THAT went over well. 🙂 Why is this important? Let conflict spring up in the church — Baptists love to fight — and all those non-attending “members” will be front and center to cast their vote on the issue at hand. In the end, it’s all about power and control.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

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

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

pastor rick patrick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was not present for her conversations with seminary officials.

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

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

….

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

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

rick patrick post

Text:

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

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

rick patrick apology

Text:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Bruce Gerencser

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

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

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Practices of Mindfulness and Yoga are Satanic Says Pastor Daryl McCready

pastor daryl mccready

I go tomorrow morning to Buckingham Elementary School, because they’ve started a new program called ‘Mindfulness Program.’ And it’s led by yoga instructors. I’m going to go tomorrow morning, because the principal has invited me to come and see the program … and I’m praying for God’s wisdom and discernment. And we’re all praying for discernment and wisdom, because if what’s happening there is in any way trying to indoctrinate our children with a false teaching, then I have to stand against it. And we [the church] should stand against it. All over this community right now, this assault is happening on who Jesus is and who we are in light of him. It’s a clear assault on our community right now. I’m seeing it everywhere I turn. And, listen, I’m concerned.

They’re [church members] saying, ‘Hey, it’s a good thing, it’s not a bad thing. I’ve never been closer to God.’ Not the true one. You may be close to a God of your understanding, but he’s not the real one, And there is one who likes to mimic God – his name is Satan. And he has a whole legion of demons who want to convince you that you can trust them and that they’re good and that they can help you … But they have one goal, the bible says very clearly: the devil comes to seek, kill and destroy.

Pastor Daryl McCready, March 25, 2018 sermon

The lie that people can be as God or are gods themselves and only need to discover their inner higher self or that they possess the power to heal others by ‘their positive energy’ or that they can bring about their preferred future by the power of their own positive thinking is an old lie from the Father of Lies. God’s people should have nothing to do with such things. I understand not all yoga practices are spiritually focused but the foundation of yoga and many practices are of unBiblical nature and to be avoided by believers. The warning for us is that we ought not be supportive of anything that leads people away from God and the truth. Stretching is not the problem – yoga is. Even though some exercise called yoga may not be evil, there is a whole lot of evil practices occurring in this town under the name of yoga. Yoga seeks to draw and recruit people and in some cases indoctrinate them to false truths and practices.

Pastor Daryl McCready, March 26, 2018 Facebook post

McCready pastors SonRise Church in Berlin, Maryland. SonRise is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. McCready’s church bio page states:

After graduating from Crisfield High School in 1985, I joined the United States Army as a military police officer of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, KY. During the years I served in the military I walked away from the Lord and I did not walk with Jesus or honor Him with my life. After completing my tour of service with the Army I returned back home to Berlin and began my career in law enforcement where I served for more than thirteen years.

For most of those years I did not seek after God nor did I obey His commands for my life. As a result, I made a total mess of my life financially, and relationally. In 1993 I went through a divorce which caused me to take a long look at my life and the path I was on. It was at that time that I realized what I needed and decided to confess my sin and come back home to the Lord. Since that time, God has been calling me deeper and deeper in my relationship with Him.

In 1995, I married the love of my life, Traci and we began our relationship seeking after Jesus and have been on mission for Him ever since. In 1997 I felt God calling me into fulltime ministry. Having witnessed what pastors deal with first hand as a pastor’s kid, and the cost and stress that is placed on a pastor. I was not very excited about responding to the call. So I ignored the call of God on my life for a short time not wanting to acknowledge it due to my own fear and insecurity. Eventually however, I surrendered to the call of God on my life. In 2001 I was approached by the Baptist Convention of MD and DE and asked to pray about considering church planting. I knew nothing about church planting or what it entailed at the time, but as I learned more about it and read about it, I became more and more convinced that God was calling me to plant a new church. After completing an in depth three day assessment process, and after much prayer Traci and I received approval for funding and support from the Baptist Convention of Maryland and Delaware. I resigned from the Police Department and was ordained in December 2001. My wife also resigned from her job a few months later in order for us to give our full time and attention to this new work and our young children. God led 13 other adults to commit to join us in this new church plant and we left our parent church Berlin First Baptist and launched this new church at the Ocean Downs Racetrack in October 2002.

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Black Collar Crime: Southern Baptist Leader Paul Pressler Faces Civil Suit Over Sexual Abuse Allegations

paul pressler

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.

Southern Baptist luminary Paul Pressler faces a civil suit alleging that he sexually abused a teenager.

The Baptist News reports:

The attorney representing a man suing former Southern Baptist Convention leader Paul Pressler for alleged sexual abuse has filed the first of what he says will be a series of affidavits corroborating his client’s claims.

An attachment to a motion filed April 3 in the United States District Court for the Second District of Texas Houston Division identifies a married man in his 50s living in New York who says he believes Pressler “had designs” on him when he was a teenager.The witness, a member of a youth group that Pressler led at a Presbyterian church in Houston in the 1970s, said during one weekend retreat at the Pressler Ranch, when he was 16 or 17, Pressler told him there was a shortage of beds and asked if he would mind if they shared a bunk.

He said he recalls “feeling a typical teenage aversion to sleeping beside him,” but did not at the time think the request was unreasonable. During the night, he said, Pressler told him he was cold and rubbed his feet against his under the covers without asking.

The affidavit also says Pressler used to take boys from the youth group to saunas and showers at the Houston Oaks Country Club, typically when no other club members were around. They usually would carpool after Bible study in groups of four to 12, but one night he rode with Pressler and noticed he was the only passenger. He asked who else was going, and Pressler said they were the only two.

He suspected nothing, the affidavit says, until Pressler groped him when they were alone in the steam bath.

“I was absolutely not aroused,” the statement says. “I froze. Shocked, stunned and utterly frightened, I had no idea what to expect next. I was naked and trapped — miles from home — and I needed to be beyond Pressler’s reach.”

“My instincts told me to carry on as though nothing had happened — to end the incident with no further incident. With great difficulty, I talked calmly, while staying alert. We returned to the locker room and dressed. Then Pressler drove me to my car without further incident. I went home and from that moment I have stayed away from him.”

Houston attorney Daniel Shea said in the April 3 motion the allegation is just one of “affidavits and material corroborating witnesses” in preparation and partially completed in the case. Shea said they span a period from as early as 1977-78 to as recently as unwanted sexual advances claimed by a man in 2016. Shea said “other affidavits will follow” and “new corroborators continue to come forward.”

Shea’s motion came in response to a motion for summary judgment filed March 30 by the Southern Baptist Convention, one of a number of organizations and individuals accused in the lawsuit of being co-conspirators. While denying any wrongdoing, the SBC argued that the lawsuit is barred by statute of limitations.

Allowing the case to proceed, the motion said, “would involve discovery regarding documents, events and people spanning 40 years.”

“The attendant costs to SBC, taxpayers and judicial resources constitute an abuse of the civil justice system,” the motion said.

Shea opposed the motion, saying he has not yet had a chance to depose Pressler.

According to legal websites, depositions — the taking of an oral statement of a witness before trial, under oath — are part of the right that all parties in a lawsuit have to “discovery,” a formal investigation to find out more about the case before going to trial.

….

Depositions for Pressler and his wife, Nancy, were initially set for Jan. 16 but were “quashed” — declared legally void — by the defendants. March 13 depositions ordered in state court were intercepted when defendant Second Baptist Church in Houston filed a motion March 12 moving the case to the federal bench.

“The depositions sought will be confrontational,” Shea said. “Either Paul Pressler will admit or deny the abuse, admit or deny the corroborators, or provide some unknown response.”

….

Shea’s client, Gareld Duane Rollins Jr., claims that Pressler assaulted him over the course of 35 years, beginning when he was 14.

Pressler, a former justice on the Texas 14th Court of Appeals, has denied all allegations in the lawsuit. His attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

The Texas Tribune adds:

The lawsuit alleges that Paul Pressler, a former justice on the 14th Court of Appeals who served in the Texas state house from 1957–59, sexually assaulted Duane Rollins, his former bible study student, several times per month over a period of years. According to the filing, the abuse started in the late 1970s and continued less frequently after Rollins left Houston for college in 1983.

In a November court filing, Pressler “generally and categorically [denied] each and every allegation” in Rollins’ petition.

The abuse, which consisted of anal penetration, took place in Pressler’s master bedroom study, the suit alleges. According to the lawsuit, Pressler told Rollins he was “special” and that the sexual contact was their God-sanctioned secret.

….

Pressler is a leading figure on the religious right in Texas and was a key player in the “conservative resurgence” of Southern Baptism, a movement in the 1970s and 1980s that aimed to oust liberals and moderates from the church’s organizational structure. Pressler’s wife Nancy, his former law partner Jared Woodfill, Woodfill Law Firm, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and First Baptist Church of Houston are also named as defendants in the suit.

Rollins seeks damages of over $1 million.

When asked about the suit, Ted Tredennick, Pressler’s attorney, pointed to Rollins’ record, which is peppered with arrests on DUIs and other charges over the last several decades.

“Mr. Rollins is clearly a deeply troubled man, with a track record of multiple felonies and incarceration, and it is the height of irresponsibility that anyone would present such a bizarre and frivolous case — much less report on it,” Tredennick said. He would not give any further comment or respond to specific questions.

Rollins and his lawyer, Daniel Shea, say his past legal troubles stemmed from behavior fueled by alcohol and drug addictions sparked by the childhood sexual abuse. In 1998, Rollins was jailed for 10 years on burglary charges. Pressler advocated for Rollins to receive parole in 2000, when he was first eligible, and then again in 2002. In his 2002 letter to the parole board, Pressler pledged to employ Rollins and be “personally involved in every bit of Duane’s life with supervision and control.”

Woodfill called the accusations against Pressler “absolutely false” and described the lawsuit as “an attempt to extort money.” He also said he plans to file counter charges against Rollins and his lawyer for a “frivolous and harassing lawsuit.”

Shea said Pressler previously settled with Rollins over a 2004 battery charge for an incident in a Dallas hotel room. That settlement is not public, Shea said, but reference is made to such an agreement in recent court filings.

Shea said that though Rollins filed that assault charge more than a decade ago, he had a “suppressed memory” of the sexual abuse until he made an outcry statement to a prison psychologist in November 2015. Harvey Rosenstock, a psychiatrist who has been working with Rollins since August 2016, wrote in a letter included in the suit that Rollins is a “reliable historian for the childhood sexual trauma to which he was repeatedly and chronically subjected.”

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Southern Baptist Luminary Frank Page Retires After Admitting a “Morally Inappropriate Relationship”

frank page

Frank Page, CEO and president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s executive committee, retired after admitting he had a “morally inappropriate relationship in the recent past.” Page has also called his behavior an “indiscretion” and a “personal failure.” I find it interesting that the word SIN is never mentioned. Why is that? After all, Southern Baptists are big on calling out the sins of others. How about calling a spade a spade; that Page’s “indiscretion” is actually a sin against his wife and his God. Just keeping it real, Baptists.

Baptist Press reports:

Frank S. Page has resigned as president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, effective today (March 27) over what is described as “a morally inappropriate relationship in the recent past.”

Florida pastor Stephen Rummage, chairman of the Executive Committee, released a 300-word statement Tuesday afternoon (March 27) on behalf of the EC’s officers noting the circumstances of Page’s resignation:

“Last evening, the officers of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee met via phone conference with Dr. Frank Page during which he announced his plans for retirement. Today, I spoke with Dr. Page and learned that his retirement announcement was precipitated by a morally inappropriate relationship in the recent past.

“This news will, we understand, bring great sorrow. I have shared with the Executive Committee officers what Dr. Page shared with me, including Dr. Page’s repentance and deep regret that his actions have caused pain for others.

“My heart is broken for Dr. Page, his family and everyone affected,” Rummage, senior pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., stated. “I believe I speak for the entire Executive Committee in saying that we are committed to provide them the spiritual and emotional support they need in the coming days. We also recognize the stewardship we owe Southern Baptists and the watching world to communicate with truth and candor and to honor the Lord in our actions and decisions.

“I call upon all Southern Baptists to pray for everyone involved in a situation like this, and especially for Dr. and Mrs. Page. Please pray for the Southern Baptist Convention and all that is entrusted to the Executive Committee.

“As officers, we are committed to provide leadership that the Southern Baptist Convention will recognize and trust. To those ends, in keeping with our Executive Committee bylaws, we will be working on a plan to provide for interim transition in the wake of Dr. Page’s immediate departure and also to conduct a search for the next president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee. I am personally counting on the prayers of Southern Baptists, as I know are all who serve on our SBC Executive Committee.”

Page released a statement as well Tuesday afternoon:

“It is with deep regret that I tender my resignation from the SBC Executive Committee and announce my retirement from active ministry, effective immediately. As a result of a personal failing, I have embarrassed my family, my Lord, myself, and the Kingdom. Out of a desire to protect my family and those I have hurt, I initially announced my retirement earlier today without a complete explanation. However, after further wrestling with my personal indiscretion, it became apparent to me that this situation must be acknowledged in a more forthright manner. It is my most earnest desire in the days to come to rebuild the fabric of trust with my wife and daughters, those who know me best and love me most.”

Page, 65, as EC president, has held a key role in coordinating the work of the SBC’s national ministries, encompassing two mission boards, six seminaries and other entities, overseeing a Cooperative Program budget of nearly $200 million yearly. Page’s work also included building relationships with 42 state and regional Baptist conventions and 47,000-plus Southern Baptist churches in all 50 states.

….

 

Black Collar Crime: Southern Baptist Church Camp Cook Benjamin Petty Gets Probation for Raping Teen Camper

benjamin petty

Benjamin Petty, a cook at Falls Creek church camp — owned and operated by The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma — was sentenced to probation for raping a thirteen-year-old female camper. Be prepared to read about victim blaming in the story that follows.

Randy Ellis, a reporter for The Oklahoman, writes:

In an unusual plea deal, a Spencer man has been sentenced to 15 years on probation after pleading guilty to brutally raping and sodomizing a 13-year-old girl at Falls Creek church camp.

Benjamin Lawrence Petty, 36, tied rope around the girl’s wrists, raped her and then threatened her with physical harm if she told anyone, according to the criminal charge. He was at the camp as a cook at the time of the 2016 offense.

Murray County Assistant District Attorney David Pyle, who negotiated the guilty plea, said Petty is “legally blind” and that was a major factor in his decision not to insist on prison time.

Petty was given the suspended sentence by District Judge Wallace Coppedge on Jan. 19 after entering a negotiated guilty plea to first-degree rape, forcible sodomy and rape by instrumentation. All three are felonies.

A woman in Judge Coppedge’s office said he would not be making any statement.

“The big thing is Mr. Petty is legally blind and the parents (of the victim) live out of state and this little girl lives out of state and didn’t want to make all the travels back and forth,” Pyle said. “The plea was negotiated with their permission.”

Petty was already legally blind at the time of the rape, Pyle said. Under terms of the probation, Petty will be required to wear an ankle monitor for 24 months, register as a sex offender and obtain treatment. He had no prior felony convictions, according to plea agreement documents.

Bruce Robertson, an attorney who is helping represent the victim’s interests in a civil case, said the family’s consent to the plea agreement came after “the family was told by the district attorney’s office that the rapist would not serve any meaningful prison time due to his medical conditions.”

….

The girl was raped in June 2016, while attending church camp at Falls Creek with a group from Terrell, Texas, according to court records filed in the civil lawsuit.

The rapist was brought to the camp to serve as a cook by The Country Estates Baptist Church of Midwest City, according to that lawsuit.

The First Baptist Church of Terrell is named as a defendant in the lawsuit along with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and The Country Estates Baptist Church.

Currently pending in the civil case is a request by attorneys for the Midwest City church to question the rape victim about her “prior history of voluntary sexual activity.”

Oklahoma County District Judge Aletia Timmons rejected the initial request, saying, “I don’t think it has any — even a scintilla of any relevance to anything.”

Attorneys for the church have asked the judge to reconsider her decision, claiming the victim talked with fellow campers about “her sexual activities and history with her then-boyfriend, including her fear that she might be pregnant with her boyfriend’s child.”

The church’s attorneys contend that is relevant because it may have “contributed to her physical and emotional damages.”

Attorneys for the victim claim the rape, itself, is responsible for the girl sustaining physical, emotional and psychological damages.

“We are saddened to see that the church has stooped to victim-blaming,” Robertson said. “While we will not publicly debate the consensual sexual history, if any, of our teenage client, we fail to understand how the church can conceivably argue that any female’s consensual relations are relevant to the trauma suffered as the result of a horrific, violent rape. The church has improperly used information in its motion which we believe is in violation of the court’s protective order and we will not comment further at this time.”

The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma is a cooperative owned by a partnership of Oklahoma Baptist churches. It owns and operates Falls Creek, which is located in the Arbuckle Mountains in south-central Oklahoma. About 54,000 adolescent campers attend the camp during the summer camping season, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit accuses the churches and Baptist General Convention of negligence, contending they didn’t do a good enough job of checking the backgrounds of workers, failed to adequately supervise sponsors and camp participants, and failed to train them on how to recognize and avoid predators.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Luminary Paul Pressler Sued Over Sexual Abuse Allegations

paul pressler

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.

Paul Pressler, best known for his instrumental roll in turning back the Southern Baptist Convention from its drift into liberalism, stands accused of sexually abusing a former office assistant. The assistant has filed a $1 million civil suit against Pressler, along with Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Paige Patterson, and First Baptist Church in Houston.

Adelle M. Banks, a reporter for Religions News Service, writes:

Paul Pressler, a key figure in the self-identified “conservative resurgence” in the Southern Baptist Convention in the late 1970s and early ’80s, is fighting a lawsuit by a former office assistant who alleges the onetime Texas appeals court judge sexually abused him over the course of several decades.

Gareld Duane Rollins Jr. filed the $1 million suit Oct. 18 in the District Court in Harris County.

The plaintiff, now in his 50s, claims he was abused by Pressler starting when he was in his midteens, continuing when he was hired as a “boy Friday” in the judge’s home office and ending around 2014 when Rollins was rearrested and imprisoned for driving while intoxicated.

In a court document responding to the claims, Pressler and his wife, Nancy, a co-defendant, “categorically deny each and every allegation.”

Pressler’s attorney, Ted Tredennick, said the suit’s claims cannot be taken seriously.

“Mr. Rollins is clearly a deeply troubled man, with a track record of multiple felonies and incarceration, and it is the height of irresponsibility that anyone would present such a bizarre and frivolous case,” according to a statement from Tredennick.

The 40-page suit describes sexual acts that allegedly occurred around the time Pressler enrolled Rollins in a Bible study at First Baptist Church in Houston. The suit says Pressler told Rollins he should consider the alleged rape “our secret, our freedom, no one but God would understand.”

Rollins’ attorney who filed the suit, Daniel Shea, is a Houston lawyer and former Catholic deacon who previously represented young men who alleged they were sexually abused by a seminarian who fled to his native Colombia after the charges arose. That case was settled in 2008.

Legal documents filed in the suit against Pressler, now in his 80s, contain letters he wrote on behalf of Rollins to a parole board reviewing his status after he was charged with forgery and driving under the influence. The suit says Rollins turned to drugs and alcohol—leading to multiple DUI arrests—as a response to the alleged abuse.

In one letter, Pressler mentions plans to employ Rollins after the younger man was granted parole and released from rehab.

The suit also names as defendants Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and its president, Paige Patterson, and Houston’s First Baptist Church, and claims they are liable for their professional, personal or denominational connections with Pressler.

The legal document also goes into the movement led by Pressler and Patterson starting in 1979 that turned the Southern Baptist Convention in a more conservative direction after deep theological battles. It claims the movement was focused on power, which the suit called “a key ingredient in the abuse of children and women.”

Mark Lanier, a Houston lawyer representing Patterson and his seminary, rejected the allegations, saying they are “riddled with errors and falsehoods.”

“We will diligently defend the fine reputation of Dr. Patterson and SWBTS in court,” he said, referring to the seminary.

….

Why Do People Attend Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) Churches?

ifb preacher phil kidd

IFB Preacher Phil Kidd

Independent Fundamentalist Baptist churches are known for their commitment to literalism, Biblical inerrancy, and strict codes of personal conduct. Demographically, IFB churchgoers tend to be white, Republican, and middle to lower class. IFB churches also have anti-culture tendencies, as revealed in their support of the Christian school and home school movements. The IFB church movement has spawned numerous colleges, including Hyles-Anderson College, Tennessee Temple, Midwestern Baptist College, Baptist Bible College, Pensacola Christian College, Clarks Summit University, Maranatha Baptist University, Massillon Baptist College, Crown College of the Bible, Faith Baptist Bible College, and West Coast Baptist College. Though not explicitly IFB institutions, Bob Jones University, Liberty University, Cedarville University, and Cornerstone University are sympathetic to IFB beliefs and practices, and attract a number of IFB students. You can find a comprehensive list of IFB secondary institutions here.

Millions of Americans attend IFB churches. Add to this number those Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches who hold similar Fundamentalist theological and social beliefs, and IFB churches are a sizeable minority within the broad Evangelical tent. While some IFB apologists trace the movement’s genesis to the Modernist-Fundamentalist battle of the 1920s, most would say that the IFB church movement was birthed out of opposition to liberalism in the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1950s and 1960s. Many of the fathers of the movement were Southern Baptist pastors who pulled their churches out of the Convention. I attended numerous Sword of the Lord conferences in the 1970s and 1980s where big-name IFB preachers trumpeted the astronomical numerical growth of their churches while delighting in spouting statistics that showed the SBC was in decline. I heard Jack Hyles, then the pastor of the largest church in the world — First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana — run down the list of the largest churches in America, pointing out how many of them were IFB churches. Hyles, along with countless other IFB preachers of that era, believed that their churches’ growth and the SBC’s decline were sure signs of God’s approval and blessing.

Today, the IFB church movement is in steep numerical decline. Churches which once had thousands of members are now closed or are a shell of what they once were. IFB colleges have also seen drops in enrollment due to the fact that the feeders for these institutions — IFB churches — aren’t sending as many students to their schools. The Southern Baptist Convention, on the other hand, has been reclaimed from liberalism and many of the largest churches in America are affiliated with the Convention. (The SBC is the first denomination that I am aware of that has reversed its course and returned to its Fundamentalist roots. The Convention is now home to a burgeoning Calvinistic movement. Many liberal/progressive SBC churches broke away in the 1991 (1,900 churches) and formed the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Liberals who remain will either seek out friendlier associations or be excommunicated.)

For countless Christians, the IFB church movement is all they have ever known. Their entire lives, from baby dedications to graduation from an IFB college, have been dominated and controlled by Baptist Fundamentalism. In many ways, the IFB church movement is a cult that shelters families from the evil, Satanic outside world. All that congregants are required to do is believe and obey. Is it any wonder that the hymn Trust and Obey is a popular hymn in many IFB churches? Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey. For those born and raised in the IFB bubble, all they know is what they have been taught by their parents, pastors, and teachers. Encouraged to make professions of faith at an early age, these cradle Baptists know little about the world outside of the IFB bubble. The bubble protects them from outside, worldly influences and helps to reinforce IFB beliefs and practices. (And when IFB youths run afoul of the strict rules found in IFB churches, they are sometimes sent off to IFB group homes and camps so they can be “rehabilitated.”)

The video below graphically (and beautifully) illustrates how deeply and thoroughly Fundamentalist beliefs dominate the thinking of those raised in Fundamentalist churches. Sung by Champion Baptist College (now Champion Christian University) tour group, the song I Have Been Blessed, is a compendium of IFB beliefs. The young adults singing this song really believe what they are singing. Outsiders might label these singers ignorant — and they are — but I choose to be more charitable, knowing that their singing of this song is simply a reflection of the tribal religion they have been a part of their entire lives.

Video Link

I have great sympathy for people who know only what they have been taught in IFB churches and institutions. From the early 1960s to the mind-1990s, I was one such person. My parents were saved at an IFB church in the 1960s and from that day forward we religiously attended IFB churches. When my parents divorced in the early 1970s, I continued to attend IFB churches. In many ways, these congregations became my family, giving me love and structure. After high school, I attended an IFB college, and from 1979 to 1994 I pastored IFB churches. (One church, Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas, would not call itself an IFB church due to its Calvinistic beliefs, but its social practices and anti-culture beliefs put it squarely in the IFB camp.) I was, in every way, a true-blue believer, never questioning my beliefs until I was in my 40s. I know firsthand how IFB indoctrination affects a person intellectually and psychologically.

Not everyone, of course, is born into the IFB church movement. Others become members due to the movement’s aggressive evangelistic efforts and methodology. Particular targets are people who have messy, unhappy lives or have drug/alcohol addictions. Wanting deliverance from their present lives, these people are often quite receptive when they come in contact with IFB preachers and church members who promise them that, if they will believe the IFB gospel, then Jesus will make their lives brand new and deliver them from their chaotic, broken lives. Once saved, these newly minted Christians are encouraged to join the churches that cared enough about them to share the Good News® with them. And many of these people do indeed join IFB churches, but unlike those raised in such churches, these outsiders often have a harder time accepting IFB social strictures. More than a few of them stop attending church or seek out congregations that aren’t as extreme.

And then there are the people who deliberately seek out IFB churches to attend. Drawn to such churches by their need for doctrinal purity, certainty, and a safe haven from the world, they are thrilled to find churches that believe the Bible from cover to cover (even though, as anyone who has studied the IFB church movement knows, IFB preachers and congregants pick and choose beliefs just as non-IFB Christians do). Perfectionists, in particular, find IFB churches quite appealing. If IFB churches and their pastors are anything, they are certain that their beliefs and practices come straight from the mouth of the Christian God (God wrote the Bible, so its words are his). Perfectionists — as I know firsthand — love structure, control, and order.

Perfectionists make the perfect members. They joyously buy into the go-go-go, do-do-do, work-for-the-night-is-coming-when-no-man-can-work, better-to-burn-out-than-rust-out thinking that permeates IFB churches. There’s no time for rest and comfort. The Bible is true, judgment is sure, hell is real, and there are billions of lost souls who need to hear the IFB gospel. How dare anyone who truly loves Jesus live a life of ease while sinners are dying in their sins and going to hell. On and on go the clichés. I suspect that most successful IFB preachers have perfectionist tendencies.

Video Link

Many IFB church members were once members of Evangelical or mainline churches. Concerns over perceived liberalism drive them to seek out churches who still believe in the Book, the Blood, and the Blessed Hope. Tired of pastors who refuse, they believe, to preach the whole counsel of God or to stand against worldliness, these disaffected Christians often find that IFB churches believe what they believe, so they leave their churches and join with the Baptists.

While I could give other reasons people attend IFB churches, those mentioned above cover the majority of people who attend Independent Fundamentalist Baptist churches.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

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

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Black Collar Crime: Baptist Pastor David Boyd Charged With Disseminating Child Porn

pastor david boyd

David Boyd, pastor of Wheelwright Baptist Center (link no longer active) in Wheelwright, Kentucky, was arrested and charged with “distribution of matter portraying sex performance by a minor.”  LEX18.com reports:

The former pastor of Wheelwright Baptist Church has been arrested and charged with distribution of matter portraying sex performance by a minor.

David Boyd was arrested Friday morning at 9:08 a.m.

Boyd is still listed as the Director of Wheelwright Baptist Church, but we are told that he recently stepped away as pastor. Neighbors say that he stepped down around the time they saw police raiding his home and taking computers.

According to the Wheelwright Baptist Center website: (link no longer active)

David and Stephanie Boyd  are the new directors of the former Kentucky Baptist Convention-owned ministry center in the Floyd County community of Wheelwright. A native of Wheelwright, David Boyd said his “spiritual mentor” was longtime center director and NAMB missionary, Charles Wilson. The Appalachian headquarters of World Servants, a ministry with its roots in Youth for Christ, will be headquartered at the ministry center. Stephanie Boyd directs World Servants Appalachian initiative

Wheelwright Baptist is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Black Collar Crime: Baptist Pastor Benjamin Nelson Charged with Sexual Assault of a 13-Year-Old

pastor benjamin nelsonLast week, Benjamin Nelson, pastor of Peoria Baptist Church (link no longer active) in Hillsboro, Texas was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl. The Star-Telegram reports:

A man who leads a small Baptist church and is attending seminary in Waco was arrested Monday and faces child sexual assault charges.

Benjamin William Nelson, 28, was arrested at his home and booked into the Hill County Jail. He was being held Sunday on two charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child and one charge of deadly conduct, according to Whitney police.

Whitney police told Fox4News a mother found Nelson in a car with her underage daughter in a Whitney shopping center late Sunday. Police said the deadly conduct charge stems from Nelson driving recklessly near the teen’s mother as he left the scene.

According to Nelson’s Facebook page, he is married, is pastor of Peoria Baptist Church and is attending George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University.

Police are concerned there may be other victims.

Today, Nelson was charged with additional crimes. The Reporter reports:

A local pastor who was arrested by the Whitney Police Department Monday, February 27, on charges of sexual assault of a child is facing two new charges.

Benjamin William Nelson, 27, of Waco, who was pastor of Peoria Baptist Church at the time of his arrest, was initially facing two charges of sexual assault of a child and one charge of deadly conduct.

On Thursday, March 2, Whitney Police filed two new charges on Nelson.

Whitney Police Chief Chris Bentley said that charges of indecency with a child and online solicitation of a minor were added.

….

Justice of the Peace Shane Brassell set bonds totaling $755,000 on Nelson on the initial charges.

Bonds totaling $50,000 were added on the two new charges.

Bentley said that additional charges are pending, and Nelson’s electronic devices have been sent to a Waco facility for investigation.

The chief added that police are concerned Nelson may have had contact with other children online.

As of today, Nelson is still listed as the pastor of Peoria Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist congregation. According to Nelson’s about page: (link no longer active)

Rev. Ben Nelson was born and raised in deep east Texas, behind the pine curtain, in Center, Texas.  He was dedicated, baptized, licensed, married, and ordained by the First Baptist Church of Center, where he met his wife Casey.  Ben earned undergraduate degrees at the University of Texas at Austin, and Casey earned undergraduate degrees at Baylor University.

From 2011 to 2016 Ben served as a Campus Pastor with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Texas A&M University.  He’s preached revivals, coordinated evangelism campaigns, led overseas mission trips, planted new Bible studies, and equipped generations of college students to follow Jesus faithfully for the rest of their lives.

In 2016 Ben and Casey felt the Lord calling Ben to begin in the pastorate and begin coursework on his Masters of Divinity degree at Baylor’s Truett Seminary.  He came to us in view of a call in August of 2016, and he’s been preaching the Word to our congregation ever since.

Ben serves as a leader among equals, and works alongside the deacons and the congregation to see Christ’s Kingdom come, and Christ’s will done in our church and our community.

A February 6, 2018 ABC-25 report stated:

A former pastor has pleaded guilty on charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child.

Whitney police said that Benjamin Nelson was arrested for two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child with three related charges in February of 2017.

A 13-year-old reported to Whitney police that she had met Nelson online and had engaged in sexual contact. Nelson was a pastor at a local church at the time.

Whitney police said that Nelson pleaded guilty to all five counts and was sentenced to 20 years to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and required to register as a lifetime sex offender.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: God Hates Divorce by Brian Hobbs

brian hobbs

One Texas lawmaker is trying to make no-fault divorce no more in the Lone Star State.

Texas State Rep. Matt Krause of Ft. Worth filed a bill that would effectively disallow divorce on the grounds of “insupportability,” meaning no-fault divorces.

Currently “all 50 states offer some type of no-fault divorce, (and) in 17 states and the District of Columbia, you can only file for divorce on no-fault grounds,” said a KXAN-TV news story.

Meanwhile, evidence shows that a majority of divorces in Texas are filed on no-fault grounds, and Krause believes this policy will lead to a decline in divorce and family breakdown.

“I think people have seen the negative effects of divorce and the breakdown of the family for a long time. I think this could go some way in reversing that trend,” he said.

….

Currently, Texas offers six categories of fault-based divorces, including: “adultery, cruelty, abandonment and a felony conviction, living apart for at least three years or confinement to a mental hospital.” Krause said the bill would establish “some type of due process. There needs to be some kind of mechanism to where that other spouse has a defense.”

The idea of re-introducing fault is not about assigning blame as much as it is about treating divorce more seriously and substantively. Krause cited a Heritage Foundation report that said, “A recent University of Texas study of divorced spouses found that only a third of them felt that they had done enough to try to save their marriage. Moreover, children of divorce disproportionately suffer from such maladies as depression, compromised health, childhood sexual abuse, arrests and addiction.”

Whether or not the bill ever becomes law, the policy idea itself raises some important issues for Christians to consider. As Christians, we understand the devastating effects of divorce and have seen it in our own families, neighborhoods, churches and communities.

If we are perfectly honest, we will admit that divorce has become all too commonplace and convenient. We further recognize that “God hates divorce” (Malachi 2:16) and that, according to Jesus, it was because of the hardness of their hearts, that God permitted divorces among the Israelites, “but it was not this way from the beginning” (Matt. 19:8).

Even though Jesus and the Apostle Paul have outlined some limited Scriptural grounds for divorce, we have institutionalized divorce in a way that would have shocked Paul. We also have lost sight of the fact that divorce is a tragic step. To that end, churches should not leave it to politicians to address runaway divorce and family breakdown.

— Brian Hobbs, The Baptist Messenger, Conventional Thinking: Ex-es in Texas, No More?, January 13, 2017

People of the Book: The Bible is the Only Book we Need

michael faraday all sufficient bible

Evangelicals love to claim that they are “people of the book” — the book being the Protestant Bible. Evangelicals talk a lot about the sufficiency of Scripture. According to these followers of Jesus, all that believers need for life and godliness can be found in the Bible. Yet, these same people write books, host radio programs, and blog about how the people of the book should understand and interpret the book they say contains everything Christians need to successfully live as followers of Jesus. Calvinists, in particular, make much of sola scriptura — Scripture alone. One such person is Jon Bloom, staff writer for John Piper’s Desiring God website. Bloom writes:

We have the New Testament largely because of the theological diseases that infected and afflicted the first-generation churches. The apostles wrote to clarify and remind early believers of things they had been taught, and to correct false doctrines that were springing up.

All of church history resembles the New Testament: remarkable outpourings of the Holy Spirit, gospel advances, churches planted, outbreaks of persecution and martyrdoms, doctrinal distortions and leadership abuses and all manner of sin causing churches to be, as the old hymn says, “by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed,” followed by Holy Spirit-empowered revival and reformation movements.

To have knowledge of church history is good — really good. It helps us keep perspective. It helps us keep from being too euphoric and triumphalist in revival, too depressed and defeatist in tribulation, and too enamored of The Next Big Thing, the new method, strategy, or movement that promises to be The Answer. Church history helps us remember, “Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’? It has been already in the ages before us” (Ecclesiastes 1:10).

But it’s best to know our Bibles very well. The only proven antidote to the doctrinal and moral diseases that have always afflicted the churches of God is “holding fast to the word of life” (Philippians 2:16) and “not . . . go[ing] beyond what is written” (1 Corinthians 4:6). Church history serves to confirm this is true.

We must submit to “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) and not allow the limits of our own understanding to place unbiblical limits on the “breadth and length and height and depth, and . . . the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:18–19). Plead with God for the strength to comprehend what is beyond our human ability to grasp (Ephesians 3:18).

And resolve not to go beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6).

And at the end of Bloom’s article? Books for sale that will help Christians better “understand” the all-sufficient Word of God.

Evangelical writers continue to churn out books, radio broadcasts, YouTube videos, audio recordings, and blog posts that are meant to “explain” what the Bible teaches. Or better put, meant to “explain” what that particular Evangelical thinks the Bible teaches. Why the need for all the extra-Biblical material if the Bible is the only book Christians will ever need? Why all the Bible study books if born-again, bought-by-the-blood. Holy-Ghost-filled Evangelicals have the very Words of God at their disposal?

The bookshelves found in the average Evangelical pastor’s study are filled with all sorts of books: commentaries, Bible translations, concordances, sermon outlines, sermon illustrations, Christian biographies, theological tomes, self-help books, and one-offs dealing with politics, the culture war, and clean Christian jokes. And thanks to computers, many of these books and study helps are now available online or through purchased software. Yet, come Sunday, these same pastors — after spending 10-20 hours reading and studying books about the Bible — will say to their congregations, “We are people of the Book! The inspired, inerrant, infallible Protestant Bible is all-sufficient. Praise be to God for giving us through his Word everything necessary to live in an evil world as his chosen people!”

Al Mohler, in a January 2016 blog post, lamented the theological and Biblical ignorance of many Christians. Mohler writes:

While America’s evangelical Christians are rightly concerned about the secular worldview’s rejection of biblical Christianity, we ought to give some urgent attention to a problem much closer to home–biblical illiteracy in the church. This scandalous problem is our own, and it’s up to us to fix it.

Researchers George Gallup and Jim Castelli put the problem squarely: “Americans revere the Bible–but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.” How bad is it? Researchers tell us that it’s worse than most could imagine.

Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels. Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples. According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans can’t name even five of the Ten Commandments. “No wonder people break the Ten Commandments all the time. They don’t know what they are,” said George Barna, president of the firm. The bottom line? “Increasingly, America is biblically illiterate.”

Multiple surveys reveal the problem in stark terms. According to 82 percent of Americans, “God helps those who help themselves,” is a Bible verse. Those identified as born-again Christians did better–by one percent. A majority of adults think the Bible teaches that the most important purpose in life is taking care of one’s family.

Some of the statistics are enough to perplex even those aware of the problem. A Barna poll indicated that at least 12 percent of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. Another survey of graduating high school seniors revealed that over 50 percent thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife. A considerable number of respondents to one poll indicated that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham. We are in big trouble.

Secularized Americans should not be expected to be knowledgeable about the Bible. As the nation’s civic conversation is stripped of all biblical references and content, Americans increasingly live in a Scripture-free public space. Confusion and ignorance of the Bible’s content should be assumed in post-Christian America.

The larger scandal is biblical ignorance among Christians. Choose whichever statistic or survey you like, the general pattern is the same. America’s Christians know less and less about the Bible. It shows.

How can a generation be biblically shaped in its understanding of human sexuality when it believes Sodom and Gomorrah to be a married couple? No wonder Christians show a growing tendency to compromise on the issue of homosexuality. Many who identify themselves as Christians are similarly confused about the Gospel itself. An individual who believes that “God helps those who help themselves” will find salvation by grace and justification by faith to be alien concepts.

Christians who lack biblical knowledge are the products of churches that marginalize biblical knowledge. Bible teaching now often accounts for only a diminishing fraction of the local congregation’s time and attention. The move to small group ministry has certainly increased opportunities for fellowship, but many of these groups never get beyond superficial Bible study.

Youth ministries are asked to fix problems, provide entertainment, and keep kids busy. How many local-church youth programs actually produce substantial Bible knowledge in young people?

Even the pulpit has been sidelined in many congregations. Preaching has taken a back seat to other concerns in corporate worship. The centrality of biblical preaching to the formation of disciples is lost, and Christian ignorance leads to Christian indolence and worse.

This really is our problem, and it is up to this generation of Christians to reverse course. Recovery starts at home. Parents are to be the first and most important educators of their own children, diligently teaching them the Word of God. [See Deuteronomy 6:4-9.] Parents cannot franchise their responsibility to the congregation, no matter how faithful and biblical it may be. God assigned parents this non-negotiable responsibility, and children must see their Christian parents as teachers and fellow students of God’s Word.

Churches must recover the centrality and urgency of biblical teaching and preaching, and refuse to sideline the teaching ministry of the preacher. Pastors and churches too busy–or too distracted–to make biblical knowledge a central aim of ministry will produce believers who simply do not know enough to be faithful disciples.

Mohler, the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a leader in the hostile Calvinistic takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention, thinks that the solution for the theological ignorance is for pastors to return to Biblical teaching and preaching. Mohler is a big proponent of expository preaching. (Expository preaching is a form of preaching that details the meaning of a particular text or passage of Scripture. It explains what the Bible means by what it says. Exegesis is technical and grammatical exposition, a careful drawing out of the exact meaning of a passage in its original context. Wikipedia) He thinks it is up to pastors to use some sort of Vulcan mind meld to impart Christian theological knowledge to church members, forgetting that many members have the attention span of a toddler and are more concerned with lunch and Sunday’s match-up between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots.

I thought that the only book that Christians need to the Bible. I thought that the Bible is all-sufficient. Surely, if God himself (the Holy Spirit) lives inside of every Christian and is their teacher and guide, shouldn’t every Evangelical know what the Bible says and means? Evidently not. Despite asking Jesus into to their heart and the Holy spirit living in said heart, Evangelicals still need clerics to tell them what the various books and verses of the Bible mean. For 2,000 years now, educated (and not so educated) pastors have been telling Christians what they should/must believe, going so far as to suggest that if Christians don’t believe the right things it is doubtful they will go to heaven when they die.

I was a part of the Christian church for fifty years, pastoring Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan for twenty-five of those years. I started my preaching career as a topical/textual preacher, moving to expository preaching once I embraced John Calvin’s doctrines of grace. I took seriously my obligation to preach and teach the word of God. As an expository preacher, I preached through numerous books of the Bible, including preaching over one hundred consecutive sermons from the gospel of John. Yet, despite all my preaching and teaching, most church members were content to believe what I believed. No matter how often I challenged and berated them over their lack of diligence and theological acumen, congregants were content to dust off their Bibles on Sunday and passively sit in the pew as Pastor Bruce preached to them the wondrous truths of God’s perfect Word. While a handful of church members would read theological books, study the Bible, and listen to sermon tapes, the rest of the congregation decided to live with the guilt of not being students of the Word.

The reasons for this lack of desire are many, but let me end this post with a few of them.

First, the people I pastored had a life outside of church. While the majority of church members attended church every time the doors were open — often two to four services a week — they also had other obligations: jobs, houses, lands, and families. As a pastor, I was paid to read and study the Bible. My schedule afforded me the leisure necessary to spend hours each week reading theological books. When I wanted or needed to do some intense study, all I had to do is cloister myself away in my study and put up a closed sign on the door. Trained to be “sensitive” to the man of God’s spiritual needs, congregants left me alone, believing that it was more important for me to hear from God than them.

Try as they might, most church members simply did not have the requisite time necessary to devote themselves to reading and studying the Bible. Members often resorted to short devotional booklets such as Our Daily Bread — a better-than-nothing approach that rarely, if ever, imparted any new knowledge about the teachings of the Bible.

percentage of americans who didnt read a book

Second, due to the belief that only certain Bible versions should be read: King James (KJV), New American Standard (NASB), English Standard (ESV), many members found the text of the Bible difficult to read. What do people who have a limited amount of time do when faced with a hard-to-read book? They put the book on the shelf, choosing to either read books that dumb down the Bible or supplant reading and studying with their pastor’s Sunday sermon. The sad fact is — Christian or not — most adults rarely read books, choosing instead to read blogs, news sites, and social media. Those who do read books are likely not reading religious tomes. Most Christians read religious fiction such as The Left Behind series or Christian self-help books. (You can check out Amazon’s Top 100 Best Sellers: Religion and Spirituality here.)

Finally, many of the people I pastored either found the Bible contradictory or boring. Whether this attitude was due to reading ability, education, or desire, the fact is most church members ignored the Bible, choosing, when they read, to peruse fictional books or easy-to-digest self-help books. I pastored people who read every book in the Left Behind series, yet couldn’t find a spare minute to read the Bible. One woman, a devoted follower of Jesus and active in the church, devoted her reading time, not to the Bible, but to books on famous crime stories and serial killers. Too bad I didn’t know to tell her that the God found in the pages of the Bible was/is the greatest serial killer of all time.

Bloom and Mohler are fighting a losing battle. Not only are most Christians no longer using the Bible as the all-sufficient rule for their lives, they also aren’t even bothering to read it. Perhaps it is time for Evangelicals to write a new Bible, one that has more of a True Blood, Game of Thrones, Ray Donavan, Criminal Minds, Walking Dead feel. Sticking with a Bronze Age religious text will only cause continued angst and depression among the Blooms and Mohlers of the world. If God himself can’t get Christians to read the all-sufficient Bible, what makes Evangelicals and parachurch leaders who, if the truth be known, don’t read the Bible much either, think they can do what God can’t do?