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Tag: Southern Baptist Convention

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

see hear speak

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

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

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

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

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

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Turning Southern Baptist Children into Another Generation of God Botherers

3 circles

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is known for starting new evangelism programs. SBC attendance has been in a freefall for years. Churches often have large membership rolls and much smaller actual attendance numbers. On any given Sunday, over half of Southern Baptist church members are somewhere other than the house of God. Over the years, the SBC has rolled out numerous programs meant to evangelize the lost and prop up attendance numbers. All of these programs have spectacularly failed. No matter how many new programs with catchy names the SBC comes up with, attendance numbers have continued to decline. SBC leaders can’t seem to figure out WHY people don’t want what they are selling.

One program cooked up by the SBC is the 3 Circles program.

One church describes the 3 Circles program this way:

  • This tool helps Christians to share the gospel using three simple circles. These represent (1) God’s
  • Design, (2) Brokenness, and (3) the Gospel. They also illustrate how accepting and submitting to Jesus will grow faith and lead to God’s perfect design.
  • “Three Circles” is something that people easily understand.
  • All you need to have is a pen and paper, or napkin, or hand!
  • The method provides quick answers to common questions of faith:
  • o What was GOD’s DESIGN?
  • o How did we depart from God’s Design through SIN?
  • o Can anyone escape BROKENNESS and what does BROKENNESS feel like

Last week, Kentucky Today had a story on how one church and pastor is indoctrinating children in the use of the 3 Circles program:

You may not find a more evangelistic person than Derrick Willis in Carrollton.

Unless, of course, you meet 8-year-old Timber Kincaid.

After Willis, the associate pastor of English Baptist Church, taught Timber the children’s version of the evangelistic 3 Circles tool, she’s been running circles around everybody. Timber shares the gospel seven times a day, seven days a week.

Willis knows that because she reports to him about every gospel conversation.

“She’s on fire,” Willis said “She calls me two or three times a week to tell me how many times she’s shared the gospel. She averages 7-8 times a day.”

The North American Mission Board put together the 3 Circles for children, which Willis said is a “knockout.”

But it’s not just Timber showing evangelistic chops. Willis said “the Lord has blessed our area here lately.”

He has two community Bible study groups and watched how God is changing lives. A man and his son who lived next door to the church for over 30 years but never attended are now scheduled to be baptized in a couple of weeks.

It was about six years ago that Willis felt God tugging on his own heart and, since then, sharing the gospel has become his pastime. He’s a bivocational minister, with a fulltime job, but he’s also all in on evangelism.

“To be truly honest, I didn’t become a believer until about six years ago,” Willis said. “I was there because my wife was there. The Lord got ahold of me and I’ve been working in ministry ever since.”

Willis has trained the youth in 3 Circles and has them excited and the church is taking the Gospel to Every Home seriously as well with regular weekly visitation. He has found that with COVID starting to fade a little, more and more people are open to having a gospel conversation.

“Maybe it’s just for the fellowship but they’re paying attention more and are more receptive to hearing what you have to say,” he said.   

He said sometimes they only get in three or four visits because the conversations have become so rich. Willis said he started one day with 30 bags and only passed out a dozen because of how well the conversations were going.

During one of the Bible studies, a man’s son, who is a self-proclaimed atheist, was sitting in the corner as Willis shared from John. “He was kind of sitting in the corner but you could tell he was listening.”

The father sent Willis a text and told him they were in the car and his son turned it over to K-Love. “I’m telling you, good things are happening here. The Lord is opening up some doors for us.”

The senior pastor is Jon Elardo, who Willis said is strong in the ‘ships – discipleship and fellowship – and that they work well together. “We kind of piggyback off each other,” he said. “Jon is happy all the time. Sometimes, I’m not that way. We make a good team.”

The church is stirring more than it has in a long time with new members and baptisms. Meanwhile, Willis’ evangelistic touch is spreading like wildfire. Even to an 8-year-old girl.

Sigh (please see Why I Use the Word “Sigh”).

What pastor Willis has done is rob the children of his church of their youth. Instead of letting kids be kids, Willis has turned them into the next generation of God-botherers in Carrollton, Kentucky. The eight-year-old mentioned in the article has been turned into a soulwinning machine (though I seriously doubt she is sharing the gospel forty-nine times a week in a community of 4,000 people). She is presently lauded for her evangelistic zeal, but there will come a day when she will regret having spent her young life bugging people to get saved (using a truncated, shallow, cheap gospel). And when she’s a mother with children someday, guess what? The SBC will have moved on to a new evangelism program, church attendance will be what it was a decade before, and “fire” will be gone. Why? That’s just the way it is . . . The fundamental problems of the Southern Baptist Convention are foundational. Evangelicals, in general, are one of the most hated sects in America. Trumpism. Misogyny. Anti-LGBTQ. Anti-abortion. Judgmental. Indifferent towards sexual abuse. Rock star culture. Indifferent towards the least of these. Shall I go on? All the circles in the world won’t change how unbelievers view the SBC until churches and pastors change their ways. They won’t, of course. They can’t. The SBC is married to the irrational notion that the Bible is inerrant and infallible. Thus, they are forced to defend and live out all sorts of things that moderns consider immoral and irrational.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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

joe knotts

Southern Baptist executive member Joe Knotts recently stated:

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

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

The Roy’s Report, June 2, 2022

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

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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The Southern Baptist Convention and the Roman Catholic Church Kept Us in the Same “Closet”

lgbtq

Guest Post by MJ Lisbeth

A week and a half ago, Southern Baptist Convention leaders released a list of alleged sex-abuse offenders that had been kept secret. Perhaps it is not fair of me to say that I am not surprised, as I have never had any connection with the SBC. On the other hand, having experienced childhood sexual abuse while serving as an altar boy in the Roman Catholic Church—and hearing whispers about sexual harassment of women and teenaged girls in the Evangelical church of which I was later a part—I don’t think I was being cynical in saying to myself, “Well, what does anybody expect?” upon reading about the SBC report.

Perhaps even less surprising, to me, was the accompanying revelation: victims who alerted church authorities, at whatever level, were advised to “be quiet” or, worse, intimidated into silence. It sounded like an alternate-universe version, if you will, of my own story. Decades passed, and the priest who abused me died, before I spoke or wrote about my experience. For one thing, I had neither the language nor other cultural contexts for telling about what was done to me: there was no open discussion about such matters in the time and place in which I grew up, and priests and other church officials were seen as beyond reproach. In such an environment, even if I knew the names of the parts of my body that priest touched, I could not have told of my ordeal in a way that would have been more credible, in the eyes of my community, than anything that priest—or the priests to whom he reported—could have said. I can’t help but to think that if I could have described what the priest did to me—beyond that “it felt weird”—someone, whether a relative or a father in the church, would have told me to keep my story to myself.

That nobody had to tell me not to tell—at least at that time in my life—is a testament to, not only the esteem in which priests in the church were held in my community, but also the power the Church has wielded. It also says something about how powerless I was. Perhaps the most important lesson I have learned from carrying my sexual abuse, alone—and, years later, seeing children bearing their burdens without a champion or mentor—is that nothing is more damaging than inculcating, or allowing a child to grow up, with a sense that their reality—or, more importantly, what they have to say about it—is not to be trusted or believed.

For that matter, invalidation of the fear, anger or whatever else one might feel about having been violated—which, by definition, is done by someone with more power or, at least, credibility—serves only to further traumatize the victim. That is what SBC officials did when they told people to “be quiet.” That is what my parish, and larger Church officials, could just as well have done after I was abused by a priest. 

So, while the abuse I experienced as an altar boy in a Roman Catholic parish in Brooklyn, New York in the 1960s is different from what girls and women in the Southern Baptist Convention endured, we have this much in common: we suffered in silence for too long as a result of churches that were more interested in preserving their “institutional integrity” than in helping those of us who have been victimized. That silence—my “closet,” if you will—hindered my development in so many ways, not the least of which is that I didn’t affirm my identity as a woman until my mid-40s. I can only wish that those whom the SBC told to “keep quiet” didn’t lose as much—time, or anything else—by remaining in a “closet” I know all too well.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Southern Baptist Tom Ascol Says Abortion is Murder and Women Who Have Abortions Should be Prosecuted for Homicide

preaching anti abortion gospel lexington kentucky (5)

Tom Ascol, a noted Calvinistic pastor, and a candidate running to be president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), thinks abortion is murder and women who have abortions should be prosecuted for homicide. In fact, Ascol thinks anyone and everyone involved in an abortion should be arrested, charged with murder, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Since Ascol is pro-capital punishment, we can safely assume he’s okay with killing women for “killing” their fetuses. Think on that one for a while.

tom ascol abortion is murder

The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in the United States — albeit the sect is in decline, with over half its members AWOL on any given Sunday. At one time, the SBC was pro-choice. Today, thanks to the wholesale takeover of the Convention by Ascol and his fellow Fundamentalists, the sect is wholeheartedly anti-abortion and forced birth.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

The Time My Southern Baptist Grandma Had Whiskey

jack daniels whiskey

Guest Post by ObstacleChick

Before I became a mature ObstacleChick, my mom and I lived with her parents and her maternal grandmother just outside Nashville, Tennessee. My grandparents were active in their local Southern Baptist Church: my grandfather as a deacon on the Buildings and Grounds Committee, and my grandmother who served sometimes in the choir, as a Sunday school teacher, as a Women’s Missionary Union teacher, and on the Pastor Search Committee. We attended church services three times a week (twice on Sunday and again on Wednesday evening). When my grandfather wasn’t working, he was doing something at the church, helping people in the community, or hanging out at the local gas station/convenience store connecting with more people to help in the community.

Grandma was a strict complementarian who ran the household on a hierarchical structure. She considered Grandpa to be the head of household, and thus we were all instructed to obey him. Grandma’s mother was next on the totem pole as we are supposed to “honor our father and mother that our days may be long upon the earth”. My mom and I were somewhere way down the line, and Grandma considered herself to be the obedient servant. Grandpa did not subscribe to the complementarian plan, and he taught me that I should prepare myself to become a financially independent person, but he did not spend a lot of time arguing with Grandma’s sincerely held beliefs unless she tried to ban TV again. That’s when he used his executive privilege to ensure that he could watch his favorite sports teams and WWII-era movies.

Grandma’s sincerely held beliefs were often dictated by the latest culture wars that she heard about on Christian radio. I think she meant to be as obedient to what she thought God wanted from his creatures as she could possibly be, but she had a long laundry list of what was considered appropriate and inappropriate behavior. For example, she would not play any games with a regular deck of cards because she believed that decks of cards were tools of gambling. Grandma would not consume alcohol in any form, and she didn’t even want to patronize a restaurant that served alcohol. She never went to the movies and only watched the news on television. Substitute swear words were omitted from her vocabulary. Christian media were the only media sources that Grandma partook in (except for the evening news).

When I was 15 years old, I had pneumonia and Grandma had tuberculosis. You can imagine the amount of coughing that was happening in our house. Both of us were prescribed cough medicines, but nothing was working well. My grandfather was at his wits’ end, so he went to the store and brought home a bottle of whiskey, some lemons, and honey. He proceeded to make his family’s cough suppressant concoction from these ingredients plus a heavy dose of sugar, and he told Grandma and me that he wanted us to try it because it had worked when his grandmother (who by all accounts had been a skilled healer) gave it to him and his siblings. I thought, cool, I’ll be able to find out what whiskey tastes like. Grandma, however, was incredibly distressed. She was caught between the two sins of consuming alcohol and disobeying her husband. Unable to decide which was the greater sin, she told Grandpa, “I am only taking this because you’re my husband and I am supposed to obey you, but I do not agree with consuming alcohol.” I am pretty sure that was the first night in a while that anyone in our house got a good night of sleep as Grandpa’s home remedy soothed the coughing beasts. I guess after a good night of sleep, Grandpa took pity on Grandma and did not ask her to use his cough concoction again. Of course, I continued to use it despite the fact that whiskey tasted nasty, even with copious amounts of lemon and honey. My mature ObstacleChick version made with Fireball is much tastier and works better (in my opinion) than the over-the-counter cough syrups. I wonder which Jesus would have preferred?

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

UPDATED: Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Trent Holbert Charged with Sex Crimes

pastor trent holbert

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.

Trent Holbert, pastor of The Ridge Church (its website is currently down) in Black Mountain, North Carolina, was charged last week with one count of indecent liberties with a child and two counts of statutory sex offense. The Ridge Church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Kentucky today reports:

Trent Holbert, 41, former pastor of The Ridge Church, was arrested last month and has been charged with one count of indecent liberties with a child and two counts of statutory sex offense, the Biblical Recorder reported. He was previously the pastor of Epoch Fellowship Church in Owenton, Ky., as late as 2017.

….

Both The Ridge Church and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina have released statements condemning Holbert’s alleged actions.

“Trent Holbert has resigned from his position as the head pastor of the Ridge Church,” said a statement released Friday from church elder Drew Wheeler. “Our hearts and prayers go out to the family of our former head pastor and the families of all of those involved. The care and protection of children and minors is a biblical and moral mandate that is taken seriously by the Ridge Church. We do not condone such actions as the alleged, and our prayers are with the victims of any such abuse.”

The North Carolina convention’s statement, released Thursday, said leaders were “deeply grieved” by the charges.

“As a pastor, Trent has been a speaker at convention-related events for adults in the recent past,” the statement said. “He underwent background and reference checks prior to his participation in those events. We are not aware that he had any contact or dealings with minors as part of those events. The care and protection of children and minors is both a biblical and moral mandate that we take very seriously. We are praying for everyone who has been impacted by these alleged heinous crimes. N.C. Baptists are offering support to the local association and the church as they face these challenging times, as well. We stand with any and all victims of abuse and are committed to cooperating with authorities during their investigation. We encourage you to contact the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office if you have any relevant information.”

According to WLOS news, on May 18, detectives with the Special Victims Unit of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant at Holbert’s residence. During the execution of the warrant, Holbert was arrested and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile, and electronic devices were seized from the home.

Oh, the Southern Baptists are “deeply grieved” by Holbert’s alleged criminal behavior. Yet, these same Southern Baptists refused to seriously address clergy sexual abuse at their latest national convention. Further, Southern Baptists refuse to establish a database of church leaders who have been accused of sex crimes. What Southern Baptists should be deeply grieved over is their immoral inaction on clergy sexual abuse.

Holbert’s church bio page (which has been scrubbed from the church’s website) states:

Pastor Trent is a gifted communicator and a relational junkie. He loves people and gets his fix from being a positive part of their lives. His ministry mindset is holistic. He believes that God’s plan and design for humans doesn’t stop at spiritual needs. He holds a degree in theology, but as a certified personal trainer and holistic health coach, Trent teaches us how to know our Creator better through optimal physical, emotional, and spiritual health. You can hear him weekly on the Fit For the Kingdom Podcast.

If convicted, Hobert’s bio can be updated to say “gifted communicator, relational junkie, and child molester.”

Black Mountain News article on Holbert starting The Ridge Church.

In October 2021, ABC-13 reported:

Newly returned warrants allege Trent Holbert groomed the teen by first befriending her parents who joined The Ridge Church.

Investigators said, because the parents had limited means, Holbert offered their daughter a bedroom in his home and began buying her undergarments as the two started a relationship.

Warrants also allege Holbert asked the teen’s parents to sign a parental waiver so that he would be able to take care of her in case they died. Investigators said Holbert called DSS on the teen’s parents as well, accusing them of neglect. Warrants show a DSS worker found this claim to be unsubstantial.

On May 18, 2021, detectives with the Special Victims Unit of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant at a residence on Tucker Road in Black Mountain. During the execution of the search warrant, Holbert was arrested. He resigned from the church in June.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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

ifb preacher phil kidd
IFB Preacher Phil Kidd

Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) 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 Baptist Bible Seminary, Maranatha Baptist University, Massillon Baptist College, Crown College of the Bible, Faith Baptist Bible College, Fairhaven Baptist College, Pensacola Bible Institute, 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.

Millions of Americans attend IFB churches. Add to this number Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches who hold similar Fundamentalist theological and social beliefs (please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?), and you end up with 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 and American Baptist Convention in the 1950s and 1960s. Many of the fathers of the movement were Southern Baptist or American Baptist pastors who pulled their churches out of their respective conventions. 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 that once had thousands of members are now closed or are shells 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 1991 (1,800 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 graduations from IFB colleges, have been dominated and controlled by Baptist Fundamentalism. In many ways, the IFB church movement is a cult (please see Questions: Bruce, Is the IFB Church Movement a Cult? and One Man’s Christianity is Another Man’s 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’s (now Champion Christian University) tour group, the song I Have Been Blessed, is a compendium of IFB beliefs. The indoctrinated 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 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 mid-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 I co-pastored, 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 late 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, or 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

Some IFB church members were once members of Evangelical or mainline churches. Concerns over perceived liberalism drive them to seek out churches that 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.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Bruce Gerencser