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Black Collar Crime: IFB Pastor Jon Jenkins Moves to New Church After Decades of Controversy

jon jenkins

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

Earlier this month, I published a Black Collar Crime story about David Beckner, a school teacher at Gaylord Grace Baptist Christian School in Gaylord, Michigan. Beckner stands accused of sexually abusing a female student. Gaylord Grace Baptist Christian School is owned and operated by Grace Baptist Church — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation. (Please see Grace Baptist College, Gaylord, Michigan: Rules and Regulations)

In May, Jon Jenkins, pastor, CEO, and head bwana of Grace Baptist, celebrated his thirty-third anniversary at the church.  And now, two months later, Jenkins has exited stage right, moving on to become the new pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Clayton, North Carolina (formerly pastored by Charles Ennis for fifty-one years).

The Gaylord Herald Times reports that Jenkins leaves behind a trail of scandals and controversies:

In a previous Herald Times story, Jenkins commented on instances of abuse or alleged abuse involving former teachers. Jenkins said he had reported two of the school’s former teachers to police for sexual abuse of students years ago.
Jenkins said he reported former teacher Aaron Willand to Michigan State Police, and later, another former teacher to the Otsego County Sheriff’s Department.

Willand was convicted in Washington state of raping a child and child molestation in 2006. The survivor, now an adult, is also seeking charges in Otsego County for abuse she said also occurred in Michigan. Willand has not been charged in Michigan.
Jenkins said he also reported former teacher David Beckner to the Otsego County Sheriff’s Department in 2011. Eight criminal sexual conduct charges have been officially filed by Otsego County courts against Beckner. The case was bound over to Otsego County’s 46th Circuit Court Thursday.

The sheriff’s department showed no records of Grace Baptist reporting either former teacher to police.
Herald Times’ Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for Michigan State Police reports filed by Grace Baptist show no police reports filed by Grace Baptist with any references to Aaron Willand or David Beckner.

Clark Martin, a former congregation member and volunteer bus driver, was convicted of criminal sexual conduct against a former Grace Baptist student in 2002 and 2003. According to Otsego County court records from that case, Martin had also molested another youth, a 12-year-old boy, in St. Clair County in 1966.

Martin also pleaded guilty in May to criminal sexual conduct charges for allegedly molesting a teen boy in 1991 and 1992.

Former Grace Baptist congregation members Jennifer Mahoney and Matthew Mahoney were convicted in 2013 on felony charges against a 15-year-old girl in Indiana, according to previous coverage by the Tribune Star (Terre Haute, Indiana) newspaper and court documents.

A former Gaylord Teen Spectacular youth conference guest speaker, Jack Schaap, was convicted in 2013 in federal court in Indiana after he transported a 16-year-old girl to his cabin in Northern Michigan for the purpose of having sex with her, according to court documents.

According to previous Herald Times coverage of the Teen Spectacular, Schaap, of Hammond, Indiana, was listed as a visiting guest speaker during the 2011 youth conference, an event that draws hundreds of teens to Gaylord.
Jenkins previously confirmed that each of the above was connected to Grace Baptist as a teacher, through the congregation or as a guest speaker.

….

One former staff member whose daughter was molested by a fellow student previously told the Herald Times she had taken issue with the way Jenkins handled the situation after the abuse occurred off campus.

Sarah Sundelius said Jenkins had not kept the teen offender away from the church and school where her 5-year-old daughter attended and where Sundelius had taught from 2016 to 2018.

Several former Grace Baptist students have also shared their stories about the former teachers who have either been convicted for criminal sexual conduct against minors or are currently facing charges for the same thing.
Several of the victims and alleged victims have also pointed to Jenkins’ role as leader of the church during the time and the requirements to report allegations to police.

While Jenkins has not been accused of sexual misconduct, his lack of leadership and refusal to require background checks for church employees and volunteers until this year certainly has contributed to the sexual misconduct that permeated Grace Baptist and its ministries under his watch. Jenkins’ critics say that he was a heavyhanded authoritarian who ruled Grace Baptist as if it was his own personal kingdom and fiefdom.  I know, I know, typical IFB behavior.

Attorney David Gibbs, long known as a “fixer” for IFB preachers and churches who find themselves facing sexual misconduct allegations, had this to say about Jenkins and his new gig at Fellowship Baptist Church:

His preaching and communication skills are outstanding. His doctrinal positions lined up with our historic Baptist faith. His spirit of compassion for church members and hurting people in the community were exemplary.”
His prior church’s policies and procedures — including the child protection policies and procedures that clearly outline zero-tolerance for child abuse of any kind and require all suspicions of child abuse to be reported to the authorities — were consistent with our church. We believe that if a child is safe anywhere, they should be safe at church.

It is scandalous that Gibbs could say with a straight face “His [Jon Jenkins] prior church’s policies and procedures — including the child protection policies and procedures that clearly outline zero-tolerance for child abuse of any kind and require all suspicions of child abuse to be reported to the authorities — were consistent with our church. We believe that if a child is safe anywhere, they should be safe at church.”

Really? I mean really, Attorney Gibbs? Have you no shame?

Such is life in the IFB church movement. Obfuscation, misdirection, and lies, praise Jesus, three people were saved last Sunday. All that matters is that the soul-saving machinery keeps on turning, regardless of who might be shredded in its gears.

Note

Support group for Gaylord Grace Baptist Church survivors and their supporters, Blind Eye Movement.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: A Bible-Believing Christian is Socialism’s Worst Nightmare

eddie hyatt

Socialism, on the other hand, requires a powerful, centralized government for its implementation. This in turn requires a ruling elite, like the old Soviet politburo, that controls every facet of society, spreads the wealth around and enriches itself.

In socialism, which is rooted in Marxism, the God of the Bible is replaced by the god of the state. People no longer need God to help them deal with life; they can now look to the government to solve every problem and meet every need. Faith in God, therefore, is viewed as an enemy of the state.

his is why, during the 20th century, millions of Christians were imprisoned and put to death in socialist/communist regimes such as China, Cambodia, Cuba and the Soviet Union. This is why, alongside the rise of socialism/Marxism in modern America, there is a corresponding rise of hostility toward people of faith.

Have you noticed that the Democrat party seems to be moving further and further from any open identification with God and Christianity? This always happens as a people move from individual liberty to socialism. The god of socialism is a jealous god and will tolerate no rivals.

If you want to understand the passion of the new progressive wing of the Democrat party, this is it. They have visions of power. They have exchanged the God of the Bible for the god of power, which they envision being expressed through themselves in a powerful, centralized government.

The ultimate answer to the challenge of atheistic socialism in American today is not a political one but a spiritual one. America must return to the vision of the founders, who saw liberty and faith as being joined together in an indissoluble bond. They did not believe one could flourish without the other.

….

The Bible-believing Christian who takes his faith seriously is socialism’s worse nightmare. This is why we must pray for another Great Awakening across the land. This is why we must challenge the contemporary church to move beyond an entertainment culture and begin training people to be salt and light and live out their faith in this culture.

Eddie Hyatt, Charisma News, Why Liberty and Socialism Can Never Coexist, July 15, 2019

Baptists, the Holy Spirit, and Being Endued with Power From on High

pentecost

Cartoon by Kevin Frank

In Luke 24, we find the risen Jesus appearing to his eleven disciples and several other people, saying to them: “Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” After Jesus uttered these words, He ascended to Heaven and hasn’t been seen since. From that moment forward, Christians have wondered what Jesus meant when he said his followers would be “endued with power from on high.”

I was taught growing up in Baptist churches that the power spoken of by Jesus was the Holy Spirit (Holy Ghost); that prior to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and his ascension to Heaven, the Holy Spirit came UPON God’s chosen ones but did not permanently live inside of them. Once Jesus was gone from the scene, he sent the Holy Spirit (comforter) to earth to live inside every believer. I was taught similar pneumatology (doctrine of the Holy Spirit) in Bible college.

In Acts 2, we find the followers of Jesus gathered together on the day of Pentecost. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit came upon them and “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Most Evangelicals believe that this was the moment that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in every believer and endue them with Heavenly power. I am just kidding: most Evangelicals don’t agree on anything — Holy Spirit included. You would think receiving the Holy Spirit would be quite simple, but thanks to endless arguments and debates amongst those who claim to have ONE LORD, ONE, FAITH, ONE BAPTISM, Christian sects have all sorts of pneumatological beliefs. Let me share a few of them with you.

Many Baptists believe that the moment a person is saved, the Holy Spirit takes up permanent residence inside of them. Now, that’s only for people who are saved after the resurrection of Jesus. Those saved before the resurrection of Jesus — say people in the gospels and the Old Testament — the Holy Spirit came upon them when he needed to use them in some sort of powerful, supernatural way. Once this was accomplished, the Holy Spirit departed.

Other Baptists believe that the Holy Spirit has always lived in saved people — both before and after the resurrection of Jesus. These Baptists see a continuity between the Old and New Testaments. This belief is popular among worshippers of John Calvin.

And yet other Baptists believe that all saved people are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but “special,” on-fire, sold-out Christians can receive a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit if they really, really, really beg God to give it to them. Some preachers I heard growing up called this being baptized with the Spirit.

Wander off into the Evangelical weeds and you will find all sorts of additional — and contradictory — beliefs about the Holy Spirit. Some sects believe that you receive the Holy Spirit the moment you are baptized by immersion. Other sects believe similarly, except the evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues. What is speaking in tongues, you ask? Ah yes, another belief Christians are hopelessly divided over.

Most Baptists believe that speaking in tongues is Demonic. Some Baptists believe that speaking in tongues is the ability to speak foreign languages you haven’t learned. Pentecostals, Charismatics, Apostolics, and some garden-variety Evangelical churches believe that speaking in tongues is some sort of babbling prophetic or prayer language; one that must be interpreted so hearers can understand; but then, maybe not — maybe it’s just a Heavenly prayer language that no one, including the speaker, understands. Turn on the TV and watch Christian programming and you will see plenty of speaking in tongues — interpreted and uninterpreted.

Back to the Holy Spirit. Some sects believe that you receive the Holy Spirit when you are saved, but if you want to want to have a close relationship with God, you need to beg him to fill you will his Spirit. Again, speaking in tongues or some other supernatural demonstration will be the requisite evidence for such fillings of the Holy Spirit.

In the 1980s and 1990s, I attended a number of southern-style camp meetings. It was not uncommon to “see” the Holy Spirit come upon people. They would start shouting, waving towels/hankies, running the aisles, walking on top of pews, and just about any other bit of religious craziness you can think of. I heard countless preachers say that the Holy Spirit gave them their sermons; that their preached words were straight from the Spirit himself. I had similar experiences while preaching. There were a few times when my sermons seemed to have some sort of special “zip” or anointing, and people responded to them in overtly emotional ways. One evening, in particular, I remember the service was overflowing with the Spirit. Sinners were saved and backsliders were reclaimed. Afterward, I was exhausted. God really used me for his purpose and glory, I thought at the time.

As you can see from this post, Christians have varied beliefs about the Holy Spirit and the outworkings of receiving said Spirit. It is these varied beliefs that make me wonder about the existence of God. If, as Christians believe, the Holy Spirit is essential to the salvation and the day-to-day lives of believers, why all the diverse and contradictory beliefs? Surely, God would want to make sure every Christian was on the same page when it came to the Holy Spirit, right? Yet, they are not, and the same could be said concerning virtually every other article of faith.

If, over the course of 2,000 years, we saw that Christians generally believed the same things, it might cause us to pause a moment and consider whether those beliefs are true. Instead, what we have is countless sects, each believing that their beliefs are true and all others false. This leads me to conclude that Christian religions are manmade, filled with internal and external contradictions. Either that or God loves confusion. Oh, wait, 1 Corinthians 14:33 says, God is NOT the author of confusion. If he’s not the author, who is? That’s right, humans are. And from this conclusion, it is clear: that religions — all of them — are human constructs; that the plethora of beliefs about the Holy Spirit reveals human engineering, not divine.

What were you taught about the Holy Spirit? Were you ever “filled” with the Holy Spirit? Did you ever speak in tongues? Please share your human utterances in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Socialism Violates All Ten Commandments

socialism in america

Socialism teaches that wealth should be held in common ownership, controlled by the state. Hence, the Democrats’ constant push to have government confiscate ever more income and power.

By contrast, the Bible teaches that God owns all things and that we’re merely stewards of His creation. When we look at each of the Ten Commandments, we see that they’re directly at odds with socialism.

You shall have no other gods before Me.

Socialism and its offshoots – communism, fascism, democratic socialism and National Socialism (Nazism) – enshrine the state above all other powers. There is no room for God, which is why socialists are in a permanent war with the church and are bent on creating a faith-free society.

You shall make no idols.

Idols are anything that takes the place of God in the hierarchy of values. Under socialism, sheer power over one’s fellow man is an idol. Another is building utopias – the unicorns of government because such perfect societies do not exist.

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

When socialists take over a culture, it becomes depraved and perverse. To enforce their new immoral order, socialists openly blaspheme God and particularly Jesus Christ.

….

Keep the Sabbath day holy.

Sundays are no different from any other day in socialist societies. In fact, people going to church on a Sunday are identified and often persecuted in places like communist China, where atheism is the official state religion. Even in our market-based society, materialism – a necessary precept of socialism – has pushed respect for the Sabbath to the margins.

Honor your father and your mother.

Socialism has been at war with marriage and family since the French Revolution in 1789.

….

You shall not murder.

Many people misread this commandment as a broader order not to kill for any reason, which denies the moral difference between taking innocent human life and executing murderers. Socialists have long promoted abortion – the direct taking of an innocent human life – as a way to “liberate” women and men from parental responsibilities.

You shall not commit adultery.

In the 1960s, Americans became familiar with the term “free love,” but socialists have been promoting it heavily since the early 1800s. Sex outside marriage, prostitution, pornography and abortion all militate against marriage fidelity. Socialists deploy euphemisms like “choice” and “sex work” to cover the retreat from Biblical morality.

You shall not steal.

Socialism is grand theft. It uses the state to take earnings from productive people and redistribute it to create dependency and thus political power for those handing it out. Slavery is 100 percent taxation – when someone else controls the fruits of one’s labor. Socialist countries first control and then seize private property.

….

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

This is not just about telling lies in a witness situation but also about using lies to advance one’s wellbeing. Socialism is built on a mountain of lies about human nature, which is why it eventually must resort to violence.

….

You shall not covet.

Socialism’s main engine is envy, stoking resentment against others who have more, even to the point of using violence to get it.

….

Coveting divinity got Satan kicked out of Heaven, and it’s what he and his minions continue to peddle in a variety of forms – including pride, envy and socialism.

Robert Knight, Townhall, Socialism Violates All Ten Commandments, July 2, 2019

Why Christian Fundamentalism is Hard to Shake

mindwipe men in black

Those who spent decades in Evangelicalism before deconverting often find it hard to completely rid the mind of Fundamentalist thinking. Wait a minute, Bruce, are you saying that Evangelicals are FUNDAMENTALISTS? Yes. Evangelicalism is inherently Fundamentalist. (Please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?) I have had countless Evangelicals attempt to persuade me that THEY are not Fundamentalists, but in the end, all they proved is that they were either liberal Christians masquerading as Evangelicals or — drumroll, please — FUNDAMENTALISTS! As the aforementioned post shows, all Evangelicals are theological Fundamentalists. Where Evangelicals tend to differ with one another is over what I call social Fundamentalism. For example, one Evangelical might be an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher. He has all sorts of narrow, defined social rules by which he governs his life. Another Evangelical used to be an IFB preacher, but now, PRAISE JESUS, he is the pastor of a non-denominational Sovereign Grace church. He has abandoned many of his former social rules and brags about being free to drink beer, smoke cigars, watch TV, and even cuss a bit. See, he says, I am NOT a Fundamentalist. Except, he still is theologically. He still believes the Bible is inspired and inerrant. He still believes in the exclusivity of Christianity. He still believes that there is one true God — his — and salvation is only through the merit and work of Jesus. He still believes that non-Christians go to Hell when they die, even if he doesn’t believe that there are literal fire and brimstone in Hell. His theological beliefs scream FUNDAMENTALIST! And even if he has distanced himself from the rules, regulations, and standards of his IFB past, if you press him you will likely find that he still has quite a long list of behaviors he deems “sinful.” Thus, I stand by what I said, Evangelicals are inherently Fundamentalist.  Now that we have that issue out of the way . . .

Evangelicalism is built on a foundation of religious indoctrination. From the cradle to adulthood, Evangelicals are repeatedly taught what are believed to the tenets of the One True Faith®. For those of us raised in the Evangelical church, these beliefs were pounded into our heads day after day, week after week, and year after year. Not only at church either. Many Evangelical children attend Christian schools or are homeschooled. My wife and I homeschooled all six of our children. Using Bibliocentric curricula, our children were bombarded with Evangelical dogma. In our home, there was no escaping the Evangelical Jesus. Imagine, then, what this immersive approach does to the minds of children, teenagers, and adults. That’s why it is almost impossible to reach Evangelicals who have been raised this way. As long as they are certain their beliefs are right and everyone else is wrong, there’s no God but theirs, and the Bible is a divine roadmap/blueprint for life, there is little anyone can do to reach them.

But, Bruce, you were once an Evangelical and now you are an atheist, so it is possible to reach Evangelicals, right? Yes, but not until certain things happen.

First, Evangelicals must entertain the possibility that they could be wrong. As long as they are certain their beliefs are true and all other beliefs are false, no amount of argumentation will reach them. If, however, they have doubts and questions, well, then, it is possible to reach them. Not probable, but possible.

Second, once Evangelicals have doubts and questions, they must be willing to seek answers outside of their churches and circle of Evangelical friends. This is a crucial point. Remember, Evangelical pastors and churches believe the antidote to doubt is faith. The solution, then, is to cling to the basics, believing that God will, in time, make all things known. And if he doesn’t? Doubters are encouraged to keep on believing until the day comes in Heaven when their faith shall be made sight. Years ago, I heard an IFB evangelist say that resolute faith was the solution to doubt; that there would come a day when doubters would be glad they believed. That day, of course, is after death, when supposedly Evangelicals will finally learn how right they were, and gleefully rejoice over the fact that the Bruce Gerencsers of the world are burning in Hell. In other words, there’s a big payoff coming, so hang on. Is that not what Jesus said in Matthew 10:22: he that endureth to the end shall be saved?

Third, doubting Evangelicals must be willing to lose everything in their search for truth. Doubters must not settle for pat answers, proof texts, or personal anecdotes. They must be willing to follow the path wherever it leads, even if it leads them away from all they have ever known. Countless Evangelicals sit in churches or preach from pulpits, their minds filled with questions and doubts. Unwilling to venture away from the safety of their churches and beliefs, they condemn themselves to lives of — dare I say it? — quiet desperation. Only when they are willing to do whatever is necessary to answer their doubts and questions are they ready to begin their journeys away from Evangelicalism.

Many readers of this blog understand the path I have sketched above. Often, it is a long, arduous, painful road. And even after we have successfully extricated ourselves from Evangelicalism, we find that lifelong Fundamentalist indoctrination leaves behind vestiges of our religious past. I left Christianity in November 2008, but eleven years later Christianity is still hanging on in the deep, dark recesses of my mind. Of course, Evangelical apologists tell me that those niggling doubts are the Holy Spirit, that God has not yet abandoned me. That’s one answer, I suppose, but a better answer is that I was indoctrinated for almost fifty years, and it takes time to fully flush one’s mind of Fundamentalist thinking.

For several years after I deconverted, I would, from time to time, worry about whether I was wrong about Christianity. In the still of the night, I would have thoughts about God’s judgment and Hell. Bruce, if you are wrong, you are going to fry, I thought. But, as time went along, I had fewer and fewer thoughts about “eternity.” Now, when such thoughts pop up, I chuckle and ignore them. I know my mind is littered with memories of past religious beliefs and practices, so I expect their appearance from time to time. They are no different from the thoughts I have about girls I dated when I was a teenager. Nothing more than relics from my past.

I am often asked by ex-Evangelicals, when do the nagging doubts and fears go away? I tell them, it takes time. If you were an Evangelical for your entire life, you can’t expect to have a mind free of past beliefs overnight. There are no Men in Black neuralyzer mind wipes available for ex-Evangelicals. That said, filling one’s mind with non-religious learning can help. New, fresh knowledge helps push from our minds past religious indoctrination. That’s why I always encourage Evangelicals to read Dr. Bart Ehrman’s books. Knowledge in, junk out. The more you read, study, and know, the less past beliefs will have a hold over you.

How about you? Are you an ex-Evangelical? Were you raised in the Evangelical church? Do you still have what I call, an Evangelical hangover? Do you still have doubts or fears at times? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Jose Aboytes Sentenced to 40 Years in Prison

pastor jose aboytes

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

In March 2017, Jose Aboytes, assistant pastor of Palabra Miel Hispanic Church in Decatur, Illinois was charged with “seven felony counts for allegedly repeatedly sexually assaulting and abusing a girl younger than 13 during a period of seven months.”

The Herald & Review reported at the time:

Jose Luis Aboytes, a former pastor of a church on the city’s east side, was charged Thursday in Macon County Circuit Court with seven felony counts for allegedly repeatedly sexually assaulting and abusing a girl younger than 13 during a period of seven months.

Aboytes, 58, who is being held in the Macon County Jail on $250,000 bond, is facing one count of predatory criminal sexual assault, punishable by six to 60 years in prison, two counts of criminal sexual assault and four counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

The victim told police she attended the Palabra Miel Hispanic Church, 3434 E. Wabash Ave., where Aboytes “began to sexually abuse her in an office in the church” about Sept. 16, 2015, said a request for an arrest warrant by Decatur Police detective Erik Ethell.
….
The victim said the abuse “began with Jose touching her leg and progressed to sexual intercourse,” said the court document. The victim said that during choir practice “Jose would call her into his office,” where he would fondle and abuse her. She reported that the abusive conduct occurred during a period of several months. The adolescent girl told police she “took numerous cellphone photographs of her naked body and sent them to Jose’s phone.”

Detectives received more than 10 letters from the girl, in which Aboytes “expressed his love” for the victim, “in addition to knowing her age,” Ethell wrote in the court document. Aboytes “frequently asked (the victim) to destroy the letters after reading them.”

An intellectually disabled teen girl also reported to police that she had been abused by Aboytes, said the warrant request. She said that Aboytes would call her into his office, hug her and fondle her on top of her clothes. She told detectives that “Jose told her not to tell her parents about the conduct.”

In April 2019, Aboytes pleaded guilty to one Class X felony count of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child. The Herald & Review reported:

Aboytes, 60, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one Class X felony count of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, ending his trial on charges he raped and sexually abused a girl younger than 13 from his congregation.

The sentencing hearing is set for July 11 in Macon County Circuit Court. He faces between six and 60 years in prison, of which he would have to serve at least 85 percent.

….

The plea deal came on the third day of what was anticipated to be a four-day trial. As part of the deal, four counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse and two counts of criminal sexual assault were dismissed, according to court records.

Opening the trial Tuesday, [Assistant State’s Attorney] Kurtz described Aboytes, who served as an assistant pastor at the church, as using the friendly nature of the congregation to prey on the child.

Kurtz described a pattern of sexual assault that started with touching and escalated to groping and, after Aboytes had picked up the child once from her home on the pretense of taking her to the park, ended with rape.

She said Aboytes wrote intimate letters to the child and persuaded her to send him erotic pictures of herself — pictures the girl’s parents eventually discovered that prompted them to call police.

Today, Aboytes was sentenced to 40 years in prison. The Herald & Review reports:

Jose L. Aboytes will have to serve the sentence at 85 percent before he is eligible for parole, which means the 60-year-old defendant will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars. He had pleaded guilty to one count of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child under 13. Prosecutors have said the assaults took place between September 2015 and September 2016 while he was serving Palabra Miel Hispanic Church.

Aboytes had originally pleaded not guilty to one count of predatory criminal sexual assault, four counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse and two counts of criminal sexual assault at a jury trial that got underway April 23. But on the second day of the trial, Aboytes accepted a plea deal to admit to the single charge, and the others were dropped.

At his sentencing hearing today, Aboytes told the judge, “I have lost many things: I lost my home and I lost my wife for a small error, a mistake.”

A small error, a mistake . . .

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor John Scheline Sentenced to 58 Months in Prison

John Scheline

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

In July 2017, John Scheline, executive director of Ignite Youth Mentoring in Richland, Washington and former pastor at  Faith Assembly in Pasco, Washington and  Bozeman Christian Center in Bozeman, Montana, was charged with attempted second degree rape.

The Tri-City Herald reported at the time:

All 26 men swept up in a five-day Tri-City operation to combat online child predators have now been charged, with five more appearing Wednesday in court.

William J. Barrett and Andrew L. Sanders both face Sept. 5 trials in Benton County Superior Court, while John M. Scheline, Darren J. Kerbyson and Gabriel Saenz have Oct. 2 dates.

Four of them are charged with attempted second-degree rape of a child and have been released from jail after posting $10,000 bond each.

Barrett is locked up on $25,000 bail because he has additional charges, including bringing methamphetamine and a glass smoking device to the meet-up.

They were arrested as part of a multi-agency effort, dubbed “Tri-Cities Net Nanny Operation,” between July 5 and 9.

Undercover detectives answered postings on various websites and placed their own ads claiming to be kids as young as 11 or parents who were offering their children for sex. Some of the suspects showed up to the predetermined location with condoms and sex toys.

The first three men arrested when authorities were still setting up the operation had Tuesday court hearings. The remaining 18 men are scheduled to appear Thursday.

Scheline, 40, was fired from his job as executive director of Ignite Youth Mentoring after the allegations surfaced. The Pasco father previously served as a pastor at Faith Assembly in Pasco and lead pastor of Bozeman Christian Center in Montana.

Investigators found an advertisement Scheline placed June 13 on Craigslist suggesting that a married dad was looking for a young boy, court documents said.

When a detective responded July 5 as a father offering up his 13-year-old son for sex acts, Scheline allegedly discussed in explicit detail what he would do with the boy.

Scheline eventually was given the address of an apartment. When “the (undercover) son” answered the door, Scheline turned and left and was taken into custody as he tried to get out of the complex, documents said.

….

The Tri-City Herald later reported:

According to court documents and a presentencing report, Scheline posted an ad on Craigslist identifying himself as a “fit hairy married dad” on June 13, 2017. He wrote that he was looking for a “young guy” for a sexual encounter.

A detective with the Southeast Region Internet Crimes Against Children — part of the Net Nanny team — responded three weeks later.

The detective posed as a 38-year-old father offering his 13-year-old son for sex.

In the email exchange that followed, Scheline discussed sex acts in explicit detail.

On July 6, 2017, he traveled to a Richland apartment for the purported rendezvous.

When an undercover detective playing the role of the son answered the door, Scheline turned and walked away but was arrested in the apartment complex. He had no prior criminal record.

In June 2018, Scheline pleaded guilty and was later sentenced to a mandatory minimum sentence of 58 months in prison.

Black Collar Crime: Gary Wiggins and Blessed Hope Boys Academy

pastor gary wiggins

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

In December 2016, The Alabama Department of Human Resources and Baldwin County law enforcement raided and removed 22 children from Blessed Hope Boys Academy in Seminole, Alabama. Blessed Hope, at the time, advertised itself as a Christian boarding school for “troubled” teens.  Operating as an unlicensed, unregulated “ministry,” Blessed Hope  was operated by Pastor Gary Wiggins and his wife Meghann.  After the raid, the school moved its location to Missouri.

According to a 2016 Al.com report, Blessed Hope was a growing and lucrative business:

The Blessed Hope Boys Academy opened about four years ago. It was granted status as a 501(c)3 nonprofit in 2013.

The school has grown steadily since it opened. The school’s revenue grew from $232,524 in 2013 to $289,655 in 2014. The National Center for Charitable Statistics listed the school’s 2015 total revenue at $430,159.

Thomas Cox, a former student at Blessed Hope, recounted to the The Statesman what happened to him:

Thomas Cox, 18, said he clearly remembers the punishment he and other boys faced two years ago at Wiggins’ boys home in Alabama.

Cox, who now lives in Pennsylvania, said that when he attended the Blessed Hope Boys Academy near Seminole, Ala., in 2016, Wiggins made him and other boys stand and face a wall for hours and exercise excessively, and that Wiggins also hit students with a wooden paddle for punishment.

Boys would be slammed to the floor and several people would “pile on top of them” for minor infractions, such as refusing to say Bible verses, said Cox, who would not discuss why his parents sent him to the academy. Many times, he said, Wiggins would take students out of classes and make them work at his moving company and lawn care company without pay.

In May 2018, Wiggins shuttered Blessed Hope in Missouri and moved to Bertram, Texas to set up a new “ministry.”  Wiggins changed the name from Blessed Hope to Joshua Home, but the scam was still the same: “fix” broken teens and make lots of money while doing so.

In 2018, Joshua Home was raided, and eight boys were removed on allegations of abuse, neglect, labor violations, fraud, licensing violations, and human trafficking. Investigators believe Wiggins may have been using the boys illegally for a lawn care service and a moving company.

In 2017, Wiggins and Blessed Hope were investigated by 20/20. Wiggins told an undercover reporter that with the Bible and a belt, he could beat the gay out of a boy. What follows is the 20/20 investigation of unlicensed, unregulated religious group homes, including Blessed Hope. The report is shocking, to say the least. That this kind of stuff STILL goes on in the United States is mindboggling.

Video

According to Pastor Gary Williamson, pastor of Seminole Baptist Church in Seminole, Alabama, Gary Wiggins is a “good Christian man” who has done nothing wrong.  Wiggins, along with his wife and three children, were members of Seminole Baptist while operating the Blessed Hope Boys Homes. According to  Williamson’s bio on his church’s website:

At this same time his wife Becky, who had been saved at the age of 13 at a Billy Graham Crusade but was living life as a backslidden, undercover Christian, began praying for him [Gary Williamson]. She came across a TV broadcast on the local cable access channel called “Drawing Men to Christ”. The program was being aired by Victory Bible Baptist Church under the leadership of Pastor Jesse Smith.

Drawing Men to Christ is a ministry of Christian Video Ministries and features televised broadcasts of renowned Preacher and Chalk Talk Artist Dr. Peter S. Ruckman.

After watching several successive broadcasts of Dr. Ruckman’s preaching, Ray Williamson became “Brother Ray Williamson” the 19th of July 1987 upon watching and listening to a sermon entitled “The Wasted Life”. Since the time of his new birth in Christ, Brother Ray has determined to preach and defend the faith that he once sought to destroy.

Pastor Williamson graduated from Pensacola Bible Institute in 1992 while still serving in the Coast Guard in Mobile, AL and then started and pastored Bible Believers Baptist Church for three years in Petaluma, CA. Subsequently he has received a Bachelors of Theology Degree from Andersonville Baptist Theological Seminary and also earned an Associates degree from the University of Phoenix all still while serving his country in the U.S. Coast Guard.

As of this date, Gary Wiggins has not been charged with a crime. The latest news report on Wiggins and Joshua Home, dated May 2019, says Wiggins is still under investigation and charges will “soon” be filed. We shall see . . .

HEAL report on Gary Wiggins

Let the Fun Begin: Baptist Church Business Meetings

church meeting

Most Baptist churches practice congregational government. This means that the church membership has the final say on what happens in the church. Some Baptist churches are truly congregational. No one can even fart without it being voted on first by church members. However, many Baptist churches are congregational in name-only. Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches, in particular, are known for having dictatorial, controlling pastors. The congregation may vote on big money issues, but the day-to-day operation of the church is left up to the pastor. This is especially true when the church was started by the pastor. The church becomes his fiefdom, his personal plaything, and no one, including his charges, is going to take it away from him. As long as the pastor doesn’t diddle little boys or use church offerings to play the ponies, he likely can remain the pastor until “God” calls him elsewhere.

Some Baptist churches — believing congregationalism puts power in the wrong hands — are governed by elders. All this does is concentrate power and control. Elders can and do abuse their authority, often acting in their own best interests. One need only look at megachurches with their corporation-style boards to see what happens when stakeholders no longer have any control. That’s not to say that congregationalism is the best form of church government. As long as people are people, there will be conflicts. What elevates these conflicts in Baptist churches, however, is that both sides believe that the Holy Spirit (God) is leading and speaking to them! I participated in numerous church business meetings where people metaphorically duked it out over who would get his way. I found it interesting then, and still do, how “God” can be so unclear about his good, acceptable, and perfect will (Romans 12:2). Perhaps, the problem is that there is no God, and what you have are people with competing wants, needs, and desires.

What follows is a handful of stories from my days as a Baptist church member and pastor. These stories are a highlight reel of sorts from the countless church business meeting I attended.

As a teenager, I attended Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio. It was the 1970s, and, thanks to Trinity’s aggressive evangelistic efforts, the church was one of the fastest-growing churches in the area. Attendance became so large that big attendance days such as Easter were held in the auditorium of nearby Findlay High School. Finally, church attendance reached a place where Pastor Millioni and the deacons decided it was time for a larger building. They would later move from their Trenton Avenue location to a spacious, modern round edifice near the Findlay Mall.

Church leaders decided to sell bonds to church members to finance construction. Such bond programs were quite popular at the time. They were later deemed to be fraudulent, little more than Ponzi schemes. One Sunday evening, church leaders called for a business meeting to discuss the new building. I attended the meeting. I was very much a committed follower of Jesus, one who took seriously the standards by which Christians were expected to live their lives. One rule was NO CUSSING! Imagine my surprise then when the church’s song director got into a verbal argument with someone and swore at him! Boy, was I shocked! Here was a man I deeply repected and he said some bad words. Such was my naiveté at the time.

In the early 2000s, while between pastorates, I attended Frontier Baptist Church in Frontier, Michigan. Frontier was a small, needy, dysfunctional congregation. I have concluded that I sought out such churches because I see myself as a “fixer.” I pastored several churches who needed Pastor Bruce to ride in on a white horse and “save” them. While Frontier had an elderly pastor, the congregation was most certainly in need of my help. Or so I thought anyway.

Once a month, the church — a Southern Baptist congregation — would hold a business meeting. The pastor was a strict congregationalist. He refused to make ANY decision without the church voting on the matter. The church was in desperate need of a new refrigerator. I just so happened to have a like-new fridge in storage. I told the pastor I would like to give a refrigerator to the church, thinking he would quickly and graciously say, sure. Instead — I kid you not — he said, “I can’t accept your gift, Bruce. The church will have to vote on it first.” And they did a month later. To this day, I don’t understand this kind of passive leadership, an unwillingness to make decisions on your own lest the congregation get upset with you.

I lived in Sierra Vista, Arizona for a time in the 1970s. I attended Sierra Vista Baptist Church — a Conservative Baptist congregation. In this church, no one could become a member unless the congregation voted on their admission. At one business meeting, congregants discussed several people who were prospective members. When one woman’s name came up, the church matriarch asked, “is she divorced?” “Yes,” the pastor replied. “Then I vote NO on her membership.” And that was that. This church may have had a congregational form of government, but when Granny spoke everyone listened and fell in line.

In 1980, Polly and I attended the Newark Baptist Temple in Newark, Ohio for a time before leaving to help start an IFB church in Buckeye Lake. The Baptist Temple was trying to raise money to build a gymnasium, along with some additional classrooms for their Christian school. The church’s pastor and deacons had agreed to pay cash for the construction. They believed that by “trusting God,” congregants would cough up the necessary money for the new building. Months and months went by, and then one Sunday an “important” business meeting was called for. At the appointed time, the church’s pastor told congregants that church leaders, with soon-to-be-given congregational approval, had decided to borrow the money necessary to build the building. I thought at the time, wait a minute! I thought we were going to trust “God” to provide the money?” No one said a word. It seemed like everyone was falling in line behind the Pied Piper. When asked if there were any more questions, I nervously stood and said, “Why are we changing horses now? I thought we were trusting God to provide the money.” Silence. You would have thought I had cut a raunchy fart in a crowded elevator. Keep in mind, the pastor was my wife Polly’s uncle. Nearby sat her preacher father and his wife. Needless, to say, my “out of the will of God” words were not appreciated. It wouldn’t be the last time Pastor Uncle and I would clash.

In 1994, I moved my family from southeast Ohio to San Antonio, Texas so I could become the co-pastor of Community Baptist Church. Imagine my surprise at the first church business meeting when I learned that women were not permitted to speak at public meetings. Now, I was quite an authoritarian at the time, but I was egalitarian when it came to business meetings. Worse yet, if a woman had a question, she was to whisper it to her husband or another man, and he would ask their question. I kid you not. The only time women were permitted to speak out loud during public meetings was when they were singing or praying.

Finally, I want to share a story from the eleven years I spent as pastor of Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. One Sunday evening, the congregation gathered for a business meeting. During the meeting, a man stood up and said, “I have a real problem with So-and-So” — a fellow church member. He proceeded to air his grievances against this man and his family. Then So-and-So’s wife stood up and began listing all the problems she had with the first man and his family. The business meeting quickly turned into a shouting match between these two families. The meeting became so contentious that I just sat down and let these two families verbally duke it out. There was a moment when I thought it might turn into a physical altercation, but fortunately, it didn’t.

Finally, their war of words ended. I stood up and let them know what I thought of their childish behavior. These two families had been sitting on an increasing number of offenses for so long that when given a chance to air them, boy oh boy, did they! The good news is they were able to work out their differences. Both families were devoted, faithful church members, people who would go out of their way to help others. But, on this night, I was reminded of the fact that they were very much human, as we all are.

This post is not meant to demean the churches and parties mentioned. I hope by sharing these stories — and I could spend days writing about church business meetings — that readers would see that Baptists, for all their talk about following the leadership of the Holy Spirit, are just as human as the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. All of us want our way, whether it is in our marriages, places of employment, or houses of worship. It’s normal to think that our viewpoint is the right one — no Holy Ghost needed. What’s harder for us to do is surrender our viewpoints to those of others, to admit that perhaps we just might not be right.

Do you have a favorite church business meeting story — Baptist or not? Please share them in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

Stop with the “Few Bad Apples” Rationalization When Excusing Clergy Misconduct

a few bad apples

Sixteen months ago, I posted the first story in the Black Collar Crime Series. Yesterday, I posted the six-hundredth post in the series. Focused primarily on clergy sexual misconduct, the sheer level of reports puts to rest the notion that such crimes are committed by a “few bad apples.” Numerous times a day, I receive notices from Google Alerts, notifying me that a new report of alleged clergy crime has been posted to the Internet. I look at every notification, choosing to only publish the stories that are publicly reported by reputable news sites. I am often contacted by victims who are looking to expose their abusers. I do what I can to help them, but if there’s no public news reports or other information that can corroborate their stories, I am unable to do anything for them. Believe me, I WANT to help them, but it would be legally reckless of me to post a story without sufficient evidence. I generally also only publish reports about clerics from the United States — mostly Protestant, Evangelical, Southern Baptist, and Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB). While I post stories featuring Catholic priests from time to time, I usually leave such reporting to others. The same could be said of widespread clergy sexual misconduct in Africa. The point I am trying to make here is this: 600 published reports is just the tip of the iceberg.  As of today, I am also sitting on over 300 clergy sexual misconduct stories I have not published due to a lack of sufficient evidence or a shortage of time to do so.

Not only are there more than just a “few bad apples” preying on church members, when you add to the total the number of pastors and other religious leaders who have consensual sexual relations with congregants, it is clear for all to see that so-called “men of God” are hardly the pillars of moral virtue they claim to be. In 2015, I wrote a post titled, Is Clergy Infidelity Rare? Here’s an excerpt from the post:

In October 2013, Doug Phillips, president of the now-defunct Vision Forum Ministries confessed to church leaders that he had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a woman who is not his wife. Defenders of Phillips took to their blogs, websites, Twitter, and Facebook to do damage control on the behalf of Phillips and the patriarchal movement. One such defender is Independent Baptist pastor Voddie Baucham, a man who is widely viewed as the African-American version of Doug Phillips.

A Christian woman by the name of Julie Anne posted an article on the Spiritual Sounding Board blog about the Doug Phillips scandal. Her post mentioned the following quote by Voddie Baucham:

Dennis, You ask, “How many times do we see this in Christian leadership?” The answer may surprise you, but it is actually quite rare. There are hundreds of thousands of churches in America. We hear of these types of things on a national basis when they happen to high profile people. However, considering the number of people in Christian leadership, the numbers are quite small. As to your other point, most men who go through something like this never recover. Of course, there are exceptions. Moreover, there are some circles wherein things like this, and much worse, are merely swept under the rug. However, in circles where leadership is taken seriously, it is very difficult for a man to come back from things like this. People have long memories, and tend to be rather unforgiving. (emphasis mine)

Baucham repeats the oft-told lie that clergy sexual misconduct is quite rare. I have heard this line more times than I can count. It is an attempt to prop up the notion that clergy are more moral and ethical than most people; that they are pillars of virtue and morality.  Such claims are patently false.

In 2007, Dr. R.J. Krejcir of  the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute, wrote a post detailing his recent study of clergy infidelity. Krejcir stated:

  • Of the one thousand fifty (1,050 or 100%) pastors we surveyed, every one of them had a close associate or seminary buddy who had left the ministry because of burnout, conflict in their church, or from a moral failure.
  • Three hundred ninety-nine (399 or 38%) of pastors said they were divorced or currently in a divorce process.
  • Three hundred fifteen (315 or 30%) said they had either been in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual encounter with a parishioner.

So much for clergy sexual infidelity being rare.

Numerous studies have been conducted concerning sexual infidelity among married people. The percentage varies widely, but it is safe to say that between ten and twenty percent of married people have been sexually unfaithful to their spouse. The percentage is higher for men than it is women.

We know that men of the cloth are not morally or ethically superior. In the United States and Canada, there are approximately 600,000 clergy. According to the Hartford Institute for Religion and Research, this total includes active clergy and “retired clergy, chaplains in hospitals, prisons and the military, denominational executives, and ordained faculty at divinity schools and seminaries.” This number does not include clergy who are affiliated with independent churches. If between ten and twenty percent of married people commit adultery, and clergy are no different morally from non-clergy, then this means that between 60,000 and 120,000 clergy have committed adultery.  Again, so much for clergy sexual infidelity being rare.

Keep in mind, this is only the number of CONSENSUAL sexual relationships.

….

Most people in the United States profess to be Christians. Taught to think that their churches are safe havens and their pastors have only their best interests at heart, many of them have a hard time believing and accepting that bad things happen, and far too often the perpetrators are pastors, deacons, elders, youth leaders, worship leaders, Sunday school teachers, church janitors, evangelists, missionaries, bus drivers, Christian school teachers, and principals. Wherever Christians have authority over others, you will find sexual misconduct — both legal and criminal.

What makes churches and clergy so dangerous is that congregants are trusting. It’s the world they need to worry about, or so church leaders tell them anyway. Led to believe that Christians — thanks to salvation and the Holy Ghost — are above the fray and oh-so-humbly morally superior, church members naively trust those who have “God-given” authority over them. Even after their pastors and other church leaders have been exposed as the predators, many congregants refuse to believe that the men and women they looked up to abused others. You who read the Black Collar Crime Series regularly know that it is not uncommon to have congregants comment, defending their pastor or suggesting that the police or district attorney are out to get their preacher.

Sadly, it is not uncommon for church members to blame victims instead of putting the blame where it belongs: on their ministers, youth pastors, and other church leaders. Even after church leaders are found guilty in criminal court, congregants will often line up to testify at sentencing hearings; letting courts know that their pastors are good men who made a momentary mistake (never mind the fact that most pastors convicted of sex crimes are repeat or habitual offenders). Worse yet, on way too many occasions, once incarcerated clerics are released from prison, they find their way back to churches looking for pastorates or they start new churches — hiding from their new congregations their decadent past. One of the reasons I continue to publish Black Collar Crime stories is that this blog becomes a database of sorts for people doing their due diligence before accepting as fact the “testimony” of prospective pastors.

And to churches who hire registered sex offenders, knowing what they did at their last churches, don’t be surprised when your new God-fearing pastor treats your church as a hunting ground. Get your head out of your ass and protect the children, teens, and vulnerable adults in your churches. “But, Bruce, as Christians, we are supposed to “forgive and forget.” It’s forgetting I have a problem with. Forgetting what clergy have done in the past invites and encourages new abuse and harm. Just yesterday, a family member who is a Fundamentalist pastor, mentioned in a positive light the “ministry” David Hyles has devoted to “fallen” preachers. (Please see Disgraced IFB Preacher David Hyles Helping Fallen Pastors Get Back on Their Horses and Is All Forgiven for David Hyles? and David Hyles Says My Bad, Jesus and UPDATED: Serial Adulterer David Hyles Has Been Restored) I thought, ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!  But, when you believe in 1 John 1:9 Christianity (If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness), it is easy to dismiss past bad behavior as being “under the blood” and “buried in the depths of the sea of God’s forgetfulness.” No matter what Christians do — including rape, murder, and fraud — wiping their slates clean is but a prayer away. (Note: I later talked to the family member. He genuinely didn’t know about David Hyles’ past. He was a child in the 1980s when the Biblical Evangelist published its expose on Jack and David Hyles. I guess I am officially an old man.)

Years ago, a former colleague of mine in the ministry, told me that at his church they believed in forgiveness, and that’s why they didn’t run criminal background checks on church workers. “Bruce,” this pastor said, “when a person gets saved, their past ‘sins’ are forgiven and remembered no more. If God doesn’t remember their sins, neither should we.” In his naive, Bible-sotted mind, once a person is really, really, really “saved,” — one really each for the Father, Son and Holy Ghost — there’s no reason to not “trust” them, even if, in the past, he or she was a murderer, rapist, serial adulterer, or child molester. “Either our sins are under the blood, or they are not, Brother,” this preacher told me. Many years ago, I warned him that one of his daughters was in a sexual relationship with a teen boy in my church. He told me, “oh, they would never do that!” Right, two horny kids, all alone on a back-country road? What are they doing, studying the Bible and praying? A month or so later, he came home early from his church’s midweek prayer meeting, only to find his daughter and her boyfriend naked and having sex on the living room floor. Sadly, in far too many churches, trusted church leaders are assaulting and abusing congregants, and everyone around them is saying, “oh, they would never do that.” As the Black Collar Crime series makes clear, such thinking is not only naive, it’s dangerous. Throw in pastors who psychologically manipulate congregants and use those who trust them as a means to an end, and I can safely say that churches are some of the most dangerous places in the United States; that parents who “trust” church leaders with their children and teenagers risk their charges being misused, abused, and assaulted.

No, I am not saying all church leaders are bad people, but I am saying a large enough percentage of them are — more than a few bad apples, to be sure — that wisdom and prudence demands keeping children right by your side when attending houses of worship. Better safe than sorry, I say. (Dear Evangelical Church Leaders: It’s Time to Get Rid of Your Youth Pastors and Youth Departments) Suppose you went to the local grocery with your children to buy some groceries. Suppose there were 200 shoppers in the store, and ten of them were child molesters or registered sex offenders. Knowing this, would you let your children wander through the store unattended? Of course not. Why, then, should churches and preachers be treated any differently?

Let me leave you with one poignant thought: countless Christians have prayed for God to deliver them from the hands of their abusers, and without exception, God ignored their prayers. If left up to “God,” predator church leaders will, with impunity, cause untold harm. It is up to us to put a stop to clergy sexual misconduct. All I can do is write about the subject. But if you are a church-going Christian, you have the responsibility and duty to make sure the children, teens, and vulnerable adults are safe when attending church, school, or church events. Doing nothing is no longer an option.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

Quote of the Day: Dana Nessel Calls for Law Outlawing Clergy Having Sexual Relations with Parishioners

dana nessel

We are seeing countless episodes of clergy members who are having sexual relations with their (church members) in a spiritual setting; I mean, right in the church, right in the confessional. And we think that there are a lot of these clergy members who have quite honestly taken advantage of people and taken advantage of their authority or power.

It’s a very powerful thing if you are an individual who has represented yourself as sort of the conduit to heaven, you know for salvation…well then you have a lot of influence over another person’s life. You know, we see cases all the time of a clergy member saying, you know, ‘Do what I say or else you’re not going to go to heaven.’ And that’s a type of power, a type of authority that we just don’t think that anybody should have to be able to exploit for a sexual purpose.

If attorneys have a sexual relationship with a client that they represent, they lose their law license for that, you know? Same thing with a doctor. So why should it be any different for members of the clergy?

We don’t think that it is a First Amendment issue, and we’d be willing to go to court on that if we had to. But I think that there are just certain positions of authority that should not be exploited for sexual purposes, and this is one of them.

I’m not afraid and I won’t apologize for wanting to ensure that any institution around the state understands that if they have been engaged or aiding and abetting in the coverup child sexual abuse, absolutely if there are charges that can be brought, we are happy to entertain those charges and to file them. But we’re hopeful that through the process of this investigation, when we find out more about what has happened in the past, we’ll be able to prevent that from happening in the future.

— Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, WWJ Newsradio 950 Interview, July 9, 2019

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Karey Heyward Accused of Sexual Misconduct with a Minor

karey heyward

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.

Karey Heyward, pastor of Eternity Church in North Charleston, South Carolina, stands accused of sexual misconduct with a minor. Heyward, a musician, also goes by the name Pastor Sage.

ABC-4 reports:

According to police reports, the female minor and her mother reported ongoing sexual misconduct to officers on March 20, and said it took place between 2012 and 2015.

She said the suspect touched her in sexually inappropriately ways, engaged in inappropriate conversations about sex, and asked her “what would happen if they did have sex,” reports say.

The Moncks Corner man was released on a $100,000 bond after being charged with 3rd-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor.

Heyward’s Linkedin page lists the following information:

  • Senior Pastor at Eternity Ministries
  • Owner/creative director of Genesis 1 Media, LLC a film, video, music, and publication company
  • Law Enforcement with the Coastal Crisis Chaplaincy
  • Founder of a youth organization known as Radical Revolution Ministries that hosts youth events and founded a youth pastors and leadership alliance known as the Holy City Alliance.
  • Specialties: Licensed Minister,Gospel Rapper, cinematographer/editor/director