“For decades, women and children have faced rampant sexual abuse while worshiping at independent fundamental Baptist churches around the country. The network of churches and schools has often covered up the crimes and helped relocate the offenders, an eight-month Star-Telegram investigation has found. More than 200 people--current or former church members, across generations--shared their stories of rape, assault, humiliation and fear in churches where male leadership cannot be questioned. ... The Star-Telegram discovered at least 412 allegations of sexual misconduct in 187 independent fundamental Baptist churches and their affiliated institutions, spanning 40 states and Canada” (“Hundreds of sex abuse allegations,” Spirit of Fear, Part 1, Star-Telegram, Dec. 9, 2018).
It is very sad that the world is confronted with such wickedness, chicanery, and hypocrisy in institutions that claim to be churches of Jesus Christ and by men who claim to be men of God.
It is too bad, though, that instead of broad-brushing “Independent Baptists” as a whole, the Star-Telegram would have done more extensive research into Independent Baptist churches and their history and to have recognized that it is not “Independent Baptists” as a whole who are guilty of immorality, cultic abuse of the members, and cover up of sin.
These things are limited largely to one segment of Independent Baptists, and that is a segment that I would label “the Hyles circles.” The vast majority of the pastors and workers who have been guilty of sexual misconduct with church members and ensuing cover-ups are affiliated with (and staunch supporters of) First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, the home of Hyles-Anderson Baptist College.
This is clear from the Star-Telegram’s own reports. The name Hyles appears throughout. The report begins with the account of Joy Evans Ryder, who testifies that as a teenager she was sexually abused by Dave Hyles, the youth pastor at First Baptist Church of Hammond. The senior pastor was Dave’s father, Jack Hyles. Joy’s father, Wendell Evans, was president of Hyles-Anderson College. When, at age 17, Joy told her father of the matter, he went to Jack Hyles, “who dismissed the report.” In a recent interview with the Star-Telegram, the 83-year-old former Hyles-Anderson president said that he regrets not calling the police on Dave Hyles. Evans said, “I think it’s remarkable that in 40 years, Dave didn’t find time to ask forgiveness from his victims and their parents.” Dave Hyles’ current pastor and all other Hyles defenders should think the same thing, one would hope to believe.
Jack Hyles was personally informed of other sexual escapades committed by Dave in the capacity of youth pastor under Jack’s senior watch care, but every accusation was covered up. The actions of both father and son were a reproach to the holy name of Jesus Christ and to the honor of the institution which is supposed to be the “church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).
A few months after Wendell Evans told Jack Hyles about Dave’s sexual abuse of a prominent teenage girl in the church, Dave became the pastor of Miller Road Baptist Church in Garland, Texas. Though Jack Hyles always claimed that he did not recommend Dave to any church, deacons and staffers of Miller Road testified “that their search committee called Jack Hyles about Dave” and “no one heard any warnings.” Dave had to leave Miller Road in 1984 after a janitor found a briefcase full of pornography featuring Hyles and married female members of the congregation. Obviously this church was a man-centered cult no better than a Jim Jones outfit. Such rampant fornication in a church is doubtless the product of what I call “Quick Prayerism,” the practice of which Dave Hyles was an expert. (Quick Prayerism is an evangelistic methodology that is quick to get people to pray a sinner’s prayer after a very shallow gospel presentation and usually without any hint of the necessity of repentance. It is quick to pronounce those people saved and give them “assurance” and to try to baptize them even if they barely show any interest in Jesus Christ and even if they give no biblical evidence of having been born again. Quick Prayerism incorporates psychological salesmanship manipulation. In Quick Prayerism, an empty “sinner’s prayer” replaces Holy Spirit conviction and miraculous regeneration. Quick Prayerism is characterized by soul winning reports that are grossly exaggerated, since the number of real conversions, as evidenced by changed lives, are minute compared to the overall statistics.)
Today Dave Hyles “runs a ministry for pastors who have fallen into sin, supported by Family Baptist Church in Columbia, Tennessee, pastored by David Baker.” Joy Ryder’s brother contacted Baker in 2017 to tell him personally of the sexual abuse of his sister when she was a teenager at First Baptist, but Baker thinks Dave has been unfairly treated! Baker believes that Dave is “someone who made mistakes years ago, and through that brokenness and God restoring him, wants to use what he’s been through to help others.” (Yes, Baker is a Hyles-Anderson College graduate.)
Though the Star-Telegram report “Spirt of Fear” is extensive in the number of cases documented, it goes over ground already covered.
The fundamentals of the matter were documented in the Chicago Magazine in January 2013. The report “Let Us Prey: Big Trouble at First Baptist Church” featured ten cases of sexual crimes and fornications committed by pastors associated with First Baptist. These are Ted Butler, Christopher Settlemoir, Dave Hyles, Charles Shifflett, Joseph Combs, Chester Mulligan, William Beith, Craig Sission, Kerry Martin, and Jack Schaap, who was the pastor of the church until he was caught having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl. Now he is currently in prison.
The reports by Chicago Magazine and the Star-Telegram get to the heart of the matter by describing a cultic climate in which church members are required to give “unquestioning loyalty” to the pastor and are not allowed to test anything by God’s Word or to challenge the preacher when he veers from Scripture. This was epitomized by Jack Hyles (d. 2001), who has had wide influence by his college, his annual pastors’ conferences, and his books.
What the Star-Telegram doesn’t tell its readers is that many fundamental Baptists have rejected Jack Hyles’ cultic philosophy of ministry.
I, for one, have been publicly exposing this and separating myself from it for decades. I’ve been a member of Independent Baptist churches for 45 years, since I was saved at age 23. I was a student at Tennessee Temple in the 1970s when Hyles was coming into his heyday. I thought the man was a “bag of hot air” the first time I heard him in those days! Since the 1990s, I’ve warned that Hyles was a cult leader. In The Hyles Effect: A Spreading Blight, we documented the sexual abuse and immorality, the cover-ups and the lies, the bragging and the mind control, the ridiculously shallow “soul winning” methodologies, and the gross lack of biblical depth in the preaching. We document these and other things, analyze them by Scripture, and show the biblical way as opposed to man’s way.
Consider an excerpt from The Hyles Effect:
“This book has never been just about First Baptist of Hammond. It’s about a large number of independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) churches that have been influenced by the cultic pattern modeled at First Baptist and it’s about large numbers of IFB preachers who have not spoken out against it but rather have chosen to bask in the glory of ‘bigness’ than take a stand for truth, pastors who have imitated First Baptist in many unscriptural ways.
“With the Bible as my authority, I became convinced long ago that Jack Hyles created a man-centered cult, and this cultic mentality has spread far too widely among Independent Fundamental Baptists.
“A major motivation in writing this report is to challenge young preachers not to be man followers and man pleasers, to walk in the fear of God rather than the fear of man, to be serious Bible students and Bereans (Acts 17:11), to be passionate for Christ and Truth, and to reject pragmatism: whether it be contemporary church growth pragmatism or emerging pragmatism or IFB pragmatism.
“I don’t hesitate to name a cult a cult no matter what it might call itself, and I don’t hesitate to distance myself from such things. I’m just a frail man that the Lord saved. I’m not a mighty anything in myself, but God being my helper I’m not going to follow a crowd in error, I don’t care how big the crowd, and I’m not going to keep quiet when the church of Jesus Christ is turned into a man-centered cult.
“The authority for my Christian life and ministry is not ‘independent Baptist.’ It is not what some famous independent Baptist church or preacher believes or practices. My sole authority is the Bible. I do not intend to follow a man, I care not who or what he is, unless that man follows the Holy Scripture, God being my helper.
“I believe in pastoral authority. I have submitted to pastoral authority all of my Christian life. ... I have taught God’s people to submit to pastoral authority in a godly and biblical fashion. (For example, see the free eBooks ‘Keys to Fruitful Church Membership’ and ‘The Pastor’s Authority,’ available from www.wayoflife.org.)
“But I also know that a pastor’s authority is limited by the Bible. He has no authority in himself. He has no authority to lead in ways that are contrary to the Word of God. He has no authority to instruct the people to follow him blindly. NO PREACHER IS ABOVE BEING REPROVED FOR HIS ERROR. ‘Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality’ (1 Timothy 5:19-21). Paul rebuked Peter publicly when he committed hypocrisy and was influencing others in a path that was compromising the gospel. ‘But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?’ (Galatians 2:11-14).
“We should have godly respect for authority figures, but numbers and prominent positions should not impress God’s people. As Elihu wisely said: ‘Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person, neither let me give flattering titles unto man. For I know not to give flattering titles; in so doing my maker would soon take me away’ (Job 32:21-22).
“I am not impressed with independent Baptist numbers, unless those numbers are in the context of faithfulness to the Word of God. Numbers and prestige in themselves prove nothing. Faithfulness to Christ and His Word is everything” (David Cloud, The Hyles Effect, 2012).
I personally know many Independent Baptist pastors in many parts of the world who agree with these sentiments and who reject Jack Hyles-style cultism without reservation.
What the Star-Telegram doesn’t tell its readers is that the business of covering up sexual misconduct at First Baptist of Hammond and other Independent Baptist churches was exposed by prominent Independent Baptist preachers in the 1980s and 1990s.
In 1989, Evangelist Robert Sumner exposed Jack Hyles’ own inappropriate relationship with his secretary Jennie Nischick, and the Dave Hyles mess, and other such things in his monthly paper, The Biblical Evangelist. The reports were titled “One of the Blights of Bigness,” “The Saddest Story We Ever Published,” “The Hyles Response,” and “The Hyles Reply.” The reports have been the matter of public record ever since. They are available today at www.biblicalevangelist.org/jack_hyles_chapter1.php.
Voyle Glover exposed Hyles in Fundamental Seduction: The Jack Hyles Case, 1990 (455 pages).
Roger Voegtlin, Pastor of Fairhaven Baptist Church of Chesterton, Indiana, exposed Hyles in a widely distributed sermon in June 1989, entitled “Why I Am Not 100% for Jack Hyles.”
Biblical Discernment Ministries exposed Hyles and his wicked influence. See http://rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/exposes/hyles/testim.htm.
And there were others. The “cover ups” that were committed by some Independent Baptist preachers were uncovered by other Independent Baptist preachers in the most public manner possible.
Another thing that the Star-Telegram doesn’t tell its readers is that Jesus Christ and His apostles prophesied of the coming of false teachers into churches, wolves in sheeps’ clothing, who would deceive people and commit immorality.
“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:28-30).
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:15-20).
“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not” (2 Peter 2:1-3).
The very existence of immoral church leaders today is evidence that the Bible is true, because it was predicted by the Bible 2,000 years ago.
Many of the people quoted by the Star-Telegram appear to be extremely angry, bitter people. Doubtless many of them were wrongly treated, but who hasn’t been? Doubtless they encountered hypocrisy, but who hasn’t? They appear to be products of a “victim mentality,” and there is no spiritual victory, no blessing, no fruitfulness, and no peace in that.
I will not allow the sin and hypocrisy of this world, or the sin and hypocrisy of professing Christians, to rob me of my blessings in Jesus Christ. My faith does not stand in man. I know by experience that if my eyes are on man, I will be discouraged, and if my eyes are myself I will be defeated. Every man or woman will disappoint you and sin against you sooner or later, because “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The Bible says, “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD” (Jeremiah 17:5). There is One who never does wrong and never disappoints, and He is my resurrected Lord and Saviour, and I intend to keep my eyes upon Him. I intend to cast all my care upon Him, for He careth for me (1 Peter 5:7).
I will not allow false christs and false gospels to turn me from the true Christ and the true Gospel of eternal salvation through Christ’s blood.
I will not allow false Christianity to turn me away from true Christianity.
I will not allow false churches to turn me away from biblical churches.
I will not allow carnal church leaders to turn me away from spiritual ones.
I personally know many fundamental Baptist churches that are not cults. They are not sinlessly perfect, because there is no such thing in this present world, but they are biblically sound; they are spiritually healthy; they build good, healthy Christian lives in those who receive their ministries; they are led by humble, kind men of God who are not Grand Poobahs.
I will not allow the abuse of biblical separatism and the hypocrisy of some who claim to be biblical separatists to turn me from the Bible’s clear teaching on separation from the world and a pilgrim Christian walk.
“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11).
“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11).
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