The philandering fundamentalists

The philandering fundamentalists September 8, 2014

Please be advised that this post contains discussions of sexual abuse.

In 1970, Pastor Jack Hyles, of First Baptist Church, Hammond, Indiana, called into his office one Jennie Nischik, wife of one of the church deacons. Soon after, Vic and Jennie Nischik began experiencing marital problems. Eventually, Vic confronted Hyles with “evidence of an improper relationship between Hyles and [Vic’s] wife”. On hearing this evidence, Hyles, who had been pressuring Vic to leave, instead created an arrangement whereby the Nischiks lived in different rooms of the same house and never had any physical contact. Hyles continued his affair with Jennie for more than a decade. Eventually, Vic complained to Hyles that his room was damp and affecting his health, and said he was going to move back in with Jennie in the master bedroom. Rather than allow this, Hyles paid to have a new room added to the Nischiks’ house.

This is just one of the allegations that have become Hyles’ legacy.

Meanwhile, in 2014 Bill Gothard, founder of the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), was placed on “administrative leave” while they investigated claims of historic sexual abuse dating back to the 1970s. Thirty-four women have made claims of harassment, and one woman says she was sixteen when Gothard molested her.

Welcome to the world of Independent Fundamental Baptists (IFB). IFB types don’t believe in church hierarchy. They’re not usually part of any official denomination. They believe God invested all authority in the Pastor, and so bishops, archbishops and other formal church structures are unbiblical. This means that when scandals like the above break out, all the others can say “Nothing to do with us!” Unlike abuse scandals in the Catholic church, abuse in the IFB is usually portrayed as an isolated occurrence.

Is there in fact a link between all this?

 

That’s what ABC’s 20/20 tried to show in its 2011 investigation of the IFB. They found multiple instances of abuse and tied them all together in one documentary. At the moment, there just isn’t enough information to be sure. Still, Boz Tchividjian thinks so:

Tchividjian had become convinced that the Protestant world is teetering on the edge of a sex-abuse scandal similar to the one that had rocked the Catholic Church. He is careful to say that there’s not enough data to compare the prevalence of child sex abuse in Protestant and Catholic institutions, but he’s convinced the problem has reached a crisis point.

Tchividjian is hardly some anti-Christian warrior. He’s Billy Graham’s grandson, and he teaches at Liberty University, the school Jerry Falwell founded. Those credentials still won’t be enough for some fundamentalists, of course: Billy Graham only managed one semester at Bob Jones University, the epicentre of Christian fundamentalism. Later, BJU forbade its students from attending Graham’s rallies under threat of expulsion. Bob Jones Jr also described Jerry Falwell as “the most dangerous man in America” for his willingness to make political alliances with Roman Catholics.

ANYWAY, quite a few fundamentalist preachers have had quite a lot of sex, quite a lot of it extramarital, and not all of it consensual. To the IFB supporters, this is just evidence of what they’ve been saying all along: Man is desperately wicked and in need of salvation. In an age where child abuse scandals are all over the place, it is simply bullying to pick on these men just because they happen to be Christians. Right?

Both Jack Hyles and Bill Gothard have connections with Accelerated Christian Education. In his 1979 manifesto, Rebirth of Our Nation, ACE’s founder Donald R. Howard reproduced the text of one of Hyles’ sermons (pages 230-239). The back cover has a glowing endorsement from Jack Hyles, who says “No man in America knows more about the decay of America, and no man has more answers for its rebirth, and no man is doing more to cause this rebirth than Dr. Don Howard. What a book!”

Gothard is associated with ACE in the public mind because of 19 Kids and Counting, a reality TV show about a Quiverfull family called the Duggars. The Duggars use a combination  of ACE and Gothard’s ATI material to homeschool their many, many children. The connections don’t end there.

ACE materials seek to inculcate children with 60 ideal character traits of Jesus. In Rebirth of Our Nation (p. 296) Donald Howard credits Bill Gothard with this idea. Gothard’s followers will notice that he in fact taught that Jesus had just 49 “character qualities“, but it appears this figure may have been revised down. This website refers to an out-of-print IBLP publication by Gothard called “The 60 Character Traits in the Life of the Lord Jesus Christ”. ACE’s Music PACE 5 also contains anti-rock music arguments which have been lifted straight from Bill Gothard’s What the Bible has to say about… ‘Contemporary Christian’ Music (aka “Ten scriptural reasons why the ‘rock beat’ is evil in any form“).

Gothard’s abusive Indianapolis Training Center (ITC) used the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum, according to former staff members.

Currently, ACE’s headquarters in Madison, Tennessee sits on the same plot of land as the IBLP training center. IBLP is at 612 W. Due West Ave, Madison, TN; ACE is at 610. This plot of land was purchased for Gothard’s ministry by none other than Hobby Lobby. If you can’t think where you know the name Hobby Lobby from, it’s probably this.

The other thing linking all three ministries is David Gibbs Jr, lawyer to the fundamentalists.

Think of Gibbs as like The Wolf from Pulp Fiction, except instead of cleaning up messes for professional assassins, Gibbs cleans them up for fundamentalist preachers.

David Gibbs Jr, pictured recently.
David Gibbs Jr, pictured recently.

When it turned out that Jack Schaap (Jack Hyles’ successor at First Baptist Church, Hammond) had taken a minor across state lines for the purposes of engaging in criminal sexual activity, they called Gibbs.

When Pastor Bill Wininger was accused of sexual abuse, here’s Gibbs and Hyles coming to his defence (1993):

As they observe over at Stuff Fundies Like:

While watching the video above keep in mind that Bill Wininger, the man being loudly defended by Hyles and Gibbs in 1993, resigned from his church twenty years later after his accusers finally gained enough attention to prompt a new investigation.

What’s really mind-blowing in this video is the way that David Gibbs, Jr. of the Christian Law Association stands in front of this group of people and blatantly acknowledges that there are abuse allegations against Hyles-camp churches all over THE ENTIRE COUNTRY. But then he takes that information and spins a conspiracy theory that the real reason that these allegations are surfacing is that Christ-hating liberals hate bus ministries.

Twenty years of abuse. Twenty years of lives ruined. Twenty years of pain and suffering. Twenty years — and they knew the entire time. These men are nothing short of evil.

So when Bill Gothard’s decades of shenanigans came to light, there was really only one man that IBLP could call.

 

Gibbs was ACE’s lawyer and a board member. He appeared in numerous promotional videos for ACE. He eventually became president of the company for a spell in the early 2000s.

At this point, some of my readers may feel disappointed that I’ve stooped to raking muck on this blog. I promise I do have a point to all of this, and I’ll explain what it is in the next post.

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