Bruce, You Were No Good as a Pastor and You Hurt Our Family

Bruce, You Were No Good as a Pastor and You Hurt Our Family March 22, 2017

CulpeperBaptistby Bruce Gerencser cross posted from his blog The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser

Editor’s note: Sharing this because it’s healing to see someone who held a position of spiritual authority who is actually open to saying how sorry they are for the damage they caused, either directly or inadvertently. Most of us will never receive that ‘Sorry’ that we’re owed by the one person that was charged with being out shepherd and with our care. Kudos to you. Bruce!

Today, a man who says his name is Andrew Beltz, left a troubling comment on the Why I Hate Jesus post. Beltz wrote:

So Bruce admits he is a hater. O.K. He has legitimized hate.

Now I can tell you Bruce that I hate you, you fat disgusting thing, because you were no good as a pastor and you hurt our family.

Yes, Bruce, I remember.

I immediately sent Beltz an email. Unfortunately, he used a fake email address, so my email to him bounced. Here’s what I wrote:

Andrew,

Before I post your comment, I would appreciate it if you would elaborate more on the claims made in your comment. I have no recollection of pastoring anyone with the last name Beltz. I see that you currently reside in the Goshen, Kentucky area. I have never lived in Kentucky. Perhaps you moved away from one of the areas I pastored. Which church were you a member of or had a negative experience with me?

Thank you for taking the time to respond.

Bruce Gerencser

Comments such as this always trouble me, and here’s why: I readily admit that my preaching, beliefs, and ministerial practices were harmful. In the instances when I have been able to privately talk with offended/hurt congregants, I have apologized to them for the harm I have caused. While I could justify myself by saying that I too was abused and that I was simply a product of the religious environment I grew up in, I choose, instead, to own my behavior. I now know I hurt people. I didn’t at the time, but a decade of reflection has led me to conclude that I hurt my wife and children, along with the hundreds of people who once called me pastor or preacher. While I was a loving, helpful, kind, and compassionate pastor, I know that what I preached and what I modeled to congregants was psychologically harmful. And in some instances, patriarchal beliefs about child rearing and family structure caused physical harm. That is what Fundamentalism does, it hurts the hurting, harms the harmless, and causes untold damage to people who sincerely buy into the lies. A lifetime of days is not enough for me to say, I am sorry. There’s nothing I can do about the past other than speaking about it openly and honestly. In Beltz’s case, I will gladly talk with him if he wants to talk. I WANT to know about how I hurt people. I can’t make things right if I don’t know for sure what I did or who I hurt.

Former congregants who have contacted me have been, so far, children who grew up in the churches I pastored. Now adults, they too are trying to come to terms with the past. In every instance, they accepted my apology and forgave me. They also told me that I was being too hard on myself, that no one forced their parents to attend one of the churches I pastored. They willingly became members, believing as I did that my preaching was powered by God, the Holy Spirit. Many of them just wanted someone to tell them what to believe or how to live their lives, and, being a good Baptist pastor, I was quite willing to fill this need. After all, this is exactly what my pastors, churches, and college professors did for me, shaping me into a man who would then take their teachings and harm several more generation of people.

While I find Beltz’s words hurtful, I bear them because I know how harmful my preaching, way of ministry, and demands for conformity were to people such as he. I don’t run or try to hide from my past. Anyone who wants to contact me can send me an email via the contact form. I respond to every email, though I can be somewhat slow in doing so. Health problems often keep me from being as timely as I would like to be, but I do answer every email sent to me.

Now, it is possible that Beltz is just a troll. Several commenters over the years have said they knew me or were members of one of the churches I pastored, only to be exposed as liars. One man went so far as to say that my whole story was a lie, that he knew people who lived in several of the areas I pastored, and none of them knew who I was.  In Beltz’s case, I am, until I know otherwise, giving him the benefit of the doubt. I hope he will contact me using a valid email address. I sincerely want to, as much as lies within me, right past wrongs. I hope Andrew will give me a chance to do so.

moreRead more by Bruce Gerencser

God is INTERESTED

~~~~~~~~

Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network member, Bruce Gerencser blogs at The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser He writes from the unique perspective of having been a pastor for many years and having seen it all in churches. His journey out of being a true believer and pastor has been an interesting and informative one.

Bruce Gerencser spent 25 years pastoring Independent Fundamental Baptist, Southern Baptist, and Christian Union churches in Ohio, Michigan, and Texas. Bruce attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. He is a writer and operates The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser blog. Bruce lives in NW Ohio with his wife of 35 years. They have six children, and eleven grandchildren.


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • RetroPam

    You’re a good soul, Bruce. I can see that from way out here.

  • gimpi1

    I’m guessing Troll, Bruce. I base this on his commenting on your appearance and making general “you’re awful” comments instead of actually talking about how your past preaching/stewardship caused harm. I’m guessing he actually considers himself a Christian and he sees himself as lashing out at a traitor.

    I advise ignoring him unless he provides better information and takes a more reasonable tone. Your past is the past, and you have been very courageous in looking honestly at the harm you may have caused. It’s a good thing to try to mitigate any harm you may have caused in the past, but you have no need to feel guilt or shame. You did what you believed was right, and when you learned better, you changed your actions. That’s honest. That’s brave. That’s honorable. Don’t let some troll upset you.

  • Pen Guin

    Someone hurt him, but it wasn’t you.

  • Thank you, everyone for the kind words. The man who left the comment hasn’t returned to my blog since he left it.

  • Nightshade

    You’ve acknowledged that you were wrong, apologized, and are willing to do what you can to help those who were hurt. That’s more than the leaders who stay in QF/P do, and you’ve earned my respect for it.

  • Rebecca

    Bruce, I have to weigh in . You did the best you knew to do at the time, and have tried to make things right as your views matured and changed. We’re growing all the time. None of us can alter the past. We can only go forward. learn from our mistakes, and create a better future.

    There is no thinking person alive who has not made mistakes, and today would have done things at least somewhat differently. We’re in trouble, IMO, when we believed we have always led a perfect life, and never have needed to change course or to ask for forgiveness.

    Also, speaking as a Christian believer, and this is where we will differ…I’m grateful to the people who first shared with me Christian faith as a young person. Some of them were progressive Lutherans. Others were fundamentalists. My convictions have evolved over time. We have to learn to “eat the fish, and spit out the bones,” so to speak. I’m not trying to excuse spiritual abuse, or to take this lightly. But, at the same time, it’s easy to be the perpetual victim, and not realize the part we all played in accepting some teaching or another.

    I think holding on, and marinating in bitterness and anger are among the most destructive life choices anyone can make.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    I do not get the sense that Bruce is ‘bitter’ or ‘angry’ so I’m hoping you are merely referring to his troll.

  • Rebecca

    Suzanne, I’m primarily responding concerning the comments left by the apparent troll, but also sharing in general. I think it can be easy for all of us, including myself here, depending on the circumstances to fall into this destructive trap.