My name is Jeff Smith. My father, now a retired pastor, attended Hyles-Anderson and 1st baptist Hammond circa 1975-1976 to complete a master's degree. I was 4 years of age at the time. I remember some aspects of that time. To this day, I will occasionally have dreams of the church building and feeling afraid (in the dream). My father stayed faithful to Christ and this led to sanctification out of legalism into Christ-centered grace. He began Fellowship Bible Church of San Antonio in the mid 1980s. I am thankful that in Christ He redeems, restores and reconciles. We now complete water projects in remote villages in the 3rd world. In these areas, many are exposed to gospels of legalism. God has given us a unique perspective on this from our past (what legalism looks like and feels) and who we are in Him and how we can present Christ as the Living Water and His Gospel of Grace. I found your website linked in a news article. I will read your story and further rejoice in Christ and how He has ransomed, redeemed, restored and reconciled you to Him and others and the past. I cannot get enough of stories of how Christ transforms people by His grace even for those, like you, who - for prolonged seasons - may be in dark, oppressive places. Thank you for sharing your story. To God be the glory.
What a kind message, Jeff. Thank you. I attended Fellowship Bible Church in Plano, TX, for many years and later Fellowship Bible in Dallas. Both were wonderful.
Thank you for reaching out with your words of encouragement and inspiration.
I read your responses to some posts. God gave you a wise counselor. In our water projects, many people are driven from the church as they are often shouted-at, exposed to bizarre legalism, etc. We have learned too we must incarnate Grace first and then be careful to not preach. You and you counselor have been an encouragement today! Jude 24,25
Hello Linda. Thank you for embracing courage and allowing God to heal and transform you into the spokesperson you are. I know it has been a long road for you with many hills and valleys. Watching your video and reading your letter to FBC has helped lay to rest the residue of conflicts produced by my exposure to fundamentalism.
When I was a child my family attended a small independent Baptist church. Thankfully, I received a good biblical education on which I rest today. We were exposed to the fundamentalist movement via evangelistic meetings and publications such as the Sword of the Lord and the Branding Iron.
The summer before my freshman year in college (It was a state university, for which I was chastised from the pulpit in not so many words), Dad took the family to the Bill Rice Ranch for a week of camp. I remember some of it was fun and I didn't feel so out of place wearing skirts and culottes (yuck). I listened to Jack Hyles give his classic "Fresh Oil" sermon and remember thinking "well, our pastor sure needs to hear that one!". :-)
At one church we attended the ladies decided it would be great to attend the "Christian Womanhood Spectacular" at FBC in Hammond. Mom returned distressed and offended at how the ladies were treated. I didn't pay her much mind because I was pretty young then.
Some years later, I decided to attend the same conference with some of my friends. The speaker who emanated love was sweet Lloys Rice, and hearing her speak made the trip worthwhile.
One woman speaker told us we were dumb because we had no idea what all the women staff went through to put the conference together. People moved our coats and stole our seats while were in the restroom. Then for the lunch break we were herded into rooms without any chairs and given KFC in a box by nervous clean cut young men who made no eye contact with any of us.
The one male speaker was none other than Jack Hyles who told us in veiled rhetoric that if a woman failed to gain pleasure from lovemaking it was because she was not submissive enough.
I was in my mid-20's then and in an emotionally abusive marriage (I married him because he was not like the chauvinistic fundie guys, go figure). I knew in my gut that Jack Hyles was off center and I just didn't listen. But I observed how many of those ladies hung on every word of every speaker like they couldn't figure out what to do on their own. There was no joy, just a lot of crying and self-flagellation. I just didn't get it. I didn't know anything about "cults" in those days so I didn't put it all together until many years later.
I came across the "Stuff Fundies Like" weblog recently and that's how I found out, sadly, about the troubles in some of the IFB churches and found the link to your video. I think back at how I, my parents and others had respected and drawn on the teachings of the fundamentalist "pantheon". I came to realize later that they did not have the corner on the gospel or an exclusive on true teaching.
Thank you again for being candid and putting into words what so many of us have been feeling all these years.
I pray and wish for you many happy years of peace and fulfillment as you enlighten and lead souls "from cult to courage".
Linda, I don't know you personally, but I do know about your heartache. I read your "Open letter" with great carefulness and my heart was made to feel some of the pain expressed by you in it. I was your sister Cindy's sixth grade German teacher at Lanier School in Munster and I have known some of the people there at FBC. I had lunch a couple times with one of the vice presidents of HA College when I used to have a business in Munster. (Now I'm back to teaching.)
Probably everyone that lives in this area has heard of FBC in one way or another, but you have given a perspective of what was going on there that is very little known.
Linda, from what you have said, it appears that you do make a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ in spite of the bitter experiences you endured in the past. I want to encourage you to build on the faith which you have professed. The way to Heaven is the way of suffering, suffering for Jesus' sake. "The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:18). "But the God of all grace who has called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, "But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you" (I Pet. 5:10). Just think how that every person who was approved of God in the Scriptural record was also called upon to endure sufferings, and very often suffering brought on by the religious leaders (the ones from whom it might be least expected).. No suffering is pleasant, and no suffering is sought after, but nevertheless, to suffer for Jesus' sake, and to know it is for His sake, is very precious. Suffering for Jesus perfects us and readies us for Heaven. "And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us" (Rom 5:3-5).
I write these things to you as one who has tasted of suffering, but also to encourage you. There is "everlasting consolation and good hope through grace" laid up for those who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, and are continuing in the faith. But this blessedness is reserved for those who have passed through the vale of suffering. "If we suffer (with Him), we shall also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will also deny us."
The sufferings of Christ are exceeding precious to consider, but especially as we are called upon to suffer with Him.
I won't be lengthy, but felt I had to comment. The people who worked in the ministries of FBC and attended church there were not zombies. Many of the people were genuine, sincere Christians who NEVER worshiped your father, but loved him because what he had the courage to teach and preach was from the Bible. The IFB positions are the right positions when they are from the Bible!! When the man(men) who lead get extrabiblical they get into trouble. Your father was no exception. When he got extrabiblical and didn't follow his own advice that he gave to others he reaped the consequences. I left FBC and the ministry when in a private conversation he could not or did not want to answer 2 simple questions. I have the same standards and convictions today that I had then. I am part of a good church today that preaches and teaches the Word of God like your dad did in his heyday. We raised our children by the Biblical concepts that I learned from my own parents and heard and saw reinforced by Jack Hyles. All of our children have embraced IFB positions because they are Biblical positions and we rejoice in that. Many of "us" never saw your father as some sort of "god". We rejoiced because he took a courageous stand and were saddened when he set about trying to protect his kingdom. It is obvious that most of the critics have taken the problems(sins) of FBC and used them as an excuse to blame them because they(the critics) can't or don't want to live like Biblical(IFB) Christians. I don't care if every Baptist pastor, preacher, evangelist, etc. goes off the deep end, I am going to believe and live like the 1st century Christians did because it is right!! It seems as if you have had every chance to live for God and now have found every excuse to reject what is good because of the mistakes and yes, the sins of others. I have never worshiped any man and never will, because Jesus Christ is the only one who deserves that honor! The world that we live in needs Christians who will stand up and standout for Him, not make excuses and water down the way we live and act because we experienced some difficult time in life.
Thank you for respectfully sharing your honest opinion, which you are certainly entitled to, Greg. While I may not agree with everything you said, I can understand and appreciate your perspective. I also agreed with a couple of your points.
I want to make it clear that your assumption that I "...have had every chance to live for God and now have found every excuse to reject what is good..." is inaccurate. I have never rejected God and never will.
Thanks again for your opinion.
Linda, the more I read from the guest book the more I realize how my life was adversely affected by the rigid fundamentalism to which I was exposed, which is why I want to respond to the sentiments Mr. Weber expressed.
One trait of a cult is that in order for it to be born, survive and even flourish, it must provide a certain amount of truth and meet some need. It is possible to learn truth in such a setting while all the time being manipulated and brainwashed. One side of the coin is the power-corrupted cult leader, the other side is the adult devotee who, being human, has a certain need or hunger to declare loyalty to a hero and a desire to be dependent---the perfect prescription for the convoluted ambiguous phenomenon that is a cult. Any red flags will be obscured by fear of being labeled as disloyal or "oh but he teaches the truth the only right way" or "the devil is always attacking men of God".....etc.
So, when the hero's corruption is exposed, the devotee is faced with a dilemma. Does one reject the whole package including the truthful parts or dig one's heels in and and be the loyal devotee no matter what, being convinced that leader is the only reliable source of truth? How does a person dissect out the good from the bad without destroying the only social structure they have ever known? And it goes on and on...
A friend and I were discussing a similar issue and he asked, "if you mix a solution that is 95% water and only 5% poison, is it safe to drink?" Good question. I believe that is why Paul admonished us to "study to show yourself approved...." and David devoted an entire Psalm (119) to the importance of meditation on the Word. Personal responsibility in hiding God's Word in one's heart is a necessary protection from polluted truth and is the source of courage to leave a toxic environment.
For all of my childhood and part of my adult life I was isolated from so many other genuine Christians who happened not to be "fundamental independent Baptists" and missed out on much joy, communion and spiritual growth that I believe the Lord wanted me to have. Thankfully, by God's grace and the patience of many friends, I began to wake up and get free of those counterproductive constraints. I'm still a work in progress and despite what I'm sure some will think, I'm still saved. Thank you, Linda, for holding up the light.
inda, I read your open letter and the first chapter of your book. I wasn't a student in FBC high school or FAC, however, I was a follower of your dad. We were taught by Tom Neal to worship preachers and I was a great student. I sent my daughter to HAC in '84 and my son in '86. My daughter appeared to be happy there but came home a different person. My son didn't stay long and returned home. My problem is the guilt, as a parent, that I carry with me. The "preacher" made the rules and my children had to follow them. I was like a robot. My husband and I went to pastor's school several times and back then loved everything about it. Our eyes opened in '87 and we left our local church. I admire you for speaking out and it was in God's time that you did. Please don't feel guilty for waiting because it happened exactly as God wanted. I pray for you often and ask God's blessing, peace and protection on you. God bless you!
Jack Hyles taught me a valuable lesson- I owe him a big thanks for it- He taught me to search the Word of God and seek His wisdom. Funny, Bro Hyles taught me this in every sermon, especially in my high school years. Please understand I learned it as I listened closely to the sermons and things just didn't sound right.....truth with some hylesology always being the majority of the sermon. God guarded my heart and instead of walking away I walked toward...toward God not a man. Through those times of searching for the Truth in the midst of the lies, I found my Hope that I cling to-even to this day. The IFB movement developed a cancer that has spread like a fire - so many (not all) promote good doctrine gone bad because of attached man made standards. This always causes problems such as the ones that so many IFB churches face today. I have a lot of respect for Greg Weber but we can never follow a "movement" - Linda, I know the hurt you have endured, but I know that we only know in part - because we didn't live in the Hyles house. I think you have been very gracious, especially in your letter to the FBC crowd, many of whom I still dearly love. I hear mercy and grace in your tone and it is because that is what is in your heart. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. I have an abundance of respect for you
Thank you so much for sharing your story. It has helped me tremendously. I was a victim of abuse by extremist in Longview, Texas (You might be familiar with who I'm speaking of. The fellow that lead that church was your father's number one fan). You, as a young woman, breaking away from that environment shows so much bravery and determination. As a young man it has been very difficult for me to recover. You have certainly helped me and encouraged me greatly by simply sharing your story. The world needs more people like you that will be brave and just take the freedom to be free!
I was at HAC the same time you were a student there.....I am so sorry for all the pain you experienced.....you know I remember sitting in class with you once and thinking that you had the saddest eyes.....I am happy for you and rejoice that you have taken this experience and turned it into something so good. I have often wondered how many graduates from there have experienced divorce....it would be a large number I am sure......I would be among those numbers.......again, thank you for your courage.....I will continue to pray for you.
You are a very brave woman. I was at Miller Road Baptist Church in Garland during Dave's pastorship. It sickened me to see the hypocricy so evident in Dave's life and in his father's life. The control was intense. I admire your courage to speak out for truth and freedom.
Just read chapter 4. You are truly courageous for speaking out. I owe you a debt of gratitude for your willingness to tell the truth -- a debt of gratitude, because you have validated to me that I was not imagining these things to be true or that I was just gullible in believing the gossip that was going around. It was preached over and over that if you did not agree with everything going on at FBC or you "gossiped" you were "disgruntled" and had a "poor spirit." I was a FBC member when your dad came to be the pastor. I was sucked in at first. I thought my church was the greatest church in the world and my pastor was the greatest pastor in the world - to the point of being arrogant and prideful that we had a "corner" on the truth.
I remember when the "rumors" first started that the preacher and JN were having an affair. I didn't want to believe it at first and convinced myself that no one could stand behind the pulpit and declare the Bible to be God's Word and then be doing that. Probably because my personal experience growing up in a Christian home was that my mom and dad were the same at home, at church or wherever they went. I saw absolutely no hypocrisy in their lives. Of course, they had their disagreements, but I never heard them yelling at each other or verbally tearing one another down.
The stories you relate fit right into the timeline that I remember. I recall when your dad used to speak kindly of your mother from the pulpit. That suddenly stopped in about 1968 or 69, a couple years after I was married. I went to work on the church staff in the summer of 1967 (lasted six weeks). Shortly after that was the famous staff cruise. Then sometime in 1969 or 1970 was the famous Holy Land trip where people say the affair started. A year or so after that I recall when your dad asked a friend of mine to go over and clean your house because your mom had been out of town visiting her mother and he wanted the house clean when she got home. There were rumors about that visit to her mother also.
As years went, by I started seeing things and hearing things from the pulpit that I seriously questioned. One was the lie about and rich old man out west giving the $2.5 million for the college and your dad said he held the check in his hand and could not take it because it would deprive "his people" from the joy of giving. A few years later in a message your dad made the remark in a Sunday morning message (wish I had gotten the tape of that one) that it is so lonely at the top and how "you go to your people and tell them a rich old man out west gave the money and all the time you know in your heart that the rich old man is God." Yes, that's the direct quote. I remember because I was surprised he would admit he lied about it. The year the money for the college campus was due, he announced in the New Year's Eve service and called many important people across the country telling them a rich old man out west gave the money. But, he said he held the check in his hand and since when is God a rich old man out west.
Your mom may have seemed weak, but she may have been one of the strongest women in the world to take an ego pounding like you describe and then get up and sing in church the next morning.
I an enjoying the chapters of your book - not to get some sort of satisfaction from reading the dirt about your family, but because there have been times when I have wondered if I was the one who was crazy or I just had a bad attitude.
I hope and pray you continue to heal. I have fond memories of my Sunday School class you were in. I was not at my best then as I was going through difficult personal things - expecting a new baby, my husband not working steady and wondering how we would pay for the child, let alone feed it. God has been good to me and I pray His blessing on you.
Thank you for expressing this, Nancy. I'm glad you feel validated. Thousands of people were made to feel crazy and sinful for merely knowing what they knew. And you are correct - my mom was incredibly strong and also very sincere. She dearly loved the church people. She did what she thought God would want her to do...well, what she was told God would want her to do. And she did so with sincere motives and an incredible amount of strength that most people will never understand. She is one of the most beautiful people I know...both inside and out. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
I have never felt so relieved of anything I have ever seen, heard or read. I go to a church where the Pastor and most of the staff are HAC graduates. All are very wonderful people and very hard working. I think of many of them as family. My oldest son attended HAC and as far as a Bible College is concerned I thought it was a good school with many visits for as I called it, The Annual Pilgrimage to HAC and FBC. I always felt like I was a outsider on the visits. I felt it was cultish. My wife and I have had many verbal disagreements about it. I have always been the "bad guy" in those. My son was kicked out of college there and told he would never amount to anything. This was very disturbing that a Bible College would say that to a person. During all this, I was nominated for and accepted the position of Deacon. Big mistake. I was under the microscope and my family was so under the microscope that as a nurse in a Dr's office, my wife allowed them to convince her she was out of God's will for not wearing skirts or dresses all the time. I told my wife I did not agree with this decision and that I was not behind it. I was always taught that God was more concerned with the heart and not what you were wearing.
I, against better judgement allowed my precious daughter to attend HAC on the Jericho Plan. Big mistake. My daughter has seen many things go on up there that has really opened her eyes. She is not returning. She was on summer break for JS debacle that played out. Had I been man enough she would not have returned last year. My daughter has been made out to feel like an outcast ever since she has been there. This is not right. I have had many thoughts over the years since I stepped down from being a deacon. I used to be devout and devoted to attending and never missing a service. I see many of the same things you have mentioned and I am fearful of what may happen. There are little discrepancies that I see, I see the Pastor setting up a family dynasty, placing his own son on staff and in a position ahead of many senior staff members. Anyways I understand your message and it was very well received. I shared the video with my daughter and she couldn't believe how she had been in deep thought today and your video I sent her the link at precisely the right time.
I just wanted to thank you for your courage and I am here for you.
So SO grateful to have seen your Ted talk just the other day, and to have spent time on your site here. Without a doubt God's timing in my own process of healing. I have wondered out loud all through the years since HAC ('77-'81) how people have gotten from that "point A" to where they are now. Don't run across many of them. My husband, Joe, was once roommates with both JM and JS, as well as one of your dad's security guards. I have begun to experience some great healing in the last 10 years. I've had huge "dad"/pastor/men issues ,and though I haven't been in counselling, recognize the unmistakable fingerprints of a good Father God Who is wooing me to a safe place of who He really is, and who I am in Him. Though we did not know each other "back in the day", I am SO glad that right now, today, I have a "sister" with whom I can share, love, and be thankful for from over the years and across the miles. He continues the good work He's started in you. Thanks for your courage to run towards the roar. It encourages my heart as well.
Dear Sister Linda:
Your story reminds me a lot of my story. My Father pastored 3 Baptist churches part time. He lived one way at church and a different way at home. I can't help what my Father did, but I can help what I do. Jesus never hurt me, but several people have. I don't think for 1 moment that all Independent Baptists are like my Father or yours. That just simply is not true. I still love the Lord Jesus Christ with all my heart, and I'm still 100% Independent Baptist. God bless you.
David, first of all, I am so sorry that your childhood experience consisted of lies and being required to live a dichotomy. That is so difficult and confusing for a child.
I agree with you 100% - not ALL Independent Baptists are like what we grew up in and there are some good, solid IFB churches. I certainly would never state otherwise. However, hundreds of churches that "followed" my dad created mini-FBCs with a cultish mindset of man worship that was greater than or replaced God worship. Literally thousands of pastors mimicked my dad's leadership style and created similar scenarios in their homes and churches. Unfortunately, there are MANY IFB churches with pastors like our dads who lived two separate lives.
You're so right - we cannot help what happened to us, but we can choose how we respond to it and how we live our own lives. THAT is the good news in all this. We can choose a better path, a more honest and authentic path. It sounds like you have done just that.
Thank you for your kindness and for sharing. God bless you, David.
I attended HAC/FBC 1982-1986. Twenty eight years ago yet I still have nightmares. They are all the same, I am packing up my things in my dorm room to leave (because I now know the truth) but I keep finding more and more of my things and I can never get it all packed up. I can't leave until I do. I have this dream 2-3 times a month. When your Dad died I was so angry that I never had the courage to confront him to ask him why he put himself in such a position as he did over young, impressionable girls. We screamed over him like an arrival of a rock star. Yet, this was a "man of God?" He seductively took his jacket off on the stage and we would all scream. It wasn't until after I was married that my eyes were opened. This was a married man...allowing a room full of young girls to worship him. Not sure that I will ever find healing from those dreams but most importantly I treasure my relationship with God. No "man" of God required.
Sherri, those nightmares sound awful. Have you ever been to a therapist? I used to have horrendous nightmares, but I spent many years in therapy which helped rid me of the grip that the past had on my mind. We often think we HAVE rid our minds of the control - but that may be only on a conscious level. We can still carry the mind-control on a subconscious level. Therapy really helped me lessen the subconscious angst that plagued me. I needed to talk through it and do some exercises of letting go. I also needed to pray and rely on God to permeate my thinking and even my dreams. Healing is a process, so be patient with yourself, but if the nightmares continue, I strongly urge you to seek help. God bless you on your continued journey through healing, and thank you for reaching out.
I had no idea this site existed. Am so happy that it does. Thank you.
My father is Dr. Bill Pennell.
I would to chat with you at some time, Linda. I've escaped have also been discarded.
Stay well and stay blessed! Much love to you. :-)
Thank you for sharing. Although it may not be possible to respond to every post or email, please know every word submitted will be read.