Saturday, September 29, 2012

Exposing the IFB Movement: The Late Jack Hyles and the First Baptist Hammond Complex (part 1)

Author's note: This is the beginning of a series on the Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) movement. For more information about them, read my previous posts Fundamentally Toxic Christianity ( A response to a John Shore article by the same name), and my article about  the guilty plea of Jack Schaap. Also on the topic of fundamentalism is my post Fundamentalism and It's Impact on Children written about blogger Latebloomer's series on her upbringing.

Statements made or facts given about the IFB that do not reference a source come from my own personal experience with the IFB movement or the experiences of my family, especially my sister who was part of the IFB culture until about 3 years ago. In this series, I will talk about the ministers, institutions and churches that make up the IFB movement. I will talk about IFB ministers that are no longer living, such as in this post on Jack Hyles, because the IFB movement has high reverence for the leaders of the past, not only their lives and works, but also for their teachings.

To the casual observer of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, it would appear that the late Jack
Hyles was the founder of the church, that's at least how it seems from hearing church members talk about him, which they often can't stop doing. When I used to visit the church with my sister as a teen, not an hour would go by without someone giving a glowing review of his time as pastor. He did not start the church, but he led it from 1959 until his death in 2001. He took the church from 700 members to over 20,000, most of the converts are the result of a massive bus ministry that still runs from Hammond to a 50 mile radius around going into Northwest Indiana, Chicago/Cook County, and even as far as Joilet, Illinois. Constant proselytizing is also done, which they refer to as "soul winning".

The church is it's own neighborhood in Hammond, covering several blocks with an English speaking sanctuary, Spanish sanctuary, a deaf congregation, a book store, several large Sunday School buildings, and even a parking garage on the premises. There is also a system of schools that teach children from kindergarten to 12th grade, as well as their own college, Hyles-Anderson College, which my sister and her husband graduated from.

FBC Hammond is the unofficial headquarters for a major branch of the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement. The IFB is not a denomination in the traditional sense with a formal board or elected convention presiding, each congregation is in theory independent, hence the reason for the name, which is why I refer to it as a movement instead of a denomination. IFB churches instead are more of a loose network, drawing their inspiration from a main church or institution in their region. This headquarters church, which FBC Hammond is one of them, often host conferences such as women's conference, pastor's conferences, which are attended by members of affiliated churches. I will be writing about other IFB churches and institutions that act as headquarters and inspiration for other IFB branches, such as Bob Jones University, etc in future posts.

It's almost hard to figure out where to start when it comes to the problems of the IFB movement, and FBC Hammond in particular, but there are many. Rampant in the IFB movement are the treatment of women as second class citizens, harsh "discipline" both psychological and  physical of children, sexual abuse by ministers, and hypocrisy of leadership.

The Jack Hyles family and FBC Hammond are no strangers to scandal and cases of abuse. Jack Hyles daughter, Linda Hyles Murphey has recently come out about her upbringing, and escape from the IFB movement. In her now well known speech at this year's TED conference, she opens up about how her famous father had a long standing affair with the wife of a popular Sunday School teacher and neighbor all during her childhood and teen years.. It gets worse, this article, Isolated Incidents, lists all the more notorious staff members of FBC Hammond, graduates of Hyles-Anderson, and even Jack Hyles son, David. The list includes David Hyles, Jack's son who took the 5th when local authorities tried to force him to testify about the death of his stepson, and A.V Bollinger, a deacon who has convicted of child molestation, then after his conviction was honored from the pulpit and given a standing ovation for his work with bus ministry. That's right, he was honored after his conviction, not before. Apparently the fact that he molested young boys from the church doesn't matter to them, what does is that he was successful in bringing more people in the congregation. More recently, Jack Hyle's son in law, Jack Schaap, pleaded guilty to federal sexual abuse charges because he molested a 16 year old follower who had come to him for counseling for previous sexual abuse.

(Continued in part 2)

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