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“Gospel” “Fellowship” Association

For the time being, Chuck Phelps is off the Bob Jones University Co-operating Board according to an announcement made on December 2, 2011. Keep watching because he might slip back on come May. I hope BJU will not schedule him to teach Pastoral Ethics again, although his practice does aptly fit their stated views.

He’s still on the WILDS board and he’s still on the Gospel Fellowship Association board. Though Phelps claims those two organizations are not affiliated with BJU (“Honesty is the Only Policy,” for Phelps), we all know better. We all know they are intimately connected. We know that GFA owns WMUU, the WMUU radio tower, and UMA’s building, and both BJU and GFA share administrators. And we know that BJU sees GFA as one tax-exempt arm of itself. As for the WILDS, I have the BJU Board meeting minutes where the idea of the WILDS was first mentioned in May 1967. This is just priceless.

Now the WILDS and GFA do not receive federal funds, so they are a little different from BJU. They do, however, involve oversight of minors, and Chuck Phelps has already unapologetically proven that he has very poor judgment in shepherding minors. If the WILDS and GFA are wise, they’ll “force” Phelps out like BJU did–whatever it was they did behind the scenes.

But back to GFA. . . . When I’ve brought up his GFA board membership, most BJU alumni say, “Meh. What difference does that make? GFA has no influence outside of Greenville. It’s irrelevant.”

And that, I would argue, is an incorrect assumption. If you go to a church pastored by a BJU-grad who still maintains a tight connection with “The University,” as we are taught to refer to it in our undergraduate years, you need to beware.

What do we know about GFA? We know that before Bob Jones College existed there were “Young People’s Fellowship Clubs” which were organized by Monroe Parker. We know that in 1940, it became “Gospel Fellowship Association.” We know that this “association” ordained freshly-minted grads and planted churches for them–ask those WW2-generation BJU ‘preacher boys’ who ordained them! And I know that, up until 2008, every church I’ve attended was one of these GFA-plants except for one.

Now there’s a little bit more to the story. BJU/GFA paid the first-year’s salary for those new pastors. That’s not that unusual. Lots of denominations do that.

Oops! Did I say “denominations“? Yikes! I meant, Fellowships.

Anyway, lots of denominational fellowship association alliances pay the pastor’s initial salary while the church is taking off. That’s normal. What they don’t do . . . is this:

Article III–Associations

This Church shall be an independent, autonomous church, subject only to Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church. There shall be no co-operation with any group that permits the presence of apostates or apostasy. Should this Church ever become organically joined or in any way identified as part of a denomination or association of churches, that part of the pastor’s salary, of four thousand dollars ($4,000.00), received from Bob Jones University, for the first year must be returned to Bob Jones University plus six Percent (6%) interest compounded yearly on the amount received.

Note: the Church was planted with this help from Bob Jones University, from which Pastor S_______ graduated. The University gave this help with three stipulations: (1. That Pastor S_______ spend full-time the first year getting the church planted, (2. That the Church baptize by immersion, as immersion is accepted by all churches, and (3. That the Church always be an independent, autonomous church. These three stipulations of the University Church Planting Program were already the convictions of Pastor S_______, founder of ________ Independent Baptist Church.

Pastor S_______? Did you miss the oxymoronic quality to your “independent” church? It’s not independent. It’s not denominational. You might could call it fellowshipinal. But you might just call it indenture.

Because that pastor–fresh out of undergrad–is signing away his life. Did you see that contract? Granted, it’s not enforceable in any court of law, but the kid wouldn’t know that! Pastor S_______, in this case, if he were to conflict with BJU, would owe them that first year’s salary compounded annually for the rest of his life. I did the math, and presently–if Pastor S_______ were to drop the word “Baptist,” for instance, from his church’s name–he would owe BJU $34,544.35. BJU can’t even sue for that money legally, but they can threaten.

And pastors don’t usually have that kind of money lying around.

So the pastors stay. Some retire early and permanently and close their church or rename it and move it up the road where BJU won’t find it. That’s why so many BJU church plants don’t endure. In those which do continue–and you know them. You know the “big BOJ churches” in your area–the pastors clench down on their people and bully them to please the Head Honcho when he comes around every few years to check on his investment.

“Meh,” you say. “So what? Every pastor does this. Every church. This isn’t new here. Nothing to see. Move along, folks.”

Oh? Let me show you what it’s like. Let me show you what life in S_______’s church is like. These documents are from the 1980s, but Pastor S_______ has passed them around willy-nilly so that even I have a copy. My sources wish to remain anonymous, and they asked me to black out the identifiers in these documents. So don’t investigate too deeply. This could be any BJU/GFA planted church. Anywhere. At any time. This is what’s considered normal in the indentured life of a BJU-sanctioned pastor. And in the life of a regular layperson who unwittingly attends.

Go look. Go look at your church’s constitution–all versions. Does it mention BJU, even obliquely (most are much more subtle than Pastor S_______)? If it does, get out. Because you and yours are at risk just like the student in those documents above who simply dared to disagree with BJU at his home church. His parents were hassled all over town for disagreeing with the pastor about the new popcorn ceilings, but that’s one thing, as ridiculous as it is. The fact that it carried over 800 miles away to a BJU student’s daily life? . . . that’s not okay.

I have other records documenting that in June 1954, Senator Strom Thurmond, at Bob Jones Sr.’s request, “checked up” on a BJU student in New York City over summer vacation for seeming to agree with Ted Mercer. A senator.

This is creepy, folks. Really creepy. And that “oversight” is what the “Gospel” “Fellowship” Association manages.

24 thoughts on ““Gospel” “Fellowship” Association

  1. That last bit, on page 42, is quite telling. Their ace card: “If Bob Jones University is wrong/if Dr. Jones III is wrong/then Dr. Otis Holmes is wrong”.

    Solved! ::brushing dust off hands::

    because we ALL know that cannot happen.

    1. Which conjures up the image of Prince Humperdink of The Princess Bride.
      “If I am wrong… and I am never wrong.”

  2. “Some retire early and permanently and close their church or rename it and move it up the road where BJU won’t find it.” My God, what we have here, is “a church or churches in a gilded cage” that need to hide from the Big Guy when they want be free and fly! When and if he ‘wants his pound of flesh! ‘Gimme back my damn money, or else.’ This has to be a lot worse than the money changers!’They’ just wanted to cheat the people on their change. BJU Big guys, have always wanted to block and prevent personal change and change of any church in their orbit’s direction. “follow US, do whatever WE say, or else. . Because any change would mean ‘a loss of control’ over the churches that ‘change.’ So that first year salary, really ‘isn’t’ a real gift after all, is it? Because ‘there’s a very sharp hook ‘called religious bondage and control’ ( control, control, control. Because the Big Man wants your soul! ) at the end of that nice tasty bait! Whooooaaaa! I think I smell a rat. And that rat is stinky ugly RELIGION. And what it does to people God made to be good, but turn out to be controlled by something that is very bad bad instead, because they’re being controlled ‘by the fear of man.’ “Creepy”! Camille, You could not have used ‘a better word’ to describe this long distance intimidation! Sounds so much like ‘communism’ that maybe we need to add ‘communism of the mind’ to what we understand about religious cult ism! Checking up on a person’s opinions hundereds of miles away? WHO do these religious creeps think they are? Easy answer: GOD! EEEEKS! And people let that religious nincompoop get away with it? It’s time for a freedom revolution folks. We already have ‘the occupation wall street movement’ Now in winter recess. Now we need a ‘Restore Freedom Revolution.” One that crosses all town, village , city and state borders. and everybody says AMEN.

  3. Camille, ‘indenture’, that’s so right on. Perpetual Preacher Boy Employee of BJU would speak to that as well. ‘We’ train you, ‘we’ employ you, ‘you’ work for ‘us.’ And ‘don’t’ you forget it! Oh my do I look forward to hearing more and more ‘indentured BJU slave church plants’ leaving the BJU Orbit! Can’t you just hear the freedom cries of gratitude to God who sets them free from the BJU religious imprisonment of people’ minds?? YES!
    “Set my spirit free that I may worship thee. Set my spirit free that I might praise your name. Let all bondage go, and let deliverance flow. Set my spirit free to worship thee.”And everybody says, AMEN!

  4. This is almost laughably awful. Sadly though I think the idea of church independence is almost a myth.

    And I think it’s better to have those commitments clear cut (like PCA, or EFCA for example) than to pretend that a “fellowship” or “association” doesn’t have really important connections sometimes more powerful than a denomination.

  5. I always found the IFB cult sects, typically headquartered around a college/university, to be anything but independent. This is a fantastic example of where the co-dependence extends way beyond emotional ties. On a related but separate matter, I was a student in the early 1990’s when Southside Baptist Church was blacklisted by the University. I was forced to cut off all connections with that church as it was my Sunday evening church of choice at the time. I always wondered in the case of Southside and other such examples, what was the straw that broke the camel’s back. What pushed BJ III over the edge to blacklist an entire congregation and threaten expulsion or termination to anyone in the University who kept a connection. What were they really afraid of?

    1. You caught that too, huh? I . . . I’m just a little mystified by that. You know what happened? From the letters I’ve seen, BJU was “advised” by lawyers to “distance” themselves from Southside because Southside admitted a married interracial couple into membership. So the BJU employees who were also staffed at Southside received a pink slip POOF! in their BJU PO the next day. Total surprise. Beth’s dad, Wayne Golson, was one of those fired.

      I don’t know if the firing came before or after this kerfuffle with the student up there — where he proclaimed that “a church in Greenville” had admitted an “interracial couple” into “membership” as one of the inconsistencies with BJU. Which came first — the student’s public statement or firing? I don’t know. In time, I’ll discover that.

      If the student’s proclamation of the inconsistency came *before* the firing? If his noticing BJU’s hypocrisy caused them to lash out at their own (which I suspect, but I’m not sure yet)? . . . it’s worse than I had known.

      And that happens over and over and over and over. The facts are always worse than I knew.

      I also know that Southside was in the grey “middle” between freedom and BJU-approval for a long, long time before the final break. I don’t know the nature of that yet. Walt Handford, John R. Rice’s son-in-law, was the pastor, and I had an outsider tell me recently that Handford claimed that Southside’s final break was the happiest relief ever for him. It was nice to hear, actually.

      I drove by Southside today. God’s blessing them!!

      1. Praise God another one ‘escaped’ the BJU orbit! Some members must have sadly lost some friends no doubt. But an entire congregation gained ‘sweet freedom’. And God is Blessing them too! “When a congregation ‘wants to grow’, someone ( BJ ) and a certain place ( BJU ‘s) has ‘got to go.’ ” they escaped from BJU, once they found real Grace was TRUE.

      2. If you want a truthful understanding of the Southside/BJU relationship, it would be a mistake to assume that it is all black and white. While BJU’s approach deserves criticism, Southside was by no means without fault. During the 90’s Southside experienced numerous problems, many self-inflicted. Grace was frequently talked about but not always practiced in the changes that were made.

        Also, it is possible for a church to have a close relationship with BJU and also richly experience and practice the grace of God. That has been our experience at Heritage Bible Church, and BJU’s influence had a role in that. For the sake of my family I wish we had come much sooner.

          1. Camille,

            I could not get the links to work, but I had already very carefully read the documents that you referenced. Grant’s email of 8-17-07 especially impressed me in its measured tone and generous, irenic spirit. Of the many things he said there was only one with which I really disagreed. But Grant raised legitimate criticisms of BJU in a constructive way. In short, his letter was a model of reason and restraint.

            Having had a very difficult experience leaving a church that I loved, I do not want to trivialize your experience. I take seriously your claim that Pastor Brooks spiritually abused you and by implication, others. If you are right, then I am morally responsible to respond, either by protesting and asking that the abuse stop, or by leaving Heritage. I cannot and would not ignore it even if it does not directly affect me. So I am trying to make sense of your claim.

            Based on the information that you have provided, here are two reasons that I disagree. In comparing Pastor Brooks’ emails to Grant’s and later comments about them, I noticed that you and Grant often responded to Pastor Brooks’ statements in ways that were either factually untrue or that colored his comments so as to misrepresent his clear intentions. For example, in Grant’s post explaining why you left Heritage, he misquoted Pastor Brooks on a key point. The misquote distorted Pastor Brooks’ meaning and gives a false impression of harshness.

            Having been on the receiving end of pastoral rebuke, I can identify in a small way with how you and Grant felt when you received Pastor Brooks’ email of 10-17-07. I know this is old news and that a lot of water has passed over the dam. But this topic has been kept alive, so I will tell you why Grant’s response seems relevant.

            I was painfully disappointed when I read this in the first line of Grant’s reply: “Whether you’re right or wrong — I’m not saying either at this point….” With that Grant swept aside legitimate reasons and concerns that Pastor raised. To my knowledge, the concerns have never received a straightforward response. It’s like the shoe that never dropped, only in this case, the shoe was caught in mid-air and is still held on to. From my perspective, this unresolved issue represents not only an inexplicably broken relationship but also crucial unresolved issues that are very relevant to the topic of spiritual abuse, how Christians handle disagreements and other important matters.

            I do not stand in judgment of you or Grant. I pray that this reply will be received in the spirit in which it is given—with humility. Thank you for reading it.

  6. Camille, I don’t have exact proof but I had various conversations with the staff at Southside between 1991 and 1993 and I recall that the staff firings were more recent than the letters from 1980 you are referencing. You could go back through some yearbooks and look at what years (X Staff – I can give you names offline) stopped showing up in the BJU yearbook.

    Your description of the “grey middle years” is accurate. Obviously, I came along towards the end of the grey middle years and was regularly harassed in the dorms for attending Southside before it was blacklisted. I was even demoted from a PC to an APC for having “neo evangelical tendencies” except that they messed up in the discipline committee database and the demotion never went through. When I came back to campus in the fall, I remained a PC and slipped through the cracks.

    Among many things, one interesting point to me in the whole inter-racial tension between BJU and Southside was that the issue repeated itself in another part of the country in the mid-1980’s. Except BJU took a different position than what had happened a few years earlier at Southside.

    An inter-racial couple in my California IFB church moved to a BJU church (will remain nameless for now) in Colorado. While I grew up IFB, my church was not under BJU’s domination. My understanding was that when the couple applied for membership in their new BJU IFB church, the pastor had to get permission from the University to admit the couple as members. Apparently, in that case, the University didn’t block it and the couple stayed there for a few years in that church before moving back to California. I always wondered why the University would take a harsher stance in Greenville and another stance in Colorado, always in every case with Scripture to back them up.

    1. Huh. Really! Huh. . . . How bizarre. Isn’t that bizarre? I think that’s totally bizarre.

      When I get to the 80s, I’ll track it all down. What I can, at least.


      1. Camille you have got to be the most brilliant ‘detective’ around! I think it’s wonderful how you go looking for the details’ in the archives, at the ‘times’ things happened,the ‘symptoms’ and undermining ‘effects’ on people’s lives. When you do that, it really paints a picture for your bloggers and newcomers to look and see things in a certain, different light, that they may have never thought of before. Planting seeds such as these with your brilliant detective work, is a powerful spiritual tool that the Holy spirit can use to help people ‘start thinking’ down a different path of thinking, that they have ‘never’ gone down before. And I think it’s wonderful. No wonder you’re such a danger to ‘them.’ That culture that does not want to be exposed. I am concerned about the harassment ,attacks and threats that come from ‘them.’ But you do seem to be holding up. Grant must be so proud of you! I can almost imagine your grandparents in Heaven saying:”That’s our Camille!” Any way, keep up the good work. And everybody says AMEN!.

    2. When BJU can control people’s social lives, and church relationships,by the ever present threats of , ostracisation if they dissent or p— off any the religious brass, that’s unpleasant enough. As that awful feeling and experience of worrying about people who might ‘stop talking to you’ because ‘someone’ tells them to ignore you! That’s bad enough. But when the long arm of religious bullying, extends to hard working church members’ pocket books and budgets, right to their employment, ‘that’s’ getting right at people’s ability to support themselves and their family ,if they have one. It’s so mean, so cruel, so intimidating. How such unchristian behavior can actually be fuelled by such mindless pettiness that the Pharisees in Jesus day would have a hard time matching. 2000 years after the Pharisees, they’re still around, spooking the sheep, and threatening them with ‘pastor bites!’ Don’t we get tired of this? This stirs me up to want to help people be set free from all of this religious crap all the more. I wonder if we should all collaborate on a ‘how to book’, a manual explaining easy steps to follow, to get your church blacklisted by BJU! An easy fool proof way ,for your church to be set free from the BJU religious Orbit, free to pursue God as the Good shepherd leads your church to? I know this sounds funny, but I am actually quite serious about it. Have been enjoying myself thinking about this all day. Wouldn’t it be a hoot to write it? Wouldn’t it be a joy to actually see it ‘work’!

  7. Camille, I clicked on the Monroe Parker link, and took a peek at his book. I’m sure the man became a christian.I would not presume to question the man’s serious commitment of faith in God. But man oh man, the parts of the book that I read just ‘really pulled me down.’ The pages were ‘so d— negative’. Jesus Christ is filled with life. But all I felt from reading those pages was ‘slow death’ in religion! So sad that the kinds of places where people ‘get religion’,that that religion turns so many of them into religious robots. It breaks my heart. May God set them all free. ASAP. I just had to share this.

  8. Wow. I went to PCC, and we had whole chapel and student body messages about the BJU denomination. Dr Mullenix warned us so many times most of us just tuned him out. Seriously, we had required viewings, with whole org charts about the denomination thing, and most of us just rolled our eyes. But this… I don’t think the Drs Horton ever even dreamed of seeing something like this. Just… wow.

    1. Rich, isn’t it sad to see the aftermath of ‘the train-wreck’ in all the wreckage of what has gone wrong since for so long! I’m glad Camille has the courage to talk about it here. This all needs to be exposed. with continual exposure and pressure on the people who control this mess, maybe, just maybe, God will be able to use all this to eventually ‘dismantle it all’. as long as people follow these bad leaders, people will continue to empower them to do things God never told them to do. People have so much more power in their own lives, if they only knew that they had. Exercise their free will, vote with their feet and walk out. And find a loving accepting respecting edifying church where they can really start living and growing again as God intended. “Set my people free that they may worship me in Spirit and in Truth.’

  9. GFA is actually a mission board for missionaries. Having been through GFA myself with my family, it is more of a central office. Missionaries require money to live. They go around to different churches and solicit for all intents and purposes for money. That money is sent to GFA. GFA deposits that money into the international/ national bank account and voila. GFA is just a facilitator of operations. They help with travel plans, loans, living etc. Amazing God loving people. Don’t confuse them for some kind of organization that despises change. It is not a club for extra holy people. Speak about what you know. This I know intiamtely.

    1. There is nothing I’ve said here that I haven’t backed up with evidence. So yes, I am speaking about what I know. See above.

      There’s the truth as you want it to be and the truth as it is. I’ve gotten confirmation from insiders that I’m exactly correct here.

      1. Well said Camille. Whenever ‘truth’ becomes that which we ‘want’ it to be, for our own private needs and personal agendas, ‘we’re in trouble!’ Truth is truth. the real truth ‘never’ conflicts with reality.

    2. Well meaning people who really love God can ‘use circumstances and good people’ for all the wrong reasons. It’s a problem of ‘misguided-leadership’ gifting, and people wanting to ‘make things happen’, who get into the kind of thinking that, because they love God and believe in supporting church planting and missionaries etc., that, they could not possibly err in any way or do anything wrong. Money is a form of power. It can be used for good intentions and for wrong ones. It’s all in the heart motivations and the ‘real’ spiritual condition of the believer’s interior life. Churches and church organizations are a lot more than management offices for funneling money funds into places where money is needed. Churches and church organizations are about ‘people.’ And God cares about people. God loves people. God is a powerful God whose power is ‘for people’ to be loved, to be changed by Him, and to be empowered to live lives that are fulfilling, rewarding, and satisfying such as true fulfillment in being free to be who God created people to be. No one can be free with religious bozos breathing down their necks, controlling their pay checques, their church memberships , who they talk to and about what . ‘That’s’ not freedom. That’s ‘bondage’. If it looks like a duck, if it swims like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, it’s a duck! The fruit of the Spirit is self-control. NOT selfish control of other people’s lives. As long as people have a need to hide behind excuses, things like this will never change. Stop hiding. Stop denying. Stop making excuses for people. Stop covering up things people have been doing, that need to be exposed, brought out into the light, and corrected. As long as we continue to make excuses for other people other people ‘will never change.’ And ‘we’ will be a part of the problem. Come out into the light yourself, and enjoy the true sweet freedom of honesty. If any organization produces such bad fruit, such organizations’ beliefs attitudes, agendas and practices ‘need’ to be held to the light and scrutinized as suspect. There is such an epidemic of systemic weakness in the area of spiritual discernment in the churches. That it’s leaving God’s people weak, vulnerable, and too easy to be ‘scalped’ by the ‘religious sheep scalpers’, the wolves in sheep’s clothing. When people don’t even know the difference between morally wrong and unethical behavior and righteous obedient respectful behavior anymore, people don’t know the difference between sin and Grace. We need to heed the warnings that things are not right in the churches. The sheep should be able to go to Church and be helped not harmed. One meaning of the word ‘respect’ is ‘to not interfere.’ There is so much interfernce in people’s lives that ‘that’ is basically ‘all’ these misguided pastors and leaders ‘do
      to people. Interfere with their lives. Hope this reaches your heart, mind and thinking. Because ‘you’re not’ dealing with reality.

  10. When Saul and Jonathan were killed in battle, David said, “Tell it not in Gath”. Whatever is true here or not true here…these things should not be told in Gath. There are hundreds of other forums which will reach the people you want to reach, besides the public internet.

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