Detroit station probes abuse, church link

1993-05-17T00:00:00Z Detroit station probes abuse, church linkDEBRA GRUSZECKI nwitimes.com
May 17, 1993 12:00 am  • 

HAMMOND - A Detroit television station is reporting that allegations of

child molesting, abuse and sex scandals in several churches across the nation

appear to be part of a pattern of such scandals among churches affiliated with

the First Baptist Church of Hammond.

WJBK-TV of Detroit is reporting about alleged molestings in seven churches

that the station said follow the teachings of fundamentalist minister Jack

Hyles, pastor of the Hammond church.

Hyles told The Times the allegations are not true.

The series also reports that "there are ex-believers in Jack Hyles' brand of

Christianity who say they fear the Indiana fundamentalist is running a cult

without a compound," according to transcripts of the broadcast sent to The

Times.

WJBK-TV investigator Vince Wade began the six-part broadcast series Sunday

night.

Hyles did not respond to inquiries by the CBS affiliate in Detroit for an

interview but discussed the reports with The Times on Saturday.

He said he believes any adult convicted of child molestation should be

subject to capital punishment and called allegations the church is a cult

"absurd."

"At no time have I tolerated, condoned or encouraged any form of child

molestation," he said. "I abhor it, preach against it, and think that only the

lowest form of a person would ever think of indulging in such a hideous act."

Wade spent time in Lake County to observe the trial of A.V. Ballenger, a

First Baptist Church of Hammond deacon convicted March 26 of fondling a

7-year-old girl during a Sunday School session June 2, 1991.

The news investigation was triggered by alleged child molestings at North

Sharon Baptist of Washtenaw County, Mich., a country church pastored by

graduates of First Baptist of Hammond's affiliate school, Hyles Anderson

College in Schererville.

Voyle Glover, a Schererville lawyer and ex-follower of First Baptist of

Hammond who was interviewed for the series, told The Times he believes it will

show a "side of Hyles' brand of fundamentalism that even his damage control

couldn't keep hidden."

Transcripts indicate the WJBK's news series will allege that:

* Like the First Baptist Church of Hammond, churches with ties to the

Hammond church and its pastor in Washtenaw County, Mich., San Diego,

Petersburg, Va., Anniston, Ala., Munro, La., and Beaumont, Texas, have been

rocked in the last 10 years by charges of child molesting.

Michigan authorities confirmed Friday that the FBI has been asked to join an

investigation revolving around North Sharon Baptist Church in which children

have alleged sexual assaults by an associate pastor, the Rev. Timothy Leonard,

and bus driver Mark Foeller. The children also told investigators about trips

to Lake County for events sponsored by First Baptist Church of Hammond.

Assistant Washtenaw County Prosecutor Julia Owdziej said, "We're trying to

get an investigation in Indiana under way."

The Associated Press reported Sunday night that Foeller's lawyer, Brian

Thiede, said, "There is no link between Hyles and the allegations at North

Sheridan."

When Foeller was arrested, police confiscated a Bible signed by Hyles,

according to WJBK.

Thiede noted that the Ballenger allegations involved one person out of

30,000 that he said attend the church each Sunday.

"To my knowledge Jack Hyles has just an impeccable record and reputation,"

he told the AP.

All charges against Leonard were dropped because alleged victims were too

young to testify. However, prosecutors have said their investigation is

continuing. Foeller is awaiting trial on multiple counts of child sexual

assault.

Earl Reeves, reported by the station to be a protege of Hyles and pastor of

Lighthouse Baptist Temple of San Diego, spent eight years in prison for

molesting women and girls in his congregation, WJBK will report. A Petersburg

youth minister, Jeffrey Jarrell, pleaded guilty to charges he had sex with 11

young girls from his congregation, according to WJBK.

The station's working definition of a Hyles follower is someone who either

attended the college or who has been to Hyles' national pastors school.

Thousands of people have attended the Hyles-sponsored pastors school in Hammond

over many years.

Hyles told The Times he doesn't know of any church in Petersburg, Beaumont,

Anniston or Munro.

"I couldn't tell you the name of one," he said. "I know there's no preacher

in America who knows churches as well as I know them.

"I mean, I know Baptist churches. I have traveled every week, and have for

35 years preached across the country," Hyles said.

Hyles recalled Reeves' name, but said Reeves has been out of the ministry

for 10 years. "He is not a protege of mine," Hyles said.

* The congregation in the Hammond church that accepts offerings for

"pulpit-pounding sermons" across the nation, and sells tapes of those sermons,

is largely unaware of how Hyles spends its money.

Hyles said statements that church members are unaware of finances is a

"dirty lie."

"The church has a budget. The college has a budget, which is adhered to.

People get a report of every dime that is spent every month," Hyles said. "We

have budgets adopted by our board and our people."

* First Baptist Church of Hammond, and others subscribing to its philosophy,

engage in mind control and retaliate against those who question Hyles'

teachings.

Scheduled to be played during the series is a tape of a 1990 sermon in which

Hyles appeared to ask associate pastor Johnny Colsten if he would be willing to

drink poison. Colsten said he would do so if Hayles wanted him to.

Hyles told The Times on Saturday that he made that request in "jest" as he

talked about how loyal his staff was.

Griffith Police Chief William Weddell, who had been a member of First

Baptist of Hammond nearly 19 years and was one of Hyles' bodyguards, was among

those interviewed by WJBK-TV.

Weddell told The Times he and his wife left the church after they were

asked to pledge 100 percent loyalty to Hyles. Weddell said he decided to make a

break when he saw some things that were not appropriate and had knowledge of

some things the church was trying to cover up.

"I didn't join it as a cult. I joined it because it was a fundamental,

Bible-believing church," Weddell said. "Over the years it started to change,

and it got to the point where there was little cooperation with other churches

in the area. It started to take on some of the aspects" of a cult, he said.

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