Book and Movie Reviews / Fundamental Scandals

A Church Falsely Accused by Pastor Bill Wininger

church-falsely-accusedJack Hyles appeared at my former church, Trinity Baptist of Jacksonville, way back in the 1970s. He warned us (excuse my paraphrase): “The church is under attack!  Very soon, you will hear accusations against your pastor (reference to Bob Gray, sitting right behind him), that will be so horrible, and yet it will seem so true!  You might want to believe those accusations yourself.  Don’t! Resist this temptation!

It was almost like Jack Hyles was grooming the congregation for the possibility of Bob Gray’s arrest.  The ‘prophecy’ was right, just about twenty five or so years too early! My paraphrase of Hyles’ sermon seems to be the basic concept behind A Church Falsely Accused. This book, written by Pastor Bill Wininger, who recently resigned from a church due to allegations of sex abuse against a child more than twenty years ago, was published in 1995 by Revival Fires (a little more than eighteen years ago).

Would this book shed any light into the mind of Wininger?  What about the world of the IFB?

This passage is almost prophetic: “He (police detective) informed me that he intended to arrest not only our two church leaders, but he whole-heartedly intended to arrest me as well.”

Fortunately,  A Church Falsely Accused is a quick read. Unfortunately, the bulk of it is standard IFB moralizing and sermonizing.   If you stick to the first two pages of each chapter (which address the topic of interest) and just skip over the rest of the chapter (which are given to moralizing and sermonizing), it goes by fast. This is standard for just about any book ever written by a fundamentalist.

Wininger starts out talking about his church being caught in a child abuse scandal. He then writes he’s not going to talk about the actual cases nor reveal the identity of the men accused.

Social media was just a dream in those days! Wininger could never imagine that one day anyone, from anyplace, would be able to access the information he ‘cleverly’ attempts to hide. Preying from the Pulpit, the series by WJBK in Detroit (which aired in 1993) can now be seen on Vimeo. You don’t have to wait for the Great White Throne Judgement to see the sins of the so-called righteous.  You can now watch the media firestorm he alludes to in his memoir while reading his book.

Tim Leonard, former associate pastor of North Sharon Baptist Church, and Mark Foeller, a graduate of Hyles Anderson, were arrested on child molestation charges. Preying from the Pulpit has one of the victims talking about being lured into a tent where they were allegedly sodomized.

According to Bill Wininger:

One Sunday morning a deacon who was also a bus worker gave one of the children on his bus a hug.  The mother of that child called the state police and to complain that her child was hugged.  I cannot explain why she chose to do this.  Hugging a child has always been an innocent sign of affection and acceptance.  A state police sergeant called to inform me of the complaint. He said there was no allegation of fondling or other indecent conduct, only a hug.  I told the sergeant that America was in trouble if it was illegal to bring a child to Sunday school and give that child a hug.

He doesn’t address the sodomy charges.  Just hugs.

He gets out of talking about sodomy accusations by writing:

Like a runaway train or a snowball rolling downhill, faster and faster, getting larger by the moment, so the allegations grew.

Both men were acquitted.  According to Wininger, it was because the bus ministry kept meticulous records.  This is partly true in the case of Tim Leonard.  One witness was thrown out because bus ministry records destroyed the time line of the prosecution. In the case of Mark Foeller: no one would testify against him.

There is an interesting chapter called What if They Had Been Guilty?  He does not tell us to hang child abusers from the rafters.  Or to let them serve time. What if they were guilty? You are commanded to love them.  Visit them in prison.  Take care of their children and widows.

While the men were in jail awaiting trial, we still cared for their families.  We watched out for their needs. assisted them financially, made minor repairs on their homes, mowed their lawns, etc.  If the men had been guilty, we were prepared to continue helping their families.

He certainly practiced what he preached!  Jack Hyles gave Wininger, and the wives of the accused men, an award at his pastor school.  You can see this in Preying from the Pulpit.

Wininger does say we should help the victims. No video exists of either Bill Wininger or Jack Hyles doing that.

A Church Falsely Accused seems to be laying the groundwork for making child abuse activism seem like code for ‘get the bus ministry!‘.  The reason it is of interest is because the author has resigned his church due to accusations of child abuse from 20 years ago.  He has not been arrested.  Largely for the reason Foeller got off. Nobody will testify against him.

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8 thoughts on “A Church Falsely Accused by Pastor Bill Wininger

  1. I recall hearing my father say similar words about the church coming under attack because Satan was in our midst. When I spoke out against one preacher/pedophile, I was treated as the Satan in our midst.

    Those guilty of sexually abusing children had to groom their congregation because sooner or later, they would be caught. The abuse they committed led them to rain down unholy hell on the Catholic church, as they let out a sigh of relief, and kept the focus on Catholicism’s rampant abuse of children. With all their beliefs in hellfire and damnation, I’ve often considered how they dealt with the cognitive dissonance in their own minds; instead, they wrote books to inform us of this inevitable illumination from their gods.

    Do you think they thought of themselves and their unconscionable actions against their congregations, as they told the stories of how Satan was going to erupt and expose a sexual orgy of pastors molesting their flocks?

    • I sincerely hope this reaches you after all this time. First, I TRULY admire your courage. Second, there is no ‘cognitive dissonance’. For that you’d need a concience and a soul. These people have neither. I believe also, that people who’ve never been through what you (and I) have, simply can’t fathom the idea of such atrocities. They (our families) feel confused and helpless, knowing that someone they care about is going through something they could never understand, much less help with. It makes them feel diminished. Just wanted to say hello, and that I understand.

  2. “Do you think they thought of themselves and their unconscionable actions against their congregations, as they told the stories of how Satan was going to erupt and expose a sexual orgy of pastors molesting their flocks?”

    That’s a damn good question, Vic.

    From my vantage point, it looks like they knew EXACTLY what they were doing. And with VERY FEW exceptions to the rules, meaning abuse victims who report the sexual crimes committed against them, it’s like they knew people would eventually speak up, but not take what happened to them to the one place where it would count. WE’VE BEEN BAITED AND SET UP!

    Abuse victims who speak up, even anonymously, provide unending fodder for them to claim persecution. THIS IS WHAT THEY WANT! As long as victims don’t report, not only do these predators have a permanent selection of victims, but they have the means by which to keep the persecution party going. And with those claiming to want the abuse stopped falling into and perpetuating the trap of “We know how horrible the experience of reporting your abuse can be”, “you could alienate yourself from your family and friends if you report”, “law enforcement will think you’re lying”, “your abuser might not be prosecuted”, etc., etc., etc., they have perfected the model of abusing and getting away with it.

    Nobody wants to even consider that the present “increasing awareness by telling your story (but NOT going to the authorities)” is being a pawn in their sick little sex game, and actually helping them continue.

  3. Your article fails to point out that the accuser of Bill Wininger is also the daughter of Mark Foeller, one of the original men accused. It would appear that Mark Foeller was innocent but that Mr. Wininger was actually the guilty party.

    • Mark Foeller was NOT innocent. He promised my 7yr old daughter that if she ever told anyone what he did to her, he would torture and kill me, (her mother) and that she’d be forced to watch.

  4. As this forum/thread is obviously slanted or very ignorant of the facts in the case please consider these facts in the case from a member of an area church and another witness of what was REALLY occurring and what was being perpetrted by an officer of the Jackson Sheriff’s Dep (Officer N. Fitzpatrick) invloved in the case concerned;
    1) The officer involved in intrviewing the alleged child victims of the criminal sexual assault charges was guilty of STEERING the children’s testimony against the Protestant church,
    2 While invstigating another CSC a couple of years later in the Jackson area, this same officer was guilty of falsely accusing another obviously evident Protestant believer as his “prime suspect,” and,
    3) A couple of years or so later this same Sheriff’s Dept investigator was charged and sentenced to imprisonment in Milan Federal Prison for embezzleing money (just under $100K) from the Sheriff’s Charity Fund. Somehow he had managed to own a nice home on the shore of the nicest lake of a chain of seven lakes in the Michigan Center, MI area.

  5. I should add this as I am sure that there are some who will wrongly assume that I am trying to excuse true child molestation. I am NOT. I am only saying that there has been an atrocious swing of the pendulum from ignoring criminal behavior to going on “witch hunts” in the realm of CSC as in other realms of past social injustice reform. Perps of child sexual abuse deserve, well, I won’t describe, but death or life in prison are too light and easy of a sentence to compensate for the damage done. There is no compensation for NEVER being able to ever fully enjoy sex with some one you love for the rest of your life, or the overwhelming mistrust, contempt, and just hate you unjustly harbor for all of your male/female superiors you are subjugated to, including God, for the rest of your life. If the perp was a father or mother, there is no making up for the absence of a truly loving, caring, and protecting parent as the child developed into an adult.

  6. I was personally involved in that case, and I agree; I have to believe there’s a special place in Hell waiting for people who hurt kids. It’s very unfortunate that the investigator (Officer Fitzpatrick) in the case was involved in illegal activity. However, that CANNOT overshadow the fact that these men were guilty of what is, in my opinion, the most heinous crime one person can commit against another. They chose their victims carefully to ensure that even if they DID report what happened, their veracity and their competence would be questioned, and their ability to cope with the fallout would be impaired. Worst of all, the fact that these men threatened and intimidated these kids to keep them quiet, was compounded by the prosecutors, who employed the SAME tactics to try to get them to speak up. These kids were terrorized by almost everyone involved in the case. I know. I was there. What’s more, did you know that counseling was only available to those kids who were found to be “swearable”? Even they were only concerned with getting the kids to “man up”, so they could take the stand.

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