The organization Fallen in Grace, founded by Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) pastors David Hyles and Paul Kingsbury in 2014, has generated intense scrutiny over its mission to quickly restore predatory pastors to positions of power and influence. This article will examine the troubling origins, questionable practices, and dangerous implications of this controversial ministry.
Background on the Independent Fundamental Baptist Movement
To understand the significance of Fallen in Grace, it is important to first consider the context of the Independent Fundamental Baptist denomination in which it emerged. The IFB coalesced in the 1920s and 1930s around beliefs like biblical literalism, King James Version-onlyism, separatism from mainstream culture, and staunch opposition to modernism in theology. Under authoritarian leaders like John R. Rice and Jack Hyles, the IFB expanded rapidly in the postwar period, eventually encompassing over 6,000 churches across the United States. IFB doctrine emphasizes male headship, female submission, and strict moral codes governing dress, entertainment, and sexuality. Church governance is hierarchical, with significant power concentrated in the hands of senior pastors.
In recent decades, rampant scandals involving sexual abuse of minors have plagued the IFB. Critics condemn the frequent coverups, denial, and mishandling of allegations by IFB institutions. This toxic context provided the backdrop for the founding of Fallen in Grace.
David Hyles' Legacy of Scandal
David Hyles, the son of iconic IFB leader Jack Hyles, was groomed from a young age to assume a prominent position within the denomination. He served on staff at First Baptist Church of Hammond and succeeded his father as pastor of First Baptist Church of Beverly Hills, Florida in the 1970s.
In the 1980s, David Hyles was accused of having sexual relationships with female teenage members of his congregations, often targeting vulnerable girls from troubled backgrounds. Eyewitnesses reported seeing Hyles spend time alone with minors in his office against church policies.
Frequent and credible accusations led to his quiet removal from ministry positions on multiple occasions. Yet with his father's support, he always managed to return to the pulpit. Hyles never faced legal consequences thanks to the complicity of IFB institutions. Experts conclude he fits the profile of a serial predator who exploited his power as a pastor to sexually violate minors.
Paul Kingsbury's Checkered Past
Paul Kingsbury was the longtime senior pastor of North Love Baptist Church in Rockford, Illinois. He resigned from this position in 2021 amidst allegations of misconduct and mishandling of abuse cases at the church.
Specific accusations included inappropriate sexual behavior with women in the church. There were also claims that Kingsbury failed to properly handle allegations of abuse by ministryleaders.
Though details have remained unclear due to privacy concerns, Kingsbury’s forced resignation in 2021 confirms a history of ethical failures and abuse of power. Despite this disqualification, he has continued preaching.
The Founding of Fallen in Grace
Originally founded in 2014, Paul Kingsbury joined forces in 2023 with David Hyles to run Fallen in Grace, a ministry aimed at restoring disgraced IFB pastors to positions of influence in the church. The organization's website describes its mission as follows:
"We exist...to be used by God to help once fallen ministers be restored to the service our Lord has for them. These men once served faithfully but have been sidelined by moral failure."
This approach is deeply problematic, as it offers redemption and restoration to ministers who have engaged in horrific abuses of power. Hyles himself serves as President of Fallen in Grace - an outrageous position for someone facing multiple credible allegations of child sexual abuse.
By framing predatory pastors as servants who have temporarily “fallen in sin,” Fallen in Grace glosses over systematic, calculated patterns of abuse. Its emphasis is on restoring the status and authority of disgraced IFB leaders, not pursuing justice or caring for their victims.
Controversial Methods and Teachings
Beyond its theological flaws, Fallen in Grace employs other concerning methods that enable further abuse:
It vilifies whistleblowers who report pastoral abuse as attackers of the IFB. This has a chilling effect on accountability.
It blames victims - often children - for “tempting” predatory pastors into sin. This echoes Hyles’ own defenses of his abusive behavior.
It offers forgiveness and redemption to proven abusers with barely a slap on the wrist. This fails to deter recurrence of abuse.
It leverages sympathy to conceal deeper dysfunction and manipulate congregations into accepting wolves back into their pulpits.
These practices directly contradict expert guidelines for addressing clergy abuse. Studies emphasize permanently removing abusers from power, implementing accountability structures, and prioritizing victim compensation - none of which Fallen in Grace does.
Reactions from IFB Community
Given the mountain of allegations against Hyles and other abusive IFB pastors, one might expect firm condemnation from the IFB community. But reactions within the denomination have been mixed.
Many prominent IFB pastors continue to defend Hyles and dismiss accusations against him. They deny the credibility of victims and frame Hyles’ “moral failures” as normal sin struggles.
Others acknowledge the likelihood of abuse while avoiding directly criticizing Hyles. In a 2022 interview, Pastor Bob Gray said: "I'm not going to stand in judgment publicly of David Hyles... but obviously the stories that are out there cause great concern". This tepid middle ground enables ongoing denial.
A minority of IFB voices have fully condemned Hyles’ actions, like former pastor Chuck Phelps who called him “a phony, a fraud, and a predator” . But these voices are drowned out by vocal defenders of the status quo.
The Traumatic Impact on Victims
The survivors of sexual abuse, manipulation, and authoritarian control in the IFB have faced immense psychological trauma as a result. Counselors emphasize that the dynamics of spiritual abuse can inflict lasting damage.
Victims often grapple with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, loss of faith, and intimacy issues. Recovery is complex, as leaving abusive religious environments does not instantly erase years of trauma. By offering quick redemption to abusers, Fallen in Grace re-traumatizes victims.
External Accountability is Vital
Experts argue external accountability measures are urgently needed to address the IFB’s abuse crisis. Investigator Greta Gustava Martela advocates independent auditing of abuse allegations, cooperation with authorities, and mandatory reporting laws. Legal scholar Marci Hamilton emphasizes civil lawsuits as avenues for justice and change.
Implementing abuse prevention training, enhancing screening of clergy, and establishing survivor compensation programs would constitute starting points for reform. But the insular IFB will likely resist external interference, making internal pressure essential.
Though movements counteracting abuse face resistance from entrenched powers, their efforts initiate necessary shifts in consciousness, policy, and culture. Sustained activism and truth-telling remain key to protecting the vulnerable.
The evidence overwhelmingly indicts Fallen in Grace for enabling abuse by hastily returning known predators to positions of trust and authority in IFB institutions. This reckless practice violates pastoral ethics and care for victims.
Meaningful accountability, justice, and change will only result from external pressure, grassroots reform, and centering survivors, not disgraced abusers. The long process of repentance and restitution must begin with acknowledging hard truths.