Table of Contents
Chapter 1 - Introduction by Voyle Glover, Esq.
When Dr. Robert L. Sumner came out in The Biblical Evangelist with “The Saddest Story,” there were “giants” in the land of Fundamentalism. One of those giants was Jack Hyles, the subject of the story. He commanded a very large following, had boasted for years of having the “largest” and the “fastest growing” church in America, and was a regular speaker at a host of bastions of Fundamentalism. He was not a lightweight. Jack Hyles commanded respect and admiration from a wide range of pastors and leaders from within the ranks of Independent Fundamental Baptists. His peers were men of stature and renown.
Sumner was immediately attacked from all quarters. (The practice of “killing” the messenger is a long established method of silencing critics.) Accusations were hurled against him. Pulpits were pounded with anger and dire predictions made of Sumner’s future and dispersions were made against his character. Charges he had defamed Dr. Hyles were made by men who, in their haste to defend without examination of the evidence, defamed Dr. Sumner without hesitation. Angry letters were mailed. Phone calls were made. Threats were voiced.
It was as though someone had rolled a stink bomb down the church aisle right in the middle of the invitation.
And yes, it did stink . . . to high heaven.
I recall reading the article. Now, understand, I was already out of First Baptist by this time, having left in 1987. I’d left quietly and many folks were not even aware I’d gone. As I read the piece, my first thoughts were: Someone needs to answer this.
I was deeply troubled. Even though my family had left the church and I’d known there were some serious problems there, I had no idea the depth of the problems and reading The Saddest Story was not just shocking to me. It was, literally, unbelievable.
But this story jolted me. It sat me upright. I even (briefly) gave some thought to attempting a response to the piece. But as I thought about it, I understood that only one person could respond to such an article. Even worse, deep down inside, I knew it was true. I’d seen all the signs and had ignored so many of them, finding excuses for Hyles. I’d seen the cover-up job he’d done from the pulpit for David and perhaps himself. I’d seen the brilliant psychological games he’d played with the minds of all of us (once the scales were removed from my eyes in the last year or so of my time there). I’d seen the mask slip a time or two and had been shocked at what I’d seen. But I had been willing to ignore it or make excuses for what I had seen.
Hyles’ response made me realize that there was far more to this story than I had even begun to imagine and the corruption revealed by Sumner’s article was not just probable, but in all likelihood, ran far deeper than I had ever projected.
I am pleased that Dr. Sumner has released the series of articles that began with The Saddest Story. Many have never read these articles and they need to read them. Moreover, they need to be made part of “the record,” a part of history. This was a major event in the world of Fundamentalism. But it was more than just an event. It was a moment in time when a man dared to do what not a single, solitary man in Fundamentalism dared to do (then): challenge the credentials of Jack Hyles.
I find it almost amusing, even somewhat ironic, but mostly
irritating, that so many who castigated Sumner or were so frozen at
the mouth back then at a time when he was taking so much heat, have
now leaped onto the stage and grabbed the mike and are thundering out
at the “evils of Jack Hyles,” or pretending they were always
opposed to his “brand” of Fundamentalism. Understand, I’m
not opposed to their denunciation of him. But inside, my thoughts are:
Where were your leather lungs back then, Hoss?