The New Independent Fundamental Baptist network, most prominently associated with anti-LGBTQ pastor Steven Anderson, appears to be in turmoil as infighting again erupts, this time between Anderson and fellow pastors in the network.
The New IFB website and social media accounts – launched in early 2018 – have been taken down, and some pastors have distanced themselves from Anderson and his movement. This is the second time over the course of 12 months that controversy roiled the network. In January 2019, a previous conflict emerged when a New IFB pastor named Donnie Romero resigned after admitting to gambling and engaging with sex workers.
Anderson, pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona, is currently banned from 34 countries for his anti-LGBTQ rhetoric in addition to calling for the deaths of LGBTQ people. Last summer, he and a few other New IFB pastors convened in Orlando for the first “ Make American Straight Again” gathering, at which they all preached about the evils of homosexuality and called for state-mandated executions of LGBTQ people. Anderson had celebrated the June 2016 massacre at Pulse, an LGBTQ bar in Orlando where a gunman murdered 49 people by saying that the world now had “fifty less pedophiles.”
Anderson founded Faithful Word in 2005 and since then has traveled extensively and created a worldwide network of like-minded pastors who have launched similar churches in several different countries.
With over 100,000 followers on YouTube, Anderson has an international media reputation for his fiery anti-LGBTQ statements. He also has a reputation for antisemitism. In 2015, Haaretz reported that Anderson had duped four rabbis – including a Holocaust survivor – into appearing in his film “Marching to Zion” in an attempt to prove that Jews are not the chosen people. He has preached several antisemitic sermons in recent years, including one in 2019 titled “The Jews and Their Lies.”
The New IFB had been serving as a vehicle for Anderson and like-minded pastors in the network, which included Australia, the Philippines, Canada and South Africa. Its website had been a hub of sorts for information about the network itself, as well as upcoming events and a list of the more than 30 churches and pastors involved with contact information.
Hatewatch first noticed in mid-January that the website for the New IFB, which also frequently posted videos, interviews and updated information about events relevant to the New IFB, was no longer available, not even on web archives. All of its social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were also gone.
A site that tracks the New IFB, called NewIFB.info, noted January 7 the disappearance of the New IFB sites and social media. The NewIFB.info site's tagline is "Exposing the Error of the Andersonites" and follows doctrine of the older Independent Fundamental Baptist movement rather than Anderson's New IFB. The site takes issue with Anderson and New IFB pastors, mostly in terms of doctrine.
The latest battle appears to be related to doctrine. NewIFB.info noted that Anderson is under attack from a few other New IFB pastors after he teamed up with a Calvinist pastor for a documentary about soul-winning, or proselytizing, last July. New IFB doctrine considers Calvinism heresy.
As criticism started to emerge, Anderson tried to do early damage control, including preaching a sermon in July titled “What I Hate about Calvinism.”
By December, three pastors had allegedly left the New IFB movement because of the association.
One of those was Michael Johnson of Temple Baptist Church in Jacksonville, North Carolina, who, according to Anderson, posted several anonymous YouTube videos attacking him. NewIFB.info also reported that Johnson seems to have agreed with a comment on one of his YouTube videos that claimed the New IFB was “caught up in some cultish behaviors.”
Accusations of New IFB being a cult were also made by former New IFB preacher Adam Fannin, who left after the Romero scandal in January 2019.
Another pastor, Manly Perry of Old Path Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas, posted a video Nov. 19 distancing himself from the New IFB. According to a web archive, Perry’s church had been listed on the Faithful Word Baptist Church website – Anderson’s church – in August of last year, but it no longer appears.
And a third, Joe Major of Faith Baptist Church of Violet, Louisiana, formally broke from Anderson and the New IFB over the doctrine issues Dec. 22, making the announcement in a video he posted on YouTube titled “Why I separated from Pastor Anderson.” However, Major is still preaching at other New IFB churches, including Stedfast Baptist in Fort Worth, Texas.
Anderson posted a 24-minute video Dec. 21 called “With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies!” in which he claimed that some of his pastor “friends” (which he put in air quotes) were “going around and talking bad” about him behind his back.
Perhaps because of the latest outbreak of infighting, Anderson also attempted to distance himself in that video from the movement he had a large part in starting, claiming that the New IFB “doesn’t exist. There is no New IFB.” He went on to say that when talking about the New IFB movement, “That’s just a colloquial term that we’re using just to kind of talk about pastors that we like, pastors that we’re friends with – it’s not some organization.”
It’s unclear what these fractures will mean for the future of the New IFB movement. But without a unified online presence, Anderson’s ability to spread his message through the New IFB network is significantly diminished. One commenter on Joe Major’s YouTube channel summed up the uncertainty surrounding the New IFB, “To [sic] Much Drama, last year Donnie Romero, this year this stuff. I’m starting to wonder about all this.”
Photo illustration by SPLC