GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- A Baptist minister says he will stop shocking Bible school students with a 12-volt battery to teach them to listen to God, the county prosecuting attorney said Friday.
Kent County Prosecutor David Sawyer said the Rev. Dwight Wymer agreed to discontinue the attention-grabbing Bible school stunt after learning criminal charges could be brought against him if a child is injured by the shocks.
Wymer could be charged with involuntary manslaughter if a child had a fatal heart attack after receiving the shocks, Sawyer said. No complaonts have been received from parents of children subjected to the shocks, he said.
Religious leaders of various denominations decried the 'shock treatment,' given children as young as 7 years old. Almost without exception, ministers contacted said they could see no educational value in Wymer's use of a stool that gave each young volunteer a shock in the buttocks.
Children received an electrical shock through a screen covering the seat of the stool, which is hooked to a battery providing the same current output of most car batteries. The shock treatment was used earlier this week in Bible school classes at Wymer's Immanuel Baptist Church.
'I think that's kind of a sick gimmickry to use as a means to relate the Bible,' said the Rev. Donald Griffioen of the Christian Reformed Church. 'Bible schools are accustomed to... a kind of 'can you top this' gimmickry.
'What jarred me is the obvious parallel between this... and the deadly serious business of the electric chair -- that doesn't do the gospel any good.'
A fellow Baptist minister, the Rev. R.L. Johnson of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Grandville, suggested Wymer stick to the Bible in his teachings.
'Personally, I don't agree with him,' Johnson said. 'I've never used such methods -- I just use the Bible. I guess he has his own methods of teaching.'
'This is a most bizarre teaching method,' said the Rev. Louis Stasker of St. Andrews Cathedral. 'The gospel is about God's love, not pain.'
Wymer, however, says the 'electric chair' is a simple tool to get a child's attention.
'I tell them God speaks to us, and sometimes we don't listen,' the 36-year-old pastor said. 'God tells us to do something or suffer the consequences. When we don't do it, zap.'
The director of Sunday schools for the Michigan Convention of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Rev. John Auvenshine, said his organization does not endorse Wymer's methods.
'I hope it doesn't cast the (Southern Baptist) Convention in a bad light,' he said, 'because it's certainly not characteristic of what our churches are doing along the lines of religious education.'
But the Rev. David Wood, pastor of the Heritage Baptist Church and head of the Moral Majority in Michigan, said Wymer's electric chair was being blown out of proportion by those who would like to present the church in a bad light.
'I believe that this particular story, like other stories of its nature, has been taken out of context almost in a purposeful manner by media leaders to discredit leaders in evangelical circles,' he said.