Larry Nassar

Beyond Dallas, onrushing #ChurchToo furor may spell trouble for biblical 'complementarians'

Beyond Dallas, onrushing #ChurchToo furor may spell trouble for biblical 'complementarians'

At this writing we don’t know whether Paige Patterson will turn up for his star appearance to preach the keynote sermon at the June 12-13 Dallas meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

Whatever, thanks to Patterson, reporters will flock to this gathering of the biggest U.S. Protestant denomination.

That’s due to the mop-up after Patterson’s sudden sacking as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (per this GetReligion item). It’s a dramatic turn in the onrushing #ChurchToo furor hitting U.S. Protestants after decades of Catholic ignominy over sexual misconduct.

The ouster involved his callous attitudes on spousal abuse, rape and reporting, plus sexist remarks, as protested by thousands of Baptist women. Patterson and Southwestern are also cover-up defendants in a sexual molesting case against retired Texas state Judge Paul Pressler. The storied Patterson-and- Pressler duo achieved what supporters call the SBC’s “conservative resurgence” and opponents the “fundamentalist takeover.”     

 The prime figure among their younger successors is R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. He has denounced the current scandal as “a foretaste of the wrath of God,” and predicts ongoing woe for Southern Baptists and other  evangelicals. Doubtless he’s also upset over the downfall of SBC headquarters honcho Frank Page.

Mohler especially fears damage to the “complementarian” movement in which he and Patterson have been allied. It believes the Bible restricts women’s authority in church and home. Their evangelical foes charge that this theology disrespects women and their policy input, ignores victims’ voices and fosters abuse and cover-ups.

The Religion Guy has depicted the debate between “egalitarian” evangelicals and complementarians here. For other background, note this narrative from a female ex-professor at Southwestern.

Complementarians gained momentum with the 1987 launch of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, backed by conservatives including Patterson’s wife Dorothy, Mohler, Daniel Akin who succeeded Patterson’s as president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and many non-Baptists. 


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Journalism 2018: The name on the masthead frequently is not as crucial as the one on the byline

Journalism 2018: The name on the masthead frequently is not as crucial as the one on the byline

It seems like just yesterday that I was complaining about an incomplete, slanted Washington Post story on a controversial religious topic.

Actually, it was last Monday.

In that post (titled "Not the right kind of paper to report both sides? About that story on fired Catholic teacher"), I noted — not for the first time — that it's often difficult these days, even in the Post, to tell what's supposed to be real news and what's simply clickbait and/or aggregation.

Today, I come to you with another Post story on a controversial religious topic. Except this time I intend to offer praise, not criticism.

Welcome to the world of Jekyll-and-Hyde media criticism.

Yes, this new story has one of those clickbait-style headlines at which the Post specializes online:

This former gymnast raised an army to take on Larry Nassar. Can she take on sex abuse in churches next?

But unlike the previous story, this one — by a different writer and perhaps handled by different editors (who knows?) — addresses the complex topic in a fair, impartial manner.

he lede:

Rachael Denhollander’s children recently asked her a question that continues to show her the cost of coming forward against sports physician and convicted sex offender Larry Nassar, a campaign which has given her a platform to speak out about a sexual abuse scandal in Sovereign Grace Ministries, a network of churches mostly based across the United States.
Last month, Denhollander’s statement in Nassar’s sentencing turned her into a Christian celebrity. In her victim statement in court, the former gymnast said her advocacy for sexual assault survivors “cost me my church.” Her own children recently asked her about this, why they stopped going to the church they belonged to for five years.
“It was painful to have to search for a church again because we really, really loved the people at our former church,” she said.
“That simply was part of the cost of coming forward” as one of Nassar’s victims, she added, and also speaking out against how churches handle sex abuse allegations.
Denhollander, who declined to name her former church, said she and her husband, Jacob, left the Louisville church in 2017 because of elders’ lack of response to the concerns she has described as “the intentional failure to report sexual assault perpetrated in multiple churches, by multiple elders, at Sovereign Grace Ministries.” Their church was not part of Sovereign Grace Ministries (now Sovereign Grace Churches), she said, but it did support the organization, which had been accused of covering up cases of child molestation. A class-action lawsuit was dismissed in 2014 for reasons including statute of limitations issues, and current leaders of Sovereign Grace Churches say those accusations are “completely false.”

The piece is fact-based and allows those accused of wrongdoing an opportunity to present their case.

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Friday Five: Nassar victim forgives, nuclear Mass, #WeRemember, KFC halal and more

Friday Five: Nassar victim forgives, nuclear Mass, #WeRemember, KFC halal and more

I'm a Christian.

Jesus tells me I'm supposed to forgive people. 

He also says I'm supposed to love my enemies and pray for people who persecute me.

In cases such as someone cutting me off in traffic or rooting for the Evil Empire, I'm (eventually) all about that W.W.J.D.

But I wonder: If a gunman had just shot up my high school, would I be concerned for the soul of the 15-year-old whom police took into custody? 

That's why I found these words from a student at Marshall County High School in Benton, Ky. — site of a mass shooting this week — so remarkable:

"The shooter needs prayers. What he did is absolutely awful, and you can’t justify it to make it OK at all. But he is still a child of God, and he obviously needs God very badly in his life."

I also find it hard to comprehend how a victim of Larry Nassar — the molester sports doctor who abused countless girls and women — could talk in terms of grace and forgiveness.

More about that in just a second as we proceed with today's Friday Five:

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Wow! In infuriating case of sex abuser Larry Nassar, a victim touts a message of grace and forgiveness

Wow! In infuriating case of sex abuser Larry Nassar, a victim touts a message of grace and forgiveness

Yes, journalism matters.

The Larry Nassar case is Exhibit A, as the Indianapolis Star rightly points out.

Meanwhile, these words — from Judge Rosemarie Aquilina — went viral Wednesday as she sentenced Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison: "I've just signed your death warrant."

For the purposes of this post, I want to praise the Washington Post's Acts of Faith section for catching — and reporting on — a key victim talking about her Christian faith. More on that in a moment.

First, though, the gory basics of Nassar's case, via The Associated Press:

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The former sports doctor who admitted molesting some of the nation’s top gymnasts for years under the guise of medical treatment was sentenced Wednesday to 40 to 175 years in prison by a judge who proudly told him, “I just signed your death warrant.”
The sentence capped a remarkable seven-day hearing in which more than 150 women and girls offered statements about being abused by Larry Nassar, a physician who was renowned for treating athletes at the sport’s highest levels. Many confronted him face to face in the Michigan courtroom.
“It is my honor and privilege to sentence you. You do not deserve to walk outside a prison ever again. You have done nothing to control those urges and anywhere you walk, destruction will occur to those most vulnerable,” Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said.
Nassar’s actions were “precise, calculated, manipulative, devious, despicable,” she said.

Back to the Post: We're entering what GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly calls #PositiveBobby territory. Praise is good for relationships, of course. But for media criticism websites? It's not always a recipe for reader clicks.

But I'm going to go ahead and say that I appreciated the Post's report and the story's willingness to quote victim Rachael Denhollander — in her own words — on grace and forgiveness.

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