This article originally appeared on December 9, 2021 at Baptist News Global.
As we reflect back on 2021, one theme will be how three of the major conservative evangelical denominations have become compromised by sexual abuse and sexual abuse coverups.
The Presbyterian Church in America became embroiled in a scandal over the past couple years when a pastor was accused of sexually abusing at least a dozen women. But the Central Indiana Presbytery of the PCA organized a committee of men who were acquaintances with the accused pastor and who had tweeted that allegations could be politically motivated. After adding two women to the committee, the men voted unanimously to dismiss the allegations without allowing the women on the committee to vote.
The Anglican Church in North America had a catechist accused of twelve allegations including rape, assault, child sexual abuse and exposing teenagers to pornography. The church covered up the abuse without telling their congregation for a year and a half. The bishop resisted hiring a qualified investigator and then hired an unqualified firm that would allow the bishop to have the authority to decide the scope and transparency of the investigation. After public pressure, however, the bishop announced that the final report would be made public.
The Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee defied the will of the SBC annual meeting messengers to set up a transparent task force to investigate sexual abuse allegations and became embroiled in a contractual debate about who holds the power in such matters.
Instead of repenting, all three of these denominations decided to spend 2021 releasing statements about sexuality — statements that took their literalist interpretation of Adam and Eve as humanity’s founding parents to condemn LGBTQ relationships.
All three denominations made sexual abuse victims feel foolish, weak, low and despised, while promoting men at the top of their hierarchies as wise and strong. Women were to be silent, simply present as pawns in their game of glory.
When reality TV becomes evangelical reality
As evangelicalism was at the height of its power during the Bush administration, plans began coming together to feature one of its poster independent Baptist families on a reality TV show called “19 Kids and Counting.” Premiering in 2008, the show featured Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and their 19 kids and lasted for 15 seasons until it was canceled after their son Josh was revealed to have been investigated for molesting five girls going back to 2002.