(Excerpts) As white evangelicals have been some of President Trump’s staunchest defenders, a handful of their leaders find themselves contending with a problem all too familiar to the commander in chief: a sex scandal.
- At least four leaders in the evangelical movement have been accused of violating the tenets of their faith, from adultery to sexual abuse.
- Now some observers wonder whether evangelicals are experiencing a repeat of the scandals that led to the downfall of several well-known televangelists in the 1980s.
- Russell Moore, who leads an important commission in the Southern Baptist Convention, said: “I think there’s a growing — but not fast enough — realization in church life of the way that power can easily be abused in predatory ways, especially spiritual power.”
- Late last year, Paul Pressler, who helped lead a conservative takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention…was accused of sexually abusing a young man for several decades, starting when the alleged victim was 14.
- Frank Page, president and chief executive of the SBC’s executive committee, recently announced his resignation because of an “inappropriate relationship.”
Other accused include:
- Bill Hybels, who co-founded Willow Creek, one of the nation’s largest churches. He has denied the accusations.
- Earlier this year, a woman said Andy Savage, a megachurch pastor in Memphis, sexually assaulted her 20 years ago, when…Savage was a youth pastor in Texas. After he addressed his congregation, apologized and asked for forgiveness, it applauded him. He has since resigned.
Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to make allegations against sports physician Larry Nassar, has more since focused on speaking out about sexual-abuse allegations in Sovereign Grace Churches, a network of congregations mostly based across the United States.
These recent instances echo those of past years, including:
- Ted Haggard, who was once a megachurch pastor and president of the National Association of Evangelicals, resigned in 2006 after a male prostitute said Haggard had paid him for sex. Haggard now leads a church in Colorado Springs.
- In the 1980s, sexual and financial scandals involving televangelists Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart and Paul Crouch sent shock waves through the evangelical world. All three continued in smaller versions of their ministries.
A Texas megachurch pastor stands accused of using his influence to lure “vulnerable and elderly” people into a financial scheme that caused some to lose their life savings.
Rev. Kirbyjon H. Caldwell, the pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, is facing federal charges of defrauding investors out of more than $1 million using obsolete Chinese bonds
The U.S. Attorney’s office claims Caldwell used his status as pastor of the Houston church to help gain investors’ trust.