Several board members have resigned from a neo-Calvinist evangelical group that released a trailer of a planned film linking prominent Southern Baptists with a conspiracy to promote social justice advocacy in evangelical churches.
The resignations, announced August 1 by Founders Ministries President Tom Ascol, come as some Southern Baptist leaders interviewed for the film have distanced themselves from it.
The trailer for the film “By What Standard?” highlights remarks in support of women, such as Southern Baptist Bible teacher Beth Moore, who have spoken in pulpits on Sundays. The Southern Baptist Convention’s faith statement says only men can serve as pastors.
The four-minute trailer also shows panel discussions on racial reconciliation at the 2019 meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention and on sexual abuse on the eve of that meeting. The abuse-related panel, hosted by the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, featured Moore and Rachael Denhollander, both sex abuse survivors and advocates for churches addressing the issue.
According to statements from two of the three resigning board members — which Ascol said were published at their request and with their permission on his organization’s website — the inclusion of Denhollander in the trailer released July 23 appeared to have been a particular sore point.
“Her presence in the trailer, along with other sexual abuse survivors, seemed to conflate sexual abuse with other problematic views of social justice,” wrote now-former board member Tom Hicks. “All the board members agreed that sexual abuse is very different from social justice issues, but we disagreed about how to go forward in light of the trailer.”
Fred Malone, a board member who said he was resigning after working with the group for almost 36 years, acknowledged in his statement that he was chagrined by the initial inclusion of Denhollander. Though he said the board had agreed to remove the “confusing image” of Denhollander from the trailer, he resigned because the board did not agree on what he saw as the sinfulness of its use.
“By associating her image closely with a confusing statement about powers of darkness, it appeared to many that we were somehow disapproving of her work against sexual abuse,” said Malone, who described himself as “an advocate against sexual abuse, a counselor of numerous victims for almost 35 years in my pastoral work, and a reporter of several cases.”
Denhollander tweeted that the use of her image “was not an accident.”