On Thursday, Christian teaching organization Founders Ministries announced that three members of its board had resigned over the controversial use of Christian sexual assault victims activist Rachael Denhollander and progressive pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber in a trailer for Founders’ upcoming documentary. The footage of Denhollander and Bolz-Weber was distorted in black-and-white, and implied that the two women were enemies of the church, drawing a round of criticism and accusations of fearmongering.
In a post on Founders’ website, Tom Ascol announced that Drs. Fred Malone, Tom Hicks and Jon English Lee had turned in their resignations, writing that the men “could not conscientiously continue to serve Founders without agreement on these points as it relates to elements in the trailer.” According to Ascol, the men “believe we have sinned in how the trailer portrayed certain people and issues.”
Denhollander first made headlines for being one of the first women to come forward with accusations about U.S. Olympics Gymnast Team doctor Larry Nassar, whose now-infamous exploitation and abuse of dozens of women have landed him in jail. Denhollander has since turned her attention to the Southern Baptist Convention as a leader in the calls to reform the ways the SBC deals with sexual assault. Her campaign has put her in the crosshairs of more conservative vanguards of evangelical structures, including Founders.
Bolz-Weber is an author and the teaching pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver and has come under fire in some circles for teachings on inclusivity.
Two of the three resigning members published their own public letters of resignation. Hicks wrote that he was particularly concerned about the footage of Denhollander, writing that she and her husband Jacob had reached out to him to communicate their hurt. “[Denhollander’s] presence in the trailer, along with other sexual abuse survivors, seemed to conflate sexual abuse with other problematic views of social justice,” Hicks wrote.
Malone wrote that he “came to the conviction that I had sinned unintentionally in my approval and that the trailer itself committed a sin unintentionally of false witness against Mrs. Denhollander.”
Founders will be “continuing with the film project unabated” without the three resigning members, though the clip of Denhollander was removed from the trailer.