Religion Unplugged

Why news of sexual harassment inside Christianity Today is doubly shocking

By Bobby Ross Jr. | Religion Unplugged

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“Sexual harassment went unchecked at Christianity Today.”

The headline shocked me.

The source of the news stunned me as much as the content of it.

“Women reported two top leaders’ inappropriate behavior for more than 12 years,” the story said. “Nothing happened.”

Where were those claims made? In a bombshell investigative piece by Christianity Today itself.

The influential evangelical magazine, based in Carol Stream, Illinois, outside Chicago, published an in-depth exposé written by news editor Daniel Silliman and edited by senior news editor Kate Shellnutt.

I’ve frequently praised Silliman’s investigative reporting on evangelical institutions. In this week’s piece, he delves into serious allegations inside his own workplace:

A number of women reported demeaning, inappropriate, and offensive behavior by former editor in chief Mark Galli and former advertising director Olatokunbo Olawoye. But their behavior was not checked and the men were not disciplined, according to an external assessment of the ministry’s culture released Tuesday.

The report identified a pair of problems at the flagship magazine of American evangelicalism: a poor process for “reporting, investigating, and resolving harassment allegations” and a culture of unconscious sexism that can be “inhospitable to women.” CT has made the assessment public.

“We want to practice the transparency and accountability we preach,” said CT president Timothy Dalrymple. “It’s imperative we be above reproach on these matters. If we’re falling short of what love requires of us, we want to know, and we want to do better.”

In separate, independent reporting, the CT news editor interviewed more than two dozen current and former employees and heard 12 firsthand accounts of sexual harassment.

If Galli’s name sounds familiar, he made widespread headlines in December 2019 when he wrote an editorial calling for then-President Donald Trump’s impeachment and removal from office. Galli later left the evangelical magazine and converted to Catholicism, as Mark A. Kellner reported here at in September 2020.

In Silliman’s article, Galli characterizes the allegations as misunderstandings. In a personal blog post responding to Christianity Today’s report, he expands upon that defense:

As anyone who has read this newsletter knows, I am sometimes apt to write something that I later recognize was confusing or misleading, and I am forced to retrace my steps to clarify. This has also been a character flaw in my interactions with people that crops up now and then, as anyone who has worked with me can testify. So that point in the article is fair as far as it goes.  

But I was stunned to read the piece and discover that there were a number of incidents reported that either never happened or the context in which they happened was left out. Just three examples among many: It is said that I lingered over a woman’s bra clip and that my hand got caught in her bra. Never happened. It is said that I “felt up” a woman. Never happened. It is said that I said aloud that I like to watch women golfers bend over. Never said it. So amidst the stories in which I can see I genuinely offended or confused some women, there were allegations that just mystify me.

Read the full column.

This column appears in the online magazine Religion Unplugged.

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