by William Trollinger
Just when I thought I had seen it all in American evangelicalism, here comes this story from Cedarville University.
First, some necessary background. As we detailed in our book, Righting America at the Creation Museum (Righting), and then on this blog, in 2012, the authorities-that-be at Cedarville initiated a fundamentalist crackdown (complete with the requisite purge of faculty and others). Here’s a timeline of the first five years of the crackdown:
- August 2012: Theology professor Michael Pahl was fired because he “affirmed the historical Adam and Eve, but for theological reasons and not for reasons of biblical exegesis” (Righting 212).
- October 2012: President William Brown resigns.
- January 2013: Vice-President for Student Life Carl Ruby resigns. While neither Brown nor Ruby explained their decisions, one Board of Trustees member (who also chose to resign) noted that both Brown and Ruby “’were considered problematic by the faction of trustees fearful of what they perceive as a creeping liberalism.’” In Ruby’s case, this included having too much compassion for those “people struggling with gender identification” (i.e., LGBTQ students) (Righting 213).
- January 2013: The philosophy major is eliminated “in the wake of a furor over an anti-Romney-for-president editorial penned by two philosophy professors” (Righting 213).
- June 2013: The fundamentalist takeover of the Board of Trustees is now complete, including the addition of the (now-disgraced) Paige Patterson, who had helped lead the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention.
- July 2013: Patterson protégé, Thomas White, from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (where Patterson was at the time was president), is appointed as Cedarville’s president.
- Spring 2014: Cedarville hardens its commitment to patriarchy: “In line with the ‘complementarian’ position that women are not to teach men in theological/biblical matters and that they are to submit to their husbands, President White and his administrative colleagues determined that biblical and theological studies classes taught by women could no longer include any male students” (Righting 213-214).
- Summer 2014: Two years after the beginning of the fundamentalist crackdown, 43 administrators, faculty members, and staff members were either forced out or they escaped to other institutions/jobs, and 15 trustees departed, many in response to the crackdown. “As is almost always the case in fundamentalist crackdowns, the Cedarville purge focused on clearing out the Biblical and Theological Studies Department (fourteen of the faculty who left Cedarville were from this department and were replaced in good part by faculty from Southern Baptist fundamentalist seminaries” (Righting 213).
- February 2016: Cedarville withdraws from the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) because the Board determined that the Council was not conservative enough regarding homosexuality, despite the fact that the CCCU holds to heterosexual marriage as the ideal.
- Spring 2017: Cedarville implements its “Biblically Consistent Curriculum Policy.” This policy establishes that in the classroom “the lines of propriety must be drawn with an eye toward what is pure, not simply what is just.” According to this policy, faculty must not show or assign “images, movies, songs, plays, or writing that may be considered ‘adult’ in nature, that represent immorality, or that may be a stumbling block to students . . . ‘Artistic bareness’ [?] may be appropriate in courses studying art . . . [but] the use of images should be handled judiciously.” Driving home the threat, “faculty are wise to run material by their dean or chair prior to presenting it to students if it approaches the category of ‘unacceptable.’ Before God and the administration, faculty are accountable for their choices, and deans and chairs for their oversight of this material.” (Emphasis mine.)
It turns out that just a few months after Cedarville implemented its Biblically Consistent Curriculum Policy – the centerpiece of the school’s fundamentalist crackdown – the school hired Anthony Moore (an old friend of White’s from Southwestern Biblical Seminary, and also a Paige Patterson protégé) to serve as a Multicultural Recruiter and Biblical Research Fellow at Cedarville. Within fifteen months or so of his hire, the Board of Trustees agreed to give Moore faculty rank within the Biblical and Theological Studies Department, and in January 2019 his titles expanded to include “Special Advisor to the President for Kingdom Diversity.” More than this, Moore was an assistant coach of the Cedarville basketball team (and coached local soccer teams). This spring he taught a course at Cedarville on “Counseling and Mentoring Men.”
In short, it did not take Dr. Moore long to become a central figure at Cedarville University. But there was a problem.
It turns out that in his previous job – as campus pastor of The Village Church (TVC) in Fort Worth, Texas – Moore had secretly videotaped a male youth pastor showering in Moore’s home on multiple occasions. More than this, Moore emotionally, verbally, and spiritually abused the victim for almost a decade. While the videotaping could have brought a two-year jail sentence in Texas, the victim chose not to press charges.
But in January 2017 Matt Chandler, TVC lead pastor, announced in a statement to all TVC campuses that Moore had been fired for “grievous immoral actions against another adult member that disqualify him as an elder and staff member.”
Nevertheless, within a few months Moore was hired by his old friend, Thomas White, to work at Cedarville.
It is obvious that White and the Cedarville administration and the Cedarville Board of Trustees did not come close to practicing due diligence. Not close. And that’s a serious indictment.
But it’s worse. It turns out that TVC Fort Worth had “thoroughly informed Dr. White and Cedarville University about the details of Anthony’s dismissal and our belief that Anthony was not fit for ministry of any kind.” A wise word.
But not to President White or the Cedarville Board. They knew better. As White explained in a statement released four days ago, he and the Trustees sought to help restore Moore to the place where he could resume “meaningful ministry.” So, on August 11, 2017 White spoke to the faculty “with the goal of transparent restoration”:
I am thankful that we serve a God of grace – a God of second chances, third chances, and more . . . As much as possible, we want to have this same culture of grace at Cedarville University . . . This year we have a new staff member. His name is Anthony Moore. In January, Anthony was serving as pastor of the Village Church’s Fort Worth campus. He sinned. His mistake resulted in him stepping down from that ministry. Through consultation with others, we believe his sin, while serious, does not permanently disqualify him from ministry. I have been working this summer with the elders at the Village Church, two counselors who have been working with Anthony closely, our Trustees, Jason Lee [Dean of the School of Biblical and Theological Studies], Tom Mach [Vice President for Academics and Chief Academic Officer], Scott Van Loo [Vice President for Enrollment Management], and others on a multiyear plan where we will walk with Anthony through his continued restoration and reentry into ministry.
Such a problematic statement. First, given that White did not tell the faculty or staff or students/parents what Moore had done, it’s ludicrous for him to claim that he was seeking “transparent restoration.” Second, it would be interesting to ask the faculty and staff who were forced out of their jobs by the White administration if they think of Cedarville as manifesting a “culture of grace”.
But ok. White and top administrators and the Board of Trustees created a “multiyear” plan to restore Moore to ministry . . . and, amazingly enough, the “multiyear plan” only took about fifteen months. So, if everything was going so well with the restoration plan, why was Anthony Moore fired on April 23, 2020?
Here is White’s explanation:
On April 22, 2020, I learned that I did not have all the information about the original incident. Instead of at most two videos, I heard that there were at least five videos. Instead of this being over a short period of time, I heard that these were taken over a period of at least five months. I also heard details of an unhealthy friendship.
Two videos ok, five videos bad? And as regards the “unhealthy friendship,” might White have learned about this if he had actually contacted the victim (which he did not do until a few days ago)?
All this to say that White’s explanation of why Moore was fired six days ago is nonsensical, and a study in evasion. It seems obvious that Moore was fired because, thanks to intrepid bloggers, the story is now in the public realm. I confess that I find it bizarre that White and his compatriots seem to have assumed that they could keep Moore’s story under lock and key. But it is out now, and the publicity has forced White and Cedarville to fire Moore.
If Cedarville were a normal institution of higher education, Thomas White would be out of a job, along with the other administrators who had a hand in this.
But Cedarville is a fundamentalist school, and fundamentalist schools operate according to their own logics.
Word on the street is that White and his administrative collaborators may be fired after Saturday’s virtual graduation ceremony. We shall see.