Well, that didn’t take long.
Pastor Stewart-Allen Clark of First General Baptist Church in Malden, Missouri has “taken a leave of absence and is seeking professional counseling.”
That’s pretty much the entirety of the statement put out by the church’s Deacon Ministry Team tonight. They did it on the home page of their website because the rest of their social media remains shut down as of this writing.
It comes after Clark went viral for all the wrong reasons.
A compilation clip posted on this site, from a sermon he gave two weeks ago, showed him saying women needed to lose weight to prevent their husbands from straying (as if it’s their fault), that they should emulate Melania Trump (whose husband, by the way, strayed repeatedly), that women “don’t need to look like a butch,” and that a friend of his “has put a ‘divorce weight’ on his wife.”
Even though the church tried to shut down the bulk of its online presence over the past 48 hours, there are still plenty of hints that the misogyny was hardly a one-time occurrence. Another sermon excerpt, from two years ago, showed Clark saying many of the same things, including the notion that “physical beauty is within the reach of every woman” — by which he means skinny and nothing else — and more criticism of women who “look like butch.”
And now, tonight, the church’s website shows this brief statement:
I don’t know how seriously to take that. A leave of absence is a good start, but if the people taking his place hold the same awful sexist beliefs, then what does it even matter?
Seeking professional counseling is excellent — I don’t want to discount that — but what kind? A Christian counselor who tells Clark that his ideas are biblically sound, but he just needs to deliver them with more grace, wouldn’t be useful. And while it’s only been a day, let’s not pretend seeking counseling is the same thing as going through counseling. And, by the way, if he’s seeking a counselor, the church ought to tell the world what he’s seeking counseling for.
They don’t want to say that because it would admitting their own guilt.
The church is in crisis mode. No one there has apologized for anything. No one there has admitted Clark’s words were both harmful and untrue. No one there has explained why he was able to do this for years without church leaders or members taking action. (Unless they say otherwise, I’m assuming it’s because they all agreed with him.) No one there has said what they’re going to do to change course so that married women aren’t reduced to the role of trophy wives at best or wastes of space at worst.
As plenty of people have noted online, this kind of misogyny isn’t unusual in conservative “Bible-believing” churches. For many of them, it’s precisely why they left Christianity for good — and they’re grateful they did.
This statement from the church doesn’t shut down the controversy. It only leads to more questions, which they’re clearly trying to avoid.
(Thanks to @DuncanRobertBr6 for the link)