Controversies involving church and denominational leadership, an impending denominational split, sexual abuse and the contentious figure behind a U.S. Supreme Court ruling approving public prayer led by government officials make up a large share of Baptist News Global’s top 15 most-read news stories in 2022.
The names connected with those themes are all too familiar to BNG readers, including embattled pastors Matt Chandler, Johnny Hunt, Tom Buck, Mark Driscoll and John MacArthur. Highly read news articles about their actions and words were joined by stories about conservatives breaking off from the United Methodist Church, the tribulations faced by pastors who spoke against the 2021 Capitol insurrection, and Southern Baptist ministers citing stress in leaving church ministry for denominational posts.
Topics including Guidepost Solution’s report about the SBC’s mishandling of abuse survivors, the financial success of Charles Stanley’s ministry and Adam Greenway’s sudden departure from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary were among the others favored by BNG readers in 2022.
Following is BNG’s Top 15 list of most-read 2022 news articles:
- “A Friend Defends Matt Chandler, the Elders Issue a Statement, and Nothing Else Is Any Clearer,” by Mark Wingfield, Sept. 7, 2022 — The story explains how descriptions of “course joking” mixed with vague language from the church generated even more uncertainty about a high-profile pastor’s status.
- “48-Year-Old Pastor ‘Retires’ From Texas Megachurch, Citing Failing Health, But Will Become A Vice President At NAMB,” by Mark Wingfield, Sept. 12, 2022 — When a relatively young pastor told his congregation he was “retiring” but would become a vice president at NAMB, more than a few people raised questions about the arrangement.
- “They Spoke Out Against the Capitol Insurrection; One Year Later, They’re no Longer Pastors,” by David Bumgardner, Jan. 19, 2022 — An account of pastors who left their conservative churches after addressing conspiracy theories and Christian nationalism.
- “Wife of Vocal SBC Pastor Claims Suffering Emotional and Verbal Abuse Was Not Grounds for Divorce, But for ‘Greater Hope’ in God,” by David Bumgardner, April 11, 2022 — An account of a Texas pastor and his wife who gained national attention within the Southern Baptist Convention after an unpublished column she wrote was leaked to media outlets in apparent retaliation for the pastor’s role in derailing a potential SBC presidential candidate.
- “Former SBC President Johnny Hunt Admits Improper Conduct but Denies Abuse Claims,” by David Bumgardner, May 27, 2022 — After being named in the SBC’s Guidepost Solutions investigation, the pastor and denominational leader acknowledged he had been involved in a situation that was compromising and sinful, but he claimed was consensual.
- “Here’s What You Need to Know About Why United Methodists Now Appear Headed for a Nasty Divorce,” by Cynthia Astle, March 23, 2022 — Amid the breakup of the nation’s second-largest Protestant denomination, some voices seek solutions other than division, but following the money will best explain the break-up.
- “At Nearly 90, Charles Stanley Makes Half a Million a Year and His Ministry Is Awash in Cash,” by Mark Wingfield, Aug. 31, 2022 — Stanley’s ministry collected nearly $100 million the year before the COVID-19 pandemic and tripled cash assets from 2015 to 2019.
- “Disgraced Pastor Mark Driscoll Is Back on the Speaking Circuit, and He’s Sharing a Virtual Platform with Matt Chandler,” by Mark Wingfield, May 5, 2022 — The discredited pastor joined other controversial figures for the Theos Online Conference, including Matt Chandler and Eric Metaxas.
- “Football Coach At Center Of Supreme Court Case Hasn’t Shown Up For the Job the Court Ordered Restored to Him,” by Mark Wingfield, 23, 2022 — The celebrity coach joined the speaking circuit and appeared with former President Trump at a publicity event instead of coaching his team.
- “Matt Chandler Takes Indefinite Leave of Absence After Exchanging ‘Unwise’ Online Messages with a Woman,” by Mark Wingfield, Aug. 28, 2022 — “Inappropriate” communication with a woman lead prominent SBC church planter and Reformed theology proponent to announce an indefinite leave of absence.
- “Guidepost Report Documents Pattern of Ignoring, Denying and Deflecting on Sexual Abuse Claims in SBC,” by Mark Wingfield, May 22, 2022 — Tightly controlled sexual abuse information was not reported to Executive Committee trustees while survivors and others reporting abuse were ignored or disbelieved.
- “Just When You Think the United Methodist Church Breakup Can’t Get Any More Difficult …” by Cynthia Astle, April 13, 2022 — The seeds of dissent have been planted by traditionalists who have pushed against the UMC’s “big tent” identity since the denomination was formed in 1968.
- “United Methodist Church Split Draws Celebration, Lament and Soul-Searching,” by Cynthia Astle, May 10, 2022 — United Methodists barrage social media with support for their denomination after launch of conservative break-away group.
- “John Macarthur Rallies Pastors to Preach Against Government Bans on Conversion Therapy Jan. 16,” by Mark Wingfield, Dec. 29, 2021 — Controversial right-wing pastor equates conversion therapy with the gospel of Jesus Christ and calls other pastors to action.
- “Greenway Out At Southwestern Seminary,” by Mark Wingfield, Sept. 23, 2022 — This was the first in a series of articles about Greenway’s sudden departure after three and a half years leading the institution. BNG broke this story nationally.