More than 60 Baptist women in ministry joined hundreds of Christian women Oct. 13 in an open letter denouncing remarks by presidential candidate Donald Trump they believe disparage women and condone sexual assault.
The letter, spearheaded by Jennifer Butler, CEO of Faith in Public Life Action Fund, collected more than 700 signatures of women appalled by lewd comments by the Republican nominee caught over a live microphone in 2005 about kissing and groping women made public by the Washington Post Oct. 8.
“Women clergy and lay leaders are alarmed that Trump has dismissed his sexually abusive remarks as mere ‘locker room’ talk, and we are deeply troubled by the emerging evidence of him engaging in the behavior he described on his offensive tape,” said Butler, chair of the White House Council on Faith and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Lead signers include Suzii Paynter, executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Decatur, Ga.; author and blogger Rachel Held Evans; and Diana Butler Bass, a historian, author and leading voice in progressive Christianity.
Other signers include Paula Dempsey, director of partnership relations for the Alliance of Baptists; Pam Durso, executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry in Atlanta; and Catherine Allen, a one-time Woman’s Missionary Union executive now retired and a member of Mountain Brook Baptist Church in suburban Birmingham, Ala.
Other names on the letter include Rachel Gunter Shapard, associate coordinator at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida; Alliance of Baptists communications specialist Leah Grundset Davis; CBF staff members Devita Parnell and Ruth Perkins Lee; and dozens of Baptist women serving as ministers in various capacities at local congregations.
“Mr. Trump must offer public contrition that fully acknowledges the seriousness and depravity of his actions,” the letter said. “The sin of misogyny has caused many of us to experience sexual assault or sexually abusive language that threatened our safety, dignity and well-being.”
Christian women said leaders who excuse such speech as a minor mistake or attempt to be “macho” send a message to young people that such language is acceptable.
“When some Christian leaders dismiss or minimize sexually abusive remarks from a presidential candidate, they do violence to women — particularly those recovering from abuse,” Butler said in a press release. “Trump has not offered true repentance. Congregations must lead the way in denouncing such vile and violent behavior.”
The open letter urged all religious leaders to “preach, teach and help their communities heal from the twin sins of sexual violence and misogyny.”
“While we are disheartened by Mr. Trump’s toxic words, we believe this moment presents an opportunity to teach our daughters and sons that they are loved, and to teach all Americans how to speak out against sexually violent language,” the women said.