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Report: Christianity Today ‘Failed to Hold Two Ministry Leaders Accountable for Sexual Harassment’ 

Image:
Former Christianity Today editor, Mark Galli, at his home in Glen Ellyn, Ill. (RNS photo by Yonat Shimron)
Former Christianity Today editor, Mark Galli, at his home in Glen Ellyn, Ill. (RNS photo by Yonat Shimron)

The Banner has a subscription to republish articles from Religion News Service. This story by Bob Smietana was published on religionnews.com March 15. It has been edited for length and to clarify findings in the independent report.

The former editor of prominent evangelical magazine Christianity Today, who made national headlines for criticizing Donald Trump’s failed character, has been accused of sexual harassment during his tenure as editor.

A report published Tuesday (March 15) at christianitytoday.com, claims the Carol Stream, Ill.,-based ministry failed to hold former editor-in-chief Mark Galli and former CT advertising director Olatokunbo Olawoye accountable for sexual harassment for more than a decade.

That harassment included “demeaning, inappropriate, and offensive behavior,” according to the report from the magazine’s news editor Daniel Silliman, which was edited by senior news editor Kate Shellnutt and published without review from the ministry’s executive leadership.

Silliman reported finding a dozen firsthand accounts of harassment.

“Women at CT (Christianity Today) were touched at work in ways that made them uncomfortable,” according to the news story. “They heard men with authority over their careers make comments about the sexual desirability of their bodies. And in at least two cases, they heard department heads hint at openness to an affair.”

According to the report, Galli was reprimanded in 2019 after three women in three days reported to human resources that he’d inappropriately touched them.

However, the article said, 2019 was not the first time Galli had been reported to HR for inappropriate behavior toward female colleagues—it was just the first time a record was kept. According to the report, more than half a dozen employees reported harassment from Galli or Olawoye between the mid-2000s and 2019. But none of those reports resulted in a formal write-up, warning or reprimand.

Dan Darling, an evangelical author and director of the Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the magazine’s account showed how badly Christian institutions have handled issues of sexual harassment.

“A lot of our institutions did not have good policies,” he said.

The report was sad, he said, but also a step forward for Christian groups. He hopes that other ministries will learn from Christianity Today’s example and adopt better policies.

“We need these protections in place,” he said. 

In a phone interview with Religion News Service, Galli said he was deeply troubled by the allegations in the story, which he denied. Several of the incidents in the story were taken out of context, he said, or were simply false.

“My initial reaction is that I am shocked at how many of the statements made in the article were simply not true,” he said.

Galli also said he was “deeply troubled” if he did anything that offended or intimidated other people and would be open to meeting with people he had offended and apologizing. 

In 2019, not long before he retired, Galli called for then-President Trump to be removed from office, saying Trump’s character flaws made him unfit for his office. The editorial caused a national uproar among evangelical Christians. Galli then left CT—which was founded by the famed evangelist Billy Graham—in early 2020 and has since converted to Catholicism.

In an editorial, also published March 15, Tim Dalrymple, the current president and CEO of Christianity Today, said he first became aware in 2019 that a CT senior editorial leader—whom he did not name—had “treated his female reports unprofessionally, engaging in unwanted touch despite repeated communications that such behavior was wrong, unwelcome, and needed to stop.” Later, when presented with a “more thoroughgoing narrative regarding this individual’s conduct, one that extended back many years and continued even after his retirement,” Dalrymple wrote, the institution hired Guidepost Solutions to conduct “an independent assessment of our ministry and its response to the allegations we received. We also wished to know whether there was a wider problem with harassment or abuse at CT and how we might develop our culture, policies, and practices so that harassment is prevented, identified, investigated, and disciplined properly.”

That report, made available within Dalrymple’s statement, found accounts of employees’ experiences of inappropriate behavior to be credible.  The report also found that CT’s culture and work environment can feel “inhospitable to women at times.”

“While many believe that this aspect of CT’s culture has improved under its current leadership, others believe that women are still discounted and treated as ‘less than’ in the CT workplace,” according to the Guidepost report.

The Guidepost report also found that women employees at the ministry felt CT failed to hold employees accused of harassment accountable.

“These female employees felt that CT had not held Former Employee 1 accountable for his actions and that the organization’s policies and procedures were insufficient to address and prevent future incidents of harassment and abuse,” according to Guidepost.

In Dalrymple’s editorial he said Christianity Today is committed “to implementing the six high-priority recommendations” made by Guidepost and, “We pray that transparency about our errors will help other organizations avoid their own.”

Dalrymple told RNS in a statement that CT’s leadership supported the reporting done by Silliman. 

“We invited the report because we wanted to know the truth of the matter,” he said. “We cannot be truth-tellers if we refuse to tell the truth about ourselves. I appreciate Daniel’s report and stand behind it fully.

Silliman’s article also detailed allegations of repeated harassment by Olawoye, who was fired from Christianity Today after being arrested in a 2017 sting operation. He later pleaded guilty to traveling to meet a minor for sex and was sentenced to three years in prison.

c. 2022 Religion News Service

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