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‘We Want to Get Along’ – Christ Church’s Doug Wilson Addresses Critics at Forum

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‘We Want to Get Along’ – Christ Church’s Doug Wilson Addresses Critics at Forum

News Story by Tracy Simmons | FāVS News

MOSCOW, Idaho — In a rare public forum, controversial pastor Doug Wilson took center stage with two leaders from his Christ Church ministry Thursday night to field digital questions from the community.

Keely Emerine-Mix protests before a town hall meeting with Christ Church – Tracy Simmons/FāVS News

“We are part of this town, and we would like to get along as much as possible,” Wilson said, explaining the purpose of the town hall.

He said members of Christ Church have “substantive disagreements” with the secular worldview, but added, “It is not the case that we have to disagree about absolutely everything. … So I have a very modest goal, which is to remove misunderstandings and unnecessary disagreements that simply create unnecessary friction in our town.”

As he spoke some members from the audience jeered, many carrying signs that read “Christ Church Not Welcome Here” and “F _ _ _ Christ Church.”

Wilson said those heckles are why Christ Church doesn’t host more community forums.

Clashing Over COVID Rules, Sex Abuse Response

The church was founded in the 90s and, according to The Guardian, experts studying the church estimate the size of the congregation and its offshoot churches at about 2,000, or 10% of the city’s total population.

Since its founding, Christ Church has frequently clashed with the wider Moscow community. One recent point of contention was the church’s vocal opposition and active resistance to federal and local COVID-19 restrictions aimed at curbing the pandemic’s spread. Wilson urged followers to “resist openly” these measures, referring to it as a “cold civil war.” In September 2020, the church organized two anti-mask protests at Moscow’s City Hall, leading to citations, arrests and a subsequent legal battle where a judge ruled the city wrongfully arrested protesters since religious and protest activities were exempt from mask mandates. 

Another major controversy surrounds the church’s handling of sexual abuse cases within its congregation. Wilson and other ministers have faced widespread criticism for their response, which allegedly involved requesting leniency for convicted abusers, siding with alleged perpetrators over victims, and discouraging victims from speaking out. 

Several members of the church, including former deacon Alex Lloyd who pleaded guilty to child pornography charges in 2022, have faced arrests and convictions related to sex crimes.

When asked about this at the town hall, Wilson stated that any church leader admitting to a sexual offense would be required to resign. However, there have been accusations that the church has not always properly reported alleged crimes to law enforcement. King’s Cross Church Pastor Toby Sumpter, who was also on the panel, maintained that if made aware of a crime, the church would notify the police. Critics, though, have questioned the church’s transparency and responsiveness in dealing with such allegations among its members.

Pastor’s Slavery Book Ignites Racism Allegations

Adding to the controversies, Wilson co-authored a book that portrayed slavery in the pre-Civil War American South as relatively benign, sparking accusations of racism. The first question of the Town Hall Thursday night was about Wilson’s book, “Southern Slavery as it Was.”

Wilson said his church can’t “defend anything that’s indefensible,” including the accounts of slaves who were abused and mistreated, but noted that wasn’t the case for all enslaved people.

When the crowd hollered responses to Douglas, they were met with “Be quiet!” from Christ Church members in the audience, who seemed to be the majority. The panelists quickly moved to the next questions.

Church Denies Coercive Aims, Emphasizes Service Evangelism

In addressing the misconceptions the community has about Christ Church, Wilson said his congregation doesn’t want to conduct “a hostile takeover” of Moscow, referencing “Handmaid’s Tale.”

Wilson has said he wants Moscow to “become a Christian town.” At the forum he explained he stands by that, but wants it to happen, “by means of persuasion, and evangelism and by us being good neighbors and serving our neighbors and cultivating good relationships. That’s what I want. But what I don’t want is any kind of coercive top down takeover.”

The panelists emphasized the church is evangelizing the town through Christian education, family and business.

“We also have a number of entrepreneurial business people in the church that are trying to provide goods and services for the community,” Sumpter said, noting Christ Church members own numerous coffee shops and restaurants throughout Moscow.

Conservative Evangelical Positions Reaffirmed at University Forum

More than 100 people attended the forum, which was held on the University of Idaho campus, and organized by the student group Collegiate Reformed Fellowship.

Also during the forum, Wilson reasserted several of his controversial viewpoints that have sparked tensions with the broader progressive voices in Moscow in the past. He reiterated his belief, based on biblical teachings, that women should be prohibited from certain leadership roles within the church. He also expressed skepticism about climate change, questioning whether it is a real phenomenon, if it is caused by human activities and if it can be reversed, while adding that he does not necessarily view climate change as inherently negative.

Furthermore, Wilson reaffirmed his long-standing opposition to same-sex marriage and his stance against abortion, including in cases where the pregnancy results from rape and incest. 

University of Idaho student Henry Truillo said he was disappointed more students didn’t attend the forum, noting it felt like mostly Christ Church members in attendance.

“It felt like it was set up by them and that the questions weren’t from college students,” he said.

Student Josie Gregg agreed, adding that Wilson seemed to be defending the accusations against his church, which seemed unChristian. 

They left the forum early, both agreeing the town hall didn’t accomplish its mission to bridge any divides in town.

Tracy Simmons
Tracy Simmons
Tracy Simmons is an award-winning journalist specializing in religion reporting and digital entrepreneurship. In her approximate 20 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti. Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas, Connecticut and Washington. She is the executive director of FāVS.News, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Washington. She also writes for The Spokesman-Review and national publications. She is a Scholarly Assistant Professor of Journalism at Washington State University.

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