After breaking the initial story about David Sills filing a defamation lawsuit against the SBC, prominent figures, and Guidepost, Baptist News Global did not wait long to write a hit piece against supportive voices of the lawsuit, namely Tom Ascol, Tom Buck, and Megan Basham. The first two are prominent pastors in the SBC who oppose the liberal drift. Basham is a Daily Wire reporter who has taken on issues that Evangelical Dark Web writes on (among others), and broadcasts them to a much larger audience.
Baptist News Global points out that the Sills lawsuit incorrectly claims that Lyell emailed a defamatory statement to Bob Smietana, a liberal reporter for RNS, when in fact she sent it to two Midwest Christian Outreach, the same people that interviewed Lyell and the audio leaked.
The article goes on much longer about how Tom Ascol and Megan Basham highlight this defect in the lawsuit. Wasting no time taking sides, the article opens with this:
[Lyell’s] case has become one of the most high-profile illustrations of the larger reckoning over mishandled knowledge of sexual abuse within the SBC. However, not everyone has believed a sexual abuse crisis exists in the SBC. Some — especially a group of Calvinist pastors — questioned Lyell’s account and accused her of trying to make a consensual affair look like abuse.
Tom Ascol, Tom Buck and Megan Basham tweeted about the Sills lawsuit and accused not only Lyell, but also Religion News Service reporter Bob Smietana — who has covered the SBC’s sexual abuse situation for years — of misconduct.
The red herring of Calvinism is used before trying to paint Bob Smietana as a reliable journalist. Megan Basham pointed out on Twitter that she reported that Bob Smietana said that Sills admitted abuse to him when Sills had never spoken with him during his reporting. While BNG wants to paint Ascol and Basham as spreading misinformation, they aren’t even commenting on the discrepancy in the lawsuit. The article is about Basham’s communication with the original receivers of the Lyell email which the filing claim went to Smietana.
Ascol, Buck and Basham are not newcomers to critiquing Lyell and Smietana. Ascol is a Florida pastor who leads Founders Ministries, a group of Southern Baptist Calvinists. He unsuccessfully ran for the SBC presidency in June. Buck is an East Texas pastor who shares Ascol’s beliefs and is aggressive on Twitter in spreading his commentaries and accusations. Basham is a conservative writer for the Daily Wire website, which describes itself as a “counter-cultural outlet for news, opinion and entertainment.”
Classic hit piece right here. Ultimately this is about theology, both Rachael DenHollander theology and reformed theology apparently.
All this played out as the SBC addressed the independent report of Guidepost Solutions about a long-term pattern of ignoring or mishandling known cases of sexual abuse in SBC churches and agencies.
Also at the same time Buck inserted himself into the behind-the-scenes interrogation of Lyell, he maintained a public campaign to identify an alleged leaker of a column written by his wife discussing difficulties in their marriage and in her earlier life.
The string of email correspondence viewed by BNG implies Buck contacted Lyell to ask questions about her claims. Buck, like Ascol, holds no official role in SBC life and has no direct connection to her claims of abuse from Sills.
What Ascol, Buck and Sills share in common is adherence to an extreme version of Reformed theology, known as hyper-Calvinism, that has been on the resurgence in the SBC over the past 30 years. Ascol’s group, Founders Ministries, once was a fringe movement in the SBC but today has a large following, especially among younger seminarians and pastors who were influenced by the Passion conferences in the 1990s.
The article concludes with a statement from Lyell to Sietana about the lawsuit:
Lyell sent a statement to both BNG and RNS: “I do not need to be under oath to tell the truth — and there are no lies that will shake my certainty about what is true. This is why the most egregious, cruel lies do not leave me without hope when those asserting them are reckless enough to do so in a form that not only allows my witness but provides a clear means by which it will be formally provided.”
Ultimately, this discrepancy will be easily remedied as the statement was still defamatory in nature and Lyell is listed in the lawsuit, not Smietana. Baptist New Global continues to be an outlet of low integrity.