Kelly Edmiston on the Treatment of Women in Churches of Christ

Kelly Edmiston is the Youth Pastor at the Vineyard Church of Sugar Land/Stafford. She has spent the last thirteen years in ministry to students and families in domestic and international contexts. She holds a Masters of Divinity from Abilene Christians University. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of BCNN1.

“Same song, different verse.” This is what comes to mind for me when I hear of the conflict at Lipscomb Academy regarding John Rich and Brittany Paschall. Lipscomb Academy is a preparatory school associated with Lipscomb University, a Church of Christ institution. Maybe you have heard of John Rich. If the lyrics, “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” sound familiar, then you are in luck. He’s your guy. He is half of the duo, “Big and Rich,” and lives in Nashville, TN where his two children attend Lipscomb Academy. You have likely not heard of Brittany Paschall. Paschall served as the Dean of Intercultural Development at Lipscomb Academy for the past year. She describes herself in this way, from her website, “I am a radical liberator, educator, minister, and organizer from Nashville, TN. Specializing in diversity, equity, and inclusivity practices, conflict + project management, and youth development.” Paschall is a young African American woman who is deeply committed to racial reconciliation and ministry to young people.

You can read all the details at the links below regarding the conflict Rich has with Paschall. Here are the highlights.

“Country musician John Rich has been railing against Lipscomb Academy’s dean of Intercultural Development, according to parents familiar with the situation. The singer, who’s one-half of the duo Big & Rich, criticized Dean Brittany Paschall and her past writings and speeches, and called for the removal of her supervisor, Lisa Bruce, due to his disagreement with school materials that discuss racism and white privilege.”

Brittany speaks openly about racism and white privilege online, including her Twitter and Facebook pages and among other important matters. She has been involved in raising awareness regarding the history of slavery and lynchings in the South. She has organized rallies and spoken openly and proficiently about these matters.

“One parent tells the Scene that Rich wants to frame Paschall as a “radical liberal” for her writings about violence against black women, and for a post that she wrote on her personal website about experiencing racism in the Church of Christ.

Rich claimed that these topics are not appropriate for teenagers to discuss or read about. And therefore concluded that Paschall was not vetted properly by school administrators who hired her. Rich went on to conclude that Paschall must not be aligned with the doctrine of the school. Rich got more than what he bargained for. Not only did he get his way in the removal of Paschall from her position as Dean but he also managed to have several other administrators removed, including the Head of School. The supervisors were “transferred” to different roles at the University (with sabbatical time). I guess it’s true that money really does buy power.

Same song, different verse?

In typical “Church of Christ form,” the leaders at Lipscomb Academy succumbed to the bullying and power mongering tactics of John Rich. Rich’s bank account was a greater incentive for the Church of Christ leaders than doing the right thing, teaching the right thing, or standing up for the right thing. After-all, I am sure they reason, how could they survive without the generous fund raising parties and donations of men like John Rich and his buddies? This move was about money and power. Plain and simple. Paschall was faithfully executing the job that she was hired to do, raising awareness in a predominately white school about issues related to race. John Rich, a white rich man wasn’t comfortable with a black woman calling out white privilege so he used this very privilege to get rid of her. It is the irony of ironies that Rich’s denying the validity of white privilege is the very thing that exposes it.

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Source: Christianity Today