Cancel culture hits church: Anchorage Christian Schools called 'racist' on Facebook - Must Read Alaska
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Wednesday, August 5, 2020
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Cancel culture hits church: Anchorage Christian Schools called ‘racist’ on Facebook

Former students are on a public campaign against the leadership and staff of Anchorage Christian Schools and Anchorage Baptist Temple, due to a perceived legacy of racism.

The outcry against one of the largest Christian churches and schools in Alaska comes at a time when institutions at every level in society are being attacked, and many are struggling with how to appropriately respond. In today’s Must Read Alaska, ABT Pastor Ron Hoffman has responded publicly about the role of ABT/ACS in shaping the lives of all.

[Read Pastor Ron Hoffman’s column here.]

It’s not just in Anchorage, but all over the country churches are dealing with accusations that they are not doing enough to combat systemic racism or that they are racist institutions. Activists are demanding that churches become engaged in the Black Lives Matter movement.

Last month, a white Catholic priest in Oakland, Calif., took on his own bishop, and called him racist over “Black Lives Matter” discussions.

Also last month, Superintendent of Anchorage School District Deena Bishop was criticized by area blacks for being racially insensitive in an email she sent to parents districtwide.

[Read: Superintendent says race is a social construct]

The attacks on ABT/ACS started last month. The school, which has taught and shaped the characters of thousands of students since its founding in 1971, came under increasing attack on the social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter during a time of heightened racial disharmony in the nation after the killing of George Floyd. It comes at a time when institutions find it difficult to respond to demands that are being leveled at them from many directions, while they are also collapsing due to the economic fallout from COVID-19.

The attacks are also happening when church attendance is soft and all churches are struggling to pay bills with parishioner/donors who are having to watch their finances because of the COVID-19 recession.

Anchorage Baptist Temple is one of the most diverse churches in Alaska — possibly in America. The congregation at Anchorage Baptist Temple almost mirrors that of diverse East Anchorage, with black, white, Polynesian, hispanic, Filipino, and Alaska Native worshiping together.

The church has many ministries in the Anchorage area, with its K-12 school being one of the most well known.

The bus ministry, which has come under withering criticism in some of the Facebook postings Must Read Alaska has reviewed, is not actually limited to low-income children, as the critics indicate, but provides free rides to church for kids from all over Anchorage, from Rabbit Creek’s million-dollar homes to trailer parks in Muldoon.

The church was founded over 50 years ago by Pastor Jerry Prevo, a missionary who is now retired. ABT has hosted speakers such as the Rev. Billy Graham, Franklin Graham, Ravi Zacharias, Greg Laurie, and even Vice President Joe Biden, who gave a eulogy at the memorial for the late Sen. Ted Stevens in 2010.

Both the school and the church are supported by donations from Christians in Alaska and from across the country. Children from poor families have their tuition largely covered by the major gifts that pour in for the education ministry. Tuition is about $300 a month for those who can afford it. During the COVID-19 pandemic and closures of schools, ACS cut its tuition by 30 percent to help families out.

But no good deed goes unpunished. Institutions, as imperfect or as exemplary as they are, are being called to do even more for persons of color.

The social justice campaign against ABT/ACS started at the same time as the Black Lives Matter riots and protests in communities across the nation.

The complaints against ABT/ACS have now been simmering on social media for three weeks. Anna Simmerss, one of the leaders of the Facebook campaign against ABT/ACS, wrote:

“Last week the leadership of ACS/ABT had an opportunity to respond to an open letter and the testimonies of more than 52 students and former staff who reported having experienced or witnessed racial discrimination and harassment at the school or church. These students told heartbreaking stories that included: being called racial slurs by students and staff, being singled out for their appearance and physical attributes, being singled out for unwarranted discipline, and multiple instances of staff being physically aggressive with Black students. There were many other stories from students and staff who spoke of a school and church culture that normalized racial slurs, segregation of children, and racially motivated bullying. We took great care in sharing these stories and have ensured that every story shared could be verified by at least two witnesses. Many more stories were not made public.”

Among the demands the group has are that persons of color be prioritized in hiring.

“There is no good reason why diversity of culture and experience should not be actively prioritized in the hiring process at ACS and ABT. This would ensure that there are people in positions of authority who have sensitivity to racial and cultural differences and can be a filter for future decisions. Diversity is valuable and should be sought,” Simmers wrote in a post that was 1,400 words long. She added the email addresses of Pastor Ron Hoffman and other church leaders.

Some of the social media posts were not as polite, as these spotted on Twitter last month:

Among the demands from the group of 52 former students were posted by Simmons on Facebook:

  • Desegregate the Children’s Sunday School classes
  • Publicize that you have scheduled mandatory training and informed all faculty and staff
  • Publicize the no-tolerance policies that will be written in the school handbook 
  • Publicize intent and goal to diversify pastoral leadership, staff, and faculty
  • Publicize what expanded curriculum on minority, especially Black American history will be included in textbooks and lesson plans
  • Publicize schedule and facilitator for mandatory racial sensitivity training for all staff and faculty to be conducted before 24 Aug (1st day of class)

At the same time that former students are going public with their grievances on social media, the school itself is undergoing a change in leadership, with Calvin Hoffman taking over as executive director of student ministry and chief operations officer after the long-planned retirement of its former director, and Pam King returning to the school as provost and chief academic officer.

The school year is scheduled to begin on Aug. 24, God willing and if COVID-19 does not throw a wrench into the current plans to welcome students back to school.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • I’m at a point right now where all these individuals who complain about the USA can pick up their shit and leave the country. Yes America may not have been a Saint since she was established but we have done more for Racial equality than any other Country on the Globe. LOVE HER OR LEAVE HER I have shed blood sweat and tears with Brave Men an Women around the Globe to provode opportunity to many people. Some of my Brothers and Sisters have come home under Her Flag and are now be disparged by a few.

  • All Christians of various denominations had better get their act together and choose whether they are Christians or Democrats. The Democrats are currently led by the leftists/socialists, as is evident in their action and their lack of action on the parts of leaders and followers. Christians are not favored under leftist/socialist ideologies, and they are on the chopping list. You simply cannot be both Christian and Democrat at this point, as sad as that is to state.

    • Amen to that!

    • Can’t be a Christian and a Republican either. I know! One more vote for a Bush will change the SCOTUS and roll back abortion and Sodom and Gomorrah! Yeah right. My only allegiance is to Jesus Christ. Politics is for the delusional.

      • A vote for Trump is a vote for Jesus’s teaching. Pretty sure he was against killing babies. God tool care of the 2 evil cities, same way he will take care of Seattle and Portland.

        • Technically Greg, God didn’t wipe out Sodom and Gomorrah, the two Angels who were with Him did. When Abraham starts negotiating with Him, God indicates He doesn’t have first hand knowledge of their evil, but He’ll go down there and “know the truth of it”. God is the Creator, whatever He has spoken into existence cannot EVER be destroyed. That’s WHY there’s a Hell! And if I lived in Juneau these days, I’d be worried about the Capital sliding into the sea. Especially on days when the legislators of faith are meeting in Wasilla where they’re supposed to be!

          • God is all seeing and all knowing so he must have known. The Bible and it’s canon were written by men.
            Priests with their own agenda it seems.

    • Actually Bob, it’s been that way for a long time. I can’t remember a Democratic candidate that my religious beliefs would let me vote for…and that is sad.

  • What a class act they are.
    The tiny whinies cry again. Life happens and is not always fair..and that is the only thing that affects all fairly.
    Quit making crap up to complain about….quit being led by anarchists and terror groups. And all you non-Alaska pukes….piss off.

    We demand you quit whining. Get back under your mommy’s skirts in your safe space before she rents them out.

    • Such a Christ-like response to stories of abuse RR, I’m sure you’re a prized member of the congregation.

    • This is what happens when Christians give up the fight over and over. No one dares protest a muslim mosque for being anti-gay, or “transphobic”, because they know there will be massive pushback.

      Sooner rather than later, Christians, and to a greater extent White people will have had enough. For the longest time in this country, we have been taught to be universalist, accepting, and tolerant. To an extent, it’s been a survival mechanism: “I’m not racist, I don’t even see race, my best friend is black! We welcome everyone!”

      Well after decades of appealing to the left’s morality, instead of being self confident in your own, here we are. You may not define yourself by your “whiteness”, you may see yourself as a Christian first above all alse. However, the people wielding cultural power right now see you as White first, and therefore inherently guilty.

      The new religion is that of anti-racisim and anti-white Orthodoxy. Blasphemy against Jesus Christ is acceptable in society, blasphemy against G—ge F—d is verboten.

      Stand up for your rights, stick together self-confidently, support your neighbors who think the same. Love your family, and prepare for more of this slander and blasphemy until something puts a stop to it.

    • I’ve noticed plenty of crybaby’s in Alaska recently. People crying because they are being forced to save lives. Who knew that Americans are that selfish towards its own people?

  • Gee, It’s a strict Christian School yet look at the replies from the former students. It’s no wonder they don’t like ACS. I doubt there is a credible ounce of truth to their accusations having attended there for 8+ yrs.

  • I was a member of ABT for much of the 80’s. I even drove for the bus ministry. My route was on Fort Richardson. These people criticizing the church should just go pound sand. Nobody is forcing them to attend the church or send their kids to the school. I imagine many of those complaining had their tuition paid by others yet they feel no compunction about whinging now. They are just jumping on the current leftist bandwagon. The solution is simple. They should start their own church/school. But that would require actually “doing” something. It’s much easier to throw rocks at someone else than roll up their sleeves and do something that requires effort.

  • What does that mean…that Sunday School classes be desegregated? Are they saying Sunday School Classes are organized via race of attendees? That’s hard to believe.

    • The children that ride the buses are kept together in order to maintain the safety of them returning to the bus and be brought home safely. There are other classes for the children that come with their parents. The complaints are that they want the classes mixed.

  • Are any of these people actually believers? Having Marxists make demands of believers is so 20th century, and uhh current PRC.

  • The way you hire someone to do something is the best one for the job based on ability and disposition. Color, race, sex don’t matter and shouldn’t even be considered either way. Insisting someone be denied a job because they aren’t the right color to obtain some BS ideal of “diversity” is crap.

    • Absolutely. Put back on Live PD and we’ll talk.

  • The fact that these people have “demands” in and of itself is ridiculous. As a former student, I cannot say that the culture was without fault but what place is perfect or claims perfection? Certainly not ABT/ACS. While the stories should be heard, the “demands” make me laugh. How incredibly pompous, entitled and absurd. Such unsubstantiated entitlement and perceived jurisdiction by Ms. Simmers; it’s almost comical. It’s frightening that Facebook shaming has become the norm. I applaud the attention brought to the issue and the voice it gave to those affected, however it should have stopped there. “Demands” are laughable.

  • Let the witch trials begin anew. God save the USA!

  • “Domestic terrorists.” Have fun “negotiating” with ’em.

  • Thank you for not automatically assuming that a conservative institution is in the wrong!!! Good people who have sacrificed their own time and any hope of financial security in order to educate, coach, and care for other people’s children are being attacked with no room for defending themselves. It’s a relief to see one news media source sticking up for the good guys!

  • Systemic racism no longer exists. These attacks against ABT and ACS are wrong, and will be of no consequence as we continue to confront and defend against the liberal herecy of ‘racial injustice’.

    God Bless the Anchorage Baptist Temple.

  • Google: Marxism, People of Color

  • The only new policy ABT should adapt is to not respond to lies from Communist rabble.

  • This article misses the point the former students are trying to make I am a former student and can say they tried to bring this up behind closed doors first then in private ACS Groups and only after all that failed did they go public they never called for anyone’s removal They only offered what they thought would address the issue at hand and only after being ignored by staff

  • The framing of this article and the comments seem strange to me. Where is the love, God’s love! What is described is not cancel culture but a call for all of us to make a more perfect culture and church.

    Please do not react first, but instead think, reflect. Maybe, you can gain from other perspectives.

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