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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



My master’s thesis focuses on the endurance of white supremacy and patriarchy in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), founded in 1845 and currently the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. I look at two moments in the SBC’s history and place these moments within their broader contexts to elucidate the political and cultural characteristics that shaped these moments: its founding in 1845 upon proslavery partisanship, as well as its current sexual abuse scandal. I argue that the Nullification Crisis of 1828-1834 and the cult of domesticity greatly influenced SBC policy and culture at its origins. Additionally, I examine the connections between the SBC’s conservative resurgence in the late 20th century and the SBC’s current sexual abuse scandal. In 2019, the Houston Chronicle published a six-part series called “Abuse of Faith” which uncovered that from 1998 to 2018, about 380 Southern Baptist leaders sexually abused over 700 people, most of whom were children. Additionally, it revealed that top SBC officials knew what was happening but did nothing and resisted the cries of survivors and advocates for reforms for more than a decade. Specifically, I use the analytical category of language to consider the possibility that, while the SBC’s founding in 1845 and the current sexual abuse scandal are more than one hundred and seventy years apart, these moments are more connected than meets the eye. SBC leaders in 1845 used religious freedom and unity rhetoric to legitimize their proslavery stance on so- called biblical grounds. This same rhetoric can also be found embedded in the arguments used by recent SBC leaders to legitimize their inaction toward sexual abuse reforms and discredit survivors and advocates. As the SBC works to develop sexual abuse reforms, this thesis aims to illuminate how deeply embedded white supremacy and patriarchy are in the SBC, and thus questions what effective change within the SBC is even possible.

First Advisor

Dr. Samuel Redman

Second Advisor

Dr. Christian Appy