Rob Schenck

Rob Schenck

"People can change, no matter what they've been or done, or how young or old they may be." That's what Rob Schenck says in explaining his own life's journey. Schenck is, in his own words, a "recovering member of the religious right." An ordained evangelical minister with impeccable conservative bona fides, including keeping close company with the likes of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Roy Moore, and Mike Pence, Schenck went as far as personally challenging then President Bill Clinton during a Christmas Eve service at the Washington National Cathedral, landing the popular preacher in Secret Service custody. As an early leader in the militant anti-abortion movement, Operation Rescue, Schenck, along with identical twin brother, Paul, was jailed numerous times. He was later arrested defending Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and his display of a public monument of the Ten Commandments in the Alabama Judicial Building. In a bid to justify the Schenck brothers' pro-life activism in front of abortion clinics, now-Trump lawyer, Jay Sekulow, argued for them before the U.S. Supreme Court, successfully getting limits lifted on their protest activities. Schenck eventually took his place on Capitol Hill as a spokesperson for the ultra-conservative wing of American evangelicalism, and for twenty years could be seen regularly addressing the media in front of the Supreme Court, reading the Bible on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, and kneeling in prayer at the front gates of the White House. After several physicians had been shot and killed by anti-abortion activists, Schenck began to wonder about the tactics he and his cohorts employed. Then, when a supporter of his ministry was personally touched by the shooting of five Amish girls in a Pennsylvania schoolhouse, and a mass shooting happened near his own home in Washington, DC, Schenck agreed to investigate his community's embrace of gun culture. The result was Abigail Disney 's Emmy Award winning documentary, The Armor of Light. Schenck's critique of evangelicals and guns was only the beginning of a sometimes painful reassessment of what he had spent more than three decades publicly advancing. After going on a spiritual pilgrimage in the footsteps of World War II-era German Lutheran pastor, ethicist, and Nazi resister, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Schenck experienced "another conversion." Turning away from a message of rejection, exclusion, and contempt, Schenck came to embrace a gospel of invitation, inclusion, and love. Costly Grace: An Evangelical Minister's Rediscovery of Faith, Hope, and Love, is Schenck's memoir of a 44-year odyssey taking him from his initial conversion from nominal Judaism to born again Christianity, to a second conversion from a simple faith to a highly politicized religion, and, ultimately, to a gospel marked by God's expansive and permanent grace offered equally to all. Rob Schenck was born to a Jewish father and a mother who converted to Judaism. He became a Christian in his late teens, married Cheryl Smith a year after the two graduated high school in 1976, went on to study for the ministry, and was ordained at 21. Over a four-decade career, Schenck has served as a residential counselor for recovering heroin addicts, a pastor to urban and suburban congregations, a leader in the religious right, and, now, as a friendly critic of American evangelicalism. Rob Schenck is a minister, non-profit executive, author and speaker. He holds degrees in Bible and Theology, Religion, Christian Ministry, and Church and State. Schenck is the founding president of The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute in Washington, DC ( an institution dedicated to applying the theological and ethical insights of this brilliant World War II-era Protestant church leader, Nazi resister, and moral philosopher to the social crises of our time. He and his wife, Cheryl, a psychotherapist in private practice, have two adult children and live in Washington, DC. Rob Schenck blogs at and podcasts at Schenck Talks Bonhoeffer ( ).
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