Rob Schenck

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Rob Schenck
Robert Leonard Schenck

1958 (age 62–63)
EducationElim Bible Institute (GrDip)
Faith Evangelical Seminary (BA, MA)
Faith International University & Seminary (DDiv)
OccupationPresident of The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute
Spouse(s)Cheryl Schenck (née Smith)
RelativesPaul Schenck (brother)
ChurchEvangelical Methodist Church
Ordained1982, New York District. Presbytery of the General Council of the Assemblies of God USA
Writings"Ten Words That Will Change America", “Costly Grace”

Robert Leonard Schenck (born 1958) is an American Evangelical clergyman who ministers to elected and appointed officials in Washington, D.C., and serves as president of a non-profit organization named for Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Since 1982, Schenck has preached in all 50 states, several Canadian provinces, and over 40 countries. He is the subject of the Emmy Award-winning 2016 Abigail Disney documentary, The Armor of Light. Schenck later stated that he was once part of a group that paid Norma McCorvey (also known as Jane Roe from the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision) to lie that she had changed her mind and become against abortion.[1][2][3] Schenck has since repudiated his anti-abortion stance and shifted leftward on some of his socially conservative views.[4][5][6]

Early years[edit]

Robert Lenard Schenck and his identical twin brother, Paul, were born in 1958 in Montclair, New Jersey, to Chaim "Henry Paul" Schenck and Marjorie (née Apgar) Schenck. Schenck was named after his father's older brother who was a decorated B-17 bomber pilot in World War II and who lost his life in an air crash while serving in the Korean War. Schenck's father was born Jewish, raised in Manhattan and attended a Reform Temple on Long Island, and Schenck's mother was born Catholic in Brooklyn, raised non-religious (she converted to Judaism when marrying his father), and grew up in Northern New Jersey.[7]

Schenck grew up in Grand Island, New York. He and his friends started GASP: Grand Island Association Against Pollution, which served as an early community recycling center.[7]

Conversion to Christianity[edit]

As a self-described "rebellious teen"[8] Schenck and brother Paul became involved in risky behavior. Then in 1974 at the age of 16, the boys became acquainted with the son of a United Methodist minister serving the Trinity United Methodist Church in Grand Island. After Paul was introduced to a circle of young, religious Christians, he decided to become a Christian. Schenck accompanied his brother to prayer meetings, and soon converted as well. Both brothers were baptized in the waters of the Niagara River, which forms the borders of Grand Island. The conversion displeased their father, who felt that Schenck was rejecting his Jewish roots, but their mother, who had converted from Catholicism when she married Henry, was more understanding. Henry later came to accept Schenck's conversion and traveled with him on a religious mission to Russia.


While attending a youth prayer group in Grand Island, Schenck met Cheryl Smith, whom he married in 1977 after graduating from Grand Island High School. They have two children.

Religious affiliations[edit]

From 2012 to 2016, Schenck served as chairman of the board of directors of the Evangelical Church Alliance (ECA). He was also chairman of ECA's Committee for Church and Society, the social witness arm of the alliance of ministers. In 2018, he became an advisor to the Office of the Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) [9]

Early ministry[edit]

After serving in various capacities with the Rochester, New York Teen Challenge center, a church sponsored home for at-risk youth, Schenck was selected as the director of a Rochester, New York program and then executive director of the statewide network of homes known as Empire State Teen Challenge that included facilities in Syracuse and Buffalo, New York. In 1980, Schenck left Teen Challenge and served a short stint as Youth Pastor for the Webster Assembly of God congregation in a suburb of Rochester, followed by another short post as a staff pastor for the Community Gospel Church in Long Island City, Queens, New York (now Evangel Church and Christian School). In the latter role, he was mainly tasked with developing a training program for college interns in urban cross-cultural ministry. The program eventually became the New York School of Urban Ministry or NYSUM. [citation needed]

In 1982, Schenck reunited with his brother Paul in ministry and became minister of missions and evangelism at the New Covenant Tabernacle in Tonawanda, New York (suburban Buffalo) where Paul was the senior pastor. They worked together in ministry from 1982 to 1994. During that time Schenck formed New Covenant Evangelical Ministries that was later renamed P & R Schenck Associates in Evangelism. [citation needed]


In 1988,Schenck, an Assembly of God minister took a long-distance walk to help people in Mexico who live and work in garbage dumps. While he visited Mexico City in 1982, he became aware of the plight of the "dump people". Schenck took a 2,000-mile (3,200 km) walk from Buffalo, NY, through eight states and crossed the border at Laredo, Texas. He hoped to raise $1 million to build a clinic and recruit volunteers willing to help provide medical, dental, and construction services.[10]

Buffalo anti-abortion activism 1992[edit]

In 1992, during Buffalo's large-scale abortion clinic demonstrations, Schenck grabbed national and worldwide attention when photos and video were shot of him cradling a preserved human fetus given the name "Tia" by a black pro-life group because the fetus was believed to be African-American. Much was written and aired about the event.[citation needed] In an opinion editorial in the June 15 Buffalo News, Schenck responded to the criticism. According to the op-ed, Schenck believed that pro-choice supporters ignored the truth in favor of ideology, and conversely he believed that the fetus demonstrated the truth of his own views. "Most have never seen an abortion, let alone the result of it. Baby Tia takes the argument out of the abstract and into reality."[11]

Some time after 2010, Schenck (apparently) changed his mind about abortion. He now says that banning abortion would cause more harm than good, and opposes the effort to overturn Roe v. Wade. He concludes his May 31, 2019 Op-Ed for the New York Times "No doubt, many of my former allies will call me a turncoat. I don’t see it that way. I still believe that every abortion is a tragedy and that when a woman is pregnant, bringing the child into the world is always ideal. Reality, though, is different from fantasy. I wish every child could be fully nurtured and cared for, and could experience all the wonderful possibilities that life can offer."[12] In the 2020 documentary, AKA Jane Roe, Schenck stated that the anti-abortion movement had exploited Norma McCorvey's weakness and that it was highly unethical to have paid her to support the anti-abortion movement.[1]

Later ministry[edit]

D.C. activities[edit]

Schenck went to Washington, D.C. to increase the role of evangelical Christianity in government. He became on-call as a member of the U.S. Senate Chaplain's Pastoral Response Team. In 2010, Schenck was named the first Chaplain in the 40-year history of the Capitol Hill Executive Service Club, the only association of its kind allowed to meet weekly in the Mansfield Room of the United States Capitol.[citation needed] In these last two capacities, he also routinely carried out the normal roles of a member of the Christian clergy including sacerdotal and ministerial functions such as administering baptism and Holy Communion, solemnizing weddings, conducting funerals, providing pastoral care, counseling and visitation and presiding at various public and private religious ceremonies. [citation needed]

Pastoring and Preaching[edit]

In August 1994, in order to minister to national decision makers, Schenck and family moved to Washington, D.C. His first ministry there was to organize a new church. He attracted a core group of worshippers and created what became the National Community Church. He served as pastor for over a year until deciding to focus on government officials. In the beginning of 1996, Mark Batterson took over as pastor.[citation needed]

On Sunday, November 29, Schenck was a guest preacher at a Sunday worship service at the Washington National Cathedral.[13] Schenck shared his thoughts on gun violence; specifically addressing the response of Christians to America's gun culture through Biblical theology.[citation needed]

Ten Commandments Project[edit]

Created in 1995, his Ten Commandments Project has given over 400 plaques of the Ten Commandments to members of Congress and other highly placed officials, including former presidents Clinton and Bush. Special delegations made up of clergy and lay people make the presentations during ceremonies held in the recipients' offices. The agenda included a short speech which describes religion as the foundational basis of morality and law, a reading of the Commandments in their entirety, and prayers. The official was given an inscribed wooden plaque on which is mounted two stone polymer tablets containing a summary of the Ten Commandments. Recipients were urged to "display and obey" the Ten Commandments.[14]

National Memorial for the Preborn[edit]

In 1995, Schenck organized the first National Memorial for the Preborn and their Mothers and Fathers, a religious service in opposition to abortion.[15] This event was held inside the US Capitol complex in Washington, D.C. The event was sponsored by the National Pro-Life Religious Council.[16]

National activities[edit]

Judge Moore's Monument[edit]

In 2003, Schenck helped organize a supportive demonstration outside of the Alabama Judicial building, seat of the state's Supreme Court when Roy Moore was chief justice.[17] By that time, Schenck had a long cooperative association with Moore[18] who refused to relocate a granite monument to the historic basis of the law that included the Ten Commandments. The monument was eventually ordered moved by US District Judge Myron Thompson. When US marshals were dispatched to supervise the removal, Schenck and several others surrounded the monument, knelt and started to pray. He was arrested and held for 5½ hours while the monument was moved.[19] Schenck was interviewed on numerous television shows regarding the events.[20]

Stopping Burn-a-Koran Day[edit]

During September 2010, Schenck opposed the proposed burning of the Koran by pastor Terry Jones. In an interview with CBN on September 8, Schenck said this particular demonstration, while possibly warranted by common values and certainly permissible under the Constitution, violated Christian morality, adding that he believed Christians were held to a higher standard.[21] "[I]t's impossible for me to cite one instance in the life or teaching of Jesus Christ that could justify such an act", Schenck said.[22] He also stated objections to fallout in religious relations; "He's not just burning Korans, he's also burning bridges that we were trying to build for years with the Islamic community".[23]

Schenck represented the National Clergy Council in speaking personally with Jones, and asked Jones if, in a show of good faith, he would surrender custody of the Korans at the center of the controversy to Schenck's colleague, the Reverend Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition. Jones agreed to do so. As a condition of his cancellation, Jones wanted the relocation of Park51. Schenck attempted to broker a meeting between Jones and Imam Faisal Rauf.[24] However, a meeting never occurred and Jones did not burn Korans on September 11.[25]

Houston sermons subpoena[edit]

On May 28, 2014, Houston, Texas, Mayor Annise Parker approved the controversial Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which included a broad range of extenuating rights for the LGBT community without an exemption for religious organizations.[26] Opponents of the ordinance collected signatures to put the Bill to a public vote. On July 3, 2014, over 50,000 signatures were delivered to the city, which invalidated around 35,000 of the signatures and canceled the vote. On August 7, 2014, Houston citizens' groups filed suit to block implementation of HERO, which was put on hold.

In mid-2014, Mayor Parker's legal team subpoenaed sermons and sermon notes of local clergy members who had opposed the HERO ordinance. The subpoena required the clergy that "all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession" be turned over to the mayor's lawyers for review.[27] This caused a backlash around the country from religious freedom advocates as well as concerned citizens. As President of the National Clergy Council, Rob Schenck and other pastors met with Mayor Parker to request that her legal order be withdrawn. A group of local pastors also met with the mayor.[28] Shortly thereafter, the mayor instructed her attorneys to withdraw the subpoenas. Afterwards Rev. Schenck said, "Our meeting with the mayor was cordial and very productive ... we never relaxed or compromised our demand for her to unequivocally withdraw the subpoenas. We're thankful to her and we are supremely thankful to God for this positive outcome."[29]

In July 2015, the Texas Supreme Court ordered that HERO be either repealed or placed on the ballot. The City Council placed the measure for open vote and it was defeated by a large margin.[30]

National Center for State Courts[edit]

In October 2015, Schenck was appointed to serve on the National Advisory Board on Community Engagement in the State Courts. This board, sponsored by the National Center for State Courts and Chaired by the Chief Justice of the D.C. Court of appeals, seeks to create dialogue between minority and economically disadvantaged communities and court leadership so that there is an increase in public trust and confidence in the court system.[citation needed]

The Armor of Light documentary[edit]

In 2015, Schenck was the subject of the critically acclaimed documentary, The Armor of Light.[31][32] In this film, directed by Abigail Disney[33] Schenck discuses the topic of guns and the pro-life Christian community's response to America's gun culture and gun violence. The movie was called a "vital colloquy on whether we shape our lives through fear or with love" by the Los Angeles Times.[34] Schenck was invited to the Cathedral following the Washington, D.C. screening of the full-length documentary.

The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute[edit]

He serves as president of a non-profit organization known as The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute.[35] In 2019, the organization paid Schenck $147,000 from a budget of $422,612.IRS Form 990

Norma McCorvey payments[edit]

Schenck later stated that he was once part of a group that paid Norma McCorvey (also known as Jane Roe from the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision) to lie that she had changed her mind and become against abortion.[1][2][3]


  1. ^ a b c Serjeant, Jill (19 May 2020). "Plaintiff in Roe v. Wade U.S. abortion case says she was paid to switch sides". Reuters. Retrieved 24 May 2020. The Rev. Robert Schenck, one of the evangelical pastors who worked with McCorvey after her conversion to Christianity in the mid-1990s, looked stunned as he was shown her interview as part of the documentary. Schenck said the anti-abortion movement had exploited her weaknesses for its own ends and acknowledged she had been paid for her appearances on the movement’s behalf. “What we did with Norma was highly unethical,” Schenck said in the documentary. “The jig is up.” In a separate blog post on Tuesday, Schenck said he hoped people would watch “AKA Jane Roe.” “You’ll see me express profound regret for how movement leaders (like me) mistreated Norma,” he wrote in the blog. “Her name and photo would command some of the largest windfalls of dollars for my group and many others, but the money we gave her was modest. More than once, I tried to make up for it with an added check, but it was never fair.”
  2. ^ a b "'We used her': Minister regrets paying Roe vs. Wade plaintiff to speak out against abortion". CBC Radio. May 20, 2020. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  3. ^ a b Graham, Ruth (May 22, 2020). "How the Anti-Abortion Movement Is Responding to Jane Roe's "Deathbed Confession"". Slate Magazine. Retrieved June 14, 2021.
  4. ^ Gross, Terry. "Once Militantly Anti-Abortion, Evangelical Minister Now Lives 'With Regret'". NPR. Though firm in his evangelicalism, he has disavowed his militant anti-abortion stance. ... Schenck now sees abortion as a moral and ethical issue that should be resolved by "an individual and his or her conscience" — rather than by legislation.
  5. ^ Schenck, Rob (2019-05-30). "I Was an Anti-Abortion Crusader. Now I Support Roe v. Wade". The New York Times.
  6. ^ "Former Pro-Life Activist Pastor Rob Schenck Embraces Abortion". 14 June 2019. But in recent years Schenck has shifted leftward on several issues including gun control and LGBTQ advocacy. In a New York Times op-ed on May 30, 2019 he announced his support for abortion rights. ... It appears that Schenck had a similar change of heart regarding LGBTQ issues such as gay marriage, though this shift is less documented.
  7. ^ a b "Rob Schenck Facebook Profile" by Rev. Rob Schenck,
  8. ^ "Reviewed by Abraham Verghese. Life Choices; After a doctor's murder, the son of an abortion provider takes a personal look at a national debate". The Washington Post. Washington Post Newsweek Interactive Co. 6 September 2010.(subscription required)
  9. ^ "Ross, Schenck Named Executive Advisors to Secretary General of World Evangelical Alliance". 2018-04-11. Retrieved 2018-07-13.
  10. ^ "Kentucky New Era - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  11. ^ REV. ROBERT L. SCHENCK -. "A LOOK BACK AT BABY TIA CONTROVERSY." Buffalo News. 1992. HighBeam Research. 15 August 2010
  12. ^ Schenck, Rob (30 May 2019). "Opinion | I Was an Anti-Abortion Crusader. Now I Support Roe v. Wade". The New York Times.
  13. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-28. Retrieved 2016-02-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ Michelle Boorstein - Washington Post Staff Writer. "Group Aims to Unveil Ten Commandments; Tablets Under Wraps Near Supreme Court." The Washington Post. Washington Post Newsweek Interactive Co. 2006. HighBeam Research. 6 September 2010.
  15. ^ Dana Milbank. "The Marchers State Their Case: Alito v. 'Roe'." The Washington Post. Washington Post Newsweek Interactive Co. 2006. HighBeam Research. 6 September 2010
  16. ^ "National Memorial for the Pre-Born and their Mothers and Fathers Removed from Capitol Buildings". Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  17. ^ " - Transcripts". Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  18. ^ "Alabama Chief Justice Applauded On Display Of Ten Commandments; Similar Monument To Be Erected Across Street From Supreme Court." U.S. Newswire. US Newswire. 2001. HighBeam Research. 26 August 2010
  19. ^ "National Clergy Council President Arrested for Protecting Ten Commandments." U.S. Newswire. US Newswire. 2003. HighBeam Research. 26 August 2010
  20. ^ Brit Hume, Jim Angle, Major Garrett. "Ten Commandment Monument In Alabama Removed From Public Viewing; Developments In The California Recall Election Including Cruz Bustamant'es Association With A Racist Group." Special Report with Brit Hume (Fox News Network). 2003. HighBeam Research. 26 August 2010
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-11-08. Retrieved 2010-10-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-01-07. Retrieved 2010-10-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  23. ^ "Koran Burning Outrate Builds as Muslims Mark Eid". Jakarta Globe. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  24. ^ "Pastor puts off Koran burning plan, to meet NY Imam". The Economic Times. 11 September 2010. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  25. ^ "Pastor Behind Koran Burning Plan Flies to New York". The New York Post. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  26. ^ Morris, Mike (2014-05-29). "Council passes equal rights ordinance - Houston Chronicle". Retrieved 2018-07-13.
  27. ^ Driessen, Katherine (2014-10-14). "City subpoenas pastors' sermons in equal rights ordinance case - Houston Chronicle". Retrieved 2018-07-13.
  28. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-09-07. Retrieved 2016-02-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  29. ^ Patrick J. Mahoney (2014-10-29). "Houston Mayor Withdraws Subpoenas of Pastors". Retrieved 2018-07-13.
  30. ^ Driessen, Katherine (2015-11-04). "Houston Equal Rights Ordinance fails by wide margin - Houston Chronicle". Retrieved 2018-07-13.
  31. ^ "The Armor Of Light". THE ARMOR OF LIGHT. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  32. ^ "The Armor of Light". 30 October 2015. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  33. ^ "Abigail Disney". IMDb. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  34. ^ Sheri Linden (2015-10-29). "Christian, anti-abortion but pro gun rights? 'The Armor of Light' examines". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2018-07-13.
  35. ^ "The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute". GuideStar. Retrieved June 16, 2021.

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