Robert Leonard Schenck
1958 (age 62–63)
Montclair, New Jersey, U.S.
|Education||Elim Bible Institute (GrDip)|
Faith Evangelical Seminary (BA, MA)
Faith International University & Seminary (DDiv)
|Spouse(s)||Cheryl Schenck (née Smith)|
|Relatives||Paul Schenck (brother)|
|Church||Evangelical Methodist Church|
|Ordained||1982, 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 The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute. 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 admitted that he was 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.
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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 reformed 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.
Conversion to Christianity
As a self-described "rebellious teen" 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 Henry, who felt that Schenck was rejecting his Jewish roots, but Marjorie, 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.
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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.
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.
1988 led Schenck into a new avenue of activism: long-distance walking. Through personal contact during a speaking tour of Mexico, he became aware of the plight of the Mexican "dump people", individuals and families who live, eat, and make their living scrounging recyclables in the municipal garbage dumps of Mexico City. To raise awareness of their plight, Schenck decided to take a 2,000-mile (3,200 km) "Faithwalk" from the border of Canada near his hometown, through the United States and across the border with Mexico. His purpose was to raise funds and to recruit volunteers willing to help by providing medical, dental, health, hygiene and construction services. His four-month journey through five states led to much word-of-mouth marketing and dozens of newspaper articles and television news stories in the many cities and towns along the way.
Buffalo anti-abortion activism 1992
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. 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."
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." 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.
Schenck came to Washington in order to increase the role of evangelical Christianity in government. He is on-call as a member of the U.S. Senate Chaplain's Pastoral Response Team. In 2010, Schenck was named the first ever 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 prestigious Mansfield Room of the United States Capitol. In these last two capacities, he also routinely carries 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.
National Community Church
In August 1994, in response to a desire 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 to the church for over a year when Schenck decided to focus on government officials. In the beginning of 1996, Schenck passed the mantle to Mark Batterson.
Ten Commandments Project
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 includes 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 is then given an inscribed wooden plaque on which is mounted two stone polymer tablets containing a summary of the Ten Commandments. Recipients are urged to "display and obey" the Ten Commandments.
National Memorial for the Preborn
In 1995, Schenck organized the first National Memorial for the Preborn and their Mothers and Fathers, a religious service in opposition to abortion. This quickly became a prominent pro-life event held inside the US Capitol complex in Washington, D.C. Originally a program of the National Clergy Council, the event has now been renamed the National Pro-Life Clergy Conference and is sponsored by the National Pro-Life Religious Council. The NPRC is led by prominent pro-life leader Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life and a trustee of P&R Schenck Associates in Evangelism. Rev. Schenck and his staff continue to have major roles and responsibilities associated with the event.
Judge Moore's Monument
In 2003, Schenck helped organize and lead supportive demonstrations outside of the Alabama Judicial building, seat of the state's Supreme Court where, at the time, the Honorable Roy Moore was chief justice.
By that time, Schenck had enjoyed a long cooperative association with Moore who had 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 had surrounded the monument, knelt and begun to pray. He was arrested and held for 5½ hours while the monument was moved. Because of his stature in the religious community, Schenck was interviewed on numerous television shows regarding the events.
From 2012 to 2016, Schenck served as the elected chairman of the Board of Directors of the Evangelical Church Alliance (ECA). Previous to that position he was chairman of its Committee for Church and Society, the social witness arm of the alliance of ministers. He is currently an advisor to the Office of the Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) 
Preaching at the National Cathedral
On Sunday, November 29, at the invitation of The Washington National Cathedral, Schenck became the guest preacher for their Sunday worship service. Schenck shared his thoughts on gun violence; specifically addressing the response of Christians to America's gun culture through Biblical theology. Schenck was invited to the Cathedral following the Washington, D.C. screening of the full-length documentary "The Armor of Light".
Stopping Burn-a-Koran Day
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. "[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. 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".
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. However, the potential meeting never occurred and Jones did not burn Korans on September 11.
Houston sermons subpoena
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. 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 Annise 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. 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 flew to Houston and met with Mayor Parker to request that her legal order be withdrawn. 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."
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.
National Center of State Courts
In October 2015, Rev. 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.
The Centre for the Study of Law and Public Policy at Oxford
On March 28, 2015, Rev. Schenck was named Senior Fellow of the Centre for the Study of Law and Public Policy at Oxford, based in Oxford, England. At the centre's initial symposium, held March 26–28, 2015, at Harris Manchester College of the University of Oxford, Schenck gave his inaugural lecture entitled "Evangelical Protestants in Turkey: A Study in Discrimination, Marginalization and Insecurity."
The Armor of Light documentary
In 2015, Rob Schenck was the subject of the critically acclaimed documentary, "The Armor of Light". In this film, directed by Abigail Disney 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.
- 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.”CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "'We used her': Minister regrets paying Roe vs. Wade plaintiff to speak out against abortion". CBC Radio. May 20, 2020. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
- "Rob Schenck Facebook Profile" by Rev. Rob Schenck,
- "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)
- "Kentucky New Era - Google News Archive Search". News.google.com. Retrieved 10 December 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- REV. ROBERT L. SCHENCK -. "A LOOK BACK AT BABY TIA CONTROVERSY." Buffalo News. 1992. HighBeam Research. 15 August 2010
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- 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.
- Dana Milbank. "The Marchers State Their Case: Alito v. 'Roe'." The Washington Post. Washington Post Newsweek Interactive Co. 2006. HighBeam Research. 6 September 2010
- "National Memorial for the Pre-Born and their Mothers and Fathers Removed from Capitol Buildings". Standardnewswire.com. Retrieved 10 December 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "CNN.com - Transcripts". Edition.cnn.com. Retrieved 13 July 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "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
- "National Clergy Council President Arrested for Protecting Ten Commandments." U.S. Newswire. US Newswire. 2003. HighBeam Research. 26 August 2010
- 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
- "Ross, Schenck Named Executive Advisors to Secretary General of World Evangelical Alliance". Worldea.org. 2018-04-11. Retrieved 2018-07-13. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Washington National Cathedral - A Spiritual Home for the Nation". Washington National Cathedral. Retrieved 10 December 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-28. Retrieved 2016-02-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "The Armor Of Light". THE ARMOR OF LIGHT. Retrieved 13 July 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-11-08. Retrieved 2010-10-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-01-07. Retrieved 2010-10-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Koran Burning Outrate Builds as Muslims Mark Eid". Jakarta Globe. Retrieved 13 July 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Pastor puts off Koran burning plan, to meet NY Imam". The Economic Times. 11 September 2010. Retrieved 13 July 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Pastor Behind Koran Burning Plan Flies to New York". The New York Post. Retrieved 13 July 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Morris, Mike (2014-05-29). "Council passes equal rights ordinance - Houston Chronicle". Chron.com. Retrieved 2018-07-13. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Driessen, Katherine (2014-10-14). "City subpoenas pastors' sermons in equal rights ordinance case - Houston Chronicle". Chron.com. Retrieved 2018-07-13. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-09-07. Retrieved 2016-02-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Patrick J. Mahoney (2014-10-29). "Houston Mayor Withdraws Subpoenas of Pastors". Canadafreepress.com. Retrieved 2018-07-13. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Driessen, Katherine (2015-11-04). "Houston Equal Rights Ordinance fails by wide margin - Houston Chronicle". Chron.com. Retrieved 2018-07-13. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Oct 2015". Cosca.ncsc.org. 2015-10-13. Retrieved 2018-07-13. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-02-06. Retrieved 2016-02-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "The Armor Of Light". THE ARMOR OF LIGHT. Retrieved 13 July 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "The Armor of Light". IMDb.com. 30 October 2015. Retrieved 13 July 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Abigail Disney". IMDb. Retrieved 13 July 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Sheri Linden (2015-10-29). "Christian, anti-abortion but pro gun rights? 'The Armor of Light' examines". Latimes.com. Retrieved 2018-07-13. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)