Publication Date

2013-09-13

Availability

Open access

Embargo Period

2013-09-13

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

Communication Studies (Communication)

Date of Defense

2013-08-16

First Committee Member

Shannon B. Campbell

Second Committee Member

Thomas M. Steinfatt

Third Committee Member

Donn J. Tilson

Fourth Committee Member

Richard Godbeer

Abstract

This research examines the crisis responses of six evangelical Christian leaders (Paul Crouch, Ted Haggard, Lonnie Latham, Eddie Long, Jonathan Merritt, and George Rekers) involved in same-sex sex scandals. These cases provide unique opportunities for evaluating crisis communication strategies utilized by influential leaders in the evangelical Christian community. Using the modes of apologia (Ware & Linkugel, 1973) and the Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT) (Coombs, 2007) as a standard to evaluate the leaders’ crisis responses, this qualitative research found that the evangelical pastors generally adhered to the recommended strategies of the SCCT and complementary modes of apologia. However, this paper also recommends the inclusion of an additional SCCT category for situations where a crisis inflicts spiritual or emotional harm. The pastors’ reaction statements were subjected to a textual analysis, and then their overall crisis responses were analyzed for effectiveness using a content analysis from a sample of media outlets, including each pastor’s local daily newspaper and the top four Christian media websites (Alexa, n.d.), as well as a determination as to whether their marriages had remained intact and they had retained their official positions with their churches/organizations. Latham, Rekers, and Haggard were determined to be relatively ineffective in their responses, largely due to their inconsistent response strategy.

Keywords

apologia; gay; crisis communication; evangelical; Christian; Situational Crisis Communication Theory

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