Bob Jones University and the GRACE Investigation

When reports of sexual abuse surface, especially within a Christian ministry, there is a propensity to second guess, make assumptions, and criticize. For many years, sexual abuse has been poorly understood and handled by a variety of individuals and institutions, including many Christian churches and schools. That is beginning to change. When Christian ministries move in the right direction, however imperfectly, we who want that change should make our voices heard.

In November, 2012, Bob Jones University took steps to correct its response to students who report sexual abuse. The school hired GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) as an independent ombudsman to assist. BJU’s two stated intentions were 1) to review and correct how school personnel reported abuse and counseled students who had been victims and 2) to investigate any incidents in which BJU had underserved a student who had reported sexual abuse, and to seek to make matters right. These objectives pertained to sexual abuse that had occurred at any time in the student’s life. GRACE began its investigation in January, 2013 and issued regular monthly reports in the ensuing year.

Within days before completing interviews with victims and a few weeks from publishing its final report, GRACE received a confidential letter from BJU on January 27 that terminated the contract and asked that the investigation be halted. BJU emphasized their purpose to renegotiate the contract to return to the original stated intentions and have GRACE complete their investigation, or complete it through a different third party if necessary. On February 6, GRACE posted the confidential letter and its response on its Facebook page.

When GRACE made BJU’s contract termination public, I communicated my concerns as an interested alumnus to the BJU Alumni Association and to the GRACE team. In an email reply to me, Boz Tchividjian, executive director of GRACE, stated in part, “We’ve had been having an ongoing open dialogue since day one. At times, we saw issues from different perspectives (as to be expected) but they [BJU] always acknowledged that we were independent and that they respected whatever decision we made.  Never was there any communication from them that any issue was causing them to consider termination   . . . . The contract explicitly requires both parties to communicate any concerns openly and to make every effort at resolution before taking any steps at termination. This simply did not happen. ”

Tchividjian’s statement makes two things clear, and leaves two matters unresolved. First, he affirmed that both parties had worked in good faith up to the termination. That refutes the frequent criticism that BJU was never really interested in serious change. BJU had also been criticized for giving a half-hearted effort to notify alumni and former students so that potential abuse victims could be interviewed. But GRACE never made that complaint in any of its reports, and Tchividjian affirmed that BJU had fully cooperated.

Second, it is clear that BJU had respected the independence of GRACE’s investigation. That is significant in light of a recent similar case. Shortly after the BJU investigation began, the GRACE investigation of sexual abuse at the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE) was terminated by ABWE. But ABWE had, as GRACE put it, “made repeated attempts to try and gain control of the investigation.” According to Tchividjian, BJU has not done that.

Many suspect that the school is doing that now. We don’t know, but some signs indicate otherwise. On February 7, BJU president Stephen Jones told students and faculty that for the past few months, BJU felt that GRACE “had begun going beyond the originally outlined intentions.” It is not clear why BJU apparently did not communicate that they were considering termination. Neither do we know why GRACE made BJU’s termination public while both parties were making active efforts to resolve the differences. (It is worth noting that GRACE waited over a week before posting the notice). A lot of people think they know what is going on. Only a few actually do. They are on the GRACE and BJU executive teams.

Meanwhile, the rest of us watch. A number of alumni and former students lost confidence long ago. To them, BJU’s latest move justifies their cynicism. They express that cynicism publicly. In more than a few cases, I think their feelings are justified, but I find their hostile tone and outlook unhelpful. Others appreciate the significant positive changes at BJU since the late 1980’s and desire those changes to continue. But they are sometimes caught between rock throwers and blind loyalists.

As I have listened to the discussion of sexual abuse and BJU for a few years, I have noticed that the voices that are most needed are usually heard the least. That should change. I appeal to more BJU alumni and others who want to encourage good changes to speak up.

First, we should implore the Holy Spirit to grant the GRACE team and the BJU executive team to be of the same mind with one another according to Jesus Christ. Our part is not to second guess. It is to ask God to give them humility and wisdom.

There is a big risk here for BJU to press forward with a truly independent investigation. There will likely be painful revelations in the final report. Dealing properly with them will be hard. So let’s also have a mass of BJU alumni and others who care, stand up and implore GRACE and BJU: “Do not stop until this job is done. We support you in this!”

There are people who have suffered sexual abuse. They need healing.

There are people who committed abuse, overlooked it or responded poorly to it. They need repentance.

Jesus has been grieved. He must be honored.

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29 Responses to Bob Jones University and the GRACE Investigation

  1. Rachelle says:

    I’m a BJU grad and never received any communication from BJU about the GRACE investigation. I don’t know of any BJU grad who received any notice from BJU. The word about GRACE was passed around via facebook, email, and phone calls. Just because it hasn’t been mentioned as a problem, doesn’t mean it isn’t one.

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    • Rachelle,

      I’m not sure exactly what comment you are responding to, but I do agree with what you said. I don’t remember for sure, but I believe I did receive an email notice from BJU. I might be wrong about that. But I did see the notice on the BJU website and in BJU Review. Unfortunately, by the nature of how BJU had handled sexual abuse reporting and counseling, those who were not treated right were generally the ones most interested in knowing about the investigation, but the least likely to see such notices because they probably had not maintained close contact with the school. Fortunately, word did circulate widely, thanks to advocates for victims and survivors. I also noticed that GRACE has never criticized BJU’s efforts to publicize the investigation.

      I appreciate your being interested and for commenting.

      Like

  2. C.Bennett says:

    The focus on sexual abuse now, because of its heinousness, obscures for the moment 50 years of psychological abuse, bullying, crushed hopes, broken hearts, lives set adrift because hair was too long, a CD of contemporary Christian music was found, culottes were worn at home. One result of the decades of over-use if not abuse of positions of power is that the cause of fundamentalism in the U.S., even the world, has been set back. Set back 40 years ago by infighting between the John R. Rice’s and Hyles’s and Jones’s and others jockeying for who had the biggest following, the largest Sunday School, the best camps. Set back in recent years by tensions between competing colleges and slurs about “failure to separate from the world” and other modes of factionalism. There was no doctrinal depth in the beginning and the situation never really was fixed. There was no genuine foundation built for godliness because there was so much attention paid to the signs of morality — and “separation:” hair and music and pants and movies and the KJV-only and smiting the heathen and a hundred other behavioral signs of “membership” to one group or another.

    And there has never really been any due process. Not then and perhaps not now — GRACE is the latest hiccup. In the past, a single assertion by one of the leaders of a person as “neo-evangelical” or “liberal” could tie a flag to that person for the rest of their life. There was no appeal, no review. There is, honestly, still very little established due process — there is authority and there are those under authority.

    Decades of power struggles and in-fighting left little legacy of showing love for either the truth or for each other at the very top of these fundamentalist groups. I was there. There were then and are now amazingly dedicated people in the various colleges and churches, very godly and committed teachers and group leaders and families, but at the top there was mostly posturing. From the cadres of traveling preachers that filled church revivals and college chapel services, there were theatrics and endless sermons on dress and entertainment and separation from all the worldly Christians who wore pants and dated without chaperons rather than systematic and serious efforts to establish young people in the faith. Numbers of conversions and baptisms and bus routes replaced study, which was academic, and young people were for a generation given books like Let’s Go Soul-Winning as there only real need for theology and BJ Christian movies as a foundation for influencing a culture for Christ.

    Though it wasn’t clear at the time, a sustained and genuine influence on godliness and culture in the U.S. was being sacrificed to individual ambition and other personal agendas and the seeds for the current harvest were being planted. And many many young lives were the psychological and social and spiritual collateral damage incurred in pursuit of reputation by men in positions of influence. Sexual abuse is an especially ugly version of this misuse of power but far from the only version.

    I pray for those involved now — for healing and repentance and love for each other — but also for those impacted 10 and 20 and 50 years ago and for the sad decline over that same period in the quality and purity and influence of organizations initially committed to the fundamentals of the faith that were side tracked by an on-going side show of battling egos at the top and cultish obsessions with surface symbols to the detriment of what the last commenter encouraged: establishing and nurturing a community known everywhere for its love for one another and for those just outside its set of rituals and, above all, for truth.

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    • C.Bennett,

      Thank you for taking the time to give your “big picture” viewpoint. Sadly, much of your assessment is true. And one major reason for the outrage is, as you said, “there was no appeal, no review.” As a result, there is bitter fruit on the menu.

      However, I fear that your brush is too wide. Your judgments of “no doctrinal depth . . . no genuine foundation built for godliness,” while often true, is not universally descriptive. To me, and many, many whom I know, was given a genuine foundation for godliness. Though imperfect, it was certainly present. This is one reason that I remain a fundamentalist who is seeking to build up in the right way, not destroy.

      Let’s also remember that BJU has made and is making strides forward by the grace of God. The ongoing work with GRACE is evidence of that. The process is and will be bumpy, but BJU is moving in the right direction, and we need to encourage that.

      Let’s also be careful about judging the motives of others, something Jesus has not given us the authority to do. I do not disagree that fundamentalist leaders have hurt many by their sinful actions. But let’s join in rejecting cynicism and embracing needed change in a constructive way.

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      • Have you seen this video from Pastor Ryan @ North Hills Church?

        What are your thoughts?

        Here is the link to the video:

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        • David,

          Yes, I watched it last night. Real, long term, constructive change at BJU will not come from hostile voices, but from friendly voices within the BJU community. In my opinion, Pastor Ferguson is one of those friendly voices. At first he seemed a little brash, but on balance, he said exactly what needed to be said, mostly the way it needed to be said. This is the kind of loving confrontation that has been mostly missing and is most needed. I plan to write more on this next week.

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  3. A James says:

    I’m liking this a lot. Very nice! I’m a little late discovering this post…wish I had written such…just a few “tweaks” of concern:

    1) You said, “BJU had also been criticized for giving a half-hearted effort to notify alumni and former students so that potential abuse victims could be interviewed. But GRACE never made that complaint in any of its reports, and Tchividjian affirmed that BJU had fully cooperated.”

    Did you mean T affirmed this to you personally concerning this specific concern, or that you read this somewhere? This type of detail concerning ABWE/others wasn’t revealed until a full reply to termination or the final report was released. Just clarifying your source here.

    2)You said, “Second, it is clear that BJU had respected the independence of GRACE’s investigation. That is significant in light of a recent similar case. Shortly after the BJU investigation began, the GRACE investigation of sexual abuse at the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE) was terminated by ABWE. But ABWE had, as GRACE put it, “made repeated attempts to try and gain control of the investigation.” According to Tchividjian, BJU has not done that.”

    My concern here is the same as above–to clarify your source. T on his blog/GRACE Facebook has not answered any specific questions like this. I don’t mean to second-guess you, but I’m just in disbelief a bit that he would further comment in an e-mail to someone not directly involved over something so volatile (unless you are directly involved then, please, pardon the doubt). Again this is one of the details dealt with in the official ABWE termination rebuttal or something that would have been in the final report (talking precedence here). Really this is very pertinent new info/no where else revealed details even from sites that claim to be directly involved. T has refrained from commenting further in other outlets since last week. This would have been late-breaking news.

    3) “They express that cynicism publicly. In more than a few cases, I think their feelings are justified, but I find their hostile tone and outlook unhelpful.”

    It takes all opinions, cynical or not, to help us find balance and truth in such situations. Perhaps you meant that the university might not be as apt to listen to their voices…since they are “accustomed” to their complaints. But these are the ones they finally listened to and reached out with GRACE to make amends in this area. I’d have a hard time (after being beseeched by the university to help out in this way) keeping my tone civil.

    4) “As I have listened to the discussion of sexual abuse and BJU for a few years, I have noticed that the voices that are most needed are usually heard the least. That should change. I appeal to more BJU alumni and others who want to encourage good changes to speak up.”

    Not a tweak, but a moment of applause.

    5) “First, we should implore the Holy Spirit to grant the GRACE team and the BJU executive team to be of the same mind with one another according to Jesus Christ. Our part is not to second guess. It is to ask God to give them humility and wisdom.”

    From one whom has had their share of Protestant popes, the “our part is not to second guess” makes me cringe even as I type. I feel well supported by Paul in Thessalonians and Galatians where he admonishes Christians, among all the warm fuzzies, to “test everything and hold fast what is good”. He doesn’t hesitate to let Christians know they should even prove his teachings. This reminds me of a comment once at Bruin Core by BobNotJones: “What the **** is wrong with being critical of leadership? Better to be a mindless sheep?” The lack of second guessing is probably the reason BJU is in the mess it’s in right now.

    That probably seemed like a lot of tweaks. Rest assured, I was nodding my head 95 percent of the time. Thanks for the time you took to post your thoughts.

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    • A James,

      Thank you for both your kind words and thoughtful tweaks. Here are some thoughts.

      Tweak #1 I was making an inference from Tchividjian’s statement, “they [BJU] . . . respected whatever decision we made,” and from the complete absence of a complaint on that particular topic in the monthly reports. Of course, GRACE might have complained privately to BJU about publicizing better, but there has been no indication of that. I felt that the inference was justified because it’s highly improbable that Tchividjian would say that if BJU had not publicized to the extent that GRACE thought was adequate.

      Tweak #2 If you are questioning the quote regarding ABWE’s attempts to control GRACE’s investigation, that statement was taken from a post on GRACE’s FB page (I think from Feb. 8).

      Tweak #3 This is a key point. I am referring to the many, many caustic comments i have read in the last three years which express a desire for BJU’s failure and demise, personal insults, full of assumptions that there is no possible way that BJU will ever change or respond properly. I have some ideas.but I’m not sure why BJU finally responded. But it seems least likely that it was the people wishing them ill, especially people whose grips were not that they were sexually abused. I don’t think that cynicism is ever constructive. Jesus was never cynical, even with His severest critics.

      Tweak #4 (5) I fully agree with what you are saying in reference to testing. Your example is quite apt, that of Paul commending those who checked the Scriptures to make sure Paul was on track. I am fully in favor of doing that with spiritual leaders today, with humility. But I do see a big difference between that and second guessing, by which I mean drawing conclusions with slim or no knowledge. I’m asking everyone to hold their fire, pray strategically, support the process, and let the parties come to a conclusion. There will come a time, perhaps very soon, when we will know enough to draw conclusions.

      Hope that helps. Stay in the conversation!

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      • Tewjr says:

        I got my notice about the GRACE investigation from the school, but I know a handful of people who say they did not receive the required notice from the school, and yet did receive requests for money. We really have no way of verifying that the school made every possible effort to contact all it’s students, etc., unless someone could actually watch the whole process as it unfolded.

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        • Tewjr,

          “I know a handful of people who say they did not receive the required notice from the school, and yet did receive requests for money.”

          If those reports are accurate, then that was a failure that should not have occurred and should have been corrected. No doubt, there were gaps.

          You are right, no one from the outside can state with certainty what was done. That would include the critics. Did BJU make a reasonable effort? GRACE seems to think so. I have read all the GRACE reports and noticed two patterns. First, GRACE extended the application period well beyond the original deadline, far into the summer of 2013. Second, GRACE never complained publicly about BJU’s publicity effort. GRACE did thank others outside BJU for helping, and thanked BJU. Here are some excerpts:

          May 2013 report: “We are also thankful to Bob Jones University for its continued support of this investigation and for the openness of communication between GRACE and members of the BJU community.

          “GRACE continues to be grateful to those who have assisted in publicizing the GRACE survey.”

          August 2013 report: “GRACE is thankful to all who have participated in the investigation at this point and to Bob Jones University for its ongoing support of this process.”

          November 2013 report: “We also continue to be appreciative of Bob Jones University for its continued support of this historical independent process.”

          I noticed that about an hour ago, BJU tweeted: “BJU and GRACE will meet next week to discuss the concerns of both parties and determine a plan for moving forward.” Other than contacting BJU and asking that they finish the process with GRACE, the most productive thing every one of us can do is pray intensely and strategically for Stephen Jones, Bob Jones III, Marshall Franklin, and other BJU team members, along with Boz Tchividijian, Charissa Sloan Dvorak (the lead investigator), and the other GRACE team members.

          Will you join me?

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          • Tewjr says:

            I definitely have been praying for all involved, and will continue to do so, especially for the victims. A number of them have had their faith shaken over this, and it is for them I am most concerned.

            My own sense about the mailings to former students is that most of us did receive notice via letter, and for those who didn’t, there’s a good chance that some of those letters went astray courtesy of the post office. The school also posted info about it on their website and in the alumni magazine. That’s good enough for me.

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      • A James says:

        Thanks for the reply. After rereading some of my original questions, I see I wasn’t very clear–social media fatigue, I guess 🙂

        Anyway, about #2, I knew about the ABWE official statements. It was the assertion that, “According to Tchividjian, BJU has not done that” (“gaining control of the situation”). I guess my concern is with the not (as far as I know) publicly available statements about what BJU has or has not done in relationship to GRACE. If GRACE has publicly cleared BJU’s name on the survey process and the trying to gain control–this is significant. I haven’t seen an official statement from them. If BJU comes out with a document similar to ABWE about why they terminated, then GRACE would probably in turn offer a rebuttal and at that point lay out all of the nitty gritty details. If you have a link that specifically clears BJU of these accusations, I’d be relieved to be informed.

        #3 Cynicism. You got me curious, so I’ve been googling the topic. My initial thoughts are that Jesus is God and thus omniscient to already know and be able to accurately label vipers, whited sepulchres, and the like. I’m not a theologian so I’ll just say that we all have our personal experiences…and so with bad experience after bad experience, we all have our areas of distrust and vocal opposition with certain people. It’s a matter of perspective, experience, and heart motivation (that only the Lord knows fully), so I’ll refrain judgment on those that are cynical of BJU. As a long-time financial and verbal supporter, my cynicism has increased the last couple of years. I have my own set of reasons, but I don’t think I have a better right than the traditional BJU cynics nor a lesser right than those still avidly loyal to be vocal . Accountability and self-inspection upon hearing criticism from any source is healthy individually and institutionally as it should make us double-check our beliefs and actions according to God’s Word.

        You said, “I have some ideas.but I’m not sure why BJU finally responded. But it seems least likely that it was the people wishing them ill, especially people whose grips were not that they were sexually abused.”

        Actually it was those who claim abuse and friends that claim to be knowledgeable of the abuse–which some (but not all), yes, are part of the “cynics” you mention. These concerns have been around for years, but started escalating as BJU was in the news more and more around 2011 when the handbook did not comply with SC law (the “cynics” called them out, rightfully so, on this)…then came along the Chuck Phelps stuff with pressure from the cynics for him to be removed from the board…he finally resigned…even I cringe when I hear the III refer to that situation as “consensual rape”, and no matter how nice I try to be, I would have removed my child from the Academy when they invited Phelps to speak in chapel after all of this. Of course you have the III’s infamous comments that abuse “will not be swept under the rug…the Clery report abuse statistics for BJU…all of this escalating with the cynics bringing it to light…to a final November 2012 decision to hire GRACE. I can only speculate as to the behind the scenes details and motives, but there is no denying that the cynics were putting pressure and action to this more important issue. Speculation, but I believe this gave people beyond the “cynics” to have the courage (at Stephen’s beckoning) to finally also speak up.

        You say to “hold their fire”. This seems to contradict, “So let’s also have a mass of BJU alumni and others who care, stand up and implore GRACE and BJU: “Do not stop until this job is done. We support you in this!” If we don’t keep asking questions until we receive answers, the cynic in me thinks that’s what BJU hopes for–for this to all fade away. In the end, this could backfire on the success of the university as parents/students/staff lack confidence and desire to be part of such. I know of 9 students from traditionally supportive families that are not planning to attend/return until BJU handles this appropriately and aboveboard. This seems to have added unnecessary burden for the university’s image along with the unknowns of a presidential choice and with another year of not being an official applicant with SACS accreditation.

        I am so sorry for the length and the rabbit trails–no time to edit, so I’ll dare to post. Thanks again for your challenging thoughts.

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        • A James,

          When Tchividjian wrote to me, “they [BJU] always acknowledged that we were independent and that they respected whatever decision we made,” it is reasonable to infer that he meant also that in his opinion, BJU not merely say they respected GRACE’s decisions and independence, but that BJU actually did do that. If they had not, he would have said so.

          When I use the word cynicism, I am using the standard dictionary definition: the attitude that is scornful of the motives of the other, assuming that he is motivated only by selfishness and incapable of changing his motives. I have seen that attitude expressed many, many times in the past discussion. Jesus has not given any of us authority to judge the motives of our brothers and sisters, and it does not serve His purpose. It is corrosive and destructive.

          Of course, outside pressure played a role, even though BJU might not yet be willing to acknowledge that. But cynicism did not do that. The pleas and pressure from people who held some belief that real and lasting change was possible did that. I would add that the most constructive change, the critical change will come when people who are full of the Holy Spirit and good will decide to speak up and act.

          That is not what I meant by “hold their fire.” I meant to stop the “Monday morning quarterbacking,” the tendency to criticize, endlessly speculate and dissect matters that most of us don’t have the knowledge to judge. That does not preclude asking questions, which I have done and am still doing. But let the process work. If we talked to God more than to each other about this, we would see real change.

          It grieves me that this problem is turning away students. That is why going at this in a godly fashion is critical. Trust must be restored. There must be full disclosure and cleansing.

          You caught my attention with your comment about Jesus being God and thus able to supernaturally judge. Please see my post, “Jesus’ Miracles and Spiritual Gifts: Part One.” I think you will be interested.

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  4. Diane Nutting Scudder says:

    Thank you for your reasonable response. Many of us are praying for BJU and for the decision-makers there.

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  5. I read this blog and am just shaking my head that people can be so naive. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that BJU halted the GRACE investigation because they got wind of how bad the final report would be and they flat out don’t have the guts to allow it to be published. BJU has been a cesspool of abuse for decades and they know it. They just don’t want the rest of us to know how bad it really is.

    As for your comment about victims saying, “I find their hostile tone and outlook unhelpful”. It is obvious that you have not been abused. How should the victims feel? Some of them have waited decades to be heard and acknowledged and you are going to criticize their tone and outlook? Seriously. I was sexually abused by my preacher father and most of my abuse took place at Prairie Bible Institute. As with BJU, the PBI alumni came against the survivors that were speaking out. As with BJU, the PBI alumni wanted to silence our voices to protect the reputation of the school. As with BJU, the PBI alumni told us we were “bitter and unforgiving” and that our voices were filled with “anger and rage”. You spend your childhood as an 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 year old girl who gets carried out of her bed in the middle of the night by her father. You wake up in your father’s office where he is studying for his PBI classes and there sits that open Bible. You know what is in that Bible because it has been pounded on you every day at school “Children obey your parents” and “honor your father”. There in front of that open Bible my father would rape me. I could not tell anyone because like BJU, PBI taught a twisted dogma of patriarchal authority that left me unable to challenge my father. I was taught it was my duty to obey my father in everything. I years stuffing my pain and finally found my voice 45 years later. And guess what? My voice had alot of anger in it. When I saw how the PBI alumni attacked us and saw how the administration dug in their heels and refused to hear and acknowledge us, I was filled with rage. And why shouldn’t I be? The place has pounded so much shame into my little girl heart and made me feel like God hated me.

    You should be ashamed of yourselves for criticizing these survivors voices and judging how they speak. Until you have lived their journey and experienced their pain, you really have no right to say anything. You should be celebrating every survivor who speaks up and embrace them with love and compassion. To h__ with BJU’s reputation, that doesn’t matter. What matters is that these voices are heard and helped. Your support of BJU is just disgusting in light of the way they have terminated an independent investigation and tried to manipulate it with their own objectives. BJU doesn’t have the right to have their own objectives. This is the meaning of an independent investigation. But like PBI, BJU simply cannot let go of their need to control, control, control. They have re-victimized those who participated in the investigation. And there is no excuse for that – it is an act of arrogance and extreme disregard for the well-being of brokenhearted people. It is disgusting to me and definitely disgusting to Jesus.

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    • Linda,

      Thank you for adding your story and feelings to this conversation. Please hear me out, because I think you misunderstood whom I was referring to.

      My comment regarding the hostile and unhelpful tone of many BJU alumni and former students was directed primarily to many who, by their own words, are not sexual abuse victims. The people I had in mind are simply venting an assortment of grudges or disagreements and attach their personal agendas to the legitimate grievances of sexual abuse victims.

      I have no intention of demeaning the experience of sexual abuse survivors. As you are aware, most of us who grew up in fundamentalist homes have nothing in our experience with which to process the true anguish, anger, and perhaps even despair that people such as you have felt. There is no way for us to do that. We were spared that, insulated, by loving parents and teachers. But what was protection for us became a dark shroud to you, cutting us off from understanding what you and others were going through. That’s the insidious nature of abuse.

      I was sickened and appalled by what your father did to you. But no visceral reaction from me or others like me can bridge the gap between our experiences. Something else must take place.

      I am not protecting wrongdoing at BJU. I am asking that everyone not directly involved hold their fire so that the process can move forward. I am appealing to my fellow alumni to support the process and send a clear message that we expect the investigation to remain independent and be completed.

      I trust GRACE to be the best judge as to the integrity of the investigation. If they say that it has been compromised, be assured that I will not be a happy camper and I will speak up.

      You are welcome to continue in this dialogue.

      Grace, peace and love.

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      • Thank you Stephen for your response. I am glad you are not taking issue to the survivors who are speaking out and criticizing their voices.

        My story is not unique to fundamentalist families. I run a non-profit helping victims of sexual abuse and hear from hundreds of people all over the world. The vast majority of those who contact me are preacher kids, missionary kids and those who grew up in “good Christian families”.

        I think you are missing something. You said “As you are aware, most of us who grew up in fundamentalist homes have nothing in our experience with which to process the true anguish, anger, and perhaps even despair that people such as you have felt. There is no way for us to do that. We were spared that, insulated, by loving parents and teachers. But what was protection for us became a dark shroud to you, cutting us off from understanding what you and others were going through. That’s the insidious nature of abuse.” I think you would be shocked to know how many kids in fundamentalist homes were sexually abused. One in 3 girls will have been sexually abused by the time they reach 18 and one in 5 boys will have been sexually abused by the time they reach 18. This is the national statistics and it gets worse. The statistics are HIGHER in homes where both parents go to church and are very conservative. The MORE conservative the home, the HIGHER the chance of sexual abuse. In fact, a child is much more apt to be sexually abused in this kind of home than in an atheist’s home where there is no mention of God. Think about that!

        Given these facts, we can see that BJU was the perfect environment for abuse to occur. I would suspect that many who are speaking out (whether they say so or not) are sexual abuse victims. Many survivors live in denial and don’t want to admit it.

        Without exception, all BJU students were spiritually abused and that can wreck havoc on a person’s life. The whole male dominance thing is abusive to women. Forcing students to conform to such a rigid set of rules and regulations is not only unhealthy but abusive. Putting kids in a straight jacket and not letting them grow up like a normal kid is not being protective, it is abusive. Children are not meant to grow up to be robots. They are meant to grow up to be the unique individuals they are. The severe physical abuse of children under the guise of discipline is very abusive. Many of the kids who grew up at PBI were severely beaten. They have the same kind of issues as sexual abuse victims. When you focus everything on the do’s and don’ts, kids learn real quick that the outward appearance and behavior is more important than the inner heart and that is in complete opposition to the Word of God. So regardless of where these alumni are coming from, I think it is healthy to let them speak and say what they want to say. God knows, they weren’t able to do that at BJU.

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        • Linda,

          I saw those statistics last year when my church conducted training for the volunteer children’s workers on preventing, detecting and reporting child sexual abuse. You are right, I was shocked. That is a scandal for the church of Jesus, and I aim to be a part of His solution.

          So I don’t think I missed anything. The statistics that you cite still show that the majority of us in fundamentalist homes were not abused. The point that I made, and that I think you missed, is the problem of hearing. Most in the BJU community had little or no direct knowledge of the abuse that has gone on and the school’s bad response to it. Most have had little or no personal knowledge of survivors trying to deal with the aftermath of abuse and the bad response to it. So when they encounter the anger and frustration from the survivors, they are confused by it, and rightly so.

          You can tell them, “That’s your problem.” You can cuss at them, revile them, scream at them and demand that they listen to you. But I have a question for you. How is that going to make them any more likely to listen and understand?

          I am appealing for more people take the cause of sexual abuse survivors seriously. When that is done, I think that a remarkable shift will take place in favor of justice, repentance and healing.

          One more thing: while I do not at all discount that many have been hurt at BJU, your statement that all BJU students were spiritually abused is absurd. Please do not impose the experience of some onto all. I did not grow up as a robot. I had a great experience at BJU, as did many others I know. In spite of BJU’s flaws, we learned from the mistakes and grew in grace.

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  6. Tewjr says:

    I appreciate your honesty and willingness to look at both sides of this issue. Thank you for bringing a calm voice of reason to the table.

    That being said, are you aware of the situation regarding Erin Burchwell? Randy Page stated Friday that the school was not aware of Erin’s complaints of being molested repeatedly by a GA. But Erin produced emails that had been exchanged between her and Stephen about that very issue, just a year ago. BJU has not addressed this.

    Like

    • Tewjr,

      I was not aware of Erin’s complaints. Not knowing the details, I can’t comment directly. But assuming that what you say to be true, that is exactly the kind of case that should be included in the GRACE report. And if the facts are as you say, I would expect some serious justice. As to Randy’s comments, I hope that is another case in which the official spokesman didn’t “get the memo.” In large organizations that does happen, and though it does not speak well, it would be preferable to the alternative.

      That said, I will definitely be watching for Erin’s case in the final report. Thank you for your kind words and caring enough to contribute to the discussion.

      Like

      • tewjr says:

        I hope justice kicks in. The university has had several days now to say that Randy and Steven just didn’t communicate well ahead of time. *crickets*

        Like

  7. David Johnson says:

    I agree with 99% of your post except I think you are missing something with statement”There are people who committed abuse, overlooked it or responded poorly to it. They need repentance.” I think you are missing one small detail.

    If the report reveals there was abuse those people obviously need to repent BUT, they also need to be prosecuted legally for their actions and be punished accordingly.

    This would be no different than how they treat students when they catch them sin and the student repents and they will forgive them but still give 100 demerits as punishment.

    I feel like we are watching a real life example of the Parable of the debtor.. When BJU deals with students who makes a mistake or falls into sin they rarely ever give Grace without punishment but now they begging everyone to give them Grace.

    What you are seeing from the response of the Alumni is very simply a result of Sowing and Reaping. When you run a organization with a heavy hand of LAW and little Grace then when you need Grace you will reap LAW.

    Like

    • David,

      Yes, I agree. Legal prosecution definitely should be included where appropriate. My concluding statements were not meant to be an exhaustive laundry list. I trust GRACE to uncover cases where prosecution is appropriate and make proper recommendations, in keeping with utmost respect for the victims’ wishes, and I expect BJU to act on such.

      I think what BJU is asking is that those not directly involved in the investigation withhold judgment and support those who are seeking to move the process forward. I intend to be among those who do that, and I will continue to graciously insist that BJU continuously pursue a just and righteous end for the victims. Sadly, the spirit I see some former students and alumni speaking with caustic and destructive words that contradict Jesus’ commands. We must pursue the right goals with His Spirit in control.

      Thank you for your comments. I appreciate your joining the conversation.

      Like

      • Tewjr says:

        Part of the requirement of speaking to GRACE was filing a police report when it was called for. GRACE assisted the victims in this process.

        Like

  8. Benjamin says:

    No matter the consequences, the investigations need to happen and sort this out. Even the most hard-core Joneser should see that the longer this continues, the longer the thorn in the side of the school that the “rock-throwers” have been will persist.

    Here are the possibilities of what has happened:
    1. BJU administration did no wrong, the allegations by the victims are fabricated.
    2. BJU administration had no involvement/knowledge, there were crimes committed but there was a disconnect between victims/witnesses reporting and the administrative level.
    3. BJU administration was actively complicit in covering sexual abuse.

    The only reason why you would want the investigations to be stopped is if you are a “blind loyalist” and know #3 to be true. To which I say, you are not a blind loyalist at all, you are a hypocrite,

    Like

  9. Charles D. says:

    I had a chance last week to speak with several BJU administrators and members of the executive “team” that have been long time friends. What I found in their tone was encouraging as I saw in every comments a true desire to renegotiate an understanding and deep desire to move forward with GRACE. Because of these “issues” that have occurred I saw an honest effort on the part of BJU in asking that hasty accusations be minimized while the efforts to settle this as soon as possible as the goal. I found this blog to be a wonderful offering to do just that, all the while identifying prior difficulties. Let’s give this a (short) amount of time to play out, before piling on with additional issues of problematic nature. For some it would seem they have ought against BJU no matter what they do, AND (by chance) should GRACE find no issues of ‘wrong doing’ but good recommendations for new policies, then all of a sudden GRACE would become he bad guy because ‘some’ are just so dedicated in their desire to see BJU destroyed and they’d love nothing more…… Let’s pray for both sides and a God honoring process in the mean time.

    Like

    • Mark says:

      I’m just a bit curious as to why first there was termination and then the supposed renegotiations took place. I believe in the real world when you aren’t happy with a contracted partner and you feel they have exceeded the terms or left them unfulfilled, you first attempt to reconcile and renegotiate. Usually following this, comes the termination on the heels of the failed reconciliation.

      Still, I’m willing to hold judgment for a bit, but you have to admit from the outside looking in, especially for the disaffected, this has a very poor appearance.

      Like

      • Katie says:

        Absolutely, Mark. Unfortunately, there are a lot of phrases about honoring God, but it’s more important that with our actions, we don’t deny Him by failing to care for the vulnerable at this time. Sometimes there AREN’T two sides–sometimes it is just the way it is.

        I am not a hater at all, and I in a way want to specifically disassociate with those who are, who are also immoral, atheists, etc. But right now we are all on one side, and it’s the right side. Time for BJU to do the right thing.

        Like

  10. Peter Hansen says:

    “I find their hostile tone and outlook unhelpful.” {The group alumni and former students who have lost confidence in BJU over this matter)

    In light of Paul’s admonition to believers in Colossians 3 (and many, many other passages), I would also add the word “unscriptural” to “unhelpful.” Regardless of BJU’s ultimate established culpability or exoneration, it’s pretty difficult to read the passage below and then justify vicious, motive-assigning, harm-intending responses.

    “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”

    In dealing with His little lambs, His blood-redeemed ones, it’s unthinkable that Jesus would sling hateful accusations, gossip and defame them, or desire their demise.

    Jesus’ own words in John 13:35 are not ambiguous: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

    Like

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