Points of Failure - Another Look at the BJU GRACE Report

A bad idea is one thing. Flawed execution of a good idea is something else. Thomas Edison is said to have botched the execution of the light-bulb concept about a thousand times before he got it right. Today, we’ve decided that the incandescent light bulb is not such a great idea anymore. But does anyone think that the general concept of converting electrical energy into light is a bad idea?

With changing times and advances in learning and understanding, we’re in constant danger of thinking that all old ideas are bad ideas—and in even greater danger of seeing any flawed execution of an old idea as a failure of the old idea itself. In our hurry to embrace “progress” we often don’t pause and look more carefully at where failure is truly located, and as a result, our piles of obsolete notions include increasing amounts of the wisdom of the ages.

Lately, at least in the West, we’re especially prone to do this with the social sciences. This week’s (or this decade’s) scientific consensus trumps all. And if you’re out of step with it—well, the fact that you’re wrong is self-evident. Because we just don’t do things that way anymore. We know better … until we change our minds again.

My chief concern with GRACE’s BJU investigation and Final Report (hereafter, GR) is that some very good ideas are lumped in with flawed execution (and a genuinely bad idea or two). As a result, there’s a temptation to respond to the GR in one of two unfruitful ways: (a) by dismissing it entirely, or (b) by embracing it entirely.

I appreciate the core of GRACE’s mission and don’t doubt that they have helped many abuse victims find a measure of healing. I’m sure they’ve also helped many ministries make much-needed changes to prevent abuse and help abuse victims.

There is some good stuff in the GR—some very good stuff. But the GR is flawed in some important ways as well. More conservative ministries should use GRACE’s services very carefully, or perhaps seek out an alternative.

1. Lack of Focus

Most of the report focuses on matters clearly relevant to the purpose. But the GR’s efforts to connect BJU’s commitment to personal discipline, “showcase” ideals, in loco parentis, dress standards, etc., to failure to properly help abuse victims are strained.

The section on BJU’s dress code is an example worth noting. To be sure, dress codes and modesty teaching can get pretty weird if poorly understood, poorly balanced, and/or poorly communicated. But Scripture clearly has no problem with placing the primary responsibility on men to resist lust, while at the same time acknowledging the seductive power of clothing and calling women to responsible restraint (Prov. 5 and 7, particularly Prov. 7:10; 1 Tim. 2:9). Viewed through that lens, the idea that pursuing modesty encourages men to blame their behavior on women appears far less likely. It’s interesting that the GR does not even acknowledge that there is a modesty principle in Scripture (59).

The lack of focus is a fairly minor flaw, but it did result in a report that is longer and more cluttered than necessary, making it harder to correctly locate points of failure, and tempting some to put the whole report in the circular file.

The cautionary note here for conservative ministries in general is that, unless the GR is a fluke, GRACE does show some tendency to seek out and target irrelevant philosophical and methodological differences.

2. Facts and Perceptions

If I walk by Pierre’s office cubicle every morning, offer a cheerful “Bonjour!” and receive only a silent glare in return, day after day, I might start to think he hates me or hates some group I belong to. That would be my perception, but the fact might be that until he’s had his third mug of coffee, Pierre hates everybody, and I’m not special at all.

Readers of the GR should keep in mind the difference between perceptual realities and factual realities. In my hypothetical working relationship with Pierre, my perceptions are not only real, but are a potentially important problem for both of us. So Pierre has two sets of problems that may not have much to do with each other: he has (a) the perceptual problem that I think he hates me, and (b) the factual problem that he gets too little sleep and is generally grumpy.

I could lecture Pierre all day about the ugliness of hatred, and every word of my criticism might be absolutely true—just not very applicable. My solution is off target (and maybe counterproductive) because my perception is not factual; I have not correctly located the point of failure.

The GR does show a little awareness that perceptions are not the same things as facts.

GRACE made every effort to collect, verify, and corroborate all information that was provided and included in the Final Report. Some information collected from witnesses was incomplete or unable to be corroborated. (21, note 59)

One of the more intriguing findings in this investigation is the degree to which recollections about BJU teachings on the topic of sexual abuse differ among former students. Students who apparently heard the same sermons and lectures seemed to come away with vastly discrepant perspectives on what was communicated. (45)

This observation is not surprising. Human beings are notoriously non-factual, even when they are being absolutely honest. We perceive inaccurately and recall even less accurately.

I appreciate the GR’s concessions on this topic, but on the whole, it does not adequately help readers understand how to deal with the fact vs. perception relationship. Sometimes, it even increases the confusion:

Clearly, different people can respond differently to the same messages and environment. One way to understand the differences in perceptions is to keep in mind that many victims of sexual abuse suffer from guilt and self-blame … . As a result, many abuse victims are sensitized to perceive and remember victim blaming/perpetrator exonerating attitudes and teachings that individuals without such life experiences fail to note consciously.

In more concrete terms, abuse victims may be able to detect toxic victim blaming/perpetrator exonerating attitudes in highly diluted concentrations that non-abused individuals may lack the sensitivity to detect. A canary illustrates this concept well. (46)

Certainly abuse victims may perceive intended meaning that others miss. But they may also perceive meaning that is simply not there. As I read the GR, I was struck repeatedly with the thought—“Wow. There is a whole lot of misunderstanding going on here!” not only by respondents (many of whom are identified by the GR as non-victims, by the way), but also by the GR team.

The GR team had a difficult task. On the one hand, correctly locating points of failure requires sifting fact from misperception. On the other hand, including that kind of cross examination in the investigation process would create yet another painful experience for victims who have already endured so much—and the prospect of having to go through that would likely frighten many into silence.

Still, the GR does not acknowledge its disproportionate reliance on perceptions, and several of its Recommendations reveal an inappropriate level of confidence in what critical respondents understood BJU leaders to believe and teach.

Two final observations may be helpful on this topic:

  • Responsibility for understanding the communication of leaders, preachers, and counselors does not lie entirely with those delivering the message (Prov. 18:13).
  • Even if we communicate with perfect clarity, some will misunderstand (e.g., Matt. 16:11, Mark 9:31-32, John 12:16).

3. Counseling Model

Though the GR gives considerable attention (59-162) to problems of execution—such as the pace of counseling, inadequate attention to establishing safety and trust, and lack of clear communication—the overall thrust of its analysis and Final Recommendations goes beyond correcting problems of counseling delivery; it is ultimately unsupportive of the biblical counseling model in general.

Not only does the GR’s analysis grant a far smaller role for Scripture and spiritual realities than any variant of the biblical counseling model, but it also recommends outsourcing all of the university’s sexual abuse counseling to an organization that is, apparently, secular (227).

The contrast between GRACE’s recommendations and the handling of sexual abuse upheld by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, for example, is deep and profound. Note “Vision of Hope: The Story of Julia,” as a poignant example. The Biblical Counseling Coalition’s Making Peace with the Past recommends a counseling process that is similarly at odds with the GR’s perspective (e.g., the contrasting statement around 0:08:53, and comments at 0:40:33 regarding dealing with guilt), as does Amy Baker’s “What Do you Say to a Woman Filled with Hate from Past Sexual Assault or Abuse?

The message of these groups is clearly not just “move on,” but it definitely includes “move on.” Though I believe the biblical counseling movement has some weaknesses in finding a proper relationship to clinical research, the movement continues to grow and improve. What victims of all sorts need is a biblical counseling model that brings the whole truth to the whole person rather than a model excessively limited to neuro-biological understandings of human behavior.

That there is room for improvement in the execution of BJU’s counseling process is clear in the university president’s public statement as well as in counselors’ comments in the GR itself (e.g., 69). On a few points, it appears that problems exist at the theological level (such as the “Trinity of Man” concept and counseling techniques predicated on trichotomous anthropology; 65 note 108, 87). But to the degree that the university’s counseling has been ineffective for abuse victims, giving too much weight to spiritual realities and too much attention to Scripture has not been the problem.

4. Recommendations

Due to the perceptions-focus and philosophical differences evident in the GR, the Recommendations are of widely uneven usefulness. Much is helpful; some is quite unhelpful. For what it’s worth, I believe the university should limit its future relationship with GRACE to something along the lines of “Thanks for your help; we’ll take it from here,” then chart its own course to fixing the points of failure it is able to correctly locate.

As for GRACE, I would echo BJU president Steve Pettit’s observation: “They are devoted to the cause of preventing sexual abuse and their contributions are significant.” When it comes to investigation services, they are perhaps not the best choice for more conservative ministries and institutions, though. Perhaps the time has come for an organization such as BCC or ACBC to launch a service to meet this need.

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Jeff Straub's picture

Thanks Aaron . . . this is on the whole a much better analysis than the previous post. This has to be a challenging time in Greenville to sort out the truth from the misunderstanding without appearing to be flippant about the report while at the same time without surrendering biblical teaching. It does not help the cause to be dismissive out-of-hand of the report. For better or worse, this is what we are compelled to deal with. We need to remember that it was BJU itself who initiated the process, regardless of whatever we think of it, or those who made the call. What is done, is done. There is no point in casting aspersions in anyone's direction. Serious questions no doubt are being asked - where did we fail? how can we correct our course? What can we do to "fix" any harm we may have caused, intentional or otherwise. There is a challenging road ahead for the leadership. Some are screaming for heads on a pike at the front gate. Nothing short of that will satisfy. But what would this solve?

It is too bad some are more intent on bringing something down than seeing something fixed. There is much for us all to learn in this . . . about grace, truth and humility.

May God continue to strengthen the admin as they work toward that end.

Jeff Straub

stephen's picture

More drivel. Another nail in the fundy coffin.

Which suits me just fine. I thank you for providing the nail.

ssutter's picture

at some level the Grace Report (and ensuing discussion) is a bit binary.

Is BJU a safe place for your child (abused, or otherwise)? 

Has BJU kept the law, maintained prudent policy, and otherwise been responsible stewards of kids; Have they kept their own promises? (and theirs are big promises)

or NOT?

that is the big question that seems to drive discussion... and one that (if there are sides), neither side seems to compromise on at the end of the day.  

 

 

 

_______________
www.SutterSaga.com

G. N. Barkman's picture

It's interesting to see how different people read the same material and manifest different perspectives.  My take on the Grace report, and ensuing discussions, is to try to discern what happened and what needs to be addressed.  How to accomplish change that is not contrary to Biblical understanding.

I really didn't see it as "taking sides."  I'm not for the Grace report, nor against it.  I just want to understand where they may be right, and where they could be wrong.  Likewise with BJU.  Where have they strayed from Biblical Christianity, and where have they been faulted because they took a Biblical approach instead of bowing to secular psychology?  Does everything about BJU have to be a matter of taking sides?  Is it impossible for Christians to evaluate this report  without the coloring of emotional baggage?  Why is BJU so polarizing?

In some ways, this discussion may reveal more about the thinking and biases of SI readers than about Grace or BJU.

G. N. Barkman

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

ssutter wrote:

at some level the Grace Report (and ensuing discussion) is a bit binary.

Is BJU a safe place for your child (abused, or otherwise)? 

Has BJU kept the law, maintained prudent policy, and otherwise been responsible stewards of kids; Have they kept their own promises? (and theirs are big promises)

or NOT?

that is the big question that seems to drive discussion... and one that (if there are sides), neither side seems to compromise on at the end of the day. 

There is not really much there to discuss. It's already acknowledged by both BJU and GRACE that reporting processes weren't what they should have been and that policies were corrected a few years ago.

As for safety and keeping promises, etc. These are obviously complex and qualitative questions that don't fit into 100% either or answers. Am I 'safe' in my home? Relatively. Would we be more safe if we locked the doors? Of course. Safety exists in degrees; there is no yes or no. We'd be most safe if we never left the house, since then we couldn't get struck by lightning, hit by passing cars, shot by random criminals, or slip on ice. But who would want to live that way?

In the real world there are always trade offs and costs involved in gaining more safety and safety is a means to an end. So at some point we have to ask more intelligent questions: is it safe enough to serve its purposes well? Can it be made more safe without harm to its core purposes? etc.

Binary analysis is...  I'll be kind--unwise. (And I hasten to add that I think you're smarter than that!)

I really didn't see it as "taking sides."  I'm not for the Grace report, nor against it.  I just want to understand where they may be right, and where they could be wrong.  Likewise with BJU.  Where have they strayed from Biblical Christianity, and where have they been faulted because they took a Biblical approach instead of bowing to secular psychology?  Does everything about BJU have to be a matter of taking sides?  Is it impossible for Christians to evaluate this report  without the coloring of emotional baggage?  Why is BJU so polarizing?

Well said. And I appreciate Jeff's comment up the thread a ways also. The "side" everyone ought to be on is the desire to see whatever's bad go away and whatever's good improve. Locate the real pts of failure, fix them.

In this particular case, though, what's really hard for many to accept is that the best people to actually do that are BJU's leaders. The reason is simple: the perception-oriented nature of a survey & interview investigation--without cross examination, etc.--cannot possibly establish all the relevant facts to the satisfaction of uninvolved parties. 

In other words, the GR doesn't provide third parties with the necessary information to determine what most of the relevant facts are. And the folks who know best what is factual and what isn't are the folks who were there when it was happening or can do their own internal followup to cross check claims, etc. 

So the GR is most useful--big surprise--to the organization that commissioned it. The rest of us, like it or not, will have to trust BJU to make good use of it.

rogercarlson's picture

One quibble I have with your analysis, Aaron, is on how you worded your modesty criticism.  I probably misunderstood you.  But it came across in my reading that a lack of modesty can lead to sexual assault.  Sure immodesty can contribute to you lust ( I still believe the greater burden is on us as men), but I think its pretty clear that immodesty  never contributes to sexual assault. 

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

"I probably misunderstood you.  But it came across in my reading that a lack of modesty can lead to sexual assault."

It was not my intent to say that.

And the question of whether immodesty can "lead to" or "contribute to" etc...  Because of the current climate, these answers really need to come from clear-thinking, biblically wise women, rather than conservative, male, BJU graduates. (Maybe the folks at the sites I linked to in the article have some answers on that topic: biblicalcounseling.com... and biblicalcounselingcoalition.org) I don't think I can make myself understood on that topic... at least, not by those I would most want to understand me. So it would be counterproductive to go there.

I'll say this though: For a boatload of reasons, I would not--in the context of counseling an abuse victim--bring the topic of modesty up at all, even if I were a woman counseling a woman. (And I do think that only women should counsel female abuse victims, by the way, unless maybe there is an immediate crisis and no female counselor is available. It's just a way, way better dynamic.)  Similarly, if I were preaching on the subject of sexual abuse, I would not in the same sermon bring up the topic of modesty in any way. That begs for confusion (and truly, I would not see it as having much, if any, relevance)

DrJamesAch's picture

GRACE attempted to recommend BJU changing their doctrine as a pre-condition for preventing abuse. If the doctrine is what led to abuse, why have their been no abuses reported in the last 2 years? And as I wrote earlier, with GRACE recommending news articles against BJU that are written by pro LGBT anti Christian journalists , what Aaron said is pretty good advice and analysis, 

As for GRACE, I would echo BJU president Steve Pettit’s observation: “They are devoted to the cause of preventing sexual abuse and their contributions are significant.” When it comes to investigation services, they are perhaps not the best choice for more conservative ministries and institutions, though. Perhaps the time has come for an organization such as BCC(link is external) orACBC(link is external) to launch a service to meet this need.

GRACE's doctrinal bias of course doesn't mean that there aren't some accurate factual reporting from victims (in reply to those who think I am dismissing all claims of abuse merely because GRACE shares opposing doctrinal beliefs), but it does color at least SOME of their interpretations of abuse that are outside of the parameters of criminal abuse standards  based solely on what they consider moral abuse as a result of their views on BJU's doctrinal views. In other words, GRACE attempted to expand the parameters of what BJU and the law itself consider abuse by interjecting liberal and modern progressive standards of abuse that are inherently biased against fundamentalism and complentarianism. That bias is plain as day in GRACE's recommendations and the articles that they suggest for their followers.

 

Dr James Ach

What Kills You Makes You Stronger Rom 8:13; 7:24-25

Do Right Christians, and Calvinisms Other Side

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Jim wrote:

Aaron, could  you provide a handful of bullet points as to what you would regard as "There is some good stuff in the GR—some very good stuff. "

Thanks

This is random, and I would probably want to add to it later.

  • Appendices have lots of good data on the history of reporting requirements in SC
  • There is a lot of generally good advice on building trust and communicating compassion as top priority in the counseling process
  • The data on perceptions: though perceptions are not the same thing as facts, they are--as I wrote--real problems that have to be taken seriously. Perceptual problems are just different from factual problems. So all that that perceptual data is a gold mine! (And the GR is quite transparent about the survey. It's all there)
  • I'm not sure this qualifies as "really good stuff" because it's obvious... but it is really true stuff: of course anything that can be reasonably done to avoid giving the impression of blaming the victim, those are steps worth taking.
  • I didn't get to really dig into the section on separating discipline from counseling (ch.5), but at the very least there is some good food for thought there.
  • I really think the GR is pretty generous about quoting BJU leaders in defense of their own counseling practices. I don't know if the counselors themselves think so....  But much of that is truly helpful to folks even remotely interested in understanding what the counselors were truly trying to accomplish (especially readers who have any sympathy with the biblical counseling model).
Joeb's picture

Aaron some of your points are good. The dress code and students perception of it fits into your argument that a victim of abuse may perceive the dress code and the counseling different.  I agree that BJU rules have a place and can be defended biblically.  If you go to BJU you accept the rules period.  The rules do protect the students. The oldest story in bible proves this David a man after Gods own heart saw Bethsheba bathing and what followed was adultery and murder.  Yet the Lord used this line to give us his son.  I agree with you about the focus of GR.  You really have to focus to grasp everything.  Where I do part ways with you Aaron is GR recommendation of throwing out the baby with the bath water regarding counseling program in place and the person running it is Berg.  This needs to be done. There on record not reporting certain incidents to the Police and Berg and Jones III taking the position that they only reported what they felt necessary.   A biblical counseling that focuses on the bitterness of the victim and moving on without Justice ie Chuck Phelps incident.   Someone who sees a male touching or looking at women's body parts while she is sleeping as a moral failure not a sexual assault should not be dealing with sex abuse victims. Someone who does not have the brains to call the Police when told that ongoing sexual assault was occurring on underage female should not be on counseling. Don't get me wrong I do believe in biblical counseling but some how Bergs model which appears he taught Chuck Phelps and Rand Hummel is warped. Thank God justice was done and Ernie Willis is doing 20 to life.  Even in the Willis matter Dr Mczak thought it was only a moral failure and nothing would happen to Willis.  Also another BJU pastor commented that Jolyn Zichman was sinning by awakening the bitterness in Tina Andersons heart.  If this is the biblical counseling you back than you should get on your knees and seek out the Lord because even an unbeliever can see how warped this is.  By the way the Bible College Tina Anderson worked for fired her for pursuing JUSTICE. How sick is that.  Can't you see why the GR attacked the BJU counseling program and Berg.  Now that being said I also strongly believe many Christians excuse sinful behavior as psycho problems.  I myself had anger problem which I still struggle with, that almost cost my marriage.  Biblical counseling I received pointed out that my anger problem was a sin problem not a phsyco problem.  So I do believe in biblical counseling but it must tempered with the reality that people do have phsyco problems ie PTSD.  My father saw all his friend blown to bits when the Japanese opened up at Iwo Jima.  My father went to Korea with his West Point class mate Dick Shea Medal of Honor Recepient and of Pork Chop Hill fame.  My father did the same rockem sockem combat against Chinese troops doing Human wave attacks.   The kind where the Americans melted the barrels of their machine guns fighting off the Chinese.  I believe my father who became a Christian at West Point suffered from PTSD and was never treated for it.  My father ended up hanging himself. For a biblical counseling to say my fathers PTSD was sin is aboloutely sick.  My father was willing to lay his life down for his country.   

C. D. Cauthorne Jr.'s picture

Very clear, Aaron. Thank you.

jimcarwest's picture

Ctrl/Cmd+V

Having read the GRACE report in its entirety, my comments are the following:

 

            Those who either were abused sexually before coming to BJU or had the unfortunate experience of being abused by someone connected to the University are worthy of compassion, sympathy, understanding, and pity, and even legal recourse.  If the University failed to deal with their needs once they were revealed, the University stands guilty of contributing to their pain and at least owes them the honor of asking their forgiveness.

 

            The University was right to submit to an outside investigation and review of its policies in the interest of correcting any failure toward their students.  When one is charged with a fault, one is usually too blinded by self-defense to think clearly about the situation. 

 

            If it did not, the University ought to have examined the philosophy of counseling that drives GRACE in order to know if a disparity of philosophy might tilt the review and its conclusions unfairly against BJU.   Impartiality is the first requirement  of such an investigation.  I cannot address any hidden motivations of GRACE.  Six hundred complaints is a solid body of evidence to examine.  My own sense is that GRACE does pursue the University with somewhat of the bias of a different philosophical point of view.

 

            At any point in the review that unfairness or a discrepant philosophy might show itself, which might lead to a biased conclusion that is hurtful to the University, BJU would have been right to terminate the investigation and to state publicly its reasons for doing so.  That it did not do so may admit to recognition of fault that could not be covered up, or it may stem from a realization that some level of fault existed which needed to be addressed, regardless of the consequences.  This latter would be the more nobler of the two options, and for an institution that has built its reputation on the saying of its founder – “do right even if the stars fall” – one would expect this response.  Someone, and perhaps many at the institution were being guided by moral principle, and this gives me hope for the survival of BJU.  The same spirit most evidently does not exist in secular institutions.

 

            From my reading of the Review, it seems apparent that GRACE judges the University’s philosophy of counseling to be at least to a large extent culpable of the injury experienced by the claimants.  In this case, while expressing sorrow for the personal injury of any students and while accepting responsibility for the failure of any member of the Administration toward an injured student, the University should put up a robust defense of its philosophy of Biblical Counseling, which is based upon 2 Peter 1:3-4.

 

            Does the study take into account a certain number of critics who might have other axes to grind and who are using this emotional issue as a means of damaging the University?  Is it aware of the vicious attacks that are being uttered in the social media that might be considered pure nonsense and slander?  Does it understand the “bandwagon effect” of such accusations that prompt people often to join the fray without any legitimate reason other than hatemongering and bloodletting?

 

            It  is questionable if GRACE might examine any Christian institution and find it without some reasons for criticism.  The philosophy that BJU has sustained on matters of modesty and the biblical reasons for it have been traditionally held by a host of Christian organizations over the years and open them for criticism when the present circumstances emerge.

 

What degree of immodesty is a woman responsible for before she can be held morally responsible for contributing to the sin of lust?  It seems from the GRACE report, none!

 

What might be the lust a woman has for using her physical assets to cause others to focus on her sexually?  A lust to be noticed? A lust to prove herself worthy of a man’s attention.  A lust to out-perform her female equals in grabbing the attention of males, etc.?  These questions are worthy of consideration.

 

While a man is one hundred percent morally responsible for his actions, no matter what the nature of the sin, anyone who knowingly and willfully contributes to the temptation holds some culpability before God.  Jesus said: “Thou shalt not tempt…”, and although this is directed to Satan, the same principle holds true in other situations.  Paul instructs believers not to put a stumbling block before others.  The thief who steals from the bank is culpable, but the bank officer, that knowingly leaves the door open and the safe unlocked, bears some responsibility for the loss that the bank suffers.

 

The Bible clearly denounces immodesty as well as it condemns lustful thinking and actions.  Both males and females, in the interest of loving one another as themselves, owe each other the respect of treating one another with honor and decency.  Of course, we are speaking here of adult behavior. Christ condemns any adult who hurts or offends a child and pronounces the abuser worthy of a millstone being put around his neck and being cast into the sea.  No adult can ever justify himself for abusing a minor.

 

The same is true of sins of violation.  The perpetrator of rape bears the guilt.  The woman who says “no” has been held by law to be the innocent party.  I am sure that this view is strongly held and taught at BJU.

 

From personal involvement in the studies offered by BJU, my understanding of the biblical counseling given at BJU in keeping with the courses taught by its professors, seeks to guide those who have been abused to accept responsibility for their healing by letting go of the anger, fear, and guilt, and by availing themselves of all the provisions of God’s grace to overcome the effects of their hurt and become a while person in order to live a fruitful and victorious life in Christ.  No issue is so big or debilitating that the grace of God cannot provide for complete healing in Christ.  I adhere to this philosophy.

 

Certainly, no person who reads the Bible can conclude that there are “second-class” saints – a saint being defined as one who believes on and follows Christ.  If a murderer like Saul of Tarsus, who called himself the greatest of sinners, can become an Apostle of Jesus Christ, there is hope for anyone to fully achieve God’s eternal purposes for his life, no matter what they have suffered.  If  David, who was without doubt an adulterer, could become known as “a man after God’s own heart,” there is hope for anyone.  If  Rahab, who was a harlot, could become a progenitor of the Christ, who then can be eliminated from being one of God’s choicest servants?  That’s the hope that biblical counselors hold out to people who otherwise might see themselves as “damaged goods.”

 

I realize that this view is heresy to those who lean upon a secular psychology that tends to leave people in some justifiable victimhood for their entire lives.  The GRACE report does not reveal what its own viewpoint really is.  I believe GRACE should expose their counseling philosophy to full review in order to prove to everyone their qualifications for doing this investigation.  Does GRACE agree with the Biblical Psychology philosophy of BJU? If not, can GRACE be qualified for calling for the termination of the ministries of those with whom they disagree?  The most that should be expected of GRACE is an unbiased examination of any criminal misconduct and any false teaching that led to such conduct on behalf of the University and its leaders.  It  is up to the constituency to discern if BJU has fulfilled its mission in a fair and unbiased manner.  And it is up to legal authorities to opine if BJU has violated the law.  I hardly believe the responsibility of these decisions rests upon GRACE.

 

Looking further at the GRACE review from another perspective, i.e. of culpability, the review reports on various practices that call for further examination and for steps to rectify obvious faults. 

 

I agree that the leaders of the counseling efforts at BJU ought to have studied and become accredited in the field of Counseling and Psychology purely to avoid some of the current criticism.  Professional recognition is expected for practicing the healing arts in our time. 
Violations of confidence in the counseling process are reprehensible.  Wherein this occurred at BJU, this should never have happened.  While it may not be subject to prosecution, it certainly speaks volumes about the unprofessional nature of the program.
Allowing the immature actions of college students to be preserved on files, as seemingly occurred, calls into question just what use might be made of it? 
The traditional demerit system of behavioral control is practiced at many Christian schools and has some merit.  Just how it was used at BJU, I do not know since I did not attend.  Having known many BJU graduates, I sense that none of them suffered any trauma over it.
I fail to understand why BJU should be held responsible for reporting the abuse that happened to an adult while in childhood.  That responsibility should rest upon the adult himself.  It has always been recognized that pastors, priests, and counselors were permitted to hold in confidence the confessions of a counselee as long as the counselee himself was not the perpetrator of a crime.
I believe that Grace went  beyond its mission to call for the disciplining of leaders at BJU whom they deem to have failed in their responsibility.  Their mission was to investigate and report their findings.  They overstepped their bounds in recommending the discipline of Dr. Bob Jones III and the virtual termination of the work of Drs.  Berg and Mazak and the removal of all their written/published materials from the BJU bookstore and catalogue.  This constitutes censorship.  It makes suspect their motives.  It is up to BJU alone to determine whether such a course of action is called for.
The GRACE report has muddied the waters considerably on the subject of biblical counseling in my opinion.  By disqualifying several prominent leaders, it has effectively done great damage to the philosophy itself. 
Much of the criticism voiced by GRACE is based upon sermons preached in Chapel services.  Some of the viewpoints on the meaning of forgiveness are debatable among Bible believers.  There is no clear consensus.  Does GRACE put itself up as the Grand Arbiter on this subject?  By using sermons to support their conclusions, they are in a way suggesting the censoring of Bible preaching.  At best they might have suggested a balance in preaching on this subject.  This, of course, borders on a violation of the freedom of religion and freedom of speech clauses of the Constitution in my opinion.
I agree with their conclusion that BJU should have refused to treat cases of sexual abuse and referred these cases to others in the community who are accredited for dealing with them.  In hindsight , the most BJU should have done is to comfort and encourage the individual from the Bible, without attempting to resolve the deeper conflicts and consequences of sexual abuse.  By going further they entered an area where “angels fear to tread.”  I would suggest that BJU avoid these cases like the plague in the future to escape the charge that they are doing more damage than good.
What I do not see in this report is the evidence that the Counseling program at BJU helped anyone.  The report cites 601 complaints, but where is the number of those who benefitted?  Are we to conclude that only hurt and emotional damage resulted?  Was GRACE, being driven by complaints, only looking for criticism of the program?  Where is the statistical analysis of those who benefitted from the University’s effort to help people heal from their hurts?  I find it difficult to believe that the application of the Bible to life’s challenges did not produce positive results in many cases.  Then, there could have resulted a study done on why certain cases responded and others did not.
Erecting a monument/memorial to what some perceive as a failure to treat a disorder seems to me a little over the line.  It smacks of memorializing mistakes that were made and makes a black mark on the University’s record a period that is to be remembered.  It provides a way to continuously honor failure.  The fact that BJU opened itself to scrutiny and accepted the critique of an independent investigator regarding its practices and failures stands as a testimony that people of good will may celebrate.  Monuments are built to heroes and successes, not to failures.

 

The manner in which this report  is delivered smacks of a trial in which only the prosecution presents its case and the jury is asked to decide without hearing the defense.  It is a one-sided case, which may or may not speak the truth, but which damages it own credibility by assuming the role of both prosecutor and judge.  Hopefully, BJU will be mature enough to examine itself and take measures to correct those areas that have been weak in the past.  And hopefully, other Christian organizations and ministries may be wary of submitting to an internal investigation by any organization that may be agenda-driven.  

ssutter's picture

My comment was simply that as I've observed it, the passionate discussion about the GR reads largely as being driven by a binary narrative. 

Obviously, it'd be better to be discussing how to make things better than to rehash pre-suppositions.... I'm just describing what I'm seeing. --> And that binary makes it hard for the discussion to agree on solutions.

(As you -Aaron hinted at), The challenging thing is that if the facts of the GR supports a narrative that damages the trustworthiness of the leadership (and it probably does), - Then a way forward is divided on the lines of that assumptions - do we trust BJU, or not - that changes what a way forward looks like.

I didn't propose a solution (and I can't pretend to have a superior perspective on this)- but I think a way forward would have to include looking at assumptions. -

If nothing else, I was positing why there is so much disagreement about the GR.

_______________
www.SutterSaga.com

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Ah, I was right, you are smarter than that. Smile ... and I mistook what you meant. 

Yes, the narrative is hard to escape. In the long run, I don't think it's going to matter a whole lot though. BJU will make some improvements beyond what it already has. Some folks will still be dissatisfied, and I think that would probably be true even if they did everything the GR calls for (which I do not seriously think is on the table, thankfully).

But they will make the adjustments they believe are best and the matter will most likely slowly fade to background. There could be some legal matters that surface if they do the sort of legal review of past abuse reports that GR recommends. That seems like a good idea to me (though I think any reasonably competent lawyer could handle it... no specialist required).

.. but anyway, my point is that I don't think the binary narrative fits the reality and so it will ultimately have little bearing on how things progress.

G. N. Barkman's picture

Since BJU has a new president (Steve Pettit), this problem has already been addressed.  What more is needed at this point?  It would seem to me that the way forward for those who are not assigned the responsibility of running BJU, is to wait and see how things are handled in the future with new leadership in place.  I hope I am mistaken, but it seems that nothing short than a pound or more of flesh will satisfy some critics of BJU.  "Off with their heads!"

G. N. Barkman

rogercarlson's picture

G.N.,

There are people that you speak of for sure.  But there are others who really don't want that, but do want justice.  I was not one that was ever harmed.  Like I said on another thread, my time at BJU was great.  I am glad that my alma matter has made adjustments.  I am sitting on the sidelines and waiting to see what happens.  If people in leadership did fail to follow the law and report, then they should be held accountable.  I think all reasonable people would agree on that.  But just because there are those who have an "off with their heads" mentality, does not mean we dismiss everyone who came forward either. 

 

Someone else wondered why GRACE did not talk about those who were positively helped by the University.  That is a good point, but remember, those who felt harmed were encouraged to come forward.  So I think that is why that happened.  Yes many, many of us were helped by BJU (praise the Lord!), but the focus was on those who were harmed. 

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Someone else wondered why GRACE did not talk about those who were positively helped by the University.  That is a good point, but remember, those who felt harmed were encouraged to come forward.  So I think that is why that happened.

There are actually a couple of references to that in there (one is top of p.47). It does get a few nods... though, as you say the focus is on the negative evaluations. 

 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Catching up with this detail…

…I cannot address any hidden motivations of GRACE.  Six hundred complaints is a solid body of evidence to examine.  My own sense is that GRACE does pursue the University with somewhat of the bias of a different philosophical point of view.

I’m not sure where you got that number. Perhaps you’re referring to the top of p.26?  But it does not describe 600 “complaints,” rather 601 survey respondents who claimed either to have a history of sexual abuse or to be connected with someone who is a sexual abuse victim.  were affiliated in some way w/BJU. 

I’ll see if I can paste a shot of that portion here… (you can click to see a larger version)

Joeb's picture

Jim Carwest you avoid the obvious when you say It was wrong for GR to essientially ask for JONES the 3rd and Berg to be terminated. Jones backed keeping Phelps on the Board and in the GR It is documented that allowed a male student who sexually assaulted a woman to return to school and go on to the mission field.  Berg told grace at the time he thought the matter was only a moral failure. That excuse may pass mustard with a jury from BJU but a jury of his true peers would not buy it.  This incident alone would be grounds for firing in any realm.  I do agree with the gentleman above that the matter is in President Pettits hands and we should let him do his work   This guy is a blessing from God for BJU  I would not want to take on his thankless  task even if you gave me a million a year  This guy is one brave man and we all should be praying for him  The things he will be managing will be a great stress for him mentally and physically   What a warrior for Christ   I do believe God will bless his endeavors and BJU will come out a better school for it   My mom was saved and rasied in the Baptist church and my father and her did live a life for Christ  I lost my mom at 18 years old but while she was in the hospital sharing Christ to whoever would listen to her and several patients came to know the Lord  My mom love to sing the old hyms as a vocalist at church and home  yet lot of her and my fathers christian friends from their youth went down the liberal wayside  One was even Chaplin General of the U.S. Army   Think how God could have used this man  So I'm all for BJU existing and thriving  There is not many institutions that stand solid for Christ   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bert Perry's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

Since BJU has a new president (Steve Pettit), this problem has already been addressed.  What more is needed at this point?  It would seem to me that the way forward for those who are not assigned the responsibility of running BJU, is to wait and see how things are handled in the future with new leadership in place.  I hope I am mistaken, but it seems that nothing short than a pound or more of flesh will satisfy some critics of BJU.  "Off with their heads!"

I would suggest that what is yet lacking is BJU's implementation of the report.  Along with Aaron, I would take a careful look at it, including the assumptions of GRACE (e.g. are they attempting a theology of Biblical counseling, or is it simply the flavor of the month from psychology?), and make sure that the policies, theology, training manuals, and procedures are in place to make sure that, in as much as they are able, their counseling program complies with the Bible and with the law.  There will be some places where they simply agree with GRACE, probably some where they disagree.  But if I were at BJU, I'd be pressing for some openness on it--here are the new policies, we've taken this counsel, differ with this, and here we are.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

jimcarwest's picture

When I went  back over the Survey Results, following the suggestion of Aaron Blumer, I realized that I had not stated in my comments the correct number of respondents who seemed to be in opposition to BJU's policies and personnel in their handling of the abuse situation.  The number was NOT 601, which I referred to as "Complaints"; it was far fewer.  Of course, if it had only been one person who was injured or insulted by the BJU policy, that would have been important enough to investigate.  However, the number was far fewer than I had indicated, which tends to put the whole situation in a different perspective, even though even one case is inexcusable.  Hopefully, the situation will find solution under a new administration, as C.N. Barkman has suggested.  And it is my prayer that those who have felt injured may find it in their hearts to forgive what they feel they were made to suffer, so that the training of young people may proceed on a positive note.  This example may serve to benefit the entire Body of Christ and give guidance to other Christian institutions.

Jim's picture

When I think about Bob Jones, I think about rules. (I get rules by the way. I work in a highly regulated (big bank) and we have rules galore). It's not so much "rules" that I think about re BJU but capricious, arbitrary rules. 

I know this is a bit off topic, but perhaps not by much; because I think the intent of rules at BJU pertain either to the good order of the university (eg "lights out at such a such time") or the sanctification of students (the U being in loco parentis to thousands of young adults). And in loco parentis is mentioned in the GR and defended by BJIII. 

My son went through Marine Corp boot camp back in 2001 at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. In the decade plus since, he has from time to time commented (without complaint, by the way) about the rigors and rules of his 13 weeks of boot camp. Every rule had some sort of logic and intent. 

Being a parent (now empty nester), I get rules from that angle too. I once had a rule (and enforced it too!) that no car from our house could be driven without my permission and no Jim Peet owned car could leave the city of Plymouth (36 square miles ... 6 miles by 6 miles) without my explicit permission (which was sometimes granted). This car rule was enforced by a mileage log being in the car and regular checking of the same.

I would like a BJU person to address rules above certain businesses being off limits (by the way. while I have never had this rule for myself nor for my offspring, I would understand a rule such as "you will not dine at a restaurant that serves alcoholic beverages". 

Here is an image that Greg Easton has captured from a 1980's student handbook. What was the purpose of banning these businesses? 

 

 

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Jim has hit on an interesting phenomenon I have watched repeatedly among fundies. They make a pronouncement that something is wrong. Years pass. Then, suddenly, the paradigm shifts and they reverse course. This would be understandable as part of the normal maturation process of people and institutions if the change was accompanied by a statement acknowledging the change and admitting the former position and explaining the reason for the change (they were wrong, circumstances have changed, whatever reasons legitimize the change of position). Unfortunately, what actually happens is the change is quietly implemented and everyone pretends it was never different in the past. A recent example of this on a large scale is accreditation. In the 80's, accreditation was uniformly denounced as a compromising move. Institutions that sought accreditation were criticized by those who promised they would never make such a mistake. Today, fundy institutions are falling all over themselves pursuing regional accreditation from secular organizations. However, I have not seen one of them address the former stance of their own institution to the contrary. It all comes back to the circle-the-wagons mentality that is unwilling to ever admit it has made a mistake. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Mark_Smith's picture

but your example is horrible. Accreditation IS horrible...I say that as an inside college professor. It is pointless and controlling, etc etc. I could go on and on. Consider this: the University of Phoenix is accredited but BJU is not. Does anyone really want to claim that an on-line education from Phoenix is better than BJU?

BUT, as of 2015 a degree is WORTHLESS in most situations unless you graduated from an "accredited" school because every other school thinks accreditation is important. So it isn't that BJU and other fundy schools were wrong, it is that they were horribly outgunned and no one cares what their opinions are. If you are a teacher you must graduate from an accredited school to get a job in a public school. Same ofr nursing, or getting admitted to any graduate school.

Accreditation is now required to be relevant in any public profession. Is is pure practicality. If BJU or other schools want to be a "liberal arts" school, as opposed to purely a ministry training center, they have NO CHOICE but to seek accreditation.

Larry Nelson's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

A recent example of this on a large scale is accreditation. In the 80's, accreditation was uniformly denounced as a compromising move. Institutions that sought accreditation were criticized by those who promised they would never make such a mistake. Today, fundy institutions are falling all over themselves pursuing regional accreditation from secular organizations. However, I have not seen one of them address the former stance of their own institution to the contrary. It all comes back to the circle-the-wagons mentality that is unwilling to ever admit it has made a mistake.

Anyone else remember how BJU vehemently denounced Maranatha for pursuing regional accreditation, what, 20-some years ago?  The denounciation basically was that Maranatha was leaping head-first into apostacy.  Now that BJU is in the process of pursuing regional accreditation, would anyone from BJU even admit that former position?

 

Bert Perry's picture

Maybe the example might be the end of the interracial dating ban?  I don't remember whether they apologized for that one, or whether they just "disappeared" it, but if the latter, that would be a great example.

Speaking from my profession, one of the points of an 8D or corrective action plan is, interestingly, to force public repentance.  You'll end up saying  (real example BTW) "we had two different sites using three different sets of instructions in two languages, none of which would enable the part to be made correctly.  We now have one site using a corrected work instruction, and have trained personnel in its use."

I would concur, BTW, with the logic behind accreditation that Mark uses. It is supposed to ensure minimum standards of instruction, but in practice it can become a political exercise.  Way off topic, but one would surmise that perhaps the best thing to do is to add an accreditation that tells people "in the know" that you've overcome the problems that are known with the politicized process?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jeremy Horn's picture

Jim, 

As an alumnus of BJU, we were given reasons (during our student days)why those businesses and churches were banned. Churches were/are banned because they were/are hostile to BJU or promoted a philosophy of ministry that BJU did not endorse or wish to be associated with, thus students not allowed to attend those churches. For banned businesses usually it was because either students would be harassed at those businesses or the businesses didn't want students at their place of business. Also, for some of the restaurants and gas stations, I believe it was because those businesses sold alcohol within a certain radius of an educational institution(I believe that was actually against SC law until said law was repealed). As far as I know, the Red Lobster next door to BJU is no longer banned. I hope this helps.

Jim's picture

Jeremy Horn wrote:

Jim, 

As an alumnus of BJU, we were given reasons (during our student days)why those businesses and churches were banned. Churches were/are banned because they were/are hostile to BJU or promoted a philosophy of ministry that BJU did not endorse or wish to be associated with, thus students not allowed to attend those churches. For banned businesses usually it was because either students would be harassed at those businesses or the businesses didn't want students at their place of business. Also, for some of the restaurants and gas stations, I believe it was because those businesses sold alcohol within a certain radius of an educational institution(I believe that was actually against SC law until said law was repealed). As far as I know, the Red Lobster next door to BJU is no longer banned. I hope this helps.

Is there a current list (2014-15) of banned businesses?

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