Bob Jones G.R.A.C.E. news in New York Times

Christian School Faulted for Halting Abuse Study

"At Bob Jones, most of the stories that have been made public do not involve assaults on campus. They are about people who were abused as children and then looked for help in college."

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Pastor Joe Roof's picture

I know BJU said they were going to pursue re-establishing their relationship with G.R.A.C.E. after they dismissed them.  Has there been any progress on that?  If not, do they have another investigative ministry in mind?

Jim's picture

"most of the stories that have been made public do not involve assaults on campus. They are about people who were abused as children and then looked for help in college"

Interesting to me because:

  • If true, BJU does not have a primary abuse problem. The abuses were outside the BJU direct sphere of influence
  • And if that indeed is true, any failure was the failure to appropriately counsel those who were abused.
  • So it would be different, for example. from various Catholic archdioceses where the abuse was within their direct sphere of influence
Jay's picture

Wasn't Camille Lewis fired by BJU and a KEY player in the Do Right BJU group(s) along with Jocelyn Zichterman and others?

The CNN article about the "student who had criticized the university over the affair was not allowed to graduate and alleged retaliation" is the very same Chris Peterman who tried to plead his case on SharperIron.  

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Easton's picture

The abuses were outside the BJU direct sphere of influence

Don't overlook the word "most", as in "most of the stories" and, the phrase "made public."  We can't know (and neither does the NY Times) stories that have been related to GRACE confidentially.  Also, keep in mind that the GRACE investigation involved Bob Jones Academy, as well, the "affiliated primary and secondary school" mentioned in the NY Times article.

If BJU was being BJU, this is the advice that would have been given to any abuse victim that related their prior experience to a BJU administrator (dean) or counselor:

  • they can't change what happened to them
  • eschew bitterness and forgive the perpetrator (abusers)

Because of the long-lasting and devastating effects of abuse on a person, this advice, though not necessarily wrong, was insufficient at best, i.e., the "poorly served" claims.

Knowing BJU's penchant for keeping things squeaky clean, if a BJU affiliated pastor/church/parent was accused of being involved in or knowing of abuse to a BJU student, the University would call the accused and question them.  But, if the accused denied it, BJU may note it, but leave it and not notify any official law enforcement agencies.

Many of these BJU counselors who would have heard such abuse claims have since retired.  I wonder if some of these retired administrators are complaining to BJU about being questioned over events that happened 10, 20, 30 years ago or more?

Mark_Smith's picture

Sexual Abuse...true sexual abuse...is a felony! This is not something you take to "church leadership" in the hope they will "take care of it". If your child is sexually abused by a church leader/worker at church YOU DON'T GO TO THE CHURCH first. You call the police and report the crime. Same goes for students at a Christian school. If you are raped...you don't call your dorm supervisor...you dial 911.

 

DavidO's picture

Jay, say what you want about JZ, and I'm sure there's plenty to say, but she and her activism were instrumental in bringing to pass the  sitting of Ernie Willis in prison having been convicted of forcible rape by a jury of his peers.  JZ got it done where the church involved did not.

Same for Dr. C. Lewis.  If the info she provides is accurate, then, as far as this matter goes, any other baggage isn't too relevant.

Mark, people in those situations often go to people they know and deeply trust.  It's up to that person to handle it properly from there.  Tough to fault the victims here.

Larry Nelson's picture

 

Excerpts:

"We can’t know at this point, but BJU’s actions make it sound like GRACE was getting too close to the truth."

"Bob Jones University is about to find out the first rule of modern crisis management: trying to prevent the truth from coming out not only fails, usually, but also causes worse problems for you in the long run. If there really were victims of abuse at BJU, may they find the strength to come forward on the record, and challenge the alleged culture of cover-up at the school. And may the news media see the smoke signals that sacking GRACE sends up, and start looking for the hidden fire at BJU."

- http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/why-is-bob-jones-universit...

 

Easton's picture

Wasn't Camille Lewis fired by BJU and a KEY player in the Do Right BJU group(s) along with Jocelyn Zichterman and others?

The CNN article about the "student who had criticized the university over the affair was not allowed to graduate and alleged retaliation" is the very same Chris Peterman who tried to plead his case on SharperIron.

Dr. Camille Lewis (and husband) were not fired, but left BJU because of irreconcilable differences regarding BJU faculty employment policies and university policy restricting her from freely expressing her opinion in her area of expertise.  Most of it was centered on Camille's academic criticism of another faculty member's book.  To say she was "fired" is inaccurate.  Camille took (and takes) great pride in organizing the "12-12-11 Red Balloon Protest" on the BJU campus where about a dozen people showed up to protest Dr. Chuck Phelps (who two weeks earlier had resigned from the BJU Board).

Zichterman, author of I Fired GOD, is another ex-BJU'er, but I don't believe she was ever faculty, just a former student - not even sure she is a grad.  She and Dr. Lewis vie for publicity and are usually at odds with one another.

Peterman is the student who claims he was shipped (expelled) for watching Glee on his laptop while in Starbucks.  BJU may have expelled Chris because of his involvement with Dr. Lewis and the protest.  He was two weeks from graduation.  It does look suspicious, which is why his story has legs.

Jay's picture

Thanks for the information, Easton.  I thought she had been fired.  And I'm sorry that I ever brought Zichterman into this discussion.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Easton's picture

What bothers me are the inconsistencies between the original "termination" letter, the GRACE update announcing the termination and the Stephen Jones video posted by the BJU PR Department.

Jan 24 2014 BJU Termination Letter to GRACE -- Reasons for termination:

  • We [BJU] made some changes, had some seminars, etc.
  • I [Stepehn Jones] am resigning as president.
  • BJU cannot afford to focus on GRACE right now.

Feb 06 2014 GRACE posted update -- Reasons for termination:

  • None.  It was a "complete surprise" - unexpected.  We have no idea.

Feb 07 2014 Dr. Stephen Jones BJU PR Dept. posted video -- Reasons for termination:

  • GRACE investigation had gone "askew".
  • It was only a "suspension" NOT a "termination".
  • Despite repeated requests, GRACE would not meet with BJU.
  • ​GRACE had not reported any immediate problems since the commencement of the investigation.

The video left me more confused and made me more than a little suspicious of BJU's attitude and motives.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

What bothers me is the rampant speculation and premature judgment. Someone posted Proverbs 18:13 on the other BJU/GRACE thread, and I think it is equally apropos here.

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

dgszweda's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

What bothers me is the rampant speculation and premature judgment. Someone posted Provers 18:13 on the other BJU/GRACE thread, and I think it is equally apropos here.

 

Because there are a number of people, just hoping that sexual abuse is rampant at BJU, that people are hiding it, and if it comes out they can take down the University.  I agree there is too much speculation and almost zero fact here, except for some examples of abuse decades before a student arrived at BJU and the connection with Chuck Phelps, where nothing happened on the campus of BJ or linked to the faculty and administration of BJU.  Lets see how both BJ and GRACE work this out.

Easton's picture

What bothers me is the rampant speculation and premature judgment.

No "speculating" here - so you can't mean me.

All I did was take the words written/spoken by both parties and compare them.

This "no speculation and premature judgment" command is only enforced when an entity (like BJU) is questioned.  Otherwise, people here on Sharper Iron speculate and judge all day long.  No one says a word.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Easton wrote:

What bothers me is the rampant speculation and premature judgment.

No "speculating" here - so you can't mean me.

All I did was take the words written/spoken by both parties and compare them.

This "no speculation and premature judgment" command is only enforced when an entity (like BJU) is questioned.  Otherwise, people here on Sharper Iron speculate and judge all day long.  No one says a word.

Easton,

Perhaps you "speculate and judge all day long," but that does not describe me - the person you are both quoting and responding to. Are you arguing that it is a biblical action in other instances or agreeing that it is unbiblical here, because you cannot complain about it there and excuse it here.

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

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Easton wrote:

What bothers me is the rampant speculation and premature judgment.

No "speculating" here - so you can't mean me.

All I did was take the words written/spoken by both parties and compare them.

This "no speculation and premature judgment" command is only enforced when an entity (like BJU) is questioned.  Otherwise, people here on Sharper Iron speculate and judge all day long.  No one says a word.

And just for the record Easton, it seems like these statements constitute speculation and/or judgment on your part.

 

Easton wrote: If BJU was being BJU, this is the advice that would have been given to any abuse victim that related their prior experience to a BJU administrator (dean) or counselor:

they can't change what happened to them
eschew bitterness and forgive the perpetrator (abusers)

 

Easton wrote: Because of the long-lasting and devastating effects of abuse on a person, this advice, though not necessarily wrong, was insufficient at best, i.e., the "poorly served" claims.

 

Easton wrote: Knowing BJU's penchant for keeping things squeaky clean, if a BJU affiliated pastor/church/parent was accused of being involved in or knowing of abuse to a BJU student, the University would call the accused and question them.  But, if the accused denied it, BJU may note it, but leave it and not notify any official law enforcement agencies.

 

Easton wrote: Many of these BJU counselors who would have heard such abuse claims have since retired.  I wonder if some of these retired administrators are complaining to BJU about being questioned over events that happened 10, 20, 30 years ago or more?

 

Easton wrote: The video left me more confused and made me more than a little suspicious of BJU's attitude and motives.

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

Sean Fericks's picture

Chip, I agree with your sentiment, and I know it comes from a noble heart.  It would apply better there was a single accusation from an isolated source, and it appeared that BJU were attempting to get to the bottom of things.  However, this is not the case.  There are multiple accusations from many sources.  BJU told the world that it was hiring an independent investigation by a reputable Christian organization.  Now, it has terminated the very audit that was supposed to lay the accusations to rest.  BJU's, perhaps unintentional, obfuscation that GRACE is going far afield is not an accusation consistent with the premise of an independent investigation. 

The fact that BJU terminated the investigation ought to be met with some skepticism.  Proverbs 18 does not negate discretion.  Rather, it requires us to use our God-given minds to asses the facts on the ground, and then use discretion.  We ought not take BJU at face value when the facts on the ground are pointing in the opposite direction.  Rather, we should apply a bit of healthy skepticism, hoping and praying for the best.  I certainly hope that BJU is doing right.  I pray that I will be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.  But the inconsistency in word and deed lends itself to justifiable concern for the impact on the Name of Christ, negative effects on the victims, the reputation of the Church, and the future of the University.

This is a serious matter.  Real people have been hurt.  The Name of Christ is being impugned (unjustifiably).  BJU must act quickly to mitigate the damage.  No more obfuscation.  Prompt, clear communication and consistent action are required.

Ken Woodard's picture

I'm so glad the paper pointed out that you can't walk on the grass at BJU. It shows how desperate they are to do a hatchet job on BJ.

Darren Mc's picture

Ken Woodard wrote:

I'm so glad the paper pointed out that you can't walk on the grass at BJU. It shows how desperate they are to do a hatchet job on BJ.

That was a cheap shot, to be sure. The entire lead paragraph was too.

As someone who has worked for several years as a newspaper writer, I have been in situations where one side is desperate to get their story out and the other side, usually the side with the most to lose, is not cooperative. Sometimes the only solution is to go with what you have and hope the negative publicity will encourage the other side to finally explain their side of the story. It will be interesting to see if there is a follow-up story. If there is not, that will mean one of two things: either your suspicions are completely confirmed or BJU decided not to respond. Either way, at this point, BJU loses, to whatever extent this single article harms them.

No wisdom, no understanding, and no counsel will prevail against the LORD. Proverbs 21:30

Easton's picture

I'm so glad the paper pointed out that you can't walk on the grass at BJU. It shows how desperate they are to do a hatchet job on BJ.

Unbelievable that this is the focus.

The "hatchet" is not in the hands of the NY Times.

I guess I'll sit back and wonder how long it will be before someone comes on the forum and declares: "Only psychos feel 'abused.'"

Julie Anne's picture

I'm not sure this has been posted, but it's worth reading.

https://www.facebook.com/notes/robert-peters/an-open-letter-to-stephen-j...

An Open Letter to Stephen Jones and Bob Jones University

February 8, 2014 at 6:37am

Stephen Jones and Bob Jones University,

Your decision to terminate GRACE days before the final interview and weeks before their final report had an impact on survivors and advocates in ways you do not understand. Your message, unintended or not, was blatantly clear: We care more about our institutional “objectives” than institutional transparency. We care more about us than about survivors.

I begin with facts that no one disputes, that you, Dr. Jones, reiterated in your statement yesterday. You initiated the process. You have raised awareness about the issue of sexual abuse at BJU. This is very commendable. These are important steps that BJU would not have taken a decade ago.

It is also undisputed that GRACE has been compassionate, effective, and helpful throughout the process.

It is sadly also undisputed, by you, that you have not told GRACE about your concerns. You admitted this in your statement yesterday. You say that GRACE diverged from your objectives and you have had concerns for several months, but you openly admitted that you did not bring those concerns to GRACE prior to terminating them. To quote a supporter of BJU, you changed the rules of the game in the fourth quarter.

You also spent a lot of time on how GRACE has diverged from your “objectives,” but you won’t disclose those “objectives” or how GRACE has diverged from them because it’s between you and them. It is not. Hundreds of survivors and alumni have a right to know exactly what part of your “objectives” conflicted with the investigative goals of an objective third party firm. How did GRACE “go beyond the original outlined intent?” Did they uncover more than you expected? Was their investigation not narrow enough for your comfort? When you say “it had gone askew,” what do you mean? Do you mean they looked where you didn’t want them to? Was it too painful for BJU to face abuses when they were complicit?

Furthermore, why do you expect a third party investigation to align with your  objectives? If GRACE followed your “objectives,” they would cease to be objective! This illustrates a fundamental flaw; the goal of the investigation should not be narrow, as your response implies (and if you’re honest, this is the goal of terminating GRACE’s agreement: gain contractual leverage, narrow the scope of the report). It should bring darkness to light, institutional and otherwise. (John 1:5) We are a City on a Hill, not a fortress of secrecy and intentional vagueness.

It is not GRACE’S job to “complete the review to achieve our [BJU’s] objectives.” GRACE’s role is to bring light to darkness, truth to secrecy, and hope to survivors, not to accomplish an institution’s narrow objectives.

Also, your reason for the termination was “so that we could sit down and get back on track.” You run a business. Explain to me how it is a professional business model to never bring your concerns to the party, and before working them out you fire them to get back on track. How does that create a good working relationship? You then complain that GRACE went public with it, when, by your own admission, you 1) had concerns for months, 2) never disclosed those concerns, 3) terminated without disclosing the reasons, and 4) still haven’t communicated your concerns to GRACE. And GRACE is being unprofessional? 

Furthermore, this rationale is blatantly opposed to the reason you gave in the termination letter, where you said the change of leadership (and a shift in institutional focus?!) was the real reason. 

I have no doubt that BJU will move forward with an independent third party. I have grave concerns that the full scope of the report will not be made public. That is, after all, the real reason for the termination. You can sugarcoat it all you want, but in your heart you know why you terminated. 

I’m glad you’re “concerned about people that have been interviewed in this process.” Your response caused them incredible pain. I pray you resolve this with an honest, open, unfiltered report. 

You say “nothing is being covered up” because BJU “wouldn’t have initiated” the process. Dr. Jones, initiating costs you NOTHING. It means NOTHING. It’s easy to point to a seminar, an awareness campaign, an initiation, to point to how you care for survivors. That is not what shows you care. 

What shows you care is not initiating, but finishing. 

Not finishing in accordance with your narrowly construed objectives, but in accordance with the light, openness, and transparency that is the Gospel. 

I will get personal. Dr. Jones,  in your time as President you made important, incremental reforms. I believe you are a good man. This will anger many, perhaps even you, but you are better than your predecessors. And you are certainly better than this. 

Please, if you value the name of Christ, if you care at all for the survivors of abuse, let GRACE complete this investigation in full--not to accomplish BJU's "objectives," but to pursue justice, transparency, and restoration for all involved. The longer you wait, the more news outlets pick this up. And the more others see a flawed depiction of Christ that looks nothing like your Savior.

Robert Peters

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

I don't know who Robert Peters is, but this letter is filled with more of the sinful speculation and judgment I mentioned earlier. I do not think it is wrong to be concerned, but judging motives and pontificating on things currently unknown is wrong, and two wrongs still don't make a right. 

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

Barry L.'s picture

I am not sure what is supposed to be accomplished by such a communication, but it is sure used a lot. It always appears to be someone who has an overstated view of why they think their opinion is so much more important than anyone else.

Larry Nelson's picture

Barry L. wrote:

I am not sure what is supposed to be accomplished by such a communication, but it is sure used a lot. It always appears to be someone who has an overstated view of why they think their opinion is so much more important than anyone else.

Open letters have been used in all manner of situations, by many.

Central Seminary/Dr. Kevin Bauder have issued some.  Here is one example: http://www.centralseminary.edu/resources/nick-of-time/462-an-open-letter...

I seem to recall numerous others issued in regards to the concerns about Northland International University a while back.

A quick Google search shows that BJU has been on the sending end of some in the past, too; as well as being on the receiving end, such as the one posted here.

 

KenFields's picture

Perhaps we can now get past the false assumptions that BJU was stonewalling the investigation and was unwilling to move forward with GRACE.

Here is the statement from the BJU website:

Bob Jones University and GRACE will meet next week to discuss the concerns of both parties and determine a plan for moving forward.

Bob Jones University and GRACE remain hopeful this project can be completed with GRACE and in so doing raise sexual abuse awareness and minister to victims whose lives have been ravaged by abuse.

Published February 13, 2014

 

Ken Fields

Jim's picture

http://netgrace.org/wp-content/uploads/Update-February-13th.pdf

During the past week, representatives of GRACE and BJU have continued to 
communicate for the purpose of working out a time for an in-person meeting. The parties 
were recently able to schedule such a meeting for next week. The purpose of this 
meeting is for the parties to articulate expressed concerns, as well as to dialogue about the 
possibility of GRACE completing the independent investigation process started last year. 
GRACE will post another update shortly after the meeting next week. 
 
We ask for prayers for everyone involved in this upcoming meeting. We also ask that we 
continue to pray for God to work mightily on the behalf of all the amazing individuals 
who have been impacted by this most recent development.

Barry L.'s picture

Larry Nelson wrote:

 

Barry L. wrote:

 

I am not sure what is supposed to be accomplished by such a communication, but it is sure used a lot. It always appears to be someone who has an overstated view of why they think their opinion is so much more important than anyone else.

 

 

Open letters have been used in all manner of situations, by many.

Central Seminary/Dr. Kevin Bauder have issued some.  Here is one example: http://www.centralseminary.edu/resources/nick-of-time/462-an-open-letter...

I seem to recall numerous others issued in regards to the concerns about Northland International University a while back.

A quick Google search shows that BJU has been on the sending end of some in the past, too; as well as being on the receiving end, such as the one posted here.

 

I know, but I still stand by what I said. In each case, I am not sure what it accomplishes. I guess the writer feels that a direct private letter would not be answered. Or maybe the intention is not for the recipient, but to the public. In that case, why not just make a public statement instead of this false pretense of you writing to the recipient to which you never actually send.

mmartin's picture

To me this open letter is decades of BJU behavior coming home to roost.  On the one hand it is filled with speculation, which in some cases is unnecessarily over-the-top.  The author seems to forget about the two other ministries that terminated or had problems with their relationship with GRACE.

But on the other hand after decades of BJU having an attitude of superiority the reaction in this letter is understandable.  BJU is/was all about BJU looking good.  Now we see Stephen Jones & BJU finally making many needed and well past due changes & apologies, but still not quite free from the past.  Stephen is better than his predecessors, but it looks like the ghosts of the past still are in the background.

Maybe this conflict between BJU and GRACE is legitimate - nor not.  Maybe BJU is scared about following through with this investigation and report - or not.  Time will tell.

If BJU follows through with this investigation with GRACE or another organization it still will have to work hard at convincing Many the report was truly thorough & independent.

Question.  If BJU decides to permanently terminate their relationship with GRACE and to finish with another organization will that new organization need to start the research and investigation process all over again?

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