BJU faulted for response to GRACE report

57964 reads

There are 171 Comments

KD Merrill's picture

Jay wrote:

It looks like the Greenville News has published a copy of the letter that was reported on at their website.  Here's the link, and some of the salient text:

How do you post that without at least a cursory examination?   Sections were even highlighted for emphasis without any investigation into the world that some of us call reality.  Here's what I mean.  

"What we see in your response to a substantive two-year investigative report is, instead, shallow words backed largely by inaction." Inaction?  What are they talking about?  19/25 of GRACE's recommendations acted on affirmatively.  

"The Report powerfully documented our stories and ultimately wove together a tapestry of our lives displaying not only our greatest heartaches, but also our greatest hope: The hope that, through our stories, healing and change would be achieved.  That hope was shattered by BJU’s official response."  Change has been achieved!  Great change!  But not the change that's truly desired.  Stop believing that the Scriptures can and do address every area of our lives, even issues of great hurt and pain and get rid of the people that believe that.  Healing is something that BJU has no control over at this point. 

"We are angered that the official response was an attack and blatant disregard of the Report’s recommendations.  We are saddened that, despite days of meetings and impassioned conversations, our voices were not heard."  More false narrative.  More lies.  BJU's and Dr. Pettit's response: "Over the years, we have had a number of students come to BJU who had experienced sexual abuse prior to their association with BJU. Many of these victims reached out to our faculty and staff for help and were lovingly served and comforted. However, there were some who came to us and did not experience the loving and comforting environment they deserved in their time of need. I was personally grieved in my communication with one of the victims who had suffered immeasurably at the hands of her perpetrator. I was also grieved to learn that when she came to us for comfort and guidance she left disappointed, deeply hurt, and confused. In her case we did not understand the depths of her trauma. Sadly I have come to realize that some others had a similar experience. So, for just a minute let me address all who suffered. We want you to know that we are deeply sorry that you were hurt and that we did not help you by our response. This was wrong and unacceptable! Please forgive us. We don’t want this to happen again. We pledge to you, that by God’s grace, we will use the things we have learned to further improve what we are doing to help sexual abuse and sexual assault victims. Thank you for your courage to speak out on behalf of those who will attend BJU in the future."  Does this "official response" sound like an attack and blatant disregard to anyone?  Combine with 19/25 affirmed recommendations...

"Although we have little hope of seeing lasting, deep-rooted change at the university, we must communicate truth that is being ignored and omitted."  19/25 recommendations positively acted on.  You see?  By repeating the mantra over and over again, they hope to usher in an alternate reality, sadly which some of you have already bought.

"The university has not provided a humble, transparent confession of wrongdoing."  See BJU's response above.  What are you going to believe?

"While some statements from the university sound good to the general public, they are couched within blame-shifting phrases like, “those who felt or perceived” which puts the onus back on the
victim."  Here's BJU's response that Dr. Pettit read in chapel.  See if you find that mindset.  Post it when you find it.

"Your counseling, those who counseled, and the system that enabled it are flawed and have had devastating effects on many lives. We ask you to pause your counseling program and learn from the ones whose lives have been negatively impacted by it – the survivors."  This statement completely ignores what the GRACE report acknowledges, that changes have been made within the counseling program, that people responsible for it admitted mistakes and learned more and more as the issue of abuse/sexual assault became much more visible in the public eye.

"We feel your statement that BJU has not broken any laws was, at best, disingenuous."  It's a statement of fact.  One of the areas being looked into now by Greenville authorities is if there were any crimes of non-reporting committed.  The "truth-seekers" have become the Greenville PD's outreach arm, attempting to drum up business for them.  

"We wish our university leaders were being the hands and feet of Jesus, but we are grieved, seeing this as another moment when BJU is turning away from abuse victims."  From BJU's response: "Let me also say to those former students who participated in the review—we want to hear your story. You matter to us. You can help us change and improve. We want the opportunity to have a connection with you. If you will contact my office, we will do all we can to make that connection happen. You will be our welcomed guest. We would like to meet with you and better understand your personal experience and how we could have done better."

Do I believe that the University is perfect?  No.  Of course not.  Has its leaders made stupid statements in the past?  Of course.  Does the University need to make a public example of these statements and make reparations?  I dunno.  Have you publicly made boneheaded statements over the course of your ministry?  Maybe even 35 years ago?  Do you need to dredge those up and constantly be  in apology mode?  Will one confessional statement do it?  I guarantee for some that it won't - are they justified?  Does the US Government need to make apologies and financial reparations to native Americans?  Do I think that BJU has changed wholesale its response to sexual abuse/assault victims?  Absolutely.  Anyone who tells you they haven't is selling you something.  


dgszweda's picture

Jim Welch wrote:

I am glad to have SI in order to get so many different points of view.  Many views on this issue for sure!

I am a graduate of the school.  I am very independent.  I still have confidence that God is at work at BJU today.  

BJU has responded and is still responding to the Grace report (yep, I read it the day it came out publicly).

My two cents on Berg, and Bob Jones III is this, if God could still use Peter after his denial, and Mark after his abandonment, then Berg and Jones III can still faithfully serve God today.  I am glad that BJU did not fire either one of these godly men.  Lets stop shooting our wounded.


I am not saying the college needs to fire Berg or BJIII.  That is something the college needs to decide.  But the fact that God can still use someone, doesn't infer that this individual can remain in the exact same position they have always been in.  We need to differentiate those two, and sometimes pastors/christian teachers have trouble with that.  We also have to all remember that BJU is not a church it is a parachurch organization.  It has entirely different priorities than a church does.  I think that a lot of people feel that the college (whether for real or implied) needs to follow along the same lines of a church.  They are a business, and because of that, they need to operate under guidelines that preserve a business (much different than a church).  That means they may need to make decisions that a lot of church members may or may not agree with because these members have blurred the lines between a church and a college.  A church is providentially blessed by God and can operate with 2-3 members with or without income.  A college is not providentially blessed by God (not that it cannot receive blessings), but it must receive income, and create a profit in order to operate.  They need to be responsible to their board and shareholders (if that is the case).  For some reason, I think we have blurred the lines and in many cases this hampers the operation of a college.  We have taken Scripture and blurred it to operate a corporation.  I see no where in Scripture that a corporation needs to follow church discipline processes.  Yet many parachurch organizations operate that way and end up keeping people/processes in place that continue to hamper the organization.

Jay's picture

KD Merrill wrote:

It looks like the Greenville News has published a copy of the letter that was reported on at their website.  Here's the link, and some of the salient text:

How do you post that without at least a cursory examination?   Sections were even highlighted for emphasis without any investigation into the world that some of us call reality.  Here's what I mean.  


All I did was point out that the letter has gone public and was available for everyone to read.  I didn't write this letter.  Furthermore, what 'some of us call reality' may be distorted; there's a reason why many people refer to 'the Greenville bubble'.  And even if it isn't "reality", does that mean that you can just ignore it or write their comments away as unimportant? 

Friend, I'd think a lot harder about your position. Do you really want to line up with people who gave the kind of spiritual counsel I cited in the GRACE report above?  An alumnus like myself can be loyal and faithful to the school while pushing them to make necessary changes. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend", last I checked.

I find it amazing that so many are rushing out of the woodwork to defend BJU in this instance by attacking the messenger and blindly defending the school against all comers even against allegations of failed spiritual counsel that left people suicidal.  People that do that are a part of the problem - they don't see the issue, they don't feel as though the school needs to change, and they would militate against the school for implementing the changes that the school may want to make to remedy this issue.


"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin 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

Bert Perry's picture

Joeb, keep in mind that BJU is also accused in the GRACE report of telling victims not to report crimes including rape to authorities, and that on multiple counts.  We can put this many offenders on this side of the scale vs. that many offenders with a different set of crimes on the other, but really, comparing these sets of sins is at its heart a tu quoque argument--which is a big part of the problem.  

And so I'd like to invite all to approach the real issue; for BJU (or ABWE, or whoever), is it more important that BJU (whoever) implemented a great portion of the recommendations, or is the big issue the six (or however many) recommendations that were not implemented?  The big issue along these lines is the counseling materials.  Do they allow counselors to blame victims for their abuse, or to they not?  If indeed they tell women "ladies, please don't lead men astray with your clothing choices" or some such thing, the answer is "yes".

Moreover, BJU's pointer to another review misses the point; what is needed is not an overall review that might have some quibbles, but rather a line by line review that gets at the specific claims of the GRACE report.  And when that is completed--hopefully they are on it--that is the time for personnel action, and if it's warranted, it probably ought to go much further than just two people.  The trick is that personnel action ought to be taken when it is clear that the people involved are not up to the job--materials were hopelessly unBiblical in some points--and that would imply that other counselors (a) knew this and (b) did not take action.  So if Berg goes, it's probably a bunch of others, too.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dcbii's picture


Jay wrote:

Friend, I'd think a lot harder about your position. Do you really want to line up with people who gave the kind of spiritual counsel I cited in the GRACE report above?  An alumnus like myself can be loyal and faithful to the school while pushing them to make necessary changes. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend", last I checked.

I find it amazing that so many are rushing out of the woodwork to defend BJU in this instance by attacking the messenger and blindly defending the school against all comers even against allegations of failed spiritual counsel that left people suicidal.  People that do that are a part of the problem - they don't see the issue, they don't feel as though the school needs to change, and they would militate against the school for implementing the changes that the school may want to make to remedy this issue.

Jay, while there will probably always be those who rush to defend *any* decision of BJU, no matter how poor, that's not what is happening in this thread.  I would say that the majority of defenders in this discussion are *agreeing* that there were many and large failures in the past, and that those will have to be acknowledged, and that there will be consequences that are not just going to go away.  Those who truly express biblical love for the university want it to do what is right, and we do no blindly accept everything that was done as being in line with scripture.  Honestly, I don't think you will find anyone here that thinks BJU could do no wrong, and that anyone making accusations is therefore either lying or misled.  Even though I've been a defender of their response to the GRACE report (so far), I certainly can fault many things that were said from the pulpit, even in the recent past, and things like their position on races and interracial marriage, etc.  Some of those things I even saw as wrong when I was a student in the 80's, and they make me absolutely cringe now.  Clearly, the GRACE report indicates a number of things that would fall in this category.

However, at the same time, we are trying to point out that where this "open letter" makes claims that the victims have received no apologies, no compassion, no recognition that there were failures, and no assurances that there will be changes made to avoid these same problems in the future, that that is completely untrue.  It may be true that, as KD pointed out, that the changes are not what is wanted, but that is not the same thing at all.  However, this "open letter" simply makes assertions that the victims are not being heard, and nothing could be further from the truth.  It is not an attack on the messengers to take issue with falsehoods in the message. 

Have you read everything that was published by BJU, including the FAQ sections, on what is being done?  Some of it is indeed vague, but it is very clear that big changes are being made with respect to how counseling is handled.  Also, while there may indeed have been many mistakes made in individual counseling situations, BJU is affirming that they are committed to a biblical counseling method.  In other words, while the implementation and even some of the approach might have been flawed, they want to fix what was wrong, but stick with their overall mission to do things according to the Bible.  While the authors of the "open letter" might not agree, this can indeed be done without outsourcing all counseling.  In fact, outsourcing all counseling might make it much harder to ensure that it is done biblically.

In short, BJU may still make some mistakes in how they handle the response to the GRACE report, but to make the claim that NOTHING has changed is clearly completely false, and that is why you are seeing the reaction you are.

Dave Barnhart

Michelle Shuman's picture

A better word to describe my problem with this article is that the news coverage here is "lopsided."  A month or so ago, two public school teachers were accused of actual child abuse and pornography.  When it was reported on, no background info was given and it was a one-two coverage at most and nothing more.  However, BJU is accused of some flawed counseling, not of abuse, and it is still a major news issue and the only ones ever interviewed are the accusers.  They don't go to others in the area that sat under these same people to see what their perspective is.  More illustration of the lopsided reporting is that back when BJU did a lay off, it made major news here, meanwhile many others had been laid off from their companies and just a small statement if any was said.  Its as though people who say they are hurt by BJU should have any hurt whatsoever, but those of us damaged by some other company/organization are fine.  Its not about the accused responses, but about the fact that the accusers are the ones being given the platform.  BTW, this isn't just a phenomenon in Greenville with BJU, but with the police and conservatives nationwide.  I hope this clarifies my reason for asking for more details about this letter and its writers before just assuming that everything they say is valid.

Oh and for those interested, BJIII was not at last night's alumni reception.  His absence is rare.  Nor was Dr. Berg.  Steve Pettit was there.

Michelle Shuman

Joeb's picture

Bert and others I think BJU should abide by almost all Recomendations of the Grace Report but it is their decision to make good or bad.  Bert your point about them circling the wagons is very true on part of BJU.  In fact when I worked for US government we use to laugh at management because their favorites could do no wrong. We used to say that their favorites would have to be caught with their face in a pound of cocaine for them to get fired. This may be the case with Berg.  BJU maybe taking care of him regardless if it is biblically and business wise to do so, but it is their decision to make.  We can only hope and pray they will make adjustments to the counseling program to resolve the problems.  You can bet Berg received a little counseling himself about what he says to students in the future.  I am sure they read him the riot act.  BJU and Petitt are not that dumb. They know that students can vote with their feet.   So absent any Iingering criminal investigation which results in Berg being indicted and convicted for not reporting sexual abuse of a minor Berg and his counseling plus any adjustments for the better are here to stay.  In some sense financially BJU is like Uncle Sam sooner or later the money will run out and the house of cards will collapse.  This in the long run maybe Gods will for BJU and the country.   If you persue an ungodly path than eventually you will pay.  

KD Merrill's picture

Jay, as someone who is located 1200 miles from Greenville, I have no vested interest in BJU other than my children attend there and have benefited from their attendance.  If there were no more BJU, I'd feel badly that a once faithful, yet imperfect tool no longer existed, but by no means does my happiness hinge  on its existence.  Having said that, I appreciate the school, its current and past leaders and its standing firm for the faith.  Perfect?  No.  

Several sections of the letter are highlighted - was it like that when you posted it or did you take the opportunity to do that yourself?  I ask, because when one follows the link to the letter file, it's in plain type.  Obviously, someone thought those sections were worthy of calling out.  Why?  Many of those sections have been addressed and they are demonstrably false accusations.  

As far as the letter is concerned, I have no issues where they state that they're hurt and disillusioned because BJU evaluated the GRACE recommendations regarding the approach to counseling, the people responsible for it and their materials and decided to go a different direction.  I disagree with them, but that's their prerogative.  I have no issues where they state they'd like to see the school pick up the tab for any additional counseling.  Anywhere there's honest disagreement with the school's response, I respect that.  What I don't respect - and neither should anyone else, including you - is when they, along with some other very vocal critics of the school attempt to peddle the false narrative that the school isn't changing a thing, that it has acted one way, when it in fact acted completely opposite...unless hanging out with false accusers and propagating a false message is now cool on the SI boards.

"I find it amazing that so many are rushing out of the woodwork to defend BJU in this instance by attacking the messenger and blindly defending the school against all comers even against allegations of failed spiritual counsel that left people suicidal."

Where?  Who?  Do you see anyone on this thread doing that?  Is pointing out lies and untruths now classified as "attacking the messenger"?  Is it "blindly defending the school"?  Maybe because I'm outside the Greenville bubble I don't hear/see people clamoring for poor counseling techniques and non-reporting of abuse/assault issues.  Is that what you're hearing?  

Constructive criticism is one thing, but false accusations are another.  I'm reminded of the saying, "With friends like this, who needs enemies?"  I'll gladly associate with those making constructive criticism, but not with those making false accusations.  How about you?

Bert Perry's picture

Michelle, I understand what you're complaining about, but again, that's just the to quoque fallacy.  I will agree 100% that Christians take it on the chin harder when they misbehave than others do.  No argument there.  But that said, if we value our institutions, would we want it any other way?  If the GRACE allegations are true--and no less than BJU has admitted that many of them are--don't we want people to raise a ruckus and light some fires under rear ends?

I sure do, and the fact of the matter here is that the bad publicity is giving BJU a golden opportunity to do the right thing (again, review those materials line by line and fix them!) and get credit for it.  One of the key rules in politics is that it's generally not the scandal (e.g. Watergate) that gets you, but rather the cover-up (those missing 18 minutes of tape).  Circle the wagons is PR suicide.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

Two things:

1-Did you ever notice that NO MATTER WHAT THE ARGUMENT some "logic expert" says your argument is a logical fallacy?

2-OK, BJU is supposed to fix these things. Well, some woman says in 1990 (or whatever year) she went to a counselor at BJU about being sexually abused, and she claims the counselor asked her if she liked it. Let me ask you, Bert. Just how do you fix that? Other than not doing it anymore (assuming they even did). In some cases the people are dead who were involved. I just list that as an example of something that there is no way to fix.


**What the media and these BJU-opposition groups want is for BJU to WHOLESALE repudiate what they believe, and that isn't going to happen. BJU is doing a lot, but short of shutting down and paying millions in reparations TOO MANY of these people will never shut up.

JC's picture

The media coverage and blogosphere campaigns against BJU are lopsided and in that respect unfair.  Yet Christians are held to a higher standard than the world.

How many times have BJU created and enforced standards on their students because of the 'perception' issue?  Eg don't go to that restaurant because they serve alcohol and that may be a stumbling block to others.   Yet in this scenario, because it includes the boys club, that association and perception principle does not apply.  It is that hypocrisy that gives continued oxygen to the haters.

The reported problems  would only be a speed bump at most other institutions, but BJU are turning it into a roadblock by not removing the problem.    

I really want BJU to survive this (albeit under a new brand)   For the life of me, I can't understand how bjIII and Berg can be so selfish and pig headed to not leave for the greater cause of the gospel.  Their reputations and past statements are doing more harm than good  

No debate from me about whether they are forgiven - they are.  Just living in reality here.  Their continued presence will sink the university.  


Bert Perry's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

Two things:

1-Did you ever notice that NO MATTER WHAT THE ARGUMENT some "logic expert" says your argument is a logical fallacy?

2-OK, BJU is supposed to fix these things. Well, some woman says in 1990 (or whatever year) she went to a counselor at BJU about being sexually abused, and she claims the counselor asked her if she liked it. Let me ask you, Bert. Just how do you fix that? Other than not doing it anymore (assuming they even did). In some cases the people are dead who were involved. I just list that as an example of something that there is no way to fix.


**What the media and these BJU-opposition groups want is for BJU to WHOLESALE repudiate what they believe, and that isn't going to happen. BJU is doing a lot, but short of shutting down and paying millions in reparations TOO MANY of these people will never shut up.

1. No.  There is such a thing as valid logic, and pointing fingers at someone else (the heart of ad hominem and tu quoque arguments) is a really, really basic violation of logic.  We are not quibbling over which of the Aristotelian categories the syllogism fits into, to put it mildly, whether it's cesare or camestres.

2. What you do to fix the problem is to ask why these sins were committed against the abused students, including the intellectual justification for the behaviors shown--a basic ISO 9001 audit kind of review, really.  Berg has been writing since at least 1978, and his works (among others) form a great part of the counseling curriculum at BJU.  So what you do to fix the intellectual basis is go through his books line by line, and if they teach what GRACE is objecting to, you seriously consider revising them or withdrawing them from the market altogether--and you get new counseling manuals.

3.  This is not about persuading everyone that BJU is the best thing since sliced bread.  To be blunt, that's another "Squirrel" argument, Mark.  This is about persuading prospective students that if they should be abused, their counselors will have better training than the ones profiled in the GRACE report.  

Now process what ought to occur with #2 and #3 in light of BJU's full endorsement of Jim Berg's works .  What BJU is telling us here is that they have not completed their 8D form.  The question is not whether they implement GRACE's recommendations in toto--I personally disagree with a couple of them--but whether the changes they are making will deal with the root causes of the observed behavior.  And they're clearly not there.

It is also worth noting that if GRACE were to ask me about this, that is exactly what I would point out to them as well.  The task of BJU is not to implement every recommendation GRACE makes.  It is to take the evidence seriously and come up with a plan that works for them to reduce or eliminate the chances of the problem recurring.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Joeb's picture

JC I would not say for sure that BJU will collapse by keeping BERG. Most of the instances of abuse they counseled on occurred before the students came to BJU. All there were a number of instances that occurred on campus that were mishandled. The off campus situations were more the mishandling of the counseling rather than non reporting. Either is bad but they could be survivable by BERG if BJU puts a bridle in his mouth and adjusts his counseling and fires anyone from this time forward for non reporting. It is the non reporting that presents the most danger to others. A good example of no criminal action taken against a student for a rape on campus was the male football player from Liberty who was let go without any charges. Now wether that matter was mishandled or the victim just did want press charges I don't now but this guy went on to become a serial rapist and murderer of young college girls. This perp is also a suspect in another disappearance of a female Liberty University Student from campus. I would hate to be the young lady who didn't press charges knowing that by not doing so she contributed to the rape and murder of three to four other young girls maybe even one of her other fellow students. These are the kind of safety issues that would directly effect enrollment in my mind more than the counseling defects. Without any criminal charges coming from the Grace Report it is really a matter of judgement whether Berg should be fired albeit a bad judgement if he is not.

BrianW's picture

The challenge BJU is facing is negative reviews online.  As in all reviews, they are a guide to people's past experience with a product or service.  Frequently reviews are too harsh since people who are happy and pleased are too busy to post good reviews.  Having said this, I believe the many years of heavy-handedness with students and excessive rules has hurt the university.  This combined with a lot of pride isn't helpful.

The school uses a mentality and methodology of the college years as the last years of a child's childhood and the school is the parent.  Other colleges, secular and Christian, view the years at college as the first years of adulthood.  This is very outdated.

The other problem was mentioned earlier in this thread.  People have so much free information and online training at reduced costs.  MIT for instance offers most if not all their classes for free on line.  On-line schooling is growing by leaps and bounds.  People have so many choices in this society.  They seek out information to make decisions.  The bottom line.  Time for a reboot.  Shed the pride, shed some of the petty rules, be gracious.  Nice sells.


JC's picture

Well said BrianW

mmartin's picture

Various & random comments/questions:

Can anyone tell me the source of this open letter?  From the open letter it sounds like the writers were apart of Pettit's task force to review the GRACE report and make recommendations.  However, I believe someone on this thread posted a comment by BJU's PR guy saying the source of the open letter was not from the task force.  Correct?  Who is the source of this open letter?

Someone mentioned that BJU adopted something like 85% of the recommendations by GRACE.  OK, true enough.  However, the remaining 15% is a HUGE 15%.  Look at it this way, without BJIII or Berg there would never have been this GRACE report.  Without BJIII and Berg the GRACE report would've been about 1/4 the length it was.  The GRACE report basically said as much itself.  BJIII set the tone and the culture and Berg was much of the day to day face of that culture especially in terms of counseling.  Yes, BJU adopted 85% (or whatever the actual %); however, the remaining 15% is a 500lb gorilla - the elephant in the room that no one seems to want to do anything about - including those two men.

Earlier I said that BJIII and Berg were now toxic to BJU.  What I meant was that now that the whole world knows the contents of the GRACE report, when you hear the name BJIII or Berg, it conjures up questionable thoughts about the university.  I'm not saying I think they are bad people, but I do think they were gravely mistaken in a way that affected hundreds/thousands of people.  BJU is trying to rebound, to grow back towards where they once were with their financial stability and student population.  Keeping BJIII and Berg around is a distraction to their goal.  This open letter illustrates this distraction.

I do find it a bit strange that the primary focus of the GRACE report was because of BJIII and Berg but we've yet to hear anything from them about it.  We've seen apologies from Stephen Jones and Steve Pettit.  The recent apology from BJIII was good, but it addressed an issue 35 years old and coming on the heals of the GRACE report was. . . .kind of strange.  However, so far we've heard nothing from them about this GRACE report.  Why???  Their actions affected a large amount of people.  This is obviously still a sore point with many people, hence this open letter.  

Some people on this thread are frustrated with some of the comments by people who are frustrated with BJU, in effect saying we don't know the whole story or are piling on.  The thing is, in terms of BJU's target customer base, of which I would be apart of (especially as an alumnus), it really doesn't matter what things look/feel/sound like in the BJU & Greenville bubble.  From my point of view, it only matters what I see and hear about BJU.  It only matters to Joe Bismarck North Dakota what he sees or Suzie Topeka Kansas.  BJU and their die-hard supporters can be irritated all day long at all of this chatter about their situation.  But, at the end of the day it doesn't matter, because it only matters how their customer base feels about BJU.  People vote based on how they feel.  It is what it is, it is human nature.  From this potential customer's point of view, I like Pettit and I think he is the right man for BJU, but I do think they whiffed on BJIII and Berg.  Questions remain in my mind about BJU and BJIII and Berg themselves.

G. N. Barkman's picture

Do I dare jump in?  I've read all comments and wondered if I should offer an opinion.  As one who pretty much grew up at BJA and BJU, I have a ring-side view of many of he actions and attitudes of the past.  But that was a long time ago, and I've had a more distant relationship with BJU for more than forty years.  I've remained thankful for the training I received there, as well as that received by three of my four grown daughters, all of whom benefited from their years at BJU.  But I've also had various "issues" that I have tried to address with little success.  BJU has a history of listening to advice primarily (if not exclusively) from those they consider loyal friends.  In other words, if you do not agree with them about virtually everything, you were usually not placed in the friends category.  Maybe not an enemy, but at least viewed with caution.  That has been my category.  I wish BJU had been able to recognize that some of their best friends were those who had thoughtful reasons for disagreeing with them, but alas.  And yet, I've refused to walk away.  I've tried to maintain friendly ties, and have enjoyed many fruitful relationships with a number of faculty and staff, including BJ III.  My view is that BJU has more strengths than weaknesses, and much continued potential for the advancement of Christ's Kingdom.  I pray for them regularly, and wish them well as they adjust to changing circumstances.

Jim Berg actually stopped down from his position as Dean of Students three or more years ago.  He no longer holds the same level of authority and influence as formerly.  That was accomplished long before the GRACE report was released.  Was this because of recognized problems with his counsel?  Was this because of anticipated fall-out from the GRACE report?  I have no inside information, but believe that this was probably the case.  The Jim Berg legacy is not all or nothing, in my opinion.  He really has written some excellent books on subjects other than counseling, and has been an effective preacher.  Likewise, BJU III stepped down as President several years ago, and also has less authority than before, though has maintained significant influence as Chancellor, especially since his son, Stephen Jones, the former President, was not in good health.  Still, Stephen made a number of changes that surprised most and encouraged many.  I think he was on track to accomplish more needed changes, but poor health forced him to resign.

In other words, some of what SI writers are calling for, the removal of Jim Berg and BJ III, has already been accomplished, at least to a significant degree.  Neither has the same influence as in the past, and will surely have even less as a result of the GRACE report.  Must they resign totally and leave the school?  Some obviously think so.  I am not similarly convinced.  I wonder if that this could be more a desire for "a pound of flesh" than helpful advice.  I agree that a clear apology from each would be extremely helpful.  However, I believe the right people are already in place to make needed changes and move forward.  I pray that they shall succeed.

G. N. Barkman

Joeb's picture

A previous commentator in this thread point out that mellinials were probably not following the BJU issue or focusing on it.  I have mentioned it to some people in my church about BJU and they either did not know about it or really were not concerned about it ie Berg and Jones 3rd staying or leaving would meant nothing to them.  If our culture keeps eroding the way it is, a school like BJU tweaked to resolve its counseling problems and enhancing its academics, may become more attractive to young people somewhat outside the normal BJU feeder system.  Our culture morally is headed toward the toilet and a Christian college standing firm and uncompromising can survive and thrive. Now I may be living in a dream world but I don't agree that keeping Berg is going to be an end all to BJU.  If Berg and Jones 3 are not bridled and they get BJU in the funny papers again well that's another story.  Pettit seems like a guy with commonsense and everyone in this thread seems to agree with that so I see Pettit keeping Berg on a short leash with a choke chain.  

Jay's picture

I only have a few minutes, but let me chip in a little.

Someone asked about the source of the open letter; this was one of the earlier comments from someone at BJU.

As a point of clarification, the “open letter” on BJU’s response to the GRACE report which was sent to the media purports to be from the abuse victims who served on a GRACE task force that reviewed and provided input to the recommendations in the final report. It is definitely not from the committee which President Pettit formed to give advice and counsel on the University’s response to the recommendations. - Randy Page, Director of Public Relations, Bob Jones University

So there are two task forces.  The one that was a part of the BJU / GRACE investigation; some of those people wrote the open letter that is linked to by the Greenville News.  Then there is a separate task force by President Pettite, which is apparently handling the implementation or rejection of the GRACE recommendations.  The two groups are not the same, as far as I can tell.  I do not know if there is overlap with members that sit on both committees.

As for the parts to the open letter that I cited - I added emphasis to specific portions because I felt as though the parts that were bolded had merit and ought to be more carefully looked at.  I know that a portion of the GRACE report recommends that BJU outsource the counseling for sexual abuse and rape victims to a "Julie Valentine Center" in town, but I don't know much about that place.  That recommendation by GRACE makes a lot of sense to me and seems eminently fair.  From what I understand, BJU does not agree with that and has hired their own counselor to handle abuse victims instead.  

I have no idea about the ability or quality of this counselors' role, but I think that if I were one of the people who were victimized by BJU's bad counsel and who brought that up as a part of the GRACE investigation, this would look like a case of the University hiring someone to handle everything the same exact way that they themselves handled it in the past.  I'm also not sure how much I could trust that counselor, given the ways that BJU mismanaged previous victims' counseling, discipline, and student files, as was documented in the GRACE report.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin 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

KD Merrill's picture

...but it appears that many of us here on SI have nothing to worry about.

The Julie Valentine Center has been toted by many in the Greenville area as the bees' knees with regard to sexual assault/abuse treatment/therapy.  Having observed the general disinterest by many to investigate any of the claims or recommendations made by the Dis-A's regarding BJU's complete "lack of response" and "inaction," I became curious about this secular psychotherapy establishment and its methods and did a very brief investigation.  

The GRACE report referenced Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of sexual abuse/assault at least 25 times, something that both Berg and Mazak acknowledged were "a 'normal' response to traumatic events" (GRACE report page 89).  How does the all-world Julie Valentine Center treat PTSD?  According to their website, "EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, effective in treating symptoms of PTSD)."

What is EMDR, the 20% or so who are curious will ask?  From the EMDR Institute, Inc. website, "Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a comprehensive, integrative psychotherapy approach. It contains elements of many effective psychotherapies in structured protocols that are designed to maximize treatment effects. These include psychodynamic, cognitive behavioral, interpersonal, experiential, and body-centered therapies."

Without reviewing the entire process in detail, EMDR is an 8-step process, during which, at one point, "the clinician instructs the client to let his/her mind go blank and to notice whatever thought, feeling, image, memory, or sensation comes to mind."  Wha-wha-whaaat?  Yup.  Nothing like emptying the mind to bring about "healing" and whatever else comes along with it.  Does anyone have any inkling at this point why BJU might be the slightest bit reticent to refer people here or to give their "methods" any credibility?

Furthermore, the website goes on to acknowledge this treatment's controversial status, "Despite its demonstrated effectiveness, similar to most new approaches in psychotherapy, EMDR has been surrounded by controversy. While some critics have labeled EMDR a 'pseudoscience' others have commented that these conclusions are based on misinterpretations of the literature."  Huh.  Whaddaya know.

One doesn't have to look far to find those who aren't raving fans of the treatment.  From My PTSD, one person recounts their experience with EMDR,  "It is like the EMDR is burned into my brain.. and it won't stop. It's painful and gives me migraines and my body shuts down.. not to mention the horrid anxiety this event causes. I have no idea if this will ever go away at the present, nor what is causing it."  Another testimony regarding treatment similar to that of EMDR, "i had a session of "thought-field" therapy that sounds very similar. the therapist was tapping me on the forehead and hand and shoulders, and asking questions, but i didnt' answer outloud, just think of certain trauma. it was not good-i was shaking so hard i couldn't hardly walk out of the office, and i had a sick headache. later that night i became very suicidal."

Sooo, before everyone jumps on the (in GRACE's glowing terms: recommended experts) Julie Valentine bandwagon and genuflects to them as the end-all, be-all, perhaps we who claim to know the Book should exercise some discernment.  I'm not saying avoid them completely - they can certainly be used as a resource in things like identifying sexual abuse/assault and responding appropriately, but using them for counseling Christian victims who have the indwelling Holy Spirit?  Not on your life.  


KD Merrill's picture

...I'm beating a dead horse.  But this is just too rich to ignore.

GRACE and consequently the Dis-A's have made (and still are making) a huge deal of Berg's lack of professional training, certifications, etc.  He learned on the go.  Never got past a Master's Degree.  Blah-blah-blah.  "Dr. Berg's lack of formal training and professional supervision was evident in several judgment errors in the counseling he offered."  Also, the current Women's Counselor at BJU "acknowledged that she did not complete an internship or resident program in order to receive a Master's Degree."

Now let's examine the revered Francine Shapiro, who developed EMDR (see post above), the PTSD counseling technique of choice used by GRACE's "recommended experts" (note - those are their words, not mine) at the esteemed Julie Valentine center.  Ms. Shapiro, according to Wikipedia, "holds a B.A. (1968) and M.A. (1974) in English Literature from Brooklyn College, City University of New York. In 1974, while employed full-time as an English teacher, she enrolled in a PhD program in English Literature at New York University. In 1979, having completed all but her dissertation, she was diagnosed with cancer. Her post-recovery experiences shifted her attention from literature to the effects of stress on the immune system, based on the work of Norman Cousins and others.

Over the next few years she participated in numerous workshops and programs exploring various stress reduction and self-care procedures. During that time she enrolled in the Professional School of Psychological Studies, San Diego (which at the time was regionally unaccredited but approved by the state of California for psychologist licensure, and now defunct)."  ~ emphasis mine.  

What?  She's an English professor who got her doctorate from a regionally unaccredited university, which a number of authors essentially regard as a now defunct diploma mill for psychotherapists.  Here's one example

  • It is also not uncommon to find persons practicing under a "Masters" or "Ph.D" from the Professional School for Psychological Studies which was once located in San Diego, California.
  • The Professional School for Psychological Studies is a now-defunct school which was "authorized" by the State of California. "Authorized" is the lowest level assigned to proprietary schools in California, followed by "approved" and "accredited."
  • Some graduates of this school developed or advocated therapies (or theories) which are regarded by mainstream Psychologists as "pseudo-science" [for example, Francine Shapiro's "Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)"]
  • Because the school no longer exists I have not been able to find more information about when it was founded (or when it failed, for that matter), or what the course requirements were. The only things that were clear in my investigation were that the school was never accredited and no longer exists.
  • This, of course, makes it near impossible for patients of therapists with such credentials to know whether or not their therapist is qualified or not (simply holding a degree from a non-accredited school doesn't necessarily mean they are not qualified, as they may have other more legitimate - but lower - credentials).

Interestingly, the EMDR Institute gives this background on how Dr. Shapiro stumbled upon the foundations of EMDR: "In 1987, Francine Shapiro was walking in the park when she realized that eye movements appeared to decrease the negative emotion associated with her own distressing memories.  She assumed that eye movements had a desensitizing effect, and when she experimented with this she found that others also had the same response to eye movements. It became apparent however that eye movements by themselves did not create comprehensive therapeutic effects and so Shapiro added other treatment elements, including a cognitive component, and developed a standard procedure that she called Eye Movement Desensitization (EMD)."

From Wikipedia, "Her observations regarding the beneficial effect of eye movements, and the development of procedures to utilize them in clinical practice became the basis of her dissertation. She received her PhD in 1988 and her thesis was published in the Journal of Traumatic Studies in 1989."  That's quite the timeline!

So, let's review.  GRACE wants BJU to refer students to the Julie Valentine center, where they employ a form of therapy, developed in about a year, defined as a "questionable practice" according to Quackwatch and divined up by an English Professor who took some classes from a now-defunct non-accredited Psychotherapy diploma mill...because "Berg/BJU aren't qualified."  Oh, and by the way, you too can receive your "Basic Training" in EMDR techniques in two weekends for the measly sum of $1530 from the EMDR Institute, Inc.  Doctorate, shmoctorate.

OK.  Got it.  Does that about sum it up?  Talk about Sharper Irony.

Have a wonderful Lord's Day!!

Joeb's picture

KKD your point is good and shows a weakness in the Grace Report but misses the main point.  Also both sides have pretend Drs ie Dr Berg.  The thrust of the report is you don't counsel the victim of sexual abuse and blame them.   What kind of clothes were you wearing.  Did you wear anything tight that tempted a Christian man. Did you enjoy the sex experience.  You are bitter therefore you are sinful so go forgive your perp for you being bitter about him raping you. Like say sorry to your Fifty year old dad or uncle for raping you when we're 13 or 15 years old.  Do you know how insane that type approach is.  Yikes.  Berg can't claim this was not his approach because all this was bore out in Bergs protege Chuck Phelps handling of the Tina Anderson matter.  So attacking the Grace Report in that area KD is missing the whole point and sin Berg did.  Berg messed up big time but BJU is not going to fire him even though I think and others think he deserves it.  Every one criticizes the US government for cArrying the protection sexual preference to far but in doing so they also go out of there way to protect women from sexual harassment or abuse.  Something BJU Bill Gothards organization and ABWE had never done.  So the obvious is the most important and the minutia is not. As I said before hopefully Pettit will keep a tight leash on Berg with a choker chain. 

Joeb's picture

KD you may not like the other methods and I Kind of agree but they still did not blame the victim like Berg did.  At least they sought to help them and you can bet they would cAll the police.  Bottom line the Grace report methods are the lesser of the evils by far.  Berg does not recognize PTSD he sees every problem as being rooted in sin.   How can anyone say someone can't have PTSD.  In world war 1 they finally recognized it as shell shocked. Initially they practiced the Berg method of it being rooted in sin.  Take the lousy coward out and shoot him.   That's the Berg method.  The real treatment is helping the poor soldier not accusing him of being a coward.   I believe my father suffered from PTSD from being in heavy combat in WW 2 and the Korean War. My father was a West Point grad who ended his own life by hanging himself.  He never got treatment for PTSD.  Let's say that after my father retired and decided to go to BJU Seminary in the mid 80s because he felt the Lord was leading him to get trAining for the ministry.  Now while at BJU he starts getting flash backs like his buddies getting blown to bits by the Japanese at Iwo Jima.   He also goes in to a depression and he goes to a young Dr Berg for counseling.  Dr Berg tells my father that his problems are due to a bitterness sin he holds against the Japanese and the Koreans he fought and he needs to confess his sin and forgive his enemies.  Like send a letter of apology to  Hirohito.   Dr Berg then tells my father God can never use him unless he puts this bitterness behind him .  Now how ridiculous does this sound and it is as ridiculous as Berg telling a young girl who was raped by an older christian man when she was 14 that her problems are due to her bitterness about the rape.  KD if you can't see this as a sinful act by a Christian man to a young christian sister I don't know what to say because most normal Christians and non Christians can see the wrong.  It's like WW 1 just shoot the coward for being shell shocked.  

Joeb's picture

KD to sum up everything I said before every man or women's psychee can only take so much from a violent act towards them be it combat or rape or mugging.  Every person is different in how much they can handle.  How can anyone see this as sin and not a wound to ones mind just like if a person shot you.  You would have physical  and psychological trauma form being shot. So is the psycho part sin.   No one with any commonsense would recognize that as sin ie Berg was an extremely incompetent Counseler. 

Chip Van Emmerik's picture


Methinks you are leaning a little too heavily on the psychobabble in your judgment and not enough on scripture. Nor, if you investigate a little more fully, is it as simple as the accusation makes it sound that the victim was told they were in sin because of their suffering being a victim. Talk a little to a competent biblical counselor to more fully understand what is actually being taught from scripture before casting so many stones (Donn Arms is an active member on SI and a biblical counselor you could use for research).

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

Joel Shaffer's picture

I am going to be vulnerable and share about PTSD since I was diagnosed with it after having a gun pulled on me along with having numerous traumatic events take place over a 15 year period while ministering to gang-members and drug dealers (I had 15 years of nightmares and depression until I got help) My counselor was a licensed Christian therapist and a former missionary.  He utilized a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Exposure Therapy in our counseling sessions  (you can read about these forms of theories here ).  There was alot of wrong thinking on my part as well as fears that resulted from my wrong thinking that I had to deal with.  And there was even some sinful actions that I had to take responsibility for.   I blogged about it  a year ago   

The one thing I am grateful for was that my counselor did not have a "blame the victim" mentality.  His questions did not at all give me the impression that I was to blame, yet at the same time the things he asked me to do did expose my deep heart problem.  

Chip, I don't know what you consider psychobabble, but I am very thankful for how my therapist carefully handled my situation, drawing on the knowledge of PTSD, yet filtering it through the grid of Scripture.  Needless to say, my life has been nightmare-free and depression free for about 6 years.......    

Joel Shaffer's picture

Jim wrote:


Joel Shaffer wrote:

.... after having a gun pulled on me




  • Were you wearing suggestive clothing? 
  • Did you enjoy it?


That was sadly funny!   So sad that those who victimized had to face those kind of questions.  But very funny to show the absurdity by asking the questions......

Joeb's picture

Chip I guess you don't believe in PTSD and it's just   psycho babble.  So all are fine young men who have come home or are coming home from numerous tours from Afghanistan and Iraq damaged physically and mentally are in sin. Boys just get rid of your bitterness and you will be fine.  So my neighbor who knows the Lord is in continual sin since he stills suffers from the physical and mental damage from an IED and is disabled.  So my father who saw all his buddies blown up when the Japanese first opened on the beaches on Iwo Jima never suffered PTSD and when fighting and leading his men in combat against the Chinese human wave attacks and killing so many Chinese that they melted the barrels on their machine guns to survive.  I guess my father would not suffer any damage to his psychee going through this.  Just pshyco babble.  Those girls In Cleveland held as sex slaves for 10 years and repeatedly raped and beaten by the perp.  I guess they did not suffer any PTSD.  Oh that's right they could not have because according to those Tea Party senates canadates it's Gods will that women get raped. Chip if your daughter gets raped and she can't recover from it are you going to tell her she is in sin and should get rid of her bitterness and go right away and forgive the perp for her sin.  Also are you going to ask her if she was wearing suggestive clothing.   I guess you agree with those Ww 1 generals just shoot the bastard coward deserter.  Being Shellshocked is just phsyco babble.  What I'm saying is the whole point of the Grace report in how offensive it was the way Berg handled the counseling.  And yes I will throw stones when something like this is so obviously wrong.  So obvious like you protecting your wife from a person who is going to kill her. Thank God Pettit is in charge at BJU and not you.  You sound like those ABWE missionary parents who just rolled over and allowed Wendall Kempton and his minions to accuse his 14 year old daughter of tempting poor 60 year Dr Kechum into keeping her as a little sexual pet.  Kechum took a12 year old girl had her giving him regular oral sex for two years and her parents did not say a thing or defend her.  Her parents allowed the godly Wendall Kempton to cover it up. 

Jay's picture

Jim's last post illustrates well the callousness of the counseling techniques used in the past at BJ and why I think it's a good idea to outsource that kind of counseling.  But a friend did email me and let me know that BJU has said that if anyone wants counseling with someone in Greenville, they will accomodate that:

At the same time, students will continue to have the option to pursue off-campus counseling from a counselor of their choosing. We recognize there currently may be limits to our ability to deal with certain aspects of trauma present in some cases of sexual abuse/assault. While we will strive to offer as much help as we can in such cases, students have the option to go to agencies and or organizations that at this time may be better equipped and prepared to offer help in their specific situations.

I think part of the underlying discussion here is the legitimacy of psychological diagnoses like PTSD.  It has been my experience that there is such a thing as PTSD, and that it should not be treated as a sin issue, which is, whether we like it or not, kind of the default tool set we go to for counseling.

I don't think that anyone is arguing for the superiority of contemporary psychoanalysis like Freud, Jung, or others.  Where I do think the conversation is breaking down, in part, is whether or not we should counsel based on the Bible alone or take other factors like PTSD into consideration when it comes to properly addressing these issues.  I fall into the latter category. 

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin 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