Statement from BJU’s President on the GRACE Report

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Haven't read the GRACE report, but the statement from BJU's pres. certainly sounds like they are headed in the right direction with it all.

CT has an article today about it but there is no new information.

Jay's picture

John Piper drew attention to the release of the report and praised it on his FB wall this morning.  I was pretty surprised to see it, but since Piper's dad was heavily involved with the school, I shouldn't have been.

https://www.facebook.com/JohnPiper/posts/570449489751809?pnref=story

Of course, most of the reaction I'm seeing online has been decidedly....uncharitable.  To put it mildly.

"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

mmartin's picture

I watched Steve Pettit's statement yesterday about the GRACE report.  I thought he did very well, was humble, and sincerely apologetic.  I have been around him many times in the past so what I saw out of him yesterday was not surprising to me.  What I saw from him was par for the course from him personally.  

However, to hear something like that out of Bob Jones University was surprising.  The words "BJU" and "humility" do not often go together in the same sentence.  BJU isn't exactly known for communicating well to the general public . . . (Cough, BJ3, cough, race issue).  But yesterday was one of those times where BJU did the right thing in the right way.

I think Pettit is the best thing that has happened to BJU in years.  A well needed breath of fresh air and fresh perspective.

I think Pettit will bring new life to BJU and a much needed & well past due air of grace and humility.

mmartin's picture

Jay wrote:

Of course, most of the reaction I'm seeing online has been decidedly....uncharitable.  To put it mildly.

Jay,

As Greg Easton puts it, most of those people bashing BJU have only one goal in mind, the closure of BJU.  Nothing less will satisfy them.  It is their reason for living.  Anything less than BJIII, Stephen, and Pettit coming to bow down at their feet and closing the school just won't do.  They will never, ever be satisfied with BJU no matter what it does.

On the other hand, some of the negative backlash against BJU is their own chickens coming home to roost.  Even as a BJU graduate I will say BJU is not exactly known for being characterized by grace and humility.  I saw much of that first hand including from The Third himself.

There will always be the malcontents and misfits with any organization.  But the way BJU has historically conducted itself I believe has made its hate group larger and more vocal than it needed to be.  Some of what we are seeing out of this group is BJU's own fault.

I happy to hear and see what Pettit is doing at BJU.  Very much a good thing.

T Howard's picture

I'm not a BJU grad, so I speak as an outsider, but how realistic and helpful are the below final recommendations of the GRACE report?

- Basically disown BJ3, James Berg, Bob Wood, and Walter Fremont

- Build a memorial to abuse victims

- Outsource all sexual abuse counseling

 

Greg Linscott's picture

mmartin wrote:

I think Pettit is the best thing that has happened to BJU in years.  A well needed breath of fresh air and fresh perspective.

I think Pettit will bring new life to BJU and a much needed & well past due air of grace and humility.

As admirable as Pettit might be early on here, let's not be so quick to overlook the role Stephen Jones played in initiating this process in the first place. Much of the groundwork for these expressions of grace and humility was laid on his watch.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

stephen's picture

It is my understanding, from multiple reliable sources, that Marshall Franklin was the driving force behind the GRACE report happening. I would have thought that Stephen was also a key factor in that, but, after he and Larry Jackson signed off on their ill-advised letter that fired GRACE earlier this year, I feel less comfortable with giving him any credit.

Jim's picture

http://ux.greenvilleonline.com/story/news/local/2014/12/11/report-sugges...

 

"Dr. Jones, III has also repeatedly demonstrated a significant lack of understanding regarding the many painful dynamics associated with sexual abuse," the report states. "Due to the central role Dr. Jones, III played in the many issues outlined within this report, it is recommended that the university impose personnel action upon Dr. Jones, III."

Randy Page, a spokesman for BJU, said the university would be evaluations personnel recommendations and all other recommendations within 90 days. Jones remains chancellor at the university founded by his grandfather.

The report also says James Berg, a former dean of students, was largely responsible for failing the respond adequately to reports of sexual abuse and recommends that he no longer be allowed to teach on any issue related to sexual abuse and that he no longer be allowed to counsel students.

The BJU website lists Berg as teaching crisis counseling and says he has been teaching Christian counselors for 30 years. Berg told GRACE investigators that he had counseled between 200 and 300 sexual abuse victims in his years as dean of students, from 1981 until 2010, yet had no formal training.

He said he had on-the-job training in addition to reading books and articles and attending a conference. His style of counseling was criticized by several victims who said he asked rapid-fire and personal questions such as whether they had been drinking or had been involved with the man before.

The report also recommends that Berg's books and other materials no longer be sold by BJU, both online or in its bookstore.

mmartin's picture

After "The Fortress of Faith," as Easton calls it, has completed their 90-day review of GRACE's report, I think they will do the following.  Speculation, I know.

1  The Third & Berg are now toxic to BJU.  I think The Third will resign as Chancellor and Berg will be sent to the Eastern front. j/k!  I think Berg will shifted to another position on campus and removed from any kind of counseling position.  If BJU leaves The Third and Berg alone their apology will ring hollow and rightly viewed as hypocritical.  Pettit is in a tough spot politically with this recommendation by GRACE but if he doesn't do anything his reputation as BJU's president will be damaged substantially.

2  I think Berg and Freemont's publications will quietly disappear from BJU's store and maybe reappear sometime later having been updated and modified to provide greater clarity about how to correctly counsel abuse.  This may not happen though since it is now known that Berg had little formal training and no certification on this subject and again, there is now a toxic stigma to him and his materials that will not go away for some time.  I do not think Berg was intentional about his counseling methods all those years, but with no formal training on this issue what we are now reading in the report isn't a surprise.  I think BJU's historical negative attitude towards accreditation and dare I say, arrogance, is biting them in the behind now. 

2  The memorial idea seems a little much to me.  Don't think that will happen.

3  BJU will move to have accredited and certified counselors on staff assigned to handle these abuse cases.

4  BJU will separate the student life and counseling activities into two separate offices.

5  What I would like to see is a follow-up apology statement of some kind from Berg since he and his materials are named significantly in the GRACE report.

6  The same goes for The Third.

7  I would be surprised if 5 & 6 will happen.  The Third and Berg are no Pettit.

stephen's picture

A couple thoughts:

1. I think Steve Pettit is a good man. That being said, his apology was mostly, to use the current vernacular, a non-pology. While it did have some strong and commendable statements in it ("We failed to uphold and honor our own core values."), it was so riddled with "some felt"s and "some believed"s that it came across as insincere and offensive to the victims, the very people it should have been primarily directed to. Personally, I sense that Steve Pettit, despite the fact that he played no part in the abuses that were committed by the university, is sincerely sorry and genuinely wants to make changes; unfortunately, I suspect that, for liability reasons, his statement was given a heavy dose of "lawyering up" before it was allowed to go public.

2. You might want to consider a better source of information on the university than Greg Easton. That's just my humble advice.

Mark_Smith's picture

I have debated on whether to say anything, but here goes. Read it if you want to. Let me start by reminding that I am not a BJU grad. I have never been to BJU either. But I know many BJU grads. Let me say that I took a lot of time yesterday and read most of the report. Other parts I skimmed.

1- Perhaps I am wrong about this but I think Jim was essentially correct. There really isn't much in the report.  For all of the hype by anti-BJU people I expected something really dramatic. Don't get me wrong, one assault is bad, but evil is in the world, even at BJU. People commit crimes and cover up crimes too.

2- I was surprised how several of the "assaults" were people touching others. I realize that touching is inappropriate. I realize it is bad. I think it is totally not allowed. But, for all of the hype about how there was scandal brewing beneath the "evil darkness" of BJU, this is relatively minor stuff. Does that make me sound really bad? Don't get me wrong, inappropriate touching should be dealt with, but is it a crime? For minors, ok. A 20 year guy rubs a 20 year old woman at the library...this is not a scandal but a dufus that needs to be counseled or expelled, not arrested.

3- I know BJU is Christian and has a history with some people, but I was expecting more given my own experiences. The college I work at is being investigated by the Dept of Education for not handling a full blown rape in the dorm correctly. Another college in Kansas, KU, is under investigation for "systemic" negligence in handling sexual assault accusations.

4- As far as I can tell there was not one accusation in the report of an active student raping another active student. Name another college in the country that has 5000+ students that can say that over the course of 40 years? Perspective?

5- Even with the youth camps and BJU Academy the only accusations I read with youth were "touching", rather than more aggressive violations. I can tell you the college I work with has had problems with summer youth activities in the past...way worse than what is mentioned in this report.

6- Dealing with students reporting assaults as a child is tough. I agree BJU completely blew that.

7- Jim Berg's defense was repeatedly "ignorance".  Odd. But, I have done things professionally (not couseling) that I later look back on and think "what was I doing?").

8- I thought some of the remedies were weird and unrealistic. A memorial? Seems odd. Pay for the victim's education? Why? Seems a little excessive. Reject wholesale BJIII, Berg, et al. That would be tough.

9- Jim Berg came out of this really looking bad. I get he was the main counselor. But what strikes me is how "counseling" is becoming as regulated profession. Only a person who is licensed with a PhD in counseling can give advice? Whatever.

Second, I found myself wondering this, is BJU or ANY COLLEGE required to give free psychological counseling to sexual assault victims? It is one thing to help someone move on from now to the future in a kind of mentoring sense, it is another to deal with past issues. That seems to me to be the responsibility of the person not the college. Maybe the problem is BJU got involved at all and actively isolated students. I saw Dr Berg's position as a mentor (and as Dean of Students a disciplinary agent) rather than a professional counselor. Yet the report holds him up like he was a fraud counselor.

 

10- One final thought is the role of Christian ministry versus counseling. Remember the old 1980s lawsuit against Grace Community Church? What does this report say about that? Seems to me this report REJECTS the notion that anyone other than licensed counselor do anything with sexual assault victims.

Jim Welch's picture

I finished reading the entire GRACE report last night.  I am still processing what I have read.  I have some preliminary observations to what I have read.  I am open to changing these points of view:

Positive responses:

1.  I commend both BJU and GRACE for their desire to minister to individuals who have been sinned against.  This past month, in my ministry, I have talked with two adults who were victims of abuse.  I wept with them, I have tried to help them and will continue to help them.  I believe that helping those who have been abused sexually will become a regular part of our ministries in the future.  SUGGESTION:  perhaps SI could have some forums dealing with this issue in the future?

2.  I appreciate the biblical admonitions and helps that GRACE has put in their evaluation sections throughout this report.  I plan on using much of this advice in my own ministry.

3.  I am somewhat relieved that GRACE did not uncover a 'conspiracy' of corruption at BJU.  I did not read of any deliberate attempt by BJU to cover up sexual sin like I have seen in IFB circles.

4.  I grieve for those who have been sexually abused and I thank those who were courageous enough to talk with the GRACE team.

Negative Responses:

1.  I can not help but feel like GRACE has a bias that colors their own ministry.  This bias is seen in at least two of their recommendations:  a) a memorial should be raised at BJU for those who have suffered as a result of inadequate ministry in this area.  REALLY?  How about raising memorials to those who had a bad teacher or heard an unbiblical sermon, or who suffered from the school's racial dating policy, or .....  b) counsel given only by certified councilors (this could become a separate forum topic for SI).  GRACE clearly believes that those who have been sinned against by a sexual predator can only be helped by a professional (while I am not against using professional help, I do believe that their is great merit in local church, Ephesians 4-5 ministry).

2.  I personally have grown in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ through the ministry of Dr. Bob Jones III and Dr. Jim Berg (I was never under Bob Wood's ministry).  My "gut" reaction to having these godly men censored is bad.  I know these men to be humble servants of Jesus Christ.  It is not my place to defend them in this area (the GRACE report).  I may not have reacted the same way that they did; but ultimately, I believe that these men are faithful servants of the Lord.  I do not pretend to know all the details about their ministry to those who have been sexually abused; but I observed Dr. Bob and Jim for nearly 45 years and have never been ashamed to call them my brother in Christ and faithful (yet imperfect) ministers of the Gospel.  

Net Responses:

1.  I will be praying for BJU and for those who have been sinned against through sexual abuse.  Many difficult choices lay ahead for everyone involved.

2.  I trust that as a result of GRACE's ministry, BJU will be able to minister more effectively and biblically in the future.

3.  I trust that those who have been hurt by BJU's attempt to minister will be able to experience the grace of God and enjoy the relationship with Jesus Christ that is our heritage as saints.   

Jim's picture

Question first: Jim Berg. How old? He is a Dr. how? 

Comment: Memorial is a really over the top idea. 

Nasty comment: Voodoo counseling. Eg. "Did you feel pleasure?". 

One more: The missionary representative who still has a job ... this guy should be fired and out of the vocational ministry

Jim Welch's picture

I totally agree w/your "nasty comment"  The question, "did you feel pleasure?' to one sexually sinned against should never be asked.  Period.

Jim Berg is a little older than I am, so I would say he is between 62-64; but not positive.  Not sure how he got the Dr.

Larry Nelson's picture

Jim Welch wrote:

Jim Berg is a little older than I am, so I would say he is between 62-64; but not positive.  Not sure how he got the Dr.

Here's from his Wikipedia page:

Born in 1952.

"He received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Tabernacle Baptist Theological Seminary (Virginia Beach, Virginia)."

- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Berg

 

stephen's picture

Yes, Berg has an honorary doctor from Rod Bell, who was a crony of the university for many years.

As for Jim Berg and Bob Jones III being great men of God . . . Well, I'll just say that I strongly disagree. The things reported about them in the GRACE report are just the tip of the iceberg (no pun intended).

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

My question would be what criteria GRACE is using to measure counseling standards. Would they accept NANC certification for instance. Donn Arms posts here at SI. I would be interested in his perception of the GRACE report as it pertains to counseling and to Berg's published works from a nouthetic viewpoint. 

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

Ron Bean's picture

The story made today's Washington Post. They picked up on the first thing I noticed in the report: the incident that started it all.

. The Lynchburg, Va.-based Godly Response to Abuse in Christian Environments(GRACE) began looking at the school’s policies and procedures at the university’s request in November 2012, in part as a result of allegations that a former university board member had covered up child sexual abuse at his church.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Jim Welch's picture

stephen wrote:

Yes, Berg has an honorary doctor from Rod Bell, who was a crony of the university for many years.

As for Jim Berg and Bob Jones III being great men of God . . . Well, I'll just say that I strongly disagree. The things reported about them in the GRACE report are just the tip of the iceberg (no pun intended).

Stephen, I believe that your opinion of these men may be different from mine and I will give you that right.  What you do not have right to do is misquote or misrepresent what I wrote about them.  If you will look at my comments about Dr. Bob and Jim Berg, I said that they were godly men & faithful although imperfect servants of our Lord.  Each of us will have to answer to God for our ministries.  I do not have to answer for Dr. Bob's or Jim Berg's.

For full disclosure, God has used Jim Berg twice in my life.  He was my counselor after a Sunday morning service at BJU when Dr. Jim Bellis had preached on Blind Bartimaeus.  Under deep conviction of my own sin and my need of a Savior, Jim led me to faith in Christ.  (I was what we called in those days a Hall Monitor now called a RA).  The other time in my life was at an adult retreat in Arkansas when God used Jim to confront me w/my sinful views on God's goodness.  (Long story)

Stephen, I have no clue what interaction you have had w/these men.  I know they have feet of clay and are clay pots.  If they are guilty of disqualifying from ministry sin, they should be held accountable before the larger body of Christ.  But for now, not knowing of any sustainable charge of sin against them, I will continue to be appreciative of their personal ministry to me and the larger Body of Christ.

Shaynus's picture

I grew up on campus at BJU. For the first 6 years of my life, Jim Berg was my next door neighbor and we played with his kids in "Faculty Court" where faculty once lived on campus (now a parking lot). One day as a toddler, I slept 17 hours straight. My mom, literally fearing I was dead, had Pat Berg go with her in the room to wake me up. Fortunately for you all I was just sleeping! 

I think the world of Jim Berg, or as I still call him "Uncle Jim." I also think he made mistakes, and if you read the report he admits them repeatedly. He was asked to do an impossible, stressful job. The University believed in the principle "in loco parentis:" that the school to some extent stood at least partially in the place of the parent while the student was at school. Whether you believe in that principle or not, imagine answering for tens of thousands of students over the years. You would absolutely screw up repeatedly. 

The best thing the University can do is to take the report and learn from it. It looks like they are. I'm disappointed at the conclusion of the report that BJU should essentially disown Jim Berg. Sure: pull or edit a few books, but to not allow someone to learn from mistakes doesn't strike me as "grace." 

One great suggestion from the report: separate discipline conversations from counseling ones. 

One thing that the report hints at which I think was also true: there seems to have been a pervasive naivety because of seclusion from the outside world (and even other schools). Leaders should know what's going on in the world around them. I think social media and the internet helps solve that partially.

I think it's easy to judge the past by the standards of the present. In one passage, the investigators ask Berg about what he knew about South Carolina law. He says he could have looked it up in the Library but didn't. Do you guys remember that before Google if you had a question that popped into your head, you'd have to take 30 minutes or more out of your day to answer it? All while you have a million other things to do? There is so much that we can know instantaneously that the previous generation didn't have. Wise people will not judge too harshly. 
 

Donn R Arms's picture

I read the report last night and here are my bullet points for whatever they are worth.

Positive:

  • They are right about Fremont. His book is probably the dumbest thing I have ever read re Christian Counseling. It has been an embarrassment for the current faculty. For years I have held up my copy and quoted it to illustrate the kinds of things taught in the name of Christian Counseling. It always led to amusement and hilarity among students.
     
  • I don’t know anything about Bob Wood other than the fact that he wrote a glowing Foreword for the Fremont book. Indicates a gross lack of discernment.
     
  • Yes, BJU generally and Jim Berg specifically failed many who came for counseling. I’m just glad no one is doing an investigation of the times I messed up and wish I had done a better job with a counseling situation. Is there a good counselor anywhere for whom this is not true? Jay Adams once wrote a book about a counseling situation in which he failed miserably.
     
  • If the report lights a fire under BJU to rid themselves of the demerit system it will be a blessing.

Negative:

  • I found the tone to be smug and condescending.
     
  • Jim Berg. First a disclaimer—Jim is a friend but I don’t know him well. Years will go by between conversations we have with each other. GRACE made much of his lack of training in counseling but when Berg began studying counseling where did one go to get any kind of degree in biblical counseling, let alone a PhD? Berg (and Mazak as well) did the same thing I did and everyone at NANC did—we studied Jay Adams’ books on our own and began learning as we did counseling.
     
  • For GRACE, training means secular psychological training and their “experts” work in secular organizations such as the Valentine center here in Greenville with which they were especially enamored. One recommendation they had: outsource ALL sexual abuse counseling to a secular organization.
     
  • Firing GRACE made both ABWE and BJU look like they were covering something but after reading this, I would have fired them as well.
     
  • If this was an impartial investigation why not just investigate and report the facts? Why was it necessary to move from the descriptive to the prescriptive? Many of their recommendations are a stretch from facts that are presented. Do they believe the powers that be at BJU are too obtuse to draw their own conclusions and act accordingly?
     
  • Jim Berg should never be allowed to counsel or teach anywhere, on or off campus? Because of what Berg has learned through all this I am confident he is now a much better and humbler counselor and I would not hesitate to refer counselees to him.
     
  • Report was full of pop psychological bromides and clichés:  “a zone of psychological safety,” “psychological pain,” build a memorial, host an “awareness” week, “journey of repentance,” etc.
     
  • Would GRACE have viewed NANC certification as sufficient? Probably not. After all, what is NANC other than a group of self-appointed men with no psychological training?

Donn R Arms

DavidO's picture

Just as a sort of test of the mimesis at work in all this, how many here who have sat for any length of time under a BJU pastor or teacher or professor have heard the theory(?) that "dreams are the mind's method of taking out the trash"?

(I've heard it from two different and independent BJUtrained sources in different ministries in different states.)

Donn R Arms's picture

DavidO wrote:

Just as a sort of test of the mimesis at work in all this, how many here who have sat for any length of time under a BJU pastor or teacher or professor have heard the . . . theory(?) that "dreams are the mind's method of taking out the trash"?

That is an example of Fremont's nonsense. No one else believed or taught such a thing.

Donn R Arms

DavidO's picture

Perhaps, Donn, but I suspect many people believe and teach it subsequent to taking Fremont's class.  I thought a "hand-raise test" might be interesting, even instructive as to the far reach of BJU's teaching influence.

Mark_Smith's picture

to not worry about "subconscious desires" in my dreams!

 

As for Fremont someone recommended his counseling book to me. I opened it up and started reading. There was a section about a teenage daughter not tempting their father by showering when mom wasn't home...Needless to say I put the book down and never looked back!

mmartin's picture

I don't think BJU needs to disown The Third & Berg, but I don't know if letting them remain status quo is the right thing either.  The entire world now knows how they affected many people even if it was unintentional.  Right now the topic of sexual abuse is very much in the spotlight.  Like it or not, The Third and Berg now have a negative stigma that won't go away quickly.  Think about it, when will it be that when you hear the name Jim Berg or Dr. Bob III your mind won't quickly think of the GRACE report?  Not anytime soon, that's for sure.  Not to sound cynical about it, but seriously, even The Third's most ardent supporters will easily link him with this GRACE report.  It is simple human nature, the way our minds work.  This doesn't mean they are bad people or intentionally meant to do harm, but the fact of this negative association is not good.  To leave both of these people alone and allowed to continue, at least for the time being, in their current roles will harm any goodwill achieved from Pettit's apology.  It would look like BJU is protecting its own and will continue to be a distraction.    

A comment was made above about GRACE and their prescriptive recommendations.  This is the job of an ombudsman and if it was within the scope of the contract between GRACE and BJU then their recommendations are perfectly OK.  According to Wikipedia regarding an ombudsman, "The typical duties of an ombudsman are to investigate complaints and attempt to resolve them, usually through recommendations (binding or not) or mediation."  In the early pages of GRACE's report they state that BJU asked them to be this role, that of an ombudsman.

Also, while I obviously don't know the specific details of BJU's contract with GRACE, I would fully expect BJU to have had some sort of review period before the report was made public.  If BJU was disappointed in anyway by the GRACE report they did not appear to be so with this week's apology.

As I stated above, Pettit is now in a tough spot politically because The Third and Berg have many supporters and a long history at BJU.  I don't think BJU will fire those men, but I do think there will be some changes regarding them.  I don't see how there can't be.

The whole world is watching how BJU will respond and as Pettit said himself this week, actions speak louder than words.

Julie Anne's picture

Donn said:
 

  • Jim Berg should never be allowed to counsel or teach anywhere, on or off campus? Because of what Berg has learned through all this I am confident he is now a much better and humbler counselor and I would not hesitate to refer counselees to him.

 

Would you send your sexually abused daughter to him for counseling?  What has he learned from this?  From what I've read, he still admittedly has no formal training in the difficult mental health cases like sex abuse, PTSD, etc.  I've yet to see any victim confess their sin, pray some prayers, and meditate on scripture and this kind of trauma magically goes away.  

 

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