(It is time to) “throw open the windows of the church and let the fresh air of the spirit blow through." – Pope John XXIII link
Today, Greenville Online reports that BJU, GRACE to meet, discuss 'concerns of both parties'. It appears that the cries of protest within the Christian community, culminating in the NY Times taking notice, has caused BJU to return to the table with GRACE. Once again, bloggers and the media are making a difference in compelling Christian churches and organizations to deal with serious issues inherent in these organizations, particularly in regards to sexual abuse. TWW expresses kudos to the brave folks over at Do Right BJU for persistently and persuasively outlining the issues at BJU.
From the articles we have statements from both sides of the conflict.
From Bob Jones University:
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.”
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.”
“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.”
And pray we must…
In the meantime, I was taken by a number of comments from folks who said they graduated from BJU. I grew up in a liberal, northern household which took religion with a grain of salt. We were told to respect "priests" but didn't pay them much attention. Consequently, I was exposed to a wide variety of belief systems and activities which were normative for someone who came from a Russian immigrant family. Movies, alcohol, dancing (Dee can do a mean polka), eating awesome pizza in seedy bars, etc. were par for the course. The same went for many of my friends whose families came from other countries such as Poland, Italy, France, Ireland, Greece, etc. The priests were always present for celebrations and were known to knock back a few with their parishioners.
When I became a Christian, I continued on in these activities, never realizing that many Christians had a polar opposite upbringing and would consider these things "unChristianlike." Funny thing about it, I did not hear about this stuff for years because so many Christians from up north came from similar backgrounds.
The longer that I have been at this blogging game, the more I realize how little we understand about one another's cultural subgroups within Christianity. The word "unity" does not apply here. Nothing illustrates this more than the stories of this past week. Bob Jones University is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) stalwart while Bill Gothard practically invented a denomination of his own within the framework of evangelical Christianity.
A few years ago, we reviewed a book by Jeri Massi (who we met for lunch a few moths ago) called Schizophrenic Christianity: How Christian Fundamentalism Attracts and Protects Sociopaths, Abusive Pastors, and Child Molesters link. This book essentially lists story after story of shocking abuse which are well known to many within the IFB. Many people in the pews do not know these stories since secrecy appears to be one of the virtues of this crowd. Bob Jones University is one of the most well known of IFB colleges. If you want to get your eyes opened to abuse within the IFB, read this book. Note: We do not receive any monetary benefit for pushing this or any other book. We even pay for lunch!
(Quick digression for sci fi fans: Yes, this is the Jeri Massi of Dr Who fandom fame. She has diverse interests and is way cooler than the Deebs.) Here is an excerpt from our original post that eerily reflects the current situation.
I was dumbfounded at the reported number of pastors accused and convicted of child molestation. What is shocking is that many of these men continue to be involved in positions of leadership. The pastors, seen as specially anointed, are shielded from blame. Instead, the victim, who is under the age of consent, is usually censured for pursuing justice and there is a concerted effort to isolate and shun the victim of abuse.
The book also discusses the extreme patriarchal views that are taught in the IFB. Men are seen as the head of the church and family while women take a distant, secondary role. In this system, when there is a man and a woman at odds, the male “head” gets protected while the women are thrown to the wolves.
The following quote from the above link at Amazon tells the story. (Pastors) “…hold themselves above accountability by merging into a system that refuses to police itself or institute rules of behavior for its clergy.”
The culture is confusing to many of us who are on the outside and looking in on the IFB. Dee, the polka queen, wonders "Why didn't these students just leave?" "Why did they go there?" Several commenters at TWW have helped me to understand things a little more. I thank these kind folks for willingly baring their souls to us.That is brave! All bold words inside the quotes are from Dee who is giving an explanatory header. Also, these are not the full comments.They have been shortened in the interest of brevity. Please see the full comments which are posted in the Wednesday's post.
From Katie who attended TTU (Tennessee Temple University)
Uneducated or fearful parents and pastors in home churches insisted.
Someone asked why students go to such IFB schools as BJU? When I was at IFB’s TTU school in the early 80′s, most students came from fairly uneducated homes and fearful parents. The parents were highly influenced by their pastor’s school of choice, which was usually: TTU, BJU, PCU, Liberty (though they were considered a bit liberal back in those days by the IFB,) and Hyles Anderson.
Each school had some serious legalism, poor people skills, group think, isolationism, often poor academics, fear, manipulation, intimidation, abuse, corruption and the like.
There are alleged threats of God's displeasure to students who leave.
When I left TTU in the middle of my senior year, I was told by the Vice President of the school that “If you leave TTU, God will never use you again.” I left and the rest of that year many of the administration were exposed for different types of abuse and corruption (25 year affair, embezzlement, etc…) TTU declined from 6,000 students to 300.
From Brod who was reportedly interviewed by GRACE.
Family who worked at the school sent their kids there.
I spent over half of my life on Bob Jones campus . Administrators and faculty were my next door and down-the-road neighbors. The campus barn was one of our favorite playspaces. Right across from the barn lived the Principal of the Academy and next door to him was the Bible Faculty member who famously wrote the BJU Press publication explaining why racism is commanded by the Bible thus defending the school’s anti-integration stance – specifically interracial dating and marriage.
Do not be confused by the Larry King Live interview by Doctor Bob Jones III – or more correctly Mr. Jones (all of the Jones’ doctoral degrees are honorary except for Stephen’s and his (ed. note: allegedly)was made up to ensure he could pass the program. There are others who have been to this site who can talk more on that topic.) My familial ties with the University predate World War II. My life WAS Bob Jones University. I was not permitted to go anywhere else for school. Yes, my parents required it – it really wasn’t even a question. But the University required it as condition for my parents continued employment. What I will say in this post is from first-hand observation and my own personal experience. And yes, it does reflect opinion.
BJU reportedly helps to fund its own network of churches and Christian schools (This is discussed in Schizophrenic Christianity as well). These networks reportedly feed students to BJU.
Bob Jones University grew its own network of churches and Christian schools. Churches being planted by Bob Jones “Preacher Boys” using seed money from the University and always with the goal of having a school attached to the Church. There was always a contract with BJU that went along with that seed money. Basically BJU owned and controlled the church. Of course, the pastor always sends the kids from the church to BJU. A school attached to the Church often means a larger congregation and a larger group of new students to send to Bob Jones. Those students graduate the University go (ed.onto) recommend BJU… you get the concept.
Students were considered children and that is how the parents viewed their college "kids" as well.
I worked for quite some time there were times when there were over 6,000 students. And the students expected, for the most part, to be treated like children because that is how they were treated at home.
Accreditation of the school is reportedly weak. Degrees are often only recognized by South Carolina.
We were all told – and I can hear the echoes of Bob Jones Junior in my head -that accreditation is unnecessary and will never bee asked about. If it was, just let him know and he wo9uld(sic) set it straight with the questioning University or employer. He even got Strom Thurmond, a SC Senator for a very long time, to smooth thing with Clemson and University of SC to ensure BJ graduates could go there.
Many students, when they have graduated from Bob Jones have gotten a very rude awakening when they try to use their Nursing degree in OH, or their education degree in just about any state except for SC: the lack of accreditation of Bob Jones has meant that most have to work in Christian schools because they have much lower standards for their teachers OR they can go get an accredited degree somewhere else for more money.
Enrollment appears to be in decline, probably due to accreditation as well as school policies.
Graduates are realizing the educational issues of Bob Jones. They also no longer cotton to being treated like a child nor other spiritual and psychological abuse that goes on at Bob Jones. The last several years their numbers have every year significantly dropped. This pas fall they had fewer than 3,000 students.
There is no value to a Bob Jones degree in the real world today. When one points out the issue of graduates being able to find employment the schools apologists are quick to point out that the purpose of a Bob Jones Education is NOT to help anyone get a job. One cannot get them to further explain. Even the technical college system in South Carolina does not recognize a Bob Jones degree. The technical colleges will – in their own words – “accept some transfer credits from Bob Jones University as a courtesy.”
Please realize how difficult it is to explain this for me because it means that half of my life doesn’t matter and was a complete lie.
BJU reportedly offered confusing explanations that appear to contradict one another. This can be seen in the GRACE statement.
If you look carefully at the many things that have happened throughout all of this you will notice a pattern on behalf of the University of saying one thing to explain their position and the next time they say something, the first issue is never mentioned but it is something completely different. Even the letter sent to GRACE was full of inaccuracies. Stephen Jones had Stepped down effective immediately and was going to be on medical leave throughout the semester and occasionally pop in and help out and he would run graduation. The letter says something different.
He supports (and was interviewed by) GRACE and gives kudos to Do Right BJU, Camille Lewis, Grant Lewis and Mr. Peterman
I was interviewed by GRACE. They have done nothing outside of the stated purpose for the investigation. The University started all of this because of the courage of Mr. Peterman and the Do Right BJU group. Camille and Grant Lewis were there and have provided amazing support to the myriad survivors.
Supporters of DO Right BJU were reportedly called names from the chapel pulpit.
Also at that time the BJUnity group under the leadership of Mr. Jeffrey Hoffman was organizing and being there for a an additional group of people who were daily told from the chapel pulpit that they are worthless and in the words of Bob Jones III, they should all just be stoned dead. Stephen and the University are now denying that and are pointing to Penn State’s situation and the impetus of the hiring of GRACE. And I must take this opportunity to say that only a complete and total ninnynincompoop who really has not done true research would question the qualifications or motive of GRACE and point to ABEW and PBI as proof (both of them did almost the identical thing that BJU is doing) Bob Jones has to be realizing the repercussions of the sex abuse at Penn State hit as high as the President of that institution. They have to be worried the same thing will happen there.
He claims sex abuse was not reported and that counseling offered was Nouthetic.
What has been happening at Bob Jones – the not reporting of sex abuse – is institutionalized, discussed, and approved at the administrators meetings. The former primary “counselor” on the campus was a graduate of the University for all of his degrees all of which are Bible. None of which are counseling, psychology, or any other field that could or should lead to a job as a counselor. He does not have a certificate in the state of South Carolina to be a counselor. He does not believe in psychology. Bob Jones is s proponent of “Nouthetic Counseling” which denies any psychological part of the individual and says that if there is a problem that it is either a physical problem or it is sin in your life.
They get by the laws in South Carolina by claiming they are doing pastoral, Boblical (sic)counseling which in SC doesn’t need a certification. Greenville has become a hot-bed of this kind of quackery with entire churches being planted around it. One church is actually trying to open a center to treat addicted women using the concepts and methods of this particular counselor. (he is no longer in his head counselor role at the University but has been moved to the Seminary in an effort to put younger people in administrative roles)
His parents, teachers and pastor went there. He went willingly because he had been taught that state schools ruin the faith of students. He wanted to be a good Christian.
I graduated from BJU in 2002 and received a masters degree in 2006. I went to BJU because my pastor went there, my youth pastor went there, the majority of my school teachers went there, and my parents went there. My parents did not force me to go there, but I was taught from a young age that state schools were places that would ruin your faith. I was told I would be taught everything from an evolutionary, atheistic perspective as opposed to a Christian worldview. So since I wanted to be a good Christian, my choices were limited to BJU, Northland, and Pensacola. I was a good student and loved the fine arts and BJU was the gold standard for academics and music. I thought Northland to be more of a Christian camp-like environment, and Pensacola was KJV only (even then that seemed weird to me).
He loved the teachers at BJU. He said they were excellent teachers as well as caring- a comment shared by many others. (TWW sends props to those teachers!)
My experience and I believe the experience of many other students is complicated. I loved the teachers, and feel that many truly cared for me. Many were well qualified and were excellent teachers. I loved my education for the most part.
Unfortunately, there are 2 primary negatives that are also I believe a common experience of most graduates.
The administration seemed legalistic and controlling.They reportedly created an atmosphere in which students reported on one another for what appears to be minor violations of rules.
1. While many of the teachers are wonderful, the administration (i.e. president, Dean of men’s office, school board etc in my opinion are legalistic, proud, secretive, and controlling. I know this because I was on the dean of men’s staff for awhile as a residence hall leader (over 60 other residence students). I was in many meetings with the dean of men’s staff discussing the problems of the other guys on my hall, whom I was in charge of.
There were excessively strict rules which could result in expulsion.
On several occasions I was ordered to search a room because one of the guys was suspected of having a contemporary music cd or something else “uncheckable” in his room. We would go through all of their belongings until we found something. They would then have those cds or “uncheckables” confiscated and the student would either be campused (which meant no talking to girls and losing all social privileges for the rest of the semester) or else being expelled if they were already at a certain level of demerits. My problem with this is that it wasn’t like somebody found a cd and turned them in. That would have been enough. But we would actually proactively search their rooms for uncheckable items. We were told it was our spiritual duty to turn our fellow students in for whatever violation we saw as this was our spiritual duty and an act of obedience to God. This of course created an environment, where if any one legitimately was struggling with a sin (i.e. pornography) there was no where to get true help. To go to someone for help, meant either getting expelled or being placed on probation.
Therefore, every student learns to be fake. Unfortunately, I was a part of that system for a year, until I messed up myself and received too many demerits one semester. I was caught violating a university policy. I lost my responsibilities as a dorm leader. I was immediately shunned by the other dorm leaders. I had fallen from grace. This of course was the best thing that ever happened to me as it exposed to me the fallacy of that way of thinking.
He claims that heard school administrators say that abuse victims should handle things within the the church and forgive their abusers. This appears to corroborate claims made in Massi's book of a pervasive culture of cover up of abuse within the IFB.
I believe the abuse victims because I heard the dean of students and dean of men with my own ears state that victims should handle things in the church, and should forgive their abusers. That was the method of operation for every problem, sexual abuse or not. They are a law unto themselves. I myself was involved in a situation where my roommate stole my car and wrecked it 1000 miles away. The dean of men instructed me not to tell the police, because Christians are not allowed to use the law or the police. We are to handle things within the church as fellow Christians and not involve the law. I obeyed his instruction.
He claims that degrees from BJU are usually not recognized outside of South Carolina and Georgia.
The second major problem with getting a degree at BJU it is to a large extent worthless. South Carolina and Georgia are the only states that I am aware of where one can be accepted to a regionally accredited grad school, be licensed to teach in a public school, practice nursing, and be licensed in accounting etc. It would be one thing, if BJU was transparent about the difficulties in employment and education that one faces when they leave the campus. Unfortunately, they greatly exaggerate the benefits of their national accreditation (TRACS). A truly humiliating point in my life was when I was refused by every single state school in NC for admittance to State grad schools (despite my 4.0 GPA in undergrad). While I was applying for these state grad schools, I went to the local community college to take a couple of prereq classes in accounting, and I was told even they did not recognize my degree from BJU and I had to take entry level math exams (1+1 type questions) in order to be admitted. Most every time I have interviewed for a job, I have either gotten a blank stare or I see a visible skeptical look when they look at my academic credentials.
I have gained some level of professional success but it is in no thanks to my degree. In fact, it has been in spite of my degree.
So to recap I have a love hate relationship with BJU. I had many fond memories, many excellent educators, met my wife, and started a relationship with God at BJU… But yet, I also saw the legalistic, abusive practices of the administrators and have an albatross on my neck in both my educational and vocational pursuits.
What can we learn from these statements. It is important to note that these are the impressions from those inside the system. Here are a few thoughts that I gleaned from these statements. What have I forgotten? Do you agree or disagree with these assessments by former students? Are there any students who would contest these perspectives?
- Most students come from within the IFB subculture.
- They come to the school because they have been raised to believe it is a safe harbor in an ungodly world
- Parents and pastors strongly encourage them to attend.
- They love their teacher/professors.
- They dislike the administrators.
- There appears to be a culture in which students report other students via spying in order to control the influence of "the world."
- The school's culture appears insular and the outside world is viewed with deep suspicion.
- It appears that many students believe that abuse is not to be reported outside the school.
- It appears that the priority for abuse victims is to "forgive" their abuser.
- Nouthetic counseling is pushed.
- The BJU degree has limited acceptance outside of a small geographic area, according to students.
Today we have learned that BJU is going back to the table with GRACE. Given the history of this institution, I would say this is a pretty remarkable occurrence. If the above list is true, no wonder BJU views GRACE with suspicion. We should all pray that the windows of this institution are thrown wide open and that the spirit of truth is embraced. He who is truth is looking on.
We hope to bring you a post by Camille Lewis in the near future.
Lydia's Corner: Jeremiah 16:16-18:23 Psalm 81:1-16 Proverbs 25:6-8 1 Thessalonians 4:1-5:3