The Christian sexual abuse investigating team GRACE, which was abruptly fired by Bob Jones University on virtually the eve of its report on allegations against the fundamentalist college. This is the second time the team, led by Liberty University law professor Boz Tchividjian, has been dismissed by a Christian organization that hired it to investigate the organization. The first time was a year ago, when the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE) did so. Back then, GRACE responded to the school’s startling action. Excerpt:
In addition to responding to the alleged investigative “flaws”, it is important to recount ABWE’s repeated failures to comply with the contractual obligations to GRACE. These contractual breaches included repeated objections to providing requested documents and the failure to provide such documents in a timely matter, if at all. ABWE further breached the contract by failing to provide GRACE with access to critical witnesses associated with your organization. ABWE’s contractual breaches needlessly delayed this investigation and impaired our ability to fully evaluate ABWE’s response to the crimes perpetrated by Donn Ketcham.
When placed in the context of ABWE’s conduct over the past 20 months, the termination of GRACE strongly suggests ABWE is unwilling to have itself investigated unless the investigation is within your control. We pray that is not the case.
Click on the link above; it takes you to a PDF file of the GRACE letter, which responds in great detail to ABWE’s criticism of GRACE.
To my knowledge, GRACE has not put out a statement like this in response to BJU’s abrupt termination of its contract. But the ABWE letter, in all its detail, should go far to answer concerns that GRACE didn’t know what it was doing, and pursued a particular agenda incommensurate with its mission.
Anybody with even the slightest familiarity with the Roman Catholic child abuse story knows this script all too well. Bob Jones University will not get away with this cowardly move — thank God! I have no idea if the charges against the Christian school are valid, but their attempt to quash an independent investigation is a textbook example of institutional cover-up. Bob Jones is behaving like it has something to hide. Not only have they made the truth more likely to come out, when it does — if, that is, it vindicates the accusers — it will further discredit the BJU administration, which will, in that case, have been shown to be moral cowards, or worse.
Why do some churches and Christian organizations seem to struggle with encouraging members to report the suspected abuse of a child? At the heart of the struggle is a fear that is rooted in the need to self-protect. It is a fear of losing the “good reputation” of a ministry, it is a fear of losing ministry donors, it is the fear of losing congregation members, it is a fear of losing a ministry altogether. All such “fears” are usually masked by a rationale that the reporting of such abuse may “damage the reputation of Christ”. Do you see the great tragedy? It is a fear fueled by protecting self. This has nothing to do with Jesus.
The Gospel tells Christians that our identity is in Christ alone, and that our reputation and all that we possess belongs to Him. Another way of putting it is that apart from Christ’s accomplishment, we have no reputation and we possess nothing. This Gospel-centered perspective gives us great freedom to confess, confront and expose sin without fear of earthly consequences. This Gospel-centered perspective liberates us to sacrifice personal and institutional reputations if doing so protects and preserves the lives of His little ones. Isn’t that what God did for us? He sacrificed His reputation, His supporters, His ministry, and even His very own life in order to protect and redeem. This Gospel centered perspective should drive us to expend ourselves in protecting children, regardless of the consequences to our church, ministry, or our very own lives.
The next time someone tells you that reporting suspected abuse of children may “hurt the reputation of Christ”, tell them to stop protecting themselves. Tell them that the reputation of Jesus is reflected in how we love and protect children. Tell them that the reputation of Jesus is only damaged when we turn away and leave grievous sin alone in the darkness of silence.
Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Some of you reading this right now know about abuse within your church or religious organization. You know that your leaders are manipulating people into maintaining silence. They are not protecting the church or the institution, they are not protecting children and the victims, and they are certainly not protecting Jesus Christ; they are protecting themselves. Do not trust them to investigate on their own! Call the authorities. Do it right now.
This is not going to end well for Bob Jones University, even if the school is innocent, or mostly innocent, of the accusations against it. The school’s leadership is behaving as if it has something to hide. We know what’s likely to be the next act in this drama. We have been there before.