Bob Jones University requested that GRACE halt its investigation after more than 13 months of interviews. In a ‘confidential’ letter (most likely not meant for our eyes but shared by GRACE anyway), departing BJU president, Stephen Jones writes, “As you know, BJU has received no notice of completion; accordingly, we respectfully request that all work by GRACE be halted.”
“We respectfully request that all documents, information, and interviews be kept confidential. Bob Jones University is prepared to meet with GRACE immediately. We think that it is in the best interest of both GRACE and BJU to reach and meet a new agreement that will enable us to accomplish our objectives as stated above.”
GRACE responded that BJU’s termination took them by surprise. In a public statement: “Despite repeated requests, GRACE has not been informed of why the agreement was terminated. However, due to the fact that GRACE certainly wishes to keep all options on the table in order to complete what has been started, we have spent the last week in communication with BJU and we remain open to continued dialogue.”
A petition has been started to encourage BJU to rehire GRACE. The petition repeats the sentiment expressed in GRACE’s public statement that they have not been given any reason why BJU is terminating the relationship.
From the petition:
“By breaking their contract and their oath BJU is re-victimizing those same abuse survivors and it is an absolute tragedy what they have done.”
Those who participated in the GRACE interviews, as well as observers, have flooded the internet with the opinion that GRACE must have stumbled onto something incriminating at BJU and this is why the investigation was halted. It’s also possible that GRACE did not find anything more incriminating beyond what we already know. Why continue pouring money down the drain when the job has already been done for you on the internet?
There is no question that past victims of rape, who acknowledged their abuse at BJU, were certainly ‘under served’. Aljazeera America published this article about a woman who was raped over Christmas break back in 2008. She told her friend, who happened to be a dorm counsellor, what happened. BJU expelled her. The victim was spirited away from Bob Jones University in the middle of the night.
BJU is definitely guilty of blame the victim theology. Accounts like this have circulated the internet for the past two years, so we didn’t need GRACE to tell us that. Stephen Jones claims to have made some improvements.
From the official BJU blog:
BJU provided live Sexual Abuse Awareness Training to all 3000+ students and 1000+ faculty/staff members—unprecedented in institutions of higher education—and is creating guidelines to assist present and future students who work with minors in the community and on campus. BJU also is working to provide a comprehensive Child Safety Workshop for local church leaders this spring.
There is no doubt that a number of BJU graduates have gone on to commit crimes ranging from child abuse to fraud to financial improprieties. The purpose of the GRACE investigation, however, was not to concentrate on the crimes of BJU graduates long gone from Greenville, but to ‘investigate the way the school has responded to victims of adult or childhood sexual abuse.‘
This is not the first time GRACE has been fired. ABWE fired GRACE and replaced them with Professional Investigators International. They accused GRACE of not recording testimonies, paraphrasing testimonies, asking leading questions, and the bane that strikes nearly all child advocacy groups: lack of transparency and poor communication. Most interestingly, ABWE is upset that GRACE would not sign a confidentiality agreement.
Did the agreement between GRACE and BJU include a confidentiality clause? It’s difficult to imagine BJU authorizing this type of investigation without a confidentiality agreement. If BJU required that, GRACE already broke that simply by releasing the letter which is clearly marked ‘confidential’.
I have my quarrels with GRACE that most likely aren’t the reasons BJU fired GRACE.
Most people see GRACE as a group of concerned Christians who want to equip churches to better serve child abuse victims. Boz Tchividjian, the founder of GRACE, is a law professor at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, where his colleague, Matt Staver, runs the Liberty Counsel. You might remember that the Liberty Counsel is having a conniption fit over California making gay to straight conversion centers illegal.
Liberty University is exempt from a GRACE investigation. While Thomas Road Baptist Church, the church that sponsors Liberty University, helps other abusive ministries (like the former Pastor G’s Richmond Outreach Center), I can’t help but see GRACE as another Liberty University attempt to whitewash itself in the eyes of the public at the expense of other ministries.
There is a good side to this. Maybe it will wake activists out of their slumber.
When GRACE began their investigation, the on-line complaints, with the exception of a dedicated few, dwindled. One person, whose blog has since been removed, stated she will now ‘leave it to GRACE’.
Well, this is what happens when you let other people fight your battles! In the end, it’s just another example of why churches, evangelical or fundamentalist, and colleges, private or public, cannot be trusted to police themselves.