(RNS) Bob Jones University has fired an independent firm hired to investigate sex abuse reports just one month before the group planned to release its 13-month review findings.

The university had contracted with Lynchburg, Va.-based GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) in November 2012.

Students walk by the Seminary Building at Bob Jones University. Photo by Derek Eckenroth

Students walk by the seminary building at Bob Jones University. Photo by Derek Eckenroth courtesy of Bob Jones University


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“Over the last several months, we grew concerned about how GRACE was pursuing our objectives, and on Jan. 27, 2014, BJU terminated its contract with GRACE,” the university said in a press release. “It is BJU’s intention to resolve its differences with GRACE, and we are disappointed a resolution could not be reached before our differences were made public.”

In December, BJU president Stephen Jones announced his resignation due to health concerns, a point made in its termination letter to GRACE.

“This ‘Notice’ took GRACE by complete surprise as there had been no prior indications from BJU that termination was even being considered,” a press release from GRACE said.

The investigation was led by Boz Tchividjian, Billy Graham’s grandson, who said he has no further comment. Tchividjian, who blogs for Religion News Service, wrote Friday on why Christians struggle to report sex abuse claims.

“At the heart of the struggle is a fear that is rooted in the need to self-protect,” he wrote. “All such ‘fears’ are usually masked by a rationale that the reporting of such abuse may ‘damage the reputation of Christ.'”

GRACE was similarly fired last year by the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE), an independent Baptist missions agency, shortly before it could conclude another abuse investigation of missionary children.

A spokesperson for the university said the school was committed to moving forward – either with GRACE or another third party – to finish the project and publish a public report.

Bob Jones is a private Christian university based in Greenville, S.C., with about 2,500 students. The school has not announced whether they plan to rehire or replace GRACE to complete the investigation or conduct another one.

YS/AMB END BAILEY

28 Comments

  1. Fascinating, I just finished writing about sex abuse accountability structure differences between Catholics and Evangelicals a few minutes before you published this.

    http://cosmostheinlost.com/2014/02/07/catholic-protestant-sex-scandals-structurally-different/

  2. Leave it to an evangelical journalist not to mention ABWE by name (as if the situation lacks significance) and then to link to ABWE’s own statement on the matter, which is full of lies and exaggerations and hurtful statements regarding the abused, rather than any minimally objective news article that covered the matter.

    But I’ve tried to show you before when RNS been insensitive, un-objective and even misleading in its journalism, and I know that such criticism just makes you, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, “LOL” at me on Twitter … so … you got me again.

    Go ahead and have your laugh now, Sarah. Enjoy.

    • Hey! Despite my criticism of Christianity and religion, I’ve never seen a “objectified” story by SPB. I think your criticism of her is tied to the story’s subject i.e. BJU firing the firm hired to investigate sexual abuse. If any criticism should be leveled it candidly should be against Bob Jones U. and no one else. Even if there actually isn’t any, firing this firm so close to their findings date smacks of cover up doesn’t it? So, don’t blame Sarah for publishing the facts. Facts are a funny thing for when they are proven to be such, it is possible to deny them but it doesn’t make them any less facts!

      • Kevan, perhaps you aren’t familiar with Sarah’s typical response to warranted criticism, which is that she will say–straight up–that she is amused by it. (Hardly sets the tone for respectful dialogue.)

        And my criticism stands. She didn’t name ABWE in the third paragraph up from the bottom, as she could have and should have, given it is an ongoing situation and problem, and as a source on that matter she linked to ABWE’s own statement regarding GRACE rather than anything objective.

        That’s not good journalism.

        Period.

        • Thank you, Sarah (and Kevin Eckstrom) for updating your piece to name ABWE. ABWE was clearly worth mentioning … thus they were of course worth naming. It still baffles me why anyone would choose not to name them other than a misguided idea that their smallness and “insignificance” makes them not worth the extra couple of words (and you know what that makes the victims).

          While I’m disappointed that my comments here and my multiple private emails to editor-in-chief Kevin Eckstrom were completely ignored by RNS, I am hugely gratified that those who DO understand what ABWE has done stood by me yesterday and flooded RNS with what your edito-in-chief called a “deluge of emails.”

          I’m saddened though that that is what it took to be heard. Yet … I am so grateful that we were–in the end–heard, and that today ABWE’s name is given in both of your articles, Sarah. Please never underestimate the impact your words have when you are covering stories of abuse.

  3. The quote from Boz Tchividjian quoted in this article is taken quite out of context. Several sentences have been removed, which greatly alters the meaning and tone of these remarks. No ellipses are included to tell the reader of this article that several sentences have been removed from the quote.

    Quote of Mr. Tchividjilan from this article: ““At the heart of the struggle is a fear that is rooted in the need to self-protect,” he wrote. “All such ‘fears’ are usually masked by a rationale that the reporting of such abuse may ‘damage the reputation of Christ.’”

    This quote makes it sound as if he is talking about the victims of abuse struggling with reporting their abuse to church leaders or authorities.

    In context, here is the full quote from Mr. Tchividjilan: “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”.
    – See more at: http://boz.religionnews.com/2014/02/07/struggle-report/#sthash.ynCgi4UB.lSINNomk.dpuf

    This quote clearly shows that the he is talking about why ministries would wish to suppress such reports.

    This misquote really changes the tone of what was said in the article. I would politely ask you to please review and correct this issue at your earliest convenience.

    • Considering Boz Tchividjian is a columnist here. If he was being misquoted for tone, he would have commented or the story would have been changed since it was published.

      Either way, I find the defensive tone taken in light of possible sex abuse to be very distressing, yet all too common.

  4. The sequence of events would suggest:

    1) Somebody heard about affairs at the top level of administration
    2) A company was hired to send the message this would not be tolerated
    3) The main target got the message and resigned
    4) Now the company can be fired so institution-damaging news will not get out

    Is that cynical or just putting 2 and 2 together? It is never stated explicitly.

  5. In context, here is the full quote from Mr. Tchividjilan: “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”.

    I appreciated thisclarification except itsays the same thing in more detail save the object is self.

    I am disappointed in the coments by Christians, so proclaimed. There is a very specific manner in which we are to go about dealing with any dispute of any kindamong belivers It does not entail, special organizations, or demon hunters or psychological second guessing and entrenched memories.

    I think the pressure to conform to what is happening outside ofthe Church is crating another unhealthy enviroment inviting some unbalanced attacks of evangilcals fundamentalsts.

    • How about a church who didn’t have time to say not report but said do not discuss it with anyone because its slander and could divide the church? Which was the case with my son recently. He was raped by another members teenage son.

  6. Another GRACE interviewee speaks:
    http://formerbjuer.blogspot.com/2014/02/dr-berg-told-bj-studentss-not-to-report.html?m=1

    A Greenville area pastor speaks:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzVv0MhGgv8&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    BJU student newspaper speaks:
    http://www.collegianonline.com/2014/02/21/despite-opinions-feelings-about-bju-grace-investigation-christians-urged-to-pray-in-faith/

  1. […] After firing an independent watchdog group to investigate allegations of sexual abuse on campus, Bob Jones University has rehired the same group, one month before the findings from a 13-month review were scheduled to be released. The university had contracted with Lynchburg, Va.-based GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) in November 2012 but suspended the contract on Jan. 27. The university met with GRACE officials Feb. 18-19 to discuss the review. [Read more] […]

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