PSA: We Have Archived Every Sermon by Jim Berg and Bob Jones III


 

Some commenters here felt it was unethical to save these sermons when GRACE has recommended their deletion. In our opinion, it’s worth having the real, “uncensored” words of these men saved for several reasons:

1. BJU might go beyond the GRACE recommendation and delete ALL sermons by these speakers, thus removing any permanent record of important public statements made therein (including ones related and unrelated to abuse).

2. Even in the event that only “offending” sermons are removed, GRACE left the definition of what constitutes “offensive” to BJU itself (“any sermons it determines to be offensive…”). Also, there’s the possibility that BJU might ask SermonAudio to edit and re-upload certain sermons minus offensive content, thus saving face.

Even if no one ever contacts us for a copy of these sermons, or even if BJU never deletes them, we felt it important that BJU be notified that its publicly-spoken words can’t be permanently erased.

One of the recommendations in the GRACE report was for BJU to remove from its archives any sermons “insensitive or hurtful to sexual abuse victims” (pg. 230). This directive, combined with BJU’s habit for disappearing any information detrimental to its image, makes it important that sermons from Jim Berg and Bob Jones III, in particular, are preserved in some way. We took it upon ourselves to download each of Berg’s sermons (about 150) and each of Bob Jones III’s sermons (over 500) from SermonAudio while they still exist there. This vital audio record could prove essential for further investigation.

Although we unfortunately don’t have the resources to upload all of these sermons here for easy downloading, we have compiled a sermon guide for both speakers listing all of the sermon titles along with date, location and other information. Simply drop us an email if you’d like to listen to any of them.

Click here to download the Jim Berg sermon guide.

Click here to download the Bob Jones III sermon guide.

Bob Jones University Doesn’t Want You to Read the GRACE Report


You can read the 300-page GRACE report here.

Furthermore, we created an easier-to-remember shortlink: tiny.cc/GRACEREPORT

After spending two years waiting for a report on its response to sexual abuse, and after spending untold sums paying GRACE for the service (including paying for room, board and travel for victims), you would think BJU would be invested in having the report widely read. However, if anything can be gleaned from BJU’s webpage on the report and from its social media accounts, the school would much prefer you read its own account of events rather than the report itself.

This morning, a reader alerted us to the fact that he hadn’t seen BJU publish a link to the report itself at any time:

After some research, we found that this person is correct. While BJU was happy to announce the release of the report and took pains to trumpet its response, nowhere in any of its social media feeds did it include a link to the report itself. Clearly, the BJU PR team has been focused on pointing readers to its own carefully-constructed response and on taking advantage of the report’s intimidating length–300 pages–to further encourage ignorance of its actual contents.

A link to the GRACE website–but not the report–is indeed included on BJU’s GRACE webpage–but it’s buried so deeply, one wonders whether the school is merely fulfilling a requirement by posting it (which, as another astute reader pointed out, may very well be the case). The steps to finding the GRACE site on BJU’s page are as follows (via our helpful tipster):

1) Scroll to the very bottom on the page

2) Click on “Grace Report”

3) Scroll halfway through the page with all of BJU’s timelines, etc.

4) Select Process in the FAQ’s

5) Select will Grace report of its findings be released to the public,

6) Select the link to GRACE

Note that even this link, buried many steps under BJU’s own account and response to the report, doesn’t lead directly to the report itself. It merely points to GRACE’s main website, which contains no link we could find to the report. In short, BJU only included one nearly impossible to find external link to GRACE in the entirety of its online presence, and that link doesn’t even easily lead to the report itself.

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Also note that news of the report, surely one of the most significant events in the past decade for the school, is barely visible on the school’s homepage. Despite containing evidence of decades of systemic failure on BJU’s part and despite coverage from dozens of major media outlets, BJU just isn’t interested in anyone reading the actual words of the GRACE report.

New Leaked Audio: Pettit Contradicts GRACE, Reassures “BJU is Safe”


In today’s Chapel message, which BJU declined to release publicly but which a tipster sent to us, BJU President Steve Pettit had a message for the University family: BJU “is a safe place,” and “most” of the abuse issues the GRACE report identified “happened to people before you were even born.”

Contradicting the findings of the GRACE report on several points, Pettit claimed that the University has “a solid approach toward counseling people.”

You can listen to the audio here.

You can read highlighted quotes from the 300-page GRACE report via our Storify and also via the #GRACEreport hashtag on Facebook and Twitter. Here’s a link to the full GRACE report.

And here is a full transcript of Pettit’s remarks from today:

I do want to highlight our own BJU.edu website that actually really gives some very clear statements in a really good timeline. The timeline’s very helpful to understand why we initiated the GRACE report and how things have gone along up to the present day. 

What I want to do this morning if I could is at least help you gain a perspective about the GRACE report that I think is helpful for you as Bob Jones University students. I think you realize last week when I spoke, I spoke not only to you, but because it was videoed, I was speaking to people in public, I was speaking to Greenville, in some cases to our alumni, and in some cases to the United States. And so I’d like to speak to you this morning more specifically. And I’d like to help you with this perspective. 
The issues in the GRACE report are dealing primarily with events that took place in the past, not things that are happening today. And I would never — and I think it’s been very clear — minimize what people have experienced in the past, but in proper perspective, I want you to realize that most of those cases were things that happened to people before you were even born or when you were a child. And so in many ways, they’re not things that are happening today. You know, it’s like, “Is Bob Jones University safe?” And of course, it’s as safe as we can make it. If somebody is bent on doing wrong, it’s hard to stop them. But we do believe, obviously, it is very safe.

At this present hour we’ve been making many improvements since we obtained GRACE over two years ago. We have very strong policies and procedures in place right now. All of you understand that we have a training program here called called “The Sexual Abuse Awareness Program” for students and faculty and staff. We have a solid approach toward counseling people where we are helping those who have been… who have experienced sexual abuse or assault. We actually have it in place. And it doesn’t mean that things can’t happen, but I just want you to know that the picture that is presented in [the] GRACE report, I think, it really looks a little different than things do today in what we’re doing here. And I do want you to know the answers that I’ve given to people or reporters or anybody who wants to talk to me about the GRACE report. And really, I try to give a very consistent message. Now, I’m saying these following things, and when you go home at Christmas and people ask you these things, I would encourage you to follow along, you know, if this is what you’re willing to do, this line of thinking, you can think about it yourself. 

First of all, that we were the ones that initiated this report — not because of a current problem, but because of the fact that we wanted to make sure that we were in compliance to legal reporting and then secondly to address some of the issues of the past that had come to us, and we wanted to deal with those things.

Secondly, we are very saddened for anybody who has suffered the horrors of any kind of sexual abuse or sexual assault. To help you understand terminology, sexual abuse primarily refers to those who are under the age of 18 old. So a teenager or a child. Sexual assault has to do with those who are over the age of 18 years old. So here on campus if something happens, it’s not really an abuse if you’re over 18. It’s an assault. And of course, those people, when that is reported, those people end up being prosecuted, which we have had happen here.

Let me also say that we appreciate those who are willing to show courage and come forward and tell their story because we can only imagine how difficult that is. And we are grateful because by their willingness to come forward and showing courage is only helping us. And not because it’s about us, but it does help us. It is helping us to become better at what needs to be done. And really, we want to, as Christians, we want to be a leader in this area. 

I do want you to know that we sincerely apologize to those who have not been helped in the past. And we don’t know who those individuals are. I can’t know them personally. But we do feel for them, and we do take what has been said very seriously.

And then I want you know that we are very committed to learning from the report and going forward through this journey of change. We don’t think it’s gonna take, you know, two quick decisions. We realize that we want to become effective and helpful and serve. 

Now one other thing is that, when I speak with people, especially when they ask us questions, I try to help people have a proper perspective that the things that are in the GRACE report took place over a period of four decades. So that’s a long time. And there are things that are in the report that we don’t know about. For example, we don’t know the timeline. We don’t know when this took place. Did this take place twenty years ago? Did this take place ten years ago? We’re not sure. We don’t know who the people are. So there are some things about it that are unclear. But the one thing we do want people to know is that whether it was one person or or a hundred people, it doesn’t matter because abuse is terrible for the one. You know, I think about it: if it was my daughter, well, you know, one is bad. So we want to be very, very clear. And we are going to, as a university, use the GRACE report for the purpose in which we initiated it. And that is to learn from our past and to move forward in the future. We are forming a committee who is going to look at the recommendations before any major decisions are made. They will come, they will make recommendations. On the recommendations, and then ultimately the decision will have to be made by the president myself. 

We do want to be a better university. We do want to be a better leader in this area, and GRACE commended us for being proactive in initiating the report. The fact is, we have already decided that we are going beyond GRACE on our own to improve in other areas that are not even suggested in this report. And so it is something that we have made as a priority. It is very important. And so hopefully… I hope that this will help clear up anything in your mind. If you want to ask questions, please feel free to. If you’d like to write me a personal email, I’ll be more than happy to respond to that.

Research Shows BJU’s Hypocrisy on Abuse Issues


In its apology to victims prior to the GRACE report release, Bob Jones University expressed “sincere and humble” apologies for systemic neglect, admitting that it “added to [victims’] pain and suffering.” BJU President Steve Pettit has said he wants the school to the “part of the solution” to the nationwide epidemic of assault on college campuses. On Twitter, BJU agreed that it can “set an example for conservative Christianity” on this issue in the future. But research by BJU News shows that even as the investigation was underway, the school repeatedly refused to acknowledge its failures, resulting in some embarrassing statements by University leadership.

The Collegian, the school’s student publication, is directly overseen by the Dean of Students office. All content printed by the paper must be approved by University leadership, and as a result the Collegian is often a direct mouthpiece for BJU administration talking points. Never was this more clear than earlier this year during BJU’s stunning suspension of the GRACE investigation. During the ensuing media firestorm, the Collegian printed a scathing rebuke of the University’s critics–the article has since had its most caustic language altered, but BJU News obtained a copy:

More than 250 Facebook users commented on BJU’s posts about the action it took with GRACE, and the content was a mix of bitter remarks, accusations of a cover up, and comments defending the University that were met with intense rebuttals. Commenters said they were ashamed of their alma mater, they’d never send their kids here, and they were disappointed the University would take this course of action.

Yet, on Feb. 6, we didn’t know the full story. When Bob Jones University announced on Feb. 6 that it had terminated its contract with GRACE, the third-party organization investigating how the University responds to reports of sexual abuse, the floodgates of criticism and anger burst and hurled a rush of accusations toward the University.

It’s instructive to look back and see BJU chiding its own alumni for being angry during the investigation now that the University has been revealed to be a massive failure in this area. It appears the school has plenty of energy for correcting the tone of its critics but little ability to recognize where the anger comes from.

Other Collegian articles reveal a similar lack of awareness about the sensitivity of this topic. In the Fall of 2012, as pressure from alumni and news media mounted over abuse allegations, BJU tried to improve its image by hosting a seminar on the handling of abuse in churches and schools–an attempt to position itself as a leader in abuse prevention despite the ongoing scandal. This Collegian article from that time is especially ironic given this week’s revelations: Jim Berg, the man who “bears responsibility for much of the pain caused by BJU’s failure to understand and respond adequately to matters related to sexual abuse” was entrusted with planning BJU’s abuse seminar even as the GRACE report moved forward:

“[The goal is] to raise students’ awareness, give them instruction from qualified people and inform them about policies they need to have in place,” said Dr. Jim Berg, member of the seminary faculty and coordinator of the annual seminary conferences.

Sexual abuse is a topic that is in the public consciousness because it happens everywhere. “Offering this seminar is a way to show the broader evangelical world that Bob Jones Seminary is here, and these are the things we help our students with,” Dr. Berg said.

Dr. Berg invited all of the speakers based on their expertise in their respective fields and their heart for the church.

Two of the major sessions will be presented in chapel. Each focuses on the believer’s response to trauma. “The purpose of having the speakers in chapel is to allow the university family to be a part of the conference and get a little flavor of what the conference is about,” Dr. Berg said.

BJU PR Director Randy Page (who we noted has failed to make any comment about the GRACE report) also denied knowledge of crimes against students during the GRACE investigation, despite the report later revealing that top BJU officials admitted to not pursuing cases they were aware of–even those involving minors.

Also in 2012, then-President Stephen Jones told the Greenville Journal that another sexual abuse scandal involving the school was “really old news” and that it had been “resolved.” Two years later, the issue continues to plague the school.

 

 

GRACE Aftermath: Docs, Tweets, Images and Media Coverage


Background

We’ve rarely seen anything like the outpouring of interest in BJU activities since the bombshell GRACE report was released yesterday morning. With so much going on, here’s our summary of the various events happening in and around this landmark event.

In order to give a sense of what the report actually contains, we’ve assembled this Storify with tweets from Kimberly Kelly, a local Greenville news personality who spent much of the day yesterday tweeting highlights from the report. We are much indebted to her for this service. The hashtag #GRACEReport on Facebook and Twitter also has a good array of posts/information.

Much of the reaction so far has been disgust with Bob Jones III, Jim Berg and Bob Wood. These three, lifetime BJU leaders and anointed “men of God” all, have been revealed by the GRACE report as key actors in a “culture of fear” at BJU that prevented sexual abuse victims from getting help. In line after line of the report, top leaders of the school appeared totally ignorant of basic legal and psychological facts:

 

Of course, readers of this blog will be well aware that BJU has had issues with reporting sexual assault for decades, and that the responsibility for these lapses goes straight to the top. Last year, we reported that in 1980 two BJU officials helped cover up a similar scandal at another Christian organization using methods already long in use at BJU at that time. And evidence of BJU’s victim-blaming counseling methods was made public last year when a video of Bob Wood’s bewildering counseling methods was leaked.

Further highlighting the contents of the report, here’s an image we assembled highlighting BJU’s prior attempts to deflect criticism on these issues–deflections which have now been proven false. Click on the image below to enlarge.

Media Coverage:

 

 

WYFF Greenville also posted a video, including an interview with Steve Pettit in which the BJU President seems evasive about the accusations.

There’s also this. Apparently, legal action against the school may be coming next:

More Alumni Come Forward

Just today, we’ve seen two more interesting posts from BJU alumni who weren’t in the GRACE report discussing their experiences. Here’s a post talking about the shame and neglect abuse victims have felt:

And further cementing Bob Jones III’s position as chief University apologist (and liar), here’s a letter an alumni received in 2011 during the Chuck Phelps scandal. The alumnus sent us the letter today.

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Here’s another image that’s been brought to light today, a description of Berg’s “Crisis Management” course at BJU. As of now this page is still live on BJU’s site despite GRACE’s recommendation to remove him from the spotlight:

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Pro-BJU Reactions

Other alumni and interested parties have responded to the news in order to support the school. Sharper Iron commenters were typically dismissive, as expected. Remember that before the report several commenters predicted “a non-event.”

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While many supporters have been fairly quiet since the devastating report was released, a few have taken to Twitter to voice their positive feelings:

Also of note are the comments on these posts, both criticizing and in support of the school:

We will continue to have more coverage of the GRACE situation here and on our Facebook and Twitter feeds as news comes to light. Here are a few links from this site to keep an eye on:

Here are all our posts on the GRACE story, going back several years.

Here again is audio of Bob Jones III saying publicly that BJU has always handled abuse correctly.

 

 

 

BJU Apologizes Ahead of “Painful” 300-Page GRACE Report, Bob Wood Scrubbed From BJU Site


Here are all of our posts on the two-year GRACE investigation.

Here’s the chapel message where Bob Jones III said BJU has always handled sexual abuse situations correctly.

It’s been an eventful day for Bob Jones University and its supporters/detractors, as early this morning it was announced the full GRACE report will be released (and made available for download) tomorrow morning at 11am EST. Let’s run down today’s many developments:

At 8AM this morning Boz Tchividjian, Executive Director of GRACE, tweeted that details of the report’s release would be coming soon:

A few hours later, GRACE published this .pdf announcing the timing of the release, as well as hinting at its scope and “painful” contents:

This was followed by a flurry of media attention:

About an hour after the announcement, BJU President Steve Pettit took the stage during BJU Chapel to officially announce the report’s release to the University. BJU made the video and transcript of this sessions available afterwards:

Note: although the University has published that video publicly, we have obtained our own copy of the audio from a source who was present today. In the event that BJU decides to delete its copy of this meeting, ours is available here for listening.

Reactions to the announcement from alumni and other affected parties were as diverse as you would expect:

These responses come from the University’s Facebook page:

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Clearly, GRACE has taken nearly two years to produce this report for a reason: it appears to be exhaustive and comprehensive. At 300 pages, it promises to provide months worth of analysis for all sides. Just as clear is that the report will contain disturbing, possibly even shocking details.

In another fascinating development, it appears that BJU is scrubbing information about former Executive Vice President Bob Wood from its site. Wood’s former profile appeared here but has been deleted. Wood is now only listed as a member of the Board of Trustees. Although possibly a coincidence, it appears BJU is distancing itself from Wood in light of the GRACE report because of this embarrassing video which surfaced last year.

To sum up: The 300-page GRACE report, the culmination of two years of work on the part of GRACE and victims, will finally be released tomorrow despite BJU’s shocking attempt to derail it last winter. All that remains now is to wait.

Confirmed: Stephen Jones Is Now An “Antiques Curator”


Perhaps our earlier speculation about Stephen Jones’ burgeoning career in academia was incorrect. It’s been confirmed that the former BJU President is now the proprietor of an antiques shop in downtown Greenville.

This week, a tipster sent this picture to the watchdog Facebook group Truth-Seeking Graduates of Bob Jones:

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This interesting but unconfirmed bit of news was augmented by a separate tipster who sent us this picture today of the same location:

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All of this was mere conjecture until yet another anonymous source (lots of helpful people these days) sent us this email, from the BJU President’s office:

So, there you go. Stephen Jones is now an art curator.