Stephen Jones (above) is the president of Bob Jones University, in Greenville, South Carolina. He is the son of Bob Jones III, the grandson of Bob Jones, Jr., and the great-grandson of evangelist Bob Jones Sr, who founded the university he named after himself in 1927.
Stephen has an older brother, Bob Jones IV. If anyone ever had the right name for inheriting one awesomely cushy job, it’s Bob Jones IV. So why isn’t Bob the Fourth now the president of BJU? I have no idea.
In 1980, when Bob and Stephen’s father, Bob Jones III, was president of the college of which is now chancellor (read: owner), he said to the Associated Press, while standing on the steps of the White House, this:
… it would not be a bad idea to bring the swift justice today that was brought in Israel’s day against murder and rape and homosexuality. I guarantee it would solve the problem post-haste if homosexuals were stoned, if murderers were immediately killed as the Bible commands.
Which, for him, is not an extreme statement at all. Here are some more of Bob’s thoughts on homosexuality:
In 2005, Stephen Jones became president of his family’s university.
Last week (or so?) faculty and staff at BJU found in their inbox this email from President Jones:
In light of the growing cultural pressure combined with the increasing numbers of Christian young people struggling with the issue of same sex attraction, Bob Jones University is taking a week of chapels (November 11-15) to address same sex attraction in a way that gives the biblical position, provides the biblical solution, and gives hope and help to those who are struggling with this desire. BJU also wants to provide a biblical perspective on how believers can be of help to those who are struggling. The four days of chapels are intended to: give reasons this issue needs to be addressed. present God’s perspective on same sex attraction as found in Scripture. give biblical hope and help for people who struggle with same sex attraction. share a biblical response we should have toward those who struggle with same sex attraction. [Can't explain the weird period punctuation. Maybe semicolons are too complex? Too gay? Who knows?] Friday, November 15, will be a special Q&A forum to answer the questions that the student body has had through the week.”
For BJU students, attendance at morning “chapel” is mandatory, as the BJU student handbook makes clear:
Students are to attend chapel Monday through Thursday and every day they have a scheduled exam. They are to bring a printed Bible and sit in their assigned chapel seats. Via e-pass, a student may secure approval to sit with a guest. For days on which a student has no scheduled classes or no classes before 2 p.m., he may apply for a permanent pass to miss chapel one day a week to work off campus. A student on campus during the chapel hour is expected to attend chapel, even if he has an exemption.
Currently some 2,800 undergrads and 700 grad students attend BJU. It’s reasonable to assume that ninety-five percent of them will attend this week’s chapel talks. Here is a photo of BJU’s chapel-on-steroids:
So that was pretty much the scene this morning when, at 11 a.m. sharp, Stephen Jones stepped to the podium to deliver what amounted to BJU’s first of four Official Statements on homosexuality.
Some of the BJU students who’ll be in the audience listening to this week’s chapel messages are gay. This promises to be a very difficult week for those kids. (I already know of one closeted BJU student who, right after this morning’s message, was sitting in a Starbuck’s crying.)
So here’s what I thought I’d do. Typically an hour or so after each BJU morning chapel, the audio file for that day’s sermon is uploaded here. I thought that this week I would listen to each of the sermons as soon as they were up, transcribe the parts that I found … worthy of comment, and then here publish and respond to those parts.* That way, kids at BJU will have a place where they might be able to find a balm for some of the pain they’re certain to be enduring.
It’s now 4:30 in South Carolina. As soon as today’s sermon is up, I’ll get seriously busy.**
* For anyone wondering what my personal view is on the matter of homosexuality and Christianity, I offer Taking God at His Word: The Bible and Homosexuality; that, and my book UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Problem.
** UPDATE #1: So at this point (it’s 5:30 p.m. their time), it’s starting to look as if Bob Jones is not, after all, going to upload this morning’s chapel sermon. My understanding is that this is an exceptionally rare occurrence: that they always, within the hour, upload each sermon. Gosh, I wonder why not this morning’s? Oh, well. If they continue not to make public whatever it is they said this morning, it looks like, thanks to our friends at BJU News, we’ll have a copy of the sermon that was secretly recorded on site, and is now available at the bottom of this page.
UPDATE #2: It’s 10:15 p.m. their time. You know, I’m really starting to think they’re not going to put up that audio today. (snerketh!) We’ll see what happens tomorrow. Maybe they just got busy, or something.
UPDATE #3: Dear Men Who Run Bob Jones University