When the Whistleblower Is the Problem

It seems Moody Bible Institute in Chicago is going through a bit of a shakeup. The school is letting go its President, Chief Operating Officer, and Provost following allegations of self-dealing and other impropriety raised by Julie Roys, a conservative journalist who was associated with Moody and spent months trying to get her concerns heard by the administration, and then by the board.

I didn’t intend to write about this shakeup—lots of institutions go through similar struggles, I’m not personally familiar with the things have gone on at Moody in recent years, and some of the issues raised in another article are not financial but theological (that Moody is no longer sufficiently orthodox)—but then I perused the comment section of this article by Julie Roys and found this comment by a reader named Gary Hendrix, with criticism directed at Roys for going public:

I have no idea as to what the truth is in the matters addressed. However, I am saddened that the charges and conflicts between professing brethren are being aired before the world.

1 Corinthians 6:5-6  5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? 6 But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!

Love and unity in the Body of Christ are the primary evidences of grace convincing the world that Jesus is the ONE sent by the Father:

John 13:35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 17:20-21  20 ¶ ” I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 “that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.

No grace or love are required in treating one another with contempt and hurling scurrilous accusations. Grace and love are required in receiving one another and hearing one another patiently and pleading humbly with God that the truth will become known.

It sounds as if serious wrongs have occurred. If so, they should be severely rebuked and they should receive due punishment. But this process should not play out before the world!

The reason I find this comment so frustrating is that Roys made it clear in her article that she did the best she could to go through the process outlined in Matthew 18 that is generally held up as the rule in dealing with conflict that occurs within the church.

Roys explained her decision to go public as follows:

Trustee boards are supposed to hold administrations accountable and protect whistleblowers.  Fairfax and Jenkins did just the opposite. And disappointingly, when I sent a document to the trustees informing them of Fairfax’s and Jenkins’ actions and inaction, nothing happened.  But then again, some of those on the current board probably approved Nyquist’s loan. Certainly all must know about it.  In addition, some more veteran members probably are aware of Jenkins’ alleged improper use of the MBI suite.

These sad facts are what finally drove me to go public with this information. I am glad board members are finally willing to investigate and address the very serious issues with the current administration. But what about the extremely serious issues with the board? I have followed the “protocol” of Matthew 18. I have talked to administrators and numerous trustees. I have confronted them with evidence of wrongdoing and urged them to own their sins and step down.  But they have not. And now is the time for reckoning.

Again, I am not intimately familiar with what is going on at Moody, but I did notice that Jenkins commented on an earlier article by Roys, in which she referred to the allegations only vaguely. Jenkins had this to say:

Try not to jump to any conclusions and put speculation on hold until the board has met and acted. Meanwhile, join us in prayer as we sincerely seek clarity and wisdom from the Lord. While we must own how long it took to comperhend the extent of the concerns, be assured we are now fully aware and engaged.

You would have no idea, based on reading his comment, that Jenkins—a current Moody trustee and former board chairperson—was one of those involved in the alleged financial improprieties at Moody.

Moody’s three top officers were let go only after Roys went public with her allegations. Roys points out that many of the current board members were already on the board when the financial improprieties began, and had almost certainly known about them already—and done nothing.

And yet, in his comment Hendrix made this statement:

Love and unity in the Body of Christ are the primary evidences of grace convincing the world that Jesus is the ONE sent by the Father

This ship sailed a long time ago. If there is one thing Christianity is not characterized by, it is unity. There are how many different denominations, again? Christianity has always been splintered into a million different fractions—this was as true in the days of the early church as it is today. Does Hendrix accept Episcopalians as Christians, or members of other mainline denominations? What about Catholics? Mormons? I know, I know, but Mormons do claim to be followers of Jesus.

And what does “love .. in the Body of Christ” look like, exactly? Does it look like the pastors of StoneBridge Church covering for a youth pastor who sexually assaulted one of the high school students in his charge? Because from where I’m standing, an emphasis on love and unity and a demonization of division and outside accountability serves the accused in a situation like that, and not the victim. You can’t have perfect unity and appropriately handle things like sexual assault—or financial improprieties.

I’ve blogged about impropriety and coverups in evangelical communities for a long time now. There are some encouraging signs—last week, Ed Stetzer, a contributing editor for Christianity Today, called out the standing ovation Andy Savage Received from his congregation and argued strongly on behalf of holding sexual predators in the church accountable, supporting victims, and reporting sexual assault or other crimes to law enforcement.

But then there are comments like Hendrix’s—and his was far from the only comment there portraying Roys as the problem.

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