- (Photo: Flickr / Jason Dickert)
Bob Jones University (BJU) abruptly terminated its year-and-a-half relationship with a sex abuse ombudsman group last month.
Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE) had partnered with the university since January 2013. Led by Boz Tchividjian, Billy Graham's grandson, the organization was charged with providing oversight and accountability to BJU in its efforts to "identify any cases in which we need to exercise authentic repentance and demonstrate biblical love to those we have always desired to serve to the best of our ability for the Lord's sake."
BJU's actions followed students' claims of sexual abuse in 2011. That year, a CNN IReport article stated that the university had reported "nine cases of forcible sex offenses." It also quoted television channel WSPA as claiming that the university's number was "significantly higher than any other institution in the area," pointing to Clemson University, which had three cases, by comparison. BJU, a private Christian college out of Greenville, S.C., has 2,500 students, while the nearby state school has 20,000.
While acknowledging those allegations, Randy Page, the director of public relations at BJU, denied that they influenced the college's decision to invite GRACE to campus.
"It was because of [the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse allegations at] Penn State. We wanted to be on the cutting edge of processes and procedures to make sure we were responding appropriately," Page told CP.
Though BJU informed GRACE that it had halted their relationship on Jan. 26, the ombudsman group delayed announcing its termination in hopes of recalibrating the partnership, though its statement failed to say why it had disclosed the information on Thursday.
Tchividjian declined to provide comment for this story, citing ongoing discussions with GRACE and BJU.
According to GRACE's statement, BJU's announcement came without warning and at a critical time in its investigation.
"There had been no prior indications from BJU that termination was even being considered," it stated. "Furthermore, this termination occurred days before GRACE was to conduct the last interviews of this 13-month investigation and begin drafting the final report scheduled for publication in March."
It further stated that it had been unable to gain more clarity with BJU about its motivations behind its decision "despite repeated requests."
"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," it continued.
In its termination letter, signed by President Stephen Jones and Larry B Jackson, chairman of the board on Jan. 24, BJU failed to disclose their reasoning, except for hinting that it could be related to the president's resignation. Citing his ongoing health concerns, Jones, 43, announced in November he would be stepping down,
"While undertaking these efforts, there has been a great deal of change here at the university," stated the letter. "As you know, I recently announced my resignation as president of the university effective early May. As you can imagine, this has redirected a significant amount of our focus and energy."
According to a statement released on Thursday from the university, BJU stated that it had grown "concerned about how GRACE was pursuing our objectives" and said that it was "disappointed a resolution could not be reached before our differences were made public."
In an email to The Christian Post, Randy Page, the director of public relations at BJU, affirmed that the university wished "to resolve our differences with GRACE."
"In an email to to CP Page affirmed that the university wished "to resolve our differences with GRACE."
"However, if that is not possible, we are committed to moving forward—either with GRACE or another third party—to finish the project and publish a public report," he added.