Petition alleges culture of sexual abuse cover-up, dismissive leaders at Moody Bible Institute

A view of Moody Bible Institute's historic arch from within the central plaza. Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, Illinois, 2006. Uploaded to MBI Student network and released into PD on 27 September 2006.
A view of Moody Bible Institute's historic arch from within the central plaza. Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, Illinois, 2006. Uploaded to MBI Student network and released into PD on 27 September 2006. | (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

A recently launched petition alleges that sexual abuse has been covered up at Moody Bible Institute and is urging a formal investigation.

The petition — which as of Monday afternoon has garnered over 2,300 signatures from students, parents and alumni — is asking MBI President Mark Jobe to address an alleged pattern of dismissal of abuse, cover-up, and even administrative disciplinary action taken against abuse survivors at the Chicago-based evangelical school.

“While many of us have found God and His calling on our lives within the walls of Moody, some of us have also faced harm,” the petition reads.

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“Harm that includes instances of stalking, discrimination, sexual assault, and rape. These harms were made worse when members of our community in positions of authority, specifically Dean (Tim) Arens, seem to have an inability or unwillingness to act to address them.”

The open letter urges Jobe to include alumni and students in the selection process to replace outgoing Tim Arens, the dean of Student Life who is set to retire in June 2021. The petition further asks for all Title IX complaints to be published each year, for the removal of any Title IX decision-makers who have disciplinary power, and for MBI Title IX Coordinator Rachel Puente to be replaced.

A Google Document embedded in the petition contains four accounts of MBI students claiming the administration mishandled their abuse cases.

Among those who detailed her story in the Google document was Anna Heyward, an MBI graduate from the class of 2017 who identified herself as one who helped spearhead the petition.

Heyward wrote on social media that her ex-boyfriend, who was a graduate student and employee of MBI, physically and sexually assaulted her in 2016. She claimed that Arens told her not to report it and was threatened with being placed on probation.

Her ex-boyfriend reportedly forced her to perform oral sex on him after he got her drunk on her 21st birthday and then said he would report her to the school for drinking alcohol, which is against Moody's Student Life Guide, if she told anyone about the incident.

Heyward continued to be abused for several more months and eventually told Arens about what had happened. He reportedly asked her if she had indeed consumed alcohol and what she had done "to deserve to be hit," and then discouraged her from pressing charges or pursuing a Title IX case, telling her she would be put on probation for being involved in sex and drinking. When Heyward told Puente about her ex-boyfriend hitting her, Puente reportedly told her that she was sorry but no action was ever taken.

Other recorded accounts from recent graduates and a current student who had endured sexual harassment and stalking were similar in their dealings with the administration's dismissive posture.

The Christian Post reached out to MBI for comment and was provided a statement from Jobe, apologizing for how incidents of abuse had been handled.

"As President of Moody Bible Institute, and an alum, I am committed to ensuring that all of our campuses are not only safe for all students, but also a place that takes seriously the voice of victims and follows through on dealing with abuse of any kind. If our community has failed to uphold that commitment in the past, I am profoundly sorry for the pain and wounds this may have caused students and their loved ones," Jobe said.

Provost Dwight Perry and his leadership team spent the past weekend finalizing an action plan with recommendations that will be shared Tuesday during chapel and subsequently released to Moody alumni, Jobe noted.

The Chicago-based college, founded in 1886 by famed evangelist Dwight L. Moody, after whom it is named, has come under increased scrutiny in recent years, particularly regarding what some asserted was a shift away from theological orthodoxy among the professorate and financial malfeasance and a culture of "self-dealing" among the administration. In January 2018, then-president Paul Nyquist and then-COO Steve Mogck resigned amid controversy and a tense climate on campus.

Earlier this year, MBI agreed to sell off 10 acres of its property to a prominent high-rise developer.

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