Update: Bob Jones University rehires firm hired to investigate sex abuse

The seminary building at Bob Jones University during a class change in 2012. Photo courtesy of Bob Jones University

(RNS) After firing an independent watchdog group to investigate allegations of sexual abuse on campus, Bob Jones University has rehired the same group, one month before the findings from a 13-month review were scheduled to be released.

(RNS1-NOV21) Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C., has long been a bastion of fundamentalist Christianity but has recently taken steps to engage the modern world. For use with RNS-BOB-JONES, transmitted Nov. 21, 2011. RNS photo by David Gibson.

Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C. RNS photo by David Gibson

The university had contracted with Lynchburg, Va.-based GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) in November 2012 but suspended the contract on Jan. 27. The university met with GRACE officials Feb. 18-19 to discuss the review.

GRACE satisfactorily addressed the University’s concerns and Bob Jones University is confident the review can be completed in a timely and professional manner,”  the university said in a press release. 

“To be clear, GRACE and BJU are united in their commitment to a review that is thorough, transparent and objective.”

In December, BJU President Stephen Jones announced his resignation due to health concerns, and he cited the “ongoing challenges in leadership change” in a letter that terminated the contract with GRACE. School officials had previously cited “differences” between the two sides, a charge that the watchdog group said came as a “complete surprise.”

Now that GRACE has been rehired, a spokesman for BJU said it’s unclear when the final report will be released.

The seminary building at Bob Jones University during a class change in 2012. Photo courtesy of Bob Jones University

The seminary building at Bob Jones University during a class change in 2012. Photo courtesy of Bob Jones University

The investigation is led by Boz Tchividjian, Billy Graham’s grandson, who said he has no further comment. Tchividjian, who blogs for Religion News Service, has written and spoken on why evangelicals struggle to report sex abuse claims.

“At the heart of the struggle is a fear that is rooted in the need to self-protect,” he wrote earlier this month. “All such ‘fears’ are usually masked by a rationale that the reporting of such abuse may ‘damage the reputation of Christ.’”

GRACE was fired last year by the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE), an independent Baptist missions agency, shortly before it could conclude another abuse investigation of missionary children.

Bob Jones is a private Christian university in Greenville, S.C., with about 3,000 students. 

About the author

Sarah Pulliam Bailey

Sarah Pulliam Bailey is a national correspondent for RNS, covering how faith intersects with politics, culture and other news. She previously served as online editor for Christianity Today where she remains an editor-at-large.


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  • Thankfully Bob Jones university officials have reversed their decision, therefore letting GRACE complete its report about the sex crimes at this campus.

    But first and foremost, anyone who may have knowledge or may have been harmed by anyone at Bob Jones university, will hopefully find the courage to contact law enforcement. They are the proper officials to be investigating sex crimes,.

    Keep in mind your silence only hurts, and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others.
    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511,
    SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, and members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers and increasingly, victims who were assaulted in a wide range of institutional settings like summer camps, athletic programs, Boy Scouts, etc.

  • Which Independent Baptist Missions agency are you referring to? Could you link to some articles to it, so readers can get more information?

  • Thank you, Sarah (and Kevin Eckstrom) for updating both of your pieces on Bob Jones and GRACE to name ABWE. ABWE was clearly worth mentioning … thus they were of course worth naming. It still baffles me why anyone would choose not to name them other than a misguided idea that their smallness and “insignificance” makes them not worth the extra couple of words (and you know what that makes the victims).

    While I’m disappointed that my comments on the first article and my multiple private emails to editor-in-chief Kevin Eckstrom were completely ignored by RNS, I am hugely gratified that those who DO understand what ABWE has done stood by me yesterday and flooded RNS with what Eckstrom later called a “deluge of emails.”

    I’m saddened though that that is what it took to be heard by RNS.

    Yet … I am so grateful that we were–in the end–heard, and that today ABWE’s name is given in both of your articles, Sarah. Please never underestimate the impact your words have when you are covering stories of abuse. We (the victims) are real people with real stories and real wounds and we’ve yet to see fair coverage from an evangelical news outlet and we’ve yet to see justice.