Why I Blew the Whistle on Moody

Three months ago, my career was going precisely to plan. I had just published my first book and had begun receiving invitations to speak at major conferences and large churches. My platform was growing. My radio show was doing well. And I was publishing regularly in Christian periodicals. Life was good until . . .

I blew the whistle on the Moody Bible Institute.

Since then, I’ve been fired from my job as a national radio host. I’ve had speaking engagements cancelled. My use of a studio at the offices of a Christian magazine has been revoked. I’ve received vicious hate mail. I’ve lost friends. And I’ve missed several golden opportunities to promote my book at a time crucial to its success.

It’s been brutal, both professionally and personally. But I knew this would happen.

I’m not naïve. I’ve been in Christian media and ministry far too long to think I could take on a giant like Moody and not suffer consequences.

So why did I do it? Why did I take such a risk?

As is the case with many consequential decisions, it’s complicated, and would probably take a book to explain fully. But I’ve tried to document the main reasons here because I believe they’re not just important to me, but to anyone who wishes to be faithful to the call of Christ. Plus, they help show how the events at Moody impact the broader mission of the church, and why her success is so important.

Obeying God vs. Man

The main reason I blew the whistle on Moody is simple: I felt God prompt me to do so, and I knew I must obey God rather than men.

“The main reason I blew the whistle on Moody is simple: I felt God prompt me to do so, and I knew I must obey God rather than men.’”

For several years, I knew things were not right at Moody. It weighed on me, and a few times, I expressed my concerns to management in vain. But during those years, I didn’t sense God wanted me to publish, so I was content to wait.

But this fall, when I discovered that the issues were far more severe and widespread than I had imagined – and that many faculty were in distress, and a group of alumni had launched a website to address the problems – I sensed it was time to act.

Yet I admit, I was scared.

I didn’t want to lose my job or my platform – or jeopardize the success of my book. I believed passionately in what I was doing and had invested untold hours and personal resources to pursue what I truly considered a calling. Yet I had a growing conviction that if I shrunk from speaking the truth at this crucial hour, my voice would become worthless.  

Several years earlier, I had felt similarly compelled to publish an article about a radical communist who was actually headlining a major evangelical conference. However, a media-savvy consultant strongly warned me against it.

“Julie, when you have 50-thousand Twitter followers, you can say whatever you want,” he told me, “but not now. You need to ingratiate yourself to these evangelical heavy-hitters, not confront them.”

Yet since then, I have noticed that by the time a Christian leader gets 50-thousand Twitter followers, he’s often made so many compromises that he’s lost the ability to speak prophetically. Without meaning to, he has sold his soul – one quenched prompting of the Spirit at a time.

“(B)y the time a Christian leader gets 50-thousand Twitter followers, he’s often made so many compromises that he’s lost the ability to speak prophetically. Without meaning to, he has sold his soul – one quenched prompting of the Spirit at a time.”

I’ve seen this happen to others, and I didn’t want it to happen to me. And this realization made it increasingly hard for me to remain silent. Plus, I realized that fear of man is never a good reason to shrink from doing what one believes is right.

Still, some might argue that publicly confronting another believer or Christian institution is never right – that doing so is somehow un-Christian. Sometimes I wish I could believe that. It certainly would have made my life easier the past few months. But that’s not what I see in Scripture.

Jesus confronted the religious leaders of His day publicly – and regularly. And He wasn’t particularly nice about it, referring to them as “whitewashed tombs” and “brood of vipers.”

Similarly, in Matthew 18, Jesus instructed believers to tell the entire church about someone’s sin if that person persisted in unrepentance after first being confronted one-on-one, and again with witnesses. This was the pattern I chose to follow when I finally addressed issues with Moody. Yet as the founder of an online Christian ministry recently noted, Matthew 18 applies to a sin between two individual Christians. It’s not a directive for confronting errant public leaders and institutions.

I couldn’t find a biblical argument to excuse myself from speaking out against the wrongdoing I discovered at Moody. Yet it was hard to go public. And I vividly remember staring at my first blog post and trying to muster the courage to hit publish. That’s when the following tweet popped up on my phone:

My jaw dropped when I read that tweet. I don’t know Kyle, but what he wrote spoke powerfully to me. And I knew what God was asking me to do.

The Evangelical “Machine”

Another factor that drove me to blow the whistle on Moody was something veteran producer and talk show host Ingrid Shlueter called the “evangelical industrial complex” or “celebrity machine.”

Shlueter encountered this “machine” while working as an assistant producer for Radio Host Janet Mefferd. In 2013, Mefferd discovered that celebrity pastor Mark Driscoll had plagiarized, and confronted him about it on her show. Everything Mefferd said was spot-on, yet she received virulent backlash – not just from Driscoll, but from his publisher, fans, and other heavy-hitters loyal to Driscoll. The opposition became so intense that Mefferd eventually removed evidence of Driscoll’s plagiarism from her website and apologized.

Yet Shlueter, who resigned her job in protest, hinted that Mefferd had been strong-armed. “All I can share is that there is an evangelical celebrity machine that is more powerful than anyone realizes,” Shlueter wrote. “You may not go up against the machine. That is all. Mark Driscoll clearly plagiarized and those who could have underscored the seriousness of it and demanded accountability did not. That is the reality of the evangelical industrial complex.”

When I published, I didn’t just take on Moody. I took on the machine. This is why I suffered much more than a cancelled show and the loss of a paycheck. In the machine, friends protect friends whether they’re deserving of it or not – and whistleblowers get crushed.

“When I published, I didn’t just take on Moody. I took on the machine . . . In the machine, friends protect friends whether they’re deserving of it or not – and whistleblowers get crushed.”

I first witnessed how the machine works in 2010. I had produced an exposé about the promotion of leftist-inspired social justice at my alma mater, Wheaton College. The piece revealed that Wheaton’s education department was teaching its students to be “agents of change” for “social justice” based on the ideology of far-left radicals like Bill Ayers, who bombed the Pentagon, and Paulo Freire, a Brazilian Marxist.

I felt an obligation to inform Wheaton parents and alumni and asked to air my piece on Moody Radio. But Moody leadership killed it – not because my piece wasn’t important or true. In fact, Board Chair Randy Fairfax (who was just a trustee at the time) sent me an email thanking me for “the determination and integrity” in my reporting, and for “seeking to honor . . . the alumni, parents and students of Wheaton.”

Yet Moody killed the piece because Wheaton was our friend.

My piece eventually aired on Sandy Rios’ former show on WYLL, and led to significant changes within the education department at Wheaton. But Sandy took a lot of heat for what she did.  And had it not been for her grit and courage, the piece might not have ever broadcast. 

I witnessed the machine in action over and over during my time at Moody. Management killed commentaries and show topics, and even scolded me once when I published an important article elsewhere that negatively impacted a ministry partner.

I came to realize that the machine, though “Christian,” was synonymous with the world, and I could not serve it and serve God.

I also realized that if I shrunk from publishing because of the machine, it would win. And maybe the machine wins anyway. But if there’s one thing the #MeToo movement has shown, it’s that sometimes the vulnerable, armed with truth, can prevail. I knew I had to try.

What’s at Stake

Yet, the consequences to me personally for blowing the whistle on Moody don’t even register when compared to what’s at stake. The evangelical church is facing a major crisis of orthodoxy. Increasingly, we’re succumbing to all sorts of liberal errors – from embracing the LGBTQ agenda and a leftist-inspired form of social justice to abandoning the inerrancy of Scripture and what it teaches about origins, the fall, and redemption.  

This crisis is especially acute at Christian schools. In fact, theologian and historian Carl Trueman argues that the “cultural Battle of Waterloo will be won – or lost – on the campuses of Christian colleges.”

In this climate, college administrators and professors should be vigilant to preserve true Christian doctrine. But as Trueman laments, very few administrators “choose fidelity to their faith over institutional prestige.” And many professors “are marked less by their knowledge of their subject than by their ability to spout angry clichés about privilege and power and hegemony.”

Against this sea of theological drift and outright heresy, Moody has traditionally stood as a beacon of orthodoxy. So I was shocked when I discovered that there are professors at Moody who reject the institute’s historical understanding of inerrancy – and some who support liberation theology and causes like Planned Parenthood. I also discovered financial mismanagement and ethical lapses at the board level and realized that the situation at Moody was dire.

“But if Moody’s house is truly going to be cleaned and set in order, it will require repentance . . . the kind that prompts public confession, tears, and further resignations.”

For more than 130 years, Moody has been a bastion of truth, and through the work of its graduates, a light to the nations. I recognized that if she fell, it would deal a severe blow to the entire evangelical movement. That awareness of both the severity of the problem and the magnitude of what was at stake drove me.

I am heartened that since publishing, the board has adopted the Chicago Statement on biblical inerrancy, which will moor Moody to a solid anchor. I’m also encouraged that the board recognized the need for change in leadership and removed the institute’s top three officers. 

But if Moody’s house is truly going to be cleaned and set in order, it will require repentance – not the kind that crafts public statements designed to contain the damage, but the kind that prompts public confession, tears, and further resignations.

Yet what’s wrong at Moody is what’s wrong with much of the evangelical movement – and perhaps what’s plagued the church since its inception. As Paul lamented two millennia ago, “Everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” This is what makes the “machine” evil, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

The interconnected network of ministries, businesses, and prominent leaders could be leveraged for the good of the Kingdom. It could be used as a tool to bring correction and accountability, instead of as a weapon to punish whistleblowers and protect the powerful. But that would take courage. And love. And sacrifice.

It would require the church to imitate Christ.

Despite what I’ve observed, I am hopeful this can happen. I still believe in the church, and I truly believe we are better than this.

I’m also hopeful about my future. God has been faithful throughout, and there are some exciting developments I hope to announce soon.

So, to those of you who have been praying, please continue. Satan would love to see the problems at Moody destroy the institute, but God can use them to refine her and strengthen the church. If we obey Him, I’m confident He will.

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57 thoughts on “Why I Blew the Whistle on Moody

  1. John Mariner

    Julie you stated in this last piece “It would require the church to imitate Christ.” It is hard to imitate Jesus without understanding his life and ministry. Schools like the Moody Bible Institute (and Evangelical Christianity as a whole) place too much emphasis on the epistles of Paul and often ignore the teachings of Jesus. I am sure many Christians were surprised of the teaching of Matthew 18 you shared previously. Going to the Gospels just for the birth and death of Jesus and maybe to read a parable or two leaves one with an incomplete understanding of biblical Christianity. I am not saying this caused the problems at Moody but it definitely contributed to it.

  2. Rick and Renee Bottoms

    We are thankful for what God is doing in and through you! Some have forgotten the Bema Seat of the Lord Jesus. Rewards will be given and rewards taken away! Those losses are eternal.

  3. Susan Vonder Heide

    I very much appreciate your courage. I tend to be a coward (speaking the truth in love when it feels safe to do so but holding back when I sense danger) and I find your courage inspiring.

  4. I had no idea. Prayers up for you. I have dealt with the CBA marketplace and the church ‘system’ on many various projects and it can be discouraging to see such problems. And, if you read the letter to the Romans or Galatians – you know this is nothing new. I applaud your obedience to the Spirit as you were led and the willingness to know whenever you go outside of authority – you likely will face consequences. reblogged at TheRightJB

  5. Mikel

    Thank you, ma’am, and God Bless you.

  6. Sabrina

    Julie, I’ve been following your journey as you’ve been sharing this and I am heartened by your example of courage, heeding the Spirit and standing firm in the Truth. Some have said 2018 is the year of the open door, as 8 in Hebrew is the number of new beginnings. It looks to me God is in the process of refining His Church, so we will be standing firm on Him and His Word, and not our human props–it’s when we stand in Him and His Word we are equipped to fight the battle! And for those in the Church who do that, He will bless us and use the Church mightily in these changing times. I applaud you for standing strong!
    I along with many was moved to pray when I heard this news and was heartened to witness (online) Anne Graham Lotz’ call for the Founders Week attendees to pray, and to hear that the pray meetings are continuing on. I pray in Jesus name that all those praying will heed the voice of the Spirit and God and let Him refine them and be strong warriors for him. No, it’s not easy being a watchman but He gives strength. Amen! Maranatha!

  7. Karen Finch

    Moody has NOT been the bastion of truth for 130 years. There has been serious, covered sin at Moody for more than 70 years. My very life is proof and all will know it when ALL is known and we stand before the creator and judge. Karen Finch

    • Dear Karen, I sense your pain. I’ve had my own dealings with spiritual abuse. Discovered Julie’s story via Ingrid Schlueter whom Julie references.
      Ingrid has been instrumental in confirming that I’m not crazy that the meltdown and travesty within ‘the church’ is indeed what I have witnessed. ((hugs)) <3

  8. Janet

    Dear sister in Christ, I came to know you through your very excellent radio broadcast and greatly appreciated your wise and biblical voice on issues we face currently—and I greatly miss that voice now! But, I found your blog and am heartened by your courage, determination and loyalty to your Lord! Thank you for writing so candidly and for being willing to make the personal sacrifice you knew this would involve. You are truly a Pauline disciple of Christ! I graduated in the 70’s from a small women’s Christian college which had at that time fallen into the error of neo-orthodoxy. A very wise pastor steered me, a very impressionable young student of the Word, to truth. I, for one, would love to hear you speak in the days ahead. Please, let us know where you will be!

  9. Pamela Siefert

    Julie, I did not know who you were until I read a news article about the problems at Moody Bible Institute. I discovered your website and have been following your updates. I want to thank you for helping to reveal the truth about Moody. There are many of us out here who are very concerned about the theological drift in evangelicalism and its institutions. It is obvious that your heart is in the right place. Keep up the good work. You are in my prayers and greatly appreciated!

  10. Lisa McBay

    May the Lord God continue to encourage, strengthen, and move you into His perfect will and purposes. What others may mean for evil our great God will use for good in your life and His ministry. As new avenues open He will be glorified in your life. May the Lord bless you for the faithfulness to His truth. Having done all-STAND!

  11. Thank you for taking a stand, Julie. You’re an encouragement to me.

  12. Sandy Harris

    Thank you, Julie, for being willing to stand for the truth!

  13. Jason Arndt

    I woud most likely disagree with your Biblical interpretation or views of left social justice versus a right social justice and your Christian views on capitalism. However, I strongly support your right to say what you believe and call out ethical issues without the threat of losing your job or losing opportunities to further the ministry the Lord has tasked you with.

  14. Bob

    I find it telling that all but one professor (Weber) publically said that they thought something was wrong at MBI. Nobody else wrote/said anything publically for all to hear themselves. There were some anonymous stuff but who knows if it really came from someone affiliated with MBI or not. Do you think God wanted only you to do this (take it to the public) or that you were the only courageous and obedient one?

    • As many as 30 or more professors wrote letters to the Faculty Concerns Committee expressing serious concerns. But after the administration communicated that it wanted the faculty to drop everything, and then cut 34 faculty positions, the fear on campus was palpable. There were two other professors who went on the record with me, but everyone else spoke off-the-record for fear of losing their jobs. I was willing to take the lead in communicating the problems to the trustees, and then to the public, because I realized I was uniquely positioned to do so. Plus, unlike many faculty, my family wasn’t dependent on my job at Moody for its support. That being said, I was profoundly disappointed in the silence of much of the faculty, but that’s between them and God.

      • Bob

        That’s unfortunate. There is more power/credibility in the numbers, but often only if the numbers identify themselves publicly.

  15. Thank you Julie! I am so sorry you have had to take the brunt of this but you know where your treasure lies and with whom! God bless you!

  16. Howard Kuhns

    Your’s was my favorite radio show before it was cancelled. How can i help to get you back on the air somewhere? May God bless you.

  17. Polly Swanson

    Thank you, Julie, for following God’s direction & being strong in your convictions as to what God was directing you to do even though the consequences were hard. My heart breaks when I think of what is happening & I praise God for you & those like you who will stand strong to following the Scripture. In the end, God always wins – the battle is not between flesh & blood, but against the principalities & powers in dark places. Satan wants to get to Jesus through people who claim His name, but are living to themselves.

    God bless you, Julie & your family – may His grace & peace be with you all.

    I enjoyed your book. I learned some real beneficial things from it, tho I’m not one who has felt led to ‘preach’, but one should always be ready to teach, right?

    He is risen, indeed!

    Praying for you & your loved ones,

  18. ANGELIA

    #metoothis

  19. Keith Call

    So is this over? Much more needs to be said, a clarification of executive decisions and some clear rumor-quashing, specifically from the administration of Moody Bible Institute. However, through it all, they’ve mostly maintained a “noble silence” — very much to their detriment. Julie has demonstrated courage and leadership throughout this mess. It would be invigorating to see something like that from somebody at the Institute. I am involved with several conservative churches who are confused and discouraged by recent events at MBI. Is that a matter of concern, or will Moody safely stick to its noble silence and hope for the best?

  20. Michelle Tamm-Booth

    Thank you for your explanation. Proper discernment of the scriptures is surely lacking in the Christian culture today. It is even becoming increasingly hard to find a truth centered, bible-based church with a pastor that is legitimately qualified to preach and teach the Word of God. There is an over abundance of “ear tickling” these days. They say the “church” is only 10-15 years behind the world’s culture, and I myself have seen this gradual sliding into post-modernism within the church. I commend your fear of God verses fear of man approach to life. I pray we all adopt such an approach when dealing within the pattern of this world. I am looking forward to the return of your show, for it challenged me to dig deep into what I believe, according to God’s Word and hold fast to its teachings.

  21. Having been a pew-warmer (as well as a student of human nature) for many decades, I’ve learned that there are two sides to every conflict. Still, I have witnessed the misuse of the Lord’s resources and I must applaud your sense of right and wrong for taking a stand on this issue as well as the issue of orthodoxy drift. Yet it occurs to me that there are voices within Christian institutions who attempt to warn leaders about some of their actions, policies, and errors in stewardship. One problem, in my humble opinion, is that church leaders have heard so many suggestions, prophetic warnings, opinions, and criticisms from congregants over the years that they eventually shut down their ability to hear a genuine threat when it’s laid out before them by a concerned brother or sister in Christ. Sure, there is a Christian machine that seeks to protect its own interests, but many congregants and other stakeholders have become so accustomed of late to sharing their petty critiques that church leaders can become dangerously guarded. As a result, those who share a genuine concern regarding a serious problem in the church are often ignored or branded a troublemaker, a gossip, a negative person, or a loon…especially if the problem involves a beloved pastor or church staffer. As a simple man in the pew, these shenanigans bruise my faith.

  22. Sandra Johnson

    You have been personally offended on several levels. I suspect that is why you are lashing out at MBI. With your accusations, I would expect there would be many others who would come forward to confirm and support what you what you have said in your comments. MBI has stood as a beacon for Christian teaching of those who want to go into all the world teaching the Gospel and serving in untold numbers of Christian ministries. Be careful not to to destroy. Rather, pray for the protection of MBI. Satan would like nothing more than the destruction of this school which has served the Lord by reaching and training thousands of committed Believers.

  23. Susan Vonder Heide

    MBI has indeed stood for many good things in its history but that does not mean that it is safe from theological drift. If somebody notices a suspicious blemish on a friend and suggests that they get it checked out that does not mean that they caused the melanoma and their suggestion if made in time may have stopped it from being fatal.

  24. Karen

    Thank you, Julie, for bringing to light the issues at Moody you were aware of. It took a great deal of courage. My son is a current student there and was experiencing the effect of the liberal shift even before you wrote the first post. Your information gave us, his parents, the chance to talk through his experiences and understand what he was seeing. Not only is his conservative voice not valued (to put it politely), he is continually given assignments to find and discuss the faults in the church. It is a negative, critical atmosphere. Of course, the only proposed solution to these problems is more social justice. As with the fruit of all liberal philosophy, the anger these students are being encouraged in from faculty is going to have bad – and divisive – results, I firmly believe.

    My son tried to work within the system to make a difference – he really did. However, morale is low among students since many do not see changes beyond the firing of the 3. No conservative staff has been rehired. Attempts by students to meet with college admin have been cancelled. We have info that the social justice focus is already being planned for the 2018-19 school year. He has decided to transfer to another college.

  25. Karen

    I fear the only real solution to the dilemmas of not only Moody but other Christian colleges is going to be making the transition away from accepting any dollars from the federal government. These loans and grants come with strings attached to Title IX stipulations, making it difficult to implement biblical commitments to some issues.

    John Stonestreet at Breakpoint published an article about the dilemma at http://www.breakpoint.org/2018/04/breakpoint-christian-colleges-at-a-crossroads/

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