Moody Bible Institute Facing Unprecedented Crisis. Please Pray!

The Moody Bible Institute (MBI) is facing what is arguably one of the most serious crises it’s faced in its 132-year history.  In addition to a dramatic financial downturn, which caused the institute to close its Spokane campus and cut nearly one-third of its faculty, MBI leaders are now dealing with allegations that they have betrayed the institute’s mission. 

Tomorrow, the Executive Committee of the Moody Bible Institute Board of Trustees is meeting with President Paul Nyquist to discuss extremely serious allegations against his administration.  These include:

  • Allowing professors who deny the inerrancy of Scripture to teach at the institute and write curriculum
  • Allowing a professor who supports Planned Parenthood, liberation theology, and a host of other liberal causes to teach at the school, and even spearhead missions conferences
  • Permitting a top education official to violate the institute’s bylaws repeatedly, and openly practice reverse-discrimination
  • Fostering an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, silencing whistleblowers by reprimanding, or even firing them
  • Refusing to allow shared governance with faculty as stipulated by the Higher Learning Commission, which oversees accreditation for Moody

I first learned of some of these allegations in October and forwarded credible information to certain trustees, urging them to conduct an investigation.  Instead, these trustees went directly to President Nyquist, failed to interview a single faculty member, and dropped the matter without relaying any of the information to the rest of the board.

In November The Moody Standard, the MBI student newspaper, published an Open Letter expressing multiple concerns about the administration.  The letter, which was penned anonymously by “Moody staff,” charged that the administration had “engendered a culture of fear” and added, “(W)e don’t feel that the administration is willing to listen or respond in wise ways.”

The authors also charged that the administration had purposefully whitewashed certain facts connected to recent staff reductions, noting that Moody had told Christianity Today that it was cutting 10-percent of institute staff.  “What this doesn’t reveal,” the letter states, “is that 34 of 112 full-time faculty have been cut – just under one-third.”

The authors also questioned the wisdom of constructing the $22-million Gary Chapman Global Media Center in the midst of a financial crisis, and challenged Nyquist’s explanation that a recent drastic downturn in student enrollment was the result of a nationwide trend “there was no way to predict.”  “(T)his enrollment bubble has been on the horizon for 12 years,” they write.  “How could the administration possibly have missed this?”

I couldn’t find the Open Letter at the Moody Standard website, but a recently-launched website called the “The Broken Twig: Documenting the Decline and Fall of the Moody Bible Institute” published the letter. 

For several days, The Broken Twig also posted a detailed and revealing email from Intercultural Studies Professor Jean Penfound to Vice President & Associate Provost of Faculty Larry Davidhizar. The email complained of three administrative issues: “inconsistencies between stated beliefs and actions, antagonism toward faculty and intentional actions to squelch true shared governance.”  It also stated that “faculty are fearful of administrative retribution” and that “morale is low.”

These published complaints also failed to rouse trustees to conduct any significant investigation.  So over the past few months, I have been conducting my own investigation.  I have recorded hours of interviews with numerous MBI faculty and staff. And on December 15, I flew to Detroit with a trusted friend and presented my findings to Trustee Emeritus Paul Johnson and Vice-Chairman of the Board of Trustees Rick Warren. At about the same time, Theology Professor Rich Weber also sent Johnson a 65-page document, detailing shocking allegations of wrongdoing and including numerous supporting documents. (see note below) 

Johnson and Warren found the evidence Weber and I gave them convincing and assured me that the rest of the board would act swiftly to address issues and remove guilty parties.  Johnson and Warren have worked hard the past three weeks to follow through on this pledge.  Some other members of the board, however, have seemed more interested in showing loyalty to the administration than loyalty to MBI’s mission.  They initially stonewalled, and even chastised me for going directly to trustees, rather than following some unwritten “protocol.”

So now I am asking those who care about the Moody Bible Institute to pray and intercede for its future. I don’t believe I can overemphasize how crucial the next week is to the continued mission of MBI. After Friday’s meeting between the executive committee and Nyquist, the full board will convene on January 10 at MBI’s Chicago campus to decide its next course of action. (I have requested an interview with Nyquist as well, but so far he has not agreed to one.)

I love the Moody Bible Institute.  For more than a century, the school has trained thousands of young Christian men and women for ministry, which was its founder, D.L. Moody’s, passion.  MBI still has some of the most godly and biblically grounded professors I know.  Similarly, many of the students I have met during my 10 years with Moody Radio love Jesus wholeheartedly and earnestly desire to serve him.

Yet a professor recently confided to me that she barely recognizes the institute anymore.  Theology Professor Kevin Zuber actually told me that when he says his favorite tagline, “Moody, the name you can trust,” his students laugh.  “It used to be true,” Zuber lamented.  “That’s what we need to get back.”

So please pray for Moody.  Pray for repentance. Pray for courage.  Pray that those who need to resign will – both within the administration and on the trustee board.  And pray that God would strengthen what remains (Rev. 3:2).

*In the coming days, I hope to publish Weber’s 65-page document, but so far have been unable to obtain it.  Weber told me yesterday he’s willing to release the document to me, but is bound by a promise to Paul Johnson not to release it to anyone but trustees.  When I asked Johnson if he would release Weber from this agreement, he refused to do so. Either way, I will be releasing details of my investigation because I feel a moral responsibility to do so.

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152 thoughts on “Moody Bible Institute Facing Unprecedented Crisis. Please Pray!

  1. Proud MBI Alum

    Thank you, Julie, for your diligence. I have been, and will continue to pray.

  2. Ro Phifer

    I have listened to Moody Radio most of my life as I have moved around the world as a military child, then service member, and now wife. There was a time that I desired wholeheartedly to join the ranks of Moody published authors whose stories I’d heard on my various, favorites programs. While this was never my experience, I have worked in ministry and education for a number of years, first teaching adults at a secular college then teaching children at a private Christian school, and now as an IT manager (prior military experience) at a large church in my area. My life has been VERY steeped in evangelicalism.

    Like MANY, however, I have begun RECOGNIZING (not that it wasn’t there before) the conflation of Biblical Christian beliefs with political ideologies and Americanized theology constructs. The way we, as an Evangelical culture have comfortably justified the restriction of THINKING as it pertains to scripture, (ie. unfavorable interpretations equate to “denying the inerrancy of scripture”) has traipsed into being reminiscent of the early Catholic Church, not permitting laiman to even obtain the scriptures for themselves. In this environment, that has always been my home, we are more consumed with training our children to be savvy in refuting “liberalism” and so-classified “liberals” than seeking the scriptural example of Jesus, Himself regarding specific issues. (Which are always multifaceted, and involve MUCH more knowledge of various factors than we are ever willing to entertain)

    Both the mentality of American Evangelicalsim and the spirit of this article, with its vague, uncontexted characterizations of “wrongs” without description of circumstance or consideration of defense, depict the dogmatic expectation of acceptance without questioning, (even with regards to scriptural validity or contradiction to the heart of Christ ) that has become a deterrent for Loads of Bible believing CHRISTIANS, who previously (and proudly) wore the Evangelical badge, from both educational institutions, AND houses of worship with that identifier.

    It’s sad really, but it’s inevitable when you consider the dichotomy in attempting to legitimately educate people, to a level of analytical thinking, where their faith STILL ULtIMATELY IMERGES as fortified and genuine, while continuing (at a mature level) to limit their exposure to ideas and challenges that would cause the spiritual wrestling and reconciling required to arrive at such a result.

    (I’m speaking as one of those former kids, whose “SOLID” faith, based in a “BIblical world view” was shaken at best, upon being faced with realities of truth, and factual knowledge of circumstances and history, that had previously been withheld, or glossed over as to not taint my belief system.) The latest generations can simply see through this more quickly, are unimpressed, and are in search of communities that, they feel, more closely exemplify Christ Himself, than a “Christian Culture”

    • Ro, my only assertion in this article concerning the allegations is that they would be discussed at the meeting last Friday. I would hope people would not accept allegations as truth unless they include cited references and documentation. I will be releasing an article with references and documentation concerning the inerrancy allegation soon.

      • Anna DeRosa

        Please do, Julie. Standing with you in prayer!

  3. Debbie

    I too commend and affirm you for your courage, integrity and for including the body of believers
    in this urgent request for prayer. Revelation 2:5 “Remember from where you have fallen and repent and do the deeds you did at first.” May the prayers of the faithful bring about open ears and changed hearts for members of the MBI Board.

  4. For some time now, I have had a thought and wondered if it is possible for seminaries to consider:

    Seminaries should have trade schools associated with them so that students can get training in a useful trade like plumbing, carpentry, electrician, auto-mechanic, medical technician etc.

    From speaking with seminary students, I am impressed with their dedication to serving Christ and doing ministry, yet sense their frustration at “useless” courses and the expenses of maintaining a family and paying for school at the same time. When they graduate, their option will be to find a job at an established church or ministry organization. They will find it a struggle to pastor a small church or work in a para-church ministry that cannot financially support them.

    It is a shame that when they graduate, their devotion to Christ and doing ministry is challenged, not by persecution, but by not having a practical ‘bread and butter’ degree.

    Seminaries can reduce their nonessential theology courses making them and these trades courses, electives.

    They can have arrangements with trade schools so that students can get a year or so of training in conjunction with their divinity training.

    These trades pay well. Last time I needed a plumber to replace a toilet, it was $500. To install a refrigerator water line, I was quoted $285.

    It will reduce their fear and anxiety and years of hardship, but also they will be like apostle Paul who had a side trade of tent making, and advised in 1 Thessalonians 4:11, to “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before”.
    thanks,
    Anil

    • Eric Bartl

      very interesting idea Anil. I like it.

    • Denny Benjamin

      Absolutely agree. Or you could have more of the distance/online courses. So those of us who want to study theology while having a secular job can make use of it

  5. 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.

    • Eric Bartl

      Thank you Mr. Jenkins for the assurance. Isn’t it a good thing that people have an opportunity to express their concerns before the board makes decisions? As an alumnus from Dr. Stowell’s tenure it’s hard to imagine things have come to this at MBI. My biggest concern is the allegation that the faculty cuts have been used as an excuse to purge certain faculty who stood up against what they saw as drift from MBI standards and to retain faculty who have contributed to the drift, thus increasing the shift at MBI. I believe good morals and good theology have a relationship. I can’t comment on what theology or view on biblical inerrancy is being taught now but even as an outsider it has become obvious to me that there are staff/faculty and numbers of students who are abandoning biblical standards for morality and supporting such horrendous things as planned parenthood and their mass murder of babies and supporting such sinful things as gay marriage/homosexuality. I left a more detailed comment above. If these things are that obvious to an outsider, how much more troubling would they be to current students who are not getting what they expected to get at MBI? When I first read about the Chapman Center it sounded like a very exciting project and a very strategic vision for the future. I believe how you respond to the drift that has occurred at MBI will have an even greater effect upon MBI’s future. It is very sad to hear of the faculty cuts. I think it needs to be better explained in a fully transparent way how certain financial decisions were made. From Dr. Nyquist’s letter it sounds like no money has been taken from MBI’s reserves for the project yet, but authorization has been made to do so. From the complaints that have been made it sounds like some people think the priority for any dipping into MBI funds should have been given to retaining faculty. It also seems like Dr. Nyquist’s response to that is that such a solution is not sustainable. Faculty will need to be paid every year but the building construction is one time. So it’s more important to get faculty expenses in line with ongoing income. Also, considering tuition at MBI is covered by donors, lower enrollment doesn’t lead to lower funds for faculty does it? Wouldn’t lower funds for faculty mean donations have dropped? And is the lower enrollment due to lowered admissions in anticipation of less faculty? Or are there really not enough qualified applications to fill campus space? Please provide numbers and figures to alumni and donors. It seems the cause of the financial crisis needs to be more meticulously analyzed and more clearly explained as well. The critics of the Administration are suggesting that the drop in donations is linked to the drift that has occurred at MBI under Dr. Nyquist rather than the reasons he has provided. I did not study music but my highlight as a student was the tremendous blessing of hearing the fantastic choirs and bands at chapel, almost on a daily basis. I hope there will be an explanation of why the music department was hit especially hard by the cuts. I hope there will also be an explanation of the cuts to the Jewish studies department. I was told a majority of Jewish Studies professors were laid off. I am hoping a more thorough and transparent explanation of all these matters will be given to alumni. I think restoration of trust will depend on how well MBI leadership allows itself to be held accountable. Thank you. Eric Bartl

    • Broken Twig

      Well, it’s about time Jerry. But pardon us if we don’t believe you. We’ll believe it when we see it.

  6. Excuse the typo: comprehend

  7. Broken Twig

    It’s about time Jerry. But pardon us if we don’t believe you. We’ll believe it when we see it.
    Can we expect you to resign too?

    • meraki

      Is snark part of the gospel of reconciliation…Broken Twig…i don’t know a lot about this situation but I do know that out of the heart the mouth speaks….if you are in a place of snark I think that you need to make sure that your heart is in the right place….I understand frustration leading to a snarky mouth (often my own downfall) but all of this is not biblical…i do understand that the lack of action may have led to investigation and the lack of response to the investigation is leading to even more frustration…but God is able and he is ultimately the one who dispenses justice and disciplines His children … Moody is a legacy, if we think of all of the people effected by the gospel around the world that can trace its roots back to Moody it is an awesome work of the Lord…this being so, makes it all the more important to be wise in word and deed – trust those that God has placed in authority…I think that is in the bible somewhere- and PRAY that God will do miraculous things ..Moody should not be dragged into the spotlight by those who claim to love it – it should be handled within the Kingdom – with the highest form of restraint, diligently seeking wisdom – not snarking on a blog…I just don’t see how this lines up with scripture…or how you think that three weeks is just much too long to seek the Lord for wisdom…of course I don’t know all of the players but I do know that there are no mistakes, many of these people have invested many years into this legacy and the spreading of the gospel…it is that pearl that needs to be protected and im not saying that in the end changes won’t need to happen…but it seems to me that haste is not wise when dealing with a treasure this valuable…oh, and Julie Roys I do not believe it is your moral responsibility to reveal sixty five pages of investigation to the world…its your spiritual responsibility to seek wisdom and leave vengeance and justice to the Lord… not dispense evidence to those of us that are totally ignorant of the nuances ..not all people need to know all details…I have to agree with Paul Johnson. All things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial. 1cor12:23….I think we really need to dig deep for beneficial…no matter how long it takes…i will be praying

      • Broken Twig

        Meraki, thank you for your comment, you are hardly the first to criticize us, you will hardly be the last. We have worked for many years, internally to effect these changes at MBI, and in November we realized that we needed to change our tactics. What you read as “snark” we read as “holding each other accountable” when you have people lying and perverting the Gospel, we will give them no quarter; no matter who they are, or what their title is.

        As you will see in Ms. Roys latest post, that she just put up, Nyquest, Jenkins, Fairfax, and many others are lairs, cheats, bullies, and so much more.

        You don’t like our tone, fine, that’s great, but someone needs to call them out, since you are unwilling to do so. – I would encourage you to look at the words of John the Baptist who called the Pharisees (the religious rulers of the day) “a brood of vipers.” And Jesus himself had even harsher words for them, when he called them “white washed tombs” and elsewhere said “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

        Are you going to say that John the Baptist or Jesus Christ the Messiah were “snarky” for calling out the liars of their days, the wolfs in sheep’s clothing. – How about you take some time and look at the facts before you pick up your stones.

      • Denny Benjamin

        Believe me you are not spreading the Gospel really. We just see your expensive productions. Your life speaks louder than your preaching. Eg the growing number of non believers of other countries in high positions of academia and industry.

        You know what they say here. They say that you are finally accepting their superior philosophies

  8. Although I was born and raised in Chicago, I was raised in a religious tradition that didn’t want to admit that WMBI or Moody Bible Institute existed. When TV-38 went on the air, and wanted our teen choir to sing on TV-38, the Pastor said, No Way!

    So I never knew Moody or WMBI existed until I was 24 years old and pastoring in Streator.

    I’ve been listening to WMBI or some Moody Network station, ever since.

  9. I serve on the Alumni Board; its primary purpose is to represent Moody Leadership to Alumni and vice-versa and I am happy to do this. But I am reluctant to get involved in social media or email exchanges over controversies; they often generate more heat than light! I need to be patient and praying for the Trustees and Executive Leadership to make good decisions during the current review of these issues.

    However, I will be spending Monday, January 15th (Martin Luther King Day) on a prayer retreat to pray for Moody Global Ministries and Moody Bible Institute, and I invite you to join me, if you can, in a kind of “virtual prayer retreat”. I will start at 9am Eastern Time, fast over lunch, and conclude at 5pm Eastern Time. By the way, this prayer retreat is with a good African-American brother and friend from my church, plus others; I can think of few better times in the history of Moody (and the USA!) to be praying for true Biblical racial reconciliation than now!

    Coincidentally, my church kicks off 21 Days of Prayer that same day, concluding on Sunday February 4th, 2018. I will pray diligently for Moody during that time also; what a great way for all who love Moody to pray for Moody leading up to Founders Week!

  10. Mark Pospisil

    As a Moody alum I am praying and hoping the best. Moody was a huge blessing to me from the Lord and I would not be where I am today without the training I received at Moody. Praying for the board to get their act together and bring clarity where there is confusion. Hoping that these allegations are not true but where if they would be handled well.

  11. ChristianCook

    When I read this I decided to do some research. I went to the Moody Standard website and was immediately discouraged. I don’t think that “Into The Woods” is a play that should be performed by a Christian organization. Poi as a form of worship? An article on Dressember? I think I’ve seen all I need to see to realize that Moody is not what it once was. I love Moody as a strong bastion of the faith and a defender of the Word but it seems like those ideals are now gone. I hope that this can be turned around and am praying for restoration.

  12. Ken Koves

    I graduated from MBI in ’77; major was Bible Theology. There are two things I always say when I talk with others about Moody. The first is “I am really glad I went.” The reason is because I learned a lot about Christianity, Evangelicalism, and theology. I met some wonderful people (including my wife!) who cared very much about God and his work. There were excellent teachers. I learned a tremendous amount about God, his word, and his family. I learned that God is much bigger than my pedestrian theology. And, very importantly, it began my intense interest in organizational behavior because I learned the difference between God’s family and human management.
    This leads to the second thing I say regarding MBI, “I am really glad I went, and I am really glad I left.” If God put MBI on the earth to educate young people on what his family and kingdom are, then he created MBI management to be a contrast to that. To say that there are “inconsistencies between stated beliefs and actions, antagonism toward faculty …”, “faculty are fearful of administrative retribution” and that “morale is low” is to tell me that in 40 years nothing has changed. The only thing that has changed is that now we have the echo chamber of social media, and sensationalized media to ensure that even less is heard and there is less understanding. I was really glad I left because I was tired and frustrated with the management hypocrisy. I was happy it was a three year program because I would not have stayed for four years. (As a quick aside, a few years later when we were working with a church youth group a MK came up and announced that he was going to Moody. He was surprised when I told him, ‘Tim, that is great. But you will never graduate.’ He was already too wise and knowledgeable. A few years later he told me, ‘You were right.’ He lasted two years and left.)
    But because the current crop of MBI management is poor is no reason to shout “Moody Bible Institute Facing Unprecedented Crisis.” This is nothing new, and God still works anyway. When you look at organizations in general, very few of them have really excellent management. ‘Excellent management’ being defined as management that puts the long-term good of the organization ahead of their own power, glory, comfort, prestige, and income. Why should we expect MBI to be any different? They may say they are, but that is no reason for us to expect that is the case. It is my opinion that the more powerful and prestigious the position, the lower the life form that is attracted to it.
    So might I recommend that everyone, on both sides of the aisle, take four or five deep breaths, take the knot out of your undies, pour a nice cup of tea, and sit back and read ‘You God is too Small’ by Phillips. Then pray (especially that God opens your own eyes), and find the FACTS, and if you have been donating, continue donating. If there is poor management we should not just accept it, but we should also not have a panic attack. It has been happening for decades.
    Oh, and can we please call off the liberal witch hunts? They are very counterproductive. The biggest threat to the longevity of MBI is the management not liberals.

  13. Bob

    I understand the concerns over spending (i.e. the condo) and the pretty big pay raise for the president in light of the growing financial difficulties at Moody and the substantial faculty cuts, but the claim that liberal ideas are taking over seem weak. This observation seems to be based on two points only?

    -Allowing professors who deny the inerrancy of Scripture to teach at the institute and write curriculum
    -Allowing a professor who supports Planned Parenthood, liberation theology, and a host of other liberal causes to teach at the school, and even spearhead missions conferences

    Can you point me to an example where professors deny the inerrancy of scripture? Which professors hold this position?

    When you say a professor supports planned parenthood does this mean they are pro-choice, financially support it, or they disagree with it but think the church should stay out of the debate over what nonChristians do?

    What does the professor say in about liberation theology? How does he define it and what, in particular, does he say about it? Can you point me to any written sources?

  14. Olivia R

    I’ll never forget how upset I was as a child when I was watching a Christian talk show & the host began to read a horrifying “excerpt” from the Harry Potter series that wasn’t actually in any of the books.

    I knew this excerpt was fabricated because I had actually read the books myself cover to cover. I feel similarly now. I’m a ’15 Urban Studies graduate & I took 2-3 classes under Clive Craigen each year I attended Moody.

    Although I don’t always agree with his approach to social media (in my opinion, there’s nothing that causes more division and miscommunication about important topics than a FB post) his classes were SEEPED in well-exegeted scripture. And in your blatant allegations against him, details about what he teaches have been twisted.

    In class, he never once endorsed liberation theology as being correct. However, he did explain it and discuss it’s important history in the black church in America.

    In class, he never once said that gay marriage was theologically right. However, he strongly believed that we should advocate for the rights of the LGBT community & ensure that they are not mistreated in the name of Jesus Christ. We should not hold non-believers to Christian standards (1 Corinthians 5:12-13) and we should treat those we disagree with respectfully and lovingly (Matthew 5:43-48)

    In class, we did talk about racism, oppression, refugees, immigration, and treatment of the poor amongst us.. The fact that you label these as “liberal causes” rather than issues that our LORD addresses throughout the canon of Scripture is baffling to me.

    • Eric Bartl

      Hi Olivia. Thanks for sharing your perspective. What do you think about this student’s experience in Urban Studies and the racial animosity that was stirred up? https://thebrokentwig.wixsite.com/snap/single-post/2017/12/14/Student-Exposes-MBIs-Liberal-Shift Are you drawing a distinction between gay marriage being theologically right and politically right? As in it is theologically wrong but politically right because unbelievers should not be held to Christian standards? Is that what you mean by mistreating the lgbt community and violating their rights, that is what opposing gay marriage does? Also you did not mention abortion. Mr. Craigen has made posts supporting Planned Parenthood and abortion. Has he ever talked about Planned Parenthood in class? Do you think killing babies is another matter by which unbelievers should not be held to Christian standards?

  15. Olivia R

    I also love + respect Dr. Weber and many of the other professors who lost their jobs. The financial dishonesty and department politics need to be addressed & there needs to be justice for all involved. However in times like this, I’m not sure that “blogs” help to do anything besides stir up gossip/speculation and probably do more damage than good when it comes to Moody’s current situation.

  16. VanMoodySenior

    Friends, I don’t try to be negative. I am a lover and not a fighter. Was it really wise for Moody to fire Julie Roys when the President and Provost resigned? How does this make Moody look to the world? As we learned with Nixon, it wasn’t the seriousness of the charge which was the problem it was the cover up. This is not to say that Julie herself might not have wanted to remain at Moody because she reported things that were negative. But in my view it should have been left to her.

  17. An edit must be made: Jean Penfound was a former professor of Lifetime Fitness and Sports Ministry (a program that Moody cut entirely)

    Moody Grad c/o ’17

  18. Debby Mason

    Julie, ss a regular donor to Moody and a listener to your radio program, I applaud your investigation and boldness to stand up for what is right. May God have the last word and restore the impeccable reputation of Moody Bible Institute. Be gone, Satan…you have done enough damage to one of God’s brightest and best witnesses in the whole world!!

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