Moody Statement Obscures Facts & Hides Wrongdoing

Moody Bible Institute (MBI) last week issued a statement claiming “there is no corruption, or any illegal and unethical activity taking place at Moody,” adding “it is false to characterize” the institute’s actions in this way.  Though MBI offered very few facts to refute the evidence of wrongdoing I presented in blogs on Jan 9 and Jan 18, it nonetheless sought to leave an impression that all is well at the institute.

However, all is not well, and Moody’s latest statement has only further muddied the waters. The $500,000 loan to former President Paul Nyquist is legally questionable, and certainly ethically wrong.  The institute has given no evidence to refute first-hand accounts that Trustee Jerry Jenkins used a Moody-owned apartment as his own.  And clearly, some MBI faculty profess postmodern views that appear to contradict the institute’s doctrine of inerrancy. 

As I wrote in a previous post, it was my desire from the beginning for MBI to deal with these and other issues internally and then to communicate openly and transparently about them with supporters, alumni, students, and employees. Instead, the MBI board decided to deny many of its problems, though it simultaneously removed the institute’s three top officers, leaving many confused.  

That confusion persists, and Moody’s latest statement obscuring the facts has not helped.  

The Loan to Nyquist

MBI claims that the $500,000 loan it gave to former President Paul Nyquist to buy a $1.08 million condo violated no IRS rules and complied with an Illinois statute, which allows “this type of principal resident loan.”  It also said, “Dr. Nyquist has been faithfully paying” the 4% loan.

“The existence of an exception is not the issue.  The issue is whether Nyquist’s loan meets the criteria for the exception – and it does not.”

Part of this statement is true.  As I reported in my initial blog post, the IRS allows for an exception to its prohibition on loans to so-called “disqualified persons” (officers or directors of a non-profit), provided the compensation is “reasonable and necessary to carrying out the exempt purpose” of the organization. Similarly, Illinois law allows an exemption, provided the loan is for a primary residence.

The existence of an exception is not the issue.  The issue is whether Nyquist’s loan meets the criteria for the exception – and it does not.    

The reason for the exception in both the state and federal law is to help someone of meager means – a poor pastor, for example – to take a position with a church or nonprofit in an area with prohibitively high-priced housing.  It is not intended to help executives like Nyquist making more than $300,000/year to buy a condo worth twice the median value of homes in the area.

This is an abuse of the exception, and likely would not pass the “reasonable and necessary” IRS standard under the scrutiny of an audit. The loan puts MBI at risk of a hefty IRS fine, and could even jeopardize its nonprofit status.

In addition, saying that Nyquist has been faithfully paying the loan is deceptive.  Yes, he has been paying interest on the loan. But from 2009-2016 (and presumably to the present), he has paid back zero principal.  This is crucial because as an expert in non-profit law noted in my first piece, if the principal on a loan to an officer is not paid back, then it “puts it into the category of self-dealing.”

I first discovered Nyquist’s loan a couple years ago when I visited the Charity Navigator website. The group no longer rates tuition-based institutions, but at the time had a rating for MBI, which included a red “X” calling attention to Moody’s questionable practice of loaning money to an officer.  

According to the site, “Making loans to related parties such as key officers, staff, or Board members, is not standard practice in the sector as it may divert the charity’s funds away from its charitable mission and can lead to real and perceived conflict-of-interest problems. This practice is discouraged by sector trade groups which point to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act when they call for charities to refrain from making loans to directors and executives.”

So apparently, Nyquist’s loan is questionable from a legal standpoint, but it’s clearly wrong from an ethical and best practices standpoint.  Also, it should be noted that this half-a-million-dollar loan was granted at a time when MBI was experiencing an acute financial crisis and cutting jobs.

Jenkins’ Use of the “Moody-Owned Apartment”

MBI’s statement about Trustee Jerry Jenkins’ use of the luxury apartment on the top floor of Jenkins Hall was telling not just for what it said, but for what it didn’t say. In response to the myriad of details I offered about Jenkins’ alleged inappropriate used of the apartment from 2000-2008, MBI offered one line of explanation: “Contrary to what some have said, the Moody-owned apartment was used by the Institute to host visits to campus by (Jenkins) as well as other Moody staff and guests.”

“Supposedly, MBI conducted an investigation into Jenkins’ use of the apartment and cleared Jenkins of any wrongdoing.  However, I have repeatedly asked MBI to produce documentation of this investigation, but to date, MBI has failed to do so.”

No one is disputing whether the apartment was used to host guests other than Jenkins after 2008.  (That’s when a whistleblower reportedly ended Jenkins’ practice of using the apartment as his “second home.”)  The questionable use happened from 2000-2008. And it’s telling that MBI didn’t expressly refute Jenkins’ inappropriate use during that time. 

I have now offered testimony from two former managers at Moody claiming first-hand knowledge that Jenkins took liberties with the apartment and treated it as his own. I also have corroborated these allegations with other former managers, who did not want to go on the record.

Supposedly, MBI conducted an investigation into Jenkins’ use of the apartment and cleared Jenkins of any wrongdoing.  However, I have repeatedly asked MBI to produce documentation of this investigation, but to date, MBI has failed to do so.

Interestingly, it was only one business day after I sent emails to MBI executives and board members asking about Jenkins’ use of the apartment and the questionable loan to Nyquist that I was fired and MBI tried to seize my computer. If the institute had nothing to hide, it’s odd that it responded in this heavy-handed manner.

Also, firing an employee for blowing the whistle on suspected wrongdoing is illegal. According to Guidestar, “The (Sarbanes-Oxley) Act protects whistle blowers who risk their careers by reporting suspected illegal activities in the organization. It is illegal for a corporate entity—for-profit and nonprofit alike—to punish the whistle blower in any manner.”  So if Moody wants to claim no wrongdoing, it not only must account for its financial dealings, but also for firing me for threatening to expose them.

Failing to Address Issues About Inerrancy & Theological Drift

In response to allegations that some Moody professors reject biblical inerrancy, Moody stated that “it grieves us that some of our faculty have been falsely accused of being in direct opposition to Moody’s stated beliefs and mission.”  In addition Moody stated, “When an employee’s actions or beliefs regarding this doctrine are questioned, they are thoroughly examined and addressed in a timely and correct manner.”

This statement is false and MBI leaders know it.

As I wrote in an post published last week, two MBI professors hold a postmodern view of truth that rejects the common-sense claim that truth corresponds to reality.  In other words, they do not believe that what the Bible says happened, necessarily happened. 

These professors also reject the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, a consensus document created by conservative scholars to defend inerrancy and signed by nearly 300 noted evangelical scholars.  This statement also is the official definition of inerrancy held by the Evangelical Theological Society.

Moody administration is well aware of these professors’ views, and has been for more than a year.  Yet rather than addressing the issue in a “timely and correct manner,” two Moody vice presidents refused a request by Theology Professor Rich Weber to clarify whether Moody’s definition of inerrancy is compatible with these professors’ views.  Similarly, former President Paul Nyquist failed to clarify the issue when Weber appealed to him.

The professors with this postmodern view of truth and Scripture continue to teach at MBI and one has written theology curriculum for Moody Distance Learning.  Weber, on the other hand, has been stripped of all his classroom responsibilities and is slated to be let go at the end of the semester.

Unfortunately, this failure of MBI leadership to address serious theological concerns, and seemingly censure those who raise them, is not isolated.

“Maybe Moody does want to be that open and have people who have those kinds of positions . . . But I don’t think it’s something that the administration wants to be publicly known.”

Moody Theology Professor Kevin Zuber told me that he and two other professors once sent a letter to a Moody dean after hearing audio of a sermon that a colleague had given promoting a social gospel.  “The thrust of (the sermon) was, ‘We’re missing the point in seeking to convert people,’” Zuber said. The professor instead advocated “trying to change systems, not trying to change people.”

Zuber also said that he and two colleagues sent a letter to a Moody dean about another professor who “didn’t hold to some of the historical aspects of Genesis” and asserted that Peter didn’t write 2 Peter.

Both times, Zuber said the administration didn’t seem to take the complaints seriously.  The dean responded with a letter saying he had talked to the professors in question and was satisfied with their answers, but didn’t offer any specifics.  According to Zuber, the professors in question didn’t appear to have changed their positions.

“Maybe Moody does want to be that open and have people who have those kinds of positions,” Zuber said.  “But I don’t think it’s something that the administration wants to be publicly known. And the more difficult part is the way that they handled it.  It’s basically like . . . ‘We’ll handle it from here. Okay, we’re done.’ But was it done with a sanctified skepticism or, ‘Let’s see if we can brush this under the rug as quickly as possible’? I think the latter was how we felt it was done. . . . And subtly, it felt like having brought the concerns, it sort of made us suspect.”

Why the Change in Leadership?

These few examples are just a small sample of the mountain of disconcerting evidence that has been presented to trustees concerning issues at MBI. I know from talking to trustees in the weeks leading up to the shakeup in leadership that the failure of the previous administration to address these theological issues (and others) was a major concern for them. Yet now, MBI is denying that these issues ever existed, and I admit, I am profoundly confused.

However, as is evident in these accounts, the problems at MBI don’t just concern the top three leaders who stepped down, but extend to vice presidents and deans who remain at MBI.  So the housecleaning not only needs to extend up to the board of trustees, but also down to VPs and deans. And this, I suspect, is the rub. People want to keep their positions, regardless of the cost to the institution.  I sincerely hope this changes for the good of everyone involved.

Moody ended its statement with a call to prayer and unity, and I agree that for the sake of the gospel, that’s what is required.  But unity requires dealing with sin, not denying it.  So please MBI leadership, own and name your mistakes.  And then let’s move on with a clean slate and fresh vision.

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60 thoughts on “Moody Statement Obscures Facts & Hides Wrongdoing

  1. Benjamin J Chung

    Julie, it has just occurred to me that you are functioning in a consistent fundamentalist mode, that allows for a supernatural intervention and your system is an open system where God and other divine aid would come to your aid, if you chose to walk the plank and do His will. That is why you insist on the purity of their conduct and doctrine. Inerrancy is the thorny issue here and you have already had a few of them fired from disagreeing with your rigid statement by that Chicago thing. If you are a true believer, would it not be the right attitude to have ‘God arise and his enemies be scattered?” This active defending the truth on behalf of an almighty God is puzzling to me as a formerly fundamentalist. We did what we had to, because God would not come to our aid. He has been absent all these years, until you came along and dig up all these dirt and mis-conducts. Where is the God of the Bible in all of this? Unless, he is asleep and needs to be awaken?

    A fundamentalist whose middle name is Bible, should be able to allow for an open system that supernatural intervention and answer to prayers, and He would act decisively against the ‘evil doers’ and cast them out and punish them. I am not asking the fire and brimstone sorta way. But you get my idea. But God has not chosen to act, you have, what does that say about your faith in an all knowing and all-powerful God?

    Unless, there is a possibility of a closed system, that God does not act in human history, we have the secularists claim this on the other side. So, they are actively monitoring wrong doings and make things right. Moody is a business, and the Board has to function as a business. The sad note you have been told is that low enrollment has just begun, and over the next few years, more decline will come. It is not about a simple answer of purity of doctrines will solve this decline of Christian education. We have been there with Prairie bible Institute, where our former President Ohlhauser made a whole lot less money than your former President. We were the purists and the decline kept coming. The fact is, bible has no market value, it has a spiritual value and supposedly answers to humanity’s deepest sins. Or so we claim. But the decline is due to a shift in the attitude of the age. Who would spend at least $100,000 over four years for something they could not afford, or do anything with after graduation, except in the fundamentalist camp? There is no market for it. You have to supplement it with something more attractive than the bible degree, so Chapman Centre makes perfect sense. You just flatly deny that possibility. In my time, Prairie College of Applied Arts and Technology is the answer, after we shut down our seminary, and our high school. We are down to a stable 235. Our decline continues.

    Could it be, that in this closed system of no divine aid, and angels, that is trend, as the Board and the president is trying to tell you. Moody cannot keep the number of 3500 kids, if the applications drop from 1200 to 900 and continues to do so. Moody will be forced on her knees in less than a decade. Liberty University has a better attraction than you do because it providers employable degrees. Moody will go into a steady decline after this fight, more will be scared away as you keep going. I know you are a fundamentalist, and you believe in the God of the bible. Could it be that your God has chosen to side with modernity and its trends? Decline would be His will because we have forgotten why we are in this war, and you are shooting at people who deeply care about the message and the institution as you do? We can all disagree, but rocking the boat, proposing a way to operate Moody at a non-business principle of faith, that would surely guarantee Moody’s steady decline, and it could accelerate it. Maybe some more allegations would come forward, maybe the sexual abuse from years ago would come forward, and more evils would show up. As this great fundamentalist organizations goes into decline, all these will surface. We had to deal with our past sexual abuse victims, in a denial sorta way.

    Where are you in this? The fewer comments and readers you get, the less this fight is important. Maybe it is time to reconcile with the Board, apologize for this impulsive behaviour, and bring this to a close. Mr Jenkins is not the devil himself, he is just a human being who enjoys gambling and perhaps drinking fine wine and having a good steak and watch the Super Bowl. Is this the openly sins you can point out about him? The former President is not the devil either, he had to endure allegations and the false accusations and received nasty alumni comments, what do you think that does to his psyche, to a man whose life is in Moody and fundamentalist faith? And he walks away from the school, knowing that he had failed, this school will continue to go into decline. What do you think those on the Board are doing? Praying or celebrating the decline? The moment has come, and I think you should consider wrap this up and apologize for this behaviour that causes more to stumble. Truth demands honesty. True Christ like behaviour is not the accusative mode. It’s called, Love your enemies, and St Paul concurred on this, do good to those who despitefully used you. That is Christianity in its fundamentalist core, that is my faith.

    • Keith Call

      Benjamin, was John demonstrating “true Christlike behavior” when he called out the gnosticism infecting the early church? What about Paul handing Hymenaeus and Alexander over to Satan? For that matter, was Jesus demonstrating “true Christlike behavior” when he quite pointedly challenged the Pharisees and the Sadducees and aggressively overthrew the moneychangers in the temple? Shouldn’t John, Jesus and Paul have simply prayed and let God the Father do these unpleasant tasks?

    • Benjamin, the fact that God does not act immediately to conquer his enemies is no proof that they are not in the wrong. God has reasons for not judging people immediately. Jesus could have called twelve legions of angels to prevent his crucifixion, but then he would not have fulfilled his mission to be our savior (Mat 26:53-54).

      God allows men time to repent before he steps in and judges them (Rom 2:4-5). During that time, he sends his messengers to exhort them to repent of their sins (Mat 23:34-35). Julie is doing nothing different than obeying the scriptural command to …

      “… be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,…”
      2 Timothy 4:2-3

      The Bible is God’s Word. If it is not infallible, then it is not authoritative. If it is not authoritative, then it is nothing more than options and suggestions that can be ignored or adopted according to the whims of the reader.

      But Jesus and the apostles did not view the Bible this way. Whenever they wished to settle a matter of dispute, they would invoke the scriptures: “For what does scripture say?” (Rom 4:3) and “It is written…” (Mat 4:7) and “Have you not read?” (Mat 12:3). Such statements appear literally hundreds of time in scripture. Why would they speak and write this way unless they firmly believed that scripture was the final authority on all such matters? Paul explains this in 2 Tim 3:16 when he says that scripture is “theopneustos”–“God-breathed”. Scripture is the word of God the very same as if God had visibly appeared to us and spoken those words. They lose nothing by having been delivered through human agents, for “… men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Pet 1:21).

      And yes, in those days, God was working in direct, miraculous ways: healing the sick, raising the dead, giving instructions where to go (Acts 16:9-10) or whom to send (Acts 13:2). One of the miraculous ways that God worked was to “carry along” the human authors of scripture so that they wrote down exactly the words God wanted them to say.

      Jesus and his apostles clearly had a “fundamentalist” view of scriptural authority. To reject Biblical inerrancy (in the sense articulated in the Chicago Statement) is to depart from the apostolic faith.

    • Gum Boocho

      Dear Mr. Chung,

      It always hurts my ears to hear someone use “fundamentalist” as a slur word or to hurl it as ad hominem in a debate. For me “fundamentalist” implies belief in the fundamentals of the faith (Trinity, theanthropic union, Bible is God’s word — a few basics), & allowing disagreement on many other issues without breaking fellowship; Fundamentalist is the pole vs modernist. The term has been turned into a slur word, however; even to designate Islamist terrorists, who to my knowledge do not call themselves that, & to denote being cranky with legalistic rules.

      I really don’t know what open system vs closed system has to do with this. Is this sophistry? I don’t know how any of us can explain why God does this or that, hurls the lightning bolt or waits his time. Also, we don’t know what God is doing. Appealing to His action or inaction is futile IMHO.

      It depends on what IS means. “Moody is a business.” Should we say that DL is rotating in his grave to hear that? Somehow it escapes my knowledge where the Bible judges things by market. $100,000? My Bible College cost nothing like that, & we had to pay tuition. But IMHO there is something to be said to going back to the old Bible Institute model; just getting an economical preparation for a ministry. But there is a market for skillful expositors of scripture and sermonators in the midst of what IMHO is a sea of boring drones.

      I don’t know of any particular connection of Bible Colleges with sex abuse, tho all kinds of sin is possible anywhere. Neither do I have sympathy with the recent idea that people who run a College are supposed to act as agents of the police in matters which they had no action promoting nor witnessed.

      Is that the sin of judging, calling behavior “impulsive”? How do you know how much thought and prayer may have gone into it?

      As to gambling, though I oppose it as folly & while I don’t know of any scripture that addresses it directly, you can probably make a Bible case against wasting money, which gambling does. Some widow does not make contributions to MBI out of her social security to finance gamblers.

      Actually the command to love neighbor as self in Leviticus is in context of rebuking the neighbor.

      I am not sure that you have a right to bring in Christ and Paul as endorsing your POV.

  2. Susan Vonder Heide

    I don’t know all of the ins and outs of the concerns expressed by Julie or by anybody else but when somebody is fired for expressing concerns about an institution that probably means that the institution feels insecure about people expressing concerns. MBI has done a lot of things well over the years but that does not mean that it is or ever has been infallible.

  3. Bob

    The decline of enrollment in bible colleges will be seen further in part because Generation Z (born between 1999 and 2015) are atheistic and “more than any other generation before them, Gen Z does not assert a religious identity.” This is the next group of college age students coming up quickly. Trust me, not only are they not interested in religion in general, they are especially not interested in religious in fighting and hair splitting theological debates. Moody’s enrollment will decline, so will other Bible colleges. Moody will be forced to charge tuition or to cut faculty more.

    https://www.barna.com/research/atheism-doubles-among-generation-z/

  4. William Orris

    Julie
    In additions to the three points mentioned there also should be a reminder that the downward spiral may have commenced back in 2013 or so when the Trustee Board removed the staff constraints dealing with alcohol, and gambling. Then as the financial condition continued to grow worse, the pitfalls of soliciting monetary assistance from the government should known and understood. Apparently the Trustee Board are unable to humble themselves and publically admit to carnal decisions and pride of position to the Christian community and ask us for help. Oh, they would of had to make other tough decisions that probably were also embarrassing and they just couldn’t admit publically to having been deceived. Tragic to say the least. I’m personally aware that a few current students are of the opinion that within 5 years we won’t recognize a graduating Moody student. If that’s the case, the entire Board should resign.

  5. Gum Boocho

    “I still believe in the church” You probably men the Church, the Body of Christ. Christ is the Head of that (the only ) Church. We must trust Him. But the humans in the Church? Jeremiah puts a curse on trusting in man. I would surely not trust in Christendom; keep the area under thy 5th rib covered.

    I find it hard to judge the salaries of Christian administrators nor giving a leader a home in MBI, which facilitates his work for MBI. IMHO this is something to discuss internally; James 1 wisdom is required. Should a woman in the Church teach men on this? I could see giving an opinion: I don’t see how this behavior is consistent with this scripture.

    I am not sure that improving the doctrinal statement will stop heresy; men find mental gymnastics to sign things, depends on what IS means. If you have too long & complicated a statement on theopneustos, you are likely to end up with something some honest intellectual Christians don’t want to sign. A simple statement on God’s Word should suffice as inerrant & infallible. You may learn more by having the prospective faculty member write out his own POV and by interrogating: Do you believe Paul wrote the letters which claim him? Who wrote 2 Peter? Are there historical inaccuracies in the Bible?

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