Three Top Leaders are Out, But Has Anything Really Changed at Moody Bible Institute?

Last week, the president and chief operating officer at the Moody Bible Institute (MBI) resigned, and the provost retired.  And like me, many who were concerned about the serious issues at MBI felt some relief.  But a week after those major changes, it’s painfully clear that much remains the same at MBI.  Here’s why:

  1. Despite evidence showing clear wrongdoing on the part of the trustees, not one trustee has stepped down. 

    This is unconscionable given the severity of the board’s missteps.  Board Chair Randy Fairfax, a certified financial planner, has admitted that he was integrally involved in the board’s decision to give former President Paul Nyquist a $500,000 loan in 2009 to buy a $1.08 million condo in violation of IRS rules. Not only should Fairfax step down, but so should every board member who approved that loan.

    Fairfax and Trustees Jerry Jenkins and Juli Slattery also failed to investigate the serious allegations against former President Paul Nyquist’s administration when they first received evidence of them.  They also failed to inform the rest of the board of these allegations. 

    Had faculty members and I not investigated and reported the situation ourselves, the board would have done nothing.  And stunningly, when I first reported the contents of my investigation to the board, Fairfax and Jenkins were more interested in reproving me for violating some unwritten “protocol” than actually dealing with the situation.  This failure also is serious enough to warrant resigning.

    In addition, Jenkins also has admitted to gambling in casinos in 2013. He also reportedly used a luxury suite on MBI’s campus from about 2000-2008 as his family’s “second home” – another violation of IRS rules.

    Making matters even worse, Jenkins continues to deny that he considered the suite to be his own, or that he maintained it for his “exclusive use.” This contradicts the testimony of Konrad Finck, former facilities manager at MBI.  It also contradicts the testimony of former Operations Manager for Moody Radio Tim Svoboda, who recently told me a story confirming that Jenkins used the top-floor suite as his own.

    Svoboda said that about 10 years ago, he was told he would be allowed to stay in “Jerry Jenkins’ apartment” when he was on campus for a conference because Jenkins was going to be gone for a couple of nights.  “I can’t remember any specific person telling me it was Jerry’s apartment,” Svoboda said.  “It was just a well-known thing that it was Jerry’s apartment.”

    However, Svoboda said that when his wife opened the door of the apartment, she was startled to find Jenkins’ wife in the living room.  Embarrassed, Svoboda’s wife quickly exited the apartment and the couple found other arrangements for the evening.

    Clearly, Jenkins’ use of the suite in Jenkins Hall did not conform to IRS rules, which allow board members to use their organization’s facilities only when performing official business.  Rather than denying this fact, Jenkins needs to own it, apologize – and step down.  

  2. The new administration has not tried to rectify my wrongful dismissal for simply investigating and reporting wrongdoing within the institute.

    Instead, MBI recently announced the cancellation of my radio show, Up for Debate, stating: “After much prayer and careful consideration, Moody Radio has ceased production of Up for Debate.  We are grateful to the Lord for how He has used the program to equip listeners to discern various matters of the Christian life through the lens of Scripture, and we look forward to continue ministering to you through our other programs.” 

  3. The man who fired me, Greg Thornton, is the new interim president, which indicates that the new administration isn’t really new.

    MBI just moved some members of the past administration up the totem pole, and the culture of intimidation and punishing whistleblowers continues.

  4. Rich Weber, the theology professor who submitted a 65-page document detailing the serious issues with President Paul Nyquist’s administration at the request of a trustee, has had all his “teaching and other faculty responsibilities” reassigned.

    According to Interim Provost and Dean of Education John Jelinek, Weber is “no longer expected to be on campus.”

    I emailed Jelinek asking for an explanation for Weber’s reassignment, but he didn’t reply.  However, Weber’s reassignment came a day and a half after I posted an article on inerrancy that cited Weber.  The piece also reported that Weber believed that the previous administration had targeted him for dismissal at the end of the year because he had raised issues about theological drift at MBI.

    I took that post down at Weber’s insistence because he was concerned about how it was being received. I plan to repost that article in some form because the issues surrounding inerrancy at the institute are real and important.  But I am concerned about the consequences specific professors face if, and when, I cite them. The environment at MBI is clearly toxic.

  5. More than 30 faculty members remain slated for termination at the end of the semester, despite some of them alleging that their firing was retribution for challenging the past administration.

    Weber is not the only faculty member who believes he was targeted in the latest cuts because he challenged the administration in some way. Others have raised these issues, as well.

    I sent an email to Randy Fairfax asking him if the board intends to suspend the layoffs until further review, but he did not respond. The board needs to address this issue immediately.

  6. Perhaps most stunning, no one in leadership at MBI has admitted any wrongdoing – none. It’s as though they removed the top three officers at the institute simply on a whim.

     

    Fairfax said the board removed the institute’s three top leaders merely because “it is time for a new season of leadership.”  Fairfax emphasized that “the Board of Trustees holds these three men in high regard for their ethical, moral, and spiritual leadership” and feels “deep gratitude for their years of faithful service to Christ and to Moody.”

    Similarly, interim President Greg Thornton seems completely confused as to why anything happened.  “We’re still processing through the why of all of this,” he told Chris Fabry on his radio show last Thursday. “There’s no wrongdoing going on.  The board was aware of opportunities for improvement. . . . The why behind it is a bit of a mystery.” 

    After more than 10 years at MBI, I’ve become accustomed to the corporate speak and spiritualizing that leadership regularly employs to massage the truth. But this latest volley of fabrications elevates the practice to a whole new level of absurdity.

    No board abruptly removes its organization’s top three officers without grounds for doing so.  If it did, the entire board should resign due to sheer incompetence. 

    Sadly, MBI’s deceptive response reveals its leaders’ complete inability to tell the truth and to confess and repent of sin.  This is tragic, especially considering that the institute ostensibly is committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. MBI leaders need to tell the truth and own their sin. Until they do, the institute will continue its death spiral.

    As 2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” MBI leaders have exhibited worldly sorrow, not repentance.  True repentance involves naming and confessing specific sin.  And these leaders, both at the board level and administrative level, have done wrong. They need to own it. Confess it. And change their ways.

    Fortunately, we serve a God who grants second chances.  No one at MBI committed an unpardonable sin.  Yes, the bad – and even unethical – decisions may disqualify certain persons from top leadership at MBI.  But God offers forgiveness to those who repent.  So please encourage the leadership of MBI to do it, and to give MBI a fighting chance to rebuild – for its sake. For the sake of the students, donors, employees and alumni. And for the sake of God’s Kingdom. 

 

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62 thoughts on “Three Top Leaders are Out, But Has Anything Really Changed at Moody Bible Institute?

  1. Benjamin J Chung

    and if someone could help me to correct some grammatical errors, I hit the send button too quick!

  2. L. Colleen Marvin

    I appreciated your writing about Moody and shedding light on an otherwise shrouded leadership. There seems to be an attitude among the top leadership that they are placed in a position of power to lord over the pions of students and their parents. They are untruthful when asked straight questions and behave as if they do not have to answer to those who are outside of their culture and hierarchy, and all the while using their brand of spirituality to distance themselves from those who pay their bills, us.
    Pretty much every interaction I’ve had with moody leadership on the administrative level , has left me feeling like a subservient. The gold is In the instructors, There are some good ones, those who actually understand and care for their students. These are the ones who make a difference, those who value the students who are strong individuals who realize their potential lies in loving God and loving people, and pursuing their calling and not in checking theological boxes and conformity. They may look edgy, but they pursue life passionately. They place the finished work of Christ over all else, including man made religion and limitations. They are the movers and shakers and they walk with humanity daring to see real needs and deficits that only an authentic relationship with the Savior can fulfill.
    I am thankful for the few instructors who have empowered my children to trust God and not the failing, crumbling institution that would now embarrass it’s founder. Perhaps humility will come after this fall. For now , I can only deal with my own regret of funding such a fiasco of leadership, but I trust that God can use the powerful moments my kids experienced with Him, students and the few good members of Moody staff to strengthen them and prepare them for the next steps in their lives.
    I am nothing but proud of my kids and their colleagues who have stood up for themselves in the wake of this outrage. I am proud of their strength and their resilience to go on as they face the betrayal of the very institution that was meant to teach them and guide them. They have uncovered secrets and sifted truth from garbage. They will thrive in whatever life brings them next.

    • Joseph Loeffler

      A whistleblower by definition is not supposed to provide the solution, but it sure seems to me like Julie has defined what needs to happen, and it’s with the board!

      • Caroline

        I am a World reader and I appreciated their broad response to the MBI tragedy. I agree with JL ‘s response concerning Julie”s spot on recommendation about complicit board members stepping down and all guilty parties repenting so MBI can move forward and heal.

      • KM

        Agreed!

    • Bill Graham

      She doesn’t have to provide a solution. She was the solution.

  3. My point about whistleblowers is they raise awareness. They get the spotlight shined on the problem. Julie has done that. The top administrators resigned. Sure, more needs to be done, the board has questions to answer- but it’s only been a couple week! Follow up articles insisting on more be done right now is no longer whistleblowing. That’s what I mean by they don’t usually provide solutions. No offense meant by this. It’s a simple observation. I’m grateful for Julie. I just think her job is done here.

  4. Bill Graham

    I am a graduate of Moody Bible Institute. It’s sad to see these developments at an institution I loved, but it’s even more disturbing to see people attacking the people who reported the issue. If there is filth, you can’t sweep it under a rug indefinitely. People will eventually see it, and call it out.

    I have to admit something. I became agnostic a few years ago. I went to seminary after leaving Moody, and that experience was even worse. The Board of Trustees at that institution fired our president while I was there, and the excuse they offered was that he was too liberal. He was not. His real problem was that he was in the way of those who wanted to seize the seminary for their own ends.

    From my limited perspective, liberalism is not the problem at MBI. Also, if there are teachers that come to class unprepared, that is any easy problem to correct. I seriously doubt many of them are unprepared. As usual, however, it doesn’t take many bad apples to make the whole barrel look bad. The real problem is the cognitive dissonance between the imagery people entertain about their behavior and the painful, disappointing reality of their actual deeds.

    So Moody had a few professors that were perceived as liberal. During my time there, we had one or two theology professors that were also labeled as liberal. Why? Because they didn’t insist on towing a completely conservative line or allowed debate? What a joke! Even more ridiculous is the fact that Moody Bible Institute was called liberal by other evangelical schools, because it refused to enforce a King-James-only approach to bible study.

    Aside: I was a music major. What do you think people thought of me while I was there? Yes, they thought because I was a music major, I must be liberal. Even one of my theology professors thought so. I wasn’t liberal then, but I am now.

    I distinctly remember hearing one of our most conservative theology professors say that our translations weren’t inspired, but that only the original autographs bore that distinction. Later, I remembered that statement and realized something else. Do we have any original autographs? No! So what is the problem with admitting that the bible translations we read today are not inspired? If one looks at Moody’s doctrinal statements, it’s pretty obvious that MBI has long held some of these very basic positions, but that it couches them in the language of biblical inerrancy.

    See https://www.moodyglobal.org/beliefs/bible/ for what Moody currently believes on biblical inerrancy.

    Some evangelicals hold that any admission of a problem with biblical texts is a liberal position. I laugh at that. Another thing I learned at MBI, the synoptic problem, has been around for a long time. Anyone who can read the gospels side by side will easily detect not just a few problems, but hundreds of them. The same problem exists in the Hebrew canon. The fact that we have so many thousands of manuscripts and fragments not only lends credibility to the need for textual criticism, but illustrates the value of that exercise. In fact, there may be more variants than words in the biblical canon. The deeper you go into biblical research, the more questions are raised.

    You don’t have to believe in verbal, plenary inspiration to have a high view of the scriptures. You can, in fact, be liberal, and have an incredibly high view of the same. Liberal theologians find great value in biblical studies, and they devote their lives to this endeavor. The real issue is that some people have turned their bible translations into an idol. They have taken positions for which they seek confirmation bias. The scriptures they’ve always cherished seem to lend support to their positions. Serious biblical scholarship represents a threat to many of these cherished notions, and this is when charges of liberalism fly.

    The charge of liberalism at MBI rings hollow with me. Overall, I think it’s still relatively conservative as evidenced by its current doctrinal statements. I have no opinion on its current practice, because it’s been a long time since I was a student there. Of more concern, however, is the charge of financial irregularities and the sadly mistaken notion that evangelical Christianity possesses the moral high ground, and that any warts and wrinkles should be kept under wraps. What good is Christianity under such false pretense? It is worthless.

    If the charges are substantiated, and it sounds like they are, then shame on those who swept these concerns under the rug. Shame on those who fired the whistle blowers if these allegations are founded. Finally, shame on anyone who refuses to recognize that Moody Bible Institute and evangelical Christianity are subject to the same vices that plague all human beings and institutions. I loved MBI, but it has always had its wrinkles and so does evangelical Christianity.

    • Bill Graham

      I made the following statement in my original response: “I went to seminary after leaving Moody, and that experience was even worse.” Unfortunately, I failed to make the comparison clear. The object of the comparison is my seminary experience to the current news story at Moody. My time at MBI while as a student brings back good memories. I didn’t want anyone to misunderstand what I meant.

      • Hey Bill, I’d be interested in hearing your reasons for becoming agnostic some time. I run an apologetics website called BeliefMap.org; shoot me a message there (my e-mail is under ‘About Us’) and maybe we can chat some time, if you’re up for it.

        • Bill Graham

          It’s really pretty simple. I found that I could no longer agree with what I knew of Christian theology and behavior. Apologetic exercises notwithstanding, I found the Christian position lacking.

  5. I applied to Moody before all these revelations for a BS in Biblical Studies. Waiting on my acceptance. I’ll be watching closely to see if things change, however, if they don’t I’ll attend a different institution.

    • Nicole A Lee

      As a current Moody student I can say that the way the media portrays MBI right now is not an accurate reflection of the Biblical education you receive here. The profs love the Lord and there are some that are reaaally passionate about the students.

  6. Rhonda S Jones

    It looks like God is draining the swamp in the Christian world too.

  7. Phyllis Helton

    Who can we contact concerning your show being taken off however Paul Nyquist is still on Sunday mornings and I have to turn him off. He sickens me

      • Ron Redekop

        I wanted to send an email to the current Board Chair, but The Broken Twig website has been taken down. Could you send it to me? This all saddens me for many reasons, and would like to communicate some thoughts. I first attended the Moody Pastor’s Conference a dozen years ago, and found it a highlight of my pastoral life. I have gone many times since. I have appreciated the publishing and broadcasting arms of this organization, and have recommended the school to those looking at ministry. It portrayed theological integrity in a landscape that is rapidly eroding. With Moody there appeared to be a beacon of light. I am also rewriting my will and considered including Moody as a beneficiary. All the above are in question unless transparency and real change are evident. I believe I speak for the majority who are the support base for this school. While I know I don’t have all the facts, the deception has to be cleaned up… for all to see.

  8. Keith Call

    It is a bit disconcerting reading some of these replies. One post suggests that Moody must abandon its cessationism, another that the Institute fearlessly embrace more liberal perspectives. Of course, I believe both are entirely wrong and will simply further excelerate MBI’s not-inevitable death spiral, as Julie calls it. The Doctrinal Statement as presented is MBI’s beating heart. Interestingly, though I did my undergraduate degree at MBI, I completed my graduate degree at a seminary in the South which deliberately patterns itself after the “old” Moody Bible Institute, as publicly declared by its president and founder. And this seminary is doing fine, holding a solid conservative position, appealing to a discerning constituency. Perhaps an answer to MBI’s problems is that it needs to examine its own past strengths, simplifying its structure, instead of embracing “relevant” fads (such as crypto-Marxism) to which so much of evangelicalism routinely surrenders. To do so would surely be counter-intuitive for any institution because American evangelicals adore the new and flashy, but the seasoned, consecrated Christians I know (including many MBI grads and former professors) wistfully recall traditional (i.e. old fashioned) principles that have been shamefully cast aside in the past 30-40 years.

  9. I am concerned that the accusations of substance are being used to bring legitimacy to the accusations with no substance at all. If the story had only been what was verifiable from the beginning (the financial dealings), I doubt it would have roused so much attention.

    What I see in comments and on Twitter are disgruntled alumni who are irritated that their school has chosen not to submit to any political party’s agenda–which conservatives will interpret as a liberal shift. A base has been stirred up by a charge of liberalism, not by the financial charges. I don’t know that a resolution can be reached between the alumni/donors who are upset and Moody until the liberal accusations are rescinded. If the true contention with Moody’s leadership is financial and other shady dealings, then let us dispense with the baseless charges of liberal theology.

    Fellow alumni, can we please move past this idea that to be a real Christian, we have to overtly support the politics of a single party? Moody trains and sends missionaries to other countries–it is a school that attracts people who love people who are different from themselves. It should not surprise us that as a school that sends people internationally, it would not reflect nationalism.

    Moody is not going liberal. Every single professor professes inerrancy. Confessing inerrancy, no matter where on the inerrancy spectrum one is, makes them a conservative’s conservative (theologically speaking). It is simply impossible to argue that some prof’s do not hold to the “right” kind of inerrancy. Such a thing is splitting the split hair.

  10. Eric Bartl

    David Flood, these are people who care very much about Moody Bible Institute. We care about Moody Bible Institute being faithful to God, not to any political party. You have it all backwards. There are people infiltrating MBI trying to water down its biblical standards for the purpose or raising more Christian support for their political party. We are not trying to push support for any political party, we are trying to save MBI from that, and restore MBI’s faithfulness to God.

    • Eric, it sounds like you acknowledge that at least part of my point is true: What is most concerning to you is the perceived liberal shift.

      When you say, “There are people infiltrating MBI trying to water down its biblical standards for the purpose o[f] raising more Christian support for their political party,” it sounds like you believe these “people” are serving and loving students only as a means to accomplishing a political goal. That is a conspiracy theory. As a recent student, I know it is baseless.

      Can you pinpoint what it means to “water down its biblical standards?”

      Also, are you aware of the recent bombshell story from Jonathan Merritt about explicitly racist acts from white Moody students towards black students? Will you read that and then conclude that our culture does not need help reconciling? Is racial reconciliation watering down biblical standards and specific to a political party?

  11. Richard

    I am a complete outsider to MBI; I know about it, and know of the founder.

    It seems to me (simply by reading this blog) that MBI owes Julie first a “thank you”, followed by an apology; she should be reinstated (if she wishes to be).

    I read with annoyance the people that want to turn this into a discussion of alcohol, smoking, or gambling – that isn’t the point. MBI has had these moral standards for a long time; our God doesn’t change, and neither does His word. Changing the standards today because leaders are unwilling to hold to them just seems wrong. Changing the standards because we don’t believe they are any longer Biblical is (a) stating that we are today more spiritual than those saints of yesteryear, and (b) is, essentially, spitting in the face of the people who put those standards in place.

    Is MBI leadership really trying to glorify God?

    Or is MBI leadership pandering to modern ideas, trying to be “successful” by attracting modern Christians who may be offended by MBI’s standards?

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