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:
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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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