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.”
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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.