The Moody Bible Institute (MBI) today announced it will hire an independent firm to investigate allegations that MBI mishandled sexual abuse and harassment reported by students. The institute also said that it is removing its dean of students, Tim Arens, from disciplinary responsibilities and Rachel Puente from her role as Title IX coordinator.
The allegations were published Friday night in an open letter and petition at change.org. Also, linked in the letter was a Google document containing the accounts of three former MBI students who claimed that Arens and Puente had mishandled their sex abuse cases.
Since then, seven more current and former students have added their stories to the Google document. The petition has also garnered more than 2,600 signatures and dozens of comments.
In today’s President’s Chapel, MBI President Mark Jobe expressed sorrow over the allegations and a commitment to make any necessary changes.
“I’m deeply saddened to hear that there are victims on our own campus who feel like their voices over the years were not heard, or that proper safety measures were not taken to ensure their well being . . . ” Jobe said. “I want you to know that I am fully committed to ensure that all our campuses are not only safe for all of our students, but also a place that takes seriously the voice of victims and follows through in dealing with abuse of any kind.”
Jobe also urged people not to “jump to conclusions or cast judgment before we have all the facts.”
“I have always known Tim (Arens) to be a man of character (and) integrity that cares for students and loves God,” Jobe said. He added that Rachel Puente has been described to him by many as a “compassionate advocate for those that are hurting.”
Jobe added that “there’s no evidence at this time that would point to institutional cover-up of abuse of any kind.”
The plan to address the alleged issues at Moody was explained in further detail during today’s chapel by MBI Provost Dr. Dwight Perry.
Perry said that MBI would seek to hire a firm to conduct the independent investigation that has specific Title IX experience. (Title IX is a federal civil rights law passed in 1972 that protects people from discrimination in education programs and activities.)
Perry added that MBI would ask the firm to thoroughly review MBI’s Title IX Office, as well as investigate the allegations associated with the online petition and Moody’s response to those allegations.
Perry emphasized, however, that these actions did not mean that Dean Arens or Rachel Puente have “done anything inappropriate.”
“It is important as a Christian community, we believe the victim unless otherwise proven false—and that we also verify the veracity of any allegation against anyone in our community,” Perry said. “So, then we walk in both truth and love.”
Perry also said the institute would randomly select students from various student groups to participate in the process to replace Dean Arens. (Arens announced in August that he would resign at the end of the 2020-2021 school year.)
Perry said the institute would also look at restructuring the Title IX office to provide “much more support” than in the past. He added that MBI would meet with mental health professionals and discuss how to “provide immediate support to those who are hurting” and how to integrate these professionals into the Title IX process.
Perry said Moody would share the name of the firm once it is selected and promised to provide periodic updates throughout the process. He said Moody would announce an interim Title IX coordinator to serve in Puente’s absence by Tuesday of next week.
Response to Abuse Survivors
The abuse survivors who organized the online petition posted an update on Monday saying that they have been “overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and heartbroken by the stories many of you have shared of similar experiences.
The survivors also said that they have reached out to President Jobe, “asking him to meet with us to hear our stories and discuss how we move forward to make Moody a place that is safe for all students.” The survivors tweeted that as of Tuesday evening, they are in contact with MBI.
This story has been updated.