Since I pointed to Chuck Phelps’ presence on the BJU board as evidence that fundamentalism doesn’t treat mishandling of sexual abuse cases with the same level of outrage and alarm that the culture in general today, I thought I should inform you all that Phelps has stepped down from his position on the board. It seems that one of the factors in his decision was an online petition that was circulating concerning Phelps and his presence on any board of higher institution. I was unaware of that petition until Friday.
I had noticed Bob Jones University’s defense of Chuck Phelps [which has now been taken down from their website, apparently], and was saddened to see they showed little sympathy or concern for the abused but rather seemed to jump to defend one of their “good old boys”. Bob Bixby gives a fuller account of both the petition and the board’s role in this “defense” of Phelps.
I am not happy to see this whole matter unfold how it has. I wish the whole event wouldn’t have happened in the first place. Phelps could have handled the abuse case better, and since it happened years ago, he could have admitted he made some serious mistakes and apologize – and thereby teach many onlookers how to handle such situations with grace and also to bolster the cause for a clearer and more direct response to these situations by fundamentalist pastors. Sadly this did not happen.
I think that it is high time that fundamentalism wakes up to how devastating to one’s reputation mishandling of abuse cases really should be, and how horrific a crime these sorts of allegations (of sexual abuse) really are. Fundamentalists are all to ready to excuse leaders because they don’t have all the facts or because they’ve done their legal duty. But there is a further moral duty which fundamentalists often do not undertake. Tim Henderson, of Campus Crusade for Christ, talks of “the deficiency of love” in response to the Penn State scandals. And there seems to be a similar problem in some degree, with the response that Fundamentalist leaders and institutions often have to cases of alleged abuse. Let this whole affair be a wake up call to our God-given duty to defend the weak and help the hurting, rather than defend those in places of prominence and power.