Update, 7/1/2012: BJU has changed the fourth session from “Embracing Christ’s View of Children” to “Applying Grace and Truth to Hard Issues”. The new session will also be hosted by David Shumate.
In apparent response to constant criticism from alumni, the media and the public, BJU has planned a conference this November on dealing with sexual abuse in the church. BJU and its networked churches have come under increasing scrutiny in the last few years as former students and members of those churches have told stories of hidden abuse and mistreatment stemming from systematic mismanagement of such situations. The most famous example was, of course, the trial of Ernie Willis, who was for years allowed to remain a member of a BJU-affiliated church despite being a known rapist. Then-BJU-board-member Chuck Phelps was at the center of that story, and former members of IFB churches feel many similar stories could be told.
Critics of the University may appreciate that such a conference is being held, but the speaker lineup could prove controversial. A repeated request from those critics has been for a third-party review of BJU’s sexual abuse policies and for outside groups such as RAINN or the local Julie Valentine Center to assist with constructing a new, more transparent policy to replace decades of perceived ignorance on the topic both at BJU and its feeder churches. The committee convened earlier this year to review BJU’s sexual abuse policy was an in-house effort, and although an outside ombudsman was promised, it seemed another sign that BJU’s attempts to clean house are all too familiar and incomplete.
This conference won’t break that mold. Every single speaker comes from the BJU fold and several are current employees.
Although BJU neglected to include most of them, we have dug up BJU associations on almost all the speakers and listed them below.
Session 1: “Facing the Challenges”
Dr. Dave Shumate, current director of BJU-affiliated Mission Gospel Ministries International, former BJU faculty member, former associate pastor of BJU-affiliated Faith Baptist Church. Also secretary of FBFI, serves on the board there with Phelps.
Session 2: “Understanding the World of an Abused Child”
Rev. Bob Crawford, BJU grad and also former pastor of the same BJU-affiliated church as Shumate. So intertwined is the IFB network that Shumate and Crawford appear to have pastored at the same church and also held the same post at FBFI.
Session 3: “Partnering with CPS & Law Enforcement”
Sgt. Ty Bracken Miller, BJU News was not able to locate any information on Mr. Miller. This LinkedIn profile appears to belong to him but has been removed.
Session 4: “Embracing Christ’s View of Children”
Dr. Steve Hankins, Dean of BJU’s School of Religion and Head of its Seminary. Holds three degrees from BJU and has years of experience pastoring in BJU-affiliated churches. Has held positions at numerous BJU-related ministries and fellowships.
Session 5: “Establishing Church Policies”
Mr. Daniel Hicks, BJU grad and board member at BJU-affiliated Valor Conservatory. Mr. Hicks was also Chief Advancement Officer at BJU, but that position appears to have been eliminated. Notably, Mr. Hicks is also responsible for assisting with donations to the Hispanic Assistance Fund, whose goal is “to see more Hispanic students enrolled at BJU to be trained for the service of Jesus Christ.” Mr. Hicks does not seem qualified to speak on the specific legal issue of sexual abuse outside of his general legal experience and, more importantly, his deep connections to the University.
Session 6: “Counseling the Abused”
Mrs. Debi Pryde, author and speaker in IFB churches. Known mostly for her work in the area of women’s counseling, her daughter is a BJU graduate and her books are sold in the BJU bookstore. Hosts seminars in BJU-affiliated churches and camps. Mrs. Pryde is a known proponent of Nouthetic Counseling, a technique which may prove controversial on the topic of abuse because it dismisses mainstream psychology in favor of a “biblical” model.
Session 7: “Handling Church-Media Relations”
Session 9: “Meeting Trauma with Greater Trust”
Dr. Ken Casillas, current BJU faculty. Holds three degrees from BJU and has pastored at several area BJU-affiliated churches and served at various related ministries.