The rise of sex scandals in modern life is amazing and sad. While nothing shocks me anymore, I continue to be disappointed by the number of leaders—Christian and non-Christian—who lack integrity at high levels. It does seem that absolute power corrupts, and that corruption usually takes the form of sexual abuse.

So when the details of sex scandals emerge, we minions gobble the juicy details up. The whole business model of gossip magazines are built on this desire of the masses. Why do we love a good sex scandal?

Well, they take our mind off our own sins and failings and allows us to focus on those who are “more devious” than us. Our voyeurism with people’s affairs indulge a form of self-righteousness by cloaking our anger as godly outrage. We must not gain any perverse pleasure from consuming other people’s trials as entertainment. I want to approach this whole issue with a spirit of humility. But for the grace of God, there go any of us.

Scandals are scandals because of three factors

  1. The nature of the allegations.
  2. The hypocrisy of the accused individual or institution.
  3. The refusal to quickly and completely confess and ask forgiveness.

Christianity is particularly susceptible to sex scandals because of the nature of its teaching to abstain from sexual sin. The Catholic church has ongoing PR problems with its history of abuse. In recent times, fundamentalism is receiving its due share of attention.

Church and Christian institutions compound the allegations with their repeatable tendency to evade and minimise the issues. While well-meaning Christians often think they are focusing on Christ by wishing away problems, failure to approach allegations head-on only obscures Jesus’ message. On the other side of the coin, outraged and hurt Christians and former Christians morph their godly outrage into ungodly witch hunts that infer greater cover-ups. Some of the internet rage and vendettas on blogs are pushed by haters who have no skin in the game. However, honestly, the culture of fundamentalism, gives them plenty of fuel for these conspiracies.

In the blogwatch section of this site, there are some references to BJU’s support of a board member, Chuck Phelps. While Mr Phelps was pastoring an IFB church, he mishandled his reporting and duty of care to a girl in his church who was raped by one of his church leaders. Phelps’ “forgive and forget” approach allowed the abuse to continue. BJU’s support for Phelps is a case study of how not to respond to scandals. Like most well-meaning Christians, I wish scandals would just go away. I greatly desire for Jesus to be preached unencumbered by our filthy rags. However, this can only happen if the issue is dealt with transparently and with justice.

The Wednesday night after the Phelps’ expose was aired on ABC’s 20/20 program, I attended a church pastored by a BJU graduate. The whole evening was devoted to how the media is anti-Christian, the victims are bitter, and the issue is a snow job. Clearly, the boys club had been rallied. While I don’t believe the media is a bastion of truth, this response is not acceptable. BJU students and graduates are demanding a better response from their alma mater and are planning a protest day on December 12th.

By BJU’s own standards, they should remove him from their board. BJU has a catalog of rules for its students to help them live lives that are above reproach and abstain from the appearance of evil. While Phelps is not a demon, he is tainted by inability to see his error. Consistency alone demands his removal. I can see no upside for keeping him and all downside. If BJU representatives are reading this, I urge you to act now. Use the vacancy to promote a fresh clean skin. I believe God will continue to use BJU in proclaiming the gospel, but you must ensure that it is not seen to be trivialising what happened or those who have been hurt.

To finish on a positive note. Correctly responding to sexual abuse issues is not just about mitigating risk. Championing justice and loving the vulnerable is central to the Christian message. Embracing a strong, correct, and decisive response will be positively welcomed. Such a response can provide a platform for promoting the light of the gospel and demonstrating that Christians are growing in their love for the Lord and his justice.

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About Jeremy Crooks

Jeremy grew up in Sydney Australia. He has tertiary qualifications in business, training, and Bible. With experience in both church ministry and corporate human resources, Jeremy has a strong interest in how faith is demonstrated in our homes and workplaces. You can contact Jeremy at


  1. David Milson 2 December, 2011 at 7:15 am - Reply

    This is a nice follow up to the previous day’s blog. Do I detect a hint of “Fundamental Spring” in the air?

    • Jeremy Crooks 2 December, 2011 at 8:02 am

      I think so. In many cases, in order to grow in God grace, people may need to grow out of fundamentalism.

  2. Steven Mock 2 December, 2011 at 9:15 am - Reply

    Dear BJU, Please repent for not checking with Bob Bixby, Jason Harris, or Jeremy Crooks before you appoint any board members. You should know better to do anything without their prior consent or approval.

  3. Kez 2 December, 2011 at 10:05 am - Reply

    Thank you for this post, Jeremy. I think the more awareness we can raise in the IB circles that covering abuse of minors won’t be tolerated, the better. I agree that Phelps should be removed from his position at BJU. Even if he had the absolute best of intentions, he bungled the situation to an extreme and to refuse to acknowledge his mistakes and to side with him and defend him is deplorable at best. BJU has a responsibility to make it very clear that covering up and defending of abuse of children will not be tolerated. In my humble opinion…

  4. Jeremy Crooks 2 December, 2011 at 10:47 am - Reply


    BJU should know better and that is the point. It is sad that it has gotten to the stage where hundreds of BJU students are planning to protest. Integrity alone should be the reason BJU make the right decision.

  5. Kez 2 December, 2011 at 11:24 am - Reply

    @Steven, I don’t think BJU needed to consult with these guys (Bob, Jason and Jeremy) but I’m glad these men have the courage to stand up against blatant injustice and abuse of children. Perhaps BJU might need to consult with their Bibles. Jesus said that it was better to have a millstone tied around your neck and be thrown into the sea than to offend a child. Chuck Phelps may have had the best intentions but he protected a rapist and punished the victim through an apology to the church, exile from family and friends and a failure to do all in his power to bring Wilson to justice and side with the pregnant rape victim. As such he empowered and protected an abuser and caused a great deal of damage (offense) to the victim which fits an abuser’s profile. I think he fits very well under the type of person Jesus said would be better if he were cast into the sea. For BJU to side with him and defend him with very little empathy for Tina, the rape victim, is a public statement from a prominent school that they value a mere man over God’s truth and that it is ok to defend an abuser and it serves as a (perhaps unintentional) warning to other victims to keep their mouths shut because we as a movement don’t want justice, mercy and truth. Perhaps if Phelps were repentant the situation for BJU might be different, but as it stands the situation should be painfully black and white to all who value truth and the glory of God.

  6. Matt L 4 December, 2011 at 7:00 am - Reply

    While I completely agree with Jeremy’s emphasis on the need to handle these situations in a Biblical and transparent manner, I was concerned about the strong opinions expressed about Dr Phelps and BJU by Jeremy and others.

    Dr Phelps’ daughter stayed with my family for a period a couple of years back, and they have maintained some contact since including regarding this matter. I’ve also watched the ABC 20/20 article in full and read Dr Phelps response material on his website.

    From my understanding Dr Phelps has expressed that he might do things a little differently if he had his time over, but he has been adament that he reported the situation to authorities and was gracious toward the victim.

    To call the 20/20 episode quality journalism would do a disservice to the millions of other reporters around the world. It was very clear that there were two sides to this story, and they were only interested in one, and just ignored facts that didn’t suit their angle.

    I just hope that such criticism of the parties involved is based on more than media reports because hanging someone out to dry, based on perceptions, is just going to the other extreme. Protecting the guilty is not right, but neither is executing the innocent.

  7. Robert Apps 4 December, 2011 at 9:05 am - Reply

    Does Dr Phelps get any credit for resigning?

    • Jeremy Crooks 4 December, 2011 at 11:07 pm

      I am certainly not defending 20/20 as quality journalism. However, my research and assessment of Mr Phelps, BJU and the various bloggers is based on more than just the ABC interview. Chuck Phelps was president of my alma mater, so I am not totally removed from his management style.

      Regarding BJU: I can’t fathom why Bob Jones III jumped into this scandal. It was relatively quiet in Greenville until he publicly criticized Penn State and declared ‘nothing similar would be tolerated at BJU’. The hypocrisy of his statement caused the ‘Phelps on the board’ issue to explode.

      There are no winners in this. It should never have gotten to this point where it took Phelps so long to resign. I will give Phelps credit when he apologizes for coercing a girl to ‘publicly apologize for being raped’.

      In the end, what is needed is a change of heart towards the victims rather than a resignation or apology because of PR pressure.

  8. Robert Apps 5 December, 2011 at 6:22 am - Reply

    Jeremy, thanks for your response.

    In one of your earlier comments to this post you wrote:-

    ‘In many cases, in order to grow in God grace, people may need to grow out of fundamentalism.’

    Jeremy, have you grown out of fundamentalism or are you still in it?

    I think it is relevant to your post as you mentioned that the ‘culture of fundamentalism, gives them plenty of fuel for these conspiracies’.

    So I wonder how much of those concerns have influenced how you handled the Phelps issue generally.

    So I am asking if you identify with any particular group or movement.

    Obviously we can argue about definitions of biblical fundamentalism but you are of course free to define your terms.


  9. Jeremy Crooks 5 December, 2011 at 7:03 am - Reply

    Hi Robert,

    I grew up in fundamentalism until I was 25 – including graduating from an IFB college. I still have friends and family who remain in IFB churches. There still remain godly individuals and churches in IFB land.

    Whether I am still in fundamentalism probably depends on who you ask.

    Some may argue that because I hold to the fundamentals of the faith (e.g. virgin birth, diety of Christ, etc) that I am a still a fundamentalist.

    I would argue that fundamentalism has evolved to mean adherence to certain standards, a leadership style and a way of thinking. It is this definition that I have left. This blog describes how I ‘identify’ myself

    While I personally think the fundamentalist term is now beyond redemption, others may not see it that – and that may be fine for them. It is like deciding whether to be a Puritan or a pilgrim.

    I have found my journey from IBMism to be refreshing as I have connected with faithful Christians in doctrine and practice outside of IFB circles. Does my position affect my assessment of the Phelps issue? Maybe, in so much as I am now free to view the world from another focal point.

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