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The Royal Commission: This is a good thing

Posted by on 21 November, 2012 in Current Events, Ministry | 56 Comments

Just over a week ago, on 12 November, 2012, Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that she will request the establishment of a Royal Commission into child sexual abuse, particularly institutional responses to child sexual abuse. Subsequently, a formal website was set up as a hub for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

On 19 November, a consultation paper was published by the Australian Government asking for input on the terms of reference for the commission. This consultation period formally closes in a few days on 26 November.

This is a good thing

Others have written responses to this news: God is My Constant, The Centre for Public Christianity, etc.

My response to the news of this commission is simple: This is a good thing.

Of course we’d like to think that this was just about the Roman Catholic Church. Or various apostate groups. But for anyone who’s been around the track a few times, we know that children are endangered in our movement all too often. Sometimes the cause is:

  • Negligence in training and protective policy.
  • Definitions of abuse that reject Australian civil law by arguing for ancient Israel’s civil law.
  • A “boy’s club” culture where buddies protect buddies.
  • Fear of what else will be dragged into the open if things are addressed properly.
  • Denial of that which is deemed too uncomfortable to face honestly.
  • Sheer criminal intent.

But whatever the causes may be, it does happen and it needs to stop. Of course I will be questioned on this assertion—and legitimately so—so I will justify it in two points.

First, over the last week or so since the Prime Minister’s announcement, I have been thinking and praying about how to respond. I knew I would support the work of the commission, but I felt I needed to do more—namely, publicly call for the scope of the commission to be broad enough to include the Independent Baptists. But that is not something I could do lightly. Finally, after wrestling with it for a week, I sat down and started writing a list of situations I personally know of where children have been endangered and/or harmed where Independent Baptist leadership either caused the danger/harm or knew about it and failed to handle it appropriately. I walked away from that exercise with no choice but to take action.

Second, I’m aware of at least one case where the perpetrator has been prosecuted, but the protection of the perpetrator while the crimes were occurring have not, to my knowledge, been prosecuted. As this instance of abuse was prosecuted, the details of the conviction are a matter of public record. If you email me, I will direct you to those records.

Asking for scrutiny

I have responded to the call for submissions, in partnership with Daniel Kriss, by asking for our churches, those of the Independent Baptist movement, to be scrutinised by the Royal Commission. The CPC piece linked to earlier said it well:

It’s hard to think of a greater blasphemy, a more appalling obscenity than innocent children entrusted to an institution that is at its heart supposed to be about love, care and protection of the vulnerable and the weak, being instead, a place of the worst kind of betrayal and cruelty. That there is a suggestion that such an outrage has been allowed to go on, and has been covered up in order to protect the good name of the institution ought to cause the believers among us to weep. …

Abuse in the church is a festering sore. It’s a cancer that needs to be cut from the body of an institution that does so much that’s positive in society. No doubt many good people of faith dread what may lie squirming beneath the rock that is about to be lifted by the Royal Commission. But lift it it must, exposing darkness to the light. There will be difficult days ahead. But many Christians will be hoping that the focus of the church will lie squarely on the side of justice for victims and their families; that church leaders will know that the only way to defend the reputation of the institution is to be prepared to let it fall. If it comes to it, the church

must be willing to embrace bankruptcy, lose property and all power, not in employing lawyers to protect it, but in doing whatever it takes to seek recompense for those damaged under its care.

It might lose some buildings in the process but save its soul.

Amen.

It is not enough for the Fundamentalist movement in Australia to publicly ignore the commission and privately bring it up as a prayer point—”Pray that this will not lead to more government control over churches.” Rather, the gentlemen of the Fundamentalist movement in Australia must stand up publicly to support the ministry of this commission and must actively cooperate with it. Decency demands nothing less.

The submission

Finally, I include a copy of the submission which will be made to the Royal Commission today.

 

InFocus
PO Box 700
Earlville, QLD  4870

21 November, 2012

Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse
PO Box 6555
Canberra, ACT  2600

To the Secretariat:

We offer this submission in response to the consultation paper published by the Australian Government on 19 November, 2012. As editor/contributer of a conservative Christian commentary website, this matter is of special interest to us and many of our readers. It is of special interest because our Lord said of the person who sins against a child that “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones” (Luke 17:2, NKJV). The Commission, therefore, will be embarking on a work that is close to the heart of Jesus Christ.

First, we believe it is imperitive that the terms of reference for the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse be broad enough to include scrutiny of independent and free churches and associations. We specifically call on the Commission to include scrutiny of our own denominational heritage, the Independent Baptist movement. The cultural flaws and institutional sins which will be examined in the Roman Catholic Church are or have been very much present in at least some of the Independent Baptist churches and are no less damaging. We invite this scrutiny of our movement, the Independent Baptists, not out of spite, but because justice and the protection of the weak is more important than reputation and public image. And because we have seen some terrible things in the movement in our work as preachers/counsellors.

Second, we believe the Commission needs to include within its terms of reference a look at what typically happens when child abuse is reported to the appropriate authorities. There is always a price to be paid for making such a report and if such reports are not properly followed through on by law enforcement, the people with the most to lose by reporting will continue to be tempted not to report. Of significance here is the need for enough funding to prosecute more child sexual abuse. The odds of prosecution for abuse are, in our experience in the field, far too low.

Third, we believe the terms of reference need to include a look at mandatory reporting laws. State laws need to be brought into alignment to simplify obligations. Obligations need to be broadened to include, for instance, deacons, office holders, youth group workers, and the spouses of some or all of the above. Penalties for failure to report need to be more strident and funding needs to be available to pursue cases where breaches are suspected.

Fourth, the scope of the terms of reference needs to be broadened to include all forms of child abuse since the issues involved are closely related and the damage is just as real in non-sexual forms of abuse. Additionally, various forms of abuse tend to cluster in cultures that protect abuse and the solutions to one form of abuse often overlap significantly with the solutions to other forms of abuse.

Fifth, the consultation paper addresses the scope of perpetrators to be looked at fairly vaguely saying the scope of the Royal Commission is “to prevent child sexual abuse from occurring in their midst.” This raises questions as to whether the commission is intended to investigate only abuse by clergy/leadership? Or is it intended to address abuse within the membership of these organisations where someone within leadership becomes aware of the abuse. It is our view that the latter meaning should be included because this is the nature of organisations; that information is passed through layers of leadership/authority and that within those layers of leadership/authority, there are many with a vested interest in protecting others within the structure. This is even more common in religious organisations where there is often family involved and where relationships are governed by ideals of loyalty and love which are too easily twisted to justify hiding abuse.

Sixth, we call for clear representation of Evangelical Christian issues within the Commission either in the selection of Commissioners and/or in the consultations of the Commission. To this end, we suggest as an appropriate representative of Evangelical Christianity in Australia Terry Harding, PhD whose doctoral work at Queensland University of Technology was a phenomenographic study of the roles of parents who educate their children at home. Terry’s close work with thousands of churches and families across Australia over the years and his research focus make him a credible candidate for participation in this work.

Finally, we call for the terms of reference for the Commission to specifically charge the Commissioners with their duty to protect religious liberty in Australia and to deal carefully and consultatively with this issue in forming their recommendations so that the Commission is not seen to work against religious groups, but rather with them where possible, in fighting the evils of institutional child abuse in Australia.

We remain open to further consultation and pray God’s blessing on the work of this Royal Commission.

Sincerely,

Jason Harris, editor
Daniel Kriss, contributing commentator

 

Grace to you.

About Jason Harris

avatar
Jason loves to communicate God's word both in the local church and at conferences and retreats. Jason has been involved with Worship Music since 1996 and InFocus since 2005. Jason has degrees in theology, music, and accounting and is currently a research student and lecturer in the School of Business at James Cook University, Cairns. You can contact Jason at jason@teaminfocus.com.au.

Comments (56)

Comment guidelines.

  • avatar

    Joy

    A child who has thoroughly cleaned his room welcomes inspection and anticipates the reward of his diligence and integrity. If we believers live blamelessly, then we have no reason whatsoever to fear the light. This is a good thing.

  • avatar

    Matt

    Hey Jason, I agree the Royal Commission is a good thing. From the beginning I have been saddened that this “closer scrutiny” into churches was necessary because of the fact that abuse has been present in “Christendom”. It takes courage to do what you and Daniel are doing, but thank you for reminding us that there are some out there who care enough to do something for those around us that we see hurting. Just a question, since you have looked further into the details of the Royal Commission than I have – do you think they have left room in there definitions of abuse (or yours) to include matters like indoctrination, personal confrontation about sin, or perhaps church attendance of a minor without proof of consent as abuse (e.g. emotional abuse)? I know a lot of Christians are worried that this Royal Commission is a mask to cover over close religious scrutiny of churches, but somehow I get the feeling that they are truly and honestly (if we can say such a thing) targeting abuse crimes (proper) here. Which is truly a good thing. What do you think? Does it sound like it will be used as a stepping-stone movement to you?

  • avatar

    Jason Harris

    @Matt,

    Thanks for the comments. Yeah, those are valid concerns.

    The way I see it is that extremes look acceptable when the problem is extreme. The sooner religious organisations clean house and are seen to be above reproach in these matters, the less credence such extreme definitions of abuse would have.

    From a legal standpoint, at least in Queensland, it would be difficult to interpret the law (http://www.communities.qld.gov.au/childsafety/protecting-children/what-is-child-abuse) in the ways you’ve outlined. As with other issues such as giving children a smack, I think we live in a sensible society and the most damaging thing we could do would be to take a defensive posture. If we are pursuing the well-being of children and the government is doing the same, then I think we should be proactively cooperating in any way possible. Biblically, the church is to minister to children and the government is to minister to children so our duties overlap here.

  • avatar

    Jeremy

    Matt, Thanks for the concern you raised. I think it is valid

    I have mixed feelings about the royal commission. Like Jason, I personally know of IFB churches leaders who have ‘protected child abusers’. If the royal commission leads to justice, repentance and closure for sins that would have otherwise remained hidden, then that is a good thing and I support it.

    However, I have abstained from endorsing this submission, not because I think IFB churches are clean in the area, but because the solution must fix the problem, not replace it with a different kind of problem. My caution stems from 3 areas.
    1. Children can be abused by government process just as much as bad parenting or bad church congregations.
    2. God established 3 institutions, the family, the state and the church. Problems arise when any one of those institutions seek to eradicate or control the other.
    3. Discernment tells me that while some have pure intentions for seeking a commission, that many others influencers behind the commission see this as a 10 year PR campaign against God and His people.

    The fact that terms of reference have not been set for this commission, including how abuse is defined, are concerns for me. There are already many laws to prosecute offenders and support groups/networks to help victims. This website has been vocal in its condemnation of abusers and support for victims of abuse.

    For those whom have been abused, I do pray that this commission helps bring some closure. While the commission may shed more light on abuse and bring in more accountability, it is prudent to recognise that we cannot rely on government to bring about repentance, forgiveness, justice. Ultimately, the Holy Spirit brings repentance, Jesus provides forgiveness and God ensures true justice.

    With that said, let’s pray for the royal commission that it will be used to further earthly justice and to see God’s Kingdom come.

    Jeremy

  • avatar

    Timothy Kwoh

    I totally agree that cleaning up needs to be done in the backyard of Fundamental Churches. We should stop trying to follow the likes of Hyles-Anderson, Bob Jones University and others and seek to maintain the purity of the movement above reputation.

    Due to the evil heresy of “easy believism” and cheap grace, the Fundamental churches have seen wolves enter the leadership and harm the flock. Before even thinking about pointing any fingers at the Roman Catholic Church or any other movement in Christendom, begin cleaning the garbage up in Fundamental Churches first.

  • avatar

    George Matzko

    Timothy, I’ve been a faculty member at Bob Jones University for 33 years and I would like to set the record straight:

    (1) Bob Jones University has hired an independent ombudsman to review the university’s handling of reports of abuse not connected to the school.
    (2) GRACE, Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment, will review reports it receives of any instances where it is “alleged that the university undeserved a victim or did not comply with the law in handling reports of abuse.”
    (3) There have been some allegations via social media that graduates reported to school officials that they had been sexually abused by family members or acquaintances and the school didn’t do enough to help the victim or contact authorities. [State law requires those over 18 years of age to report sexual abuse themselves.]
    (4) According to Carol Keirstead, CCC for BJU , there have been no reports of sexual abuse on campus.
    (5) The university’s sexual abuse policy was rewritten this summer to make it clearer and simpler. The new policy says staff and faculty who suspect sexual abuse of a minor must report that abuse to the Department of Social Services or police before they tell the university.

    Timothy, does this sound like an organization who is putting its reputation before purity? I ask you to please withdrawal your unfounded accusation against Bob Jones University.

  • avatar

    Jason Harris

    @Timothy,

    Dr. Matzko is right about this. Bob Jones University has taken some excellent steps in recent years in this area—steps which we have reported here at InFocus. To compare BJU with Hyles-Anderson College on this issue is to make broadbrushing look somewhat narrow.

    @Dr. Matzko,

    Thanks for addressing that.

    Grace to you.

  • avatar

    Tara-Lee

    For starters, multiple cases of sexual abuse were reported on campus at BJU just last year. It was AFTER this hit the headlines that BJU reported that they have had no reports of sexual abuse on campus. Yes, they were forced to engage the services of GRACE, but they have not let most people, including alumni who might have allegations to report to GRACE, know about the investigation or how to make such a report. There are certainly many allegations of sexual abuse occurring on campus; that BJU are saying they haven’t reported any is quite concerning.

    Child sexual abuse in Independent Baptist churches in Australia is disgusting. It is occurring, it is being covered up, and those who are doing the covering up are being lauded as “Good Men” by their congregation – even those who know what they’ve been doing.

    I really find it hard to believe there is anything of value in the Independent Baptist church to start with. You can find salvation and a healthy relationship with Christ elsewhere – I would be surprised to find either within the IB church.

    I will also be making a submission to the Royal Commission.

  • avatar

    Jason Harris

    @Dr. Matzko,

    CT seems to be a pretty credible source (journalistically, not theologically). Has the university published a correction/clarification on the CT story?

    As an alumni, I don’t recall getting any information on how to report concerns. It is perhaps unfortunate, but the scales are weighted against the university on this one because of the Phelps situation and the broader reputation of Fundamentalism. The university will need to bend over backward to maintain/regain the trust of the constituency. And the end result can only be a safer BJU which is a win for everyone.

  • avatar

    David Shaffer

    John Matzko is wrong on one issue, in 2011 BJU had 9 reports of sexual assault on the Clery Report. The school spokesman also issued an incorrect press release on this issue, in fact some of Carol’s statements are incorrect as well.

  • avatar

    Jean Shumaker

    George, there is nothing unsubstantiated about the allegations. You strain at gnats to call them so. There were nine substantiated, reported sexual assaults on campus in 2011, as reported last year by the local NBC affiliate, which you well know. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAgceen153I

  • avatar

    Christopher Peterman

    @Dr. Matzko,

    I will have to respectfully disagree with my former professor, Dr. Matzko.

    My name is Chris Peterman I was was a student at Bob Jones University up until April 2011 when the school kicked me out for “disrespect and insubordination.”

    I was expelled because I held the first student protest on campus. My protest, called Do Right BJU, was focused on sexual abuse within the church, especially the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement — specifically BJU.

    There have been dozens of reported cases of abuse on campus and dozens more cases that have been reported to the University. I personally know many victims of sexual abuse that the school demeaned, degraded, and covered up.

    I really take issue with Dr. Matzko’s misstatement about there being no sexual abuse on campus. WSPA — the local TV station and the Department of Education Clery report seem to give a different impression. Nine cases of forceable sexual offenses occurred on the campus of BJU during the 2011 – 2012 school year.

    http://www2.wspa.com/news/community-watchdog/2012/sep/28/1/bob-jones-had-9-sex-offenses-reported-campus-2011-ar-4649599/

    Yes, BJU has hired GRACE to investigate all claims of sexual abuse – but they have only done this because of the overwhelming public pressure from alumni, especially from Do Right BJU.

    http://www.facebook.com/DoRightBJU

    So Dr. Matzko, I respectfully disagree with the way you are trying to twist the story to help my alma mater. BJU is not a friend to the abused — that is being uncovered as we speak.

    Christopher Peterman
    Do Right BJU

  • avatar

    George Matzko

    Jason: Let’s wait for the GRACE report to see what’s true and what’s not.
    Jean: It remains to be seen if there is any connection between the Clery Act reports and the hiring of GRACE.
    David: My name is George. John is my better looking brother.
    Chris: I don’t believe I ever had you as a student in one of my classes, unless it was a physical science lab.

  • avatar

    John Matzko

    Upton Sinclair was once so amused at being asked to explain comments made by his friend, the ideologically similar Sinclair Lewis, that he suggested, “Maybe we should just both take the name Upton Sinclair Lewis.”

  • avatar

    Gregory Smith

    Growing up on the campus… down the street from the Matzko’s I know for a fact that abuse happened all over the campus… including across the street form the Matzko’s house.

    These statements and stories ARE confirmed. They are NOT “just unsubstantiated allegations.” BJU has NOT been readily forthcoming to notify current students, faculty, alumni, as well as former students, faculty & staff.

    I have had no contact from the school regarding the investigation. Neither have many, many of my friends who fall in the above described categories. BJU can certainly find us to ask for money, however.

    BJU did finally send an email and a blurb buried in their BJU magazine (that you really had to know was there to find)after pressure from the local media and press releases from DRBJU.

    So to answer George’s question, a resounding YES. This does sound like an institution which is trying to put reputation before purity. Just as they have time and again in the past.

    (Will BJIII ever admit to and apologize for his blatant lies he told on Larry King Live???)

  • avatar

    Jason Harris

    @Dr. Matzko,

    Seems fair. The appropriate response to allegations is investigation.

    @Christopher Peterman,

    I’m glad you commented because I’ve been curious lately about why you went ahead with the DO RIGHT BJU “wear red” protest after Phelps resigned? I understand it was intended to raise awareness in some sense (and I openly supported it at the time), but I wonder if in the minds of the current students/faculty it made DO RIGHT BJU look unappeasable/unreasonable. I’m interested in your insights looking back. What would BJU have to do before you would be satisfied with where they’re at?

  • avatar

    George Matzko

    Gregory: Which address? We only lived on campus from 1979-1980. Have you reported what you know to GRACE? It’s important to the whole University family that you do.

  • avatar

    John Matzko

    Gregory, My on-campus house since 1986 (17 Profs Place) has been across from the Grounds barn. There are tractors, plants, and mounds of mulch over there but nothing much to be abused except transmissions.

    If you can document abuse on campus, it’s your moral responsibility to report it to the GRACE investigation.

  • avatar

    Kezia Dennison

    @John Mazkko, Im not saying Gregory is right in his allegations or not, but your diachotomy that because the place across from you is a barn full of tractors, mulch and plants, abuse hasnt happened there is a false one. In fact, that kind of place would be a pretty ideal spot for a abuser to set up shop. That it isn’t a house or proper building doesn’t automatically exclude abuse from happening there.

    FWIW

  • avatar

    John Matzko

    I agree, Kezia. In this case, though, the area is highly trafficked during the day and the chain link fence is locked after hours.

    The point I was making is that if “Gregory Smith” (a pseudonym; no one of that name has lived on back campus since I’ve been here) actually knew where I lived, he shouldn’t have said “across the street” but something broader like “down the street” or “on the next block.”

    Bear in mind that BJU is a college, not an orphanage or a missionary school. There are few resident minors on campus, even few children living with faculty/staff parents. The majority of my neighbors are pensioners.

  • avatar

    Gregory Smith

    That “barn” hasn’t always been there. Before that barn was built, there was a shed where the societies kept their rush booths and signs. It was not locked. While there was a fence around it, it was very easy to get in and out of. The woods back there used to be very dense with little traffic and high over-growth – including a huge mountain of red dirt that the kids back then – and yes, there were TONS of children back campus during the late 60s through the 80s – played on and behind (nick named Murder Mountain) The folks on Profs’ Place couldn’t see what went on back there.

    Oh, and lest you forget, John, your house is actually one of the new additions to the neighborhood back there – along with (though not built at the same time as) those back Tassle Trail where additional abuse takes place.

    Don’t forget the old mansion house which, after its last residents vacated, remained an empty “ghost house” for a while (where the current Tassle Trail is now) and don’t forget the old red barn where Sheffy props were kept… These were all favorite places where things happened.

    Why do you think the university finally cleared out the over-growth on the corner of Stadium View Drive and Sennet Drive – next to the old persimmon tree? Lots of stuff went on in that area too.

    Yes, I have reported this to G.R.A.C.E.

    BJU has a lot to answer for. It has a lot to apologize for. Those who defend the actions of BJU and are active denialists have a LOT to answer and apologize for. (Just because you can’t see that the earth is round with your eyes doesn’t prove that it’s flat!)

    But to quote one of the current Deans,
    “Bob Jones University will never admit wrong–that’s not how we do things. We make changes if we need to, and just go on.”

  • avatar

    John Matzko

    I think it’s great that you made a report to G.R.A.C.E. Hope you used your real name instead of hiding behind “Gregory Smith,” for which you also created a Facebook account and with which you’ve been trolling for BJU friends.

    • avatar

      tcjw

      “instead of hiding behind ‘Gregory Smith’”: ha ha! This from the BJU professor and apologist who hides behind “John Foxe” on Wikipedia? Do any Wikipedia administrators know about your undeclared glaring conflict of interest in “objectively” editing the BJU Wikipedia article?

  • avatar

    Joy

    Mr. Matzko’s response was sadly predictable. Facts given to prove this kind of person wrong are unacknowledged completely. The obligation to apologize is ignored. Instead, the one presenting the facts is blamed with a new set of allegations. And yes, victims of true abuse are going to put up walls to avoid being hurt again… by darts such as your response, at the least.

  • avatar

    John Matzko

    “Gregory Smith” has provided no facts either here or when I wrote him privately at formerfundy@outlook.com. I asked whom he was charging with abuse and when and where the abuse occurred. He did not reply.

    • avatar

      Gregory Smith

      I actually have provided a plethora of facts that anyone who has ever lived on the campus of Bob Jones knows to be facts. Go back and re-read my previous post… It told many of the places abuse happened.

      I will not engage John or George privately so I absolutely did not respond to John’s email. It is disgusting and was immediately deleted. Both John and his brother are blind pawns in the service of the See of the IFB in Greenville.

      John exposes himself to be the gossip-monger that he is. What business is it of his who was the perpetrator or the victim? Or, for that matter, where it happened.

      And once he has that information, just exactly WHAT is he going to do with it. The mere fact that he asked the question and then publically admitted to it shows his true colors.

      John, I am calling you out: Why exactly do you want to know the details of sexual abuse? Does reading about who sexually abused a child, where and how they did it excite you? What would you do with the information if someone gave it to you?

      The only reason I can conceive of anyone asking that kind of question is that they are worried THEY themselves are the one being reported. And the only reason to have that worry is if there IS a reason to be reported.

      Does G.R.A.C.E. – or better yet, GPD need to come have a conversation with you, John?

      You can look the internet over and see how both John and George attack those who speak the truth the truth about BJU. How they change history and spin the truth.

      This kind of attitude from the BJU administration and their pawns is the exact reason why people don’t come forward to tell their stories. Those who still have family at the University know from first-hand experience how families are punished severely if anyone in any way related to them sheds the light of truth and is out of the reach of the Administration.

  • avatar

    John Matzko

    Providing facts about the geography of the back campus at BJU reveals nothing about possible abuse that may have occurred there. Most neighborhoods have bushes, a vacant lot, and perhaps even an empty house or two. So what?

  • avatar

    Kezia Dennison

    John, Gregory claims there was abuse on campus. Unless you can say with 100% certainty that there was none (which would be impossible as from what I’ve heard, BJU campus is quite large and I’m assuming you are not omnipresent), you simply have no grounds to question his claim. Indeed, why would you even want to? Truth can stand on its own in the marketplace. If Gregory’s claims are false, there is no need to try and discredit him both as a person and as a witness or victim as you seem to be intent on doing. And if his claims are true, then why would you want to publicly side him?

    Ultimately you and I are not part of the solution and, provided we were not part of the problem as victim or perpetrator, we have no right to demand answers from him. We do not have the right to email him demanding facts and his refusal to provide them to us simply does not reflect at all on the validity of his claims or the existence of such facts. I, too, struggle to understand why you would feel that such demands are acceptable in this situation. Perhaps you might be willing to explain your reasoning behind your actions?

  • avatar

    Jason Harris

    @Gregory Smith,

    The gravity of your point notwithstanding, personal attacks and salacious insinuations are not an acceptable mode of discussion in this venue. Please keep it above the belt and focused on issues (vs. people).

  • avatar

    John Matzko

    Kezia, There’s no way to prove a negative, and as you say, I’m not omniscient (nor omnipresent nor even ubiquitous).

    Nevertheless, I’ve given my real name and you can read about my real credentials on my real website. “Gregory Smith” is not a real person, and he’s created a false identity in an attempt to deceive.

    One of the fun parts about being a historian is playing Sherlock Holmes to the past. My interest in writing “Gregory Smith” was to see if he would provide me enough clues to identify who he really was. He’s already provided enough information to let me know he’s in his 40s and that his parents, if they still live, no longer work for BJU.

    If he has charges to bring about abuse at BJU, let him submit his evidence to GRACE. If he’s not willing to share real evidence here, then he shouldn’t be spreading unsubstantiated gossip. The Bible knows nothing of anonymous charges.

  • avatar

    Kezia Dennison

    Reading back over the comments here, the question was raised over whether or not abuse has happened at BJU. Gregory is entitled to share his viewpoint on this issue without being required to provide proof of abuse or even proof of identity. In the same way, you are allowed to share your views on the issue without us demanding you provide evidence that abuse didnt happen. Neither is gossip. This is not a courtroom and we are not the judges. I think that much more “evidence” shared in this setting would be straying into the realm of gossip.

  • avatar

    John Matzko

    Kezia, Sexual abuse isn’t a “viewpoint.” It either occurred or it didn’t.

    Let “Gregory Smith” provide us something simple like a date and place where he witnessed abuse, which information he subsequently reported to GRACE. Then when GRACE makes its report, we’ll be able judge whether it considered his claims credible.

    The Bible condemns anonymous charges and says, “He who spreads slander is a fool” Proverbs 10: 18.

  • avatar

    Kez

    John, as I see it, Gregory has not spread slander at all. To say abuse happened on the BJU campus is not slander. Even just statistically, the likelihood of abuse happening on the campus is extremely high due to the many years BJU has been running, the amount of people coming and going and the sheer size of the campus. Gregory does not need to provide us with a date or names or even places (although he has mentioned several places already).

    As I mentioned before, this is not a courtroom, no one has been accused, and there is no judge required. Any wise person who reads through these comments is going to take in all sides of the conversation and not draw any definite conclusions about abuse on BJU’s campus. A wise person will be content to accept that they do not need to know all the details because they are not part of the problem or solution. In other words, it is not any of our business to get information and set ourselves up as the judges.

  • avatar

    John Matzko

    “Gregory Smith” isn’t a credible witness because he’s not a real person. He can spread any sort of malicious gossip he chooses without accountability.

    To be a creditable witness “Gregory Smith” needs at least to provide us something simple like a date and place where he witnessed abuse. Then when GRACE makes its report, we’ll be able judge whether it considered his claims credible.

    The Bible knows nothing of anonymous charges, and Paul tells the Colossians to reject “anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech”–all of which “Gregory Smith” has manifested here. “So then, you will know them by their fruits.”

  • avatar

    Kezia Dennison

    What “malicious gossip” has Gregory spread? And who has he laid charges against? Who has he named to slander?

  • avatar

    John Matzko

    “Gregory Smith” has slandered both BJU as an institution and me personally without a bit of corroborating evidence. No names, times, or places–just vicious insinuations about empty lots, unpruned trees, and vacant houses.

    Samples:

    “Growing up on the campus… down the street from the Matzko’s I know for a fact that abuse happened all over the campus… including across the street form [sic] the Matzko’s house.”

    “Both John and his brother are blind pawns in the service of the See of the IFB in Greenville. John exposes himself to be the gossip-monger that he is.”

    “Does G.R.A.C.E. – or better yet, GPD [Greenville Police Department] need to come have a conversation with you, John?”

    The Bible condemns this kind of malicious gossip, and Paul tells the Colossians to reject “anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech”–all of which “Gregory Smith” has demonstrated in this thread. “So then, you will know them by their fruits.”

  • avatar

    David Shaffer

    Gregory Smith has a right to remain anonymous as right to protect himself. If he or other victims gave their true identities it’s possible that BJU might shred any evidence that exists.

  • avatar

    Kezia Dennison

    Gregory’s comments have not been slander against BJU. His comments about abuse on campus does not reflect on the campus itself. I’d hazard an educated guess that every one of the big college campuses and most of the big churches in the U.S have had various forms of abuse occur on their properties. Most of them would include sexual abuse.

    Because, honestly, abuse happens anywhere there are sinners. The more sinners frequenting a particular place, the more likely sin is to happen. Churches and Bible colleges are no exception. In fact, it is widely known that peadophiles in particular seek out positions in those places because it’s so much easier to gain positions of trust. If you’re in a position of trust at a Bible College (or even just a Bible college student), how easy is it to connect to the local church and get involved in ministry? Although churches are cracking down a little now in some places, how easy did it use to be to volunteer for Sunday School, nursery or bus route? Where schools and daycares required bue cards and police checks, churches were and are usually desperate for volunteers in many of the child-related activities. In fact, merely turning up at a church and saying you’re a Christian and looking the part can get you welcomed into homes and circles of trust. Sexual abuse alone is happening or has happened to 1 in every four girls and 1 in every 6 boys. To pretend otherwise or to assume churches or religious groups are somehow immune to the brokenness of the world is at best dangerously naive. We are all of us broken people living in a broken world.

    That abuse happens on a campus does not mean the campus was at fault. It is simply a statement of fact. Abuse only reflects badly on an institution when it is mishandled or covered up by that institution.

  • avatar

    Anonymous

    Matzco, you have repeatedly defended BJU against allegations of sexual abuse. I have a question for you. Have you asked the administration if the allegations are true? They know that these things happened, that they were covered up. Specifically ask them if they know of situations where faculty/alumni and/or students have raped others and it was not reported to the police. Ask them if they reported to the police when students came to them reporting sexual abuse as minors and/or with minor aged siblings who were still being abused. Ask them before you continue with your comments. You do not know of what you speak. I can tell you with 100% certainty that these things happened and that the higher up administration knows about at least some of these situations. You openly mock and accuse us of spreading lies and gossip. Will you at least do us the courtesy of asking your president, vice president, etc. if our allegations are true before you accuse us of lying? Please do that and then come back to us with their answers. They have stated that they desire transparency, so we will see if that is true based on how they answer you.

    • avatar

      Jeremy Crooks

      This thread is descending into spreading untested and unsubstantiated inferences and personal maligning that are not appropriate for a public forum, let alone a Christian forum which respects Matthew 18. I suggest you email/contact each other privately if you want to continue to discuss this. If this innuendo continues, then I will close the comments.

    • avatar

      Jeremy Crooks

      Just to clarify, I don’t mean to shut this thread down artificially, I just want us to keep to the facts. GRACE is available. It is very easy to personally sledge on an open forum. Gregory Smith’s one post clearly crossed that line. We must avoid that temptation.

  • avatar

    John Matzko

    Thank you, Jeremy. As I said above, anonymous accusations are unknown to the Bible, and Paul tells the Colossians to reject “anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech.”

    Those who defend the anonymous attacks of “Gregory Smith” might feel differently if they were his target; be that as it may, if we can’t agree that the Bible is authoritative in the public discussion of these matters, we’ve reached a dead end.

    I’d be happy to engage privately with anyone who cares to contact me by e-mail.

  • avatar

    Jason Harris

    @Dr. John Matzko,

    I feel it was presumptuous of you to take the bow like that. Especially after I’ve given you free reign here and called out Gregory over his inappropriate insinuations.

    I have been sitting here and watching you be told that children were sexually abused in your neighborhood and your response, instead of sadness at the possibility and compassion for alleged victims, is to lash out at the messenger (who is almost certainly one of the alleged victims). If your vision is so narrow that all you can see in this thread is an attack on Bob Jones University, your vision is far too narrow.

    I’m sure some of the people here have said things in other places that are ridiculous. I’m quite comfortable to say that many (not all) who jump on the anti-BJU bandwagon become caustic and unreasonable. Fair call. But something has got to be twisted and scarred in the soul for a person to look at a situation where a child has been sexually abused and instead of having an instinct for compassion and sorrow and wanting to protect and bring justice, to have an instinct to ignore or attack.

    Now Jeremy and I have been very patient in this thread because this is a very difficult and serious topic. But I’m asking you to step back and consider:

    -Is it possible that children were taken advantage of sexually in your neighborhood?
    -Is it possible that such allegations could be raised without being an attack on Bob Jones University?
    -Is it possible that one or some in your community have at some time in some way descended into the darkness that lives in each of us and sinned in this way?
    -Is it possible that Stephen Jones’ actions have been intended to reach out to and help those whose lives have been shattered by such events?
    -Is it possible that your words here make it look like you are callous toward the suffering of others and blindly loyal to the organisation?
    -Is it possible that underneath the blind hatred for the university that some display is the brokenness of betrayal and the shame of abuse?
    -Is it possible that those who keep raising these allegations don’t hate the university but just want justice and/or to protect other potential victims?

    Is it possible? Because if it is, we’ve got to step back and see the bigger picture of people who have been deeply scarred by sinful and criminal activities and are trying to keep it from happening to others. Or trying to pick up the pieces and make sense of a life that was broken by the actions of others.

    Dr. (John) Matzko, I have a special place in my heart for the university. God used it in some wonderful ways in my life. I even took one of your classes (Hist of Civ tut) and both enjoyed it and was greatly benefited by it. The education I got at BJU was both spiritually impacting and academically rigorous. It gave me a solid foundation for my postgrad endeavors and shaped my thinking in a thousand different ways. But let’s be frank… it’s just an institution. It’s not perfect. And it IS possible (indeed probable) that some of these things did happen. And it is even possible that the university didn’t handle it well. I hope not. I’d like to think that wasn’t the case. But it is possible.

    I really appreciate Dr. Stephen Jones for doing what he’s done in seeking a review and now an investigation. Sure, perhaps he could have insisted that the uni did right and left it at that. But he chose to make himself and the uni accountable and transparent. Granted we’re in the middle of the process. But it’s the right way to proceed. Not only will alumni be confident that BJU is trying to do the right thing, but the university itself will be better for the process as people are forced to rethink issues and policies and procedures are developed, improved, or at least reviewed. I would hate to see the benefit of all this missed because of how the alleged victims are treated.

  • avatar

    John Matzko

    I appreciate the kind words about my class, Jason.

    Because my personal project for the past few years has been writing the first scholarly biography of Bob Jones Sr., I’m well aware that BJU is a human institution, flawed as are all human institutions.

    Of any past sexual abuse on campus I am ignorant. When my son was in middle school, my late wife and I considered the campus totally safe, and we let him roam free without a thought. Back then we knew who lived in every house, and the faculty and staff ate together at the Dining Common. If your kid got out of line, folks weren’t shy about letting you know about it.

    But as I said above, anonymous accusations are unknown to the Bible, and Paul tells the Colossians to reject “anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech.” If we can’t agree that Bible is authoritative in the public discussion of these matters, then I don’t see the point of further conversation here.

    G.R.A.C.E. will shortly make its report, and we should then have more accurate knowledge about such things.

  • avatar

    Matt

    Request that moderators please close commenting on this post.

    In addition to pointing out the major deviation from the original topic, and the appalling tone of conversation here, may I remind you all that anything written on the internet is well nigh impossible to remove, and may later reflect on your own names should others go searching. For the good of yourselves and others, and this site, please take this conversation to a more private place.

    • avatar

      Joy

      It is naive to think, John, that a university campus is safe just because it’s Christian. Innumerable victims were abused right behind the church & similarly unexpected places. Statistics reveal that the abuser is usually someone the victim knows.

      And victims are always threatened to maintain silence.

      Your denial is exactly what makes Christian circles a safe place for abusers. I’m in my 60′s and have seen it over and over.

  • avatar

    Joy

    Matt, aside from the personal attacks which were stopped, I think this discussion is good in that readers are forced to think through this issue. You have scarred victims who have no recourse against their abusers until now versus the traditional hide-it-under-the-rug to ‘protect the name of Christ’ and save our public image view.

  • avatar

    Matt

    @Joy, I am not so much denying that this is a worthwhile topic (although I am sadly disappointed that it has taken more the tone of an argument), more that I question if this is the right place for it. If you remember, the original topic of this post was the Royal Commission in *Australia* and Jason and Daniel’s submission to the commission calling for Australian IB churches to be included. The recent comment stream hasn’t exactly been on topic, even if you might call it related.

    The point is, while there are many supportive readers and contributors on this site, it is not designed to be a discussion/support forum. Bringing up the issue here, where there are no designated guidelines or channels, causes much more hurt and disappointment than it does resolution. The authors and moderators on this site also have their hands tied as they try to guide and direct the comments without creating more tension by seemingly endorsing one side or person. Having this discussion here puts a lot of people in a difficult position.

    It would be better if these matters could be discussed on a forum/online community where there are moderators who have dedicated themselves to helping people on this issue specifically.

    I am not calling for this discussion to be hidden or conducted entirely privately, I just think that it is a poor choice to continue it here.

    But I understand that my opinion is mine alone and that the moderators of this site have the right to do as they feel best. I just thought I would offer my view as an outsider who has been following the developments here.

  • avatar

    Matt

    Ironically, GiveMeTruth might once have been a better place for this discussion…

  • avatar

    Kezia Dennison

    @Matt,
    I, agree with Joy that this topic is a profitable one – provided it remains civil. (Actually, this has been easily the most civil uncensored conversation that I have come across on this topic) I think there are commenting guidelines in place here too. Fwiw.

    @John,
    I’m only 22, but I have to agree with Joy that from experience some of the “safest” places are where the worst of abuse happens. A “godly” pastor can be a monster at home and a church building can be a perfect location for sexual abuse. As I mentioned earlier, the church is (by the admission of sexual criminals themselves) a ideal place for them to carry out their crimes.

    In my personal opinion, when a child’s abuser is connected to his/her parents, it is far harder for the child to speak up about abuse. When that connection is close – such as friends, an employer, family member or, yes, even a fellow faculty member they share a meal with every night – their silence is even harder to break.

    A child’s sense of worth is most often shattered when they are sexually abused and to see their parents placing value a relationship with their abuser will often cause them to question their own value in the eyes of their parents. And secretly they begin to fear that if their parents were forced to choose between their child and the benefits of a relationship with their child’s abuser, their abuser might win out. Sadly this ultimate betrayal is many times confirmed when the truth does finally come out and the child is silenced or the abuse covered up.

    NOTE: I’m not suggesting your child was abused, but just pointing out that knowing who lived in every house and eating together with them does not mean there was not a pedophile amongst them or that the campus was safe from abusers or abuse.

    Once again, there has been no anonymous accusations or slander made here in relation to Gregory’s claims of knowledge of abuse happening on campus. It is simply not slander to state that abuse happened on a campus. An accusation is to assign blame to someone or something. In fact, aside from Gregory’s suggestions (which were rebuked by the moderators) about you in response to your emailing him, no anonymous accusation has been made at all. So there is nothing to disagree on here regarding biblical handling of anonymous accusations. The issue, as I see it, is that Gregory said he knew of abuse on campus and you seeming to attack him for it. Perhaps I have missed something… It’s been a long day and I am often prone to human error, but if the issue were whether or not BJU is somehow at fault, I would not be arguing at all as I simply do not have all the facts needed to make such a judgement. What I have debated, however, has been the issue of whether or not abuse may have happened on the BJU campus and why your conclusions about locations, safety, knowledge of residents, etc, are not relevant to whether or not abuse did in fact happen.

  • avatar

    Jeffrey Hoffman

    I have been following this thread with interest. I would like to point out that the Christianity Today article actually does not cite anything that is unsubstantiated. It is a fact that numerous allegations exist about sexual abuse within IFB churches in the BJU network. It is a fact that BJU reported nine incidents of sexual assault on its Clery Report to the Federal Government in 2011. It is a fact that Tina Anderson was maligned repeatedly and terribly by a Bob Jones University Board Member for well over a year prior to a rape trial in which she was both the victim and a primary witness. It is a fact that many alumni of Bob Jones Academy and University signed a petition demanding that this man be removed from BJU’s board. It is a fact that Christopher Peterman organized a protest on campus to call for Mr. Phelps’s resignation. It is a fact that Christopher was expelled from Bob Jones University — yes, Administrators used that word first, not the softer “suspended” of more recent spin — in apparent retaliation for the protest, especially given the fact that the vast majority of his demerits were accrued in the last month of his enrollment at the school and mostly for things the Discipline Committee agreed were not explicitly stated in the University’s student handbook. It is a fact that numerous former students and alumni, including me, have stories to tell to G.R.A.C.E. regarding abuse by people associated with BJU and/or their treatment by university administrators upon revelation of some other sexual abuse they had experienced.

    The allegations are numerous. I am personally aware of many of them. The safety and privacy of those victims and survivors is not at all against scripture. As I have mentioned elsewhere, Dr. Matko is neither prosecutor, judge, nor jury. It is not within his purview to know the identities of those who have allegations to share with the investigative team at G.R.A.C.E. and/or with the appropriate civil authorities. This constant badgering about scripture seems to me to be an attempt to silence the victims and it does not speak well for the University that a long-time professor has chosen to constantly use this approach in multiple forums.

    The folks at the Julie Valentine Center are available to counsel the victims of sexual abuse and they respect privacy and do not betray confidences. They also assist when victims are ready to tell the police their stories.

    Dr. Matzko, with all respect, it is none of your business who the survivors are. My old friend Stephen Jones has done a good thing in retaining the services of the professionals at G.R.A.C.E. to conduct this investigation and effect a change in the culture at BJU that many of us survivors feel is necessary to protect the innocent lives of future generations. I commend him for doing so. This is a bold step in the right direction. I trust that survivors who have completed surveys and who are interviewed by G.R.A.C.E. over the course of the next year or so (you do realize that Basyle Tchividjian told a Philadelphia audience that this is likely the largest investigation his organization has ever conducted, and the recently-aborted ABWE investigation was initially intended to be an 18-month investigation, don’t you?) will find a compassionate response and the appropriate attention to their stories from qualified professional investigators. I also trust that G.R.A.C.E. will do a thorough investigation of all allegations and make a comprehensive report to the public of its findings.

    As a Christian and a survivor, I believe our Lord is well pleased when the defenseless ones who were so dear to his heart are protected from harm within the church and parachurch organizations like BJU. I hope and pray that this will be the outcome.

  • avatar

    David Shaffer

    Why are the Matzko’s so quick to defend BJU but not so quick to defend potential victims of BJU? Of course, both Matzko’s have careers that they would lose should BJU shut down due to abuse. I think they might have a vested interest in discrediting victims.

  • avatar

    David Shaffer

    And IIRC John Matzko goes by the alias John Foxe and is a frequent editor on the BJU wikipedia page.

  • avatar

    Joy

    He also defended Phelps.

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