In November 2012, Bob Jones University, the longtime flagship institution of fundamentalism, announced it had hired GRACE (short for Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment), an independent group of evangelical lawyers, pastors, and psychologists, to investigate the university’s handling of sexual-abuse and -harassment reports.Bob Jones officials said they were taking the step after watching the pedophilia scandal unfold at Pennsylvania State University the previous year.Phelps, who’d gone on to be president of the fundamentalist Maranatha Baptist Bible College in Wisconsin, maintained close ties to Bob Jones, serving on its board of trustees as well as on its missionary and youth-camp boards.Students and alumni had already begun to agitate online against the school’s lack of academic and student freedom, as well as its response to reports of sexual abuse.Anderson’s story highlighted what these critics—dismissed by the school as disaffected “detractors”—saw as a pattern in how Bob Jones stigmatized students who reported rape or sexual assault.
Outsiders call the school the “mother ship” of fundamentalism; the university prefers another moniker, “the fortress of faith.” To call Bob Jones insular doesn’t quite cover it.
On its compound in Greenville, South Carolina, once surrounded in part by barbed wire, faculty children were, until recently, born at the on-campus hospital, raised in the K-12 Bob Jones Academy, educated at the university, then sent out into the world armed with a list of approved churches (mostly those that send the school students or money and that are often pastored by Bob Jones “preacher boys” like Phelps).
Until the early 2000s, faculty were paid minuscule wages—hovering around ,000 a year for a full-time professor—in exchange for subsidized living and the commitment that the school would care for them into old age (a retirement plan called “The Promise”).
” For years, Protestants have assumed they were immune to the abuses perpetrated by celibate Catholic priests.
But Tchividjian believes that Protestant churches, groups, and schools have been worse than Catholics in their response.