Church celebrities who are above criticism (I): GRACE, Bob Jones, and Bill Gothard...

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...I am a nobody.  - Apostle Paul

A year or two ago, a group of pastors and elders were working with a tall-steeple church on the East coast to bring a musician on their staff under discipline for his sexual assaults against young men he taught at a local college and supervised as director of his church's high-profile music ministry. As we worked, we had conversations with others who were providing similar help concerning survivors of sexual abuse at Bob Jones University and Bill Gothard's Institute in Basic Life Principles. It's noteworthy that long before Christianity Today or World went on record against Bob Jones University and Bill Gothard, Dad Bayly rebuked these Christian celebrities and warned the Evangelical world against them. When and where?

Concerning Bob Jones and his university, Dad's warning went into print back in 1969 in his monthly "Out of My Mind" column in ETERNITY magazine. Bob Jones University had just requested permission to arm their campus security guards with automatic rifles and submachine guns...

In his June 1969 ETERNITY column Dad wrote:

The nation and the world have been notified that Bob Jones University, "the world's most unusual university," wants its campus security guards armed with machine guns and automatic rifles. ...I should like to make it clear that Bob Jones Jr. and Bob Jones University do not speak for me in these matters. I only make this clear because so many of our contemporaries lump all who follow evangelical theology together. I think the time has come for some of us to say, "I follow Jesus Christ and Jeremiah and a host of others rather than Bob Jones, Jr.

Bob Jones University is down in South Carolina and the context for their desire for submachine guns was the assassination a year earlier of Martin Luther King Jr. (in 1968). Racial tensions were very high and had spread across the country. For many decades, Bob Jones University was notorious for its racist conservatism. Its official policies banned interracial dating until the ban was finally lifted in 2000. Thus David and I recollect our family's pride when Dad rebuked Bob Jones and his university. It was back in the heyday of Bob Jones' popularity among conservative white evangelicals. There were no other voices rasied against the evil—just Joe Bayly, and he paid a price for goring one of Evangelicalism's very fat oxen.

Almost half a century later, Evangelical and Reformed luminaries with their publications of record are finally seeing their way clear to be critical of Bob Jones University. It's worth noting, though, this boldness comes on the heels of a decade of declining enrollment at BJU. It's also worth noting that clicking on a number of links to the Bob Jones University Report written by the corporation hired to investigate BJU, GRACE, yields a bunch of dead pages.

After a half hour of fruitless clicks on links to GRACE, as well as a search through GRACE's own search box that failed, I found the report and Baylyblog readers can download it here.

Compared to Bill Gothard and his Institute in Basic Life Principles and Advanced Training Institute, Bob Jones and Bob Jones University are small potatoes. And whereas BJU's failures chronicled by GRACE mostly involve errors in the counseling and care of survivors of sexual abuse, Bill Gothard's sins, both personal and in his management of others—particularly his brother, Steve—are on a whole different scale. It was the Gothards themselves who committed and covered up the sin.

When we heard of the Bill Gothard scandal, my brother David suggested we post Dad's articles from the late seventies that appeared in ETERNITY magazine in which Dad took Gothard to task for a number of things, and suffered the consequences.

What consequences?

Much pressure and criticism from friends and Evangelical leaders across the country, including my father-in-law, Ken Taylor. Dad Taylor figured prominently in Bill Gothard's attempt to cover up his brother, Steven's, sexual immorality, being the addressee of a cover letter from Gothard (carbon-copied to a number of the most prominent leaders in Evangelicalism) accompanying another letter Gothard had written attacking "Tony," one of his most trusted Institute colleagues.

The best defense is a good offence. Tony had mounted increasingly strong objections to Gothard's refusal to bring his brother's predatorial immorality to a stop within the organization. Seeing the writing on the wall, Gothard finally cut his losses and defended himself by issuing a vicious nineteen-page letter attacking Tony—and this despite their many-year close working relationship. Gothard listed charge after charge against Tony, calling him an "agent" of Satan sixty-nine times. Here is the cover letter to Dad Taylor. Then, at the bottom of that letter is the list of leaders within Evangelicalism who received carbon copies of the cover letter as well as the "agent of Satan" letter.

Our next post in this series will go into more detail concerning the origin and nature of Dad Bayly's criticisms of Gothard, as well as the consequences he suffered. As readers will see, one of Dad's chief objections was the knee-jerk reaction common Christians had against any public criticism of celebrity Christian leaders.

Across the intervening forty years, there's been no decline in the Christian rank and file's adulation and financial support of celebrity Christian leaders, and little growth in appreciation for criticism of celebrity Christians still at the top of their game.

Yes, once they go into print with the defense of sexual perversion and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of their congregation's money marketing their latest book, the occasional celebrity will reach a tipping point where all his former acolytes gather together, put on combat boots, and make a public show of stomping him into the ground. But that's not criticism; it's a mob-action feeding frenzy.

The godly life of a Christian leader is somewhere between all men and no men speaking well of us.

You know it's going to be a bad day when the big boys tell you they are withdrawing their invitation for you to speak at their next confab and while you're on the phone having that painful conversation, you see tweets pouring in about the article about you that was just posted on Puffington Host.

Likely a little public criticism along the way would have prevented the fall.

Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.  - Luke 6:26

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!