The Greenville, S.C.-based Christian school Bob Jones University ended its contract with GRACE, an independent ombudsman hired to review the institution’s handling of sexual abuse, one month before its findings were to be reported. The university did not explicitly state why it chose to terminate the contract.
“Over the last several months, we grew concerned about how GRACE was pursuing our objectives,” BJU said in a press release. It ended the contract on Jan. 27.
GRACE, or Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment, is a Lynchburg, Virginia-based organization that works with churches and other Christian organizations to prevent abuse and help them better respond to abuse reports. The organization wrote in a Facebook post that the termination “took GRACE by complete surprise as there had been no prior indications from BJU that termination was even being considered.”
It added that it was days away from completing its final interviews and publishing the report that was over a year in the making.
“At this point, we are most concerned about the potential impact of this termination on those who participated in the investigation and are waiting for the final report,” GRACE wrote. “We grieve with those whose hopes will be crushed should this independent process remain incomplete.”
Concerns were raised about BJU’s responses to sexual abuse in November 2012. The Department of Education reported nine separate instances of sexual assault on the 3,000-student campus in 2011. Scandal broke in 2012 when a student, Chris Peterson, was denied his diploma for speaking out against former BJU Board of Trustees member Chuck Phelps, a pastor accused of covering up sexual abuse at his church.
Several students responded to the Facebook post announcing GRACE's termination with surprise, suspicion, and dismay. One victim who had taken part in the GRACE investigation wrote that she was “devastated,” while others expressed their hunch that “BJU has something to hide.”
In an email to WORLD news, BJU spokesman Randy Page told WORLD in an email that the university would be hiring another organization to finish the report.
“We remain committed to having a third party—whether GRACE or another entity—complete the process and issue a public report at that time,” Page wrote.