Matthew 18 requires a Christian who has been offended by a brother to go to that brother to see whether things can be made right without escalation of the issue to “two or three” and then “to the church.” This is not that. Rather, this might be something I would drop into the Suggestion Box were I in Greenville. It is a signed list of suggestions, along with the reasons for those suggestions from a longtime loyal alumna, former staff member at BJU Press, and author of 11 books, all still in print with Journeyforth, an imprint of BJU Press.
May 1, 2013
Rancho Cordova, California
Dear Dr. Bob,
I recently wrote a post on my blog about things I’d like to see changed at BJU. Today, my husband encouraged me to send it to you personally. However, because I included bits of humor and irony in that post in order to spark conversation, I felt that the post as it is would not be appropriate to send to you. Because of that, I have taken out the humor, distilled some points, removed others, and added some, so that this letter will reflect my thoughts without the funny bits that, it must be admitted, were simply an attempt to mask my fear of speaking plainly.
To introduce myself to you, this is what might be in my file at BJU: In 1980 or 1981, I turned in my roommate for wearing pants off campus. In 1990, I contacted you for advice because I had been fired from a Christian school for telling students Santa Claus is a myth. In 1993, I came to you with the scary news that I had received a positive HIV test after attempting to give blood for a fellow BJUP employee. (The test was later found to be in error.) In 2009 or 2010, Beneth poured ice-water for me at the Perrys’ home here in my neighborhood. I have written 11 books (all still in print) for Journeyforth. You have always been kind to me.
Dr. Bob, there is a rumbling among some alumni, and it is a rumbling of fear. We are afraid that our friends who have 30 or more years of service invested in the University will be fired without a pension and without benefits, as Dr. McCauley was. If you and Stephen were powerless to help Dr. McCauley, you will be just as powerless to help our friends who are less visible than Dr. McCauley is.
We are afraid that the Board will, at any moment, decide that the purpose of the School can no longer be fulfilled and will shut the whole place down (as the Charter provides), distributing funds to a select few—including most importantly your immediate family—without regard for the thousands of students and faculty and staff who would be left high and dry.
We are afraid that, because of dwindling enrollment and a shrinking demographic and the availability in other places of more modern music, water parks, and what not, our Alma Mater will not be available to future students. Our own children and grandchildren will not even have the choice to experience the distinctives BJU offers because, due to Board action mentioned above, it will not exist.
Should the Board really have the power to sell to the highest bidder a Campus dedicated to Christ and purchased with the sacrificial giving and life’s work of thousands of loyal alumni, faculty, staff, and students simply because it doesn’t care for reasonable modernization?
Should not the Board, rather, repent of its collective heels-dug-in stance against, say, modernizing the music, in hopes of recruiting a new generation of Christian young people committed to Jesus Christ and His Gospel of saving grace? Indeed, does not a refusal to budge on non-creedal issues indicate a desire to see BJU close and the proceeds distributed among those the Board chooses? This frightens me.
Because of these and other concerns, I wrote a list of changes I would like to see implemented. Edited and changed for reasons mentioned above, here are those things:
1. Change the name of the school. As sad as it is to hear, “Bob Jones University” has unhappy connotations, nor do many people have any idea who your Grandfather was. I recommend “South Carolina Christian College” or something similarly generic.
2. Bring in a new President from outside who has an earned doctorate from a regionally-accredited University. Tie his salary to enrollment. We feel very sorry that Stephen has been so ill for so long, but at this point the School needs someone who can vigorously preach, vigorously promote, vigorously recruit, and vigorously move the School forward. Even a pro tempore President might work, if one had the magnetic personality and outgoing nature of, say, Mike Buiter.
3. There is a widespread feeling that the Board is a group of old racists. In a spirit of disarming this belief, require all members of the Board to sign and then read aloud in chapel to be permanently posted on sermonaudio.com the following statement:
“I have never aligned myself with, nor prayed for the success of the Ku Klux Klan. I regret my racist past, if any, and pledge myself to furthering the mission of South Carolina Christian College by actively seeking out African-American, Asian-American, and Hispanic-American faculty and students.
“I regret the termination of aging faculty and pledge that this practice will no longer occur. I pledge to sell the art collection, back-campus housing, or other non-educational assets rather than to abandon those who have given their working lives to this school.
“I further pledge to speak out boldly against any past, present, or future corruption relating to the College—including sexual abuse or its cover-up—when I learn of it and without regard for my own or my colleagues’ personal interests.
“Furthermore, I will attempt to avoid speaking evil of the President of the United States during his or her term in office.
“So help me God.”
Retain no one on the Board who cannot enthusiastically sign this statement.
4. Enlist the help of Alumni volunteers of good-standing to check music submitted by students so that new songs that meet reasonable objective guidelines as to beat, lyric, general tone, and genre can be listened to and even purchased in the Bookstore.
5. Occasionally introduce in chapel a new worship song that meets the reasonable objective guidelines mentioned above. “New” may mean songs that are decades old, such as “We Will Glorify the King of Kings” (copyright 1982) by Twila Paris, which is now in hymnbooks. The fact is that students and their parents know that there are many authentically worshipful, Bible-based, and non-rock songs among what is called Christian Contemporary Music.
6. Allow other checked worship songs in hall meetings, society meetings and outings, and other non-worship-service settings.
7. Encourage chapel speakers to speak more of Jesus and less of homosexuality, remembering that we speak about what we think about.
8. Encourage students who may be engaged in sexual sin or struggling with homosexual or heterosexual cravings or who may be pregnant or otherwise in moral difficulty to seek confidential help. History tells us that the Dean of Men’s and Dean of Women’s offices have not been safe havens for students with moral issues, but merely pit-stops on the way to being shipped home. A confidential counseling center could be established to help students work through issues—rather than being shipped for them.
9. Drop the word “Fundamentalist” for the simple reason that it connotes jihadism. Purposefully distance yourselves from this word. Coin a new word if a label is necessary and no existing word accurately describes us.
10. Hire one Black faculty member immediately. Add one more every year. Add an African-American to the Board without delay. Add another in a couple of years.
11. Commit yourselves to accepting the G.R.A.C.E. report with dignity, with repentance, and with grace, making the changes that will be obviously necessary once the report comes out. If you have not already done so, exhort any faculty, Board member, affiliated preacher, and so forth, to come clean before the report comes out, resigning from his ministries, seeking forgiveness from and offering restitution to those he has wounded, and even turning himself into law enforcement if appropriate.
12. Do what needs to be done to implement the Promise, especially as to those older former faculty already dismissed and living on Social Security. It is wrong to do wrong in order to get a chance to do right, and it is wrong to fire loyal, hard-working faculty in order to save money for whatever “right” reason.
13. We beg you to reinstate Dr. McCauley in some capacity for the next two years so that he can retire with full benefits.
14. Give Mr. Peterman his diploma. Expelling anyone (no matter what the infraction, less than a serious felony, perhaps) within 9 days of graduation is unconscionable.
15. Create and publish an “exit strategy” that will calm fears, indicating that, in the sad event the School closes, all current faculty and staff and all retired faculty and staff will receive a portion of the proceeds of the School’s sale in some proportion relating to their years of service, before the remainder of the money is distributed to other Gospel endeavors, the M & G, or the Jones family.
16. Apologize for saying homosexuality would be stopped were all gays to be stoned. Although this statement was made decades ago, it continues to wound.
Sincerely, and in the hope that our School will continue to exist to glorify Jesus for the next eighty-six years,
Sharon Hambrick (MA, 1981)
Brian Hambrick (BSN, 1997)
P.S. From Brian: I fully support Sharon’s statement here and asked her to send it. Both Sharon and I continue to be thankful for our BJU educations, and for Journeyforth’s publishing of Sharon’s books. My nursing degree has allowed me to support my family well in the sixteen years since I graduated (at the ripe old age of 39!). Sadly, at this time, we feel it is impossible to look at BJU as a future place for our children’s education, but we hope that will change as appropriate changes come to BJU. We are committed to doing our part, if there is anything we can do to further reasonable, appropriate change.