Julie Roys is an evangelical voice that I’ve admired for a while now. She is an author, blogger, speaker on culture and Christianity, as well as the respected host of Moody Radio’s Up for Debate program. So, I was disappointed and frustrated to learn Roys was fired from her radio program on January 8 for, seemingly, her investigation and reporting of the serious contentions surrounding Moody Bible Institute (MBI) in Chicago, Illinois.
In the midst of a household of runny noses, I’ve been struggling to keep up with the brewing storm surrounding MBI. Perhaps you have too. Tracing back to the beginning of the controversy, one finds a thorny, complicated—and in some ways, mind boggling— situation. What follows is my best attempt to compile a helpful (yet non-comprehensive) run-down of events and revelations alleging questionable spending practices and wavering Biblical orthodoxy.
November 9, 2017— Hints of the Bible college’s financial problems were first visible when Christianity Today’s Kate Shelnutt reported MBI was preparing to close its Spokane campus and Pasadena satellite site and cut Chicago campus faculty in order to “preserve Moody’s long-term financial wellbeing.”
In late 2017, Roys began investigating the extent of the troubles at MBI behind the scenes.
January 4, 2018—Roys tweeted:
— Julie Roys (@reachjulieroys) January 4, 2018
According to Roys’ report, the Executive Committee of the Moody Bible Institute Board of Trustees and President Paul Nyquist planned to meet on January 5 to discuss allegations including:
- Allowing professors who deny the inerrancy of Scripture to teach at the institute and write curriculum
- Allowing a professor who supports Planned Parenthood, liberation theology, and a host of other liberal causes to teach at the school, and even spearhead missions conferences
- Permitting a top education official to violate the institute’s bylaws repeatedly, and openly practice reverse-discrimination
- Fostering an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, silencing whistleblowers by reprimanding, or even firing them
- Refusing to allow shared governance with faculty as stipulated by the Higher Learning Commission, which oversees accreditation for Moody
Further, Roys points readers to an open letter submitted to The Moody Standard in November, 2017. The byline of the open letter is attributed to “Anonymous,” but is apparently written by faculty who explain “we truly don’t know if we would be fired for publishing this.”
The letter (now a pdf link on Roys’ blog) details questionable spending and student and faculty frustrations with a non-responsive administration in the wake of nearly one-third full-time faculty cuts. The author(s) write:
Employee and student trust has never been high at Moody. The most recent employee survey placed trust at squarely below the average. The majority stated that they didn’t believe anything would change as a result of the survey. After what we’ve experienced this month, we don’t feel that the administration is willing to listen or respond in wise ways.
How do you expect us to still provide this level of quality education for the same number of students when we’ve lost one-third of our faculty, with similar degrees of corporate infrastructure and program cuts still on the way?
January 9—Roys’ investigation revealed the school lent a $500,000 interest-only loan to MBI President Nyquist for a condominium, provided a luxury suite for Left Behind author and former Chairman of Board of Trustees Jerry Jenkins, and advanced a multi-million dollar new building project in the midst of the institute’s financial woes. You can read Roys’ detailed report—including her confrontation of Randy Fairfax, the chairman of MBI’s Board of Trustees—on her blog here.
Julie Roys Fired, Up for Debate Cancelled
January 8-9—Most confusing is MBI’s abrupt dismissal of Roys from her Moody Radio show, seemingly as a result of her report. She was notified of her termination in an email from Greg Thornton, MBI senior vice president of media. (Thornton is now serving as MBI Interim President)
On her blog, Roys shared:
Then yesterday at noon, I received an email from Greg Thornton, MBI senior vice president of media, informing me that “after consulting with the Executive Committee of the Moody Board, leadership is terminating your employment.” No reason was given and I was informed that my boss, Program Manager Dan Craig would be at my house in two-and-a-half hours to pick up my laptop.
Moody Radio announced the cancellation of Roys’ show Up for Debate in a vague explanation posted on the radio program’s website, stating:
After much prayer and careful consideration, Moody Radio has ceased production of Up for Debate. We are grateful to the Lord for how He has used the program to equip listeners to discern various matters of the Christian life through the lens of Scripture, and we look forward to continue ministering to you through our other programs.
Moody’s “New Season of Leadership”
January 10—Moody notified employees of the resignation of President Nyquist and Chief Operating Officer Steve Mogck and retirement of Provost Dr. Junias Venugopal, citing MBI’s need for “a new season of leadership.” Roys posted the full letter to Moody employees on her blog here. It states, in part:
As you know, the Board of Trustees has been discussing issues related to widespread concerns over the direction of Moody. Today, we accepted the resignations of President, Dr. Paul Nyquist; Chief Operating Officer, Steve Mogck; and the retirement of Provost, Dr. Junias Venugopal. Let there be no mistake that the Board of Trustees holds these three men in high regard for their ethical, moral, and spiritual leadership. They are godly, honorable men to whom we entrust to the Lord and offer our deep gratitude for their years of faithful service to Christ and to Moody. However, we are unanimous in our decision that it is time for a new season of leadership.
A Crisis of Orthodoxy?
Most alarming are the allegations of an unorthodox theological shift among MBI faculty and staff.
According to Roys, MBI Board of Trustees were set to discuss a “professor who supports Planned Parenthood, liberation theology, and a host of other liberal causes” and “professors who deny the inerrancy of Scripture.”
January 23—Despite sudden executive resignations and retirement, an official statement from MBI Board Chair of Trustees Randy Fairfax, Interim President Greg Thornton, and Interim Provost John Jelinek insists “there is no corruption, or any illegal and unethical activity taking place at Moody” and “Moody is steadfast in our wholehearted commitment to the historic, orthodox doctrines of the faith and to the inspiration and inerrancy of the Word of God.”
The letter continues, “[I]t grieves us that some of our faculty have been falsely accused of being in direct opposition to Moody’s stated beliefs and mission.”
January 25—Roys cited MBI Theology Professor Richard Weber’s allegation that Assistant Professor of Theology Dr. Ashish Varma and Professor of Theology Dr. David Tae-Kyung Rim hold a postmodern view of truth and elaborates on nuances surrounding Moody’s statement of faith. She pointed out:
In today’s postmodern environment, it is entirely possible for someone to sign a statement claiming that the Bible “is free from error” and yet simultaneously admit to what many would consider errors. The question facing the Moody Bible Institute today is not whether all its professors have signed a doctrinal statement on inerrancy, but what do they mean when they sign that statement?
January 29—Roys penned a response post doubling down on her evidence seemingly affirming allegations of questionable financial practices and faithfulness to orthodoxy. She argues, “[A]ll is not well, and Moody’s latest statement has only further muddied the waters” and “confusion persists, and Moody’s latest statement obscuring the facts has not helped.”
Unity in the midst of Confusion
For Roys, her investigation is about furthering moral clarity, not confusion. She agrees with MBI’s leadership’s call for unity and prayer, but asserts, “unity requires dealing with sin, not denying it. “
“So please MBI leadership, own and name your mistakes. And then let’s move on with a clean slate and fresh vision,” she urged.
Despite the confusion, the Almighty is reliable and capable of rectifying the messiest of situations. We pray the Lord grant wisdom to MBI’s leadership, and conviction where necessary. May the Lord guide faculty and staff as they ultimately train the rising generation of global ministry leaders.
For further detailed reporting and analysis on the allegations surrounding MBI, I recommend the following two articles:
The Stream, “Whistleblower Asks: Is Moody Bible Institute Downplaying Its Own Middle Name?,” by Josh Shepherd
World Magazine, “Moody Blues: Financial errors, insider dealings, and theological concerns force a change at an evangelical powerhouse,” by Paul Butler & Marvin Olasky