Updated on June 1, 2018:
May 30, 2018, I sent the following email to our faculty and staff on responding to abuse. It was written for the Cedarville community, but I have posted it here so that any interested alumni, friends, or partners in ministry may see it.
Dear Cedarville Family,
While I have been out of the country for the past week, there has been a growing media attention on the handling of alleged abuse cases at some universities and seminaries. Now that I am back, I want to remind and assure everyone that some time ago in consultation with outside experts we developed and implemented policies that thoroughly investigate any reports of abuse. These processes operate across multiple divisions outside of the President’s Office increasing transparency and decentralizing authority. One of those is our Title IX policy which can be accessed at www.cedarville.edu/TitleIX. We have training in place to ensure that all students, faculty and staff are aware of our Title IX policies.
These issues have been brought close to home with the recent reports involving Dr. Paige Patterson. I am burdened as I have friends on all sides. He is not perfect. None of us are, but I would have handled several situations differently from him. I appreciate the opportunities he gave me years ago and will always love him. I also have friends on the Board of Trustees at Southwestern Seminary. I have prayed for God to grant them wisdom and discernment as they seek God’s will. I mourn for all of those impacted.
Regarding the article where the Washington Post claimed Patterson encouraged a woman not to report an alleged rape to police, I was not in the room for the meeting and did not handle this matter though I did work at Southeastern Seminary during this time. I believe it is prudent for Southeastern to investigate the situation.
I do not know whether Dr. Patterson will continue to serve as a Trustee at Cedarville. The President neither appoints nor removes trustees. I serve under the authority of the Board and not the other way around. Our Board is self-perpetuating, and they have processes in place that they follow. Communication across the twenty-seven members with busy summer schedules can take time, and any action typically happens at regularly scheduled meetings. In my experience with them, our Board seeks to make wise decisions after gathering and considering all available information. I trust our Board to do what is right, at the right time, and in the right way.
As you know, over the last two years, I have preached through James and Proverbs. As I write, the following verses continue to ring in my ears:
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. – James 1:26-27
When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. – Proverbs 10:19
Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. – Proverbs 17:27-28
I say nothing more on the details involving Dr. Patterson neither out of fear, nor arrogant thoughts of superiority over those who have spoken. I am sure those commenting acted as they felt led by God, and sometimes God does lead us to speak. I refrain because I do not have anything beneficial to add.
I can tell you that at Cedarville University we want a culture that supports and values women. We want a culture that defends and protects any victim. We want a culture that properly balances justice and mercy. We know that we are all sinners so we desire a community of compassion that works with fallen men and women to grow closer to Jesus. While doing this, we justly report any violation of the law to the authorities immediately. We seek to personify Micah 6:8, “to do justice and love mercy and walk humbly with our Lord.”
We recognize that training students in this generation is complex. We live in the midst of a #MeToo movement surrounded by a “Fifty Shades of Grey” culture populated by humans bearing a sinful nature inherited from Adam. Reports continuously surface of sexual misconduct in different ways at various universities across the country. In an effort to lead well, allow me to remind our Cedarville family about our commitments concerning abuse.
Early on in my tenure as president, I felt it important to make a clear statement about abuse. Therefore, in August of 2014, I worked with outside legal counsel to craft a clear communication which was sent to our entire faculty and staff making sure that if anyone was aware of sexual abuse of any kind then “your first and immediate action must be to notify law enforcement authorities without delay.” I further stated that “any attempt to minimize or conceal such incidents – including simply not reporting them –is absolutely unacceptable. We have an obligation to do what is right and to protect anyone who has been abused or mistreated.”
More recently in March of this year, I had the privilege to participate in adopting the following “Statement on Abuse” in my work with another entity. This statement articulates my views and direction as I lead Cedarville University.
STATEMENT ON ABUSE
- We believe abuse can be defined as any act or failure to act resulting in imminent risk, serious injury, death, physical or emotional or sexual harm, or exploitation of another person.
- We condemn all forms of physical, sexual and/or verbal abuse.
- We believe that the biblical teaching on relationships between men and women does not support, but condemns abuse (Prov. 12:18; Eph. 5:25-29; Col. 3:18; 1 Tim. 3:3; Titus 1:7-8; 1 Pet. 3:7; 5:3).
- We believe that abuse is not only a sin but is also a crime. It is destructive and evil. Abuse is a hallmark of the devil and is in direct opposition to the purposes of God. Abuse must not to be tolerated in the Christian community.
- We believe that the local church and Christian ministries have a responsibility to establish safe environments; to execute policies and practices that protect against any form of abuse; to confront abusers and to protect the abused, which includes the responsibility to report abuse to civil authorities.
- We believe that church and ministry leaders have a special obligation to report abuse to civil authorities. Moreover, these leaders are responsible for knowing the laws of their state about reporting the suspicion or accusation of child and spousal abuse, and for following those laws in good faith.
- We believe that the church must offer tender concern and care for the abused and must help the abused to find hope and healing through the gospel. The church should do all it can to provide ongoing counseling and support for the abused. The wounds of abuse run deep and so patience and mercy are needed over the long-haul as the church cares for the abused.
- We believe abusers need to confess their crimes both to civil and church authorities, to repent of their sin, and to trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation and forgiveness from their sin.
- We believe that by the power of God’s Spirit, the Christian church can be an instrument of God’s love and healing for those involved in abusive relationships and an example of wholeness in a fractured, broken world.
We have a great team committed to creating a community that trains the next generation with excellence to stand “for the Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus Christ.” I would welcome your prayers and support that we would be faithful stewards, and I value your partnership towards this end.
Update: I was notified early June 1, 2018 that Dr. Patterson had resigned from the Board of Trustees.