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Religion Today Blog Christian Blog and Commentary

Moody Bible Institute Faces History of Racial Tension and Attempts to Move Forward

  • Veronica Neffinger
    Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world
  • 2018 Jan 22
  • Comments

Moody Bible Institute is one of the oldest Bible colleges in the nation. Recently, the school has been called into question after allegations surfaced that there is a pervasive if subtle culture of racist attitudes on campus.

Several former African-American students shared their stories. One, identified as Micah Bournes, said that overall, neither faculty or other students ever tried to be more inclusive of minorities on campus. Furthermore, when Bournes read that the college’s student handbook “didn’t allow students to have what it called extreme or distracting hairstyles that included cornrows and dreadlocks,” he took this issue up with the Dean.

Since cornrows and dreadlocks are almost exclusively hairstyles worn by Black people, Bournes felt that the school was discriminating against him and others like him. When he brought the issue up with the Dean, he received a rather concerning response:

“The Dean told me, ‘Micah, this is the thing. We want to keep student expenses as low as possible. But many of our donors are old, wealthy, white people and they have a certain idea of what godliness looks like,” he recalled, according to Relevant Magazine. “To appease those donors we often have to move slowly.”

Other similar stories were reported.

Things came to a head in 2015 when Embrace, an African-American student group on campus, hosted an event to address white privilege.

The majority of faculty and other students responded in anger to this event. One professor, Bryan Litfin, even said that “white privilege” was “offensive on its face and unworthy of Christian discourse.”

Regardless of the validity of both viewpoints, it seems Moody Bible Institute did not handle the tensions in a very healthy way.

Litfin, along with over 30 other Moody faculty members, were laid off last November, reportedly due to budget cuts. Other faculty and staff were fired even more recently over accusations of using their positions and campus assets for their personal gain and enjoyment.

Although Moody’s history of racial tension is disappointing and concerning, faculty and students are hopeful going forward.

“I think the perception right now outside is that we’re in an all-out combat here, but I wouldn’t describe it that way,” says assistant professor of pastoral studies Craig Henderson. “There is tension and uncertainty and a low level of trust. We need to come together and discuss how to move forward and keep making gains.”


Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Publication date: January 22, 2018