By Lyn Riddle  

DECEMBER 1, 2011 7:59 p.m. Comments (9)

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The Rev. Chuck Phelps has resigned from the Bob Jones University cooperating board after a group of alumni circulated a petition asking the university to remove  Phelps because of the way the minister handled allegations that a church member raped a 15-year-old girl in his congregation.

Bob Jones III, BJU chancellor and grandson of the founder, read Phelps' letter of resignation this morning at a regularly scheduled board meeting. A statement on the university's website said Phelps did not want to "distract distract BJU from its mission."

“We are grateful to Dr. Phelps for his many years of loyal service to his alma mater as a member of the Board of Trustees,” the statement quoted  Jones as saying.

Phelps was the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Concord, N.H., in 1997 when Tina Anderson accused Ernie Willis of raping her in the backseat of his car after he had given her a driving lesson. A month later Willis raped her again. When she found out she was pregnant, she and her mother went to Phelps.

“I was sure I would be blamed and I was,” Anderson told 20/20 reporter Elizabeth Vargas in an hour-long episode that aired in April.

Anderson said Phelps made her stand before the church while he read a statement telling the congregation she was pregnant. At the same time, Willis was required to confess he had committed adultery but no mention was made of Anderson, according to 20/20.

Anderson said Phelps made her go to a private home in Colorado, where she gave up her baby for adoption. She also claimed Phelps told her not to contact the police.

phelpsIn an interview from his Indiana home today, Phelps said, "I didn't want anything in my personal life to be a disruption. People were bringing things to the doorstep of Bob Jones University that didn't need to be there."

He said had been aware of the petition for some time and believes the petitioners were making conclusions, not seeking facts.

He said he reported the incident to police and child protective services, but neither agency followed up. He also said her mother made the decision to send her to Colorado.

Phelps said he allowed Anderson to appear before the congregation as a way to get help not to shame her. But he said he would not allow that to happen today and he regrets that decision.

"I've been willing to say I'm sorry," he said.

Camille Lewis, a BJU graduate and former professor, said, "I am glad to see that Bob Jones University is listening to its concerned alumni. I hope this means that Chuck Phelps will also be resigning from the boards of the Bob Jones affiliated mission board, Gospel Fellowship Association, and youth camp, The WILDS, since both involve oversight of minors. And I hope that Chuck Phelps will no longer be an adjunct faculty member teaching pastoral ethics. A public apology to Tina Anderson, as well, would be only fitting."
Willis was arrested last year. Willis was convicted of two counts of rape in September and sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison.

Bob Jones spokesman Brian Scoles said Phelps, a 1980 graduate of Bob Jones, served on the board for a period of time and resigned when he took the presidency of Maranatha Baptist Bible College in Wisconsin in 2007, where he served two years. BJU Board members asked Phelps to rejoin the board in December 2009. His first board meeting was in May 2010.

David Phillips, who graduated from Bob Jones in 1993, said the petition was started in November when the group found out Phelps was on the board.

“A lot of us might not have said something before now, but this is where you draw the line,” Phillips said. “I can’t in good conscience see someone like that on the board.”

More than 1,100 people had signed the petition.

In addition, a Facebook page called Do Right Bob Jones University was calling for students to wear red on Dec. 12 to protest Phelps’ position. The name of the page was taken from a chapel saying of Bob Jones Sr., the university founder.

The university has posted a message on its website about the incident, saying officials spoke to Phelps and had reviewed what had been alleged and what others had written about it.

“We have concluded that some of what is posted on the Internet about this incident is true, but the majority is a little bit of truth mixed with a lot of opinion and speculation,” the statement said. “Did Dr. Phelps do everything perfectly? No – nor would anyone make perfect judgments in similar circumstances. He has openly admitted this on his website.”

The university denounced bloggers who had judged Phelps.

“A biblical approach would be an attitude of forbearance toward a Christian brother – not recklessly making accusations of crime or cover up against a man of good reputation before gathering the facts. The biblical principle is to go to the person directly and get facts before reaching a judgment. Dr. Phelps has offered to talk to several of his critics and even shared his phone number, but not one has called to talk with him directly.”

Phelps said since the university put that statement online, six people have called and he has talked with them. He also said his relationship with the university has not changed.

"I'm a loyal alumus," he said.

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Add New
Mark Cusina  - Final sentence   |2011-12-02 02:58:26
I wish the article had ended differently. MULTIPLE people have called and
written to Phelps and to the BJU board to express their dismay over this
egregious oversight. The outcry has been unprecedented, in fact.
Dani Kelley  - Thank you.   |2011-12-02 03:10:18
Thank you for covering this issue. It has been very heavy on my heart for quite
some time, and I'm glad to see that there is light being brought to it.

I would
also like to show that Pastor Phelps has indeed been contacted by numerous
people - many of which are documented at a rather impassioned blog called The
Chance Rants. The link is as follows: fibs-again.html

Despite the
tone of the blog, I think you will find that there is a wealth of information
regarding this case there.

Again, thank you for covering this issue. It's much
Wayne  - Secrecy   |2011-12-02 03:16:27
I am a Graduate of this University and am appalled that they would even consider
having Mr Phelps on the Board. And the protection and defensive stance of the
University continues and encourages the cloud of secrecy surrounding such abuses
not only at the University but across it's associated Churches nationwide.
Laurie  - not just convicted of two counts of rape   |2011-12-02 03:19:15
"Ernest Willis, a New Hampshire man accused of raping and fathering a child
with a 15-year-old girl from his church in 1997, was found guilty today of three
counts of forcible rape and a count of felonious sexual
Mike O  - Where are the admissions of guilt?   |2011-12-02 03:58:06
I just went through Phelp's website and found no admissions of any bad
judgements. And what mistakes can be made in a child rape case that are
insignificant enough to be overlooked like this? There is also record on the Do
Right page of many people calling Phelps directly. Is human imperfection the
only defense they have? They're obviously trying to cover something up.
Scott  - Common Sense   |2011-12-02 04:03:25
According to the school, Phelps is being accused "recklessly" before the
facts have been gathered. I suggest that Phelps step down from the board---or
the school removes him from the board---while the facts are researched. Who does
it serve to keep him on the board until then? The school? Phelps? God? Tina
Anderson? The "blogger"?

During my years at BJU, I heard a lifetime's
worth of I Thes. 5:22 "Abstain all appearance of evil." Something
appears evil here because SOMETHING IS EVIL HERE. More than reputations are at
stake here. Do the right thing. Remove Phelps while you find the facts. Publish
the facts. And then make things right publicly.
Pax  - PHELPS RESIGNED!   |2011-12-02 05:05:56
Of course, neither would admit to the real reason nor go so far as to apologize
for their actions and make sure the situation never happens again.

Just another
example of religious pride and moral corruption from an institution that
continues to flaunt the law, society and individual's rights.
Tonya   |2011-12-02 12:01:34
"'I've been willing to say I'm sorry,' he said."

What? You've been
willing but what? Nobody asked you? Nobody thought you did anything wrong so
you didn't?

Did anyone notice that was about as close to an apology as you
can get without actually apologizing?
Lenore  - Common Practice at BJU churches   |2012-05-10 05:09:00
After nearly 15 years attending churches associted with Bob Jones U. I am sad to
say this sort of cover up is not isolated. Protecting the man, and blaming the
woman is what you do. Leadership may not be questioned. Men are the leadership.
Believers be careful who you believe. God does not give more wisdom to men. God
does not give special information to men.
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