Two members of the board of trustees of a major evangelical Christian liberal arts university have resigned, contending the institution has “drifted” from its foundation and mission, and now is at odds with its written policies, statement of faith and the Bible itself.
Raleigh Washington, a prominent pastor known for his leadership of the Promise Keepers men’s movement, and Dave Dias, a Sacramento-area business executive, submitted letters of resignation on Wednesday to the board of trustees of Azusa Pacific University in Southern California.
The two board members spoke to WND after explaining in their letters why they could no longer serve.
Washington, a trustee for 15 years, wrote that he had constantly confronted the board over the previous six years with abundant evidence that the administration and a substantial portion of the faculty were promoting a progressive ideology that clashed with the institution’s statement of faith and core principles.
He charged that the board has failed in its responsibility to hold leadership accountable and has become “complicit in this disobedient behavior.”
The former pastor of the Rock of Our Salvation Evangelical Free Church in Chicago, known for its ethnically diverse congregation, cited the biblical prophet Eli’s refusal to discipline sons who “committed sexual sin in the House of the Lord.” All three of Eli’s sons, died, Washington noted, “and the son born to the wife of Phinehas was named ‘Ichabad’ meaning ‘The glory has departed from Israel.'”
“After fervent prayer and with integrity of heart, I cannot continue to be a part of these violations of God’s word,” he wrote. “I fear the spiritual consequences of this lack of correction and discipline.”
Asked for a response, APU’s public relations office provided WND only with a statement to the “APU Community” by David S. Poole, the chairman of the board of trustees.
Poole, without naming the board members, wrote that Dias and Washington cited “a personal belief that APU has drifted from its orthodox principles.”
“We respectfully disagree with their assertion that the board is not committed to APU’s Christian foundation and focus,” he said. “We are grateful for their friendship and many years of generosity and faithful service.”
But Washington told WND that members of the board have “admitted to both Dave and myself, and to others in private, that virtually everything both Dave and I have said is true.”
“That’s duplicity in the highest order,” he said.
Washington said the bottom line is that the board is overseeing an administration and faculty “who in their practice as well as their teaching blatantly violate Christian biblical precepts.”
Poole concluded his response to the resignations declaring the board “is actively engaged in stewarding our evangelical Christian identity.”
“We firmly support APU’s work in equipping disciples and scholars to advance the work of God in the world,” he wrote. “We are resolute that APU continues to be a premier Christian university and believe that our best days lie ahead.”
‘Indication of a bigger problem’
APU was in the news in September when, amid lobbying by an LGBT advocacy group on campus, the university’s administrative board approved the elimination of the university’s policy barring students from engaging in “romanticized” same-sex relationships, while maintaining a ban on sexual relations outside of marriage. An eight-point statement on human sexuality also was edited, removing language such as “homosexual acts” are “expressly forbidden” by Scripture and “heterosexuality is God’s design for sexually intimate relationships.”
The board of trustees later reversed the administrative board’s decision, restoring the student handbook’s original language.
But Washington says the handbook and the issue of sexuality are among many manifestations of a more fundamental development that has taken place over decades.
“What happened with the student handbook was an indication of a bigger problem that exists, and that problem is theological drift from what is required of an evangelical Christian university,” Washington told WND.
“I have deep concerns about the long-term viability of APU as a ‘God-first’ university,” he told WND, referencing a longtime motto.
Professor: Whistleblowers ‘muzzled’
Meanwhile, an associate APU professor who shares the two trustees’ concerns, has called on the university’s president, Jon Wallace, to resign.
Barbara Nicolosi Harrington, an accomplished Hollywood screenwriter who teaches writing in Azusa Pacific’s Honors College, wrote the trustees on Sept. 24 stating she had been in conversation with many faculty members from a variety of disciplines who fear APU “is in danger of losing its essential quality.”
“There is a feeling that there has been a muzzling of the voices in the community that would advocate traditional Biblical understanding,” she wrote. “We have been afraid to speak as whistleblowers lest it redound against us personally, or against our departments.”
Harrington said she decided to speak out “despite this fear, because I perceive the threats to the essence of APU to be so dire.”
“More and more, it seems clear that various spirits of the age are being raised up at APU, such that the God of traditional Biblical understanding, and what He asks of us, is being redefined,” she wrote. “As Christian scholars – historians, theologians, philosophers, scientists – we know where this path leads.”
Along with calling for Wallace to resign, she advocated an immediate suspension of the search for a new president “pending a period of deep soul-searching by the Board of Trustees as to what APU should be.”
Wallace – a former APU student who has been on staff for five decades, beginning as a custodian – was invited by the board to become president emeritus in June. A search is underway for his successor, to be completed by spring 2019.
Harrington, regarded internationally as an expert on the intersection of faith and culture, was the founding director of Act One, a training program for aspiring Christian writers and entertainment executives in Hollywood.
In her letter to the board of trustees, Harrington addressed the “radicalization of APU students,” calling it a “tragedy occurring at APU throughout the student body in the last several years.”
“It is the most serious and alarming concern that we are observing of late. The pattern we see begins with students coming to APU from trusting Christian families,” she said.
“They have a beautiful, if nascent understanding of themselves as believers, but they are open, hopeful, and searching for their niche in the Kingdom. Then, through certain APU courses, particularly in the theology, Biblical studies, global studies and social justice arenas, the students are exposed to radical beliefs that deride and malign traditional Biblical Christianity.”
Students, she said, soon begin to “espouse errant ideological trends that leave them isolated from the community, embittered against Christian faith and values, and approaching the world with a raised fist and angry slogans instead of an open heart and saving truth.”
“These students gradually become unteachable, and they leave APU in a much worse state then they were in when they arrived,” said Harrington.
She noted a new APU policy “to accept whatever pronoun the students choose to identify themselves by.”
“This is a terrible decision, and one that will cause tremendous harm to our students by encouraging them to reject their fundamental nature as created by God,” she wrote.
Harrington said she has had students confront her in class, asserting, “There is no such thing as masculine or feminine.”
“I had another lovely young student transform from loving Jesus and her Christian faith when she came to APU, to becoming a sneering, bitter self-declared ‘queer womynist’ who now sees Christianity as the most divisive and pernicious influence in human history.”
‘It may be too late’
Washington told WND the university’s financial management is another concern for which the board has not held the administration accountable.
He noted that Moody’s recently downgraded Azusa Pacific’s credit rating to one level above junk bond status.
Dias, who had served on the board since 2004, said in his letter of resignation he “cannot support the obvious and intentional ‘mission drift’ and departure from the sound, Orthodoxy and Theological foundation for which APU was founded.”
“Although APU policies speak eloquently to remaining steadfast on these issues, actual university practices and an overwhelming amount of evidence dictate otherwise,” he said.
Dias said he’s leaving because the board “has refused to take the immediate, decisive, appropriate and necessary steps to remain fully committed to its founding principles.”
“My solemn fear is that it may be too late to save the university,” he said.
He said that attempts to correct the problem, including a Blue Ribbon Task Force investigation, have failed, and “attempts by the board of trustees to conduct appropriate due diligence were intentionally obstructed by staff and supported by the task force chair.”
Dias charged that the “APU culture” is “toxic,” characterized by “compromise” and “mediocrity,” and the institution may be a Christian university in name only.
“Far from being a ‘God First’ and ‘God Honoring’ University, APU continues down the slippery slope of appeasement and concession.”