Weeks before the release of a nearly two-year investigation into allegations of sexual abuse of missionary kids, the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE) has fired and replaced its investigator, Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE).
ABWE retained GRACE in May 2011 to investigate allegations of 1980s sexual abuse by former missionary Donn Ketcham in Bangladesh. But according to ABWE chairman Larry Green, "Flaws in [GRACE's] investigative process that were brought to light were so significant that to continue with GRACE would hinder rather than help us achieve the primary goals for the investigation in the first place--that of discovering the complete truth and facilitating biblical reconciliation with the victims."
ABWE has hired a new "independent and reputable firm," Professional Investigators International (PII), to complete the investigation. Last August, it released the conclusions of a broader investigation of past abuses by ABWE missionaries, conducted by a different investigator than GRACE. (ABWE offers more details on a special website.)
In an open letter to ABWE released Monday, GRACE executive director Boz Tchividjian wrote, "The termination of GRACE strongly suggests ABWE is unwilling to have itself investigated unless the investigation is within your control." The former Florida child abuse prosecutor (and grandson of Billy Graham) said ABWE's "repeated failures to comply with the contractual obligations"--such as providing requested documents and making witnesses available-- had in fact given his organization "grounds for terminating our investigation." "These breaches prompted us to inquire on more than one occasion whether ABWE really wanted to complete this process," he wrote.
Among other problems, ABWE alleges that GRACE inappropriately allowed witnesses and victims to compare stories before being interviewed, did not properly record testimonies, and asked leading questions--to such an extent that some victims withdrew from the interview process and complained to ABWE. GRACE offered a point-by-point response to each criticism. "GRACE states categorically that our investigation was fair, balanced and thorough," said Tchividjian. "If ABWE had allowed GRACE to complete its work, we believe this would have been obvious to everyone who read our final report."
Self-identified survivors of abuse by ABWE missionaries have taken to blogs with their reactions--mostly critical.
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: Christianity Today