You're Egalitarian? You're Fired.
The Story of My Hiring and Firing From Moody Bible Institute
by Janay Garrick
“I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.
This is not just a grab-bag candy game.’”
— Toni Morrison
After working at Moody Bible Institute for two and a half years as a Communications professor, Moody administration informed me in April 2017 that they would not be renewing my teaching contract for the next academic year. Why? Because I hold to “the egalitarian view” which is “not the view” of the institution, they said.
As an egalitarian, I believe in biblical equality—that God created women as the equals of men—or, more aptly, that God created men as the equals of women; I believe that women should not be excluded from any role, function, or office within any sphere—work, church, home.
Moody teaches and adheres to a complementarian view on gender roles in ministry—a religious tenet that dictates that women are excluded from holding offices of power not administered by men—specifically, that in the church, the office of pastor is reserved exclusively for male candidates, and in the home, the husband has ultimate authority over the wife. This, of course, entails the functional subservience of women to men; and relegates women to teaching only other women or children. What logically follows then is the exclusion of women from an academic major that would train women to become leaders, pastors, and teachers in the church—Moody’s Pastoral Ministry major.
On paper, my egalitarian position was the official reason given for my termination, but the real reason, the one Moody wants to keep silenced is this: I helped a female student file a Title IX gender discrimination complaint against the school in 2016 which resulted in Moody dropping gender restrictions in the previously male-students-only Pastoral Ministry major, ending (one aspect of) 88 years of gender discrimination on Moody’s campus.
It has been quite the ordeal.
At Moody Bible Institute, men at every level of leadership—from faculty to administration—lied to me and about me (about my hiring process, about my job performance, about the circumstances surrounding my firing). They lied openly and unashamedly to my students. At Moody Bible Institute, men at every level of leadership—from faculty to administration—practiced obfuscation, clever semantic tricks, double-talk and word play to cover up the gender discrimination in Moody’s academic programs (this was done by some, not all faculty and administrators at Moody). Then, they colluded to fire me first through a falsified negative performance evaluation, and then, when they couldn’t make that “stick,” they suddenly claimed that I could not sign the institution’s doctrinal statement.
When Moody faculty renew their teaching contracts, they are required to sign and affirm Moody’s doctrinal statement—a document which details what Moody deems the most essential theological points of the Christian faith—from the deity of Christ to the restricted roles of women in ministry (due to their gender). In short: if a faculty member cannot sign the doctrinal statement, she cannot renew her teaching contract.
So, when administration began to cry out, “She can’t sign the doctrinal statement!” can’t is the operative word here—for at my hiring in December 2014 Moody Bible Institute provided me a full-time faculty position knowing that I was both ordained and egalitarian (and, a woman, I might add). During the hiring process, a high level administrator had called me and asked me to remove my ordination line from my resume (making it unclear to me as I moved forward in the hiring process exactly which administrators knew of my ordination and which did not). However, my egalitarianism was a theological position I had clearly stated during Chicago campus interviews in October 2014. When asked if I had any concerns regarding Moody’s doctrinal statement, I brought up “Gender Roles in Ministry” (an addendum added in 1928 to Moody’s doctrinal statement which details Moody’s complementarian position). In response, the interviewer asked, “What’s the concern?”
“I am egalitarian,” I said to the seven program heads and vice presidents/deans of education, including one woman. I don’t think you can be much more clear than that.
So, as an ordained and egalitarian woman, Moody Bible Institute hired me to teach in the Communications program because I “brought things to the table,” one administrator would later say. (That same administrator would also say that he did not think I understood the theological position I held.)
Then, following my hiring, for two years in a row Moody provided me contract renewals (academic years 2015-2016 and 2016-2017), multiple pay raises, early approval of tuition assistance in pursuit of an MFA in Creative Writing, and continual praise for “accomplishing everything I was hired to do.”
But then came Title IX.
Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in any education program that receives federal funds. Title IX law states that:
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
While Moody is primarily a charitable religious academic institution funded by donations, in 2012 they began receiving Title IX money—student financial aid from the U.S. Department of Education. To date, Moody has received approximately $24 million from the federal government; funds which require “compliance with terms and conditions specified in federal regulations.”
So, when a female student came to me in January 2016 and said that she wanted to change her major to Pastoral Ministry and that she was prohibited from enrolling because she was a woman, I got involved.
At this point, I was done sitting on my hands. At this point, I had become increasingly aware of negative gender-related situations facing females on Moody’s campus. So I looked into it, and it was true—Moody did exclude women from this major. I then helped the student file a Title IX gender discrimination complaint against the school.
The Title IX Office at Moody Bible Institute was an epic disaster—it failed in its duties to administer justice, to advocate for the female student, to protect the innocent—instead, it was an office co-opted by institutional power. They made a mockery of justice, aided and abetted by Moody administration and legal. In spite of that fact, the student and I persevered for six months through the confusing maze of lies and manipulation. She had multiple meetings with Title IX administrators and investigators, academic advising, Moody faculty, etc.; while I wrote emails and attempted to dialogue with Moody administration in order to seek clarity and resolution, pressing for institutional change (e.g., drop gender restrictions immediately, communicate this change to staff and students, revise course catalogues and website materials, etc.)
While the student and I fought hard and eventually “won”—Moody promised to drop gender restrictions in April 2016, then tarried for 15-plus months to do so—when my teaching contract came around for renewal (eight months later), administration launched their termination tactics.
Moody employed two tactics in order to separate me from my employment. First, in March 2017, they constructed a falsified, negative performance evaluation (P/E), rating me on the borderline of “Below Expectations”/“Meets Expectations.” Moody administration told me my negative P/E was based on “course evaluations” and “peer reviews” (reviews which would later never materialize when I asked to see them and inquired as to why I was not asked to review my peers). For example, student evaluations of my classroom performance landed me squarely in the “Meets Expectations” to “Exceeds Expectations” to “Outstanding” categories, Moody administration had rated me “Below”/”Barely Meets Expectations” in Teaching Performance. It was clear that they were not, in any way, attempting to capture an accurate picture of my work product to date.
At my performance evaluation meeting, I pointed out their gross errors and omissions, and refused to sign the “Below Expectations” document, after which Moody administration switched tactics for my termination, suddenly claiming that I could not sign the doctrinal statement because I was egalitarian.
In April 2017, Moody Bible Institute fired me for holding to “the egalitarian view” which is “not the view” of the institution. And when I attempted to pursue justice through Moody’s internal mechanisms—invoking the grievance procedure—I encountered corrupt institutional power, again. They railroaded me in the grievance procedure, doing everything in their power to ensure that I could not possibly receive a fair “hearing” of my peers. They claimed the majority of my 61-page grievance document had nothing to do with my termination and instructed the committee to disregard key facts (e.g. my negative performance evaluation was not to be factored into the question of whether or not I was wrongfully terminated); they placed the dean who fired me in the lead role throughout my grievance procedure—he served as Moody’s “defense” even though technically he was a “hostile witness”; they manipulated and truncated timelines, gave me impossible deadlines to meet (e.g., allowing me to call witnesses but giving me less than 24 hours to notify and prepare them). The list went on and on. In other words: obstructing justice—not searching for justice, but in fact and in deed, obstructing justice!
All of this, at a bible college, and in the name of Christ. All of this, at a bible college founded by famous 20th century evangelist Dwight L. Moody who was “eager to allow women to preach.”
During the months following my termination, female students and alumni told me heartbreaking stories of what it was like to be a female student at Moody Bible Institute. In total, 16 women shared their stories with me, but I imagine there are many, many more. In the grievance document that I submitted to Moody following my termination,
I included student and alumni testimony from 12 women who reported non-consensual sex (rape) being dismissed by a campus dean, sexual assault, ongoing discrimination and gender harassment (in the classroom, on campus by students, faculty, and administration), and more.
One female student told me that because of the hostile and chauvinistic environment on campus and in a particular dean’s office, she did not bother to report sexual assault because she feared she would be shamed and asked what she was wearing. One female student who arrived on Moody’s campus with a history of sexual abuse was told she “could not be a Christian if she did not forgive her abuser” and felt that she was “not allowed [as evidenced by awkward silences and even more awkward explanations of God's plan for (her) rape] to be simply hurting.” Another female student who came to Moody with a history of sexual abuse reported that she shared her history with several professors and, in retrospect, was shocked that she was “not immediately counseled to report rape.”
Overall, at Moody Bible Institute, there is an environment in which female students do not feel safe to report critical incidents (from small to large) because (1) women do not feel that their words will be taken seriously, (2) women might receive negative, disciplinary action for their honesty as has been done in the past—e.g. one woman who admitted to premarital sex with her boyfriend was (in her words) “shamed,” “berated,” and “threatened” with expulsion by a campus dean while her boyfriend was essentially told “boys will be boys,” counseled “not to be stupid” and let go without consequence; and (3) Moody justifies its ongoing mistreatment of women with the religious tenet of complementarianism. If female students on a bible college campus cannot trust those in authority over them, women are left with little to no recourse except to suffer in silence or drop out, which many of them do. In the words of one recent female graduate:
“Moody's problem is not some small group of rogue out of line profs who're part of the unhinged sexist boys club. Moody's problem is the culture that exists on campus, in the dorms and in classroom. The problem is not a few out of line male students who say something reprehensibly chauvinistic. The problem is the campus is so heavily saturated in sexism and misogyny that not a single person who hears the sexist remark is even remotely phased by it.”
My termination for standing up for women’s rights at Moody Bible Institute was not some isolated, extraordinary incident, it was not in my head nor in my imagination—no, it was just one small part of the sexism and misogyny embedded in every nook and cranny of the organization. At an all-faculty meeting on Moody’s Chicago campus on February 22, 2017 (two months before I was fired) a well-respected male professor (who’s taught at Moody for 30-plus years) said simply, and profoundly, this:
“I think it’s time we addressed the misogyny and sexism at this institution.”
Perhaps it is time Moody Bible Institute addressed it.
Visual Artist Credit: Josh Meyers