The Story: Two TGC Council members resigned from the Cedarville University board of trustees after the announcement that Thomas White was being reinstated as the school’s president. White had been on administrative leave since May 1, pending the investigation of his hiring a faculty member accused of sexual abuse.
The Background: Cedarville University president Thomas White had hired Anthony Moore seven months after he was fired from his position as a pastor at The Village Church and deemed “unfit for ministry.”
On January 22, 2017, Matt Chandler, senior pastor of The Village Church, announced to his congregation that “Anthony Moore, our Fort Worth Campus pastor, has committed grievous, immoral actions against another adult member to disqualify him as an elder and staff member based on biblical text in 1 Timothy and Titus, chapter 1. He has been removed from his role as a campus pastor and as a Village elder due to these actions.” Chandler said church leaders believed Moore was “unfit for ministry at this time, including speaking engagements and conferences for other churches.” (After that announcement, Moore was also removed from his role as an associate member of TGC’s Council.)
According to a report filed in October 2018 with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office, an adult church member at The Village Church said he had just finished a shower when he found Moore’s iPhone underneath a towel, and that an opening in the towel allowed the camera lens to be seen. According to the report, the church member looked through the phone and found multiple videos of him taking showers. He then confronted Moore, who told him that he had struggled with same-sex attraction. (The church member later declined to pursue charges.)
In a blog post dated April 24, 2020, White says he talked to Moore—whom he had known since 2006—about a week before the announcement was made at The Village Church. Moore confessed his transgression to White at that time. About a month later, the two men met again in person. In June, Moore reached out to White to “discuss the possibility of a plan for restoration at Cedarville.”
White proposed a “five-year plan of restoration, beginning with transparency and accountability and moving toward more freedom and trust,” and in July submitted the proposal to the board of trustees. Moore’s primary service was to be a multicultural recruiter, working with the admissions team, and as a biblical research fellow, working in the School of Biblical and Theological Studies. Moore would later be appointed as special adviser to the president for kingdom diversity and serve as a volunteer with the men’s basketball team.
White says in his blog post that on April 22, 2020, he learned he did not have all the information about the original incident. “Instead of at most two videos, I heard there were at least five videos,” White wrote. “Instead of this being over a short period of time, I heard that these were taken over a period of at least five months. I also heard details of an unhealthy friendship.”
White added that had he known that information he would not have “attempted the plan for restoration,” and that after verifying this new information with the victim, “I took the action that I had to take and ended Anthony Moore’s employment at Cedarville University on April 23.”
However, in a statement released that same week, officials of The Village Church said, “We did thoroughly inform Cedarville University about all of the known details of Anthony’s offense and reiterated clearly that we did not believe he was fit for ministry of any kind.”
On May 1, the school’s trustees placed White on administrative leave and hired an independent firm, Husch Blackwell LLP, to conduct an audit of the process surrounding the hiring of Moore. The firm was also asked to conduct an internal investigation to ensure nothing inappropriate involving Moore took place with any students.
This past Friday, the trustees issued a Resolution of Board Findings of the Independent Reports. The investigation found no evidence Moore had engaged in any conduct of a sexual nature on campus or with any student or employee. The independent audit also concluded:
There is no reason to question President White’s benevolent motivation with respect to the overall enterprise of hiring Dr. Moore.
It is reasonable to infer from the evidence available that President White took steps that he knew, or should have known, clouded the specific nature of Dr. Moore’s misconduct.
It is reasonable to infer that President White subsequently failed to notify the Board of the specific nature of Dr. Moore’s misconduct;
The statement noted that the board would be reinstating White and requiring that he complete courses on victim prevention and victim advocacy.
This prompted two of the trustees—both of whom also serve on the TGC Council—to resign from the Cedarville University board of trustees.
Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote that “the events surrounding the hiring of Moore and the five year plan of his restoration was seriously flawed from the beginning and poorly implemented once he arrive[d] at Cedarville.” Akin described the audit and investigation report as “extremely troubling” and said the decision to reinstate White was “a decision I could not support.”
Mark Vroegop, lead pastor of College Park Church in Indianapolis, also issued a statement saying the execution of Moore’s restoration plan was “deeply troubling” and that he could not support the decision to reinstate White. “I do not believe these steps are sufficient in light of what the report revealed,” he added.
Why It Matters: The decision by the Cedarville University board of trustees to reinstate White is, as Akin and Vroegop say, deeply and extremely troubling.
Because many of the trustees are pastors and elders, they know firsthand how easy it is for those in ministry to stumble and fall into immoral behavior. As White has said, “Every year that I have been at Cedarville, we have lost at least one employee due to a moral failure.” Such experience is likely to make the trustees tender-hearted toward sinners, and eager to restore them to the community of believers. This likely makes them sympathetic to White’s motivations in attempting to restore Moore. They also are likely moved by his what appears to be his genuine contrition.
But as happens far too often in ministry, the process of reinstatement fails to provide adequate accountability. White’s eagerness to place Moore on a path back to vocational ministry put at risk the students he’s charged with protecting. White’s actions also harmed Moore, his longtime friend, who needed to hear the biblical truth that he was currently unfit for any role in ministry—and would remain so, if not forever, then at least for many years to come.