**Update: There has been some confusion as to whom I am referring by using the general term “North Greenville” in the below post. In no way do I mean to implicate the faithful faculty, staff, students, and alumni in any cover-up. Rather, the Board of Trustees acted as head of the institution and in its name. As the head, their actions affected and represented the rest of the body. But there are many Gospel-loving folks working and studying at NGU who should not be lumped into the same category. I’ve left the post as it originally was, but keep in mind that by “North Greenville” I mean the “trustees” or the “institution proper,” in its official actions.**
One week ago a video surfaced showing the former President of my alma mater, North Greenville University, caught in a vacation home alone with a female university employee revealing what is at the very least an inappropriate relationship.
Last January, just prior to the spring semester, the university’s Board of Trustees suddenly announced that Dr. Jimmy Epting would take a sabbatical through the spring and retire at the end of the school year. The interim president cited health concerns as “the catalyst” for this decision. Later in the semester the university held a special chapel service to honor Epting and his years of service to the university. During the service Epting gave a farewell address, in which he reportedly remarked that God was just leading him in a new direction, and sang with his Gospel group, the President’s Quartet.
No hint of the President’s sin was ever mentioned until someone uploaded the incriminating video on August 26.
North Greenville is a South Carolina Baptist institution that prides itself on being the place where “Christ Makes the Difference.” And our Lord Jesus has made quite a difference in many lives through this university, including my own. I hold two degrees from the school and worked in the athletic department for three years. I should also point out that I have known the President’s family since I was in middle school. I grew up playing basketball with his two sons. His sweet wife has been a good friend to my mother and has never been anything but kind to me. So I write this post not as a foe of the university, but as a friend.
North Greenville got the Gospel wrong.
To use Eden as an analogy, the President’s sin was that of eating the fruit. He believed the lie and the Liar. He wanted what was not for the taking and disobeyed our Lord in order to take it. He broke covenant and he broke trust.
The university’s sin was the sin of making clothes out of fig leaves. Much like Adam and Eve tried to cover the shame of their sin in the Garden, North Greenville leadership tried to cover up its hero’s sin and shame, hiding behind garments made out of “health concerns,” “new challenges,” and “it’s time.”
How did North Greenville get the Gospel wrong?
The Gospel confesses sin—that is, it says the same about sin that God does. North Greenville hid sin. It pretended it wasn’t there. It said nothing of it.
The Gospel tells the truth because God is truth. North Greenville leadership flat-out lied.
The Gospel has nothing to do with darkness, but runs to the light. North Greenville, when confronted with its leader’s disqualifying sin, walked into darkness with him and became complicit. The university became complicit when it covered up the President’s sin and the reason for his retirement and led the university to celebrate the man whom they knew had sinned grievously and not yet publicly confessed and repented. (And yes, the nature of his office and the sin require a public confession and repentance).
The Gospel trusts God to save. North Greenville tried to save itself. Even if we assume the best motives of the trustees—that they were in good faith trying to spare the university the pain of a public scandal and the potential for donations to drop off—the trustees were trusting in lies to save them instead of our Lord Jesus.
The Gospel says you cannot love God and money. North Greenville—in its effort to not obstruct the donor flow—chose to love money.
In the Gospel, it is God who justifies. North Greenville tried to justify itself. The Gospel says that we are loved and accepted because of Jesus. North Greenville said we are loved and accepted because we are (or appear to be) moral and upright.
The Gospel covers shame permanently with the blood of Christ. North Greenville temporarily covered its shame with wordplay, spin, and outright deception.
North Greenville has been used of God by preaching the Gospel far and wide. Sadly, in this situation, North Greenville did not believe the Gospel. It did not believe that only the blood of Jesus covers sin. It did not believe that if we confess our sin that Jesus is faithful and just to forgive our sin. It did not believe that there is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus and that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. It believed the Liar.
In so doing, the university has thrown sludge upon the name of Christ.
It has also blackened its own eye. It has opened itself up to charges of high hypocrisy; it has expelled so many students over the years for much lesser offenses, but covered up (alleged) adultery in the Administration building.
North Greenville should stop hiding, stop spinning, and come clean. South Carolina Baptists are a gracious people; we have been forgiven our own grievous sins by our Lord Jesus. God is a gracious God who forgives stiff-necked people.
For the name of Christ, North Greenville should once again believe the Gospel, confess its sin, and walk in the light.