This past weekend, international newspapers, radio stations, CNN, and websites have been reporting on allegations of sexual abuse at Prairie Bible Institute in Three Hills, Alberta, Canada that allegedly occurred decades ago.
PBI is my alma mater. My father also graduated there in 1932.
I have been closely connected to this series of events over the past few months. This includes personal meetings and emails with Mark Maxwell, the current president of the school and the grandson of the founder for whom I graded papers the winter of ’66/’67.
I was also on the board in the early ‘90s.
I do have a dog in this fight!
For those of you unfamiliar with the case, there are numerous allegations of sexual abuse with potentially 80 victims. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are now involved as both the school and victims have turned over files for processing.
I am not as troubled by this series of events as are some of my colleagues. I may be accused as seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses, but I retain an optimism that positives will emerge from what is now viewed as negatives.
The following are some personal observations of what I would like to see accomplished through these troubling times.
1. Reduce publicly posted inflammatory comments. Polarizing viewpoints will only serve to exacerbate the existing tensions. Alleged victims and abusers now need to join ranks to move forward together to reach resolution. The “us” verses “them”, or the “holy” verses the “evil” needs to disappear, to be replaced by a mutual acceptance of each other, without a diminution of the zeal to expose any past or current sexual abuse.
2. The boil has been lanced. What was festering for years has now been exposed. Both sides are now presented with an opportunity to start the long process of the healing of wounds and eventual resolution.
3. The alleged victims’ accusations need to be thoroughly processed. I understand the PBI board has appointed a board member as the point person to head up the processing of grievances. That is a good first step.
4. An objective third party needs to be established to provide counseling for the abused. Trust between the school and the abused has been destroyed. Additionally the school lacks the professional resources to provide the counseling now needed.
5. Historical cover-ups need to be exposed. If it is substantiated that PBI swept sexual abuse under the carpet in the past, the school needs to “own that”, apologize, and accept whatever the consequences may be.
6. It is no longer necessary to publicly “out” perceived abusers. Now that the RCMP is involved, it is inappropriate to be naming potential historical abusers. Rather, we should allow that to be processed through the court systems.
7. Threats of litigation on both sides need to be dropped to allow the legal system, through the RCMP, to process this in a timely manner.
Joseph, during the famine in Egypt, in speaking to his brothers said, “But as for you, you thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save many people alive.” Many at PBI feel that the victims are thinking evil of Prairie. This is not the case. They simply want resolution. Like the God of Joseph, eventual resolution will result in lifting the burden of sexual abuse carried by many for years.
Both Prairie and those abused are now positioned to win; there should be no losers.
Prairie has been handed a golden opportunity to demonstrate to the world the transparency of its administration, the objectives and goals of the school, and in the process reinvigorate their alumni, its constituency, breathe new life into the school, increase enrollment, and thereby continue to impact the world for Christ.
Neil Young, years ago, wrote the song “There is a town in North Ontario, all my changes were there.” I have a town in Central Alberta where all my dreams were birthed. May the annealing process through which it is now going result in a school sensitized to the needs of its alumni, to the needs of the world, and demonstrate the integrity upon which it was founded.