Yesterday details were made public about a Southern Seminary professor and the circumstances surrounding his resignation. Dr. David Sills resigned in May 2018. Baptist Press gave no specific reason for his resignation at that time but alluded that there were moral concerns.
In a statement published at lyellstatementonabuse.com, one of Sills’ former students gives her account of what transpired, why she waited to tell her story, and why she decided to go public now. Jennifer Lyell, 2006 graduate of SBTS, says in her statement that 2004 was the first time Sills acted against her. She describes being shocked and blaming herself despite that she had not initiated the encounter.
The story fits well with what we know how sexual abusers groom their victims to gain control and prevent them from escaping the relationship. According to Lyell’s account, Sills knew of previous abuse Lyell had suffered, was in a position of authority over her, took advantage of the vulnerability, and then surrounded Lyell with others who would make telling anyone about the abuse personally devastating to Lyell. I believe the portrait that’s painted for us in Lyell’s statement is of someone we expected to protect and care for the vulnerable but instead took advantage for his own purposes.
When Lyell disclosed her abuse to her employer, Eric Geiger, then of LifeWay, he contacted SBTS. Lyell commends Geiger and Dr. Mohler, president of SBTS, for their handling of the situation and taking immediate action. Lyell states she wasn’t willing to publicly disclose the details and that wish was respected by SBTS and LifeWay.
However, Sills was recently appointed as a missionary at a non-SBC missions agency, which led Lyell to realize she needed to tell her story publicly – in order to avoid someone accused of sexual abuse from being appointed to a position of Christian leadership.
I would encourage you to read and think carefully through Jennifer’s statement. If you’re unfamiliar with the dynamics of how abusers operate, consider the position of leadership and trust that’s described, and how we expect our leaders to care for someone in her situation versus what is described.
And Jennifer, if you happen to read this, you have our prayers, love, and support. We believe you. We’re also praying for many others who’ve been affected in this heartbreaking situation.
For news coverage we recommend the story available at The Biblical Recorder, which is a revised version of the original Baptist Press story.