Imagine yourself receiving this letter dated July 18, 2012. It is not from your boss. It arrives to you strictly via email.
The letter refers to a “list of protocols” that you have never seen. You are going to be fired if you do not sign this letter within nine days.
The letter breaches your double employment contract. You do not tell Dr. Dummer because his letter says he instructs you not to converse with him or correspond with Provost Clark. The letter says you are asked to sign “without any contrary indication.”
Here you are, the only woman theologian perhaps in U.S. history to be hired to serve as dean of a conservative seminary. You are the first female to graduate with a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (1996). This is not your first time to be framed. You were fired on-the-spot on June 22, 2011 by SU President Larry McKinney right after you led a team that broke three all-time-high records in 34 years in Simpson’s seminary called A.W. Tozer Theological Seminary.
Now you are set up to be fired once again because on June 22, 2012 you prayerfully blew the whistle internally at SU on account of the foul play you encountered firsthand in the Simpson University Board.
Alone you stand accused of twelve different counts of “insubordination,” although nine of those alleged violations are said by Dr. Dummer to have occurred already by March 27, 2012, after which Simpson rewarded you a renewed “continuous contract” (Cf. Faculty Handbook p. 11 B.4.5.) and a salary raise on March 30, 2012. After your reinstatement, nobody accused you of “insubordination” until Dr. Dummer did on July 18, 2012.
If you sign the July 18, 2012 Catch-22 letter from Dr. Dummer, you lose your contractual rights. If you don’t, you lose your job for not signing.
If you merely email Dr. Dummer to acknowledge receipt of the letter, you have “arguably” just “conversed” with him and thereby violated his Stipulation 7 and also his instruction not to respond to him before signing. If you do not email Dr. Dummer back to acknowledge receipt of the letter, you have violated his instructions as well.
With the help of “legal counsel,” Dr. Dummer has you trapped in a Catch-22.
You decide not to sign. You decide you would rather be deprived of due process without signing than be deprived of due process by signing. No matter what, you are deprived of due process. Due process requires Simpson University to give you an opportunity to respond to allegations, but you are not afforded any such opportunity. You remember you are a woman. You are silenced.
On July 27, 2012, you are fired via email by Dr. Dummer who says he is “Acting Provost,” though his email signature block says “Associate Provost” in his other communiques that do not pertain to this adverse action. Even so, Provost Clark is still officially the provost. Provost Clark is out-of-the-office, trying to recover at home from major surgery due to cancer. Provost Clark does not retire until December 2012.
As Providence would have it, Dr. Dummer months ago confirmed on April 2, 2012 in the attached letter below that “contracts belong to Dr. Clark as authorized by the Board of Trustees.” As Providence would also have it, Provost Clark came back to work sometime later in April.
It may seem surreal given your sterling past, but this firing is your second termination. Two summers in a row you were falsely accused and fired without due process from Simpson University in blatant violation of your “continuous” employment contract as spelled out in the Faculty Handbook p. 11 B.4 and p. 25.
Your Reinstatement Contract was violated too, especially with regard to #4.
You ask Dr. Dummer for a Matthew 18:15-17 conversation, but he defers you to H.R. The H.R. Director tells you Matthew 18:15-17 cannot be used in the workplace. You remember that Provost Clark in a meeting months ago likewise told about twenty-eight Simpson faculty and staff that Matthew 18:15-17 does “not” apply “to the workplace” at Simpson University because Simpson “is not a church.” You find this disconcerting because the Simpson Faculty Handbook says on page 27 to use Matthew 18:15-17 as a first step in the Faculty Grievances Policy.
After you are fired, you do all four rounds of Matthew 18:15-17 with eight Simpson officials, none of whom will engage you, and you feel the weighty pain of Jesus’ wise teaching to treat the other party as unbelievers.
You study I Corinthians 6 regarding lawsuits, a passage about brothers and sisters in Christ not suing one another over “trivial” claims. You and your spouse both realize I Corinthians 6 does not address the subject of suing a corporation. Eventually you find out from Simpson’s lawyer that Simpson’s insurance company is the controlling entity, not the religious University.
You write each of the twenty or so members of the SU board, asking them for governance integrity. Only two write back: 1) SU President McKinney asks you to tell “your lawyer” to talk to Simpson’s lawyer, even though Dr. McKinney does not check to see if you have hired a lawyer or not; 2) The Christian & Missionary Alliance denomination president (who serves on the SU board ex-officio) informs you that “Simpson University” is “subject to its Board of Trustees, not to the C&MA.”
SU faculty and staff members are urging you to sue. More than once you hear the cry, “Your lawsuit is the only hope for Simpson.” How else can the school be delivered from a board that allows the president to violate faculty contracts in total disregard for SU Values?
On Oct 2, 2012 you file a lawsuit.
It is now mid-November 2012. You sit in your lawyer’s office, and he shows you what Simpson produces as “evidence” of the “list of protocols” that Dr. Dummer says you were given by Provost Clark. You shake your head in disbelief. The document underlying the false accusations is not dated, not signed, not addressed to you, not emailed to you; nor does it mention you or Provost Clark; nor is it presented on Simpson letterhead. You personally believe it was marked on in July 2012 when Dr. Dummer said he met with Provost Clark. By the way, Provost Clark had an enormous hospital bill and health insurance through Simpson University.
Your new lawyer asks the court to compel Simpson University to apply its own religious grievances policy. Simpson argues that the policy leaves “a huge escape hatch” and that it does not apply to violations of state law.
As a religious corporation, Simpson University disregards its own religious policy.
In early 2013, in order to evade accountability in the lawsuit, Simpson University appeals to Religious Defenses, citing First Amendment religious freedom. When the faculty finds out, they exercise faculty governance and officially vote “No Confidence” in President McKinney saying this:
We, the faculty, wish to express to the Board Of Trustees that we have no confidence in President Larry McKinney to fulfill the University’s contractual agreements with us, including our Handbook, a document we consider morally binding on all parties who approved it. We also express herewith our resolute belief that, aside from any and all legal arguments adduced to justify it, a breach of contract amounts to a breach of covenantal trust between the University and its faculty, posing in turn an extreme danger to the moral character and confidence of the entire university community.
After the faculty votes “No Confidence” in him, President McKinney suddenly retires, and Board Chair Betty Dean is careful to tell the community that he was not asked by the board to retire. Dr. McKinney leaves Redding, CA right away. He disappears. The SU board replaces him by naming Dr. Dummer as Interim President (2013-2015), then appointing President Dummer after that.
On May 2, 2013, under oath, Dr. Dummer admits he never bothered to confirm if you ever received the “list of protocols.” At least twice in his deposition, Dr. Dummer explains that he fired you for “not signing” in agreement to obey the stipulations that he said “legal counsel” helped him write.
It is pertinent to point out that Dr. Dummer’s stated reason for firing you (he says the insubordination provided the grounds for the stipulations, but you were fired for not signing on in agreement to “obey” his stipulations) is not listed as a “cause” in the Faculty Handbook which is part of your express, continuous contract.
To the testing of your faith, the court in Shasta County does not judge the case with regard to all the breaches wrought in your two contracts by Simpson University because in June 2014, Simpson wins the lawsuit in Shasta Superior Court on account of Religious Defenses.
In September 2014, you appeal.
In 2016, the SU faculty vote “No Confidence” in Dr. Dummer approximately ten months into his presidency. The faculty also vote “No Confidence” in the Executive Committee of the Simpson University Board. But nothing seems to change. The status quo reigns.
In 2017, Simpson’s accrediting agency, WASC, puts Simpson University on probation status.
On September 18, 2018, it is finally time for you to stand before three justices in the lofty, wooden room of the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento. You argue your case yourself and prevail on your contract claim.
On September 25, 2018, the Court of Appeal overturns the district court’s ruling and sends the case back to trial. The Published Appellate Opinion narrows the contract case down to the question of whether or not you received that “list of protocols.”
Never once does Simpson offer any settlement. On the contrary, over the span of 7+ years, Simpson University has rejected or disregarded all your offers to stay the lawsuit or settle or reach resolution by sitting down to visit together in person.
When Simpson hires a new president in 2018, he, too, turns to the secular insurance company.
You think back to your first firing when then Board Chair, Mr. Dyk, dismissed you at the end of the grievance process saying, “Sometimes you have to put money above God.” Mr. Dyk was the Chairman who uttered what Provost Clark called “the biggest lie in this story.” That was the lie of the Ad Hoc Grievance vote when five persons from the SU board processed the July 2011 grievance filed against President McKinney after he fired the first woman dean of Simpson’s seminary in blatant violation of SU policy and SU contracts and SU Values. Whereas the Ad Hoc committee vote was 5-0 to “reinstate,” the vote was announced to the SU community personally by Chairman Dyk and repeatedly by President McKinney as 5-0 to “uphold the termination.”
Yes, that’s right. The exact opposite of the truth of the Ad Hoc vote was announced by the SU Board Chair. The faculty had no idea of this when they produced the Faculty Report.
“The biggest lie in this story” (as Provost Clark saw it) was covered up by other SU board members.
A lie that big has to be propped up by attendant lies. There are so many lies in the story that it will take some time for the main forty or fifty of them to be showcased.
You begin to see more clearly that your unveiling of the lie about the Ad Hoc vote that you featured in your whistle-blowing letter, was a lie so allergic to the light of gospel truth that it prompted Simpson’s Board Chair in the summer of 2012 to prod Dr. Dummer, who was not in charge, to act like he was in charge, even though Dr. Dummer said he knew nothing about the terms of reinstatement, and nothing about the Faculty Report, and nothing about the list of provisions from Provost Clark called “ACTION ITEMS.”
Upon your reinstatement, you received a list of provisions, not protocols, from Provost Clark. Provost Clark said that he knew you “had been through hell.” Provost Clark apologized for failing to stand up for truth; he was not a man of confrontation.
You are pressed like an olive being crushed for its oil. So you pray and pray for Simpson and everyone involved, and you humble yourself again because in all your many efforts to build integrity in the Church, you know you’re nothing more than a Luke 18 tax gatherer, and you realize all you have is God’s mercy. But by the mercy of God, you stay the course and vie for truth and champion the vision for revival.
Oh, how we need to hold Christian organizations accountable. Who will rise up? If enough of us rise up, we can make the church a self-cleaning oven.
In 2019, the lawsuit continues and you work assiduously as a pro per litigant (doing your own lawyering yourself). You reach for the stars and try something really hard. You try to move the court in Shasta County to decide the case beforehand (through summary judgment) and end the case without going to trial.
Simpson’s legal strategy of defense, however, was to craft a new version of described events and barb it with accusations that distracted the court’s attention away from Dr. Dummer’s “list of protocols” that the Appellate Court said lie at the base of this dispute.
On November 4, 2019, you lose your long-shot motion in court. But you do not lose the case. Nor are you alone now because four faculty members from Simpson University–all men of moral courage–stand with you in the lawsuit in support of the integrity of Simpson employment contracts. All four vied for justice unto God.
The trial is currently set for January 14, 2020 here in Shasta County in Redding, CA.
You stand on the precipice. You know it is a risk to hope that God will use the trial court jury to bring accountability to Simpson. You do not bet on the jury. You bet on God.
You ask everyone who reads this to bet on God. To speak the truth in love and bet on God entirely to deliver them, too, from evil. Psalm 34:4 and II Timothy 3:11 are just waiting to become our testimony:
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them ALL.
II Timothy 3:11
What persecutions I endured, and out of them ALL, the Lord delivered me!