Epting 'retirement' rumors should challenge Christians to evaluate how they share news

by Kelly Ledbetter, |

TIGERVILLE, S.C. (Christian Examiner) – North Greenville University's president Jimmy Epting suddenly announced a sabbatical and retirement at the beginning of 2015. A few weeks ago, a video allegedly exposing his adultery with a university staff member was posted online and leaked to news sources.

In the cell phone video, the person holding the cell phone confronts Epting and the female staff member about the alleged affair, saying, "It's over, Dad."

The ensuing controversies and speculations have led to questions of university trustees and people sharing the story.


The Greenville News reported the South Carolina Baptist Convention has asked to meet with the chair of the board and interim president of North Greenville to hear their explanation of the events surrounding Epting's retirement.

In a letter, SCBC board chair Dwight Easler described the convention as "engaged and very concerned about this situation."

The letter said SCBC will not provide funding to the university until they hear what NGU has to say in an Oct. 15 meeting.

The recently released exposé video was timestamped October of last year, just three months before the university somewhat abruptly announced Epting's sabbatical.

Interim president Randall Pannell credited Epting's retirement at the time to health concerns and other unspecivied reasons. "This seemed to be the best time for him [Epting]" to retire, according to Pannell.

Immediately after the video was leaked, Beverly Hawkins, the chair of the board of trustees, said in a statement, "North Greenville University's leaders are expected to lead Christ-centered lives and abide by all campus policies and procedures."

She and Pannell will be meeting with the SCBC board to answer questions about integrity, cooperation, accountability, and the rumors that have been circulating about the circumstances of Epting's retirement.

"We take our responsibilities as leaders of a Christian institution seriously and hold each member of our community to the highest of standards," Hawkins's statement declared.


In light of the frequent sharing of the anonymously posted Epting video, which has since been removed from YouTube, Christians should follow the course of the SCBC board and ask the principles about the facts.

As tempting as it is to post sensationalized news, Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, warned in a Christianity Today article that this can be damaging to the reputation of those written about, those writing, and those reposting.

Stetzer challenges Christians to verify facts first. "Remember, Snopes is your friend," he wrote. "Go and check out these stories before you share them on social media."

If you did post a fake or damaging news story, Stetzer recommended posting a retraction.

"You can both admit you were wrong and look out for your friends, telling them to be alert for more fake stories" Stetzer said.

Admitting you were tricked or simply wrong shows that you have the humility to admit your mistakes and the integrity to care about the truth.

The best way to avoid spreading rumors or hurtful news is not to post it in the first place. Stetzer said, "If you have not, will not, or cannot confirm a story, do not share it."