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Superintendent of Grace Christian Schools resigns

The superintendent of Grace Christian Schools has resigned because of a "persistent sin issue," according to a letter from the board and the First Baptist Church Leadership Council sent to parents last week.

Ray Johnson met with school staff and church officials Feb. 15 and 17 "to give clarification regarding his leave of absence from school and church duties," the letter says.

"With deep regret and emotion, Mr. Johnson shared that for many years he has struggled with a persistent sin issue," the letter states. "This is clearly in direct contradiction to biblical principles, the leadership requirements for First Baptist Church, and the Christian lifestyle agreement that all school employees sign."

The letter does not define Johnson's alleged "sin" nor how it came to light. Messages left for Johnson on his cellphone and Facebook page Friday and Monday were not returned.

Greg Spires, pastor of FBC, said late Monday that he could not comment on the reasons for Johnson's resignation, citing a "personnel issue."

"We shouldn't comment out of respect for Ray and the schools," Spires said, adding the letter was "self-explanatory."

Devon Rickabaugh, former Grace Christian middle school principal, has been named interim superintendent, according to the Grace Christian website.

Johnson began working with the Christian-based schools in 1976. He graduated from Medford Senior High School in 1972 and Southern Oregon University in 1980, according to his Facebook page.

Johnson, who is married with children, spent more than three decades with Grace Christian, which includes preschool, primary and secondary grades and Cascade Christian High School.

The board's letter to parents states Johnson's leave began immediately "when the situation became known."

"Be assured that it was made clear by Mr. Johnson and independently verified that the issue in question did not at any point break the law, involve children, or manifest itself in the community life of Grace Christian Schools," the letter says.

The board and leadership council share the information about Johnson's alleged transgressions with "great sorrow," the letter states, and "value Ray and the immense investment that he has made in the ministries of FBC and Grace Christian Schools over the past 37 years."

"However, we believe biblical values must prevail," the letter states.

"As such, the course of action undertaken by the School Board and FBC Leadership Council has been biblical in accordance with Galatians 6:1, as well as prayerful, loving, and supportive of Ray and his family. Additionally, great care has been taken to further ensure that all is done in a legal, ethical, and professional manner," the letter says.

Galatians 6:1 states, "Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted."

"Sadly, it is clear that Mr. Johnson must separate himself from leadership at FBC and Grace Christian Schools," the letter states, adding Johnson submitted a letter of resignation after cooperating with the "process," and said he would be working "on the issue with a Christian counselor."

Spires said the Galatians reference was intended to warn others against making judgments against Johnson.

"It's a warning against pride," Spires said. "It acknowledges our awareness that everyone has challenges. If you're going to help someone, be aware that no one is perfect."

In the letter, Johnson states, "It is with sadness, yet knowing that it is at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, that I submit my resignation. I have every confidence in the school staff and leadership to carry on with the goals we have created together to see students learn and grow, both academically and spiritually.

"I believe with all my heart in the mission and vision of our Christian schools and trust that God will continue to pour our [sic] His richest blessings on this ministry. The partnership between Christian education and the family is of prime importance. Thank you for your continued prayers, support, and friendship as I trust God to direct me in the future days to be of use in His kingdom-making."

The letter closes with assurances that "the mission and vision of Grace Christian Schools remain strong and unchanged."

"Our commitment to you, as always, is that your child will receive the highest quality education with a biblical foundation, in concert with your home and church. We remain dedicated to training strong leaders for righteousness to the next generation," it says.

Rickabaugh brings 33 years' experience as an educator, including as Grace Christian middle school principal from 1999 to 2006, when she moved to a district-level position, the website states.

Reach Mail Tribune reporters Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 and Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471.