The letter…

Yesterday I sent the following letter to the president of every SBC institution and agency receiving support from the Cooperative Program. The letter was copied to the convention president and the chairman and vice chairman of the Executive Committee. All letters were sent via certified mail, return receipt requested.

___________________

January 16, 2007

Dr. Albert Mohler, President
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
2825 Lexington Rd.
Louisville, KY 40280

Dr. Daniel Akin, President
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
PO Box 1880
Wake Forest, NC 27588

Dr. Phil Roberts, President
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
5001 N. Oak Trafficway
Kansas City, MO 64118

Dr. Charles Kelley, President
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
3939 Gentilly Blvd.
New Orleans, LA 70126

Dr. Paige Patterson, President
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
PO Box 22000
Fort Worth, TX 76122

Dr. Jeff Iorg, President
Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary
201 Seminary Drive
Mill Valley, CA 94941-3197

Dr. Jerry Rankin, President
International Mission Board
PO Box 6767
Richmond, VA 23230-0767

Dr. Richard Land, President
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
901 Commerce Street, Suite 550
Nashville, TN 37203

Dr. Morris Chapman, President
Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention
901 Commerce Street
Nashville, TN 37203

Dr. Roy Fish, Interim President
North American Mission Board
4200 North Point Parkway
Alpharetta, GA 30022

Dear Sirs:

During our recent annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, a messenger from Parkview Baptist Church made a motion requesting that the Executive Committee of the SBC conduct an expense comparison analysis survey of all entities and institutions receiving Cooperative Program support. Specifically, his concern was to determine actual administrative expense budgets and salary package benefits for all SBC executives. As a Southern Baptist, it is the privilege of every local church member in cooperation with the SBC to request this information. As a Southern Baptist employee leading a 501(c)3 organization, you are in a unique position to provide this information. Moreover, the Business and Financial Plan of the Southern Baptist Convention stipulates that “”members of cooperating Southern Baptist churches shall have access to information from the records of Southern Baptist Convention entities regarding income, expenditures, debts, reserves, operating balances, and salary structures.”

I hereby request that your office provide me with the following facts, figures, and/or information to assist me in my efforts to better assess the stewardship of those agencies, institutions, and entities that are owned, subsidized, and governed by the Southern Baptist Convention. I have enumerated the specific items below:

1. What is the 2005-2006 annual travel expense (airfare, automobile rental, mileage reimbursement, hotel, food, etc.) budgeted to the president’s office of your institution? If there is not a budgeted amount for the immediate year(s) I have questioned, then would you provide me with the most recent five (5) fiscal year budgeted amounts for these items? Have the budgeted amounts exceeded or have they been under spent, and if so, by how much? If there is not budgeted line item for executive travel, then please provide me with the actual expenditures for the previous five (5) fiscal years.

2. How many persons’ employment are considered a part of your full-time and part-time administrative office staff (chief of staff, secretaries, executive assistants, personal attachés, bodyguards, personal assistants, drivers, etc), and what are their respective job titles? What was the aggregate total of the salary and benefits package budgeted for your administrative office staff during the previous five (5) fiscal years? What is the actual expenditure for these items during the same period?

3. Does your entity provide you with a house/parsonage as a part of your benefits package? If not, does your entity include a housing allowance portion in your benefits package? What is the total amount of housing allowance, if any, included in your benefits package? If you are provided a house, please provide the following: (a) the total square footage of the house provided, and any change in the appraised value and/or square footage in the last three years; (b) the total utility cost (water, electric, telephone, gas, sewage, etc) per year for the previous five (5) fiscal years; (c) the number and titles of personal staff on convention payroll who serve in your home (hostesses, chefs, personal assistants, laundry, maids, butlers, etc); and (d) the amount budgeted and spent during the previous five (5) fiscal years for meals, foodservice, expendable supplies, and catering out of your home for convention-related purposes.

4. Does your entity provide you with an automobile? If so, what is the year, make, and model of the automobile? How many automobiles are reserved for use by the president’s office and home, and what are the makes, models and years of those automobiles? Since your tenure began at the institution where you serve, how many different automobiles has the entity provided, and do you have any stipulations in your contract regarding the frequency of changing automobiles? Does your entity purchase or lease the automobiles assigned to you?

5. Does your spouse have any official capacity at the institution where you serve? Your children? What is the total amount of expense allowance over the past five (5) fiscal years for your spouse’s travel and personal staff, respectively? How many employees are assigned to your spouse’s immediate supervision, and what are their titles? Is your spouse afforded any reimbursable travel expense accounts, or other travel budget line-items, and if so, would you please include a copy of the pertinent policies related to spousal travel expenses for your institutions employees.

6. Does the entity provide you with a continuing education, convention, or conference expense budget? If so, what is the total budgeted amount for each item respectively for the last five (5) fiscal years? What is the actual expense for the same line items? Does the entity provide you with a library or book expense budget? If so, what is the total amount budgeted and spent on these line items during the last five (5) fiscal years?

7. What administrative officer or employee is responsible for approving reimbursements for convention-related expenditures? Do you have a reimbursable-expense policy at your entity that governs such matters? If so, would you provide a copy of that particular document?

8. Does your entity provide you with any discretionary expense accounts to be used for personal items, gifts, honoraria, etc? If so, what is the total amount budgeted and spent on these items during the previous five (5) fiscal years? Is there any written policy governing your use of discretionary funds? If so, would you provide a copy of that policy?

9. As a representative of a Southern Baptist agency of institution, you are probably asked to speak in various settings (churches, conferences, etc). When you travel on these occasions, does the entity budget provide for your expenses, or are you reimbursed by the organization, church, or ministry that requested your presence? How do you handle honoraria received for speaking on these occasions, and what is the total amount of additional income you received during the previous five (5) fiscal years for outside speaking engagements, either convention-related or otherwise?

10. Has your entity authorized a forensic audit of the institutions finances within the last five (5) fiscal years? An audit of any kind? If so, are you willing to provide a copy of the audit to interested persons? How would I go about obtaining such an audit, if one exists?

11. What were the reportable reserve account totals for the previous five (5) years? Would you provide a copy of your standard report form that you submit to the executive committee detailing the amounts of on-hand cash and reserve accounts for these same years?

12. Please provide a copy of the salary structure of the entity where you serve. Has there been any increase in the executive level salary structure during the previous five (5) years, and if so, by what amount and/or percentage?

13. Please provide a balance sheet reporting the total amounts of institutional debt for the previous five (5) years.

14. What are the current operating balances of your institution as of December 31, 2006, or the most recent closing of the institutional fiscal year? Please provide the same figures for the previous five (5) years.

Thank you in advance for your kind and prompt reply to my inquiries. Southern Baptists are well served when their denominational executives are given to such transparency and integrity. This information will assist me as the pastor of a cooperating Southern Baptist Church to report on our convention ministries to the local church where I serve. It will also give me occasion to encourage continued and increased sacrificial giving to ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention through the Cooperative Program.

I eagerly await your response, and I appreciate your continued faithfulness to monitor the expenditures of Southern Baptist resources in a manner befitting a wise and just steward.

CC: Frank Page, President
Southern Baptist Convention
200 West Main Street
Taylors, SC 29687

William Harrell, Chairman
SBC Executive Committee
3917 Washington Rd.
Martinez, GA 30907

Hon. Roy T. Sparkman, Vice-Chairman
SBC Executive Committee
Wichita County Courthouse
P.O. Box 718
Wichita Falls, TX 76307

To steer a ship without a compass…

That’s exactly what the trustees at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary have to deal with now that they’ve hired Paige Patterson to direct the course of the former flagship institution of theological education for Southern Baptists. Patterson lacks an ethical compass, and he continues to steer Southwestern’s ship toward the shallow waters of his own idiosyncratic brand of fundamentalism.

Patterson went to Southwestern to “clean up” the “mess” that trustees believed Ken Hemphill had made of the institution. To accomplish this task, he felt he needed new blood in the seminary faculty, so he hired his own chairman of trustees and the chairman of the search committee who “found” him to serve as deans.

Detailing why Paige Patterson was the “obvious choice” for Southwestern, search committee chairman turned dean, Denny Autrey, said that he well fit “the qualifications for the presidency set forth by the faculty, staff, administration and students of Southwestern.” Among the top qualifications Autrey listed were that the new president must be able to “gain the trust of faculty, staff and students.”

Strike one, Paige.

He must “listen and communicate effectively internally and externally.”

Strike two, Paige.

And he must “demonstrate openness and acceptance of all people and identify with the heritage of Southwestern.”

I think I’ll let readers umpire that last one.

Well, at least we can hope that Paige Patterson will do things “openly and honestly.” Or so you would think. In Patterson’s “open and honest” meeting with the faculty at Southwestern, he outlined his philosophy of theological education in a packet of materials. That philosophy, Patterson told the faculty, included ““the exposure of the student to great men and women of God.”

I guess Sheri Klouda doesn’t count?

Later in the meeting, trustee chairman turned dean, David Allen, told Baptist Press that “Texas Baptist churches as well as all Southern Baptist Convention churches will be proud of what they see coming out of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary under Dr. Patterson’s leadership.”

Think again, Dave. Oh yes, pride. That’s what we’re feeling about what we’ve seen “coming out” of Southwestern.

And then there was this bizarre comment from David Allen:

“When the churches see the polished furniture they get from those students’ tenure at Southwestern, the relationship will be strong indeed.”

Polished furniture?

And here I’ve been looking for academic respectability, ethical integrity, and denominational accountability. The only polished furniture I’ve seen around Southwestern was the stuff scattered through Pecan Manor, and people get paid with Cooperative Program dollars to polish that furniture.

When asked by a reporter if he planned on coming to Southwestern and cleaning out the faculty, Paige responded:

I cannot imagine any circumstance in which I would come in and, as you said, clean house. I would prefer instead to motivate on a much higher level.”

I think Sheri Klouda feels motivated today. Thanks, Paige. Who knew that pending bankruptcy, professional embarrassment, and crying children having to leave their friends and family was a “higher level?”

And then there was this little bit about Patterson’s pledge not to pull faculty from Southeastern Seminary. “Ending fears that he would recruit Southeastern Seminary faculty to follow him to Fort Worth should he be elected president of Southwestern Seminary, he said, “I would not take any faculty from there even though I would cherish having every one of them.

Keith Eitel? Emir Caner?

And some people want us to trust this man’s word?

I’d rather trust Kim Jong Il with enriched uranium.

I attended classes with Sheri Klouda at the Criswell College. I remember well the early mornings she would arrive to the Gaston Avenue campus with her daughter, tiny and sleepy. I remember watching her take naps in the student lounge while her mother studied. I remember watching her color with crayons while her mother took notes.

Sheri Klouda pulled and scraped and fought to get her education so that she could provide for her family. Her husband has chronic illnesses. His disabilities prevent him from providing sufficiently for their family without Sheri earning. I suppose she could have tried to get a job as a secretary or a librarian, but this woman has gifts of intellect and scholarship that God intends her to use to their fullest potential. So she got two degrees from Criswell, both with honors. She received top honors at Southwestern Seminary, and she was able to buy a home and teach her students to love the biblical languages she spent years studying.

But Paige Patterson thinks it’s Sheri Klouda’s job to be a homemaker. And I suppose if her gifts were sewing and baking she could have a faculty spot teaching for Southwestern’s new homemaking degree, which they still have not publicized at all.

Try this one out, Paige:

Sheri Klouda has a real doctorate in a real discipline from a real school. I guess if her husband landed jobs paying upwards of $250,000 a year, plus cars and homes and lavish Christmas decorations and chefs and drivers and a personal staff to clean their toilets and change the toilet paper rolls, she could pursue a nonresident papermill Ph.D. in South Africa and host little tea parties for the seminary wives’ fellowship. I guess if she lived in a home with a “private apartment” and her husband was able to claim a “personal Christmas tree” among the five others in the house, she would please you that she was “filling her role” assigned by God.

And I guess if her husband was able to galavant around the world shooting wild game and mounting them all over his office in a ridiculous display of superficial machismo, then she could learn how to pack suitcases and perk coffee and pick table linens and Christmas china.

The time has come for Paige Patterson to stop lying to Southern Baptists.

More importantly, the time has come for Southern Baptists to start telling the truth about Paige Patterson.