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.

10 thoughts on “To steer a ship without a compass…

  1. Is this the same Ben Cole that went to SEBTS while Patterson was president? Is this the same Ben Cole who does an amazingly funny WA Criswell imitation?

    If so, what happened? Without any judgement upon you, it seems that the appreciation you once had for the gentleman from Texas has somewhere depreciated.

    Just curious. While I love and appreciate Dr. P and the positive role he had in the Conservative Resurgence, I too am saddened by many things I have seen from him and other SBC conservative leaders in recent years. It is disappointing.

  2. There’s too much nepotism and boot-lickin’ going on.
    Trustees hire the president, then the president hires the trustees and make them Dean. Trustees are elected as faculty, and then back again.

    Visiting Chapel speakers routinely preface their Word from the Lord with “thanks be to God” (no, that’s too Epicopalian) for the Resurgence, and it’s Prime Mover, the honorable Rev. Dr. Paige Patterson. Then, the syrup really gets thick: You’re the modern Martin Luther, etc.

    Now really, cut the man some slack. if you were told that over and over and over, wouldn’t you tend to like it. Wouldn’t you be tempted to believe it, protestations notwithstanding? How can thousands(?) of admirers be wrong? Students want me to mentor (sponsor, “patron”-ize them). My calendar is full.

    If you were told all that wherever you went (actually, the platform introductions get a little boring), that you were right up there with the Apostle Paul, you were one of the greatest leaders in modern history, wouldn’t you be tempted to think you really did know best for all of the “children” under your care, including grown men (and a FEW women), students, faculty, trustees, other agencies, even local churches? Wouldn’t you be justified in cutting a few ethical corners in pursuit of doctrinal purity?

    Sure, in war there will be casualties. But war is ….. And we are in a state of “continuous war.” Just check out Eph. 6.

    Somewhat tragic: The faculty who emasculate themselves, financially dependent on the good graces of the plantation owner. “Yes, Massa’. Whatever you say, Massa.”
    The power vested WE have vested in adminstrations to “clean house” have come back to bite us. It’s not healthy to invest anyone, anyone, with unbridled power. But we have done that. That’s our fault as SBC constituents.

    When accrediting committes, or trustees come to visit campus, they are kept as far away from the faculty (or financial lefger) as possible.

    Faculty won’t speak up for each other. It’s well-known that if Paige had his way, tenure would be abolished completely. But he did not refuse tenure for himself.

    More tragic: Trustees whose own aspiriations to Convention status causes them to turn a blind eye to abuses that put their institutions at risk, academically, morally, legally. They are jockeying for position themselves. But again, they are people who have been “elected” fair and square, so to speak. So it comes back to us as SBC constituents.

    Perhaps we need a Convention Bylaw change: You only get one shot at being elected to faculty or board or committee per lifetime. So before you accept nomination to the Convention Arrangements Committee, consider: It’s the only Convention post you will ever hold….for Life. Take it now, you forfeit the plum job later. Hold out, you might not get get the plum. You takes your chances. But no more compromise on doing what is right because you want to curry favor with Boss Hogg.

    That may be the only way for we who participate in SBC life to cure ourselves from the Temptation to Power: take an oath of poverty, as it were. Then trustees’ judgment won’t be clouded by the desire to curry favor with the Administration. And the Administration might have to settle for academic excellence and spend less time orchestrating who fills the Trustee slots.

    Again, we fought for the right by stacking Committees with “our” people. Is it any wonder when that same tactic is used to to perpetuate and enlarge personal power?

  3. Oh, my. Does anyone know what 250,000 dollars would do in Uganda, Fiji, you name the place??? How many mouths it would feed? How many wells could be dug? How many water tanks could be put in? How many computer labs could be set up? How many people could be educated and trained, and with all that how much they would be receptive to the good news because they saw it practiced????

    Why do I feel that if Jesus were born in a manger in this century that He would be saying His “woes” to the Baptist religious leaders?

  4. In the eastern Congo, $250,000 would prevent mother-to-infant HIV transmission for approximately 30,000 newborn babies, and would keep 10,000 HIV-positive mothers alive for another year to care for their children. $250,000 would save 31,250 babies whose mothers can’t afford the $8 fee to have their baby at a hospital, thus greatly improving the chances the mother and child will survive. $250,000 would double annual household income for almost 350 families. $250,000 would build and staff an early childhood education center for the children of rape victims whose lives have been destroyed by a nightmarish epidemic, and children who live alone on the streets because violence and disease took their parents. $250,000 would purchase land for 8 health clinics in a city and more than that in rural areas.

    To name just a few things.

  5. I have figured this out! Criswell College – not much money.

    Southeastern Seminary – as of Dec. 1999, living paycheck to paycheck, borrowing from “restricted” funds like endowments to pay monthly operating expenses, closing the day-care center, selling off-campus property to raise cash – you get the picture.

    Southwestern Seminary – Endowment money of around 100 million Texas buckerooskis.

    Next step: move the endowment to local control – and bring that checkbook!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s