The Chapel debacle…

By now, most of you know that Paige Patterson wants to construct a 3500 seat chapel to house his dwindling 2700 students, nearly 1000 of which are not considered full-time for funding purposes. In his description of the chapel’s construction, Patterson mentions a baptistry to teach students the “right way” to baptize, the pew arrangement to teach students the “right way” to install church seating, and a few rooms tucked here and there for various “teaching” purposes. And now, Baptist Blogger has uncovered how Paige Patterson intends to model for his students the “right way” to raise money for such a building project.

Allow us to elaborate.

You’ve probably learned that Patterson wants to sell the chapel seats at $2400 a piece for the floor and $1200 a piece for the balcony. If you’re a Southwestern alumnus, you’ve probably received a request for donations.

What you might not know is that the chapel has already been forced into structural revisions, downsizing the number of seats by approximately 700 seats to accomodate the enormous organ that Patterson wants.

Several weeks ago, Paige and Dorothy Patterson discovered that their chapel renditions lacked the space to install an organ, which of course we all know is necessary to do church “the right way.” So the president and first lady sent the plans back to the architect with instructions to make room for the organ.

First, you should know that the number of students majoring in organ has decreased dramatically in recent years, a fact easily verified by a simple call to the School of Church Music administrative offices. What organ students we have are granted the privilege of practicing and playing recitals on the behemoth Van Cliburn organ at neighboring Broadway Baptist Church. The Van Cliburn organ, incidentally, is the largest French-style organ of its kind in the United States. Broadway Baptist Church, on the other hand, is a partnering church in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which surely miffs the seminary president to no end.

So he wants to build his own organ, but the ceilings in Patterson’s original chapel plan were too low and the choral risers too high to house the pipes that grace such an exquisite musical instrument. So they’ve got to cut back on the stage. Organs also require chambers, rooms to house the ranks of pipes that are unseen but which produce most of the instrument’s sound. So the architects are having to revise the floorplan by reducing the number of seats and cutting into existing areas to make room for the organ chambers.

Of course, Patterson is still raising money for 3500 seats, and the seminary fundraising literature continues to use the number 3500 even though only 2700 seats will be incorporated into the revised plan. The cost for this organ must be added to the total pricetag for the chapel, which could run upwards of a million dollars if the seminary expects to rival the Van Cliburn.

Somewhere, somehow Paige Patterson will need to raise a significantly larger sum of money than originally itemized in his request of the Executive Committee. (For those that don’t know it, every SBC institution must get Executive Committee authorization for any fundraising effort.)

If he can’t sell more seats, Patterson’s going to have to make direct appeals to wealthy donors for large gifts of real or personal property; and if I was a wealthy layman on my hospital deathbed, I think I’d be very suspicious if I saw Paige and Dorothy Patterson coming down the hall for a pastoral visit. I’d be twice as scared if the First Lady was carrying a typewriter.

Wonder what I’m talking about?

Read this 1982 lawsuit from Dallas County:

Farry v. Paige and Dorothy Patterson, 1

Farry v. Paige and Dorothy Patterson, 2

Farry v. Paige and Dorothy Patterson, 3

Farry v. Paige and Dorothy Patterson, 4

Farry v. Paige and Dorothy Patterson, 5

And now for the money quote:

Paige Patterson is the president, and Dorothy Patterson is the secretary of the Criswell Center. Beginning approximately three (3) weeks prior to [Nelson] Farry’s death, Paige Patterson and Dorothy Patterson began a series of visits to Mr. Farry and Velma Farry, who was attending him in the hospital. During these visits the Pattersons made strenuous efforts to persuade the Farrys to convey all their belongings immediately to the Criswell Center for Biblical Studies, on several occasions even bringing a typewriter and deed forms to the hospital for this purpose. Finally, by the use of threats, intimidation, and misrepresentations, the Pattersons induced Mr. Farry and Velma Farry to sign the deeds, copies of which are attached hereto . . . conveying to the Criswell Center all of the real property owned by the Farrys. They also induced Mr. Farry and Velma Farry to execute the document attached hereto . . . conveying to the Criswell Center all of the personal property owned by the Farrys.

From a village parson…

Ryon Price is the pastor of a small American Baptist church in Colchester, Vermont. I’ve been going back and reading his blog for a few weeks now, pilfering through an assortment of biographical reflections that sound strangely familiar.

As a graduate of Duke Divinity School and a Baptist of the mainline tradition, Rev. Price thinks differently than most of my fellow seminarians who drank from the Southern Baptist well. He’s more speculative, which gives his blog a sense of humility. He’s more reflective, which gives his blog the ability to challenge. And along the way, he’s learned a little something about racial reconciliation that would cause too many Southern Baptists to bristle.

Read his Ordination Council Paper for starters, and to whet your appetite here’s the money quote:

Sadly, modern assumptions about the self and the primacy of the individual have done much to diminish our understanding of what the church is. The church has become something like a club where like-minded peoples gather and worship and then freely disassociate themselves from the fellowship when times and circumstances warrant. It was this kind of misconception on my part which allowed me to break from the church when doubt began to cast its long shadow over my life.

Then go read the essay on the church where he pastors. Again, the money quote:

Much has changed since the Baptists and Congregationalists first dreamed of building themselves a church in the early 19th century. The moose in these parts have disappeared. And so have the log huts. The poverty, though not completely eliminated, is much diminished.

But for all that has changed about the context of our ministry, one thing remains the same. We are still working to create a place where others can come and find grace. That is what it meant to be church when the brick building went up in 1838; and that is what it continues to mean all these many years later.

In that sense you might say we are still building the “brick church.” There are still no blue prints. We only have the dreams of those who came before us. And our dreams as well. And faith that someone knows what the heck they are doing.

From a father to a son…

A fellow Texas pastor and blogger named Chuck Bryce has written his son a letter on the occasion of his graduation from high school.  The letter is simple in its style, but profound in its message.  I highly encourage every father who reads this letter to sit down over the next week or so and write out a letter to your son.

Parents, you have no idea how much a letter like this will mean to your child.  Just a few sentences expressing how you’re proud of them, how much you love them, and offering them unpretentious, godly counsel will last far longer than any memory of the growing pains in their minds.

Check out Chuck’s letter to his son, just after you grab some Kleenex.