An agenda for reform at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, the Introduction


Paige and Dorothy Patterson still occupy the presidential home on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The Baptist Blogger has received several unconfirmed reports that Interim President Jeff Bingham has moved to reduce the staff serving the presidential home to a skeleton crew, down to a few hospitality employees from the bloated personal and administrative corps required to satisfy Pattersonian spendthriftiness.  We are reliably informed that Bingham’s move to exercise plenipotentiary command of the seminary is well underway, and early efforts by some Patterson loyalists to impose punitive measures against the school — including the recall of donor commitments — have started to die down.

Southwestern is no doubt in crisis. Enrollment will likely take another major hit this Fall, and with enrollment shortfalls come increased financial constraints because of how the Cooperative Program seminary funding formula works. Even keeping the lights on at the seminary is an increasingly real problem these days.

Inequities in faculty salaries continue, with Patterson loyalists occupying the highest-paid positions as endowed chairs, department heads, deans, and posts on the seminary cabinet. The sense that the faculty is divided between Patterson’s deputies and those who refuse a blood-oath to the erstwhile president is mitigated by virtue of the summer break.  Come August, these crises will erupt full force unless Bingham is empowered to address them, head-on. Without decisive action on numerous fronts, the ongoing palace intrigue and alliance-forming will spill into the classrooms. The seminary’s mission — to equip God-called men and women to fulfill the Lord’s calling on their lives — will suffer.

Jeffrey Bingham now faces some very hard decisions. Circumstances may require a few terminations, several demotions, and more than a handful of reprimands of existing employees.

Indeed, these are the times that try trustees’ souls.

Ending the reputation of theological authoritarianism, practical chauvinism, fiscal mismanagement, and administrative terror at the school will not happen unless the Pattersons are evicted forthwith from their campus palace, prohibited from holding meetings with faculty, staff and students on the seminary grounds, and denied access to any seminary resource that could possibly be used in pursuit of an ongoing campaign of dissension.

This sounds drastic, to be sure.  But tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered.

Southern Baptists must not forget that the trustees have wrought this predicament. Had they acted swiftly when first learning of Patterson’s handling of campus rape and placed him on immediate administrative leave, they would have forced him to meet with them and brought the rogue executive to heel.

That the trustees did not place Patterson on immediate leave when he rejected the trustee chairman’s request to review all presidential press releases is troubling.  You simply cannot let a man run amok with $276 million in institutional assets and $40 million-a-year in revenues.

Nevertheless, what’s done is done. And while the trustees owe it to Southern Baptists to provide a full accounting of what has happened at the school — administratively, financially, culturally, and pedagogically — the road ahead should capture our greater attention.

As Jeff Bingham said eloquently during his report to the convention, we must look to the future of the seminary while reflecting responsibly on its past.

Over the next several days, The Baptist Blogger will publish an agenda for reform at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Tomorrow, we will publish Part Two: the Faculty.  Other installments will follow: the Cabinet, the Campus, the College, the Curriculum, the Chapel, and finally, the Committee.  We will then post a brief excursus on actions the SBC Executive Committee could take to help the situation, without running afoul of either the seminary and committee charters or risking a breach of institutional autonomy and trustee authority.

Stay tuned . . .


ARCHIVES: The 1988 convention debate on the Priesthood of the Believer

In 1988, the SBC Resolutions Committee brought forward one of the more poorly-worded theological statements of the last 40 years. That year’s Resolution Number Five on “The Priesthood of the Believer” was a platform-orchestrated response to moderates in search of a doctrinal rallying point that might counter the majoritarian acceptability of the Patterson-Pressler shibboleth of inerrancy.

Walking away from San Antonio, moderate hopes began to diminish. In fact, they may have had reason to be concerned.

Soul competency is now barely mentioned among polite company in Southern Baptist circles. The priesthood of every believer is even less understood than it was before 1979. The separation of church and state is routinely swept aside like Richard Land’s 1990s-era combover.

Nevertheless, the 1988 Resolutions Committee — under the leadership of then-Chairman and former Nashville-area pastor Jerry Sutton — drafted a resolution that not only consumed the overwhelming majority of time allotted to the committee report, but managed to stretch into two days of convention business as messengers questioned the voting results announced by the convention president, Adrian Rogers.

The resolution was ultimately adopted by a narrow margin based on the keen eyeballing of hand-held ballots by members of the 1988 Tellers Committee, then-Registration Secretary Lee Porter, and employees of the San Antonio Convention Center.  SBC Parliamentarian Barry McCarty explained the controversial ruling at length to the messengers.

Jerry Sutton went on to lose the convention presidency in 2006, retire at age 57 from his Nashville ministry, and serve in the administration of Midwestern Seminary. The convention has never again adopted a resolution on the Priesthood of the Believer, though the matter briefly arose during debate on the revised Baptist Faith & Message during the 2000 convention in Orlando, FL.

As Southern Baptists continue to analyze the many events surrounding the 2018 annual meeting in Dallas, a review of the 1988 floor debate on the priesthood of every believer could prove illuminating.

ARCHIVES: The year a woman was nominated to preach the SBC annual sermon

In 1988, Dr. Tom Elliff was serving as the Chairman of the SBC Committee on Order of Business. The committee nominated Dr. Morris Chapman of the First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls, TX, to serve as the convention preacher for the 1989 annual meeting in Las Vegas, NV.

Pastor Larry Coleman, a messenger from the Bellewood Baptist Church of North Syracuse, NY, nominated the Rev. Nancy Hastings Sehested to serve as the 1989 convention preacher. Rev. Hastings Sehested had been elected as pastor of the Prescott Memorial Baptist Church in Memphis, TN. In October 1987, the church was expelled from the Shelby Baptist Association.

Dr. John Sullivan was also nominated, but declined to allow his name to stand for election.

Pastor Coleman went on to pastor the Churchland Baptist Church in Chesapeake, VA, which is affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

Parliamentary Note:  The longtime convention parliamentarian, Dr. Barry McCarty, advised the chair that the convention was not allowed to vote up or down on the nomination of Rev. Hastings Sehested.  McCarty said: “When you are voting on nominations and elections — except when you’re voting by ballot — the procedure is to take the ‘ayes’ and the ‘noes’ on each candidate in the order that they were nominated. Hence, if nominee number one — if he failed to be elected — then you would move to nominee number two and so on down the line. If nominee number one is elected, which he was in this case by a clear majority, then there is no reason to proceed. That is the procedure outlined by the convention’s parliamentary authority, and hence that’s the reason it was the procedure followed by the chair.”

There are some Roberts Rules interpretations that clearly state this is NOT the procedure, and it is NEVER in order to vote “FOR” or “AGAINST” a candidate when electing persons to office.

According to this interpretation, the ONLY way to vote AGAINST a nominee is to vote FOR ANOTHER nominee. Put another way, there should have been a chance for messengers to vote for a properly nominated and qualified candidate.

Nevertheless, we are also advised that Roberts Rule 47 could allow for this manner of voting UNLESS the messenger requested a ballot vote.  In that case, the presiding officer would have either ordered a ballot vote or denied the request for ballot.  The messenger still would have had a remaining life-line and could have “moved” that a ballot be taken. In that final case, the convention would vote (probably by raised ballot) on whether or not to take a ballot vote.

In either case, it’s instructive to see how the convention has handled these matters in the past.  Enjoy!

The 2000 SBC Annual Sermon

In 2000, the Southern Baptist Convention met in Orlando, FL. The previous year, the convention had elected Dr. Bailey Smith of Real Evangelism Ministries and a former convention president (1980-81) to preach the annual sermon. His chosen text was Hebrews 11:40.

The title of the sermon was “Wasted Sacrifices.”

The Baptist Blogger is pleased to provide video footage of this bold exposition, and to encourage readers to pray for Dr. Smith as he fights cancer.  Please also consider joining us in support of the GoFundMe Account for Dr. Smith’s medical expenses.

The 1988 SBC Annual Sermon

In 1988, the Southern Baptist Convention met in San Antonio, TX.  The previous year, the convention had elected Dr. Joel C. Gregory — then pastor of Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, TX — to preach the annual sermon.  His chosen text was Ephesians 4:29-5:1.

The Baptist Blogger has heard this sermon many times, but we have only recently acquired the video footage.  It’s truly a masterful sermon, and endures as a sobering reminder and reproof from one of the convention’s finest expositors.

And in the meantime, read this excellent article by Marv Knox on the “The Rise and Fall and Rise Again of Joel Gregory.”

What $90K can buy . . .

shelves IMG_8738-2 patterson

Paige Patterson not only commissioned a stained glass window in his own honor for Southwestern Seminary’s chapel, he’s also had not one, but two $90K portraits of himself commissioned for both Southeastern and Southwestern Seminaries.  Best we can tell, though, the Southeastern portrait may have only cost $69K.

What a bargain, right?

Southern Seminary’s Al Mohler also had a portrait done by renowned artist Daniel Greene, as did the Executive Committee Ambassador-at-Large and former Lifeway President Jimmy Draper.  Of course, the Mohler and Draper portraits are far less cluttered with background details (which translates to higher costs). Neither man had a dog or President George H.W. Bush painted into the final work.

The Baptist Blogger has been trying to find out whether Greene was commissioned for portraits of Southwestern’s erstwhile First Lady, but so far as well can tell, the artist was not commissioned to paint the Behatted One.

He does, however, paint female subjects.  We are fairly certain these works will not be gracing the walls of Southern Baptist seminary chapels or presidential suites any day soon.

One question remains: When will Johnny Hunt, Ronnie Floyd, Chuck Kelley, Gary and Tammi Ledbetter, John Yeats, Jay Strack, O.S. Hawkins, Morris Chapman, Jimmy Draper, Jerry Vines, Charles Stanley, Harold O’Chester, Rick Warren, Ed Young, Frank Page, Gerald Harris, Jim Richards, Tommy French, Bill Harrell, Richard Land, and SBC Parliamentarian Barry McCarty request Southwestern Seminary to take down their stained glass windows?

I mean, who ever thought this was a good idea?  Other than Paige and Dorothy, of course?

ARCHIVES: Of God and Greed


Back when Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker were falling from grace as the unrivaled power couple of American Protestantism, there were some demands they made before exiting the scene.  Jerry Falwell came to the short-lived rescue of PTL, calling on Bakker to “return the millions of dollars that have been taken from the coffers of this ministry at the cost of widows and supporters and people who have sacrificially built this Christian ministry.”

At a press conference, Falwell produced a note Tammy Faye Bakker had hand-written on her own ministry-provided stationary.  That note was delivered to Falwell as a demand for the Bakker’s severance package. The demands included:

  • A lifetime salary of $300,000.00 per year for Jim Bakker
  • A lifetime salary of $100,000.00 per year for Tammy Faye Bakker
  • All royalties and rights to their PTL-related books and records
  • The $400,000.00 lakeside mansion in South Carolina built by PTL
  • Two cars
  • Security staffing
  • Payments for attorneys to handle the Bakker’s possible IRS problems
  • A maid and secretary for one year

Falwell responded to the Bakker’s demands:  “I see the greed. I see the self-centeredness. I see the avarice that brought them down.”  Falwell also took journalists on a troubling tour of the couple’s private penthouse at PTL, which included a 50-ft walk-in closet and gold-plated plumbing fixtures. The ministry had also provided the Bakker’s dog with an air-conditioned dog-house. One friend of Jim and Tammy Faye had received a handsome sum of $120,000.00 a year to decorate the Bakkers’ residences. Another aide received $120,000.00 a year for consulting services.

What did the Bakkers have to say about Falwell’s efforts to expose their lavish lifestyle, bring accountability, and restore the reputation of a once vibrant Christian ministry?

“My enemies are trying to kill me. They plot my ruin and spend all their waking hours planning treachery.”

To read more, click here.

Serious scholarship, Oedipus, and Electra…


Buckle your seat belts. This one is going to get a little bumpy.

Truth be told, I’ve never read a single edition of the Southwestern Journal of Theology.

And truth be told, nobody else has either. Including the faculty of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Ordinarily, we would suggest our readers aren’t missing much.  But the Fall 2017 edition — published in December of last year — prompts our present and sundry observations. Having been named among “the brightest young scholars” engaging Southern Baptist life, we feel this assessment is both a matter of conscience and duty.

(Insert golf clap here)

First, I will just say it up front: Paige Patterson is — and has always been — an academic lightweight. I have never doubted his genuine love to share the gospel. Nor have I ever doubted his sincere desire that all men be saved. He even thinks women can be saved, through childbearing of course.

And he’s a nimble rhetorician. He used to be a fairly deft denominational strategist.

But a scholar he is not.

Back at Southeastern there was a running joke about Paige. It went something like this: Paige Patterson has mastered about 12 pieces of perfectly useless and potentially dubious claims of church history. You won’t know them because, well, they aren’t really important and they’re probably not true.

But he’s cagey enough to find the one part of your research where he can leverage this quasi-scholarly detritus to make you feel dumb.  In doing this, he makes himself look — or at least feel — smart.

It’s sort of the way big guns make him feel manly and big boots make him feel taller and “breaking down” young women makes him feel virile.

Allow me to prove my point:

The single Pattersonian contribution to the Fall 2017 Southwestern Journal of Theology, “The Theology of the Reformers,” comes in at 10 half pages, including a pretty and colorful cover page.

Once you wince your way through contorted and at times geographically maladroit metaphors (in America . . . as illusive as the Loch Ness Monster; intellectual pursuits in art were . . . the fuels that propelled; the tsunami named Katie Zell; Luther went through “the dungeon of despair”) and various banalities masquerading as prose (swept under the rug, etc.), things take a turn for the worse.

At our cursory count, Patterson’s flirt with the scholarly enterprise contains a meager 21 footnotes: five of which refer to a previous source; one of which is an essay by an ever-adulating Southwestern professor included in a collection of essays published in honor of Patterson himself; one cites a subsequent article in the same Fall 2017 edition; one cites a Southwestern graduate’s recent dissertation; two of which were published by academic powerhouses like Wipf and Stock and The Baptist Standard Bearer; and most of which were published between fifty and 150 years ago.

Or put another way, we wonder what might have happened had Patterson dared to submit this bibliography to the Southwestern School of Theology for thesis approval.

He would, of course, been laughed all the way to the School of Church and Family Ministries where Professor Waylan Owens, no doubt, would have supervised his work.

Now all of that was preamble to what we really want to say.

Looking past the Fall 2017 edition of the Southwestern Journal of Theology to the Spring 2017 edition, we are interested to make two observations:

  1. A male student has recently been awarded a doctorate from Southwestern Seminary for his work on “The Signature Contribution of J.M. Price (1884-1976) to Southern Baptist Religious Education.”  The male student was supervised by Patricia Nason, who by all measures seems to be abundantly qualified for this assignment.

    But we’re curious: Are women professors routinely permitted to supervise male doctoral students at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary?  Is it only the School of Theology where this is prohibited? Does female pedagogical supervision of advanced academic degrees by men in a seminary setting involve any measure of “authority” or “teaching” in violation of the biblical paradigm? Is Dr. Nason’s supervision here another “momentary lax (sic) of parameters” at Southwestern, or is this common practice under the leadership of Dean Waylan Owens? Perhaps these questions will be answered in Dallas next week.

  2. Another dissertation — this time by a female student — examines “Freud’s Anthropological Perspective on the Sexual Child.” Professor John Babler — who moonlights at nearby Birchman Baptist Church — supervised the work. The dissertation seems timely at Southwestern.  

    In her analysis, the student surveys the psychoanalytic work of Austrian neurologist and frequent cocaine user Sigmund Freud with particular attention to the evolution of his “traumatogenic theory of causation for hysterical neurosis.” Freud most frequently associated this diagnosis with libidinal immaturity and impotence.

    Noting that Freud discarded his “traumatogenic theory of causation for hysteria,” Babler’s student explores a “biogenic theory . . . which minimized abuse and allowed abusers to blame victims for their own suffering.”

    In other words, Freud turned abuse on its head. Abusers — particularly of the sexual sort — are the victims. And the real victims, as Freud would have it, are the perpetrators. One is curious exactly how many women Freud had to “break down” to reach this conclusion.

Nevertheless, we are left with a pressing curiosity that warrants additional inquiries. For instance, is it possible that men who abuse their authority in pursuit of “victim shaming” are trapped in Freud’s Oedipus Stage of psychosexual development. Are the women who enable them similarly suffering from an Electra Complex?

Or put another way: Are men that regularly refer to their wives as “mother,” and whose wives reciprocally refer to their husbands as “daddy” sufficiently matured in their psychosexual development to lead institutions of theological education?

Fortunately, Southern Baptists will no longer have to ask that question.

Breaking down seminary retirement


When Robert Naylor retired from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary at age 69, there were more 4,000 students and the seminary was training approximately 20 percent of the entire M.Div. student population in the evangelical world.  He’d spent 20 years at the school, built a top-tier faculty, expanded the campus debt-free, and cultivated a strong reputation for the school and his administration.

People who knew Naylor knew he could be tough, and he was never given to prevarication. Even after retirement, he loomed large as a statesman in Southern Baptist life.  When the Baylor Board of Regents voted to self-perpetuate, Robert Naylor was called on to serve as chairman of the committee that sought peace.

His office wall had no dead animals. He had no conceal-and-carry permit and refused bodyguards. He never tried to “break a woman down,” and while he had various students and faculty criticize him through the years, his open-door policy was no pretense. People knew where they stood with Naylor. There was no hidden agenda.

When he took flack for building the president’s home on campus — then half the size it is now — he went to chapel and opened up for questions.  When he retired, his lawyers didn’t try to negotiate a severance package.

In fact, when Naylor retired, all the seminary gave him was a car, a trip to the Holy Land, and $10,000. In today’s money, that’s about $40,000.  His salary at the time would have been around $160,000 in 2018.

Oh, and there’s one more thing.

Dr. Naylor used to tell Southwestern students that they’d “be better dead” than if they brought dishonor to the seminary.

Bringing dishonor to the school sure seems to pay more than it used to.

Click here to listen to Dr. Naylor talk about retiring from Southwestern.

NY Times: W.A. Criswell considered “abuse” grounds for divorce


From the June 9, 1985 edition of the New York Times:

. . .Criswell says that the biggest change he has seen in his lifetime is the growth and influence of the electronic media. They have changed society and changed the ministry.

”The idea of a church when I came 40 years ago,” he said, ”was a cracker box with stained glass windows and George Truett” – his predecessor – ”preaching.”

The church now is an island in a vast un-Christian world, he said. It must minister to all of the needs of people, from fitness and health to psychological counseling and social activities.

”The church is a thousand times different from what it was. The preaching of the Gospel is just one facet of many, many facets.”

His own preaching has changed. He seldom preaches of the fire and brimstone that threaten the unbeliever, he says. Perhaps he should more, he reflects.

He has seen more divorce than he could ever imagine when he was growing up in a small west Texas town. His own daughter has been divorced twice. The New Testament is explicit about divorce, he says. The grounds for divorce are adultery. But he recalls a magazine article he read once in an airplane, whose message was about other kinds of infidelity than sexual. The writer had a good point, Criswell said. Maybe it is possible to be spiritually unfaithful: ”Here is a man who beats up his wife and is a terror to his children and doesn’t go out to a whorehouse. You can’t help but be sympathetic.”

Click here to read the full article.

“A bruised reed he will not break.” — Isaiah 42:3

On faculty salaries and feathered nests


The Baptist Blogger has learned that negotiations continue between former SWBTS President Paige Patterson and seminary trustees over the matter of severance. Until late last month, Patterson was slated to keep his more than $300k salary, residence in an all-utilities-paid $2.5 million retirement home, personal and administrative staff, automobiles, an expense account, and honorific titles.

That ended when it was discovered — amid the lowest enrollment in four decades and numerous financial irregularities — that Patterson had requested time alone with a female seminary student so he could “break her down.”

Erstwhile presidential perquisites notwithstanding, we at the Baptist Blogger have not forgotten that while Patterson was raising millions to purchase bogus Dead Sea Scrolls and making plans for his seminary-provided retirement home, he was slashing faculty retirement benefits to nothing.

With that background in mind, The Baptist Blogger is pleased to resume our semi-regular broadcast of Tea Talks. In today’s episode we get to hear from another Southwestern president and what his thoughts were on the importance of faculty salaries and the generosity of wealthy donors to help underwrite them.

(Note: SWBTS Trustees should keep in mind how Patterson slashed faculty retirement benefits 10 years ago before they start writing severance checks backed by Cooperative Program funds. As of last report, there was still nearly $100,000 in the bank of Patmos Evangelistic Association).

Some lawyers aren’t very sharp


Mark us down in the “unimpressed” column, but Paige Patterson’s lawyer might need some remedial courses in legal ethics. He certainly needs to be a little more careful.

In today’s edition of Baptist Press, Shelby Sharpe (1) divulges even more personal information about a rape victim and (2) attempts to explain how he only talks to Paige Patterson “on legal matters” while simultaneously releasing information “not as his lawyer” but “as a person.”

Well now that we have the issue of his “personhood” cleared up.  That, and the fact that he still uses an AOL account.

Nevertheless, Sharpe continued his rambling peroration — whether ex parte or pro se, we can’t be sure — by informing us that the Pattersons are “in the process” of moving out of the seminary’s presidential home and “under negotiation” with the seminary about his severance. We’re hoping he gets to keep Dottie’s Magic beans.  They aren’t really of value to the school anyway.

And it will be interesting to see how much the Patterson “move out” will cost Southwestern in replacement furniture and cars giveaways.

What strikes us as most odd is that Sharpe, who represents Paige Patterson except when he’s not, still publicly claims Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary as a “representative client.”  It’s also interesting to learn about Shelby Sharpe’s connection with Christian Reconstructionism, his views on sharia law, and his apparent history of client-shopping in wrongful termination lawsuits.

Developing . . .



RECAP: Baptist Blogger Archives

Today we decided to look back over the past four months and see what files from the Baptist Blogger archives have been the “most accessed.”  In order of their popularity, here are the top ten:

10. Minutes of February 2, 2015 meeting of SWBTS School of Theology
9.  Evidence of seminary funds used to pay Paige Patterson’s taxidermy bill.
8.  Text of 2001 paper on “The Future of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
7.  Audio recording of Paige Patterson telling abused woman to “submit” to abuser.
6.  Receipt detailing $39K in replacement furnishings needed for Magnolia Hill
5.  Lawsuit against Paige and Dorothy Patterson alleging elder abuse and theft
4.  Front and back cover of 2001 paper submitted to Paige Patterson.
3.  Transaction report of $98K to re-furnish Magnolia Hill after Patterson departure.
2.  Article about SWBTS faculty resolutions supporting Russell Dilday.
1.  Email from SWBTS Professor to SWBTS Veep about missing funds.