UPDATE: Coming tomorrow . . .

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The Baptist Blogger has been busy doing research and writing for non-blog publication, but tonight we will post the next installment of our series on SWBTS Reform.

Stay tuned for our reflections on the path forward for the Fort Worth seminary as we tackle the issues of curriculum, mission creep, and campus sprawl.

UPDATE:  We have received information from one of our SWBTS sources that requires a temporary postponement of tonight’s post.  This new information will be added to our planned posting, and we will get it up as soon as possible for weekend reading.

BREAKING NEWS: SWBTS Faculty Flop resigns


The Baptist Blogger has received confirmation that Dr. Waylan Owens, dean of the Southwestern Seminary School of Church and Family Ministries, has resigned effective July 31. A reception is planned for later this week.

We’ve also received confirmation that Rev. Bruce McCoy, a certificate holder in “philanthropy management” from Indiana University and director of the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition, has announced his resignation. McCoy, we understand, will be heading to the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

We are not sure if the BGCT is planning to purchase bogus Dead Sea Scrolls anytime soon; but if so, we can think of at least one other faculty member who has expertise in that regard whom they may wish to consider hiring.

A modest proposal for Kevin Ueckert

Things have not been easy for Southwestern Seminary’s trustee chairman this year. He deserves our sincere empathy, if not outright pity.

For more than 15 years, Kevin Ueckert’s predecessors* have allowed the seminary’s enrollment to plummet, its fiscal health has been substantially degraded, its faculty has become top-heavy, its mission has been sidetracked by ill-conceived and haphazard administrative restructurings, and its curriculum has suffered the proliferation of course offerings and degree concentrations far afield of the seminary’s charter.

On top of that, Ueckert has had to deal with an increasingly recalcitrant and spendthrift chief executive and his famously gynocapitulating helpmate, administrative officers who for cause of cowardice or incompetence have enabled that executive, and a handful of fellow trustees whose inability to understand basic convention polity, board authority, and trustee accountability has deprived Southern Baptist churches the robust oversight necessary to preserve their assets and investments as the seminary’s sole corporate member and primary underwriter.

No man or woman should be expected to resolve all these conflicts in a single term. In fact, no board will be able to unravel it all in a series of meetings.

Hell’s fires were not stoked in a day.  Nor can they be extinguished in a fortnight.

Nevertheless, the board chairman has in his hands the levers of power and legal authority to start the flow of water.  He can — with great confidence in the convention’s actions last month — do his job.

And the seminary’s dire condition demands his immediate, decisive, and prioritized action.

As we see it, there are four actions he could — and should — take before the seminary closes out its current fiscal year on July 31 and in advance of the plenary meeting of the board this October.  These are, in no particular order:

  1. In accordance with Article III, Section 3 of the seminary bylaws, Chairman Ueckert should reconfigure the standing committees of the board. These include: the Bylaws Committee; the Academic Administration Committee; the Business Administration Committee; the Committee for Institutional Advancement; and the Student Services Committee.  The Chairmen of each committee are appointed by the Board Chairman and serve concurrently on the Executive Committee of the Board.The committees which matter most at the present time seem to be the business affairs committee, the academic affairs committee, and the bylaws committee. Ueckert should stack these committees with trustees who have demonstrated strong independence from the previous administration.

    The Bylaws Committee, upon request from the Chairman, “may make recommendations to facilitate more effective implementation of board policy.” Ueckert needs to request such recommendations

    The Bylaws Committee may also propose “any revisions to the Policy Manual of the Seminary” at the fall meeting of the Board of Trustees. Numerous revisions are now in order, and should be formulated with great urgency before the October meeting.

    The Business Administration Committee “shall review fiscal and physical concerns of the Seminary and make such recommendations to the Board . . . as may be deemed necessary.” Moreover, the seminary bylaws provide that “any substantial change in budget expenditures after the budget is adopted shall be made only by the Board upon the recommendation of the [Interim] President and the Committee for Business Administration.”

    Jeff Bingham needs to bring a major budget amendment to the Committee on Business Administration, eliminating whole line items outright, travel budgets for the various deans, and completely defunding numerous Pattersonian initiatives, programs, and administrative sinecures.

    Finally, the Academic Affairs Committee, in accordance with the seminary bylaws, “shall review the curricula in relation to the purposes of the Seminary. It shall also review educational management, attitudes of faculty members, relations between the schools in the Seminary . . . and other matters pertaining to the educational program of the Seminary.”  The Committee should undertake a full review of all matters under its authority and bring recommendations to the Board this Fall.

    A good starting place would be (1) reducing the number of schools at the seminary to three; (2) affirming the interim, conditional status of all members of the presidential cabinet and academic council until the election of the next president, at which times their resignations are requested; and (3) eliminating the entire homemaking program.

  2. The matter of a presidential search committee must be a priority. Chairman Ueckert is empowered by the seminary bylaws to appoint such a committee, and he should do so posthaste and submit the committee he names for affirmation by the full board in October. But he needn’t wait for the full board to meet to form a search committee.

    He should NOT name himself as Chairman of the Search Committee, nor should he name himself to the committee.  That’s proven unwise in the past across the Southern Baptist Convention.

    We propose he names Mrs. Jamie Green from Katy, TX, one of three women serving on the Board of Trustees, as the chairwoman of the search committee.

    He should also name SBC President J.D. Greear, who is a voting member of the board by virtue of his convention office, to the committee as Vice Chairman.

    What a message that would send, right?  We dare the remaining Patterson loyalists on the board to overturn their selection.

    Whatever you do, PLEASE don’t throw The Baptist Blogger into that briar patch.

  3. In response to the convention’s request that the full board re-examine the termination of Paige Patterson, Chairman Ueckert should name an ad hoc committee to undertake the primary responsibility of this review with the instruction that all seminary employees and board members comply with any request from this committee. The committee should be requested to present a report to the Board of Trustees at its Spring 2019 meeting, at which time the full board will adopt a final report to give to the convention messengers in Birmingham next June.

    This report MUST include a full, forensic audit of the seminary’s financial condition. But more about that later . . .

    Ueckert should name Bart Barber as Chairman of the Review Committee, and he should name Danny Roberts of North Richland Hills as the Vice Chairman. Trustee Wayne Dickard of South Carolina — who spoke in favor of removing the trustee executive committee during the 2018 annual meeting — should also be named to the review committee, God bless him.

  4. Finally, Chairman Ueckert should release publicly a statement outlining all of the above actions — with full transparency to the convention — as well as information related to the ongoing campus habitation of the former President and First Lady Emeriti.

    The seminary cannot move forward as long as there remains uncertainty about these matters. The public cannot rely on second-hand reports of Jeff Bingham’s comments to seminary employees about the state of the school, the financial condition, and the path forward.

* Ueckert’s predecessors as board chairman include: at least one current seminary dean, David Allen; the current pastor of Travis Avenue Baptist Church; the current Executive Director of the Oklahoma Baptist Convention, Hance Dilbeck; Texas pastor John Mark Caton; a professor at an independent Baptist seminary whose doctoral research concerned “Prejudice in the Old Testament;” Texas pastor Lash Banks; and Louisiana Pastor Steve James.

SWBTS Dean David Allen helping train women preachers

If ever there were signs that Southwestern Seminary is under new leadership with a new commitment to train women for ministry apart from the school’s joke-worthy homemaking concentration, this is it.

Dr. David Allen, dean of the preaching school and the former trustee chairman who engineered Sheri Klouda’s hiring at the same time Interim President Jeffrey Bingham was originally brought on board, helped train female preachers in the art of sermon preparation during this years’ E.K. Bailey Preaching Conference:

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(Note: SWBTS Provost Craig Blaising “liked” this one.)

Specifically, Allen led a workshop during the 2018 session in Dallas, TX, on the subject of “Preaching Romans 5 – 7.” From the image posted on the SWBTS Twitter, it seems that there are at least 6 women sitting front-and-center participating in Allen’s workshop on sermon preparation. Best we can tell, nobody from the Southwestern Homemaking Program was invited to lead a session at this year’s conference.

In fact, there’s no trace of the seminary’s “women’s studies” faculty ever participating in any session during the now decades-old conference.

Not only is this a great indication that Southwestern Seminary could be moving toward a more affirming and sensible posture when it comes to women in ministry, the seminary dean’s participation further underscores the institution’s commitment to interracial dialogue and ministry endeavor. A review of the conference highlight video reveals how well-received Allen’s panel participation was by his fellow session leaders.

No doubt, the entire Southern Baptist Convention is simultaneously awakening to the need for a more text-driven theology of women’s ministry roles and a more text-driven priority on racial diversity in Kingdom leadership. The trend toward a more intentional inclusion of women and ethnic minorities is evident, and long overdue.

Or put more succinctly: Twenty years ago, could you have ever imagined a Southern Baptist Convention where women are unanimously elected to serve as trustee chairpersons or a major seminary dean is teaching women alongside men in the art of sermon preparation and delivery? Even ten years ago? Five?

Can you think of a time when there was open, honest conversation about electing a woman to serve as convention president?

Clearly, this isn’t Paige Patterson’s convention any more.

But we should also be thankful this isn’t Randall Lolley’s convention any more either.

Just last week while doing some research at Southeastern Seminary for my upcoming book project, I spent several hours going through the seminary’s publicly-available archives. While going through a boxed file in the Kaemmerling Collection, I ran across a copy of a 1983 order of worship from Southeastern’s chapel.

(Credit: Archives and Special Collections, Library at Southeastern, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC.)

Without necessary reforms, the SBC could well have become a place where Jesus is hailed as a “feminist,” men were called to “discard” their “masculine role,” and liturgical readings from Sistercelebrations were commonplace.

But the Doctors Patterson pushed the pendulum too far in the opposite direction, making the convention into a place where men had to “prove” their “manliness,” female rape victims are “broken down,” and seminary curriculum includes graduate courses in cookie baking and campfire building.

Come to think of it, the only redeeming thing about the bizarre epoch of Pattersonian androcentricity is that fewer and fewer students were enrolling at Southwestern with each passing year.

The Baptist Blogger welcomes the idea that Dean David Allen is returning to his earlier, more biblically perspicacious theology of women in ministry. His willingness to teach women alongside men in a room where white men are the minority is promising indeed.

The Patterson era is fast being recognized for what it was — a momentary, yet destructive crunch of parameters. Indeed, it has ended not a day too soon, and almost too late. The seminary is now returning to its traditional, confessional, and biblical position.

As someone has wisely said, “Blessed are the balanced.”

Breaking up is hard to do . . .


Cue the music while you read this post.

Southwestern Seminary is headed to Botswana this summer. Not the entire seminary, mind you, but the Women’s Studies program is traveling to the landlocked republic in Southern Africa for a conference on biblical womanhood.

Miss Candi Finch, who holds the Dorothy Patterson Chair of Women’s Studies at the Fort Worth School, recently announced her travel plans — and her fondness of cured pork products — to the Twitterverse on June 24th:

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Accompanying Miss Finch into Sub-Saharan villages to proclaim the Gospel of Homemaking is the Former First Lady Emerita and erstwhile Waylan Owens nominator, Dorothy Kelley Patterson.

(Forgive us if we cannot help but conjure images from the Peace Corps scene in the 1980s classic film, Airplane!)

Indeed, Miss Finch and the Behatted One have been, and appear to remain inseparable. Finch accompanied Dorothy to Zurich, where they purchased bogus scraps of Palestinian parchment for millions of dollars. They collaborated on the 2013 “Christian Homemaker’s Handbook,” which comes complete with a Feminism Quotient exam to test your liberal leanings. Finch has served as Dorothy’s “Executive Assistant,” and together they have labored to retrieve the seminary’s homemaking degree from near-universal academic scorn.

If Dorothy ever actually made her own baked goods, Candi is the form of cookie she might have cut.

It now appears that despite the seminary’s termination of Paige Patterson and much-delayed eviction from the complimentary housing afforded the complementarian couple, Southwestern will be offering a course this Fall team-taught by Miss Finch and her mentor, Dorothy Patterson.

That’s right, beginning Monday, August 23, 2018, students may enroll in the Biblical Theology of Womanhood, an amplified and comprehensive study of womanhood in the Old Testament to provide the foundation for a non-contradictory pattern and plan for biblical womanhood. The three-hour course will meet in Scarborough 116, mere steps from the Presidential Suite.

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Now can someone tell me why Dorothy Patterson is still listed as a professor for Southwestern courses, even after she’s been removed from the list of professors teaching in the School of Theology?

Perhaps this is an oversight and will be soon corrected.

Whatever the case, we can be assured that in Dorothy’s absence, her bizarre and eccentric theology of womanhood will doubtlessly be served up like hot buttered scones and Devonshire cream to the ladies enrolled in WOMST-3113-A at Southwestern this Fall.

Ponder that while you wait for the new and improved website currently in development, www.dorothypatterson.org.

Yes, breaking up is hard to do.

SWBTS Reform Part Three: The Cabinet

Section Five of the Southwestern Seminary bylaws states the following:

“The President’s Cabinet is chaired by the President and consists of the Executive Vice President and Provost, the Vice President for Business Administration, the Vice President for Institutional Advancement, the Vice President for Student Services, and the Vice President for Strategic Initiatives. The President’s Cabinet serves as a forum for consultation and coordination between the various entities of the Seminary.”

At present, the following men serve on the Interim President’s Cabinet. All of them except one were appointed by Paige Patterson. Three of them were elected by the trustee Executive Committee in special-called sessions apart from the full board’s regular meetings. These men are:

  1. Dr. Craig Blaising (Ph.D. Aberdeen; Th.D. DTS; Th.M. DTS; B.S. UT Austin)
  2. Dr. Charles Patrick (Ph.D. Rice; M.Div. SWBTS; B.S.Ch.E. LSU)
  3. Mr. Kevin Ensley (M.B.A. SMU; B.B.A. Texas A&M)
  4. Mr. Travis Trawick (Ph.D. cand. SWBTS; M.Div. SWBTS; B.S. Florida State)
  5. Dr. Kyle Walker (Ph.D. SWBTS; M.Div. SWBTS; B.S. Alabama)

It is difficult to understand how Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary could have suffered precipitous enrollment losses, the tragic decline of faculty and staff morale, or the prolonged financial hardships brought on by wasteful spending and misguided funding priorities without the complicity of some — if not all — of these five men.

Allow me to explain.

Craig Blaising is an aerospace engineer by training. He later pursued advanced degrees at Dallas Theological Seminary and the University of Aberdeen. He’s served as the president of the Evangelical Theological Society, and he’s an informed patristics scholar and highly-regarded progressive dispensationalist. Prior to his election as provost under former Southwestern President Ken Hemphill, Blaising was one of the early faculty hires at Southern Seminary under its new president, R. Albert Mohler.

The contrasted vantage point of seeing Southern Seminary’s enrollment begin to explode under Mohler versus the steady decline of Southwestern under Patterson leaves one wondering if Blaising was paying close attention at either school.  Moreover, Blaising is no academic lightweight, which raises serious questions about the advice he was giving to Patterson regarding Southwestern faculty hires. How did Southwestern end up with a theological journal nobody reads, seven distinct schools with a greatly-reduced student population, and a faculty deeply divided over personalities if Blaising were doing his job?

Did he never tell Patterson that the school was going in the wrong direction? Did he ever speak up to trustees — either privately or during reports to the board — about the fault lines that have split the campus so terribly in recent months? Did he even see them?  Did he care?

The seminary bylaws make Blaising’s job pretty clear:

“He shall have concern for the entire operation of the Seminary . . . shall review the faculty salary structure and recommend to the President salaries for faculty [and] he shall also monitor the expenditures for academic programs.”

At what point did Blaising’s “concern for the entire operation of the Seminary” give way to Pattersonian administrative, financial and theological misadventures? When Patterson was cutting faculty retirement benefits, reducing healthcare coverage, and limiting the outside earning opportunities of seminary professors, did Blaising ever say “stop”?

When millions were being spent on bogus Dead Sea Scraps and building million dollar retirement homes . . . when faculty were being bullied and the Baptist Faith & Message was being twisted to support all manner of Pattersonian doctrinal eccentricities, did Blaising ever speak a word of objection?

The Baptist Blogger hears almost daily from numerous corners of seminary life that faculty morale is at a record low. Even after Dilday’s and Hemphill’s firings, there remained a sense that the faculty was together in mutual love and support of the seminary, its mission, and its students.

Today, however, the divisions run deep.

Patterson’s eventual ouster and the trustee’s refusal to allow Blaising to accede to the role of Acting President as the bylaws stipulate — preferring instead to empower one of Blaising’s subordinates, Jeff Bingham — indicates they might have known something about Blaising’s support inside the faculty. Or at the very least, his ability to gain that support and trust in short order.

Simply put, they couldn’t let him take the seminary’s reins in earnest. For whatever reason.

An interesting side note: the word “provost” originally meant “the keeper of a prison.”  This curious etymology may, in fact, have become more culturally realized on campus than we knew during the regressive dispensation of Blaising’s tenure.

And now to the matter of the Vice President of Business Affairs, Kevin Ensley.

For several years now, Mr. Ensley has been fighting a valiant fight against cancer. We understand that during this time, he was also fighting back against the Pattersons’ accusations that he was guilty of administrative incompetence at Southwestern.

The Baptist Blogger would wish neither cancer nor the Pattersons on any Kingdom servant. So our sympathies are real, and our concern authentic.

But we are left with one brutal question: Did Patterson hold Ensley’s medical coverage over his head to force submission despite Ensley’s growing concern about the seminary’s fiscal condition?  Did he ever go to the trustees with his concerns, or was he forced to live in fear of Pattersonian retribution like so many others?

These questions need answers. And if the trustees were not being given accurate information about the seminary’s financial health, presidential expenditures, and budgetary priorities, then Kevin Ensley is in the unique role to come clean.

Nobody will hold it against him. The reign of terror made victims everywhere. At some point in such an environment, the desire to protect one’s family is a strong one. At other times, Stockholm Syndrome sets in. In either case, a full accounting of the seminary’s fiscal condition is owed to the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. As donors threaten to peel off, the convention deserves to know what impacts the loss of Patterson’s millionaire sycophants will mean to the seminary’s finances.

And the convention deserves to know what the end of Patterson’s ability to approve expenditures and sign checks will mean for the institution’s reserve accounts. Just how much did Pecan Manor cost the institution? And how did the Pattersons shuffle monies and spread expenses around to maintain the facade of their well-funded Potemkin Village?

Ensley is in a position to give those answers. And if he can’t — or won’t — then we’ve identified another layer of dysfunction on seminary hill.

Now for the rest of the cabinet.

We have very little to say about Dr. Charles Patrick except to note that he’s had one of the more unenviable responsibilities in recent years: spokesman for the Pattersons. I’m still not comfortable with the ridiculous press release he sent out last year announcing more lay-offs or how he handled the termination of a student worker who crossed the Pattersons. We are also aware of other terminations he handled at the seminary that raise questions about his ability to exercise independent administrative judgment.

Nonetheless, the trustees reversed Patrick’s termination of the $40,000/year Ph.D. student. And while I’m sure Patrick thought he was doing the right thing, the fact that he would think it was the right thing concerns us still.

We know little of Dr. Walker or Mr. Trawick, though we’ve heard good things about them both. In Walker’s case, we cannot begrudge his limited exposure to a coherent philosophy of higher education administration apart from a front-row seat to Paige Patterson’s meltdown.  You simply can’t hold a man responsible for what he doesn’t know and hasn’t been taught.

But neither do you elevate a man with such limited experience and narrow exposure to an influential Cabinet position without the resources to quickly attain this exposure and experience. This has been a pattern for Paige and Dorothy through the years, for obvious reasons and with predictable results.

Trawick, like Charles Patrick, has one of the more unenviable tasks at present. He has to keep up the fundraising while the Pattersons use seminary resources to continue pushing their allies to withhold donations or withdraw pledges to the school. All while Trawick is trying to finish his Ph.D. and support his family.

Trawick has been in the new role a little more than six months, which means he has had almost no perceptible hand in the seminary’s decline under Patterson. How he handles the next few months will prove his mettle, to be sure.

For now, the Baptist Blogger has one reform idea for Southwestern’s cabinet:

All five men should write an undated letter of resignation and give it to Interim President Jeffrey Bingham. A new Southwestern will require a new president.  And a new president will need men in his closest circle of confidence whom he can trust to help turn the school around.

These men may well earn that trust, but a new president will deserve the opportunity of a clean slate of administrative officers and the ability to accept previously proffered resignations without a scuffle.

Either that, or these men could follow the Pattersonian path and insist on their position to the detriment of the school’s health and reputation. If they choose the latter, it only reinforces why the former is needed.

Stay tuned . . .


Where the sun don’t shine . . .


Wade Burleson has posted one of the more well-documented responses to the now-infamous Loveless Letter.  Former SWBTS Trustee and all-around financier of Pattersonian extravagancies, Houston’s Gary Loveless, has enlisted the backing of a dozen other seminary donors to extort the institution and have the First Couple restored to their former glory.

Or at the least to their $2.5 million retirement home, formerly known as La Hacienda del Pastor.

In their defense of the Doctors Patterson and attack on the trustee executive committee, these wealthy men and women appear to have gained access to confidential student records and shared them in a potentially criminal, but certainly imprudent manner. Whether or not Loveless had prior access to this information because of his trustee responsibilities is unclear. His unlawful possession of them is one thing.

His dissemination of these records is another and could expose the letter’s signatories and the seminary to litigation.

And if we are to take Loveless’s word for it, there’s a lot of gold in them there hills.

Perhaps someone with access to Patterson’s files duplicated the documents and disseminated excerpts to loyalists far and wide. If that person were a seminary employee and used a seminary email account or other official information technologies, it could be a matter of days before Interim President Jeffrey Bingham gets to the bottom of the privacy breach.

The Baptist Blogger will post Part Three of our Agenda for Seminary Reform this weekend.  For now, we direct our readers to the very important questions that Wade Burleson is asking.

Click here to read Burleson’s comments.

And just for fun, click here to read the letter that a Louisiana pastor and frequent SWBTS chapel speaker sent to the trustees asking for the Pattersons to be allowed to “transition with dignity.”

Dignity, young pastor, absconded the moment your mentor started “breaking down” rape victims.  And who signs “Dr.” with their name anyway?

Not even my doctor does that.

SWBTS Reform Part Two: Faculty

The enrollment at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary reached a forty-year low under the leadership of Leighton Paige Patterson. The number of full time students reported to the Southern Baptist Convention was 1,249 in 2017, marking a ten-year drop of more than 700 students.  This year, it dropped again to 1,222. (See Page 85).

Meanwhile, the total number of full-time faculty has held steady, hovering just above the 100 mark, down from a Patterson-era high of 119 in the 2008-2009 academic year. (See pages 237-8, here)

Note: The last year Russell Dilday gave the Southwestern report to the convention, there were 3,171 full time students and 105 elected faculty. (See pages 263-64, here).

Or put another way, the current student-to-full-time faculty ratio at Southwestern Seminary is 12-to-1.  At the end of Dilday’s tenure, the ratio was 30-to-1, though there were several dozen adjunctive faculty under contract and teaching regularly. This coming Fall semester, there is at least one scheduled course at Southwestern to be taught by an adjunctive faculty member (See PRCHG-3313-A). Most other courses will taught by the remaining full-time faculty.

This trajectory is unsustainable.

The Baptist Blogger has been made aware of another problem area resulting from Patterson-era faculty expansions. In 2015, for instance, SWBTS trustees authorized the creation of the School of Preaching, which constituted the 7th school at the seminary.  David Allen, himself a former trustee and Patterson-appointed dean of the School of Theology, transitioned to the new school and kept the title “dean.”

Seven schools means seven deans, at least. Currently, the Southwestern website lists nine distinct schools: The School of Theology; the School of Missions and Evangelism; the School of Preaching; the School of Church and Family Ministries; the School of Church Music; Scarborough College; the Havard School; Women’s Programs, and Archaeology Programs.

Southern Seminary, with more than double the FTE enrollment of Southwestern, only has three schools. Mohler, soon after his election, unified the core M.Div. curriculum, eliminating academic reduplication and closing the Carver School of Church Social Work. He caught hell for it, but the pruning worked.  Today, Southern is the largest theological institution in the Evangelical world.

In Texas — at least for the Pattersons — bigger has always meant better. Unless you’re talking enrollment, of course.

By expanding the number of schools, Patterson was able to increase the number of deans reporting to him and create sinecures of negligible academic benefit to the students or administrative efficiency for the institution. He could, as it were, have a half-dozen deans while Al Mohler only has three.

Which brings me to our present concern.

The faculty of Southwestern Seminary is exceedingly top-heavy. There are more deans than necessary — which means more expense to the school — and at least one of the men who’s benefited from accumulative Pattersonian kingdom-building brings neither significant scholarly contribution nor administrative expertise to the job.

Which brings us to Dr. Waylan Owens.

Consider just for fun’s sake that that Owens, whom Dorothy Patterson nominated to serve as the Convention Registration Secretary at the 2017 annual meeting, garnered a meager 28.8 percent of the vote.

His loss notwithstanding, Owens returned to Southwestern last year and continued in his role as Dean of the School of Church and Family Ministries, Associate Dean of the Research Doctoral Program, and full Professor of Church and Family Ministries.

(Side Note: Owens biography states that he formerly served as Vice President for Planning and Communication at Southeastern Seminary.  In fact, he never held such a title. He had, however, served in teaching roles at the middle and junior high levels. His doctoral research at New Orleans seminary examined the concept of “water” in the Bible.)

Patterson hailed Owens as an “accomplished biblical scholar, with a track record of remarkable achievement in every conceivable area of pastoral ministry,” and eventually named him Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment. This post ostensibly put Owens in charge of the seminary’s accreditation review.

What, then, is Owens present scholarly contribution to Southwestern?

  1. For the past year, Owens principle classroom responsibility has been the teaching of a course styled RECMN-4323.  The three-hour course met on Mondays from January 1, 2018 to May 5, 2018 in Room 216 of the seminary’s J.M. Price Hall.  He is scheduled to teach it again this Fall, beginning August 23rd and ending December 14th.

    And what exactly is this course, you ask?

    “Ministry Through the Outdoors.”

    The course description is telling:  “A study of the biblical, theological, and programmatic foundations that guide the utilization of the outdoors as a ministry to men and boys. Special attention will be given to ministry programs that strengthen the church and family relationships, outdoor skills, safety, and the stewardship and conservation of natural resources.”

    We’re guessing his doctoral work on “water” has some bearing on his theology of conservation and natural resources.  What an M.Div. student would get from Owens graduate level course that any 10 year-old Boy Scout doesn’t get at the annual Jamboree is unclear.

    But we digress . . .

  2. Owens is responsible for one two-hour doctoral reading seminar, and one four-hour seminar on “Family Ministry in the Church,” a course billed as “a study of the Scripture’s view of Family Ministry in the church, including the basis, structure, function, purpose, and place of Family Ministry.”  “Students,” we are informed, “will evaluate current and historic models and approaches to Family Ministry against the teachings of Scripture in an effort to determine what Family Ministry is, where it fits in the church, and how it should be engaged.”All well and good . . .
  3. Owens leads a course course styled RSRCH-7002-A: “Advanced Academic Writing Practicum.”  In this two-hour course, Owens ostensibly provides young scholars at Southwestern Seminary “instruction, practice, and critique of academic writing and an introduction into academic research.”  Students completing the course will “demonstrate ability to produce scholarly writing.”It is this last area that draws our greatest concern.

Given that Owens is charged with teaching Southwestern’s doctoral candidates in the skills of scholarly writing, we thought it might be interesting to review his own scholarly writing.

As best we can tell, Owens’s singular contribution to any scholarly publication in the last fifteen years is a book review of Building faith at home: Why faith at home must be your church’s #1 priority for the Spring 2010 edition of Biola University’s Christian Education Journal.  Owens’s review begins:

“Could this book be the most important work for the local church so far in this century? Only time will answer that question . . . ”

Insert eye roll here.

Owens has also provided “Seven Reasons why I will vote for Donald Trump,” an analysis for SBC Life entitled “A Different Look at the Frog,” and a handful of other pedestrian musings at Southwestern’s faculty blog, Theological Matters.

Apart from this, his pen has largely run dry.  And it’s just staggering.

How can a man who contributes next-to-nothing to the scholarly enterprise be tasked with training a new generation of writing scholars? How can he be given the title “Associate Dean of the Research Doctoral Program” when he conducts no meaningful research?  On what planet does a course in water conservation and campfire sing-a-longs rise to the level of graduate theological education?  And how can a man with almost no supervisory responsibility of staff in his previous administrative or church ministry posts rise to a deanship at Southern Baptist’s one-time largest seminary?

To answer that, you have to go back and watch Dorothy’s nominating speech.

He simply made the Patterson’s happy. By which, I mean he made Dorothy happy.

Herein lies one of the root problems at Southwestern. The faculty has been built over the last 13 years — or at the very least administered — by a cult of personality.

Apart from interim president Jeffrey Bingham and the school’s long-time provost, the spoils of institutional sinecures have largely been awarded at whim to inexperienced men and women claiming minimal church experience and very thin academic records.

The head may have been severed, but the flailing tentacles yet have life.

Reforming the seminary must begin with a new standard for promotions. Deanships, indeed entire schools, must be eliminated and the school’s core M.Div. program must be re-emphasized. The curriculum and course offerings of a growing seminary bearing the imprimatur of the Southern Baptist Convention must reflect the churches’ need for rigorous pastor-theologians and not a proliferation of applied course offerings in homemaking, or campfire building, or Dead Sea Scroll authentication for that matter.

Stay tuned . . .