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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
One thought on “A modest proposal for Kevin Ueckert”
Why are Pattersons still living on SWBTS campus? They have two children with whom they can live, right? Don’t returning missionaries who have served overseas for years have to depend on family to provide homes for them? We know that Birchman Baptist Church, in Fort Worth, (whose pastor, Bob Pearle, is close to the Pattersons) sold several homes which were left to the church with specifies purpose to house missionaries in furlough or returning from service. The pastor promised to build 8 apartments to replace those homes. Never happened, promise broken. Many Birchman members were and are distressed by this. Too bad, the Pattersons could have lives in one of those homes. But the Pearles have a larte spacious home, perhaps they’ll take in the Pattersons? Doesn’t Jesus command Christians to share with brothers and sisters in need?