To preach or not to preach . . .


The 2018 Southern Baptist Convention was originally scripted — from start to finish — as the Paige Patterson show.  The year before, at the recommendation of former SBC President Steve Gaines, the Committee on Order of Business nominated Patterson to serve as the convention preacher. He was named Chairman of the Evangelism Task Force appointed by Gaines. He would give the Southwestern Seminary report.

His former Chief of Staff and student was named Chairman of the Resolutions Committee.  Another member of that committee occupies the Dorothy Patterson Chair of Women’s Studies, for the time being. The Chairman of the Committee on Committees was one of Patterson’s Young Turks, quite literally.

It was meant to be a victory lap. Some thought it was going to be Patterson’s swan song.

Instead, it became his Waterloo. Or perhaps, more fittingly, his Münster.

By the time the Broadus gavel dropped to open the first morning of the annual session, Patterson was out.

No sermon. No task force report. No seminary presentation.

Not even a mention of his name one time from the platform or the floor of the convention. Baptists, as a rule, have a splendid capacity to ignore the Proboscidea in the parlor.

It was, perhaps, the most ignominious defenestration in denominational history. Only the Behatted One made an appearance, and then only for afternoon tea. The Conservative Resurgence — or Fundamentalist Takeover, depending on which side you took — had chewed up any number of Baptist potentates since 1979, but perhaps none was more deserving of so poetic a benediction as that given to Paige and Dorothy Patterson.

For a moment, we were a little sad.

When Patterson’s letter of withdrawal was published, one point stood out.  His decision, the erstwhile seminary president contended, was “an effort to protect [his] family” as much as he could. When the dust settled, not even his home church of Birchman gave him pulpit or platform before the convention.

But one North Texas church — and one pastor — kept Patterson’s name on the marquee: Hunters Glen Baptist Church in nearby Plano.  And on the appointed morning — mere hours after he’d stood down from the convention sermon to “protect his family” — Paige Patterson gripped the corners of that sacred desk and went unhinged.

According to numerous direct reports from those who were present, Patterson launched into one invective after another.  Decrying the #metoo movement as “liars,” Patterson seemed to liken his tribulations to those of Joseph, the biblical patriarch. His accusers were like Potiphar’s wife making up falsehoods against him and attacking him because of his righteous convictions and unassailable character.

Some people walked out. Others sat quietly, not sure what to do.

Through it all, the church’s pastor watched the undoing. His wife surely sat there in waves of simultaneous pain and horror. Over the next days, the two of them would make numerous visits to apologize for Patterson’s hurtful words.  The following Sunday, the pastor stood before his congregation and apologized for what Patterson had said to his church, reassuring the congregation that his words did not reflect the beliefs of the church.

Neither the audio nor video of Patterson’s double-hitter sermons on the morning June 10, 2018, are available on the church’s website. Neither is the audio of the pastor’s repudiation of Patterson’s remarks the following week. But the damage was done, and the fallout was largely contained by the careful, transparent way the pastor addressed the matter.

But here’s the rub.

Paige Patterson, who insisted that his desire to “protect his family” prompted him to stand down from the convention sermon, went full tilt at the only place in Dallas that would give him a pulpit to preach the week of the convention. So horrendous was his sermon — so offensive and hurtful — that the church cannot even make it available online.

Oh, we almost failed to mention: the pastor who apologized the following Sunday at Hunters Glen Baptist Church is Patterson’s own son-in-law.  In one of the cruelest, most self-centered misjudgments of his ministry, Patterson made a difficult moment even more difficult for his own family.  So forgive us if we were a little skeptical that anything he was doing that Sunday was “to protect his family.”

In late April– against the counsel of his trustee chairman — Paige Patterson released one of several statements of defiance. The opening paragraph insisted that his family did “not deserve” what was happening to them.

We totally agree with that. No man’s children should suffer because of him.

But it wasn’t a blogger in the pulpit that Sunday morning. And it wasn’t a #metoo victim that sent women crying from the sanctuary or compelled the pastor of Hunters Glen to apologize to his church the next week.



When Pharaoh ordered Moses to take the children of Israel out of Egypt, four hundred and thirty years had passed. Yet on that very day, the Book of Exodus devotes a single, straightforward sentence and lets the reality hit like a strawless brick:

“And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.”

Six hundred thousand men, not counting women and children, made the journey from Raamses to Sukkot, mostly likely to gather Israelite slaves working in the mines on the outskirts of Goshen, and then proceeded toward the Red Sea. In less than 24 hours, they packed everything they owned, plundered the Egyptians, and began marching multiplied herds of cattle and sheep and oxen toward the Red Sea, taking the bones of Joseph with them as they journeyed.

Today marks 73 days since the Executive Committee of the Southwestern Board of Trustees told Paige and Dorothy Patterson it was time to go.

During that time, a rat could have had three litters and unleashed nearly two dozen more vermin onto the face of the earth.  A single hen could have laid more than six dozen eggs.

Or put another way, the Pattersonian post-presidential, rent-free tenancy at Pecan Manor  has been roughly 2.5 times longer than the entire presidency of William Henry Harrison.  Something Benjamin Franklin once said about guests and fish comes to mind.

What has taken so long?

Last month, The Baptist Blogger spent several hours researching in the publicly available archives of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.  In Box Three, Folder 22 of one particular collection, we found a possible answer.  Therein we discovered a letter from one of Dorothy’s sisters to her then-husband. The third paragraph of that handwritten letter contains the following relevant text:

“I forgot to tell you that Dorothy called last Thursday. She is having trouble finding a house that suits her. They are all in the low $60,000. She was asking daddy if they could sell their lot at Wildwood.”*

That was January 26, 1975. Dorothy Patterson was 31 years old.

And a $60K home in Dallas at the time would be about $281,000.00 today. Or roughly the cost of four Steinway Model D grand pianos and a couple of Dead Sea Scroll reproductions.

That’s a lot of house for a young homemaker to make.

So perhaps it’s just taking the Pattersons their usual length of time to find a home.  And maybe there are other intervening circumstances that have delayed their exodus. But the new school year is fast approaching, and the seminary will not be able to move forward until the Pattersons move away.

And here’s where it’s probably a good thing that The Baptist Blogger is not the interim president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Pecan Manor is not a private residence, but a public one.  It is a campus-owned property funded and built for the school and paid for with donations made to the school. Like other campus buildings, it has a full-time staff, meeting space, and restrooms.

Were we in a position to make such decisions, we would designate Pecan Manor for the following, effective Monday, August 13, 2018:

  • 8:00 AM on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays would be reserved for free violin, trumpet, and percussion lessons to any SWBTS student, student spouse, or children. These lessons would be conducted in any several of the living spaces in Pecan Manor.
  • 8:00 AM on Tuesdays and Thursdays would be reserved for free ESL courses offered to the entire Fort Worth community.
  • The Korean student wives association would be invited to host a kimchee cook-off in the kitchens of Pecan Manor every Tuesday from noon until 3pm.
  • Free piano lessons — on a fabulous Steinway piano, of course — for children 3-12 would be every afternoon at tea time.
  • Due to budget cuts, the seminary would stop paying for wifi or cable television at Pecan Manor.
  • To conserve energy on campus and save money, rolling black-outs at Pecan Manor would be instituted. All hot water heaters would be disabled.
  • Every evening at 10pm, maintenance personnel would conduct full smoke alarm checks in every room of Pecan Manor.
  • All restroom facilities, including showers, would become available immediately to serve the homeless.

I could go on, and on.  And of course, it would create a huge wave of sympathy for the erstwhile First Couple and more threatening letters from their loyalists.

But let’s be honest.

If we learned anything from Paige Patterson it’s this:

Sometimes, you have to break a person down.


*Archives and Special Collections, Library at Southeastern, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC.

To be Jeff Bingham for a day . . .


Alumni and supporters of Southwestern Seminary have been receiving letters this week from Interim President Jeffrey Bingham.  They are addressed, rather impersonally, to a “Friend of Southwestern.”

The opening paragraph of that letter claims that “a new academic year begins in August and we will welcome over 3,300 students to campus.”

This is misleading.

According to Southwestern’s last report to the SBC Executive Committee, there are only 2,172 SBC students (non-duplicating headcount) on the seminary’s main campus, 264 non-SBC students, with 135 SBC students enrolled in extensions in Houston, San Antonio, Plano, Shawnee, and Little Rock.  A total of three students are enrolled in the seminary’s Certificate in Women’s Studies program, and five are enrolled in the Certificate in Family Consumer Science program. Information about the consumer science certificate has been removed from the seminary’s website.

Another 192 non-SBC students are enrolled at Darrington Prison in Brazoria County, and 10 students (all music certificate) are enrolled in the seminary’s campus in Hong Kong. Twenty-four non-SBC students are enrolled in the campus in Bonn, Germany.

You read that right. Hong Kong and Bonn.

(Stop for just a moment and think about the fact that the only Southern Baptist seminary with an official campus in Germany is also the only research-PhD awarding seminary that offers no German classes to its students.  Unless, of course, you are enrolled in the music school where one professor teaches German grammar, syntax, and vocabulary. Doctoral students in the School of Theology are permitted instead to use Rosetta Stone or pursue their foreign language requirement at another school. But we digress.)

Bingham’s letter continues:

“A generous ministry partner has provided a summer matching gift of $48,000 to double every gift made to the seminary by August 31, 2018….A business reply envelope is also enclosed with this letter.”

The Baptist Blogger has written a check today to Southwestern for $100.00, and we will continue sending a check every month for the 2018-19 academic term. We want the school to prosper, and are willing to put money behind it.

But here’s the point of this post:

This massive and impersonal mailing presents a missed opportunity for the seminary faculty and staff.  If I were Jeff Bingham for a day, I would have established a mandatory program of alumni and donor engagement that required all persons receiving salary or compensation from the school to hand-write a personal note to EVERY recipient of these solicitation letters.

And I’d scale the responsibility based on faculty rank.  For instance, if the seminary were sending out 20,000 letters, I would announce a particular time that faculty were required to meet in the Leadership Center or another appropriate campus venue to personally fold, stuff, and sign every letter that was being sent out.  I would make Craig Blaising, the seminary provost, and all the seminary deans and associate deans responsible to sign 200 each.  Full-time professors would sign 150 each; associate and assistant professors would sign 100 each. Retired faculty still teaching would have 50 each.

It could be a Saturday morning, and have coffee and donuts and make it an event. Every faculty member would be told to put their personal business card in the letter and invite the letters’ recipients to write or call them with any prayer requests in which they’d like the seminary community to join them.

And we would do this every month, to the current donor pool and to prospects.

The faculty would become the face of the school. For fifteen years there has been one name — well, actually two — that were synonymous with Southwestern. So thoroughly Pattersonian was every mailing, every publication, every picture, that the seminary still is finding and scrubbing promotional photos online that prominently feature the former First Couple.

We suspect that senior faculty who have given decades to the school — through every danger, toil, and snare — would be there bright and early, and excited to do their part.  I can see James Leo Garrett, for instance, or Jack MacGorman there. Jack Terry and Daniel Sanchez too.

Neither should the Interim President send out letters that make it sound like the seminary is healthy and in good shape going forward. He should be honest.  He should tell people the school has been through hell this year, and lay the facts before the seminary’s strongest allies about its financial situation, enrollment, and ask them to pray and give that the school might — by God’s grace — pull out of the course spiraling downward that Paige and Dorothy Patterson started.

If Southwestern is going to survive, it is going to mean all hands on deck for these sorts of fundraising efforts. Bingham should probably require every faculty member to submit 10 names of student prospects every month, and track every contact with them. Southwestern used to have a powerhouse faculty with lots of name recognition that earned enough student interest to weather enrollment shortfalls.

But that’s not the case anymore.  A handful of professors are writing and publishing and preaching and doing their best to build a reputation for scholarship and spiritual fervor for the school.

Others, like the professor occupying the Dorothy Patterson Chair of Women’s Studies, have had book contracts cancelled in recent days due to lack of interest.

Bottom line: The loyal and hard-working Southwestern faculty, in the end, are going to be the ones who will save the school. Either that, or they will be the ones who finally kill it.

For years, Patterson & Co. have been telling people that the seminary is a place to model the local church. Well, when your church has lost a thousand members or more, fired the pastor and the senior education minister, and is facing several lawsuits, what do you do?

You get back to basics. You get the members who are left and you make a plan to rebuild. And you do it with every member who’s willing to help.

You put 80 year old grandmothers back on nursery duty and you relaunch the visitation program and you start knocking on doors.

And you probably use the opportunity to purge the rolls of some dead weight.

And then you work like it all depends on you and pray like it all depends on God.

But impersonal form letters with more dubious enrollment reports do not help the situation.



Coming tonight: Patterson, Potiphar, and Plano

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We’ve held off on posting about events that transpired immediately before this year’s annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas.

Late tonight we will publish the back story of the sermon Southern Baptists didn’t get to hear . . . or have to stomach.

UPDATE:  We have been contacted and asked to withhold this post until noon on Monday, Central Time, and we have agreed to withhold the post until that time. But do come back. It’s a doozy. 

All hat and no cattle



Or perhaps, all Steinways and no students.

Over the last 15 years, Paige and Dorothy Patterson had two very clear objectives, judging from the seminary’s press releases: Get as many Steinway pianos and Dead Sea Scrolls at Southwestern Seminary as they could. Fortunately, Dorothy Patterson (D.Min, Luther Rice; Th.D. in Women’s Studies, University of South Africa) is the only person in the history of Christendom to be doubly qualified in both Dead Sea Scroll authentication and fancy piano selection.

Don’t believe me? Check out the seminary’s own news reports:

Steinway Piano stories:

  • “New piano dedicated for Gospel service” — Sept. 19, 2008
    • “The top-of-the-line piano, donated by friends of the seminary who wish to remain anonymous, replaces a piano that has served the institution well but “had three legs in the grave and the fourth on a banana peel,” remarked president Paige Patterson.” (Question: Don’t these pianos only have three legs?)
  • “Seminary welcomes guests to Steinway experience” — Oct. 24, 2011
    • “George Tynes, pastor of Truth Baptist Church in Philadelphia and current trustee from Pennsylvania-South Jersey, played a rousing rendition of ‘Kumbaya.'” (Seriously? Kumbaya?)
  • “New Steinway & Sons piano selected for Reynolds Auditorium” — Sept. 21, 2012
    • “Recently, first lady Dorothy Patterson, SCM Dean Stephen Johnson, two donors and professors Jill Sprenger and Robert Smith visited the Steinway & Sons factory in New York City to select a new piano for Reynolds Auditorium.” (Of course she flew to New York City for this.)
  • “Music school highlighted at Women’s Auxiliary Luncheon.” —  Oct. 31, 2012
    • “Over an autumn lunch of tomato basil soup and sourdough sandwiches, attendees of the Oct. 17 Women’s Auxiliary Luncheon gained a glimpse into the heart of Southwestern’s ever-expanding School of Church Music. . .the campaign to outfit the seminary in Steinway pianos, Southwestern has purchased 23 pianos and has 43 to go.” (You HAVE to read this article. And thanks to Sharayah Colter for another contribution to SWBTS news.)
  • “Pianorama showcases faculty, student musicianship” — Dec. 17, 2012
    • “Faculty and students from Southwestern’s School of Church Music played all the right notes at the seminary’s “A Steinway Pianorama Christmas” concert, Dec. 6. Pianists tickled the ivories of eight Steinway grand pianos on the main stage in Truett Auditorium during the event, and eight additional Steinway pianos were played in the rotunda prior to the concert.” (Tickle. Teehee.)
  • “Pianos play on despite ice storm” — Dec. 17, 2013
    • The event is part of the school’s effort to become an “All-Steinway” school. This year the seminary did not have to rent any of the pianos, all of them already being found on campus. Day said that is just another sign that they are nearing their goal.” (Thank God you didn’t have to rent any pianos, but how many were the Pattersons renting before?)
  • Fifteen Steinway pianos delivered to Bowld Practice Room Suite” — Dec. 18, 2013
    • “All of Southwestern’s pianos are handcrafted by Steinway & Sons in New York. When Southwestern becomes an all-New-York-City-handcrafted-Steinway school, it will be only one of 10 schools in the world and the only seminary to hold such a distinction.” (With one of the fastest enrollment declines in the history of theological education.)
  • “Carroll, Scarborough award recipients honored for investment” — Mar. 19, 2014
    • Eventually, [they] became the right people at the right time for Southwestern Seminary. When the seminary was in need of new pianos for the music school, the Behans stepped in and funded the purchase of eight new Steinway pianos.”
  • “Keyboards and Carols highlights musicianship at SWBTS” — Dec. 10, 2014
    • “‘The concert is an important part of the seminary’s efforts to join the worldwide roster of more than 170 “All-Steinway” schools. “To reach this goal means all students will learn, practice and perform on these beautiful instruments, the finest in all the world,” said Southwestern President Paige Patterson.”
  • “Keyboards & Carols spreads God’s love in the community” — Dec. 11, 2015
    • “There is a generation coming that is going to say, [Patterson remarked,] ‘Three guitars and a drummer are not enough. We need an orchestra, we need a piano, and we need an organ.’ And Southwestern is determined to lead the way in providing that.” (Yes, what is the coming generation going to say, Paige?)
  • “Carroll, Scarborough award recipients recognized” — Mar. 11, 2016
    • “Eventually crossing paths with First Lady of Southwestern Dorothy Patterson, she was asked by Patterson to assist in landscaping the grounds of the new Horner Homemaking House. . . .She also established a church music scholarship in memory of her husband and contributed funds to purchase a new Steinway piano in memory of her mother.”
  • “Gala celebrates Southwestern’s distinction as ‘All-Steinway School'” — Apr. 7, 2016
    • “When the announcement was officially made that Southwestern had earned this distinction, Patterson herself pressed the button to activate six double canons that launched gold, white and black streamers across MacGorman Chapel in celebration” (Oh for the video of that grand moment. At least we have a picture.)
  • “SWBTS celebrates first Keyboards and Carols as “All Steinway School” — Dec. 5, 2016.
    • “Elmore particularly recognized the efforts of Dorothy Patterson in achieving this goal and unique status for Southwestern’s School of Church Music.” (Of course he did.)
  • “Annual Keyboards & Carols performance features SWBTS Night” — Dec. 12. 2017
    • “An ‘All-Steinway School’ since last year, Southwestern’s collection of Steinway pianos were prominently featured, not the least because 16 of them were positioned on stage for the entire performance.”
  • “Carroll, Scarborough awards honor generous partners” — Mar. 8, 2018
    • “In 2016, thanks in part to [their] contributions, Southwestern Seminary earned the designation of being an “All-Steinway School,” a title held by only 187 institutions worldwide. “Because of their generosity, current and future students can learn to play on the best of instruments,” Patterson said.”

Now check out the enrollment stories:

So every five years or so, Patterson tells trustees the seminary has “record” enrollment. Sometimes it’s “double-digit” increases, and other times it’s “triple-digit.”  When the seminary is forced to lay off dozens of student workers, enrollment is reported as “sustained” by Vice President Charles Patrick.

Yet when the trustees meet in a special session this past May, they acknowledge “enrollment challenges” just a few months after they were told of “historic enrollment.”

The Baptist Blogger suspects the Horner Homemaking House on campus was used for more than baking scones.

Somebody has been cooking the books and enrollment reports too.

At least they have all those pianos, though. Six million dollars worth of pianos.

Speaking of pianos . . .

Stay tuned . . .

UPDATE: One of our readers has pointed out that Southwestern no longer employs any full-time professor of piano.  There are, however, five master’s level courses offered this Fall in Jazz Studies, one of which is taught by the dean of the School of Church Music.

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SWBTS Reform: Part 4(b)


If Southwestern Seminary’s current trustees were required to give an account of the seminary’s health during the Patterson years (2003-2018) — apart from the horrific treatment of rape victims, the intentional nepiocracy in which senior administrative positions were awarded to both the immature and the inadequate, and the egregious suspension of faculty retirement and health benefits — it is likely that two categories of failure would stand out.

Mission creep and campus sprawl.

In this second part of our multi-part series, we will examine the problem of mission creep at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

In 1925, control of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary transferred from the Baptist General Convention of Texas to the Southern Baptist Convention. The two-year effort required amendments to the governing documents of the seminary and both conventions, as well as an amendment to the Texas constitution to allow for an out-of-state corporation (the SBC) to control a Texas-based corporation (SWBTS).

The new seminary charter stated clearly: “The purpose of said corporation is hereby declared to be mainly for the promotion of theological education, but to include the instruction of Women’s Training School for the special Christian service, and such other instruction as is needful to equip preachers and other Christian workers for their life work.” (See page 59, here)

At the seminary’s February trustee meeting that year, L.R. Scarborough was re-elected president of the seminary “for an indefinite period, subject, of course, to the usual conditions of good behavior and successful administration of this Convention’s trust.” (See page 61, here)

The new SWBTS trustees then reported to the convention:

“We are thus delighted to report to the Convention the successful consummation of this matter by which this Convention comes into possession and control of this great school of the prophets, with a strong, scholarly, evangelistic faculty of 40 fine teachers; a student body of around 600; a plant with buildings, lands, equipment and endowment easily worth two million dollars, with an indebtedness of only around $170,000.00. The institution is a splendid, efficient organization, a great student body, a wonderful morale and spirit, a large constituency, enthroned in the hearts of a great people, with a beautiful spirit of love and co-operation for all the other institutions in co-operation with this Convention and the conventions of the States of the south. We regard this institution as one of the greatest assets of Southern Baptists. We trust that this Convention will properly appreciate, evaluate, support, and co-operate with this great institution in helping to fulfill the purposes of its great founder and its many loyal supporters, who in its early years have sacrificed for its establishment. If properly supported this institution can be of great value in the promotion of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (See Page 62, here)

That year, the seminary was organized into four schools: Theology, Religious Education, Gospel Music, and Missionary Training. The School of Theology was, according to the trustee report, “the great central organization and unit; and around this school the other schools are organized and administered.”  Its purpose was “to train in profound scholarship and practical efficiency the gospel ministry; and in the three other schools the purpose is to train partners and helpers of the ministry in all the varied activities of the work of the churches and the kingdom of God.” (Ibid.)

There was also an Extension program with a student body of 960 doing correspondence work. The enrollment in 1925 was 597, and there were 105 graduates from all departments the same year.

Southwestern’s first full report to the Southern Baptist Convention as its newly-chartered entity also included the following details about the practical work of the faculty and students during the preceding eleven months: 610 revival meetings; 15,783 sermons preached; 7,068 Sunday School classes taught; 23,110 visits; 9,012 professions of faith; 8,317 baptism; and 101,268 tracts distributed.

(In recent days, Southwestern Seminary has issued press releases about two professors who have shared the gospel with a beer-drinking Lyft driver and a copy repairman. Strangely, the article about the Lyft driver is post-dated Aug. 10, 2018 on the SWBTS website, three days after it appeared online.)

The capital needs at the Fort Worth campus were immense, on top of the operation costs and debt service payments that were required.  The seminary needed to grow the endowment, construct an administration building, gymnasium, and a building for the School of Religious Education. The trustees stated these needs clearly, and then did the unthinkable:

“We are willing to postpone a request for building funds and endowment for another year in order that our Southern Seminary may get sufficient funds for completion of its present demands in its building program.” (Page 63, here.)

The Fort Worth school’s share of the convention’s distribution was 4 1/2 percent, an amount that would provide “the barest sort of living.”  But the trustees only request: “that we be allowed to live, meet our running expenses, and pay interest on our indebtedness until our Southern Seminary can get its building program on towards successful completion.”

We rehearse the details for several reasons:

  • To demonstrate how SWBTS at its founding had 40 faculty members serving 600 students on campus and 900 students by correspondence.
  • To demonstrate how the original charter of SWBTS made clear the priority of theological education to train preachers through the School of Theology, but also allowed for the seminary to train other Christian workers.
  • To highlight that while the seminary originally had four schools (theology, music, religious education, missions), the three latter schools were organized and administered around the School of Theology.
  • To highlight the kingdom mentality of the seminary administration and trustees who did not want to do anything that would distract from Southern Seminary’s own building campaign despite critical needs in Fort Worth. (Already SWBTS had more students than Southern).
  • To highlight that the transfer of Southwestern Seminary from the BGCT to the SBC was done cooperatively, deferentially, and efficiently as the state and the national conventions worked together to amend their respective charters, facilitate legislative action, and finalize a ministry agreement.

Now for one indictment:

There is no credible or convincing way to exegete the seminary’s original charter — or any subsequently amended charter for that matter — to allow for Southwestern Seminary’s homemaking program. The Baptist Blogger raised these concerns years ago, to no avail. In fact, we were there when the trustees originally authorized this silly little idea.

A degree concentration was built around homemaking.  Professors of home economics were recruited and hired. An entire building on campus was dedicated to homemaking.

The rationale, you ask?  According to Paige Patterson: “If we do not do something to salvage the future of the home, both our denomination and our nation will be destroyed.”

And herein lies Patterson’s primary pedagogical fallacy. As a syllogism, it goes something like this: (1) The world is, well . . . the world; (2) the church is, well . . . a family of families; (3) the world does not like the church; so (4) the world attacks the family; (5) the church must be saved from these attacks; and since (5) the seminary is the place that models the church; (7) the seminary bears the burden of modeling the family; which means that (8) the seminary needs to have courses that help the family; and (9) among these courses must be a program of homemaking.

Or to put it more succinctly: If the world is against it, then the seminary must create a degree concentration to support it.

We’ll leave aside — for the moment — questions of whether the Pattersons’ views on the family, or their particular expression of family life, is worthy of replication throughout Southern Baptist churches. We’ll also leave aside the fact that the seminary has NEVER reported to the convention messengers (and likely not the trustees) the number of students who have successfully completed the program.

Nor will we address at the present time that a professor who occupies the Dorothy Patterson Chair of Women’s Studies is both unmarried and childless.

The resources that Southwestern Seminary spent to begin, underwrite, and prop-up this failed idea are inestimable, especially given the fact that no full accounting of the Pattersons’ spending has been made public during the entire duration of their stewardship of the school.

And it’s not just the homemaking program.  There’s the Master of Arts in Archaeology (to help identify and authenticate more Dead Sea Scrolls, no doubt), there’s all the Islamic Studies programs; redundant M.Div. degrees, and so many church music degrees it is hard to count.  In fact, just last week Southwestern announced yet another church music degree, a Bachelors in Music Composition.

The proliferation of degrees while the core M.Div. enrollment declined precipitously was a way for Patterson to keep his Potemkin Village going.  By announcing a new crop of degrees every season, it appeared that the seminary was growing. In reality, things were getting so bad that the seminary resorted to issuing press releases about “historic enrollment” this past Spring.

So what was this “historic enrollment” number?

Three hundred and forty three.

In Ken Hemphill’s last full year as president, SWBTS reported 927 new students.

The year Russell Dilday was fired, there were 1,045 new students.

When Robert Naylor retired, there were more than 1,300 new students.

Readers will get the point.  While the trustees were supporting every Patterson scheme to inflate the number of degrees the school offered — and multiply the number of schools and degree concentrations far afield from the seminary’s original charter — enrollment was plummeting.

But the seminary press office was touting “historic enrollment” to the very end.

Which is something like the coroner’s office passing out pink and blue candy cigars at the county courthouse.

If Southwestern Seminary is to thrive again, it will require a realignment of the school’s trajectory with the charter first presented to the Southern Baptist Convention in 1925.  The School of Theology must become again the central organizing force on campus. The ill-advised, separate School of Preaching must be structurally abolished and brought back into the School of Theology.  The School of Church Music needs to rethink the need for a concentration in jazz music, and Dean of the School of Missions and Evangelism should be demoted to “associate dean” under the supervision of the Dean of the School of Theology.

And that’s just a beginning.

Reforming Southwestern Seminary will take a full-throttled evaluation of every degree concentration and every program of study to determine proper priorities, funding requirements, effectiveness and outcomes. What is the purpose of a seminary degree in archaeology, for instance?  How many students are pursuing it? How many professors are required to offer the concentration competitively? What resources are required to promote and recruit for the program? And what are graduates with Southwestern’s archaeology degree doing 5 years after graduation? Ten years?

Simply put, Southwestern needs to do to its entire academic construct what Al Mohler led Southern to do more than 20 years ago: re-evaluate whether the schools and course offerings are consistent with the seminary’s primary mission, and shut them down if not.

These kinds of hard questions have not been asked at Southwestern in a very long time. The only justification for much that has happened over the last 15 years has been: “What do the Pattersons want?”

And whatever the Pattersons wanted, the Pattersons got. Right up to the very end.

It’s time for Southwestern to become a school of prophets again.

And not a cult of personality.

It’s unlikely the men and women who helped it become a cult of personality will be helpful in returning the seminary to its truly historic, and proper mission mandate.

Stay tuned . . .

SWBTS Reform: Part Four(a)


First, an apology.

The Baptist Blogger has been slow to publish this new blogpost on seminary reform in Fort Worth, in part because our professional commitments have been extraordinarily time-consuming for a summer in the District of Columbia. Between that and a move and a few weeks of much-anticipated beachfront relaxation on the Eastern Shore and Long Island, we have not been as consumed with Baptist happenings as we were leading up to the 2018 annual meeting and the long-overdue ouster of Southwestern’s president.

(Excursus: Our sources inform us that the Doctors Patterson remain on campus, and a quickly-scheduled yard sale/giveaway of Pecan Manor’s effects was quickly un-scheduled by seminary personnel in recent days. We also understand that a suitable North Texas residence has been secured for the erstwhile First Couple, which is no small accomplishment given the housing demands of the former First Lady Emerita. More about that later.) 

There is, however, another reason we have tarried.

The Interim President of Southwestern Seminary deserves the chance to make decisions and implement sweeping changes — or at the very least, freeze changes already underway — as the school prepares for what will surely be a difficult 2018-19 academic year. A presidential search committee still has not been named, all necessary faculty reassignments and resignations have not been made public, and the school still faces significant funding shortfalls and enrollment declines.

These are not small problems. Reforming Southwestern will be something like asbestos abatement in an historic building, but worse because there are structural deficiencies and numerous “improvements” that have been made in the last 15 years by unlicensed contractors.

Paige and Dorothy Patterson spent years making the seminary community in their own garish and corpulent image. On their watch the school built a bloated faculty, an empty chapel, and plenty of stained glass windows.

That effort nearly brought the school to ruin, aided and abetted by complicit trustees who either didn’t ask the tough questions, didn’t know to ask them, or believed that securing the Pattersons’ legacy was more important than preserving the seminary’s reputation and the convention’s assets.

The work of restoration always takes longer than the work of destruction, and so it will be for Southwestern Seminary.  Any fool — or pair of fools — can bulldoze a building. But not everyone can bring an edifice up again.

Or put another way: the mob took only a few short hours to kill Jesus.

But it took days to resurrect him, and then only after he’d descended into hell.

Southwestern Seminary will not come back in a fortnight, if she ever comes back at all. But the last thing Jeff Bingham needs is outside pressure to do this or that — to change this or that — when Pecan Manor has become a transitional care unit and too many inmates are still running the asylum.

Stay tuned . . . tonight (yes tonight) we will post Part Four(b).