Somebody needs to call SERVEPRO, because the trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary have a mess to sort through this week that will take more than a few rugs and a commercial push broom. It’s time for the experts, a few forensic auditors, and probably a half dozen lawyers. Without full disclosure and the public release of an independent, forensic audit, some seminary constituencies will keep believing the lie, namely, that the First Couple was kicked to the curb because a handful of #metoo sympathizers and a public relations campaign.
Among the many questions that demand answers are those concerning the school’s financial stability in the post-Patterson era. When the trustee chairman, Kevin Ueckert, made Patterson’s termination public, he was unambiguous:
“The Executive Committee based its decision [to terminate Patterson] on the current performance of the president and did not allow the legacy of Dr. Patterson or the #MeToo pressure to steer the outcome. We did not react; rather, we decisively exercised our responsibility based on the Seminary’s biblically informed core values and integrity.” (emphasis added)
Did you get that? Despite Patterson’s insistence — as recently as this morning — that his termination was the result of a “well-timed” Washington Post article and “rigorous misrepresentation” of his views, the trustee chairman has maintained that it was Patterson’s “current performance.” Moreover, in their May 23 statement, the trustees stated plainly:
After much prayer and a more than 13-hour discussion regarding challenges facing the Institution, including those of enrollment, financial, leadership and institutional identity, the Board determined to move in the direction of new leadership for the benefit of the future mission of the Seminary.”
What were those enrollment challenges? As recently as the 2017 annual meeting, Patterson insisted that reports of enrollment declines were “not true.” He even called such reports “rumors.” (See page 236, here.)
Lies. Damn lies. All of them.
So what were the financial challenges that prompted 13 hours of meetings and much prayer? What were the leadership challenges? What factors were undermining the seminary’s institutional identity?
The questions only begin there.
How long were the trustees aware of these challenges? Had the Patterson administration been allocating seminary resources in a way that threatened the school’s financial health? How many people were working at Pecan Manor? How many of the Patterson’s friends and allies have been living rent free in campus housing? Do any remaining cabinet members, faculty, or staff still have rent-free housing? Why do some employees receive these benefits and not others? How much money was lost on the Dead Sea Scrolls project? Food service? Catering? How much was Pecan Manor spending on special projects for the former First Lady? Travel budgets? Taxidermy? Flower arrangements? Custom-sized bathroom fixtures and amenities?
These and many other questions remain unanswered. The trustees now have the opportunity to come clean — completely — with the convention about the school’s decline under Paige Patterson, and they need to do so swiftly and without pulling any punches. The convention deserves to know what has happened, how it happened, and who was responsible.
And it’s probably time to do some house cleaning in the cabinet.
Or let me put it more succinctly.
Southwestern Seminary has been a dumpster fire for years. While it burned, some administrators were busy disabling the smoke alarms when they should have been calling the fire department.
Who were these administrators? What strategic initiatives were they overseeing?
We think this email might begin to tell part of the story.
Developing . . .