The following letter was sent via electronic mail early this morning:
October 16, 2018
Via Electronic Mail
Rev. Kevin Ueckert
Board of Trustees
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
2001 W. Seminary Drive
Fort Worth, TX 76115
Article XVII of the Business and Financial Plan of the Southern Baptist Convention provides that “entity boards of trustees should oversee the operations of the entity in such a manner as will assure effective and ethical management.” It further states: “Employees and trustees should not appropriate for personal advantage any corporate property or business opportunities which should be enjoyed by the entity.”
This language is unambiguous. In the first sentence, the responsibility of entity governance is succinctly prescribed: trustees must exercise rigorous oversight of entity operations to ensure effective and ethical management. In the second sentence, fraudulent acts are proscribed: namely, that neither trustees nor entity employees are permitted the appropriation of convention resources for personal benefit.
It is the contention of a growing number of Southern Baptists that Southwestern Seminary trustees may have violated the first clause of Article XVII with the result that a former seminary president – and some of his administrative officers and staff – may have violated the second. Such a conclusion is both damaging to the seminary’s reputation and disconcerting to both the seminary community and its wider constituency.
Last year alone, Southern Baptist churches gave nearly $8 million through the Cooperative Program to underwrite the ministry of Southwestern Seminary. This year, messengers to the annual convention approved the allocation of more than $7.5 million dollars – or roughly 3.9 percent of undesignated Cooperative Program receipts – to the school. According to the SBC Books of Reports, Southern Baptists have distributed more than $111 million to Southwestern Seminary since Paige Patterson was elected president in 2003.
It has been publicly reported that Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary retained secure control of certain records upon the dismissal of Paige Patterson earlier this year. Some of these files, it has been reported, may legally belong to a sister seminary, the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. Just yesterday, I received confirmation that Paige Patterson has requested the seminary to turn over his “personal materials,” including “copies of [his] correspondence, classroom lecture materials, sermon notes, and [the Pattersons’] personal files.”
The ill-advised and premature release of these records is both unwise and fraught with conceivable legal consequences for Southwestern Seminary and the Southern Baptist Convention.
For the past eleven months, I have closely monitored developments at Southwestern Seminary. Concurrently, I have spent multiplied hours assessing, reviewing, copying, and analyzing portions of Paige and Dorothy Patterson’s “correspondence, classroom lecture materials, sermon notes, and personal files” that have been archived in the libraries of two Southern Baptist seminaries and in the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives in Nashville, TN.
This research has deepened my profound concern that the sacred trust of Southern Baptists may have been surreptitiously broken. Moreover, I am persuaded by documents presently available for public review that convention assets have been repeatedly, intentionally, and unethically appropriated for the personal advantage of entity employees in violation of the aforementioned Business and Financial Plan.
Given this concern, I write to ask that you resist every impulse to release custody of the so-called “Patterson papers” and deny all ownership claims to such papers by Paige Patterson, Dorothy Patterson, their legal counsel or representatives. Until such time as attorneys and/or auditors representing Southwestern Seminary, Southeastern Seminary, and the Southern Baptist Convention have occasion to carefully review these documents and determine which of them, if any, may warrant a referral to law enforcement, they must be kept and protected by the trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological seminary on behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention, which is the seminary’s sole owner.
Cooperative Program distributions to Southwestern have been on the steady decline not because the convention interest in the school’s health has waned, but rather because the full-time enrollment of Southern Baptist students – the metric for determining Cooperative Program distributions among the seminaries – has dropped precipitously year-after-year for more than a decade. This present fiscal year will mark the lowest amount of Cooperative Program support to Southwestern Seminary in more than three decades. Surely the trustees have noticed?
Students of Paige Patterson will universally attest that he has long advocated preaching “without notes.”