BREAKING: Midwestern now second largest SBC seminary

The Executive Committee has published the 2019 SBC Entity Ministry reports. Lots of information (including the $4 million endowment market gain at SWBTS) in the reports.  For now, we only congratulate MWBTS for its accomplishment, and express hope that SWBTS has stopped the enrollment decline. NOBTS needs help. Gateway is recovering after a campus relocation. Southern still takes the triple crown (FTEs, CP$s, and total headcount).

Also, each entity reports on their action plan to prevent sexual abuse.

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Check out the reports here.

Tea Time with Dottie P: Episode 6

Yes, dear readers, our popular series “Tea Time with Dottie P” is back in syndication, and today’s episode takes us back to 1988 and the report of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Peace Committee. We also get to listen while Paige Patterson is cautioned “not to withhold information” by Southwestern Seminary’s former First Lady Emerita, and our program hostess.

Ever wonder what guided the strategy and thinking of some leaders of the conservative resurgence? Listen in, and learn.

P.S. — The indignity of having to find a typewriter in a pinch must have been humiliating. Of course, a typewriter can be found easily when you need to prepare a codicil to a donor’s will. 

NOTE: Audio recording(s) retrieved from SWBTS Libraries and used with permission.

Did SWBTS trustees lose $25 million?


Just when you think Southwestern’s trustees have been asleep at the switch, you find out they may not have been on duty at all. If true, Southern Baptists would be better off if the seminary’s endowment had been managed by Bernie Madoff.

Let us explain.

For two decades after it opened in 1986, the 17th floor of the iconic Lipstick Building in Midtown Manhattan housed the offices of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities. That is until Dec. 11, 2008, when two federal agents arrested Madoff in his New York penthouse apartment. For years, Madoff had run a Ponzi scheme that racked up more than $50 billion in losses for investors. When all was said and done, Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison for his crimes and ordered to pay restitution of $170 billion.

Last November, the government authorized a third payout from the Madoff Victim Fund to more than 27,000 victims that included wealthy individuals, charitable foundations, schools, and pension funds. To date, victims have received $1.97 billion from that fund. A separate recovery supervised by New York attorney Irving Picard, a court-appointed trustee, has paid out another $13.3 billion. Notable victims include the late Elie Wiesel, actor Kevin Bacon, baseball Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, numerous Jewish charities and universities, and the Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma. None of them will likely ever be made whole.

When news of the Madoff scandal broke, the president of the Oklahoma foundation reported that while the organization had no direct investments with Madoff, one of the fund’s managers had given the foundation “nominal exposure” in Madoff’s fund. The total loss was approximately $1.4 million out of $234 million in assets the foundation managed at the time, or less than 1 percent of its assets.

Understandably, the market collapse of 2008 made investors nervous. The temptation to pull out of the market, chalk up portfolio losses, and convert to cash was felt by ministers living on fixed incomes and large religious foundations alike. Nonetheless, Southern Baptists were cautioned by leadership at Guidestone Financial Resources to stay the course. Investors who “bail out of the stock market after a sharp downturn wind up missing out on the rebound that will help them recover their losses,” Guidestone’s president O.S. Hawkins warned.

Somebody forgot to tell Paige Patterson.

Just two years earlier on the upside of the housing bubble, Patterson attempted to move the seminary’s $90 million endowment away from the independently-managed Baptist Foundation of Texas to an internally-controlled corporation, The Southwestern Seminary Foundation. But after questions were raised about the move — including the potential exposure of the seminary’s portfolio to so-called sin stocks — the trustees delayed the transfer.

In time, however, Patterson got his way. He simply waited until the dust settled and made his move. The only problem: by the time Patterson decided to cash out of the market, the economy was in meltdown mode and the endowment value was falling. Yet at Patterson’s instruction, Southwestern Seminary officials arranged for a transfer of the endowment balance under management by the Baptist Foundation of Texas to the seminary’s own foundation, which is governed by a board separate from, though accountable to, the seminary’s trustees. The foundation board has been chaired by Texas pastor, Criswell College alumnus and former Southwestern trustee chairman, John Mark Caton.

The convention annuals, complete with publicly available IRS Form 990s, seem to paint an alarming picture of what happened next.

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Southwestern Seminary’s endowment and third-party managed investments went from a value of $130,997,365 in 2008 to $105,016,368 in 2009. a near 20 percent loss in a span of 12 months. And the losses didn’t stop there.

The next year, the seminary reported the endowment was down to $103,509,157. The following year, it dropped to $99,287,129. That was 2011, back when the Pattersons were closing out their multi-million purchase of bogus Dead Sea Scrolls and cancelling retirement benefits for seminary faculty and staff.

Between 2011 and 2014, the fund grew again from a fifteen year low to $125,516,127. Then it dipped down again, losing nearly $1 million in value between 2014-15 and taking a sharp decline to $116,817,879 in 2016.  Last year, the seminary reported its endowment held at $129,246,961.

So here’s the bottom line: The day Paige Patterson brought the endowment in-house was possibly the worst moment in the last thirty years to start tinkering with the seminary’s investment portfolio and converting securities to cash. When he did, thousands of seminary supporters through the years — including alumni, small church pastors, widows, and retired faculty — lost approximately $25 million.

That’s $10 million more than Yeshiva University lost to Bernie Madoff, and the money is gone forever. Indeed, the value of the seminary’s endowment has yet to return to its pre-2008 level despite meteoric growth of the market in the intervening years.

Today, the Southwestern Seminary Foundation is still under control a small group of hand-picked trustees. Of course, there is no explanation of what happened to the seminary’s endowment in the SBC Books of Reports, news releases from the seminary, or federally-mandated public disclosures. At least not that we’ve seen so far.

What we do know is this: tax-exempt non-profit organizations like the Southwestern Seminary Foundation are legally bound to make available for public inspection their annual returns, including any schedules, attachments, or supporting documents, as well as copies of the organizations conflict of interest policy, governing documents, and financial statements.

We put in that formal request to Southwestern yesterday.

Developing . . .

ARCHIVES: Bomb threat from a Baptist pastor


Pastor who protested at SBC arrested for bomb threat
By Dan Martin

ATLANTA (BP)–A Georgia pastor underwent psychiatric observation after charges of “making a terrorist threat and acts” were filed against him here.

Herschel Arnold Markham, 42, pastor of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church in Fairburn, Ga. was arrested in downtown Atlanta about 5:45 a. m., Friday (June 18) after holding police and FBI agents at bay for more than an hour when he claimed to have a bomb in an attache case.

Markham also caused a stir at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in Norfolk, Va., Thursday (June 17) as he made a determined effort to have the convention hear him read from social studies curriculum materials for fourth and fifth graders now in use in public and private schools.

In Atlanta, Markham reportedly waved his arms and said, ‘I have in this briefcase a time bomb of information,'” police said.

Officials said he “raved incessantly about the world’s problems” as he waved the case.

Police quoted the pastor as saying; “Crime and violence are one of the bombs of the city.”

The officers said Markham spoke into the microphone of a cassette tape recorder as he stood on the downtown street. He was in front of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building, which is next door to a site where the old Georgia Baptist Convention building formerly stood. The convention offices are now in another part of the city.

One FBI agent squatted close to Markham and thumbed through a Bible as Markham spoke. When officers determined the case could not be detonated from the outside, they rushed the minister. It took six officers about two minutes to wrestle Markham to the ground. As he was subdued, Markham shouted, “It was a literary bomb in every school,” officers said.

As he was being led away, handcuffed, Markham shouted: “you made a fool of yourselves before God and the world.” Then he broke into a rendition of the” Doxology” and sang several other hymns, police said.

As he was put in the police car. He said “I’d like to get out of here by Sunday. We’re celebrating our 111th anniversary Sunday (at the Fairburn Church.”

Police took the case and suitcase to a special bomb trailer but said the “bomb” turned out to be “harmless papers.”

Markham’s bond was set at $1,000 and he was ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluation,

He was not with his church–about 25 miles south of Atlanta—on Sunday (June 20). A spokesperson at the church, where Markham has been pastor five years, told Baptist Press: “The church was shocked. We had a good service. It was homecoming day and it was planned far inadvance. Things were not normal, but we had a good service.”

She said Markham’s plight was not mentioned specifically except to tell the congregation that the pastor needed prayer.

“The church has mixed emotions about this,” she said. “Some think he’s sick but others think there may be other things involved. . . He’ s been in the fight over books … ”

Mrs. Markham, reportedly has said she attributed the incident to the fact her husband was exhausted, that he he’d been riding thE bus all night.

FBI agents confirmed that Markham arrived in Atlanta from Norfolk shortly before the incident.

At the convention, Markham set off a hostile debate over reports of the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission (CLC) and the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs (BJCPA) on social studies curriculum called , “MACOS (Man: A Course of Study).”

Markham called the materials, “luciferian, satanic, devil-filled” and wanted to read sections to messengers.

At one point, he stood in the Norfolk Scope convention center, shouting in defiance at convention officers on the platform.

He finally was allowed to speak to messengers after President Jaroy Weber of Lubbock Tex., was voted down by messengers as he attempted to adjourn the session.

Markham’s objection was to a section of the CLC report on the materials in the 1975 convention. Messengers referred the MACOS materials to the CLC and BJCPA for study.

Staff members of both agencies studied the materials and recommended neither endorsement nor condemnation. Markham accused the agencies of not fulfilling their assignments and of “speaking with a forked tongue.”

At one point in his attack, Markham threated to sue the Convention if he were not allowed to speak further.

He told a reporter he would take the matter all too way to the Supreme Court, if necessary.

Another reporter questioned him, but Markham said he would divulge no further details and to “talk to my attorney.” He refused, however, to reveal his lawyer’s name.

Messengers heard Markham for several minutes before a Cincinnati, Ohio, pastor, Johnny Tallent moved the CLC report be adopted, saying Markham had been given sufficient time to make his case but had failed to do so.

The motion passed overwhelmingly.

As the session adjourned, Markham patted Weber on the arm and said: “I love you brother.”


ARCHIVE: The Battle on the Brazos


On Sept. 21, 1990, Baylor University President Herbert Reynolds orchestrated a change to the school’s charter, thereby ensuring that the university would be shielded from fundamentalist control in the event the Baptist General Convention of Texas ever fell to the Patterson-Pressler coalition. The trustee chairman, Amarillo pastor Winfred Moore, presided over the meeting when — in a surprise move — a motion was made to sever the school from the state convention and elect a new slate of self-perpetuating regents. The vote was 30-to-7, with one abstention.

The day of the vote, Baylor had shut off all the campus fax machines to prevent delivery of any emergency court injunction that would short-circuit the move. As soon as the vote was final, a Baylor representative immediately filed the charter change with the Texas secretary of state. The deed was done.

The secret plan had been in the works for more than two years, with Reynolds working behind-the-scenes with university lawyers to engineer the move. By the time of the 1990 trustee meeting, the legal framework was ironclad. For the next year, Baptists weighed in from all sides. For some, Baylor had been stolen by thieves. For others, the school had been saved from fundamentalism. A committee was formed to broker a separation agreement between the BGCT and Baylor, and two sides began lining up for the state convention meeting in Waco to either ratify or reject the agreement.

In a fiery sermon at the First Baptist Church of Dallas, then pastor Joel Gregory launched a broadside opposing Baylor’s charter change. Reynolds was furious, alleging the Baylor alumnus and former state convention president had “slandered the reputations of elected leadership of the Baptist Convention of Texas, the Baylor regents, all of whom are faithful Texas Baptists, as well as [Reynolds himself.]” Gregory’s opposition, according to Reynolds, was more about aligning himself “with the Presslerites to make sure he stayed in tune with those folks so he could fulfill his personal ambitions” than about saving his alma mater. For his part, Gregory put a fine point on the conflagration: Reynolds and the Baylor trustees were “foxes” trying to “protect the hen house from the interference of the farmer.”

On Nov. 14, 1991, a record 10,000 messengers descended onto Baylor’s campus and crowded into the university’s basketball arena to decide the matter. Houston pastor Ed Young made a substitute motion to force the school into binding arbitration. His motion failed by more than 1,200 votes. By the time the convention was over, 59 percent of the messengers endorsed the new relationship proposal that gave the Baylor board authority to elect three-fourths of its own regents, with the BGCT approving the remainder.

We found a tape-recorded copy of Gregory’s sermon, “Texas Baptists and Baylor” in our files the other day and and have digitized the audio.

To read a Baptist Press article about the Baylor charter change, click here.
To read about Gregory’s sermon and Herb Reynolds’s response, click here.
And to read about the 1991 BGCT convention in Waco, click here.

And to listen to Gregory’s sermon, “Texas Baptists and Baylor,” click below:

Transition with dignity…

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In 1755, not long after he became a Baptist minister under the preaching of George Whitfield, Shubal Stearns joined his brother-in-law and sixteen family members to pastor the Sandy Creek Baptist Church in Randolph County, North Carolina. An adherent of the New Light movement, Stearns was vehemently opposed to the Calvinism of the predominate Regular Baptists. His strong evangelistic, emotionally riveting sermons became reported far and wide, and within a few years the small church had grown to more than 500 members. Rigidly moralistic, the Sandy Creek Baptists were surprisingly charismatic in their worship and egalitarian in their polity. Women were given leadership roles; some even served as deacons and elders.

Within three years Stearns had formed the Sandy Creek Association, a loose network of separatist churches that stretched from the North Carolina Piedmont area to the coast, and eventually including churches in South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia. Despite his popularity, Stearns was famously temperamental, notoriously fickle, and devoid of any administrative skill. Nonetheless, he was an influential leader in North Carolina that caused headaches for the ruling elites, whom he opposed for their use of public funds to build elaborate homes for themselves, among other grievances.

Flash forward to May 24, 2007.  On that date, the three-member board of directors of the Paige Patterson Evangelistic Association voted to change the non-profit organization’s name to the Patmos Evangelistic Association. Five years later, the newly-named Patmos Evangelistic Association changed its registered address from 1901 Boyce Avenue in Fort Worth, TX (location of Southwestern Seminary’s presidential home) to 1912 West Spurgeon Street, Fort Worth, TX.

Basically, Patmos went from a front door ministry to a back door corporation operating rent-free on seminary property and ostensibly staffed by seminary personnel and subsidized by Cooperative Program funds. The organization has consistently listed the seminary’s phone number as its contact information on federal disclosure forms.

Along the way, Patmos brought in tens of thousands of dollars every year (the most recent disclosures reveal $65K of revenue in 2015, $73K in 2016, and $62K in 2017.) According to the last five reporting years, Patmos has hauled in nearly $322,000. In the last three reporting years, Patmos has disclosed $104k in travel expenses and $3K in office expenses.

Then on June 25, 2018, a Fort Worth attorney named Shelby Sharpe filed a certificate of amendment with the Texas Secretary of State on behalf of the Patmos Evangelistic Association. That filing listed the new address for Patmos as 6100 Western Place, Suite 1000, Ft. Worth, TX, which is the business address of Sharpe’s law firm. The filing also changed the name of the Patmos Evangelistic Association (née Paige Patterson Evangelistic Association) to the Sandy Creek Foundation.

Another filing was recorded on Dec. 21, 2018, changing the registered agent of the Sandy Creek Foundation from Paige Patterson to the CT Corporation, though leaving the registered address at Sharpe’s law firm. The filing was signed by Fort Worth attorney Reid Rector, who is also associated with the Sharpe firm.

The mailing address listed for Sandy Creek Foundation is PO Box 703726, Dallas, TX, 75370, which appears to be a post office located on Trinity Mills Road across the street from a place called “Malarkey’s Tavern.”

Now comes the fun part.

The physical location of the Sandy Creek Foundation is in nearby Parker, TX, at the same Collin County location where Paige and Dorothy Patterson registered to vote in late 2018, according to publicly available state voting records.

Property tax records from the Collin County Tax Assessor Collector’s office reveal that the Sandy Creek Foundation owns a single family home in the Dublin Road Estates Phase IV with land value of $188,100 and improvements totaling $711,233. Current taxes owed are $18,140.78. According to, the property was purchased on Aug. 13, 2018 for $899,333. County records indicate the deed was transferred on Aug. 20, 2018. The seller’s agent was The Shuey Group with luxury brokerage Ebby Halliday. The buyer appears to have been represented by an agent with The League Real Estate firm in Fort Worth.

The 5,448 sqft home includes: five bedrooms; six bathrooms; a quiet study, a craft room, a bonus media room, a kitchen with a Dacor 8 burner gas range, 2 ovens and a warming drawer; Knotty Alder custom cabinets; granite counters; a saltwater diving pool and spa; a wood fireplace; an outdoor kitchen; and a 10 x 20 covered dog run.

Here are the photos from the original listing:


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This past summer, Louisiana pastor and Ken Hemphill nominator Brad Jurkovich wrote the trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He asserted that many Southern Baptist pastors “from around [the] Convention” wanted to know that the Pattersons were “treated with a certain amount of dignity.” He implored them to “revisit the original proposal to the Patterson family and find some ways to help them transition with dignity.”

We are pleased to report to Pastor Jurkovich that it seems the Pattersons have found dignified unemployment in a modest North Texas home valued at nearly $1 million.

Southwestern Seminary, however, is living paycheck to paycheck and facing another round of layoffs. We hope the faculty and staff who don’t make the cut are allowed to “transition with dignity” as well, and look forward to his letter asking for the same.

Meanwhile, Southwestern trustees have assured Southern Baptists that they cut a check to the Pattersons for an undisclosed amount, despite Paige Patterson’s refusal to sign a severance agreement. What is not known is the amount of the severance package or the duration of benefits.

Why won’t the trustees tell Southern Baptists what they’ve done? It seems the Pattersons have landed pretty well, yet the seminary continues to struggle. When will a full disclosure be made about the school’s financial troubles, their causes, and the plan to get the school back on track?

One more thing:

It looks like Paige and Dorothy have plenty of room to install their stained glass windows now. Can we go ahead and ship them to Parker, TX?

PREVIEW: Million Dollar Digs

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Getting canned by a Southern Baptist entity doesn’t pay what it used to. Apparently, it pays a lot more, especially if you successfully poach institutional donors to underwrite the re-tooled non-profit you and your wife have been running for years. It took us all of about 20 minutes to pull all the public records yesterday, and a little more than $30 in fees to retrieve reports from various county and state government agencies.

This weekend — and no later than Monday because we have other commitments that will demand our full attention early next week — we will publish our analysis and LOTS of links to files, photos, and odd curiosities.

And we’ll likely have some questions to ask.

Stay tuned . . .

(Post-script: That is not a built-in television to the right of the oversized soaking tub. It is a see-through gas-log fireplace that opens on the other side into the master bedroom of a lovely home in North Texas. HT: Ebby Halliday

Wheelbarrows of money

51ddxjq7tbl._sx336_bo1,204,203,200_The following quote is excerpted from pages 175-76 of Too Great A Temptation, the 1994 autobiographical account of Dr. Joel C. Gregory’s life before, during, and in the immediate aftermath of his resignation from First Baptist Dallas on Sept. 30, 1992.

“The Criswell College is a separate entity from First Baptist [Dallas] with its own charter, incorporation, trustees, and budget. For all practical purposes, however, it is an arm of First Baptist. Upon arrival I found that the college officials were simply showing up at the church financial office and asking for money to make the payroll. The college did not have the money to pay its own bills. Not only did I inherit a church that owed nine million dollars and that fell a million short the previous year, I now found that I had a college that could not pay its own professors. Sherryn Cates had simply been badgered into giving them money in order to run the school. That money was off the books; there was no line item for it in the budget. The college could just as well have been hauling it out of the church business office in wheelbarrows.

“This led to some very delicate negotiations with Paige Patterson. I had to put an immediate cap on the amount of money the church could give the college from the 1991 operating budget. We were already $750,000 in trouble the day I started work. The church could not run a slush fund for the college. Although there was some tension in the conversation, Paige and I agreed on a cap and a declining schedule of draws for the Criswell College. But that was only the beginning of troubles about Patterson and the college.”

Operation Akin


If you were on the search committee to find a new president for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and you knew your job was to find a man to succeed Paige Patterson, to whom would you want to talk first?

Our answer: Daniel Lowell Akin.

Akin is the only man who has successfully led a seminary or theological college in the wake of a Patterson departure. He alone has the unparalleled perspective that could assist the Southwestern search committee as they prepare to elect and support a new president for the beleaguered Fort Worth school. And as a Southwestern alumnus, he has the added benefit of caring personally about the school’s revitalization.

Moreover, as one of Paige Patterson’s protégés, he would bring to the role of outside advisor to the Southwestern trustees a long history of honoring and affirming the former president while at the same time knowing acutely how wrecked and unstable a Patterson administration can leave an institution.

So have the trustees bothered to call Akin? Have they even thought to ask him for his perspective? As they build a profile of the candidate they desire for the school, have they not also considered building a profile of the resources they will provide that candidate to begin the tough work of institutional triage? It behoves them to consider the value that Akin’s experience would provide. We suspect they haven’t even considered this, but we have little confidence in trustees who can’t read their own audit reports.

It’s time for Southwestern’s trustees to implement Operation Akin.

Not long after he took the reins in Wake Forest, Akin faced some harsh realities: grossly underpaid faculty, feckless inequities in pay scales, persistent operating shortfalls, oppressive institutional indebtedness, an over-bloated budget for staffing the presidential home, and a dysfunctional culture of administrative suspicion and reprisal. On top of that, he soon learned that Patterson had removed from the seminary archives numerous sensitive documents that belonged to the institution.

And it was still many more years before he learned all the facts about the potential coverup of a campus rape.

Akin had the challenge before him to build upon the positive developments at Southeastern under the Patterson regime — like the 2+2 M.Div. track for missionaries, the cherry-picked recruitment of top-tier evangelical faculty like the late Old Testament scholar John Sailhamer and the publishing-powerhouse historian Keith Harper, etc. — and to quickly mitigate the subterranean fault lines that Patterson’s administrative eccentricities and fiscal irresponsibility had nurtured.

Akin inherited a faculty that — despite some notable exceptions — had never been much up to the task of published theological engagement. He had to put a premium on real scholarship, the kind that draws serious students. He had to nurture professionalism  and implement a substantive process of performance evaluation for the faculty while dismantling a narcissistic Pattersonian system that inverted pedagogical priorities.

He also had to liberate the faculty to some extent. For years, every person working at Southeastern (and now at Southwestern) had to live with the reality that the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message was not the real confessional parameters. There has always been a secret, unwritten and much narrower confessional framework — known only in the mind of Paige Patterson — the transgression of which results in demotion and eventually termination.

Similarly, there has always been a compendium to the faculty handbook at schools where Paige Patterson was president. Simply put, there are certain predictable things that faculty are prohibited from doing: drinking alcoholic beverages, looking at porn on their computers, visiting massage parlors, etc. But there has always been a second list of prohibitions that would result in something worse than termination. We used to call it “The Attack of the Hat.”

Stated another way, faculty and staff at Southwestern (and Southeastern before that) had to be especially careful not to cross Dorothy Patterson. It could be anything as minor as your wife’s hemline, or something as unforgivable as spending Thanksgiving Day with your own family instead of cooking for hers.

On both a confessional and cultural level, working for the Pattersons was like navigating a mine field in the dark. You never know if your next step will blow things up for your career, your family, and your sense of job security.

Finally, Akin had to make some very important personnel decisions. He had to decide which vice presidents stayed, and which of them were replaced. In the midst of that, he had to slash entire budget line items and sort through years of bad accounting and the blurring of personal and institutional expenditures.

Yes, if we were responsible to find a new president for Southwestern Seminary and implement an administrative framework that would facilitate that man’s (and the school’s) future success, we’d stop interviewing candidates immediately and book a flight to North Carolina. We’d ask to spend a day with Danny Akin picking his brain about the unknown unknowns — to borrow a Rumsfeldian phrase — of leading a seminary after Paige Patterson is gone.

But we doubt Chairman Danny Roberts has thought of this. Maybe he will now.

The fruit of the righteous…


“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he that winneth souls is wise.” Proverbs 11:30

On Monday morning, Jan. 14, heaven claimed one of the wisest men ever to lead the Southern Baptist Convention. After a two year battle with pancreatic cancer and nearly eight decades of faithfully winning souls to Jesus, Bailey Smith died at his home in Duluth, Ga.

There are lots of ways to describe Bailey. He was one of the most good-humored men I’ve ever known. Standing next to him at the top of some stairs in the Georgia Dome, I almost couldn’t breathe from laughing as Bailey joked aloud while a messenger brought a motion to change the name of the name of the convention to the “Scriptural Baptist Convention,” which would allow churches to keep the acronym “SBC” on their signs.

Bailey leaned over and said, “We ought to call it the Only Baptist Convention.” Then he paused for a moment and deadpanned:”Wait, that won’t work. OBC sounds like a woman doctor.”

Then there was the time I drove him around Houston in the late 1990s during a Real Evangelism Conference held at Sagemont Church. As soon as I picked him up from the airport, Bailey wanted to stop at a discount store, Ross Dress For Less, so he could buy some new shirts for the conference. He picked up three shirts, each of which was under $10.00. He wrote me a thank you note some weeks later, offering as a postscript that his “cheap shirts” were still holding up and were”just as good as $100 ones.”

One time when he was preaching at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, he asked me to join him for breakfast the morning before his chapel sermon and to drive him to the airport afterwards. On the way to the airport, we made a stop for gasoline. Once inside the gas station, Bailey and I stood at the register to purchase a soft drink.

“Do you know the greatest news that’s ever been told?” he asked the attendant.

“What’s that?” the man responded.

“My friend here is going to tell you what it is,” Bailey said as he walked out to the car.

So I stood there and in 30 seconds or so told the man — probably fumbling with the words — that Jesus died for our sins and rose again, and that if he would ask Jesus to forgive him of his sins and trust him only for salvation, he would be saved. When I got to the car, Bailey was laughing and said, “Isn’t soul winning fun?”

Then there was the time we were on the plane together from Atlanta to Orlando. Dr. Gerald Cowen was on the flight too. I had the flight attendant take two bottles of whiskey to Bailey a few rows ahead of me and say they were complimentary for loyalty to Delta Air Lines. He politely declined and said nothing else.

So I asked another flight attendant to go up and tell him that she’d always wanted to meet the great evangelist J. Harold Smith. Bailey craned his head around and grinned ear to ear at me and laughed.

It was either at the San Antonio convention in 2007 or Indianapolis in 2008 that Bailey and I had a few moments alone on a hotel elevator together. He smiled and said, “What you’re doing to Paige Patterson is wrong, but I still love you.” I didn’t press back. Bailey wasn’t the kind of man who entertained criticism of a fellow minister, and I always respected him for that.

Truly, if ever there was a man who walked his talk, it was Bailey Smith. He was loyal to his friends, faithful to his wife, and always doing the work of an evangelist. He loved his sons, not only his three sons Scott, Steven, and Josh, but all his sons in the ministry. And he was always kind to strangers, generous when tipping waitresses, and truly one of the greatest preachers of his generation.

Last August, Bailey spoke at the First Baptist Church of Indian Trail. He preached one of his more popular sermons, one about the life of Lot entitled “Tilted Toward Tragedy.” At one point in the message, he referenced the fact that four Southern Baptist seminary professors had been terminated in a span of three months for moral failure. Seated in front of him were pastors from all over the region who had come to hear him preach. He stepped out from behind the pulpit, held up his bible and said:

“If this book is the means by which you make your living instead of the manual of how you live your life, you’re in trouble.”

A little more than 24 hours ago, Bailey Smith died having lived his life by the manual of the Word of God. And because he did, there are countless sinners who were once dead in their trespasses but are now alive by the power of the gospel.

By his faithful witness and uncompromising stand for Christ, the fruit of this righteous man has been a tree of life to all who have been — and will continue to be — the beneficiaries of his ministry of reconciliation.

I plan to attend the memorial service later this month. And I plan to stop at Ross and pick up a $10 shirt to wear to the service as a small tribute to a godly man who took time through the years to encourage me on my journey of faith.

Thank you, Brother Bailey. See you soon.

On the matter of presidential elections

SWBTS Poster

Eleven years ago, we published the above spoof inspirational poster for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Paige Patterson had just given his annual report to the Southern Baptist Convention, asserting boldly that the Fort Worth school was neither drifting downstream into liberalism, nor ecumenism, nor neo-orthodoxy (three of the old man’s favorite straw men). Rather, Patterson stated, Southwestern was charting a course upstream, against the cultural currents, into utopian days of full enrollment, a building bonanza, etc.

Those days never came. Instead, Southern Baptists now own a pawn shop of a seminary after fifteen years of declining enrollment, multi-million dollar debt, the advanced disrepair of campus facilities, and a top-heavy faculty largely built on patronage rather than performance.

When we originally posted the overturned, rusted out ship poster, we were chided by the president of Guidestone Financial Resources, who told us directly that we would be much more effective if we stayed away from lampooning his alma mater and its president and first lady. For more than 10 years thereafter, we stopped this blog altogether. When we resumed blogging, nearly every prediction we made about the school held true.

Back in 2007, Patterson had been able to “skirt the question of declining enrollment, rising expenditures, and accreditation jeopardy.”  We predicted that Patterson would eventually “have to face the music and explain to the convention why Southwestern continues to lag behind the other seminaries.” If the trend continued unaddressed, Southwestern would “be due for a considerable drop” in Cooperative Program funds.

Time has proven us more accurate than we wanted to be.

We also wrongly anticipated Patterson’s “imminent retirement.” He didn’t retire, and eleven years later the school is just emerging from the smoldering dumpster fire he left behind after his termination.  More troubling is the seeming unwillingness of the trustees to be forthright with the convention about the serious crises that face the seminary. It also appears unlikely they have given a full disclosure of such matters to the finalists now under consideration to fill the presidential vacancy.

We hate to say it like this, but there is simply no other explanation: either the trustees are incompetent (unable to understand what has occurred) or deceptive (unwilling to own up to it given their own complicity in the school’s steady decline).

That would make them either fools or frauds.

Or maybe we are wrong, and the trustees are already preparing a comprehensive, transparent report that will be released this spring. (Brief aside: Does it bother you that Southern Seminary can provide a 71-page report on its record of racism since 1859 but Southwestern can’t tell you what happened to its endowment since 2003? Or how much it spent on fake Dead Sea Scrolls? Or how much the Patterson’s severance package was?)

A growing number of the school’s alumni and donor base are watching the selection process very carefully. We can only conjecture what is going on inside the committee’s brains. After a half dozen “listening sessions” with seminary stakeholders, faculty, and students, the trustee search committee seems to have distilled their options to a handful of potential candidates.

But until the trustees put together a comprehensive report on the seminary’s real condition and have a full disclosure of the challenges facing its current financial, enrollment, physical property, institutional development, and structural health, no candidate should proceed. In fact, the only candidate who would proceed without such disclosure is probably not capable of doing the job.

Which brings us to presidential elections.

It seems to us that the presidential selection process for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is a lot like America’s 1992 presidential election.  Like that year, there seem to be three viable candidates, each with their strengths and weaknesses. Also like that year, whichever candidate is elected will face a tough economy, a fractured constituency, and out-of-control spending.

First, there was an incumbent who was probably the most qualified person to become president in the nation’s history. George H.W. Bush, who passed away last year at age 94, should have been the front-runner by every measure. But his adroit diplomatic skill, administrative experience, and calm, patrician demeanor was not enough to overcome a few handicaps.

There was also a wild card, outside candidate with an impressive record in business and an uncanny ability to connect with the common man despite his native quirkiness. H. Ross Perot, whose presidential aspirations were widely rumored for years, filled a certain void for the American electorate. He was affable and clever, a Boy Scout in a business suit. He probably had a better understanding of the situation facing the country than the other candidates. But he fell into the oldest, most predictable trap in politics: he peaked too soon.

And then there was a synthetic Arkansas politician who loved nothing more than the sound of his own voice and never met a camera he didn’t like. Somehow, despite a problematic record and persistent questions about how fit he was for the office, William Jefferson Clinton emerged as a viable candidate. His well-oiled machine — you might call it slick — included publicists, media executives, and the usual suspects from Hollywood.

Back in 1992, Ross Perot made a pretty simple case against Bill Clinton’s candidacy: “If you look at every single factor in his 12 years in Arkansas, you’ll realize that when you’re at the bottom of everything, there’s no place to go but up.” Which is to say that a man’s record is the obvious place you look if you want to take a measure of his potential for success.

And that must be the case for the next president of Southwestern Seminary. The school has been built on a cult of personality for the last fifteen years; it dare not entertain another one. And it should go without saying that any man would lead a graduate school of theology should have made, at the very minimum, some scholarly contribution at some point.

All eyes are on Southwestern’s trustees. Will they tell the truth — the whole truth — about what’s happened at the school? Because if they can’t do that, then chances are slim that they have the collective good judgment to choose a president who can help them dig out of the ditch.

And in that case, Southern Baptists would be better served by sending a wrecking ball through the campus, preferably starting with those damned stained glass windows.

SWBTS narrowing presidential field…


It’s coming down to the choice between one good candidate and a handful of whammies for the financially-strapped Fort Worth seminary. We’ll handicap the search process tomorrow.

Stay tuned…

UPDATE 1/12/18 @ 1:44 ET: We just didn’t have everything about this post ready for prime-time. We are revising and editing this weekend and promise to publish first thing Monday morning. Apologies for the delay, but threading this needle is a little tricky. Thanks to our readers for your consistent patience. 

Writing week . . .

trustee meeting

We are working on a major writing project this week. The commitment demands our full attention, unless something like the announcement of a presidential candidate for one of the SBC entities becomes likely.

In the interim, consider this:

Between 2016 and 2017, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary lost $2.2 million in investment value from “other foundations and 3rd party trusts,” more than $5.5 million in money market funds, and nearly $1 million in “other investments.” On the year ending  July 31, 2016, SWBTS reported more than $8 million in net unrealized losses on investments.

Also, SWBTS reported to the 2018 convention that the seminary has secured loans totaling $23 million using “deeds of trust on land and buildings” with a “net book value of $27,423,683.” The seminary restructured a $17 million loan in 2016 because it was unable to pay it off as promised, and the school is now currently only making interest payments on the loan.

So we’re left with a question: If SWBTS cannot repay the loan by 2021, is there any risk that the seminary’s “land and buildings” could be confiscated by creditors?

Stay tuned . . .

On the matter of Patterspending


In recent months, a growing number of Southern Baptists have begun raising questions about the wasteful spending at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary that has left the institution in a position of significant indebtedness, both to creditors and bondholders as well as its own restricted endowment funds.

The numbers are staggering by any measure; the hole so deep that major supporters and prominent alumni now question whether the school can dig itself out.

Between 2004 and 2018, for instance, it appears Southwestern Seminary reported to the convention more than $166 million in aggregate interfund borrowing. According to the the SBC Annuals from those years, the seminary lent itself money from temporary and permanently restricted funds on an annual basis, beginning with a $1.59 million hole the first year of Paige Patterson’s presidency.  Last year (which would be the reporting year ending on July 31, 2017), the seminary owed the endowment nearly $26 million.

To put that into perspective, this year the Cooperative Program distribution to Southwestern Seminary — which accounts for 18.9 percent of its income — is $7.55 million. In other words, it seems the seminary would have to apply every dollar of its Cooperative Program receipts for nearly 3.5 years just to pay off the amount borrowed against its endowment. To get an idea of the rate at which the seminary has been siphoning off its own endowment funds, examine the chart below:

screen shot 2019-01-02 at 8.53.02 am

Not since the Donner Party has there been such ravenous institutional cannibalism. At the very least, it seems that Paige Patterson was operating a Ponzi Scheme at Southwestern Seminary, using restricted assets, convention resources, and the seminary’s sizable endowment to cover the rising costs of his lavish lifestyle and vanity projects on campus. Add to that the cost of a top-heavy administrative structure, duplicative schools and deanships, and a massive staff supporting Pecan Manor, and you can see how things went South.

Of course, the only people who’ve acted surprised about the seminary’s condition are the school’s own trustees. In a statement released May 23, 2018, the seminary trustees noted there were “challenges facing the institution, including those of enrollment, financial, leadership, and institutional identity.”

So basically for fifteen years, trustees were signing off onto audit reports, approving budgets, authorizing expenditures, and okay-ing institutional indebtedness, but it was Paige Patterson who took the fall? Forgive us while we let that sink in for a moment.

The Roman poet Juvenal coined a phrase for it: “Quis custodies ipsos custodes?”

Who watches the watchman? Roughly translated so the point is clear: “What the hell were the trustees doing for fifteen years?” But we digress.

Anyone who’s had half a brain for the last quarter century has known that Paige and Dorothy Patterson played fast and loose with the convention’s checkbook.

On Oct. 1, 1999, Mr. Jack Wilkerson, then the vice president of business and finance for the SBC Executive Committee in Nashville, Tenn. wrote to his counterpart at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., Mr. Paul Fletcher.  At the time, Paige Patterson had made a habit of “unusually frequent requests” for loan approval from Executive Committee’s Business and Financial Plan Workgroup.

In the detailed letter, Mr. Wilkerson explained the governing documents of SBC entities and how they require authorization from the Executive Committee before any institution creates any liability or indebtedness that cannot be paid out of anticipated receipts with a three year period.  Wilkerson, on behalf of the Executive Committee, further explained:

“The workgroup has indicated a desire to see a business plan for SEBTS that shows how the individual loan requests, construction phases, and loan amortizations all fit together. Some suggested areas to better explain are: overall plan for student housing; the current construction schedule; financial data and cash flow to amortize the loans; data on how many units will be built; and any risk analysis showing plans if student enrollment should decline unexpectedly.” (emphasis added)

The workgroup, according to Wilkerson, was concerned that Patterson’s borrowing spree had demonstrated “a number of destabilizing factors” that “undermine the credibility normally extended to entities submitting routine information.”  Among these were:

  1. That the funds from the previous year had not been spent
  2. The seminary was requesting an additional loan ahead of trustee approval
  3. There was a high probability that the seminary would request additional authorizations the following year; and
  4. The loans already approved were allowed by SEBTS trustees on the same general information delivered to the Executive Committee.

To read Wilkerson’s letter in full, click the following: Page 1, Page 2, Page 3.

Nearly 20 years ago, Paige Patterson was trying to take Southeastern Seminary into deep indebtedness without providing either his own trustees or the Executive Committee with adequate information to responsibly authorize the loans. He was doing so at a time when funds from previous loans had not yet been spent, a pattern that had been nurtured over a period of years.

Add to that reality that within two months of the Wilkerson letter, Patterson received an internal seminary memorandum from the business office detailing housing losses in excess of $385,000 at a time when “the working capital of the Seminary [had] dwindled to zero.” Twice that same year, SEBTS “had to dip into . . . Temporary Restricted funds to meet monthly payroll.”

To read the SEBTS memo detailing the seminary’s precarious financial position in Dec. 1999, click here.

There’s a saying we learned growing up in East Texas: “A cow that jumps the fence will always jump the fence.”  The prophet Jeremiah put it this way: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard change his spots?”

The answer, of course, is no.

Neither can those who are accustomed to fiscal negligence start spending wisely, nor trustees who relinquish their oversight responsibilities be counted on to protect the convention’s assets.

Stay tuned . . .




Among the last of the best . . .


(For the audio version of today’s post, click here.)

This morning, Southern Baptists say goodbye to one of the good guys. At 10:30 a.m. on the campus of Dallas Baptist University, the friends, former colleagues, and family of Dr. William B. Tolar will gather to celebrate his life and ministry. Tolar died this past Saturday at age 90 after a hard-fought battle with cancer.

For 36 years, Bill Tolar taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. During his long tenure, he rose to serve as dean of the School of Theology, Academic Vice President, Provost, and interim president in the aftermath of the 1994 firing of Russell Dilday. A lean, energetic native Louisianan, Tolar was a captivating lecturer, a much-sought after preacher, a respected scholar, and a fierce advocate for his faculty and students.

As a theologian, Tolar joined with Southern Seminary President Al Mohler, Beeson Divinity School’s Timothy George and the late Carl F.H. Henry to serve on the SBC’s theological study committee in the mid-1990s. Their report, issued at the Houston convention, reaffirmed the 1963 Baptist Faith & Message, expounded on its articulations of scripture authority and church autonomy, yet declined to offer a new confession of faith or revision to the 1963 document.

As an administrator, Tolar stood alongside some of Southwestern’s legendary faculty: men like James Leo Garrett, John Newport, Curtis Vaughan, Leon McBeth, W.R. Estep, C.W. Brister, and Roy Fish. When conflict between former Southwestern professor Farrar Patterson and Dilday boiled over in the mid-1980s, it was Bill Tolar who stepped in to mediate. Coursing through his veins was Southwestern blood. He loved the school, and for most of his life and ministry, the school loved him back.

Which is why it troubles us that Tolar has chosen Dallas Baptist University — where he served as an adjunctive faculty member after retiring from SWBTS — as both the site of his memorial service and the designated recipient of memorial gifts to a scholarship fund named for him and his wife. There was a time when Southwestern might have been the obvious location for his funeral and the beneficiary of his estate. But for reasons known to God, Dallas Baptist is where his heart was in the end.

Was it because Tolar saw something at Southwestern that disheartened him? Could it be that having been through the forced departures of two presidents in the span of a decade, the ham-fisted enforcements of another president, and the continued enrollment declines and deep indebtedness of the school left him exhausted? Did he — observing the decline and sensing the ostracism — determine not to throw good money after bad, despite nearly four decades of service to the school?

Southwestern Seminary is a shell of its former self in the wake of the last fifteen years; of this, there is no doubt. The numbers do not lie. There is a sense among many alumni and retired faculty — and probably some current faculty — that the once-respectable institution has been hollowed out, its mission sidetracked and academic reputation sullied, and its administrative structures built on a system of patronage and spoils rather than competence.

Today, Bill Tolar will be buried. With his death, Southwestern is losing another faithful supporter whose contributions to the school — while vouchsafed in heaven — have been purposefully written out of its history since the summer of 2003.

On the campus of Southwestern, there is now a 3,500 seat chapel which — on a good day — is a quarter full. Around that chapel building are windows, purporting to depict the men and women who made Southwestern great.  Among those depicted are Jerry Falwell, four Brumbelows, and two Ledbetters. Former SBC President and Southeastern alumnus Johnny Hunt has a window, as do New Orleans alumni Chuck Kelley and Jerry Vines. The retired editor of The Christian Index, also an alumnus of Southeastern, Gerald Harris, has a window. There is even a window for a dog.

But there is no window for Bill Tolar. Perhaps he wasn’t heroic enough.

There is a great scene in the 1985 movie, The Color Purple, where the character played by Whoopi Goldberg — Miss Celie — takes a knife to the throat of her husband, Albert, who is portrayed by Danny Glover. Through years of marriage, he has raped her, beaten her, and insulted her at every turn. Despite his abuses, she kept raising his children, cleaning his house, washing his clothes, and even shaving his neck.

And then, at the dinner table one day, she’s had enough of his abuse. She stands up, and threatens to cut his throat until she’s pulled off by family members who warn her that he’s not worth it.

As she departs, Miss Celie puts a curse on Albert: “Until you do right by me, everything you even think about is going to fail.”

And so it is with Southwestern Seminary. Until the school — and by that, I mean the school’s trustees — do right by the faculty and staff who have been underpaid, overworked, and under appreciated through the past fifteen years of captivity, the school has little chance of recovery.

Perhaps in death, Bill Tolar is doing one last, great service to Southwestern Seminary. He’s letting them know that forgotten faculty can find other schools to serve. Longtime supporters can find other endowments to fund. And young ministers can find other seminaries to attend.

Southwestern has taken men like Dr. Tolar for granted for too long.  Here’s hoping that is about to change.