“Therefore, because you trample on the poor and exact a grain tax from him, you will never live in the houses of cut stone you have built; you will never drink the wine from the lush vineyards you have planted.” — Amos 5:11
In November 2017, we received a phone call from Oklahoma pastor Wade Burleson.
“You’re not going to believe this,” he said. “Paige and Dorothy are building themselves a $3 million retirement house.”
“Where?” we asked.
“On campus,” he responded.
Burleson already had external photographs of the building under construction, and he he’d obtained copies of building permits from the City of Fort Worth that showed the seminary had proposed the new facility as a single family residence despite Paige and Dorothy Patterson’s assurances to trustees and donors that the building would be a library with a small “one-bedroom apartment” for the soon-to-retire couple.
Within a few hours, we’d pulled the same permits and looked back over trustee reports to find any information about the governing board’s decision to provide a permanent on-campus residence to the Pattersons and their dog.
And yes, the “one-bedroom” apartment had special space for a dog.
It wasn’t long before we booked a ticket to DFW, rented a car at the airport, and made our way to the campus on seminary hill, stopping only briefly at a Home Depot to purchase a plastic hard hat.
(Note: we’ve discovered that for less than $10 anyone can procure a construction hard hat. Wearing this hat at literally ANY construction site — however secure — allows an interested person to gain unimpeded access to such sites.)
Once on campus, we donned the construction hat, opened our iPhone 8, and began filming a walk-thru of the cavernous building, which was designed with one elevator, a gargantuan soaking tub and glass-walled couples’ shower, his and her commodes, and sufficient space for 30,000 books and hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxidermy.
By the time we left campus that day, our anger had reached thermonuclear levels. How, in the name of all that is Cooperative Program, had the trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary allowed this dumpster fire to burn year-after-year? Why was Paige Patterson and his famously submissive ezer kenegdo being rewarded for the worst enrollment declines in the school’s history, the complete financial disarray, and the cultural rot that had turned the crown jewel of Southern Baptist theological education into a trinket shop for shrinky-dink chapel windows and bogus antiquities?
Russell Dilday and Ken Hemphill had not enjoyed such perquisites, and neither of them had brought the school to such ruin. In fact, the former had built it to its highest enrollment ever, and the latter had been a stabilizing influence popular with both students and donors.
We determined to do something about it. At the time, however, we had only a hunch about the worst Patterscandal of his 15-year reign of vulgarity and vanity and excess benefit transactions.
To be sure, finding a “worst” scandal is difficult between allegations of “breaking down” rape victims, redesignating donor gifts, funneling millions to their Palestinian fraudster friends, double-dipping for travel reimbursements, utilizing campus security to harass students, lying to trustees, enrolling Muslim students, granting “presidential scholarships” to the academically-challenged children of wealthy megachurch pastors, a $6 million spending spree at Steinway, bypassing federal immigration laws, depleting the seminary’s endowment by more than $20 million, nurturing a campus culture of violence and chauvinism, and so forth.
Above all those abuses, the greatest scandal was the Patterson’s Bourbonesque propensity to fatten and feather their own livelihoods at the expense of the underpaid faculty and staff without whom Southern Baptists would have no seminary in Fort Worth.
While they paid no mortgage or utilities, the seminary’s employees struggled to make ends meet. While they and their canine dined on sumptuous meals made by personal chefs, professors and their children clipped coupons. While they drove Cadillacs and flew first class, some of the common people who make a Kingdom difference kept their cars together with bailing wire, Bondo, and duct tape.
Not since C.S. Carnes have denominational “servants” lived so well off the widows mite while everyone else was barely getting by.
Back in March 2018, not long after our construction site visit to the presidential retirement home, we wrote about the decisions to cancel faculty retirement benefits made by Paige Patterson and promulgated by now-Midwestern provost Jason Duesing (whose righteous soul was doubtlessly vexed for the 13 years he assisted the Pattersons).
Indeed, beginning in January 2009, seminary employees lost all retirement benefits, including both standard annuity contributions and matching benefits. For more than 10 years, these convention servants (many of whom are among the lowest paid denominational employees) have been robbed of their futures to pay for Paige Patterson’s houses and hotels and sundry emoluments and Dorothy’s insatiable thirst for first class refinements and bogus antiquities.
So just how significant were the Pattersons abuses? How bad have they hurt the faculty and staff of Southwestern Seminary who — until this coming January 2020 at the direction of President Adam Greenway — have been denied their promised retirement benefits for more than 10 years?
We asked our financial advisor to run the numbers.
Assume that a starting professor was hired by the trustees to begin work in January 2008, and upon her election to the faculty, she rolled into the Guidestone MyDestination 2045 Fund a starting balance of $1000.00 from another IRA account.
For that first year, assuming a starting salary of $45,000 per annum, she would have received the promised 10 percent seminary contribution to the fund, plus a match of 5 percent of her voluntary contribution. Then, according to the directive promulgated by Jason Duesing, her retirement benefit would have suspended in January 2009 (at the lowest point in the market and around the same time Dorothy was executing non-written, verbal contracts with junk-shop owners in Bethlehem for bogus Dead Sea Scrolls at a cost approaching $5 million).
Between 2009 and 2011, she received NO retirement benefit from Southwestern (around the same time the Pattersons were commissioning stained glass windows to honor themselves and their friends and Paige was admitting in confidential emails to trustees that he had no clue how to manage money). After 2011, the benefits started back slowly. First 3 percent, then 5 percent, and then 7 percent.
But never was any matching contribution made, and never did the benefit return to its pre-2009 levels that the professor was promised when she agreed to move her family to Fort Worth and accept a reduced salary with the understanding that the benefits offered by the seminary were more important for her long-term financial security.
Bottom line: The value of the professor’s retirement account on Oct. 31, 2019, including market growth, standard cost-of-living increases, and a sustained 5 percent voluntary contribution would be $115,880.00.
Now, assume that she left Southwestern on Oct. 31, 2019 and never made another contribution to her Guidestone account.
By Dec. 31, 2044, assuming a baseline annual growth rate of 6 percent, the value would be $497,341.98.
Now, let’s assume that rather than spend $5 million on bogus Dead Sea Scrolls and build their own $3 million retirement home or waste tens of other countless other millions on various vanity projects and perquisites, the Pattersons had honored a trustee promise to Southwestern employees and held the line on retirement benefits.
On Oct. 31, 2019, that same fund balance would have been $211,415.00; by the target date, the value would have been $907,365.85 (assuming no additional contributions after Oct. 31, 2019 at a six percent return rate).
Which is to say, Paige and Dorothy Patterson (with the consent of seminary trustees, of course) have cost the average faculty member $95,535.00 in asset value over a ten year period. Over the life cycle of the target fund, Patterson’s decision has robbed them of $410,023.87 in retirement.
That’s for EACH faculty member at the LOWEST end of the seminary pay scale.
So the next time somebody tells you how badly the Pattersons have been treated, why not break it down and show them the numbers?
““The heart and soul of a seminary is its faculty. Nearly everyone who joins an SBC seminary faculty has to take a cut in pay to do so. Not many Southern Baptists realize that the total Cooperative Program allocation our seminary receives is less than the annual cost of our payroll. This is the major reason why seminary salaries are below national averages for professors and pastors” — Dr. Chuck Kelley, 2003.
Check our math below: