Document dump


Anyone who’s been around Washington, D.C. very long knows the value and frustration of a Friday document dump. During that season wherein we served as a congressional investigator and policy advisor to the Republican chairman of the powerful House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, we spent many long hours and endless weekends going through tens of thousands of pages of documents provided by the Obama administration and various private and public corporations.

The hostile purpose of a document dump is to deluge a constitutionally-authorized congressional check on administrative abuse with so much information that it makes it difficult — if not impossible — to find evidence of wrongdoing. The strategy was doubtlessly more effective before the advent of electronic communications and data transparency.

Still, any administration has tremendous power to keep from the public information which may prove embarrassing in the best scenarios, and incriminating in the worst.

The same is true in the Southern Baptist Convention. It is far too easy to keep the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention and their messengers to the annual meeting in the dark about an entities’ fiscal condition, administrative activities, and presidential discretionary expenditures. At times, it is far too easy for entity administrators to keep the same information concealed from the “prying eyes” of the entity trustees who may have questions.

For years, Paige Patterson and his famously submissive wife, Dorothy, have kept files on everything and nearly everyone. We know this because we were shown his archival space on the second floor of Appleby Hall on the campus of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary nearly 20 years ago. Sense that time, conflicts between the Pattersons and the institutions they served over proper ownership of seminary records have emerged. Some have been resolved. Others have not.

At the present time, Southwestern Seminary is a party to a federal civil matter involving the alleged administrative abuses of its former president. This matter, should it proceed to trial at the court-approved pace, will stretch well into the year 2021. At this rate, The Baptist Blogger has neither the time nor the interest to serve as an ongoing resource for public disclosure of our collection of materials related to the mismanagement of Southwestern Seminary and sundry abuses and fraud schemes that occurred during the Patterson era.

Today, we have sent to SWBTS President Adam Greenway an offer to provide to the seminary copies of certain documents in our possession that may assist in efforts to better understand his predecessor’s actions, assess their relevance to pending litigation, and push back against false narratives about the Patterson era and the reason(s) for his termination.

Upon the transmission and posting of this letter, The Baptist Blogger is suspending future public disclosures of many records related to the Patterson era at Southwestern. We make this decision both as a matter of stewardship of our time and as an expression of confidence in the integrity and courage of Dr. Adam Greenway to do the one thing that Patterson never quite seemed able to do.

Tell the truth. All of it. Until He Comes.

The damnedest Patterscandal


“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:

With cuts:
Without cuts:


Everything decently and in order…


The Southern Baptist Convention has no employees or staff. In fact, only those persons who have been elected by the convention — i.e. the officers — may be considered to hold permanent position until a term expiration or they resign.

The Executive Committee, acting on behalf of the convention, is authorized to execute a contract with a certified parliamentarian. Bylaw 11 of the Southern Baptist Convention states:

Parliamentary Authority and Parliamentarians: The parliamentary authority of the Southern Baptist Convention shall be Robert’s Rules of Order (latest revised edition). The Convention president, in conference with the vice presidents, shall select a chief parliamentarian and assistant parliamentarians, as necessary, to advise the presiding officers of the Convention on matters of parliamentary procedure. The chief parliamentarian shall be a person of experience and knowledge, sufficient to qualify him or her to serve as parliamentarian to the Southern Baptist Convention, and he or she shall be certified by the American Institute of Parliamentarians and/or the National Association of Parliamentarians. It shall be the responsibility of the president and treasurer of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention to sign, on behalf of the Executive Committee, any contracts or letters of agreement related to the services of the chief parliamentarian.”

In February 2019, the Interim President of the Executive Committee, Augie Boto — acting on behalf of the Executive Committee at the request of the convention president — contracted with Southwestern Seminary professor, C. Barry McCarty, to serve as convention parliamentarian for the 2019 annual meeting in Birmingham.

The terms of the parliamentarian’s contract are as follows:

  • He/she shall be on-site in Birmingham, Ala. to render consultation advice from June 9, 2019, until the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention adjourns; and by phone or email to render such pre- or post-annual meeting consultation and advice as may be requested by the President of the Convention or by the Chief Executive Officer or appropriate vice president of the Executive Committee.
  • Under the terms of the current contract, the ONLY persons whom the convention parliamentarian may counsel or advise are current SBC President J.D. Greear, current SBC Executive Committee CEO Ronnie Floyd, and possibly Jonathan Howe, Sing Oldham (until his retirement later this year), and Ken Weathersby (until his retirement this year).
  • The convention parliamentarian is NOT authorized to advise entity leaders, the various boards of trustees, the standing committees of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Committee on Committees, the Committee on Registration, the Committee on Nominations, the Committee on Resolutions, nor any individual or group of messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention.
  • The convention parliamentarian is explicitly barred from issuing any “verbal or written advice or opinions to anyone other than the officers of the Southern Baptist Convention or appropriate staff of the Executive Committee.”
  • The parliamentarian is compensated $10,500 for services under the contract, paid in two installments of $5,250.00. This amount has held relatively steady for the past decade.
  • The parliamentarian’s documented expenses are reimbursed, including meals, lodging, round-trip transportation, postage, and any other out-of-pocket expenses.
  • The convention parliamentarian is barred form offering legal advice or legal opinions.
  • The parliamentarians is an independent contractor, and is not to be represented as an agent or employee of the Convention, any of its members, or organizations.
  • The parliamentarian’s services are purely advisory and all rulings on questions of order are made by the presiding officer of the Convention, who may or may not follow the parliamentarian’s advice.

To read the entire contract, click here.

The 2019 annual meeting was the 34th consecutive year that Dr. Barry McCarty has served as convention parliamentarian. This is the longest tenure of any non-elected individual receiving consecutive year-to-year contracts. Doubtlessly, the perennial renewal of this annual contract owes to the confidence Southern Baptist presidents have had in the parliamentary consultation provided by Dr. McCarty.

In 1986, then-SBC President Charles Stanley retained the services of Dr. McCarty, who was at the time a non-SBC minister and professor of public speaking and debate at Roanoke Bible College in Elizabeth City, N.C. He was formerly a N.C. members on the national Republican Party Committee on Permanent Organization, and his biographical information at the time of Stanley’s selection included his service as a “spokesman and lobbyist for state and national Right-to-Life groups.”

He was also a member and minister at a Church of Christ in Jarvisburg, N.C. That church is now a part of the “Restoration Movement.” He became a Southern Baptist in 2015.

During the 1986 annual meeting, a messenger requested that the Southern Baptist Convention “hire” a parliamentarian to serve at every annual convention. During a rather confusing floor debate, former SBC Executive Committee President Harold Bennett spoke against the motion, pointing out to the messengers that the convention does not have employees. Rather, Roberts Rules of Order provides that the presiding officer of the convention may appoint parliamentarians for the annual meeting as he/she deems necessary. This point was made by Dr. John Sullivan, who at the time was the chairman of the SBC Executive Committee Bylaws Workgroup.

To watch the 1986 floor debate over the issue of “hiring” a permanent convention parliamentarian, click here.

(Note: The Baptist Blogger is reviewing every parliamentary ruling and floor debate of the Southern Baptist Convention in an effort to assist Southern Baptists in their better understanding both of the Rules of Order and of the precedent(s) that have been set for the ordering of convention business. To view our first installment in a series entitled “SBC Parliamentary Fails,” click here.)



The slow-turning wheels of justice

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A federal judge based in Plano, Tex. has issued a scheduling order in the case of Roe v. Patterson, a civil lawsuit that alleges former Southwestern Seminary President Leighton Paige Patterson abused his office and exercised gross negligence in dealing with a serial rapist whom he employed on campus.

The Trump-appointed district court judge, Sean Jordan, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on July 31, 2019. He is a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, and an honors graduate of the University of Texas School of Law.  He also served as an army infantryman and a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division.

Put another way, Jane Roe is fortunate to have a conservative jurist working the case who knows something about protecting innocent people and stopping evildoers.

Click here to read the scheduling order, which was signed Oct. 24, 2019. Jury selection is schedule to begin in March 2021. Mediation must occur by July 31, 2020.

But I will send to you an Advocate…


Mr. James P. Guenther, Esq.
Jordan, Guenther, & Price, PC
2100 West End Avenue
Suite 1150
Nashville, TN 37203

Dear Mr. Guenther:

“It is our law firm that defends the Southern Baptist Convention. Are we going to recommend to you [actions] which make our task more difficult?”

You spoke these words to messengers of the 2005 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention gathered in Nashville, Tenn.[1] Indeed, the trust that Southern Baptists have had in your legal counsel and representation in the face of lawsuits in many jurisdictions and across many tortious claims is rooted in a longstanding confidence that you are both an immensely competent officer of the court and a principled advocate for our convention. I am grieved to learn of anecdotal accounts and to read of events that now threaten this longstanding trust.

On October 15, 2019, Baptist Press issued a statement disclosing that material previously published on March 8, 2019, “did not accurately communicate the allegations” of a survivor of sexual abuse. The statement further revealed that the story “in its original draft form . . . clearly communicated the emotional and sexual abuse” that was perpetrated against a young female student by a professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

However, Baptist Press admitted that persons involved with the editing and final publication of the story “failed” to convey the truth about “sexual abuse by a trusted minister in a position of power.” The original story “made concessions to legal and policy concerns,” without accurately reflecting the allegations made by the female victim. This failure – which may result in a libel lawsuit against an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention – caused the “reputation” of the female victim to be “besmirched” as well as “pain and sorrow.” For this, Baptist Press has expressed a sense of “deep sorrow” and offered a “sincere apology”[2]

Mr. Guenther, you have long represented the Southern Baptist Convention. Your counsel to the nation’s largest Protestant denomination has helped the nearly 15 million-member body and its 47,000 churches defend itself against numerous lawuits, many of which have involved allegations of sex abuse and sexual misconduct.

As you know, the Southern Baptist Convention is a Georgia corporation, while the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention is a corporation in Tennessee, where you have been licensed to practice law since 1958.[3]That professional licensure, as you may know, is contingent on an officer of the court’s strict adherence to the Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct.[4]

Among these rules are:

  • “As a representative of clients, a lawyer performs various functions. As an advisor, a lawyer provides a client with an informed understanding of the client’s legal rights and obligations and explains their practical implications;”
  • “As a negotiator, a lawyer seeks a result advantageous to the client but consistent with requirements of honest dealings with others;”
  • “As an evaluator, a lawyer acts by examining a client’s legal affairs and reporting about them to the client or to others.”

Moreover, the Rules of Conduct state the following:

  • “Failure to comply with an obligation or prohibition imposed by a Rule is basis for invoking the disciplinary process.”
  • “These Rules are not intended to govern or affect judicial application of either the attorney-client or work product privilege. Those privileges were developed to promote compliance with the law and fairness in litigation. In reliance on the attorney-client privilege, clients are entitled to expect that communications within the scope of the privilege will be protected against compelled disclosure. The attorney-client privilege is that of the client and not of the lawyer.” (emphasis added)

Elsewhere, the Rules state:

  • “When the client is an organization or group, it is often impossible or inappropriate to inform every one of its members about its legal affairs; ordinarily, the lawyer should address communications to the appropriate officials of the organization.”
  • “A lawyer may not withhold information to serve the lawyer’s own interest or convenience or the interests or conveniences of another person.”

I could continue with numerous citations from the Tennessee Bar Association’s Rules of Professional Conduct, though I am confident you are sufficiently aware of the rules and their ethical application in your decades-long representation of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Executive Committee.

Given that Baptist Press has now publicly admitted that past editorial decisions resulted in potentially libelous misrepresentation of an abuse survivor, and given that these decisions have caused the female victim to suffer damage to her reputation, “trauma,” “tremendous pain,” and “sorrow,” I am concerned that these decisions were guided by “concessions to legal and policy concerns.”

As the lawyer who represents both the Southern Baptist Convention and its Executive Committee, you were surely consulted regarding these “legal and policy concerns.” If not, then the circumstances that give rise to my concern are even more troubling.

Therefore, I would like to know the following:

  1. Did you provide legal counsel to officers of the Southern Baptist Convention regarding pre-publication editorial decisions made concerning the March 8 story?
  2. To which officer(s) of the Convention did you provide this counsel?
  3. Did you provide legal counsel to officers or employees of the Executive Committee regarding pre-publication editorial decisions made concerning the March 8 story?
  4. To which officer(s) or employees of the Executive Committee did you provide this counsel?
  5. Were you aware of editorial decisions made by employees of the Executive Committee and Baptist Press that did “not accurately communicate” a victim’s allegations, “omitted references to abuse,” and “failed to convey” the truth of the allegations in deference to “legal and policy concerns?”
  6. When did you become aware of these decisions, and what counsel did you provide to convention officers and committee employees as a result?
  7. Did you advise Baptist Press to issue a “sincere apology” for actions which may have “contributed to a perception that the Southern Baptist Convention is not a safe place for sexual abuse survivors to disclose.”?

Thank you for your careful consideration of my questions, and your willingness to represent both the Southern Baptist Convention and the Executive Committee with the highest commitment to professional ethical standards. I anticipate receiving answers to my questions in writing before the annual meeting of the 2020 Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando, Fla.  Otherwise, I anticipate these questions – and potentially others – concerning your actions in this matter will be brought to the floor of the convention.


The Baptist Blogger





The smoking gun…

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New evidence has emerged that Paige and Dorothy Patterson — far from being content to have nearly destroyed Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary during their sixteen year tenure — are yet determined to siphon off institutional resources to feather their own proverbial nest.

With a strong assist, of course, from the Colter-Candi Cabal.

Yesterday, SWBTS President Adam Greenway disclosed to seminary trustees certain electronic correspondence that was inadvertently sent by a Patterson operative to an old seminary email address for the Behatted One.

As it turns out, as recently as May 2019, Dorothy Patterson has been actively coaching seminary donors how to demand the return of large contributions for the seminary’s endowment, ostensibly to re-direct those gifts to the Pattersons’ preferred non-profit organizations.

We could say more about the email, but suffice it to say that Mr. Colter seems to have accidentally sent an email to that included draft language to share with SWBTS donor and longtime Patterson ally, James Merritt of South Carolina. Copies of the email and other relevant materials have been distributed to seminary trustees this week.

The Pattersons have apparently denied any effort to poach seminary donors or disparage seminary faculty. We’ll let our readers decide.

The Baptist Blogger obtained a copy of the email that was shared among all seminary trustees, and we gladly post it here.

Morris Chapman’s Motion

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During the Tuesday morning session of the SBC annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala., the former president of the Executive Committee, Dr. Morris H. Chapman, made a motion concerning the transparency and accountability of the various entities of the Southern Baptist Convention.  His motion was:

“I move that this convention, as the sole member of each entity corporation, request the Executive Committee to amend the Business and Financial Plan of the Southern Baptist Convention and other appropriate legal authorities where necessary to strengthen the fiscal accountability of SBC entities to the convention and to promote greater transparency regarding the use of Cooperative Program dollars.”

The genius of Dr. Chapman’s motion is that he did not prescribe an outcome, but rather he opened a pathway. The Constitution of the convention and its Bylaws establish and govern the convention itself. And the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 sets the parameters of confessional fidelity.

But the Business and Financial Plan — perhaps the least known and yet most important governing authority for the convention entities — is the rulebook for the day-to-day operation of the convention entities. It is prescriptive and binding for effective and accountable administration of the convention’s assets.

What Dr. Chapman did was brilliant. Without saying what we all know to be true — namely, that most of the crises faced by the convention in its history can be traced to lax oversight and fiscal irresponsibility — Dr. Chapman has called for Southern Baptists to open the windows of our convention entities and allow a little more sunlight, which is the best disinfectant, into the house.

Dr. Chapman could have proposed a motion that laid out specifics. Surely, few people in Southern Baptist life understand the complexities, difficulties, and enforcement mechanisms that keep SBC entities fiscally accountable. He could have made a motion that listed article and paragraph, proposing line-by-line changes that are informed by nearly two decades at the helm of the Executive Committee.

But such a motion would have (1) been cumbersome for the messengers to comprehend and consider efficiently; (2) been potentially interpreted as an end-run around the very governing board he used to serve; (3) hamstring his successor, Dr. Ronnie Floyd, into a pre-determined outcome without adequate reflection or legal and administrative analysis; and (4) run the risk of opening for a floor debate any number of poorly conceived “solutions” for supposed “problems” that a handful of irritable messengers perennially identify.

Later Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Chapman was recognized by SBC President J.D. Greear to speak to his motion before its referral under SBC Bylaw 26B. In his remarks, Dr. Chapman — without mentioning the scandal of mishandling sexual abuse or the failure of some SBC trustees to hold certain entity leaders accountable — recognized that Southern Baptists are in a “moment of self examination” that affords the convention an opportunity to implement needed reforms.

The brilliance of his timing was his sense that the convention was at this moment of reflection and that the messengers were already prepared to consider structural changes to ensure our gospel witness is undimmed by further compromises of biblical integrity.

For us personally, it was good to see Dr. Chapman back at a microphone, engaged as an elder statesman of the convention and doing what he has always done best: harmonize a commitment to biblical authority with a standard of administrative efficiency that any confessional organization boasting the size and influence of the Southern Baptist Convention must diligently maintain.

The simple fact is this: since his retirement in 2010, the Executive Committee went on auto-pilot, providing an opening for the aggrandized and oft-times weasel influence of a lawyer’s brain left unchecked by the prophetic vision and sensitivity of a pastor’s heart. When the Executive Committee has been at its finest, it has been led by a strong pastor statesman supported — but not supplanted — by accountants and businessmen and yes, even attorneys.

When last Southern Baptists heard from Dr. Chapman in a public way, he was warning us that the implementation of certain provisions of the Great Commission Task Force report would prove shortsighted. Reducing the Cooperative Program allocation for the Executive Committee would handicap its essential work.

He was attacked, even vilified, by some who now see more clearly in retrospect what Dr. Chapman foresaw nearly a decade ago.

And so this year, Dr. Chapman returned to the convention microphone not from the platform as an elected entity leader, but rather as a patriarch of unparalleled experience and administrative savvy who — apart from Charles Stanley in 1985 — received more votes than any other man to ever be elected convention president before or since.

In the time since his motion in Birmingham, some have speculated openly and publicly that his concern was narrowly focused on the disclosure of executive salaries. Any student of history would realize that Dr. Chapman’s concern would not be so narrow. There was a time that we, like so many others, were frustrated by the unpublished salaries of convention leaders. Even Dr. Chapman’s salary was printed publicly only upon his election and not thereafter.

(Side note: we believe that salaries should be disclosed upon election and not thereafter)

But in the intervening years we have come to a conclusion about executive salaries in the SBC: No entity leader is overpaid, but some are potentially underworked.

That said, Dr. Chapman’s motion calls for a much more sweeping examination of the Business and Financial Plan, and potentially the adoption of certain enforcement mechanisms to ensure that all convention entities — whether they receive a Cooperative Program allocation or not — would raise the bar for disclosure, accountability, and transparency first to the trustees who govern the respective entities, but also to the convention messengers in annual session.

Which makes us wonder why Baptist Press has not done an interview with Dr. Chapman about his motion to ascertain what informed his decision to bring the motion, what observations he might have that would better streamline our cooperative efforts, and what reporting requirements needed reexamination in light of emerging technologies and accounting standards.

It is simply too hard to find raw data about SBC entity finances. Not even trustees feel they have the reliable and timely information they need — in understandable formats — to execute their sacred responsibilities as charged by the convention messengers who elect them.

So we await greater clarification from Dr. Chapman regarding his motion, and we hope that Baptist Press, which has had a rough few weeks of revelations about its past editorial decisions, will help Southern Baptists better understand the motion they voted to refer to the Executive Committee for action.


Wade Burleson’s Motion


The handling of Wade Burleson’s motion by the convention lawyers indicates at least one potential reality: either they struggle to understand plain English or they willingly deceive the convention messengers.

Wade’s motion was very simple. He wanted the convention to amend the report of the International Mission Board to include already public information that the IMB had previously published on the organization’s website. In May 2019, the IMB released a preliminary report by the law firm retained to investigate the mission board’s handling of past abuse cases. Wade was concerned, as were we, that the IMB report contained not a single mention of the board’s actions related to dozens of abuse cases. The firm had identified several instances in which IMB officials had not exercised due diligence or demonstrated adequate concern for the criminal behavior of some mission personnel.

What Wade wanted, and what we hoped his motion might have prompted, was a new expectation of convention entities that they tell us the truth, even when it hurts.

The Book of Reports is an important and critical tool for Southern Baptists in the effort to keep their entities accountable and transparent. Too often reports are padded, inconvenient truths are omitted, and fiscal realities are obfuscated and glossed over.

That needs to change.

Wades motion was perfectly in order. The convention’s book of reports is the product of the convention, and the entities do not have final say on what the content of those reports are. The messengers may receive reports, amend them, adopt them, refer them, and even reject them.

The rationale provided by the convention lawyers for the ruling that Wade’s motion was out of order is specious and contemptible. They alleged Wade was trying to force non-public information into the IMB report. But the IMB itself had already made the information public on its own website. In fact, Wade wouldn’t have even known of the lawyer’s report had the IMB not made it public the previous month.

The ruling was nothing more than a parliamentary slight of hand — incompetent at best and deceitful at worst — designed to protect an SBC-owned entity from the very people who own it.

We will wait to see what goes into the various entity reports in 2020. And we are hopeful that it won’t only be the ERLC speaking the unpleasant truth about our various entities’ past handling of abuse.


Birmingham Wrap-Up: Resolutions

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The only resolution anybody will ever remember from the convention in Birmingham is Resolution No. 9On Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality. 

This resolution — both its content and the parliamentary train wreck that accompanied its passage — was a disaster. For starters the committee, despite the collective brilliance and academic sophistication of its members, seemed to misread the messengers and overestimate the degree to which those messengers would perceive the committee as they perceived themselves.

What we had was a group of smart people determined to propose a smart resolution full of nuance and complicated scholarly themes and terms. What they forgot is that the Southern Baptist Convention, on its best day, is a body with incredible common sense but restricted bandwidth to engage in scholarly debate.

Every time in Southern Baptist history when the “smart people” start telling the “regular people” something, all hell breaks loose.  Take the debate over the BFM2K in Orlando, for instance. You had some very smart people on the floor trying to make scholarly arguments about biblical authority and the complexities of the inerrancy argument.

On the platform was Al Mohler and Dick Land, both of whom know a thing or two about optics and convention dynamics. These men did not attempt a scholarly defense of the BFM2K, but rather appealed to the messengers with succinct one-liners that drew thunders of applause and shut down debate.

Contrast that with this year’s resolutions committee fumble — aided and abetted by a parliamentarian and Order of Business Committee that were determined not to let J.D. Greear’s resolutions committee suffer a losing vote on the floor. So they made up rules as they went, attempted to roll the controversial resolutions into a block with non-controversial ones, and fostered greater confusion rather than clarity.

Never mind the fact that the resolutions were saved for the very last moment of convention business at the end of two long days of difficult, painstaking conversation about some of the most heart wrenching themes ever to make their way into the convention’s order of business. This was foolish scheduling, if for no other reason than the sad reality that the only people who stay till the bitter end of any event — football games, baseball, etc. — are the fanatics.

Thus was the convention hall left with a very smart group of men and women on the platform trying to defeat a very organized and determined group of opponents to Resolution No. 9. What happened was chaos.

Neither the parliamentarians nor the committee served J.D. Greear well at this point. They should have — sensing the reality on the floor — pulled the resolution altogether. There is never a mistake in a tactical delay.

*Note: Since 1986, Convention parliamentarian Barry McCarty has never facilitated nor advised the use of motions to “postpone indefinitely,” “table,” or “reconsider” despite the perfectly appropriate purpose of these motions when a deliberative body is not ready to consider or close a matter. If he’s the chief parliamentarian in Orlando and similar nonsense starts to take shape, we intend to force him to dust off these forgotten chapters of his own book.

One other point that we can’t escape mentioning.

Images matter, which is something propagandists have always understood. Subliminally, in ways we don’t even perceive ourselves, what we see affects how we perceive what we hear and read.

Suppose for a moment what would have happened if when the Southern Baptist Convention was considering the Confederate Flag resolution in 2016 the committee chairman, Steven Rummage, was wearing a seersucker suit and a gentleman’s Panama straw hat.  And what if, in that moment, when James Merritt stood to ask that the convention amend the resolution to remove all reference to the “emblem” of “honor” and  “valor,” Rummage — dressed in clothing reminiscent of a plantation owner — called for the messengers to oppose Merritt’s amendment.

Now let us be clear about what we are NOT saying.  We are NOT saying that Steven Rummage is an unreconstructed white supremacist. We are NOT saying he has sympathies with the Old South or the Ku Klux Klan.

What we ARE saying is that Rummage would have been most foolish — whatever his sartorial preference — not to consider how the optics would inform the messengers, even subliminally.

Jump forward to 2019 and Chairman Curtis Woods, a most capable scholar and by every measure a truly kind and generous Christian servant.

Yet there he stood, in a tan suit with a bow tie and horned rimmed glasses. Few people might have thought about it at all, but that is the way that optics and images work.

Our point: If you want the convention messengers to consider a resolution that recognizes heterodox ideologies as “set of analytical tools,” you might want to avoid wearing an outfit that could have come straight out of Louis Farrakhan’s wardrobe.

Images matter. Optics are important.

And Southern Baptists are not immune to their effects, even when subliminal and unintentional.

Bottom line: Resolution No. 9 was a dud and a distraction the consequences of which we are still fighting back. It should never have been brought to the floor, and when it became clear that it was both confusing and controversial, the committee should have withdrawn it.

That they were not advised of this option by the parliamentarians has not escaped our notice.

Paige Patterson was right…and we were wrong


In January 2004, The Baptist Blogger was employed part-time at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary as a news writer in the Department of Public Relations. One morning, we arrived at work to learn that we had been terminated by edict of the then-seminary president, Paige Patterson.

We had, according to Patterson, posted on a former blog of ours “criticism” of a “sister Baptist institution.” Over the previous weekend, we had written our frustration at the “crap” that was sold at LifeWay Christian Stores. As a person receiving a paycheck from a ministry supported by the Cooperative Program — and particularly as a student-employee who was working in an office responsible for the seminary’s public relations — we were unwise to use our personal blog to openly criticize another SBC entity.

In addition to our termination, Patterson placed us on disciplinary probation for the second time in five years. That probation was lifted, however, within 24 hours of its imposition. Our use of the word “crap” constituted “unchaste and profane speech” in violation of the student code of conduct, as interpreted by the seminary’s president. His reversal of that decision, and the correspondence surrounding it, have given us many opportunities at dinner parties to keep the table laughing.

The silliness of Patterson’s ham-fisted disciplinary action against us as a student does not diminish the rightness of his decision regarding our employment.

We should have been fired. Patterson was right.

The bottom line is this:

When a man or woman is employed at a Southern Baptist entity, he or she should have the soundness of mind and the prudence of self-preservation NOT to use social/digital media platforms to communicate negatively about another SBC entity or the persons who work for or with that entity.

We’ve been watching more and more of this happen in recent weeks, and it warrants immediate administrative action at every SBC entity. Midwestern’s president should not allow his professors to Tweet negatively about LifeWay authors. Southwestern’s president should not allow his staff to post comments on Facebook that are injurious to the ministry witness of ERLC leaders. LifeWay employees should not be allowed to blister SBC entity heads on Twitter. And so forth and so on.

It’s time for this to stop, forthwith.

Brethren (and sistren) these things ought not be. Without question, no SBC entity employee should be posting their ruminating criticisms about entity leaders during work hours, from their CP-funded cubicles, desks, or offices. At the very least, during work hours and on their personal social media accounts, SBC employees should be restricted to post only those things that are “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable.” (Phil 4:8)

For years at Southwestern, Patterson had seminary administrators trolling Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and the blogs to find students, faculty, and staff who were posting things that he felt were injurious to the school’s witness. Forgetting the fact that he was himself injuring the school’s witness on a near-daily basis, we must admit that his overall principle regarding the use of social media by SBC employees was correct.

Bottom line: if you want to be a Twitter warrior, fine. If you want to engage the debate from your smartphone, well and good. If your little fingers won’t rest until you fire off some passive aggressive broadside at your fellow convention employee, have at it.

But you shouldn’t be allowed to do it on the convention’s time or dime.

Let no one defy this order.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Screen Shot 2019-08-09 at 9.07.46 AM

Rev. Philip Levant
Iglesia Bautista La Vid

Rev. Kevin Ueckert, Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church, Georgetown, TX

Dr. Lash Banks, Pastor
Murphy Church, Murphy, TX

Dr. Hance Dilbeck, Executive Director
Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma

Rev. Steven James, Pastor
Trinity Baptist Church, Lake Charles, LA.

Dr. John Mark Caton, Senior Pastor
Cottonwood Creek Baptist Church, Allen, TX

Mr. Geoffrey Kolander, President & CEO
Citizens, Inc., Austin, TX

Dr. T. Van McClain, Professor of Old Testament
Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary

Dr. David Galvan, Senior Pastor
Primera Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida

Dr. David Allen, Dean of the School of Preaching
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, TX

Dear Sirs:

On May 22, 2019, a former female student of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary was granted leave by a federal magistrate judge to file an amended complaint under the pseudonym “Jane Roe” in a civil action against the seminary’s former president, Leighton Paige Patterson, and the school.  The case, which is styled 4:19-cv-00179-ALM-KPJ, alleges “multiple violent sexual assaults…on the campus of SWBTS by a fellow student and SWBTS employee,” as well as “Leighton Paige Patterson’s negligent and intentional acts that resulted in further harm to her.”[1]

In the complaint, Plaintiff Jane Roe alleges that a fellow student and SWBTS employee sexually assaulted her on campus, resulting in blood loss due to her injuries. She further alleges that the male student violently forced her to the floor, called her profane names, brutally pulled her hair out in clumps, and engaged in mock strangling to the point that she nearly lost consciousness. After raping her, the male student is alleged to have forced her to take the morning after pill. [2]

The details of Jane Roe’s rape are gruesome. The troubling allegations that a former seminary president – a man ostensibly serving under the authority of and accountable to the seminary’s board of trustees – characterized the girl’s mother as “nuts” when she demanded a meeting about the rape, inquired about whether the rapist “ejaculated,” pressed if the victim had “her monthly period,” and told the victim that it was a “good thing” that she had been raped now warrant your full attention.[3]

As successive chairmen of the seminary’s Board of Trustees, each of you was uniquely responsible for the oversight, supervision, and annual performance evaluation(s) of the seminary president.

In fact, the Business and Financial Plan of the Southern Baptist Convention states:

Entity boards of trustees should oversee the operations of the entity in such a manner as will assure effective and ethical management(emphasis added).[4]

Additionally, the Constitution of the Southern Baptist Convention states:

All [board] officers shall be subject to the control and direction of their directors in matters pertaining to the work and obligations of the board institution, or commission.


The executive head of each board, institution, and commission shall be responsible to the directors for all the work of the entity and shall carry on the work as the directors may direct.[5]

Moreover, the seminary’s bylaws state:

The Convention has committed to the Board the responsibility to manage the Seminary for the Convention and the trustees have full authority in all matters of its management, except to the extent that powers are vested in the Convention by law.


The Executive Committee [of the Board] shall be composed of the Chairman, the Vice Chairman, and the Secretary of the Board, and the Chairman and one other member of each standing committee for a total of thirteen members…


The Executive Committee will conduct an annual performance review of the President, and shall review the President’s performance evaluation of the other officers of the Seminary, in accordance with the procedures in the Policy Manual. The Secretary will maintain a written record of these reviews.


The President shall be elected by the Board. His term of office, duties, and administration of the affairs of the Seminary shall be under the direction and authority of the Board. (emphasis added).


The President reports directly and is accountable only to the Board.


It shall be the duty of the President to report to the Board or the Executive Committee all matters connected with the operation of the Seminary which may be of interest to the Board or which the Board, as the manager of the Seminary should know.[6]

For more than fifteen years, and under the immediate supervision of each chairman listed above, Leighton Paige Patterson served as president of the seminary. The present federal civil action raises significant questions about the fiduciary oversight of trustees during his tenure as president.

Notwithstanding such questions, the seminary has now filed a response to the civil complaint in Roe v. Patterson. That response, which is now public record, asserts that  “Leighton Paige Patterson was not in the course and scope of any alleged employment with SWBTS, and was not otherwise an agent for SWBTS at the time of the alleged acts or omissions at issue.”[7]Moreover, SWBTS denies that it “ratified any conduct of Leighton Paige Patterson at the time of the alleged acts or omissions at issue.”

Simply put, the seminary’s defense in the present civil suit hinges on the following claims:

  1. Paige Patterson was not authorized by the trustee officers to whom he was solely accountable for actions alleged in the lawsuit.
  2. Paige Patterson’s alleged conduct was inconsistent with the duties and responsibilities granted to him by the trustee officers.
  3. Trustee officers were unaware of the events described in the lawsuit, and were not informed of them in violation of the seminary’s bylaws.

As the seminary frames its defense in the lawsuit and moves toward a potential discovery phase, it will be incumbent on each of you as present and past trustee officers to cooperate fully with the seminary’s new president, Dr. Adam Greenway, and legal counsel. Specifically, you may be asked to provide corroborative evidence that substantiates the seminary’s claim that trustee officers were not aware of the president’s actions, were not informed of the events described in the lawsuit, and would have taken action to safeguard the institution against the president’s alleged acts and omissions had they known of them.

In fact, the entire process of trustee oversight of Paige Patterson may become relevant to this case as it proceeds. With that in mind, you may consider the importance of turning over to Dr. Adam Greenway and the seminary’s legal counsel any exculpatory trustee correspondence or other records in your possession that might serve to bolster the seminary’s defense in this case.  Specifically, the seminary president and legal counsel should know the following:

  1. Did the seminary president ever communicate with trustee officers concerning misconduct by students and employees?
  2. Did the seminary president ever inform trustee officers of criminal investigations conducted against seminary students and/or employees?
  3. Did trustee officers ever express to each other concern about the president’s ethical management of the school?
  4. Did trustee officers ever express to other parties concern about the president’s ethical management of the school?

It is possible that each of you gentlemen may be deposed in a discovery phase or even be called as a trial witness should this case advance to that point. As former trustee chairmen, your testimony could serve to corroborate the seminary’s assertion that Leighton Paige Patterson exhibited a pattern of acting without trustee authorization, supervision, or notification.  On the other hand, your testimony could demonstrate that the former president was, in fact, acting fully within the scope of his employment and trustee officers were routinely apprised of matters like those described in the amended civil complaint.

As men who were elected by the Southern Baptist Convention and entrusted to safeguard the institution and not protect its former president, it is incumbent upon you to carefully compile all relevant communications and other records, disclose them to the current seminary president and legal counsel as soon as possible, and prepare yourselves to be fact witnesses in the case of Roe v. Patterson.

Until He comes,

The Baptist Blogger








A true homemaker has gone home


At 4:43 a.m. this past Saturday morning, my cell phone buzzed on the nightstand where it was charging after a long day of meetings in the Big Easy. It was a text message from a friend of nearly 25 years, Kentucky pastor and mission strategist Dr. C.B. Scott. The message didn’t mince words.  C.B. never does.

“Karen went to be with the Lord last evening,” he wrote. “Her suffering is over. Her race is run. She finished well.”

For more than two decades Karen battled multiple sclerosis, a progressively debilitating neurological disease that affects two to three times more women than men and cuts the average person’s life span short by as much as ten years. Every year, around 20,000 people die from complications associated with MS, and about 200 new patients are diagnosed every week in the United States.

I remember the first day I met Karen Scott. As a new student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, I went to the business office in Stealey Hall to pay the first installment on Fall 1996 tuition. Sitting behind the counter at her desk was a dark haired woman with big, kind eyes and a voice so soft you could barely hear her.

Karen had come to Southeastern with her husband, C.B., who was completing his M.Div. and concurrently working on campus in the department of plant services. Meeting Karen was a joy. Meeting C.B. the first time was unsettling, and perhaps intimidating. The two were a perfect complement to one another.

Some days after that while entering the Ledford Center, a stocky man with blonde-gray hair wearing a blue shirt and paint-stained pants stopped me between the double doors and abruptly announced, “You’re Ben Cole.”

“Yes,” I answered. “And who are you?”

“You’ll figure that out in time,” he responded. “I know who you are, and I’m watching you.”

He turned and exited the building, leaving me standing there in a state of confusion and concern. Was this man threatening? Did he intend me harm? Or was this some weird practical joke? I went immediately to an administrator’s office and described what had happened and profiled my then-anonymous would-be stalker.

“Oh, that’s just, C.B.,” I was told. “He’s harmless.”

And that’s the first and last time I regarded C.B. as harmless. In fact, he’s one of the most dangerous men I’ve ever met, not because he is deranged as a Southeastern trustee once alleged.  And not because he was physically threatening, as a Southeastern administrator once feared.

But C.B. is dangerous because his commitment to the truth is stronger than his impulse for self-preservation. When faced with the option of fight or flight, C.B. will always fight. Any man who hurts a child or hits a woman, can be assured that C.B. Scott will hunt them down till the day they are brought to justice. And by justice, C.B. is not just concerned about criminal justice. He’s concerned about eternal justice. Inside his belly is a unquenchable fire to protect innocence. His fists are solid steel, and he’s had to use them on more than one occasion to stop an attacker.

But as hard-scrabble and rawhide as C.B. is — and he’s never written a book on manhood because he didn’t have to — his wife, Karen, was the textbook definition of quiet grace. With C.B. by her side, she never had to fear for her safety or that of her children.

But with Karen at his side, C.B. never lost his bearings. To be honest, every demon in hell is probably afraid of C.B.  But the Devil himself was afraid of Karen.

Few people have prayed as consistently for so many people. Her handwritten notes of encouragement fill folders in my archives. For the past years as MS ripped into her body, Karen was less and less able to get out of the house. But she sat in her wheelchair, day after day, reading and studying God’s Word and writing little notes of encouragement to hundreds of people to whom she’s ministered as a pastor’s wife, seminary employee, denominational servant, and mentor.

The last time I called Karen was during the Southern Baptist Convention.  C.B. was in Birmingham for the annual meeting, and left Karen behind in Kentucky because she was still fairly able to take care of herself, though it was getting more difficult.

I gave her a blow-by-blow of what was going on at the convention, and then she asked me the question: “Is The Hat there?”

“Yes,” I told her, “The Hat is here with her lady’s maid and manservant.”

Karen laughed a little.

In the last 72 hours, I’ve gone back and read threads of messages Karen and I exchanged over Facebook in the last 12 years. We talked about C.B.’s termination from Southeastern Seminary because, in part, he stood up to administrators who had engineered an improper transfer of title for a 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix to a seminary official. We talked about his termination from a Baptist college in Georgia, also for standing up to a school official who was abusing both his office and his family.

We talked about Southwestern Seminary a good bit, and Karen was always on point to remind me of small details about the misuse of school funds — usually with documentation — and various instances of financial mismanagement and shady accounting.  On more than one occasion, Karen would fact check a claim in a draft blog post to ensure narrative accuracy. She was meticulously attuned to details, and never wanted the slightest exaggeration or misstatement to compromise the full force of truth told well.

And then, she would tell me how much she laughed at the way I was writing the story.

C.B. told me that in these last years, he could hear Karen from the next room laughing out loud at one post or another. “Get in here, C.B.,” she would call out from her office. “You’re not going to believe what Ben just posted. They’re really going to hate him now.”

These last few months, Karen was particularly chatty on Facebook. Like the time she found furniture online she considered purchasing for a home in Parker, Tex. Or the time she nearly overdosed on afternoon tea. Or when she got a chuckle out of thinking about all the staff it would take to keep the Sandy Creek Foundation mansion fully operational.

That last one really got to me.

Here was Karen, her body wasting away and wondering if she would have enough strength to draw her next breath and unable to walk at all, remembering how the former First Lady of Southwestern moaned and bellyached about ironing presidential shirts through arthritic pangs.

Side note: I’ve never seen C.B. Scott in a wrinkled shirt. And I’ve never seen an article about Karen’s homemaking prowess.

No, there will never be a building on Southeastern’s campus named for Karen Scott. And there won’t be a lecture series at a Georgia Baptist College named for her either. But she wouldn’t have wanted those things anyways. Her husband, her children, and her grandchildren are her true legacy. And they have all gathered in the mountains of Appalachia this week to say goodbye.

Tonight at the First Baptist Church of McDowell, K.Y., the family of Karen Scott will pay tribute to her life and remember her faith. Most importantly, they will pay tribute to the Lord who gave Karen the strength to stand alongside one of the strongest men many of us have ever known, and to do so while her own physical strength was fading day after day.

And from Nashville, Tenn., we have paused this afternoon to pay our own small tribute to Karen, and we’re hoping she will get one more good laugh.

In her honor, we have made today a small designated contribution to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The designation?

“To be used for the replacement of missing presidential home furnishings.”


Birmingham behind us, Part 2

Photo by Van Payne

Continued from Part 1

We arrived in Birmingham on a flight from DFW Airport that was loaded with Baptists heading to the annual convention. A few conversations at the gate and on the airplane centered on the LifeWay store closures, the sex abuse reporting in The Houston Chronicle, and of course, speculation about whether or not the Pattersons would venture to Alabama for the meeting.

Upon landing in Birmingham, we shared a cab with two Texas messengers traveling to the Sheraton and Westin hotels. After checking in and dropping our luggage, we quickly found a security guard at the convention center complex who directed us to a service entrance. For an hour or so, we wandered through the convention arena and exhibit spaces to get a lay of the land, stopping for a few moments to snap a few selfies.

Thus began a week wherein we walked a combined 27.6 miles according to the step counter application on our iPhone 8.  What follows is a summary of our thoughts on some of the week’s events, both on stage and back stage, at the Southern Baptist Convention. We will post our elaborations on each of the points below as time permits:

  • The President

    Last year, during the nomination speeches for SBC President, a Louisiana pastor assessed the kind of man who should lead the convention.  The election for president should not be, he said, “about our trying to make a statement to the younger generation.”Neither should the election be “about one candidate’s act of graciousness two years ago.” Southern Baptists needed a leader, Pastor Brad Jurkovich said, “who has the capacity, the wisdom, the experience, and the time it will take.” (emphasis in original)

    Well, congratulations Bradley. Southern Baptists got all of that and more, didn’t they?

    From the moment the lights in the Dallas convention center went off last year until the fall of the final gavel in Birmingham this month, J.D. Greear has demonstrated tremendous wisdom leading Southern Baptists. There is no telling the time he’s given to the task, and that during one of the more difficult periods of the SBC’s 174 year history.

    More than anything, there was a palpable sense in Birmingham that the messengers really like J.D. He pivots from prophet to pastor with natural ease. One moment he’s speaking hard truth to messengers who need to hear it.  The next, he’s weeping with abuse survivors and calling us all to do better. He’s pulling together Southern Baptists from every generation, every race, and every theological perspective. He’s providing a context in which we can discuss tough issues like a family.

    And he’s got a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face the whole time. You get the sense he’s loving it . . . but not because he loves the power or popularity. You get the sense that he just loves Southern Baptists, even with all our pettiness and stubbornness and yes, sinfulness. That he wants us — himself included — to love Jesus more.

    For a few minutes on Tuesday in the convention exhibit hall, I stood and talked with an older pastor who’s been attending the annual meeting since the early 1970s. He’s led small and large churches in Florida and Texas. He was there in Houston in 1979 and voted for Adrian Rogers. He thinks of himself as one of the guys who helped turn the convention back to biblical fidelity, and he’s proud of what Southern Baptists were able to accomplish.

    But the conservative resurgence, he told me, was never just about the Bible. It was about reaching the world for Christ. He told me that his main regret over the years is that the convention never seemed to get back on track with Bold Mission Thrust.

    This year, he told me, is the first time he’s felt like Southern Baptists were coming together again around the main thing. He was excited, visibly so. And his enthusiasm is contagious. There I stood talking to this 70-something retired minister holding a tote sack full of convention giveaways and thinking how many more of him are out there, still believing the Bible and waiting for Southern Baptists to get as worked up about reaching the world for Christ as they do Beth Moore speaking in a church on Sunday or intersectionality or some other word nobody seems to know what it means.

    Later that evening, I saw that same pastor walking with his wife into the Sheraton Hotel. Their pace was slow but steady. They were holding hands.

    For a moment, they looked something to me like Anna and Simeon might have looked to Mary and Joseph in the Temple courts: two aging, faithful servants of of the Lord who’ve been praying for the promised salvation of Israel and waiting to see the light of revelation to the Gentiles.

    And I had a sense that maybe, this year, they were joyous that finally — after a long, long wait — Southern Baptists are really putting the Gospel Above All.

    For that, we can all thank the Lord for J.D. Greear.

  • The Theme.

    Convention themes go largely unnoticed, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some are more memorable than others, but most are not very memorable or even clever. Some are memorable only insofar as they are alliterative phrases devoid of any substantial meaning.  Take “Love Loud,” for instance. What does that even mean?  Then of course, we had the Great Awakening of 2015 followed by Awaken America of 2016.

    Presumably we are now fully awake.

    In the last 24 hours, we’ve asked five former convention presidents if they remember their own convention themes from the years when they presided over the annual meeting.

    Not a single one could remember their convention themes. That’s not an indictment, just a reality. Life goes on, and we forget things.

    It’s going to be hard to forget the theme J.D. Greear picked for this year’s convention: “Gospel Above All.”  It’s hard to forget because unlike “Love Loud” (shouldn’t it be “Love Loudly,” now that we think about it?), it communicates in three simple words the heartbeat of Southern Baptist churches. It is both descriptive and prescriptive. It’s foundational and aspirational.

    J.D. has basically staked out for the convention, “Look, here’s who we are. And this is all that matters.”

    I feel sorry for subsequent convention presidents in this respect: How will they contrive a theme that can rival “Gospel Above All” for its profound simplicity? In fact, it may be time for the SBC to adopt “Gospel Above All” as a mission statement for the entire denomination.

    In any event, we’re hoping J.D. keeps the theme for the 2020 convention in Orlando.

  • Rules of Order and Parliamentarians

    This year’s convention was truncated. continuing a trend begun in 1998 when convention messengers approved a bylaw amendment to reduce the convention from its Tues-Weds-Thurs schedule to a reduced two day Tues-Weds schedule. At the time, the Executive Committee study group reported the proposed change would provide “no financial cost savings.” Instead the decision was driven by the reality that messengers were leaving before the Thursday session, resulting in poor attendance and the possibility that a quorum (25 percent of registered messengers) would not be present.

    Additionally, the structural changes that reduced the number of entities meant fewer reports. The committee also noted that the convention messengers no longer needed a report from denominational press because that material could be included in the report of the Executive Committee.

    Side note: We think the convention should start receiving a report from Baptist Press, and the editor of Baptist Press should be required to answer questions from messengers. Orlando, here we come!

    This year, J.D. Greear and Adam Greenway, chairman of the Committee on Order of Business, worked to tighten the convention schedule even more by eliminating evening sessions altogether. The result put the report of the Resolutions Committee late in the date on Wednesday, just before the final gavel.

    This was a bad idea, but more about that when we discuss the Resolutions Committee. Needless to say, the tighter convention schedule coupled with the LONG walks it took to get around necessitated careful time management and a brisk gait.

    Generally, the convention parliamentarians handled the flow of business commendably, though there were a few times where it seemed that J.D. Greear knew better what was happening on the convention floor than did his parliamentary advisors.

    Years ago, we remember sitting in the House Chamber in Washington D.C. during floor debates on various rules that precede votes on legislation. For Washington insiders, it is the rule debate that gets interesting as both the Republican and Democratic leaders on the powerful House Rules Committee hammer out the contours of the debate that will follow on the legislation under consideration.

    It was truly our favorite time to be a Congressional staffer. Sitting on the House Floor with a powerful Republican chairman, waiting for the rule debate to conclude so we could proceed to consideration of a bill. Quarterbacking the Republican agenda was the Rules Committee chairman, Rep. David Dreier. For the Democrats, a genteel Kentuckian-turned-New Yorker, the late Rep. Louise Slaughter.

    On more than one occasion, we watched while Chairman Dreier dismissed the staff parliamentarians and managed the rule on his own. What followed was a free-wheeling, but always sharp and clever congressional sparring between two astute and ever-polite legislators. We remember sensing the deflated ego of staff parliamentarians who sat down slump-shouldered at the realization that their “services” were not really needed by Chairman Dreier, who was himself a master of parliamentary finesse and decorum.

    But Dreier had an innate sense of political optics. He would stand there, alone, tall and crisp, while the Democrats huddled together on the other side of the aisle with teams of staffers trying to keep up with the legendary Rules Chairman. It was a spectacle we shall not soon forget.

    Lesson here: the man who knows the rules best usually wins the day.

    J.D. Greear and Adam Greenway have both proven themselves to be masterful in this regard. Greear, with his ear and eye attuned to the mood of the messengers and Greenway with his deep respect for procedural accuracy proved a dynamic pair that left the parliamentarians doing what they should do — providing advice when asked, but not tipping the scales through backroom machinations or involving themselves in the debate itself.

    Which is why parliamentarians should not use Twitter during the annual meeting, and most certainly not re-Tweet endorsements of matters before the convention offered by entity presidents.

    Next year, the Committee on Order of Business would do well to ensure that there is sufficient time to conduct all business, even if that means working with the Resolutions Committee to make sure they don’t try to shoehorn 20,000 words of resolutions on complex matters into 40 minutes of program scheduling.

  • The Resolutions Committee
  • Wade Burleson’s motion
  • Morris Chapman’s motion
  • Our motion
  • The Seminaries
  • The Missionaries
  • The Publisher
  • The Voices
  • The Debate
  • The Sermon
  • The Question (that wasn’t asked)
  • The Credentials Committee
  • The Executive Committee
  • Our favorite part of the 2019 convention

Birmingham behind us, Part 1


“Break her down.”

We will never forget where we sat when we first read those words. At the Ebenezer Coffee Shop — a ministry of an evangelical church in Washington, D.C. — we sat at a small table drinking an iced coffee, putting together final plans for a trip to Scotland, and reading the news.

In a statement from Southwestern Trustee Chairman Kevin Ueckert, the seminary reported the contents of a 2015 email from then-SWBTS President Paige Patterson in which he instructed campus security to bring a rape victim alone to his office so he could “break her down.”

Now we’ve read plenty of Patterson’s words before. Dispersed throughout the SBC in various archives, libraries, and private collections are emails, letters, handwritten notes, and epistles of a seemingly self-important apostolic authority written to everyone from family members to former students and faculty. There are even letters to presidents, governors, prime ministers, state legislators, and members of the United States Congress.

There are even letters where he joked about beating his own wife.

But nothing, we mean nothing, hit with the breathtaking thud of the “break her down” email. What sort of man born of woman thinks such things, let alone fires them off to campus security about a rape victim. The collective gasp heard round the convention and across the evangelical world could have been measured on the Richter scale.

And yet, nobody should have been surprised. For years, abuse survivors had been asking for greater scrutiny of Patterson’s handling of past rape cases. But they were dismissed as “evil doers” and “opportunists.”

One year ago, the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention was set to give Paige and Dorothy Patterson their proverbial Golden Jubilee, complete with a prime-time convention sermon for him, the report of the Evangelism Task Force, and a post-convention celebration on the Fort Worth campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. And, of course, an afternoon tea event.

But the much-hyped Patterparty — like enrollment projections at Southwestern for the past sixteen years — never materialized.

By the time the convention rolled around, Patterson had begrudgingly declined the speaking engagement, resigned from the Evangelism Task Force, and Southwestern cancelled all campus events. From our modest cottage overlooking the coastal hamlet of Port Askaig on the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, we streamed the Dallas convention in real time. We watched it all from gavel to gavel, in between distillery tours and sundry ribaldries with local Islay folk and a band of bachelor partying brothers.

We watched as J.D. Greear won a stunning victory for the convention presidency over Dr. Ken Hemphill, whose honorable pursuit of the Broadus gavel was regrettably moored to the dishonorable actions of a few Louisiana-based campaign bunglers. We watched as the convention batted down clumsy efforts to relitigate Patterson’s ouster and shame the seminary trustees. We watched the floor debate, the resolutions, the speeches and entity reports.

And we determined that this year, in Birmingham, we would attend the annual convention as a messenger for the first time since 2008 to get a glimpse, up close and personal, of what the SBC could look like if the gospel — truly — were above all. That is to say if the convention was a place where petty side squabbles gave way to Christ-centered worship and transparent reporting.

And a place where women and their ministry gifts were affirmed. Where churches said with one voice to those who have abused and covered up abuse, “Time’s up.”

In the weeks leading up to Birmingham, the possibility emerged that J.D. Greear’s noble aspiration for gospel focus might be sidelined. This time, the threat came not by abusive kleptocratic fundamentalists in Texas but by complementarians of the Lilliputian variety and a handful of unreconstructed Dortians who think the Communist Manifesto, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Living Proof Ministries are adjacent links in an unbroken heterodox chain within Southern Baptist life. By the first week in June, however, it seemed the fuss was dying down.

For the most part.

Indeed, as Southern Baptists arrived in Birmingham there was a sense of cautious optimism among attentive messengers that this year — the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the Conservative Resurgence — would bring a needed reprieve from decades of tribal squabbling and petty doctrinal recriminations.

To be continued . . .



100 days

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Today marks 100 days since Dr. Adam Greenway assumed the presidency of a seminary in steady decline. By every measure, he’s made bold, sweeping moves to get the school back on track, reinforce its historic mission and gospel-centered culture, and realign the school with the values and vision of most Southern Baptists. With Dr. Randy Stinson helping lay the groundwork for a renewed academic framework, Greenway has jettisoned both programs and personnel that needed to go.

And he got rid of those stinking windows. Let all God’s people say, “Amen.”

Had we been advising Dr. Greenway, we would have urged him to replace every dean at the school except Dr. Jeffrey Bingham, whose steady hand and gentle spirit guided the school successfully in the interim. One of those deans, Dr. Waylan Owens, hastily departed last summer after questions arose concerning his academic qualifications and administrative competence. The Terry School of Educational Ministries is now led by its namesake, Dr. Jack Terry, until a permanent dean is named.

The Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions has been led since its founding by Dr. Keith Eitel, a longtime associate of Southwestern’s former president, Paige Patterson, and perennial candidate to lead the International Mission Board during many past presidential searches. Eitel has been at Patterson’s side for more than thirty years, helping with everything from the Darrell Gilyard matter in the early 1990s to the anti-Rankin denominational espionage efforts of the mid-2000s.

As of today, Dr. Eitel is no longer the dean of the school. Within weeks, he will no longer be an employee of the seminary. We wish him well in his next ministry venture and encourage him to never again make secret recordings of his phone calls and personal conversations.

The talented worship leader, Dr. Leo Day, has been reassigned from his deanship of the School of Church Music to a new post as director of the Southwestern Center for the Arts. This new role will allow Dr. Day to continue service to Southwestern in a way that better suits his ministry gifts and resolves escalating internal administrative conflicts that have plagued the school under his tenure.  Dr. Joseph Crider will now lead the church music school on an interim basis until he is formally elected by the trustees later this year.

Dr. Terri Stovall, the capable dean of women’s programs, has been elevated to a more strategic position within the seminary as the Dean of Women.  In this respect, Greenway has reclaimed a Southwestern tradition and reaffirmed that the Fort Worth school — under his leadership — will be a safe place for women to study, flourish, and refine ministry skills in pursuit of God’s calling on their lives.

Note: The Dorothy Patterson Chair of Women’s Studies remains vacant following the termination of Dr. Candi Finch last Fall. It will surely take time before Greenway can find a woman adequate to fill that seat, if ever.

The Houston campus has now been sold, and there will no longer be a dean needed to serve that campus. The last dean — and its inaugural dean — retired last summer. Dr. Denny Autrey, who served on the search committee that recommended Paige Patterson, was never quite able to lead the Houston campus successfully, and the need for a dedicated facility evaporated years ago under his guidance.

Other than the School of Theology, one of the seminary’s other seven academic divisions remains under the deanship of a longtime Patterson associate, Dr. David Allen. In many ways, Dr. Allen serves as the litmus test for the Southwestern faculty and either an important ally for seminary’s future or a dispensable impediment.

If Allen is able to distance himself from the Patterson regime and fall in line behind Greenway, he may prove that his dedication to the seminary and her students supersedes his personal loyalties and persistent defense of a president who “broke down” women, wasted millions on bogus antiquities, stripped faculty of retirement benefits, mishandled sexual assaults, constructed monuments to himself, and now goes about attempting to undermine the new administration and recruit donors away from the school.

Yes, David Allen is one of Patterson’s chief enablers. He always was, and it remains to be seen if he shall persist as such.

Incidentally, it was David Allen who originally supported the hiring of Dr. Sheri Klouda, only to turn his back on the Old Testament professor and back Patterson’s efforts to ruin her career. It was David Allen who chaired the trustee board when Patterson was hired. It was David Allen who was awarded the theology school deanship upon Patterson’s election.  It was David Allen, who at Patterson’s behest, impeded the work of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force (go check out the Johnny Hunt archives in Nashville for proof). And it was David Allen who posted blogs, tweeted, liked and circulated pro-Patterson propaganda on social media even as the lies and cover-ups came to light.

At the moment, Greenway has not signaled any intention to replace Allen as dean of the School of Preaching. If ever there were a remaining faculty member at the school who is being shown grace to bear fruits worthy of repentance and get in line behind the school’s new president, it is he.

We have our doubts, but we’re choosing to follow Greenway’s lead on this one and give time and space for Allen to prove the value of his continued contribution to the school. But thirty years of blind loyalties and open-eyed complicities will take more than three months to undo. So we are waiting . . . and watching.

Now for a bit of history.

By the time the allied tanks rolled into Berlin in the spring of 1945, the senior officers of the Third Reich had largely dispersed throughout the world. A great many of them landed in places like Buenos Aires, Santiago, and Rio de Janeiro. Within weeks of the end of World War II, a Holocaust survivor named Simon Wiesenthal had compiled a list of hundreds of Nazi war criminals to bring to justice. At the top of that list were senior lieutenants like Adolph Eichmann and Josef Mengele.

For years, Wiesenthal worked with United States spy agencies and Israel’s Mossad to bring these men to justice. He stalked them in hamlets and jungles; he rounded them up one by one and hauled them to Berlin or Munich or Jerusalem to face charges for their evil acts. In the late 1970s, Holocaust survivors founded the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles and worked to remove all statutes of limitations for Nazi war criminals.

With the help of the Wiesenthal Center, the Trump administration did last year what neither the Obama nor the Bush nor Clinton administrations were willing to do.  They arrested the last Nazi living in the United States and deported him — at age 94 — to stand trial for his crimes. He died earlier this year in Germany.

Several months ago, we were contacted by a colleague of David Allen’s and asked what we wanted to see done about his continued leadership at Southwestern.

“Southern Baptists don’t need a Simon Wiesenthal Center,” we responded. “The men who gave cover for the atrocities of the Patterson era should be given an opportunity to come clean and spend their remaining days doing right things and correcting wrong things.”

As Southern Baptists prepare to converge on Birmingham, we can all be grateful for the dramatic changes that have occurred at Southwestern in the past 100 days. But we should be cautiously optimistic that men like David Allen will align their ministry focus to support the school that once was and is fast becoming again, rather than use their ongoing influence at Southwestern to whitewash a fifteen year legacy of abuse they helped create and sustain.