The Decision to Build Southwestern Theological Seminary President and First Lady Paige and Dorothy Patterson’s Retirement Home on School Property is Stirring Up Controversy in Baptist Circles

Sketch of the Patterson’s Retirement Home

Dr. Paige Patterson and his wife Dorothy, nearing retirement as President and First Lady of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, are having their retirement home built on the seminary property.


The decision by the Executive Committee of Southwestern Theological Seminary’s trustees to allow the Pattersons to live out their retirement years on the grounds of SWBTS needs to be questioned by the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention for many reasons.

Before articulating these reasons, let me state that I personally like Paige and Dorothy Patterson. I’ve found them to be hospitable hosts, zealous for evangelism, and filled with humor. It’s no secret that I have challenged Dr. Patterson on several fronts, including allowing a practicing Muslim entrance to the Seminary in violation of both the seminary’s charter and purpose, firing the finest Hebrew professor in the Southern Baptist Convention “because she was female,” and various other issues over the years.

Differing on principles does not equate to disliking the persons.

On many occasions, there have been professors, trustees, students, and graduates of Southwestern Theological Seminary who have contacted me with concerns. I have declined to say or write anything about several issues brought to my attention. This post is written not because I do not wish the Pattersons to live out their golden years in comfort, but rather, I and many others believe the decision to allow them to live on school property is troublesome on several fronts.

1. The controversial decision to allow the Pattersons to live on SWBTS’s campus after retirement has been driven by Dr. Patterson and voted on in secret by the Executive Committee of the seminary’s trustees, not during open plenary sessions of all trustees. 

A former chairman of the trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary let it be known that “The retirement home for the Pattersons will not be built on school property during my watch.”

Dr. Patterson waited until that man’s watch ticked out.

Whether the current trustee chairman,  Dr. Kevin Ueckert of FBC Georgetown, Texas, is in favor of the Patterson retirement home being built on school property under his watch, is a matter open for discussion. However, if the decision was made during an Executive Session by the Executive Committee of the SWBTS trustees, then one would assume the chairman voted “Yes.”

On January 31, 2018, I contacted Dr. Ueckert via Messenger and asked him several questions. To date, I’ve not received any responses to my questions. The current chairman is a young pastor, a graduate of Southwestern Theological Seminary, and he has a long pastoral career in front of him.

Interestingly, on February 6, 2018, one week after my queries, the Southern Baptist Texan, the Southern Baptists in Texas conservative newsletter, led by Jim Richards, friend to Paige Patterson, posted a long interview with Dr. Paige Patterson where a handful of my questions were answered, raising even more concerns.

The article states that “this vision was planted a long while back by an idea a trustee (had) at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary where Patterson was president.”

Notice the directional change. The idea began at Southeastern and finds fruition at Southwestern.

What idea was planted at Southeastern? The article continues:

“Phillip Mercer and his wife wanted to build the Pattersons a retirement home – anywhere.”

That retirement home is being built on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Unfortunately, when the trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary voted on building the retirement home over a year ago, the seminary trustees gave the impression that they were approving a $2.5 million dollar Baptist Heritage Center to archive materials, libraries, and collections of famous Southern Baptists, and possibly have rooms to temporarily house a few missionaries on furlough or who were visiting SWBTS. At the time, the trustees either intentionally refused to address and vote on whether the Pattersons should live in the Baptist Heritage Center during open session, or even worse, were never made aware of the true use of the proposed building.

There is no public record of the trustees approving this building as the Patterson’s retirement home. The trustees are obligated to report such actions made during their plenary sessions to the Southern Baptist Convention. There has never been a report to the Southern Baptist Convention that this decision to build a retirement home for the Pattersons on school property was made by the trustees.
Interestingly, on Wednesday, February 7, 2018, SBC This Week published an article entitled “Patterson Discusses Retirement Plans” and made this incredible statement (emphasis mine):

“While not announced in the trustee meeting recap, the Southwestern executive committee of the trustee board officially extended an invitation in September 2017 for the Pattersons to reside in the Baptist Heritage Center as its first theologians-in-residence at a time to be determined later.”

Let that sink in. Behind closed doors. In Executive Session. No reporting of the decision to the Southern Baptist Convention. Trustee boards are supposed to be transparent.

Someone has rightly said, “We are only as sick as our secrets.” Our convention will never be healthy and Kingdom-minded as long as we allow a decision like this to be made behind closed doors.
Yesterday (February 7, 2018), Baptist Press issued a statement from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary entitled Conservative Resurgence Archives To Be Housed at New SWBTS Center.” 
 
It seems that since I have begun privately asking questions of leadership, SWBTS is now making public that, indeed, Dr. and Mrs. Patterson will be living out their retirement years on the property of Southwestern Theological Seminary. However, in finally making public this decision which the seminary trustee executive committee made in private, the seminary’s public relations department is emphasizing “This will be a Baptist Heritage Center.”
No, it’s not. It’s a retirement home.

If it is truly a Baptist Heritage Center, then the Pattersons would not be living in it.

2. The decision to construct the Patterson retirement home on the property of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary property must be addressed by the Southern Baptist Convention. 
A healthy minority of SWBTS trustees are embarrassed – borderline angry – that the Pattersons have been granted by the trustee executive committee the right to live out their retirement years among facilities paid for by over $372,000,000 Cooperative Program dollars. That’s correct. The Southern Baptist Convention has forwarded to Southwestern Theological Seminary over $372 million Cooperative Program dollars since the founding of the seminary.
The Southern Baptist Convention should have a say whether or not a retirement home for a former president should be built on institutional grounds. The trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary are accountable to the SBC, not the President of the institution they serve. The President is supposed to work for them; not the other way around.

Can the seminary’s trustees make these kinds of decisions without approval of the Southern Baptist Convention? Of course. But as stated above, this decision should have been debated during open forum plenary trustee sessions, should have been voted upon and votes recorded in the minutes, and those minutes should have been reported out to the Southern Baptist Convention in the recap of the trustee plenary sessions.

Institutional trustees answer to the Southern Baptist Convention. When there is transparency and accountability like there is supposed to be at our convention, the process actually works.

This matter should be addressed by messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention this June in Dallas, Texas. The secrecy of the decision is troublesome enough, but in the long run, the precedent set by this decision may cause even more, unexpected problems in the future.
3.  Having a former president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary on the property during the tenure of a new president is unhealthy for the institution on several fronts. 

a. Ask any new pastor if he wants the former pastor officing next door to him?

b. Ask Paige Patterson if he would have wanted Ken Hemphill living on school property when he took over?  There may be some real irony here in that Dr. Ken Hemphill is running for President of the Southern Baptist Convention, and will be voted on this June in Dallas, Texas.

c. Ask any church if they think it would be wise to build a second parsonage for their retiring pastor, next door to the current parsonage which will house the “yet to be named” new pastor?

d. Ask any newly married woman if it’s wise for her husband to build a home for his ex-girlfriend next door to the couples’ home?

Dr. Patterson’s friend told him he would build him a retirement home anywhere.
 
Anywhere. Last time I checked, anywhere meant anywhere.
Why in the name of the Southern Baptist Convention is it being built on the property of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary?
4. If a court finds Paige Patterson guilty of conspiring to cover-up a sexual assault, are the Pattersons asked to leave, and are stained glass windows removed?
Last December 27, 2017, Paul Pressler was accused in a lawsuit, filed in Harris County court, of sexually assaulting Gareld Duane Rollins, Jr., beginning in 1979 when Rollins was 14-years-old. The suit alleges decades of molestation and sexual abuse.
The suit also names Paige Patterson in the lawsuit. Rollins alleges that Paige was knowledgeable of the abuse and helped cover it up. The victim is seeking over $1 million dollars in damages.
On at least one mission trip overseas, Dr. Patterson and Dorothy Patterson were present with Paul Pressler and young Gareld Rollins. The Texas Monitor is reporting on this case with regularity.
I have no knowledge of whether or not the claims in the lawsuit have merit, but reading the actual papers filed makes one’s stomach turn.
Suppose that a jury or a judge finds Dr. and Mrs. Patterson guilty of conspiring to cover-up sexual molestation of a minor. Will the Southern Baptist Convention or Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary like having the Pattersons living in their retirement house on school property?
Again, whether or not the Pattersons are guilty is not the issue.
One should always be careful before placing stained glass windows of living people in places of worship.

Stains come other ways than just in glass.

5. The Southern Baptist Convention is constitutionally controlled by the people.
 
If this home is brought to completion in the fall of 2018, and if the Pattersons move into that home, the Southern Baptist Convention will have nobody to blame but ourselves.
The trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary are accountable to the convention, which means us.
I want the Patterson’s to have their retirement home. I am appreciative of generous, kind Southern Baptist benefactors who desire the Patterson’s to have a home of their own during retirement.
 
That home should not be on the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary school property.
You may contact the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention to obtain the names, address, and contact information for the trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
SOURCE: Istoria Ministries – Wade Burleson