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.
“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.
If it is truly a Baptist Heritage Center, then the Pattersons would not be living in it.
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.
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?
Stains come other ways than just in glass.
More to come.