This week, the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Board of Trustees issued a statement in support of Drs. Paige and Dorothy Patterson. Professional writers will tell you that when an institution releases a public press statement, exclamation points should be avoided at all costs. Take a moment and read the White House press statements this past week. If you were to take the time to go back through the past year you would not find one exclamation point.
In the public press release issued by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary there were three statements with exclamation points.
We cannot conceive how anyone can be any more open and honest than is Dr. Patterson!
A contribution given to SWBTS is a wise investment in God’s kingdom work!
Our Baptist forbearers were wise to set up the trustee system that Southern Baptists have in place. It works extremely well!
The trustees may feel all the above about their President and First Lady, financial gifts to Southwestern, and their role as trustees of the institution, but it would be wise to present their feelings without exlamation or overstatement. Why?
(1). Recent experiences at the North American Mission Board, the Baptist General Convention of Arizona, and other Baptist instutions and agencies show us that sometimes the trustee system can fail Southern Baptists - especially if trustees lose sight of their impartial and objective role of oversight and accountability.
(2). The public proclamation that trustees cannot conceive of anyone more 'open' and 'honest' than their President is unwise. Besides the obvious that every trustee ought to conceive of Christ as more open and honest, a Messiah-like acceptance of the character of their President places them in a very awkward position when it comes time to ask hard questions. Read carefully: I am not saying the President of SWBTS is not open and honest - I am saying that trustees of SWBTS should refrain from making such statements as long as they sit in a role of fiduciary accountability and institutional oversight. Something like: 'The office of President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary demands integrity and we, the trustees of SWBTS, demand complete openness and honesty from our President. We have no reason to believe that our President has not met our expectations.'
(3). A student at Southwestern in the late 1990's, named Paul B., took another portion of this week's Statement of Support, simply changed the names and wrote:
"We believe that the incessant public attacks on Dr. and Mrs. Russell Dilday and other Baptist leaders of late are harmful to our mission of reaching the world with the Gospel. What the world, both Christians and non-Christians, sees is not Christ-like. Indeed, some of the actions are contrary to what the Bible teaches"
Southern Baptists would do well to remember that our institutions belong to the people of the Southern Baptist Convention. The cooperative ministries of 45,000 Southern Baptist Churches are not the personal kingdoms of individuals. Those ministries, whether they be the mission boards, the seminaries, or any other agency involved in kingdom work belong to the people.
Trustees would do well to remember that the Southern Baptist people are watching. We are interested in kingdom work. We are interested in reaching people for Christ. We are interested in our SBC institutions being governed by impartial, objective Southern Baptists who serve as trustees of the Southern Baptist Convention at large. We are not interested in favoritism, cronyism, or protectionism of personal kingdoms.
We are all better off when we leave out the exclamation points.
In His Grace,