In a contracting economy Southern Baptist churches and agencies must tighten the fiscal belt. Though God has promised to provide every need for His people, during recessionary periods it is prudent for Christians to place wants and desires in the back seat in order to ensure that the money provided by God to meet needs is not diverted to fulfill personal whims of those in charge. If a Southern Baptist church or institution ever makes the mistake of whittling expenses by firing staff, forcing the early retirement of older employees, and cutting salaries of low end employees while continuing to provide extravagant perks and luxuries for the pastor or president, then trouble for the church or institution looms.
There is no better illustration of this principle at work among Southern Baptists than what is now happening at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
(1). The seminary must cut more than $4 million dollars this budget year and even more for the next fiscal year.
(2). Numerous staff were laid off the week before Thanksgiving. Most of those laid off were staff who had been at SWBTS for a number of years. They were let go and less experienced, less expensive staff were kept. For example, in the financial aid office, the director who had been at SWBTS a number of years was let go and the associate director who had been at SWBTS since May 2008 was promoted to director.
(3). Professors who did not have ten students enrolled for their classes for the spring 2009 semester had those classes cut, thereby costing the professors about $2,000 per class.
(4). In a meeting on Thursday, Dec. 4th, SWBTS administration announced that there would be "significant layoffs" of more staff and additional professors in January and February. The administration is pressuring older professors to retire early so that there will be less layoffs. The number of those who voluntarily retire will determine how many are laid off. Those terminated will be dismissed at the discretion of the President of SWBTS. One of the professors asked the administrators if Dr. Patterson had the authority to lay off the professors, or was he required to obtain trustee approval? SWBTS administrators skirted around the question, but implied that the trustees would need to approve the cuts. Many professors, however, left with the impression that President Patterson could lay off professors without trustee approval since employees had been told the cuts would be made in January and February, and the next scheduled trustee meeting will not be held until March 2009. Administrators also made it known that there will also be a number of staff let go. In one school alone, five secretaries will be laid off, though those secretaries have not yet been informed.
(5). Dr. Patterson sent out an email prior to the New Year notifying faculty and career staff that starting in January 2009 the seminary would not be paying retirement, and this reduction in benefits would last at least for all of 2009 and more than likely through 2011. This will cost each professor on average $700 each month - a total of $8,400 per year.
(6). SWBTS also announced on Dec. 12th that the Naylor Children's Center will close. Naylor is a full-time daycare for students and working parents who are members of the seminary family. 41 people currently work at the center and will lose their jobs and approximately 100 parents will be forced to find other daycare facilities that will be much more expensive than what families paid at the Naylor center.
(7). While SWBTS staff and faculty are being laid off and salaries reduced, the Pattersons continue to maintain a large personal staff. Mrs. Patterson has an assistant and a research assistant. Dr. Patterson has an executive assistant, secretary, personal assistant, and four interns. The Pattersons also have a large staff at their house. They have employeed at least one chef, though it is widely believed there are at least two chefs, possibly more, on the payroll. There are a minimum of four hostesses/servers, a director for the Presidential house, two people who are paid to walk their dogs, and other staff paid to clean their cars and do other household chores and errands for the Pattersons.
(8). Dr. Patterson has also taken numerous trips the past 3 or 4 months, no doubt spending budget dollars on airfare, lodging, etc. Dr. Patterson, Mrs. Patterson and Dr. Blasing all recently flew to Germany to visit the SWBTS campus there. While Dr. Blasing only went for the weekend, the Patterson's stayed for an additional week.
(9). The seminary spent thousands of dollars on the 100th anniversary celebration last year. This included buying Dr. Patterson an "unbelievably expensive" pair of custom made boots. The SWBTS budget also bought all professors black Stetson cowboy hats, as pictured by Dr. Patterson above.
(10). Enrollment continues to decline, but the numbers being presented to the public make it appear better than it really is because the numbers no longer include only full-time students, but anyone who simply takes a course from SWBTS.
When I begin to hear from faculty, staff and students at SWBTS then it should be obvious that trouble is on the horizon at SWBTS. What really bothers staff and faculty is the fact that people are losing their jobs, losing their retirement, losing their benefits, etc . . . but the Pattersons still have high end luxuries and expensive perks. The anger, in my opinion, is justified. During tough times, the person who should take the biggest financial hit is the one in charge.
If trustees at SWBTS do not do something quickly, the future could be very dark for SWBTS.
In His Grace,