Something very strange and bizarre is happening at Southwestern and Southern Baptists should intervene before we lose our seminary to evangelical irrelevancy.
Paige Patterson, President of Southwestern Theological Seminary, ordered his admissions office in 2012, in violation of the school charter and the Southern Baptist Convention's mandate for theological training, to allow the admission of a professing, devout Muslim into the School of Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. This is a very serious issue which must be addressed by the Southern Baptist Convention.
The campus is abuzz. Many faculty are upset. Yet, most are afraid to say anything because of 'repercussions.' I've been told by students, "I don't want my transcripts blocked for speaking out" and many of the faculty are concerned for their jobs. All the while, Dr. Patterson acts as if there is nothing wrong with Southern Baptists, through the Cooperative Program, funding the theological education of practicing Muslims. He is intending to enroll a father/son Muslim team in the near future. Dr. Patterson is turning SWBTS is school without Christian distinctive. I find it ironic that he fired Dr. Sherry Klouda for teaching Hebrew because she 'was a woman', and argued before the courts that Southwestern was 'a church' and that the courts had no business ruling on gender roles within ecclesiastical institutions. Using Dr. Patterson's same argument, I have a question for him: Would a Southern Baptist pastor allow a member into his church who refuses to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?
Ironically, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's own policy forbids enrolling anyone who refuses to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior! If one goes to the Admissions Page for Southwestern Theological Seminary and starts the process of enrollment into the Ph.D. program at the School of Theology. On page 5 the application form requests that the applicant "explain your decision to follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior." The admissions office informs the applicant that his or her answer to this question will be very important as to whether or not the applicant is allowed to enroll at Southwestern. The application for admission puts it like this:
"Southwestern is charged with equipping called men and women for effective Kingdom Service. The Admissions Committee is especially interested in reading about your commitment to Christ and plans for Christian service."
So, Paige Patterson ordered his admissions staff to act contrary to the school's policy and charter, the will of the Southern Baptist Convention, and possibly to even contrary to the will of his own trustees (?). The admission of a practicing Muslim who prays toward Mecca five times a day, who refuses to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and who will leave the School of Theology and presumably work against the good news of Jesus Christ is something that should concern every Southern Baptist who funds theological education with Cooperative Program money.
We Southern Baptists believe in freedom. We believe that Muslims should have the right to believe
This issue is one of integrity and ethics, and if not addressed, ultimately an issue of power. Who actually determines how the Southern Baptist Convention will conduct ourselves? Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is becoming something other than Southern Baptists intended at its formation in 1908. When faculty members are afraid to speak up over a violation of school policy and charter requirements because of a fear of firing, then "Fort Worth, we have a problem."
Dr. Craig Mitchell, Director of the Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement (see picture to the left). Dr. Mitchell, the first African American ever appointed to head an institution of the Southern Baptist Convention, was released by Patterson's fiat. Dr. Mitchell testified before Congress in 2012 regarding the ethical dilemma of ObamaCare providing for abortions. Dr. Mitchell is a product of a Southern Baptist Theological education, well-liked by students and faculty alike, and has a national reputation for scholarship and excellence. I have not yet spoken to Dr. Mitchell. I do know Dr. Mitchell's firing has not been publicized, nor has his bio been removed (as of Friday, May 16, 2014), from Southwestern's web page, but that will probably change by this weekend. I found out through friends of Dr. Patterson that they were told by the President of SWBTS of his firing. Here is what I don't understand. The President of a theological institution is firing the Director of his Center for Cultural Engagement for allegedly making a 'joke' on his Facebook account (something like "if you have to spend thirty minutes putting your make-up on, you are probably too ugly to begin with") and three other allegations just as strange, yet at the same time, the SWBTS President is secretly--and against the will of the Convention and stated policies of his own school--mandating the theological education (and funding) of a practicing Muslim by the School of Theology. Maybe the wrong person was fired last week.
A friend suggested to me that I should give Paige Patterson the benefit of the doubt regarding Ghassan Sa'id _______. He said "the last two declared Muslims Paige Patterson brought under his patronage turned out not to be Muslims at all." Humor aside, the Islamic faith of Ghassan Sa'id ______ seems very real. Let me illustrate.
At a prayer meeting this past fall, several International Mission Board missionaries and employees from foreign countries were invited to participate, along with students at Southwestern Theological Seminary. As introductions were being made, Ghassan introduced himself as "a Muslim" at Southwestern. Thinking that he had said "a minister to Muslims," one of our IMB missionaries responded, "And where do you minister to Muslims?" Ghassan responded, "No, I AM a Muslim. I believe there is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet." Immediately, our IMB missionaries began removing their name tags. Some of those missionaries were in Security Three zones where their very identity is supposed to be protected. (Editor's note: The previous anecdote is summary of what was told me by two people at the meeting).
I believe Dr. Paige Patterson's leadership can be faulted on the grounds of ethics. He is bypassing the rule of those who govern him (trustees), threatening those who work for him if they dare question his decision to admit Muslims to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Maybe he's hoping that the people of the Southern Baptist Convention will not care what he does because he is "Paige Patterson."
Well, I care. My church cares. You, too, should care. I plan to be in Baltimore for the Southern Baptist Convention to ask other Southern Baptists their feelings about having their Cooperative Program dollars pay for the education of Muslims at Southwestern Seminary.
It's time someone holds Dr. Patterson accountable for his actions.