"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

When Power Is Absolute: What Can't He Do?

SWBTS Chapel Window
When President Paige Patterson ordered the admissions office of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth to allow a practicing Muslim to enroll in the School of Theology, enabling him to pursue a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies with an emphasis in archaeology, Dr. Patterson violated the SWBT's written requirements regarding admissions. Christianity Today points out that Southwestern's stated policies and procedures require the prospective student   (1). to possess mature Christian character, (2). give evidence of a desire for Christian ministry (shown through the application process), (3). have a record of active church service, (4). display a record of academic achievement, (5). and promise continued intellectual and spiritual growth.

Southwestern Theological Seminary's board of trustees had no knowledge of Dr. Patterson's decision to violate the school's charter. The seminary's trustees were informed of Dr. Patterson's decision through a letter the President sent to them on Friday, May 16, 2014, just a few hours after the story posted.

Late this afternoon, the chairman of the trustees for Southwestern Seminary, Steven James, issued the following public statement.
"The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustee executive committee has a meeting scheduled in September and will discuss this issue and will deal with it accordingly at that time. That is the role and responsibility of the trustees... (F)rom the executive committee meeting in September we will make any adjustments that need to be made. If it needs to come to the full board, it will come to the full board."
Chairman Steven James is to be commended. He understands the issues. The problem is not the nice Muslim young man. The problem is not that Baptists and Muslims refuse to get along. The problem is definitely not that we Baptists don't like Muslims. No, not at all. I can't speak for everyone, but I have some very close Muslim friends and have shared many meals and conferences with them and will do so in the future. The problem is not even that Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary can't educate a Muslim side-by-side with evangelical Christians.

No. The problem is one of integrity. It is an issue of power and control and 'who answers to whom.' It's a matter of holding in check the power of a President.

The stained glass windows at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary multi-million dollar chapel "immortalize Baptists who helped effect the culture change to more conservative attitudes in the Southern Baptist Convention," as Paige Patterson described them to the Forth Worth Star Telegram in December of 2013. The 69 stained glass windows at Southwestern's chapel include images of Paige Patterson and his wife Dorothy.

Before we Southern Baptists criticize our Roman Catholic friends again, we should remember we have a tendency to canonize saints faster than the they do. It's never smart to make your heroes iconic and place them in stained glass before they are dead. All of us have clay feet.

Roman Catholic historian Lord Acton (1834-1902) once wrote, "Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." Few realize that Lord Acton made this statement in an attempt to defeat the doctrine of Roman Catholic papal infallibility.

Southern Baptists don't have a pope. But for a number of years, Paige Patterson has been given impunity for his actions. It was Paige Patterson, who with the help of David Allen,  orchestrated the removal of Dr. Kenneth Hemphill (my source: David Allen's office personnel at the time). After Paige Patterson was hired as President, he made David Allen dean of the School of Theology. When Dr. Patterson fired Hebrew professor Sheri Klouda, this blog came to Sheri's defense. When Dr. Patterson removed John Cornish for his wife's previous divorce, this blog came to Dr. Cornish's defense. The story behind Dr. Craig Mitchell's removal is still yet to fully unfold. On at least one occasion, I have been able to stop Dr. Patterson from removing those he desired gone. The opposition to Dr. Patterson has never been against him as a person. I've had a very enjoyable private meal with Paige and Dorothy in their Presidential home at SWBTS.

No matter what people say, I have no problem with Dr. Patterson as a person. I find him a very likeable fellow. The concern I have, and the concern every Southern Baptist should also have, is the possibility of unchecked power by anybody in a position of authority and influence within the Southern Baptist Convention, regardless of their previous involvement in the Conservative Resurgence. The question to be asked when considering whether or not too much power has been granted to any one man is a simple one: "What can't he do?"

It sounds like I heard the chairman of the Southwestern Seminary trustees say today, "Paige Patterson can't violate the policies and procedures for admissions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary."

Maybe, just maybe, we finally have a trustee board at SWBTS who understands that they are the real boss.

28 comments:

SWBTS Alumnus said...

This is a great blog pastor Wade! Thanks for standing for your convictions! I agree with you one thousand percent!

Anonymous said...

With the announcement that no action will be even talked about until September, you can already see that Mr Patterson is driving the train. By September, history will be rewritten, a lot of people will be slandered and this whole thing will be turned on its head. This whole process is part of seminary training for pastors on how to deal with similar issues in their own churches. Called covering up through deception, cronyism, and power. If this involved a gay, a divorce, or someone supporting the affordable care act, there would be swift and immediate action by the board of trustees. It time you started calling this so called seminary what it is - a joke

Rex Ray said...

Wade,

Don’t want to be picky, but your quote of what the trustee chairman said is not exactly what the reference you gave said. It involves the location of the letter “a”.

You quoted the reference as saying, “…committee has scheduled A meeting in September…”

but the reference said, “…committee has A scheduled meeting in September…”

I believe there is a big difference: One sounds like the news of what Patterson did was so important they called a special meeting.

The other sounds like the news was so unimportant they would discuss it at their next scheduled meeting.

As SBC President, Patterson gave a lot of the trustees their jobs, and its been the tail wagging the dog ever since.

Anonymous said...

Rex

I am afraid that you may be correct. I do think that a motion needs to come from the floor to defund SWBTS given the situation at hand.

I also have another concern and an not sure that I know this answer, what about our Muslim friend attending? Do we dismiss him from the program? Do we allow him to continue? That is not an easy question

Grace and peace

Bill

Romans 5:1

Wade Burleson said...

Rex,

OUTSTANDING catch!

Did not notice my typo, but went back and you hit the nail on the head.

Changes the ole ball game in my opinion.

Made the correction.

Anonymous said...

Methinks that Steven James is on target and knows what he is doing. Only time will tell.

Perhaps you may be tooting your own horn a bit too much with this statement: "On at least one occasion, I have been able to stop Dr. Patterson from removing those he desired gone." I somehow doubt that but then beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Tom Parker said...

Wade:

I do not understand why the trustees want to wait till September. Seems to me this needs to be addressed now.

Paul Burleson said...

For the past 30 years I've traveled the country and Convention teaching pastors conferences about being pastors with integrity. One of the things covered is what to do as you're looking at considering becoming the pastor of a fellowship.

My teaching is the very first thing needed is to see if there exists, and if so, what the constitution and by-laws are of a local church. If there are existing by-laws, read them and know them BECAUSE they are the guidelines adopted by the fellowship good, bad, or indifferent.

Whether there SHOULD OR SHOULD NOT be such is another discussion entirely. Even legitimately perhaps. But if they exist, they will be the guidelines you are embracing when you go as pastor.

If for some reason they are not to your satisfaction, your options are two-fold in nature. Either don't accept the pastorate____ or ask that the by-laws be changed___ or at least gain a commitment to evaluate change. If you go under the second, accepting the outcome of that evaluation is essential. No one changes or violates what is approved standards just because they are the pastor.

My comparison IS NOT that the Seminary is a church organization. It isn't. The comparison is that Constitution and by-laws DO EXiST and integrity demands that those standards be embraced, changed, and if not, the one desiring the change should leave the organization if a personal conviction has to be violated were they to be followed.

I'm not understanding how this is not clear in the minds of leaders of any organization, including a pastor of a local church.

I'm not saying whether by-laws should or should not be written, whether the church is really and organization or an organism, whether the church is too much like culture or not enough like the church of the New Testament. Those are all valid issues to discuss and debate. But whether to follow ESTABLISHED guidelines adopted by any organization I choose to join is a no-brainer to me.

Wade Burleson said...

Paul Burleson,

Yep. That's the issue.

Anonymous,

The toot of a horn is either to draw attention and wave or warn in order to avoid. The hearer interprets based upon his knowledge or presumptions of the situation. Thanks for sharing your perception. I was warning.

Anonymous said...

The blatant inconsistency contained within this situation is overwhelming: In order to gain student admission to the seminary, the individual in question was required to abide by one part of the school’s policy (the student code of conduct), while AT THE SAME TIME the president knowingly and willfully violated another part of the school’s policy (that students must be professing Christians).

If irony was blue, there would be an azure haze covering south Fort Worth.

Jon L. Estes said...

Paul Burleson.

I wish it were that easy. It would be nice if God did not called men of biblical conviction to churches where the ruling documents were askew. Yet, He does... over and over again.

For me, a man called to lead the church on inerrant biblical principles should be supported by his peers if and when he must go against the man made documents put in place which go against the nature of God and the teachings of word.

Maybe it is a both / and thing. Follow God as you work to have documents changed but always follow God first.

New BBC Open Forum said...

When President Paige Patterson ordered the admissions office of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth to allow a practicing Muslim to enroll in the School of Theology, enabling him to pursue a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies with an emphasis in archaeology, Dr. Patterson violated the SWBT's written requirements regarding admissions.

I had not read this post or all the previous posts in detail when I asked a question about which "Biblical Studies" program in which the Muslim student is enrolled. That answers one of my questions. The other was if women are allowed to enroll in the same course of study, and I'm still not clear on that.

This page from the catalog, Ph.D. Majors at SWBTS, where the details of the Ph.D. in Biblical Studies program is outlined, contains this interesting sentence:

The Associate Dean for the Ph.D. Program and faculty have no obligation to divulge information regarding admission decisions.

I'd be checking with those people for some answers in this case, but it sounds like they've already covered their rears.

New BBC Open Forum said...

No one changes or violates what is approved standards just because they are the pastor.

Sure they do! They do it all the time.

No one should change or violate what are approved standards just because he is the pastor.

There, I fixed it for you. :-)

New BBC Open Forum said...

From the linked article:

"Unfortunately, the story released is not really about [the student], about whom the author cares little as is indicated by placing him at risk. The author is constantly on my case along with his following and much frustrated that he has enjoyed so little success," Patterson wrote.

Classy, Paige, real classy.

Anonymous said...


John Estes wrote: "For me, a man called to lead the church on inerrant biblical principles should be supported by his peers if and when he must go against the man made documents put in place which go against the nature of God and the teachings of word."

Perhaps; but if Dr. Patterson were doing this in order to right what he perceived as a wrong in the seminary's founding documents and current governing policies, he ought to have acted publicly and in the light of day, rather than furtively and under a cloak of secrecy designed to hide his actions from the trustees (to say nothing of the supporting churches of the SBC).

Pete Peninger

Jon L. Estes said...

Pete - Perhaps; but if Dr. Patterson were doing this in order to right what he perceived as a wrong in the seminary's founding documents and current governing policies, he ought to have acted publicly and in the light of day, rather than furtively and under a cloak of secrecy designed to hide his actions from the trustees (to say nothing of the supporting churches of the SBC).

JLE: I think someone wrote on this blog that he did send a letter to the trustees. I do not know the time line or if the idea of it all being under a cloak of secrecy is just a conspiracy theory.

All of us, at times have had to make decisions quickly before we can talk with others and not all decisions need to be announced, especially when the den of lions (not meaning anyone specifically) is looking for a bloody meal.

I know of a pastor who had at least one person attending their church who had been charged and maybe even convicted of sexual misconduct (not sure of the actual charge) who informed only the leaders in the church who would keep an eye on them but, as of our last conversation, never informed any parent in the church of such people in their building. I guess the reason I state this is that pastors, seminary presidents sometimes make decisions that do not get told to the people who pay the bills, keep the church afloat.

I believe with all I know that the pastor in the situation above did nothing to hide his actions from anyone but it is probable that not all would see it that way if it were known.

Not throwing stones but trying to make a point.

Paul Burleson said...

Trying to do God's will CAN lead to methods that are suspect as to correctness if we're not careful. Doing God's will by acting by fiat may, in fact, miss God. Ask Moses who killed an Egyptian to do God's will for the nation in captivity.

Bylaws may be man's decisions and may even be questionable as to over-arching value, but violating them by fiat is missing God in my judgment, whether by-laws are good or bad.

I repeat, as a prospective pastor, accept them, change them after doing so while accepting the decision, or leave.

Changing them because you're the leader and demanding or even expecting people ought to follow you because you think they're not good, doesn't jive with my understanding of biblical leadership.

Jon L. Estes said...

Paul Burleson -

We will have to disagree.

Proverbs 16:9

Alaskan in Texas said...

Let's hope that Trustees Chairman Steve James, pastor of a church in Lake Charles, LA, is not beholden to President Patterson or the Louisiana branch of the Kelley family in some way.

Perhaps there is some hope in the fact that Steve James is a 1978 graduate of SWBTS. Maybe he fondly remembers the seminary during its halcyon days when it was the largest seminary in the United States. Perhaps his undergraduate work at Dallas Baptist University means he was not "raised as a pup" at the feet of the Criswell College clan.

In other words, maybe Steve James will serve the interests of the seminary, instead of cow-tow to the whims, wriggles, and wishes of its current president. Hopefully. If he does, lets also hope the chairman has sufficient support on the board to openly chastise the current seminary president for this nonsense. Because if that happens, it will be the first time the trustees of this seminary will have publicly held this current president accountable for his leadership shenanigans.

Rex Ray said...

To anyone,

Steven James knows Patterson has stirred up a hornet’s nest and is a ‘hot potato’. He could have called a Board Meeting, but he’d rather have the SBC handle the problem when they meet in 19 days (June 10 & 11), and whatever the outcome, they will be innocent.

Reminds me how the leaders of the Jerusalem Church handled a ‘hot potato’. Their members wanted to kill Paul (Acts 21:22), but their suggestion led to the Temple High Council solving their problem (Acts 21-22)

Sorry…couldn’t resist. :)

Anonymous said...

John Estes wrote: "I think someone wrote on this blog that he did send a letter to the trustees. I do not know the time line or if the idea of it all being under a cloak of secrecy is just a conspiracy theory. All of us, at times have had to make decisions quickly before we can talk with others and not all decisions need to be announced, especially when the den of lions (not meaning anyone specifically) is looking for a bloody meal."

The student in question has been enrolled for more than a year; and by Dr. Patterson's own admission in his response posted on the SWBTS website, this is not the first time that he has permitted non-Christian students to enroll at Southwestern. Dr. Patterson has had more than ample time and opportunity to state his case to the trustees and the churches of the SBC. Yet according to this very blog post on which we are commenting, the letter informing the trustees of his action was sent on Friday, May 16, 2014--AFTER the matter began to be public knowledge.

My point stands.

Pete Peninger

Jon L. Estes said...

Pete and some will stand with you on it... but not all.

Anonymous said...

"I know of a pastor who had at least one person attending their church who had been charged and maybe even convicted of sexual misconduct (not sure of the actual charge) who informed only the leaders in the church who would keep an eye on them but, as of our last conversation, never informed any parent in the church of such people in their building."

And you agree this was a wise choice?

New BBC Open Forum said...

I think it's safe to assume we won't be seeing Wade Burleson immortalized in a stained glass window at SWBTS anytime soon.

(Hope you take that in the humorous spirit in which it was intended!)

Anonymous said...

The so called conservative resurgence under the direction of Paterson and Pressler for their part was more about power than any concern against liberalism.
Before the hijacking of the SBC convention Baptists were very strong believers In 'The Priesthood of the believer' but that has now been replaced by 'The Strong Pulpit'.
To a great extent many of the
churches in the SBC are now being ruled instead of being served, in a similar fashion as the way that
the SBC is now being ruled.
It seems that many of these rulers thinks they have a monopoly on God.
I actually heard one mega church pastor say that God works through the shepherd and not through the sheep.





































pre

New BBC Open Forum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jon L. Estes said...

Anon 4:04 stated: "And you agree this was a wise choice?"

I made the statement you ask this question too and did not do it in the cloak of worry that some boogie man might get me.

But to your question, I do not agree with such a decision because of the type of perceived danger involved. I think the stakes are too high to not inform parents of the this fact. If there is no danger, why would the leadership in the church have them check in and out when they leave and keep an eye on them when they are in the building?

I like integrity and transparency as many on who write or comment in and on this blog do but I would hope that all who believe in the same would be disappointed in a pastor if they made such a decision in the church they lead.

I am sure when such decisions are made that those who make them have their reasons and believe them to be the right ones. Those who would disagree might think that such a decision is an abuse of power.

For me, I do believe the pastor who made the decision did so with the purest of motives so I can disagree without asking for the noose to be stung to the nearest tree.

Jon L. Estes said...

NOTE: The first sentence from me in the previous post was a job at the anonymous contributors. I admit it.

I find it ironic that so many applaud Wade for his public stand and consider him a hero for the price he paid but in the same opportunity before some they choose to remain in hiding because there might be some retribution. A price too high.

I do know that the leadership those who are anonymous lash out at do not consider the words of an anonymous person to have any value - none. Therefor it is a waste of time for them to take you serious but it can make some feel better.

But that's just my thoughts.