Friday, August 24, 2018

Baptist Blues and the Interior Life of Chuck Kelley

Dr. Chuck Kelley speaking at NOBTS, August 21, 2018
In the first fall chapel service for the fall of 2018 at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Chuck Kelley, Jr., President of NOBTS, spoke to seminary students.

Dr. Kelley's words can be heard for yourself in the video posted below. Dr. Kelley, who has been president of NOBTS since 1996, began working at NOBTS as professor of evangelism in 1983. Thirty-five years of service to the SBC and NOBTS.

 Dr. Kelley is the brother of Dorothy Patterson, Dr. Paige Patterson, former President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, is Dr. Kelley's brother-in-law.

This has been a tough summer for Dr. Kelley.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Kelley said he was going to do something he's never done before in his tenure at NOBTS. "I am going to invite you into my interior life. I am going to read from my journal." 

It seems that Dr. Kelley's heart has been stricken with "Baptist Blues." Since this summer's Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas, Texas, June 12-13, 2018, Dr. Kelley has been processing "what in the world is going on with the Southern Baptist Convention."  According to Dr. Kelley, Southern Baptists across the nation have been saying to him this summer:
"I don't even recognize the Southern Baptist Convention anymore."
Dr. Kelley is blue about what has happened in the SBC. He wants people to hear how blue he is, so he read from his journal to allow people to peer into his interior life.

For 40 minutes, Dr. Kelley reads from his journal. It was my privilege to meet and get to know Dr. Kelley's parents at FBC Beaumont where I spent a week teaching at an annual Bible Conference.  I know Dr. Kelley's heritage. I believe that Dr. Kelley is a genuine man. He has a passion for the lost. He wants people to know Christ. I was interested in hearing his personal thoughts about the condition of the SBC.

But before I summarize a few of the main points Dr. Kelley made, I'd like to offer a reflection on Dr. Kelley's journal.  I've read many journals of Baptist leaders. In fact, I collect antiquarian journals of 18th-century Baptist missionaries and pastors. I'm accustomed to journals that are personal, not professional; private, not public; and passionate, not principled.

Dr. Kelley has the unusual practice of writing a personal journal in the third person as if it's written more for a lecture and the benefit of a future researcher. For example, Dr. Kelley's presumably writes this in his journal:
"This is now year 17 in the longest decline in baptisms in the history of the SBC. Unprecedented. And that decline in baptisms shows absolutely no sign it is slowing down. But what about our massive efforts in church planting? Since 2009 we have started an average of 871 new church plants a year. But, since 2009 we have lost an average of 772 churches a year, closing their doors or leaving the SBC." 

Intimacy can be defined as in-to-me-you-see. 

When Presidents of SBC institutions give us "a peek into their interior lives" and we see a statistical report instead of personal self-revelation,  maybe the problem with transparency in the SBC begins with institutional leadership. That is an observation, not necessarily a judgment.

Southern Baptist leaders may have focused so much these last forty years on creating a public and artificial persona of evangelical perfection that private self-reflection doesn't occur. We seem to no longer understand that Christ's gospel shines with power through one's weaknesses, not strengths.

When we're more concerned about stained-glass window tributes than we are acknowledging our stains and troubles and exalting a Savior for sinners, we won't ever reveal our clay-jar weaknesses.

I will point out just three statements by Dr. Kelley for your perusal, but would ask that you listen to his speech for yourself:

Dr. Kelley said:
(This summer) the #MeToo movement's focus on sexual abuse became a dominant national conversation. Driven by efforts of two gay activists with Southern Baptist roots it became a dominant conversation in the SBC as well, leading to the biggest mess the SBC has seen in a very long time, the internal controversy at Southwestern Seminary.

Dr. Kelley, has it crossed your mind that maybe people in the Southern Baptist Convention are actually concerned for people who've been intimated, abused, and cast aside by those in power?

Dr. Kelley continues:
The increasing tensions over the advance of Calvinism in the SBC, bubbled over a bit in the SBC in the Presidential election at the Dallas Convention. Although neither nominee for the presidency promoted the election as such, the election became in the eyes of many a choice between younger reformed leadership or older traditional Baptist leadership. The younger reformed candidate won, adding to the concern of many on the future of the traditional convention emphasis on evangelism and missions, and the traditional theological focus on the Bible as the centerpiece of theological conversation and discussion.
Wow, again.

Dr. Kelley, it was my privilege to hear J.D. Greear preach at his Summit Church this August. Greear, the new President of the Southern Baptist Convention,  focused his message from Ecclesiastes 3. The biblical text was central -  even the original Hebrew acrostic that probably 1% of the audience understood - and God used J.D. to move the hearts of close to 15,000 people over the course of that weekend.

Sure, J.D. Greear, like all of us, has faults; but there's no danger of the Bible losing its place as the centerpiece of theological conversation in the SBC with J.D. Greear as SBC President.

I wonder if maybe the reason there's been a decline in evangelism and missions over the past two decades is because SBC Fundamentalists focus on non-essentials of the faith. While proclaiming "We believe the Bible," it seems the Bible may have become a background prop for SBC denominational theater.

Dr. Kelley also said:
What in the world is going on? The best phrase I could use is "(I'm) bothered and bewildered about who we are, where we are going, and how in the world we will be dealing with all these things that are happening." 
Dr. Kelley does acknowledge that his "Baptist blues" may come from the knowledge that his family members are at the center of some of these controversies (e.g. Paige and Dorothy Patterson).

However, taking from the well-worn Conservative Resurgence playbook, Dr. Kelley attributes the real trouble in the SBC to "gay activism, liberalism, Calvinism, and a lack of evangelism" - and of course, nothing to do with his family.

I and others disagree with Dr. Kelley.

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." That is how Dr. Kelley's brother-in-law, Dr. Paige Patterson, described the stained glass windows to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in December of 2013.

The 69 stained glass windows at Southwestern's chapel include images of many of Dr. Kelley's family members.

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

All of God's people 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 and his family and friends have been given immunity for their 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.  On more than one occasion, I have been able to prevent Dr. Patterson from removing those he desired gone. Several people have been harmed by decisions the Pattersons have made, with no recourse to appeal.

I've been told Dr. Kelley will be stepping down from NOBTS this October after 35 years of service to NOBTS.  It is possible that Dr. Kelley's blues have been caused by the realization that his family is no longer in power at the SBC.

Contrary to Dr. Kelley, I believe the best days of the Southern Baptist Convention's are ahead.

That's what I've written in my journal.


Anonymous said...

That Acton quote, especially the part about greatness being linked with badness, really gets me thinking. (Was "Make America Great Again" bound to be linked with poor leaderly behavior?)

JR said...

I watched your video of Dr Kelley this morning. Found it very upsetting and crazy. Dr Kelley definitely misused his platform to defend his sister and brother in law. His text for the day was not the inerrant Word of God but his personal and emotional journal venting about how his sister and brother-in-law were treated. A very poor example to his students and to any other preacher. He complains about evangelism and baptisms dropping the last 20 years—same time period where he and his brother-in-law Paige have been in charge of 1/3 of the SBC seminaries–where is his fault in it? Mystery to why the IMB laid off missionaries? Terrible financial mismanagement for decades. Was Kelley at his executive level not aware of it? I am sure he was. #MeToo movement led the charge at SWBTS? Not at all what the Exec Board said. An Exec board who were all hand picked by Dr Kelley’s brother-in-law. I’m sure Dr Bart Barber would be deeply offended to hear Kelley accusation 2 gay activists determined Dr Barber’s decision making about PP. Where was the empathy, compassion and mercy for the precious victims involved at SWBTS, SEBTS & IMB?

Calvinist and Traditionalists peacefully co-existing? Not at SWBTS where PP hunted down and kicked out any profs who were Calvinists. Very sad to see the resignations and moral failing of the SBC leaders he mentioned but I see it as God preparing and pruning us for the future. This message was a sad and embarrassing moment for a senior leader preparing for retirement.

Bob Cleveland said...

I watched the video yesterday, on another site.

Most of the time, with my mouth agape....

Aussie John said...

Indeed, as you say, “ All of God's people have clay feet”. In the last few lines of his “Psychomachia” (The Battle for the Soul of Man), Aurelius Prudentius Clemens wrote,
“The opposing winds of light and dark are at war and we, body and spirit, have desires that are at odds with one another until Christ, our Lord, comes to help. He places the jewels of the virtues in their proper places and in the place of sin builds the courts of his temple; he makes for the soul ornaments from its dark past to delight Wisdom as she reigns forever on her glorious throne”.

Of course the “jewels of the virtues” he was referring to would sound familiar to those who know their Bible,”But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law”.

Lord Acton would not have known the model of papal infallibility was going to affect leaders of many institutions including the protestant church.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Kelley has always created his own truth, often with little connection to reality. . . Always blamed faculty and others for his own decisions and leadership that did not work. His trustees have waited too long to force his retirement. I'm encouraged for our seminaries that they will be gone. May God keep the faculty and students at SWBTS and NOBTS.

Anonymous said...

You know you are not supposed to ask questions like that. Unless you intend to offend Franklin Graham, Jeffress, and Falwell. Sorry, and brother Pence.

Rex Ray said...


Yes! The best days of the SBC are ahead now that the domination by Fundamentalists have lost their power when the truth of their leaders in stained glass windows has been exposed.

Where is a glass cutter when we need him?

They broke the laws of man and God. One walked on the necks of women, and the other ruined the lives of young boys.

When Kelley complained about the decline in baptisms in 17 years, did he not realized he was criticizing his kinsmen that were in charge?

Fundamentalists’ rules of making walls to keep sin out only made prisoners within.

Rex Ray said...

30 People, 2 Boards, 4 Seminary Trustees, 2 Committees, and 1 News Service who Messed Up the SBC by David Flick 1-3-06 written for BaptistLife.Com Discussions Forums.

The first three names on his list is, Paul Pressler, W.A. Criswell, and Paige Patterson.

On the list was Dorothy Patterson (married Paige) a faculty member of SWBTS and served on committee that created “Submissive Women Article” to the 1998 BF&M. She was one of those who wrote the “Chicago Definition of Inerrancy”.

Also on the list was the brother-in-law of Paige Patterson, Russell Kaemmerling. He was a worker in the “Conservative Resurgence” and a trustee on the IMB. He went to prison for defrauding many people of millions of dollars.

everette said...

Evangelism was never a priority at NOBTS during my years there. On the contrary, the school actively discouraged everyday evangelism. For example, students were given strong incentives to live and work on campus and to attend churches in suburban (read: Anglo) neighborhoods rather than to live and worship in the nonwhite areas near the school. Rather, the school is surrounded by a wrought-iron fence and patrolled by armed guards. And NOBTS continues to expand housing on campus, instead of encouraging students to live off campus where they might, say, start Bible studies, plant churches, and otherwise help perform the school's stated purpose of reaching New Orleans.

When we had crawfish boils and other activities that might have attracted people who lived nearby, non-students were never invited. While most of the grounds crew, cooks, and cleaning staff were non-students, the people who worked in the offices (and thus had all the power) were all part of the NOBTS community--students, alumni, student and faculty spouses, and other members of the good ole boy network. It apparently never occurred to the administration that they were overlooking the opportunity to have students and faculty develop relationships with ordinary New Orleanians.

Moreover, the Kelleys have lived on campus since Chuck was a twenty-something student. The new provost has done the same. They don't know the world outside NOBTS and have no reason to get to know it. So it's no wonder they are concerned more with SBC politics than the city which it is their job to serve. (Because unlike other BTS's, NOBTS was chartered not just to teach preachers but explicitly to reach New Orleans.)

everette said...

And don't even get me started on how the school treated non-Anglos. As a campus guard, I regularly had to answer calls about Black men on campus--even though they were almost always either students or friends of staff members. Was there ever any effort to open the eyes of these students to their subconscious racism? Of course not.

Anonymous said...

Shameful - blame shifting as always.

PLEASE no "golden parachute" - just go - so we can goon for Jesus.

bunkababy said...

I am pleased you wrote this article.

But oh boy. Oh boy.

And the comments speak volumes.


Anonymous said...

In the video, he referred to Patterson retiring. First I've heard of it.

At a minimum, he should have disclosed the family connection.

Interesting that when he recaps at the end, he just skips the Patterson point.

Christiane said...

"Dr. Kelley said:
(This summer) the #MeToo movement's focus on sexual abuse became a dominant national conversation. Driven by efforts of two gay activists with Southern Baptist roots it became a dominant conversation in the SBC as well, leading to the biggest mess the SBC has seen in a very long time, the internal controversy at Southwestern Seminary."

what is a 'gay' activist? Is it a person who wants for gay people to have the same rights as every other American citizen? Or is it a 'gay' person who wants for all Americans to have the same rights? (?)

I may be very confused here, but Dr. Kelley's statement seems to imply that the outing of sexual abuse in the Church has led to a big 'mess' in the SBC. It might help if Dr. Kelley realized that ALL Christian people are pushing for the problem of predators in the Church to be 'outed', brought into the light, and treated as the great crime that it is, with consequences that are legal, civil, and financial for the sake of justice and for the sake of recompense for the victims, so that counseling and psychiatric treatment can be afforded to help them cope, even though many will carry their pain until their last day on Earth.

I don't get it. Is Dr. Kelley also one of the Christian leaders who wants to 'cover up' that which is in need of being turned over to the police? If he is, then he gets to join a crowd of very guilty men from many corners of the whole Church who must answer in time to their Creator for their sin, and some should now be answerable to the law for the sake of justice.

I don't know who the 'two gay activists with SBC roots' are; but I think they should be seen as heroes, not pointed to and criticized. I don't understand all of this, but whoever these people are, I think they did right by the Church, yes.

Rex Ray said...

“Heil Hitler”

Were words that put a person in a ‘good position’ with the ‘ruling group’.

The same thing with believing in “Inerrancy”, that placed a person in good standing with Fundamentalists that highjacked the SBC.

The “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy” took about ten pages to define the word. This was done by 334 people that met in Chicago.

David Flick’s paper listed 30 people that messed up the SBC. Five of them took part in writing the Chicago paper. They were, W.A. Criswell, Paul Pressler, Paige Patterson, Dorothy Patterson, and Jerry Vines.

Due to the division, and heartache, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I wish “Inerrancy” would go back where it came from…the smiling lips of the devil.

Jon L. Estes said...

A decent article which should have left the Pattersons and their stuff out of it.

I see it the same as crying about the sins of your son (whatever they may be) because he is your son and was in the vehicle you had an accident in while in Mexico and making it seem your actions should highlight your families sins.

You should have just left it with Kelly and his words. There is enough there to write about. Getting a dig in at the Pattersons is beneath you.

Not good.

Rex Ray said...

RB Kuter,

Where are you when you’re needed? :)


Jon, like the guy said, “I’m not arguing with you; I’m just telling you why you’re wrong.”

Your conclusion about Wade’s car accident in Mexico is so mixed up it puts truth in a tailspin.

I’d like to have a contest with you; for every ‘good thing’ you can name about Patterson, I’ll name ten ‘bad things’.

I’ll go first: as President of the SBC he picked 15 friends that wrote their paper god (BFM 2000) that became a creed when missionaries and everyone they had control over were forced to sign or be fired. (Over 100 missionaries left their call from God and resigned or were fired.)

Oh, I’m sorry if that was one of the good things you were going to say. :)

DLF said...

After the Patterson controversy, I commented on another blog (which shall remain nameless) that it seemed to me that the "old guard" of the CR is starting to loose control of things, and they don't like it very much. I pointed out that younger ministers have zero tolerance for fighting over non-essentials. I was taken to task by several folks for framing the issue as generational. I stand by what I said. The folks in power for the last 30 years are all getting pushed out for younger folks who simply don't care about denominational politics. They just want to lead their church and could care less about getting power in the convention. That irks the old guard because it makes them look pretty bad for fighting all these years. Fighting is all they know and when someone ignores them, they can't stand it. Mostly, I think, because it exposes their hypocrisy all these years.

Tom Parker said...

Rex Ray:

You said:"Wade,

Yes! The best days of the SBC are ahead now that the domination by Fundamentalists have lost their power when the truth of their leaders in stained glass windows has been exposed.

Where is a glass cutter when we need him?

They broke the laws of man and God. One walked on the necks of women, and the other ruined the lives of young boys.

When Kelley complained about the decline in baptisms in 17 years, did he not realized he was criticizing his kinsmen that were in charge?

Fundamentalists’ rules of making walls to keep sin out only made prisoners within."

I will try and be brief. I disagree. The best days of the SBC are not ahead and here is why:

Patterson may and the key word is may be gone but there remain thousands of Pattersonites.

Woman are in zero top SBC leadership positions. How can the SBC be serious about sexual abuse without women in SBC leadership having input?

WMU used to be a powerful SBC organization and raised millions of dollars for missions. I here little to nothing about WMU.

1000 or more veteran SBC missionaries brought home from the missionary field and hardly a wimper out out the SBC leaders about such a horrible event.

Lastly many of the same people that put the FUNAMENTALISTS in power, put the current immoral individual in the White House.

Anonymous said...


You missed it. I was not supporting Dr. P and my comparison works.

As far as me being back... Not your house... Live with it.


Rex Ray said...


You said to Wade on Monday: “…should have left the Pattersons and their stuff out of it…Getting a dig in at the Pattersons is beneath you. Not good.”

Now, you said, “I was not supporting D. P…”

You said, “As far as me being back…Not your house…live with it.”

Why you have twisted ‘Wade’s Post’ into being my house, makes me wonder. I guess from now on I should do what Wade did and not reply to you.

Anonymous said...


This is the crux of my comments...

“You should have just left it with Kelly and his words. There is enough there to write about. Getting a dig in at the Pattersons is beneath you.”

I stand by my comment.


Wade Burleson said...


I always try to respond to questions.

Jon typically makes statements and asks no questions.

I felt no need to reply to him.

Rex Ray said...



Dee Parsons said...

I don't know, Wade. It sure seems to me that the new SBC will be a lot like the old SBC. But maybe this is what was really wanted all along. Protection for a particular tribe while the big boys go to the fancy political dinners after instructing the little people to stop being so concerned about politics. Color me cynical.

Christiane said...

perhaps in time, when all the 'mixing' of certain evangelicals and Trump has done its work, and the fall-out has occurred; then the country will see for itself the results

In the meantime, over 500 innocent border babies and children are wounded and I believe that AFTER the 'Age of Trump' has ended, there will come a day for justice for these children and that will be a GOOD day in our land . . . it will come . . . because it must come

Rex Ray said...

Tom Parker,

Maybe we should ponder deep reasons like “Why did the chicken cross the road?”

AL GORE: I invented the chicken.
COLONEL SANDERS: Did I miss one?
AL SHARPTON: Why are all the chickens white?
BARACK OBAMA: Let me be perfectly clear, if the chickens like their eggs they can keep their eggs. No chicken will be required to cross the road to surrender her eggs. Period.
BILL CLINTON: I did not cross the road with that chicken.

Excuse me the hour is late.

Christiane said...


I love it! I hate it!
I can't stop laughing . . .

Anonymous said...

I am convinced after much thought that the persecution of Christians has been from without and now including this thought as from within as well. Imperial Christianity starting with Constantine turned around within a generation began to persecute those who worshipped Christ through Jewish expression. James Parkes documents how the Council of Ephesus and following councils began to become more anti-Semitic. I am convinced that during the reformation that Anabaptist had the humble beginnings in its desire for the purity of the word and doctrine. When it became systemic and developed itself as a denomination of its own, it too became imperialistic and anthroidolatrous. The trail of blood appears to have more in common with messianic expression of the faith, then Baptist in examining church history. Refutation has been documented by James McGoldrick in its rebuttals of the Trail of Blood documentation that J M Carroll wrote. If we can get past this idea of Baptist landmark secessionism, I do think progress can be made. I do believe there is indeed a pilgrim church and its bigger then the mere topic of baptism. I pray you continue to explore this more Wade.

Larry Felkins said...

Chuck Kelley is a wonderful Christian and Southern Baptist statesman. This is all about the new Reformed, woke, social justice crowd and their “take over” within the SBC!

Larry Felkins said...

Chuck Kelley is a wonderful Christian and Southern Baptist statesman. This is all a load of crap!