A letter released by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary donors reveal the full story and makes a very plausible argument that trustees made the wrong decision in both the May 23 demotion and May 30 firing of Paige Patterson.
We know that a large part of Patterson’s firing at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) was due to the toxic public relations environment created by the furthest-left component of the Social Gospel coalition in the SBC; of that, there is zero doubt. When trustee, Bart Barber, issued a misleading and vague statement about their reasoning for ousting the seasoned Southern Baptist leader, it left the impression the trustees made that decision in a vacuum, based upon a pile of (still unseen and unreported) evidence of severe wrongdoing. In reality, Barber was influenced by a broad public relations coup d’etat manufactured by leftist, feminist, and gay evangelicals. Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer (who are both fully “woke”) took unprecedented potshots at the elder SBC statesman (Stetzer left SBC employment last year, but admitted in an op-ed that he had a score to settle with Patterson) in the vein of the #MeToo movement. Karen Swallow Prior, the radical animal rights activist, full-blown egalitarian, and gay-friendly Revoice promoter (and ERLC research fellow), started a petition to get Patterson fired, which was signed mostly by bra-burning, hairy-armed Rachel Held Evans-type feminists. Russell Moore’s staunch ally in the press, homosexual Jonathan Meritt, and other closely associated journalists who regularly work with Moore led the charge against Patterson from day 1.
Love him or hate him, Patterson was taken out by leftists and by progressive Southern Baptists who wanted him out of the way and by trustees who felt the public pressure created by those who are trying (and succeeding) at getting evangelicals to switch sides in the culture war. Any impartial, fair-minded survey of the situation should recognize that Patterson would still be the president of SWBTS if it weren’t for a coalition of progressives and a gaggle of hysterical trustees, terrified by the panicked, politically-correct zeitgeist of the age.
The other fact that must eventually be addressed is that the method of Patterson’s firing was shady as could possibly be. The legalities of what transpired were stretched to the limits; the ethical boundaries that surpass mere legalities were egregiously breached. Even those who are happy to see Patterson gone should be able to admit that no institutional process should work itself out like what we saw at SWBTS. It was not only irresponsible and embarrassing, it was possibly illegal and – without a doubt – unethical. The trustee’s behavior also opened up SWBTS to a rightful civil suit that has a good probability of winning.
The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him. – Proverbs 18:17
In the #MeToo frenzy that took over for the rational thinking processes of SWBTS trustees, important facts were overlooked, and others not considered at all. The other side has now presented their case, and it seems that there is a very good reason to doubt the trustees made the right decision. Gary Loveless, a donor and longtime supporter of SWBTS, wrote a letter to Kevin Ueckert, chair of the Executive Committee of the SWBTS trustee board. Loveless wrote his letter on behalf of 16 regular large donors to the seminary.
A brief summary of the accusations from the donors to the board are as follows:
- The manner in which Patterson was fired was not only unethical but was “illegal.”
- The charges against Patterson were vague and non-specific.
- Patterson and his staff were not permitted to see the “evidence” against him.
- Bart Barber’s statement at the SBC was “false and slanderous.”
- The May 30 meeting happened while Patterson was in Germany, and was hurriedly scheduled contrary to bylaws, to happen without his presence (again, this is contrary to SWBTS bylaws).
- Their flagrant violation of bylaws and ethical standards will result in the accrediting agency and the Texas Attorney General getting involved.
- Ueckert said new information made it seem as though Patterson lied about something, but absolutely no one knows what Ueckert is talking about; no one has said it publicly and no one as told Patterson privately.
- When Patterson’s staff released correspondence between he and the alleged “victim” who he allegedly did not handle with enough care (which would have exhonerated him of the bulk of trustee accusations), Ueckert insanely called the release, “unethical.” The donors rightly called out this idiocy.
- In reality, Patterson had called the police within SIX MINUTES of the young woman’s allegations.
- Regardless of what the now-infamous term “break her down” meant, the fact was, is and remains that the woman’s rape allegations were indeed false.
The Pattersons seem to be signaling that they will sue SWBTS, and possibly, trustees themselves who were individually involved in his firing. Regarding this particular case, it certainly seems as if the Pattersons do have legal legs to stand on. There was immense pressure from outside the trustee board to do what was politically expedient, rather than to judge rightly. They failed. The evidence is actually against them…strongly. Now, it looks like there will be a large financial price to pay, not only in an inevitable lawsuit by Patterson but in the loss of big donors to SWBTS.
Something tells me that Karen Swallow Prior isn’t going to make up the difference.
You can read the letter to the SWBTS trustee board here.