Bart Barber had a tough day. Pray for him. He is a man who would have jumped in a fire for Dr. Paige Patterson and not only voted with the Executive Committee to fire him but stood to defend the action. If you had told Bart a year ago that he would do such a thing he would have declared it impossible.
His integrity drove him to do what his heart would never have desired or dreamed.
Here is Bart’s statement:
I am Bart Barber, messenger from First Baptist Church of Farmersville, TX. I am also a member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. In a few minutes, you’ll be voting on whether I continue in that capacity.
Some of you have been impatient about our work.
The Twitter account, “Church Curmudgeon,” said of us, “A thirteen-hour business meeting is the most Baptist way to come to half a conclusion.”
I rise today to tell you that if you have been impatient about our work, I, personally, am the one to blame. I am, I think, the last member of the Executive Committee to be convinced to take the action that we took on May 30. We faced many questions that are divisive in our culture and even within our convention. The basis of MY decision, however, arises out of something that I hope unites us all.
Last Fall our board initiated a review of the seminary’s financial condition. The chairman of the Business Administration Subcommittee of the board led that review. Shortly after the review began, Dr. Patterson began to question the legitimacy of that trustee’s eligibility to serve as a trustee and made efforts to have him removed.
In late April, after comments surfaced that Dr. Patterson had long ago made, board chairman Kevin Ueckert requested that Dr. Patterson obtain input from the chairman before making any reply. Dr. Patterson disregarded this request from the chairman of the board and issued a press release without the chairman’s input. That reply was damaging to the reputation of the seminary and was damaging to the reputation of Dr. Patterson—so much so that he himself had to issue a later apology.
As the aftermath of that first press release unfolded, Dr. Patterson refused to attend meeting after meeting of the Executive Committee, despite formal requests that he do so. I was the one on the Executive Committee saying, “Folks, we haven’t heard Dr. Patterson’s side of this story. We need to be cautious here. We need to take our time. We need to have all the facts before we do anything.” But Dr. Patterson refused to meet with us and refused to give us all of the facts.
Then, after that marathon meeting of May 22-23, Dr. Patterson became the President Emeritus of the seminary. The first thing that happened in his term as President Emeritus was this: His attorney sent an email questioning the legal validity of the full board’s decisions in the meeting of May 22-23. The basis of the claim was weak. I’ve no doubt that the action of the board would stand any challenge in the courts. But that fact notwithstanding, what is one of your seminaries to do with a President Emeritus who will work to undermine the legitimacy and validity of its board of trustees?
I am an old-time Baptist congregationalist. My church has business meetings every month because I want us to have business meetings every month. I believe in our polity. And it is a part of our polity that our entity heads do not get to remove trustees when they become an inconvenience to them, that entity heads have to answer to their boards both when they want to do so and when they don’t want to do so, that seminary employees have to abide by board decisions.
Paige Patterson is a human being made in the image of God. He is a man who has promoted some of the finest women scholars in our convention. He is a master exegete and the consummate preacher. Even today I’d vote for him for any of those things, and I’m thankful for the Conservative Resurgence and all that it accomplished. I was not out to get him; I was out to help him. But I cannot vote for him to occupy any monarchy. We are Baptists. We have no popes. We are all accountable to someone. Whatever divides us, I hope that we are all in agreement about that.
For my part, I’m accountable to you. I’m a tell-the-people-and-trust-the-Lord Baptist. Whatever you decide, I will abide by it. It has been a great honor to serve you in this way. Thank you for the trust you have placed in me. I have tried to defend your rights at SWBTS. I would urge you as you vote to consider this: Please do not rob the trustees throughout our convention of their spine. They keep our entities accountable to you. Think of the precedent this will set if we start voting out trustees every time they face a difficult decision. Will any board have the courage to hold entity heads accountable again? And if they are unaccountable to their trustees, they are unaccountable to you. If you rob the trustees of their spine, you rob the messengers of their voice.