Baptist Press carried an article about the trustee meeting at Southwestern Seminary this week, in with its new President, Dr. Adam Greenway, spoke of his desire to lead the seminary to “recalibrate and to reposition” itself in “every way to strengthen the core of what we do.”
At the end of the day, our core of strength is what we do right here on Seminary Hill. It is the experience that happens here in the classroom and on this campus. Theological education in the context of a vibrant, worshiping, learning, living together community — that is of first importance.
He added that he would,
…do everything I can to make sure that we have the resources and are making the investments to strengthen our residential theological education and to reprioritize our core degree programs of strength.”
He identified these programs as the master of divinity, the master of arts in Christian education, and master of music.
In the midst of this speech, there were some ominous hints that this recalibration would involve some pain. Things at Southwestern have been incredibly upbeat in recent months since the Patterson matter was put in the rearview mirror, and every person I’ve talked to that had anything to do with the school was optimistic. But the years of enrollment decline and questionable financial practices by the Patterson administration left the seminary in a deep hole. While Dr. Greenway did not address this directly, his speech left hints that putting SWBTS back on sound financial ground would not be painless.
In a time where we must be extraordinarily judicious in conserving the resources entrusted to us by our Southern Baptist Convention of churches, by the donors and friends who believe in our work and are willing to invest in us, [and] by the tuition dollars we receive from our students, we must make sure that we steward and shepherd every dime in a way that is going to enable our seminary to flourish and thrive in an increasingly challenging environment and world.
May I be permitted to offer the Miller paraphrased version of this paragraph? “Things are tight at SWBTS and we are going to have to make some hard choices.” He stated as much and added,
…it does involve some transitions. But I believe it will transition us to move forward to do what we must do to ensure that the work of Southwestern Seminary can continue in strength.
What Has Happened
We have been told by multiple sources that Southwestern is letting go of almost 25% of its faculty (25 professors out of approximately 106 is the number I was given). Here is the information I have. I would love confirmation or correction.
- The seminary is releasing 25 professors as a budget reduction move.
- The only specific I have is that 5 of these are from the music school – almost half the faculty, I’m told.
- We are told that the extension center in Houston has been or will be closed.
I’ve not seen the official word of any of this, but have received communication from “reliable sources.” Dr. Greenway hinted at these things at the trustee meeting but didn’t spell them out. This appears to be what happened. If any of these facts are wrong, we are not reporting them maliciously. We believe Southern Baptists should know what is going on. One quarrel we have had with SWBTS during the previous administration was the tendency to hide things and operate in the dark. Our hope is that the Greenway administration will operate differently.
We will print any clarification or amplification of this information that we receive.
1. Bravo, Dr. Greenway.
Southern Baptists are not given the authority to print money. Dr. Greenway walked into a situation in which, from all the information we have received, the school was in serious financial straits. A declining enrollment judging from FTE numbers, serious questions about previous administrative decisions, and other realities left him walking into an untenable situation.
He took decisive action. You can’t spend money you don’t have. I am thankful he is taking this on directly and not kicking it down the street.
2. Pray for 25 families.
We hope and pray that those 25 professors who are losing their jobs will find gainful employment quickly. This is sad. They did not deserve to lose their jobs. Dr. Greenway and SWBTS trustees did not want to fire them. But again, we do not get to print money.
I have a friend who is one of the 25 who lost a job (no, he was not our source for this story). I feel bad for him. He is suffering because of someone else’s mistakes and mismanagement.
3. Let us hope this is the nadir at SWBTS.
I have a lot of confidence in Dr. Greenway and I think SWBTS can forge a path that will not result in the death spiral the school seemed to be on by some accounts continuing. I am not a trustee and have spoken to no trustees. I purposely avoided asking Bart Barber any questions because I didn’t want to put him in the uncomfortable position of answering questions he shouldn’t be answering.
But if I read it right, the SWBTS BoT did some tough business this week and in the middle of all that, I believe there was optimism. When you are dealing with problems in a straightforward way it leaves a sense of hope that avoidance and denial do not.
Dr. Bingham settled things down and now, I am convinced, Dr. Greenway will deal with what needs to be dealt with. This kind of thing is painful. I am guessing that Dr. Greenway grieves each released professor personally. But what other choice did the school have? It could not continue to operate with deficits. It could not continue on the path it had been on in the last decade.
What is happening at SWBTS is terrible, sad, grievous, and unless my confidence in Dr. Adam Greenway is totally misplaced, the first step in the restoration of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to its former greatness.