Last year would have to be described as a difficult time for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary by any metric. There were reports of declining enrollment and financial troubles, along with the constant drumbeat of controversy that led to the dismissal of their long-tenured president, Dr. Paige Patterson, an event that also resulted in some of the more dramatic convention moments we have witnessed in a while.
Whatever your take on the troubles, I think we can agree that it was not SWBTS’ best year.
I am not closely involved with what is happening at the school but have been observing from afar. It appears that SWBTS is on the comeback trail and that good things are happening at the school.
First, there was a story in Baptist Press on October 17 which shared the news of the trustee meeting in which several significant things happened. They affirmed the action of the Executive Committee to fire Dr. Patterson with no more than four negative votes among the 34 trustees present. The trustees appeared to hug it out and resolve some of their differences. A very healthy exchange took place when trustees with opposing views were authorized to speak publicly and express their views. Hopefully, this kind of transparency will become a new standard in SBC life. It was an important step in moving forward.
Last week, word broke that a 2006 sermon by Dwight McKissic on the Holy Spirit, which had been censored by Dr. Patterson, had been restored on the SWBTS chapel website. Charles Patrick, on behalf of the seminary, said it was not about undoing actions of Dr. Patterson but about preserving a historical record. We are pleased that our friend and contributor Dwight had his sermon restored. It should have never been censored.
I had the unexpected opportunity to talk to a representative of SWBTS for a few moments a few days ago. I won’t identify him or even where we spoke, but he gave me a glowing report of the spirit on campus this year. He had expected much more of a hangover from the previous year’s brouhaha, but believes that professors and students have bounced back with a remarkable spirit. It was not a party line. He seemed genuine in saying that there was optimism and a great spirit on campus.
There have, according to reports, been some donors that chose to abandon the school because of the firing. Evidently, they were supporting Paige Patterson and not the school. We can pray that God will replace them quickly.
The SBC will be better off with a healthy SWBTS. May it come to pass.