Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary tries to heal rifts after scandal and to unite students and donors with widely divergent views
FORT WORTH, Texas—After the Rev. Adam W. Greenway stepped to the podium during his inauguration as the ninth president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, he acknowledged the tumult that had engulfed the school in recent years.
The previous president was fired. Enrollment plummeted, and the training ground for many of the nation’s most famous pastors found itself at the center of a debate over the treatment of women in the church.
“I cannot change the past,” he said. “For any way in which we have fallen short, I am sorry.”
A generational gulf is threatening to split evangelical Christianity.
While older evangelicals have become a political force preaching traditional values, younger ones are deviating from their parents on issues like same-sex marriage, Israel, the role of women, and support for President Trump.
For Southwestern to thrive again, Dr. Greenway must attract more young people without alienating their parents. At stake: not only the health of the 111-year-old school but also of the Southern Baptist Convention, the country’s largest, most powerful Protestant denomination, whose membership has been falling for more than a decade.
The shift under way at the school is dramatic. Dr. Greenway’s predecessor, Rev. Paige Patterson, was a hero of the conservative resurgence, which swung the Southern Baptist Convention to the theological and political right. During 15 years as president of Southwestern, Dr. Patterson turned the campus into a reflection of his brand of evangelicalism.
He preached that scripture is inerrant and that women should submit themselves to the leadership of men, both at home and in church. He required members of his administration to carry firearms, for security reasons, he said. His office was filled with taxidermy. Stained glass windows depicting “heroes of the conservative resurgence,” including Dr. Patterson and his wife, were installed in the chapel.
Last year, Dr. Patterson was fired following allegations that he mishandled accusations of sexual assault by former students.
Dr. Patterson, in an email, said he handled the alleged assaults appropriately. “Candidly, I have no idea why I was released,” he said.
Living on a Prayer
As religious affiliation has fallen among young people, evangelicals have debated how they should frame their message.
Religious affiliation of U.S. adults by birth year
Denominations of U.S. Protestants
Born again or evangelical
Not born again
Source: Pew Research Center surveys conducted in 2009 and January 2018-July 2019
When Dr. Greenway, 41 years old, arrived in February, veteran professors were replaced, and the stained glass windows were removed.
Dr. Greenway said he is committed to all of the Southern Baptist Convention’s conservative principles but argued that a change in tone from the past administration was necessary.
“My immediate predecessor envisioned this being more like Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show,” he said in an interview. “I want people to think more like Southwest Airlines. A happy place. A national brand.”
When asked to respond, Dr. Patterson said, “Every man is entitled to his own view of my work, and I wish Dr. Greenway only God’s best.”
Enrollment has jumped. But fundraising has taken a hit, leaving a $3 million hole in the budget when Dr. Greenway arrived.
A group of more than two dozen donors, who say they have collectively given at least $50 million to the school, sent a letter to the trustees, saying they would withhold further giving until they got answers about Dr. Patterson’s ouster. Gary Loveless, a former trustee who helped author the letter, said he never received a reply.
“We don’t treat our prophets that way,” Mr. Loveless said of Dr. Patterson’s removal. “I think there was a bigger agenda.”
Few played a greater role in making modern evangelicalism what it is today than Dr. Patterson.
He championed several tenets that Southern Baptists now consider sacrosanct, including “complementarianism,” the belief that men and women have different God-given roles. In 2000, during his tenure as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the denomination banned women from serving as senior pastors.
After being appointed president of Southwestern in 2003, he started a homemaking program for female students.
Fundraising skyrocketed, as did new construction on campus.
But enrollment dropped from 2,138 full-time equivalent students in 2003-4 to 1,393 in 2017-18. Over the same period, overall membership in the Southern Baptist Convention fell from 16.3 million to 14.8 million.
Dr. Patterson’s dramatic exit convulsed the Southern Baptist Convention, turning the school into a nexus of the continuing debate over women’s role in the church.
Karen Swallow Prior, a Southern Baptist professor at Liberty University, said Dr. Patterson’s ouster was a step toward changing “the misogynistic, sexist culture of the SBC.” She added that there is “a dramatic shift” among younger evangelicals who are more eager “to embrace the idea of women as leaders, both in the church and in the culture.”
Others saw Dr. Patterson’s ouster as an ideologically-motivated takedown.
“The previous generation, their priority was missions and evangelism and preaching,” said Rev. Wayne Dickard, a former Southwestern trustee. The new generation, he said, “is far more interested in the social justice movement.”
The theological conflict is playing out in new controversies on campus. Last week Southwestern officials showed trustees a letter from an assistant to Dr. Patterson to a donor advising how to ask the school to return his money, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The letter criticized female professors as unqualified and not sufficiently committed to complementarianism and bemoaned efforts to erase the Pattersons’ legacy from campus, including removing their dog’s tombstone.
The assistant, Z. Scott Colter, said the Pattersons have encouraged people to keep giving to Southwestern and the donor had asked for help making sure the money was used for its intended purpose. The donor confirmed his account.
Philip Levant, a member of the presidential search committee that hired Dr. Greenway, said trustees were looking for someone who could both sort out the school’s finances and overhaul its public image.
In recent years, “the seminary was known more for what it was against than what it was for,” Mr. Levant said.
Dr. Greenway grew up in a Florida family he describes as not particularly religious. But like millions of others during the 1980s and ’90s, he found his way into a Southern Baptist church and was baptized as a teenager. He graduated from Southwestern in 2002, the year before Dr. Patterson’s arrival.
Though he supports complementarianism, Dr. Greenway said he is trying to create a big tent at Southwestern.
Partly, that means emphasizing what women can do, not what they can’t, including “celebrating women as bible teachers and ministry leaders.”
He has also been pushing for ideological diversity, making sure the school is welcoming to Reformed evangelicals—who believe God elects those who will be saved—as well as those who believe that salvation is available to all.
New enrollment this fall is up 33% over the previous three years.
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One of the new students is Jacki King, a minister to women at her Arkansas church who transferred to Southwestern this year. She said the shifting tone on gender is what drew her.
“As a woman who deeply believes in theology and evangelism, I want to be able to be part of that,” she said.
What female students opt to study helps explain why gender pay gap persists—but their choices are changing
Over the past six decades, women have enrolled in college in greater and greater numbers. Those born in the mid-1980s are 22% more likely to hold a bachelor’s degree than men. Yet they still see lower wages.
That may have something to do with what women study and the jobs they take once they graduate, choices that are slowly shifting, according to new research by a trio of economists set to be published next week.
Female students tend to major in fields that lead to lower-paying jobs than their male counterparts, according to the paper by Carolyn Sloane of the University of California, Riverside, and Erik Hurst and Dan Black of the University of Chicago. And even when they do major in traditionally male-dominated fields, they often end up in jobs with lower potential salaries.
Why they make those choices will be the subject of future research, Ms. Sloane said.
The new research helps explain why the earnings gap between men and women in the labor force remains pronounced despite the rising number of women with college degrees.
Using data from the census, the researchers found that college-educated women earn about 23.3% less than college-educated men, after taking demographic factors such as age or race into account. About half of that gap comes from the choices that men and women make in college majors and, when they major in the same topics, from the occupations they pursue.
“There’s an important thing that happens in schooling and that is the specialization,” Ms. Sloane said. “It’s not just whether you’re getting more B.A.s, but where did you put your efforts in terms of your training.”
The researchers grouped college graduates in 10-year birth cohorts and tracked how their choices of college majors changed over the years, as well as the professions in which they ended up.
They found that while women have started to move into traditionally higher-paying and male-dominated majors, they still are more likely to graduate with degrees in areas associated with lower-paying jobs.
Women born in the 1950s chose majors with potential wages that were 12.5% lower than potential wages for majors picked by men. Those born in the 1990s picked majors with potential wages that were 9.5% lower than men did, suggesting the gap has shrunk slightly.
But even when women majored in traditionally male-dominated topics such as engineering or business, they tended to end up in professions with lower potential wages. For instance, women born between 1955 and 1965 who majored in those fields worked in professions where the potential wage was 12% below those chosen by their male counterparts. For women born between 1975 and 1985, that gap had narrowed to 6%.
In part, the difference in potential earnings has to do with women working in jobs with lower hours requirements. Across all age cohorts and college majors, the researchers found that women work at jobs that require 3% fewer hours worked than men do.
Last week, our colleagues Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey published a book documenting their investigation of Harvey Weinstein. In writing it, they discovered information about two feminist icons — Gloria Allred and her daughter, Lisa Bloom — that raises questions about their legacies and the legal system in which they’ve worked. Today, we look at the role of Ms. Bloom, a lawyer who represented Mr. Weinstein.