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.
As HuffPost’s Emily Peck pointed out, when CNN held a marathon forum Monday night, in which five of the contenders answered questions one by one before an audience of college students, only the three women — Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) — were queried about sexism and the pay disparity between men and women. Once again, women’s issues were consigned to female candidates, rather than being treated as a set of problems that ought to matter as much to contenders such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the other two candidates on the program
.. In the eyes of the antiabortion movement, Richards was the elegantly dressed, politically savvy personification of evil. But during her years as Planned Parenthood’s leader, its membership nearly quadrupled, from 2.5 million supporters to more than 11 million. After she stepped down about a year ago, there was much speculation — and hope, among her admirers — that she would run for office.
.. But instead, Richards — who spent her years after graduating from Brown University working to unionize low-paid hotel and hospital workers — is returning to her political roots as an organizer. On Monday, she will launch a new organization called Supermajority that seeks not only to change that mind-set but also to provide resources and training for female activists across the spectrum of backgrounds and life experiences.
The anti-bullying advocate tells John Oliver that no one asked the former president if he’d consider a new identity
Monica Lewinsky wonders why people don’t ask her the same questions as Bill Clinton.
John Oliver, host of HBO’s T, +0.36% “Last Week Tonight,” asked Lewinsky on Sunday evening about the difficulty getting a job after completing her Master of Science degree at the London School of Economics in 2006, and asked her if she ever considered changing her name.
.. She also said it was a matter of principle, given that no one asked Clinton that question. “I think that’s an important statement,” she said. “I’m not proud of all the choices I’ve made in my life, but I’m proud of the person I am. I’m not ashamed of who I am.”
Lewinsky said it was sexist that the scandal was named after her rather than Clinton. “As hard as it has been to have that last name sometimes, and the pain that I have felt that what it’s meant for the other people in my family who have that last name, I am glad I didn’t change it,” she added.
.. But Lewinsky also said there may have been an upside to Facebook FB, -3.55% and Twitter existing in 1998 when her relationship with Clinton became public. “I might have heard some support from some people,” she said. “It would have been more balanced.”
.. Still, she told Oliver that the media representation of her became more and more detached from her real persona. She described it as a form of identity theft. “It was a shit storm,” she said. “It was an avalanche of pain and humiliation.”
“Not to say I wasn’t flawed, or make terrible mistakes or do stupid things, or say stupid things, because of course I did,” she added. Lewinsky said the scandal is referenced somewhere on a daily basis. “Because the scandal has my name,” she added, “I’m forever attached to it.”