Update 6-2-23, 3:45 p.m.: Southwestern Seminary released a full response to the allegations reported below June 2. Read more here.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary released a statement Tuesday (May 30) from board of trustees chair Danny Roberts regarding the May 30 special-called board meeting via Zoom. The meeting addressed concerns raised by trustees regarding a lack of disclosure related to accusations of financial mismanagement by seminary staff under the previous administration.
In the released statement, Roberts noted four motions the full board approved in response to accusations that became public following an email that was reportedly sent May 20 by trustees Aaron Sligar of West Virginia and Andrew Bunnell of Georgia. According to the statement, the board found the accusations against SWBTS staff members of “financial mismanagement and misbehavior” to be “without merit.” Among the motions, the board “unreservedly repudiates as unsubstantiated and egregious” the accusations that were made by Sligar and Bunnell.
The board went on to approve a motion for board officers to “conduct an investigation of possible misconduct” by the two trustees “per bylaw 2.14 and report back to the full board within 60 days.”
Trustees also authorized officers to “publish the audited financials as one comprehensive report for the fiscal years 2003–2022 and examples of presidential expenses as generated by the Task Force review.”
Paige Patterson was president of Southwestern Seminary from 2003 until the board fired him in 2018. Adam Greenway was president from February 2019 until last September, when he resigned under pressure from the board.
Addressing the findings
In his statement, Roberts noted the Zoom meeting was convened “even though the vote for a meeting was well short of the required 21 positive votes.” However, Roberts said, he called the meeting at the request of seminary President David Dockery.
“Sligar and Bunnell stated their case,” Roberts noted. “Each of the matters they presented was discussed and evidence or lack thereof was vetted.”
The statement noted, “A task force presented its findings, and two staff members whose personal morality was egregiously and baselessly questioned were able to speak and share about the harm that has resulted.”
Last week, a copy of a letter to Roberts calling for a special trustee meeting — with the names of the writers redacted — was leaked to several media outlets by an anonymous source from an unfamiliar email address.
The letter calling for the special board meeting stated Sligar produced “a detailed written report” for the board regarding an investigation into financial mismanagement, but the board’s executive committee asked him not to present the full report to the board. Instead, they asked him to present an oral overview of his findings at the board’s April meeting.
A copy of a document labeled the “floor report” that Sligar presented as an oral report to the full board also was leaked last week. That document accused Greenway “and others” of demonstrating “a freedom in the finances of the Seminary” and “out-of-control spending.” It stated Greenway’s “closest staff failed to approach him regarding finances.”
The “floor report” document noted $12 million had been spent on a variety of renovation projects. The document also pointed to alleged credit card fraud and possible donor designation changes, as well as recommendations for financial policy changes.
When the Baptist Standard contacted Sligar last week, he said the “floor report” was “a working document” that “was never intended for the press or public.”
Roberts noted in the statement that Sligar and Bunnell emailed their claims “with the unsubstantiated material becoming public several days later by individuals obviously motivated to bring harm on the institution, the board, and certain staff. To send such an email was reckless, since it was inevitable that such claims would become public. In today’s meeting, the board heard all the facts and has now acted.”
‘Repudiation of allegations’
Roberts expressed gratitude for “the near-total support of the trustee board” and said he wanted to “state publicly and without equivocation my personal repudiation of the allegations made against my colleagues and me, as well as against staff members of the seminary.”
“I can state confidently that the board leadership has exercised aggressively its fiduciary duties, with trustees giving collectively thousands of hours of their time in doing so. Financial guardrails have been and continue to be researched and put in place. One example is that the chairman is now examining the expense reports of the president and the Seminary Leadership Team on a quarterly basis,” he stated.
For more background, see story by the Baptist Standard.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was compiled and edited by The Baptist Paper, with reporting by the Baptist Standard.