Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary will hold a special called meeting May 30 via Zoom to address concerns raised by trustees regarding lack of disclosure.
The called meeting apparently was in response to a formal request sent to Chairman Danny Roberts, executive pastor of Cross Church, formerly North Richland Hills Baptist Church in suburban Fort Worth, and members of the board of trustees.
In that letter, leaked to several media outlets from an unidentified email account, the writer — whose name was redacted — stated: “We have reached a point of conscience that for us to remain silent would be, in our own opinion, to fail in our fiduciary and legal responsibility to the sole member, SBC, and to leave both of us open to potential questions of personal ethical failure if we do not immediately go on the record in a good faith attempt to disclose what we know to the rest of the board of trustees.”
The letter asserts trustee Aaron Sligar, pastor of Living River Chapel in Sutton, West Virginia, produced “a detailed written report for the board of trustees” regarding an investigation into the financial management of the seminary under the previous administration.
It asserts the officers of the board’s executive committee asked Sligar not to present the full written report to the board. Instead, they asked him to present an oral summary of his findings to the board at its April 17–18 meeting.
The Baptist Standard received an unsolicited document purported to be the “floor report” Sligar presented to the board. The document noted $12 million spent on renovation projects, concerns about credit card policies and possible donor designation changes.
When asked to verify assertions in the letter to Roberts and to indicate whether the “floor report” document accurately represented what he told the board, Sligar replied by email: “An anonymous source leaked the report in question, which is a working document within the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Board of Trustees. While our review is ongoing, this document was never intended for the press or public; as such, it does not represent an official statement from the board.”
Sligar directed any further questions to Roberts.
The letter to Roberts also raised concerns about the formation of Future Fort Worth, a nonprofit whose agent of record is a Southwestern Seminary administrator. The other two directors of the corporation are two Fort Worth businessmen involved in real estate development.
The Standard called Roberts’ office, but the call was not returned. Subsequently, both Roberts and James Smith, vice president for communications, received an email from the Standard with a series of questions.
Rather than answer specific questions, Roberts released a statement through Smith’s office on behalf of himself and the executive committee.
“Southwestern Seminary has inherited and endured a challenging period for more than eight months following the resignation of the former president. Out of a desire to balance charity to the former president with a need to address actions and decisions that have brought us to the seminary’s current state, the board of trustees has disclosed limited information to the Southern Baptist public while it has fulfilled its fiduciary duty to carefully evaluate certain financial matters,” the statement reads.
“Unfortunately, some individuals have questioned the integrity of the board’s processes and actions. While it would be imprudent at this time to answer each claim that is now in circulation in various platforms, we assert claims of inappropriate activities of the board officers, executive committee, and/or named staff are without merit, and the board will release all relevant and appropriate information following a special-called meeting of the board of trustees to be held on May 30 to address these matters.
“Additionally, as has been previously reported, the Department of Justice is investigating the Southern Baptist Convention concerning sexual abuse. The seminary is cooperating fully in this matter.”