FORT WORTH, Texas — The announcement that Paige Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and conservative resurgence architect, was being considered for the presidency of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary drew reactions from both seminaries, Tuesday, June 24.
During a closed meeting on the Fort Worth campus with Southwestern faculty members and staff, Patterson fielded questions from his potential colleagues on leadership style, criterion for professors and effective theological education.
Terri Stovall, Southwestern’s women’s program director and assistant professor of adult education, said the nearly three-hour meeting was marked by a positive tone.
“There was a freedom for the faculty and staff to ask whatever they wanted. I don’t think anybody felt like they couldn’t ask something,” Stovall said. “Dr. Patterson seemed to respond very openly and honestly even on some issues that may be considered a little touchy. I think the faculty and staff appreciated that.”
After listening to Patterson and trustees at the meeting, Stovall said her initial reaction to the announcement that the east coast president was being considered included a respect for the decision of the presidential search committee.
“My initial reaction was that the trustees had truly prayed about this and consulted the Lord, and that the trustees wanted the man that God had [for Southwestern]. Obviously the committee feels like it is Dr. Patterson — that’s the message I got,” she said.
As developer of the women’s program at Southwestern, Stovall said she looks forward to working with Patterson’s wife, Dorothy, to further opportunities for women at Southwestern if Patterson was elected later that day.
“I really look forward to working with Mrs. Patterson. To me, she has been a trail blazer in theological education for women,” Stovall said. “She has been somebody I’ve looked to often times as a role model for women in theological education.”
While some speculate about Patterson’s compatibility with Southwestern’s faculty, David Allen, Southwestern’s chairman of the Board of Trustees said he has high hopes that “our excellent faculty will work well with Dr. Patterson.”
“He leads by example and doesn’t expect people to do what he himself is unwilling to do. I think the faculty will respond very well to Dr. Patterson as they get to know his heart,” Allen said, in an interview with the Southern Baptist Texan.
SBC President Jack Graham also said Patterson’s strategy of leading by example has resulted in “hot-hearted preachers” leading Southern Baptist churches.
“In the first year of preaching in chapel [at SEBTS] when there was still a great deal of tension in the air, changes were evident,” Graham said. “Go back two or three years after that, and you’ll see revival – the spiritual transformation of that campus. One of the things he does is to lead by example and to ask faculty and administrators to lead by example, being present, accounted for in chapel — it has worked powerfully and beautifully at Southeastern.”
During the meeting with Southwestern faculty members, Malcolm McDow, professor of evangelism at Southwestern, said Patterson outlined his philosophy for effective theological education. In an information packet distributed to faculty members, the philosophy was defined as “the exposure of the student to great men and women of God, to their lives, to their walk with the Master, to their homes, to their approaches to study, and to their methods of ministry.”
As an outgrowth of his philosophy of ministry, Patterson outlined his commitments to the faculty in the event he would be elected their leader, noting he would “emphasize evangelism and missions.” Professors and staff also learned that Patterson would expect the faculty to remain “loyal to Christ, Southern Baptists and to Southwestern.” Patterson also noted an expectation of the faculty’s involvement in missions as well.
The expectation to adhere to Southern Baptist causes and a commitment to missions and evangelism is nothing new to Southeastern professors serving with Patterson.
According to Southeastern’s professor of evangelism, Alvin Reid, Patterson has created a sense of collegiality around the principles of missions and evangelism.
“What’s great about the faculty here at Southeastern is that it is a brotherhood and sisterhood. Paige has built that by example,” Reid said. “There are those who have said for 20 years now, ‘Let’s not fight over doctrine; let’s just do missions and evangelism.’ He has demonstrated you can’t separate the two. Paige Patterson has done the great experiment, avoiding what virtually every seminary in the history of man has had ? extreme division between academic or theological scholarly pursuits and more practical issues like evangelism. He embodies the blend between a theologian and an evangelist.
“I’m excited for Southwestern – especially for my professors that taught me evangelism,” said Reid, a SWBTS alum. “Because what you will see is a renewed passion for missions and evangelism and perhaps Southwestern’s greatest days ever.” Southeastern’s Director for the Center for Great Commission Studies Keith Eitel said he believes Patterson w