A Muslim at SWBTS?

Patterson letter to trustees explains reasoning for enrollment exception

A Palestinian Muslim who has been of “great help” to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Gezer archaeological work was admitted to the school’s Ph.D. in archaeology program, in an apparent exception to the seminary’s admissions policy. Seminary President Paige Patterson told the TEXAN that the student enrolled at Southwestern last year. Patterson admitted the Muslim student because “he had no other options for Ph.D. work in his field” and because the seminary president hoped he would come to Christ.

In fact, three other non-Christian students have been granted admission to schools led by Paige Patterson over nearly four decades of academic leadership, Patterson told the TEXAN. These prior students all came to Christ during their tenure as students. One, a former Syrian Orthodox priest, received Christ during his second semester at SWBTS, after chapel, and has since married and become a professor at Baylor University.

Patterson told the TEXAN that he granted the exception after taking counsel from other seminary administrators but that “the final decision was mine alone.” “We required that the student would agree with our moral standards while a student at Southwestern. It was no problem for him,” Patterson added. 

Although seminary trustees were not advised before granting the exception, they have now been briefed on the situation.

In a letter to trustees obtained by the TEXAN, Patterson wrote that “[He] is a peace loving man who worked several years with us at Tel Gezer. Finishing his M.A. in Archeology at a Jordanian university, he had few options if any in Israel or Jordan.  He asked about our program. He agreed to abide by all our moral standards which he has done. He is also open to professors and students. 

“Unfortunately, the story released is not really about [the student], about whom the author cares little as is indicated by placing him at risk. The author is constantly on my case along with his following and much frustrated that he has enjoyed so little success.” 

Patterson also expressed concern for the student’s perception of Christians because of the incident and also that trustees would be unfairly blamed for something “of which you are not guilty.”

An Oklahoma blogger who had disagreed with Southwestern’s leadership on other occasions brought the matter to light in a post dated May 16 and titled “Southwestern Baptist Islamic Theological Seminary and the Center for Cultural Engagement and Firing.” Pastor Wade Burleson of Enid, Okla., went on in the post to mention a recent and unrelated faculty dismissal, though without any details.

The TEXAN will post a more complete story as more details are available. 

Correspondent
Gary Ledbetter
Southern Baptist Texan
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