Patterson top pick to head Southwestern
June 20 2003 by Mark Wingfield , Texas Baptist Standard

Patterson top pick to head Southwestern | Friday, June 20, 2003

Friday, June 20, 2003

Patterson top pick to head Southwestern

By Mark Wingfield Texas Baptist Standard

FORT WORTH - Paige Patterson will be nominated as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in a called meeting of seminary trustees June 24.

David Allen, chairman of Southwestern's trustees confirmed to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that trustees would vote on Patterson in a closed-door meeting in Fort Worth.

Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, confirmed to the Dallas Morning News that he is the candidate and will be in Fort Worth for the meeting. The Star-Telegram reported that Patterson previously met with the presidential search committee two weeks ago.

"I don't know what they are going to do, but there is a fairly good chance they may extend the call to come to Southwestern," Patterson told Baptist Press.

Sources close to the situation told the Biblical Recorder that Patterson appears to be the choice.

Coy Privette, a former chairman and still member of the trustees at Southeastern said Patterson had told the trustees that he had interviewed for the Southwestern post.

"I said, 'Go ahead and may the Lord's will be done,'" Privette said. "If he leaves, I'm sure the good Lord's got us another good president."

Privette said Patterson has done a superb job at Southeastern and called his work there "miraculous."

A Star-Telegram article quoted several sources close to Southwestern and Southeastern praising Patterson as the right person for the Southwestern job and indicating he is the candidate.

Patterson would succeed Ken Hemphill, who is leaving to accept a newly created position in Nashville, Tenn., as national strategist for the Southern Baptist Convention's Empowering Kingdom Growth emphasis.

Hemphill and other seminary leaders have denied previous reports that Hemphill was pressured to leave the seminary presidency. However, numerous sources related to the seminary have told the Baptist Standard, the Star-Telegram and the Morning News that Hemphill was forced to leave by a group of fundamentalist trustees acting in concert with other SBC leadership.

Trustees reportedly have wanted a stronger personality who will sweep out all faculty deemed not in agreement with the SBC's fundamentalist theology and conservative politics.

Patterson is viewed as an ideal choice for the task, because he was one of two architects of the so-called "conservative resurgence" that has reshaped the SBC since 1979. Along with Paul Pressler of Houston, Patterson sounded an alarm about alleged liberalism in SBC schools and agencies, rallying busloads of messengers to SBC annual meetings to elect a string of ultra-conservative presidents. Those presidents in turn influenced the selection of trustee boards.

Supporters of that conservative movement hail Patterson as a defender of the faith.

"Dr. Patterson is one of the heroes of our denomination," Southwestern trustee Lolley Cogswell of Sherman told the Star-Telegram.

Bob Pearle, pastor of Birchman Baptist Church in Fort Worth, told the newspaper Patterson would be an excellent choice at Southwestern.

Likewise, former SBC President Tom Elliff of Del City, Okla., commended Patterson as a proactive, visionary leader and told the Star-Telegram: "It would not surprise me if the committee chose him."

The Morning News quoted former SBC President James Merritt of Atlanta: "I don't think you could find a finer man to lead any educational institution than Dr. Paige Patterson."

Patterson twice was elected president of the SBC, and he has been credited with pulling Southeastern Seminary out of a near-death spiral. In 11 years there, he not only stopped an exodus of students but also grew student enrollment from 700 to 2,400.

If Patterson comes to the Texas post, it would be a homecoming of sorts - and a symbol of how the Baptist landscape has changed.

Patterson is a native Texan. His father, T.A. Patterson, was executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas from 1961 to 1973.

After earning an undergraduate degree at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, a BGCT-affiliated school, Patterson left Texas to attend New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisiana.

He returned to Texas as a pastor and educator, serving as president of the Criswell Center for Biblical Studies, which today is Criswell College. The Bible college was started out of First Baptist Church of Dallas and was considered a more conservative alternative to BGCT-related schools or SBC seminaries, including nearby Southwestern.

From his post at Criswell, Patterson launched the crusade to turn the SBC in a more conservative direction.

Relations between Southwestern and the BGCT, once highly cordial and cooperative, have grown strained in recent years as the SBC has pushed for more doctrinal conformity. One key area of disagreement is the SBC's new faith statement, drafted during Patterson's tenure as convention president. Southwestern and other SBC seminaries require faculty to sign the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, a document the BGCT has refused to endorse.

(EDITOR'S NOTE - BR Managing Editor Steve DeVane contributed to this report.)

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6/20/2003 12:00:00 AM by Mark Wingfield , Texas Baptist Standard | with 0 comments
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