It has been a rough couple of years at Southwestern Theological Seminary in Fort Worth and for the Southern Baptist Convention generally. We have learned a lot about the dark underbelly of the so-called “conservative takeover” of the Convention that took place in the 1980s. Here are just a few of my posts over the last year:
Southwestern has been at the heart of many of these SBC problems. According to this article at SBC Voices, the seminary is releasing 25 faculty members and closing its Houston campus. (I wonder if this prison program will close).
Southwestern has also decided to remove stained glass windows devoted to two of the architects of the conservative takeover: Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler. Both were accused of sexual misconduct last year.
Here is a taste of Jacob Lupfer’s piece at Religion News Service:
Pressler and Patterson eventually went from a metaphorical pedestal to actual stained glass. At Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, where Patterson was president, donors raised funds to immortalize leading figures of the conservative resurgence in the school’s chapel windows. The project originally intended to memorialize as many as 70 modern-day conservative Southern Baptist heroes.
Throughout Christian history, churches and cathedrals have used the medium of stained glass to tell the stories of prophets, apostles, saints and the Lord himself. The controversial Southwestern chapel window project, overseen by Dorothy Patterson, Paige’s wife, nicely illustrates the post-takeover SBC’s ahistorical infatuation with itself.
Normally, Christians allow the weight of history or the ecumenical consensus of the ages to decide which heroes of the faith to commit to stained glass. At a minimum, they wait until the honorees have died. But the Pattersons jumped the gun, and their brethren among the SBC powerful were too blinded by their own uncritical adulation for the conservative resurgence to stop them.
With no fanfare, and to the secret relief of many, the windows came down last week. This may reflect a preference for unadorned churches by the more Calvinistic leadership at the seminary, which until recently was a holdout among the SBC’s seminaries for resisting efforts to infuse the Southern Baptist Convention with Reformed theology.
More likely, the windows are untenable amid reconsiderations of Pressler and Patterson themselves. Patterson, 76, was forced out as Southwestern Seminary’s president last year, in part for mishandling sexual misconduct allegations years earlier at another seminary, and Pressler, 88, has been accused of sexual misconduct going back 40 years.
A spokesman for the seminary offered no comment on the windows removal when I called, beyond what was reported in the Alabama Baptist newspaper. The paper quotes an April 3 letter signed by trustee chairman Kevin Ueckert, which gave no reason for the removal, saying only, “After much prayerful consideration and discussion, we have concluded that it is in the best interest of the institution to remove and relocate the stained-glass windows.”
Read the entire piece here.