Does Jerry Falwell Jr. Care That He Just Lost a Star Faculty Member?

Liberty Campus

Karen Swallow Prior recently announced that she is leaving Liberty University for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC.  Thus far I have heard nothing from university president Jerry Falwell Jr. about her departure.  Granted, university presidents do not usually comment on the loss of faculty members, but Falwell Jr. seems to have an opinion about everything.

Did the university president want to keep his star never-Trumper English professor?  Did he make a counter-offer?  Was he glad to see her go?  I am guessing that Falwell Jr. is not losing sleep over Prior’s departure.  This, it seems, has less to do with Prior’s quiet and understated anti-Trumpism and more to do with the fact that Falwell Jr. does not think faculty members are as important as football coaches, athletic directors, or those at his university who are engaged in the front lines of the culture wars.

What does Prior’s leaving tell us about the current state of Liberty University?  Did Southeastern Baptist Seminary lure her away?  Or was she desperately trying to get out?

ADDENDUM (1:16pm):

I just learned that Falwell Jr. tweeted about this last night.  (Falwell Jr. blocked me a long time ago).  He wrote:

“You will be greatly missed, Karen. I was hoping you’d stay until I converted you into a Trump supporter! Oh well. You always made LU proud by pouring your life into your students. Thank you for that.”

Karen Swallow Prior Leaves Liberty University

Author and educator Karen Swallow Prior. Courtesy photo

Photo courtesy of Religion News Service

I am glad to see that schools like the college at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina have research professors and I am happy that Karen Swallow Prior will be holding one of these positions beginning in the Fall of 2020. This is book news in evangelical circles.

According to Kate Shellnut’s piece at Christianity Today, she will be one of the only female faculty members at the Southern Baptist school.

Here is the press release from Southeastern:

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) is excited to announce that Karen Swallow Prior will be joining the faculty as full-time research professor of English and Christianity & Culture beginning in the fall semester of 2020. She will be the first research professor in the history of The College at Southeastern.

“I am delighted to have Karen join our faculty,” said SEBTS President Danny Akin. “She is a gifted teacher in the field of English and literature who loves Christ, the gospel and the Great Commission. Our students will be blessed to sit under her instruction. She is a wonderful addition to the outstanding faculty of Southeastern.”

Prior has served for more than two decades as professor of English at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, where she is also a senior fellow with Liberty University’s Center for Apologetics and Cultural Engagement. She received both her M.A. and Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo, and she earned a B.A. from Daemen College. Prior and her husband, Roy, are members of Thomas Road Baptist Church. 

Prior is an accomplished author and speaker with an expertise in 18th century British literature. She has published three books: “On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life in Great Books”, which was named a Top Religion Book of 2018 by Publisher’s Weekly, and a literary and spiritual memoir, “Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me.” Her book, “Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More – Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist” was chosen for a Christianity Today Book Award in 2015. Likewise, she has written numerous articles in publications such as Christianity Today, The Washington Post, Books & Culture, The Atlantic and The Gospel Coalition.

“I could not be more excited about this announcement,” said Scott Pace, dean of The College at Southeastern and Johnny Hunt chair of biblical preaching. “Karen Prior is a welcomed addition to our already stellar faculty at The College of Southeastern. As a conservative evangelical and cultural ambassador, Karen brings a unique combination of skills and expertise that will help train our students through a Christian liberal arts education and equip them to give their lives for the cause of Christ in the church, among the nations, and in every aspect of society.”

While Prior will primarily teach undergraduates at The College at Southeastern, she will also regularly teach at the graduate and doctoral level.

Prior has also served as a research fellow with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and is currently a member of the Faith Advisory Council of the Humane Society of the United States.

“I’m looking forward to being able to join with Southeastern in its exciting mission of sending students, future pastors and future scholars across the globe according to God’s calling on their lives and the Great Commission,” said Prior.

“At Liberty, I have been privileged to disciple Christian young people for 21 years, primarily in my discipline of English,” she said. “My mission in teaching has always been to have students leaving my classroom loving life, literature and God more than when they came in. I look forward to continuing in that mission as I move into this new assignment at Southeastern.” 

Paige Patterson’s Attorney Says His Client is the Victim of “wide-spread misrepresentation and misinformation”

PaigePatterson(2)

Here is the latest on the Paige Patterson mess.  It comes from David Roach at Baptist Press.  A taste:

An attorney for terminated Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson issued a media release late Monday afternoon (June 4) defending Patterson against alleged “wide-spread misrepresentation and misinformation…

Among Sharpe’s claims in his media release:

— “No reasonable reading of” correspondence from Patterson’s personal archives suggested Lively “reported a rape to Dr. Patterson” in 2003 when he was Southeastern’s president “and certainly not that he ignored” such a report, “as is alleged.”

— “Dr. Patterson first learned of the charges that he allegedly did not report a rape at SEBTS during the May 22 board meeting” of Southwestern’s trustees. “Dr. Patterson’s response was that he had no recollection of a rape being reported to him.”

Sharpe told BP Patterson didn’t “remember a lady reporting a rape” while he was at Southeastern, so he called Allan Moseley, Southeastern’s dean of students in 2003. “Dr. Moseley said, ‘I don’t recall the lady telling me that.’ And then the lady who became [Lively’s] accountability partner” said, when she was queried May 22, “I don’t ever remember this student telling me that.”

Sharpe alleged that Lively, in 2003, “confessed to consensual” sexual conduct and “referred to it as a sin on her part.”

— During the May 22 Southwestern trustee meeting, “Dr. Patterson explained the full context” of a 2015 email concerning a rape allegation by a female student at the Fort Worth seminary, including his alleged statement that he wanted to meet with the accuser alone to “break her down.” Patterson’s explanation was “to the apparent satisfaction of the full board, as evidenced by the fact that the full trustee board voted to name Dr. Patterson ‘president emeritus’ instead of terminating him.”

Sharpe told BP the accuser met “with Dr. Patterson and with others and report[ed] the rape. The guy was immediately expelled from school and it’s reported to law enforcement. A week later, she sends an email to Dr. Patterson thanking him for the way he handled the delicate matter.”

More than “a month later,” Sharpe said, Patterson made the “break her down” statement to express his desire to more fully understand circumstances “concerning a forthcoming meeting that had nothing to do with the reporting of the rape.”

— “Dr. Patterson flatly denies that private SEBTS archives were ever stolen,” and his personal attorney has invited Southeastern to “join with him in having Peacemakers Ministries provide an arbitrator agreeable to both parties to decide the ownership of” disputed records “in accordance with 1 Corinthians 6, which prescribes how Christians are to settle disputes rather than using the secular court system.”

Read the entire article here.

Southeastern Seminary: “At this time there has been no evidence discovered that disputes or discredits our former student’s account”

SOutheastern

Here is the official statement from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary:

During the last few weeks Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) has walked through a situation that began when our administration was contacted by a former student who was the victim of an alleged sexual assault in 2003. Dr. Danny Akin, president of SEBTS, communicated the institution’s willingness to assist her in any way, and began an internal review of the matter. At this time, the internal review is not complete because SEBTS is not in possession of documents deemed as being owned by the seminary. At this time there has been no evidence discovered that disputes or discredits our former student’s account.

As public conversation has continued, correspondence regarding the matter has surfaced which were not in any files possessed by SEBTS. Such correspondence should be held in student files under protection of federal privacy laws regarding education records. It is our express desire to acquire these documents as well as any others that should be held by SEBTS.

A statement released today by Shelby Sharpe, personal attorney for Dr. Paige Patterson, refers to a request that we join in an arbitration process provided by Peacemakers Ministries. The statement indicates that we have not accepted. While we do understand that mail delay or other extenuating circumstances may have arisen, to this date we have received no such request. Mr. Sharpe also references a statement provided by a former staff member associated with the Pattersons in which he verifies he only removed documents that were the property of the Pattersons. It is our understanding that these are documents that were stored in the SEBTS Library archives and are not related to the official Presidential communications of the institution.

SEBTS does not believe the official Presidential communications were maliciously removed from the property. However, we believe there is a misunderstanding on the part of the Pattersons and their attorney as to what is owned by SEBTS under the work for hire doctrine.

It is not our intention to settle this matter in a court of law, and SEBTS has never expressed the desire to pursue action in the courts regarding these documents. We have made a request to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) and are working amicably with the institution to preserve and return all documents that are the property of SEBTS to our campus in Wake Forest. We have no desire to be uncooperative. We simply cannot respond to a request that we have not received.

Our ultimate goal in this process is to provide a safe learning environment and to protect the privacy of all our students and graduates.

Get some context by reading our coverage here.

What is the Current Status of the Paige Patterson Files Removed from Southeastern Seminary?

SOutheasternWe blogged about this last week.  Southern Baptist blogger Wade Burleson suggested that files pertaining to a 2003 rape of a student at Southeastern Seminary during the Paige Patterson presidency were removed from the seminary archives when Patterson left for Southwestern Seminary.  Get up to speed here.

It looks like Danny Akin, the current president of Southeastern, has weighed-in.  Here is a taste of Michelle Boorstein’s and Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s reporting at The Washington Post:

Danny Akin, president of Southeastern seminary, said he couldn’t confirm if the Southwestern leaders were referring to Lively’s alleged 2003 rape at his school. Akin said he believes files that would help them investigate the incident were taken from Southeastern when Patterson left that same year to become president at Southwestern in Texas.

“Whether by mistake or intentionally, I don’t know. We think there are files that probably belong to Southeastern so we’ve asked folks at Southwestern to look into that. They’re in the process of doing that,” he said.

Read the entire piece here