SWBTS trustee chairman: Decision to fire Patterson 'clear'

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- In response to "a number of follow-up questions," Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Trustee Chairman Kevin Ueckert released a statement Friday (June 1), two days after announcing Paige Patterson's termination by the executive committee of the seminary's trustees.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustee chairman Kevin Ueckert, left, addresses trustees at a special called meeting at the Fort Worth, Texas, campus May 22. The board met to discuss the recent controversy surrounding seminary President Paige Patterson, right.
Photo by Adam Covington/SWBTS
The statement specifically addressed Patterson's alleged mishandling of two incidents of reported rapes -- one at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2003 reported by Megan Lively and another by a female student at SWBTS in 2015. The former seminary president, forced into a president emeritus position during a special May 22 trustee meeting, has been under fire since late April for statements he has made about domestic abuse and women's physical appearance.

Ueckert noted student record information provided "with permission" to him this week "contradicts a statement" by Patterson in response to a direct question by a trustee member regarding the 2003 incident at SEBTS, where Patterson was president at the time. And the "rape allegation was never reported to local law enforcement," Ueckert said.

Ueckert's statement went on to address the rape reported in 2015. While authorities were notified of that report, according to the statement, Patterson sent an email to the chief of campus security that discussed meeting with the student alone so he could "break her down" and "that he preferred no officials be present."

"The attitude expressed by Dr. Patterson in that email," Ueckert said, "is antithetical to the core values of our faith and to SWBTS."

Ueckert's statement also addressed a 15-page document released to media outlets May 31 in defense of Patterson by Sharayah Colter, a Southwestern student and wife of Patterson's former chief of staff Scott Colter. The released document addressed, among other claims, the charge that Patterson counseled Lively not to report her alleged rape to police. The document was accompanied by alleged 2003 correspondence between Patterson and Lively.

Ueckert noted the material was released "without the permission of the students referenced in the documents" or "appropriate leadership from SEBTS or SWBTS."

"I believe this was inappropriate and unethical," said Ueckert, noting the release of those documents does "not alter the decision of the Executive Committee."

Ultimately, Ueckert said, the decision of the trustees' Executive Committee to immediately terminate Patterson "was clear and unanimous."

"In this difficult situation," Ueckert said, "the Executive Committee based its decision on the current performance of the president and did not allow the legacy of Dr. Patterson or the #MeToo pressure to steer the outcome. We did not react; rather, we decisively exercised our responsibility based on the Seminary's biblically informed core values and integrity."

See full statement below:

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Statement by Kevin Ueckert, Chairman of the Board of Trustees

By Kevin Ueckert

Based on a number of follow-up questions I have received this week, I am providing this additional statement related to our May 30, 2018 statement. The unanimous decision by the Executive Committee to immediately terminate Dr. Paige Patterson was prayerfully considered and warranted.

We confirmed this week through a student record, made available to me with permission, that an allegation of rape was indeed made by a female student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2003. This information contradicts a statement previously provided by Dr. Patterson in response to a direct question by a Board member regarding the incident referenced in our May 30 statement. The 2003 rape allegation was never reported to local law enforcement. SWBTS will not release the student record to the public without additional appropriate permissions.

In addition, as previously disclosed, a female student at SWBTS reported to Dr. Patterson that she had been raped in 2015. Police were notified of that report. But in connection with that allegation of rape, Dr. Patterson sent an email (the contents of which were shared with the Board on May 22) to the Chief of Campus Security in which Dr. Patterson discussed meeting with the student alone so that he could "break her down" and that he preferred no officials be present. The attitude expressed by Dr. Patterson in that email is antithetical to the core values of our faith and to SWBTS. Moreover, the correlation between what has been reported and also revealed in the student record regarding the 2003 allegation at Southeastern and the contents of this email are undeniable.

Further, SWBTS received a request from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary requesting the return of any documents taken by Dr. Patterson upon his departure from Southeastern. Counsel for SWBTS, Michael Anderson, immediately reached out to counsel for Dr. Patterson, Shelby Sharpe, on May 25 and made inquiry regarding the documents. Mr. Sharpe advised Mr. Anderson that Dr. Patterson only took documents from Southeastern that belonged to him. Yet, independent of that request, following the May 30 Executive Committee meeting, SWBTS located Southeastern documents on the SWBTS campus and began taking steps to preserve them. Mr. Anderson is in contact with George Harvey, counsel for Southeastern, and is working with Mr. Harvey regarding Southeastern's request for the return of its documents.

The morning after the May 30 Executive Committee meeting, Mr. Sharp provided a few documents he reportedly obtained from Dr. Patterson. The documents clearly dealt with Dr. Patterson's tenure at Southeastern and should have been previously provided in response to Mr. Anderson's May 25 request. Shortly after these documents were provided, the wife of Dr. Patterson's Chief of Staff published a blog and attached these documents without the permission of the students referenced in the documents or appropriate leadership from SEBTS or SWBTS. I believe this was inappropriate and unethical. Regardless, the additional documents do not alter the decision of the Executive Committee.

Ultimately, the decision of the Executive Committee to immediately terminate Dr. Patterson was clear and unanimous.

I also want to reiterate what SWBTS Interim President Dr. Jeffrey Bingham said earlier this week. SWBTS denounces all abusive behavior, any behavior that enables abuse, any failure to protect the abused, and any failure to safeguard those who are vulnerable to abuse.

In this difficult situation, the Executive Committee based its decision on the current performance of the president and did not allow the legacy of Dr. Patterson or the #MeToo pressure to steer the outcome. We did not react; rather, we decisively exercised our responsibility based on the Seminary's biblically informed core values and integrity.

I join Dr. Bingham in his call for the SWBTS community to join the Body of Christ in praying for healing for all individuals affected by abuse.

Compiled by Shawn Hendricks, editor of Baptist Press. With reporting from David Roach, BP chief national correspondent.
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