Southwestern Accuses Pattersons of Theft, Improper Donor Solicitation - Word&Way

Southwestern Accuses Pattersons of Theft, Improper Donor Solicitation

Paige Patterson

Three years after trustees at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary fired Paige Patterson as president for mishandling allegations of student rapes, the school in Fort Worth, Texas, alleges Patterson and his wife Dorothy took items from the SWBTS and improperly contacted SWBTS donors to shift funding to the Pattersons’ personal nonprofit.

“The Pattersons have continued to use institutional records for their own personal benefit and to the detriment of the Seminary,” the SWBTS report alleges. “The Pattersons’s actions have caused substantial financial harm to the Seminary.”

The allegations are outlined in the SWBTS report in the 2021 Southern Baptist Convention Book of Reports, which was released online Friday (May 28). The school’s report came in response to a motion made at the 2019 SBC annual meeting. Since the 2020 annual meeting was canceled due to coronavirus, this year marked the first report back to messengers.

Paige Patterson

Paige Patterson closes his eyes during a special meeting of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustees on May 22, 2018. (Adam Covington/SWBTS via Baptist Press)

SWBTS’s report notes they learned after Patterson’s termination in May of 2018 that “the Pattersons had improperly removed boxes of documents that belonged to the Seminary from the President’s Home” including “confidential donor information, student records, institutional correspondence, financial records, historical files, and meeting and Convention records.” SWBTS legal counsel “repeatedly requested” the Pattersons return the documents, SWBTS added, but this has not occurred.

Most significantly, SWBTS accuses the Patterson of “misappropriation of confidential donor information.” The report says the Pattersons used that confidential list of all donors to the school and “undertook a scheme” to “contact Seminary donors to divert donations and gifts away from the Seminary.”

SWBTS alleges that a $5 million gift was made by donors to the school just before Patterson’s termination. After being fired, SWBTS adds, the Pattersons convinced the donors to “revoke their substantial gift and to instead donate those funds to Sandy Creek Foundation,” which is the Pattersons’ personal nonprofit. SWBTS adds that the foundation purchased a “roughly $1 million home” in August 2018 for the Pattersons apparently “made possible” by the $5 million gift.

Word&Way examined financial reports from Sandy Creek Foundation, which match SWBTS’s allegations. The foundation started the 2018 with just $82,292 in net assets. But it ended the year with $5,295,210 in net assets.

That year, the foundation reported paying Paige $30,000, Dorothy $20,000, and their son Armour $9,000. The foundation, which did not pay directors in previous years, also paid $39,000 to Scott Colter, who had served as Paige’s chief of staff at SWBTS.

Colter since helped launch the Conservative Baptist Network, which is backing candidates for SBC officers this year to push the SBC further rightward. Brad Jurkovich, who is spokesman for the Conservative Baptist Network, was also listed on the 2018 documents as one of nine directors of the Sandy Creek Foundation along with the three Pattersons, Colter, and the Pattersons’ son-in-law.

SWBTS’s report also claims the Pattersons used the school’s donor list to send a mass mailer to solicit donations for the Sandy Creek Foundation. And SWBTS says the Pattersons used the list “to spread misinformation regarding the Seminary.”

Additionally, SWBTS alleges the Pattersons took artwork, antique firearms, and taxidermy from a collection donated to the seminary by Perry Bolin. As the school worked with the Bolin family to transfer the collection to a third party, an inventory in 2019-2020 discovered several missing items.

“Through pictures posted to social media, the Seminary learned that at least one of the missing paintings is hanging in the Pattersons’ new home in Parker, Texas,” the report adds. “On multiple occasions, legal counsel for the Seminary has contacted the Pattersons’ legal counsel to request the items be returned. As of the time of this response, the missing items have yet to be returned to the Seminary.”

The latest allegations follow a legal battle after SWBTS and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, both sued the Harold E. Riley Foundation and its board of trustees for rewriting its bylaws in 2018 after Patterson’s firing. The move, by individuals said to be loyal to Patterson, resulted in diverging funds from the two schools. The two schools regained control of the foundation earlier this year.

Patterson, who along with Paul Pressler led the rightward shift of the SBC starting in 1979, sparks controversy when he preaches at churches now because of his firing. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, announced Friday that Patterson will preach “a special message” this Sunday.

After this story was published, Ben Lovvorn, executive pastor at FBC Dallas, responded to Word&Way’s request for comment about Patterson preaching in light of the new allegations by Southwestern. Lovvorn defended the preaching invite but ignored the claims about the Pattersons.

“Dr. Patterson has actually been scheduled for several months to preach tomorrow,” told Word&Way on Saturday. “The Pattersons are longtime members of First Baptist Dallas. Dr. Patterson served as an associate pastor of the church in the 1970’s and 80’s, and teaches a Sunday School class at the church.”