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Greenway sues SWBTS, board chair; claims ‘defamation’ has made him ‘unemployable’

Baptist Press file photo

Editor’s note: This story was updated after its initial publication to add a new second paragraph.

FORT WORTH (BP) — Necessary repairs to the president’s home in the wake of his predecessor’s departure – including “mold and mildew … throughout the HVAC system, including the ductwork” contributed mightily to costs that were used in a “behind-the-scenes initiative” for his removal, former Southwestern Seminary president Adam Greenway claims in a lawsuit filed March 20 against the school and Board of Trustees chairman Danny Roberts.

The lawsuit claims Greenway was defamed by seminary leaders, which resulted in “severe damage to his reputation and rendering him unemployable in the professional capacity for which he is qualified.”

The suit claims that Roberts knew of the condition of the home, which is also used as a “multi-purpose institutional facility” for hosting gatherings such as fundraising events and receptions, when he toured it with Greenway in February 2019 just before the latter became president. Repairs began shortly thereafter.

“Restoration of the facility was necessary to return the President’s Home to usable condition as a seminary asset in the center of campus,” the suit reads.

In order to reduce costs, the suit said Greenway eliminated 14 full-time staff positions dedicated to the home, including a chef. Pecan Manor, as it was known during previous president Paige Patterson’s tenure, also had four offices and up to 27 active phone lines. 

A letter sent last fall on behalf of Greenway by his attorney threatening a $5 million lawsuit (that was never filed) was called “baseless” and “absurd” by seminary leadership. The current suit calls for damages “in excess of $75,000.”

“It is regrettable that Adam Greenway is suing the seminary he has previously claimed to love in response to Southwestern’s refusal to agree to his demand of $5 million last fall,” Southwestern said in a statement. “It is also disappointing that his lawyer turned down multiple invitations to inspect the evidence supporting the public statements previously made by the seminary. We categorically deny the allegations contained in the lawsuit, will defend vigorously the institution, and are confident the outcome will demonstrate that these claims are entirely baseless.”

$1.6 million line of credit

The highly-publicized purchase of an espresso machine was part of a “commercial grade coffee bar” costing $11,123.49 that included a water filtration system, accessories and installation, the suit said. It was among items used during events such as graduation weekend, where approximately 1,000 graduates and families could flow through the home in a single day. Reception events during the Christmas season routinely saw the same sized crowds.

Expenditures for repairs and renovations were made “with the knowledge of the appropriate officials at SWBTS” and submitted to the vice president for Business Administration, who also serves as treasurer, Greenway said. Financial records were audited annually by an outside firm selected by trustees, with copies presented to Greenway, members of Southwestern’s board and chair and Southern Baptist Convention officials.

The suit stated that in the summer of 2022, disagreements arose between Greenway and “a faction of leadership … relating to continued employment of persons within the administration of [SWBTS].”

It was during that time Greenway said he learned Colby Adams, then serving as vice president of Business Administration, had apparently seen the need to draw approximately $1.6 million in a line of credit extended to the seminary. This “was the first instance wherein Plaintiff was advised that a funding shortfall existed.”

Greenway sought to remove Adams from his role, but says he was blocked from doing so by Roberts and other trustees. Adams was instead reassigned – against Greenway’s wishes – to working on Southwestern legal matters.

Disagreements with SWBTS leaders, alumni

Later that summer and into the fall, disagreements between Greenway and “factions” in SWBTS leadership grew over political topics.

On Sept. 12, 2022, Greenway posted a tweet critical of a conference that he felt promoted “Christian Nationalism,” saying:

“If America really was/is a Christian nation – as my Twitter feed indicates some are claiming today – then where are the cries to repent and believe instead of just calls to register and go vote? Don’t reduce the Bible to a political prop and Jesus to a candidate consultant, please.”

Greenway alleges this brought significant pushback from influential Southwestern leadership and alumni in a group chat. On Sept. 22, the suit says Roberts met with Greenway and “demanded” his resignation as president, offering six months’ salary, benefits, housing and “the promise of mutual non-disparagement as terms of separation.”

Greenway resigned under those terms the following day.

An Oct. 18 press release by Roberts reneged on those terms, the suit says, by blaming Greenway for the seminary’s financial position. A settlement agreement was eventually reached through Greenway’s counsel for his resignation that included a provision for both parties to issue a joint statement.

Southwestern would be responsible for the statement to be issued on or before Feb. 28, 2023. Greenway’s official resignation took effect Feb. 13 last year.

A statement concerning Greenway was emailed to Baptist Press on Feb. 28, but not published.

As BP reported last fall, Brandon Porter, associate vice president for convention news at the SBC Executive Committee, reached out to both sides for “context and comment.”

“Both sides declined to provide either,” Porter said at the time. “BP editors chose not to publish the statement or a story about it without context or comments.”

The March 20 suit stated that SWBTS “has the capacity to issue public statements on its website, and commonly does so.”

“Plaintiff requested that SWBTS place the statement on its website to ensure it was issued,” it said. “SWBTS specifically declined to do so.”