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In special session, SWBTS board passes four motions in response to trustees’ claims

Editor’s note: This story was updated after publication to reflect that Aaron Sliger joined the task force appointed to conduct a financial investigation at SWBTS in March, not at its origin in October. A SWBTS spokesperson also told Baptist Press that Sligar did not lead the task force.

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — In a special called meeting May 30, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustees approved a motion “to publish the audited financials as one comprehensive report” from a 20-year period through 2022 in response to allegations that its executive committee withheld vital financial information from the full board.

A May 20 letter to fellow trustees from Aaron Sligar, pastor of Living River Chapel in Sutton, W.Va., and current president of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists, and Andrew Bunnell, president and CEO of Biblical Ministries Worldwide based in Lawrenceville, Ga., prompted President David Dockery to request the meeting, which was held in executive session.

That letter, which was leaked to various media outlets, called for the special meeting as a result of an accusation that the board’s executive committee did not disclose “pertinent information to the full Board of Trustees” from an investigation into spending during the administration of former SWBTS president Adam Greenway. The letter also questioned the recent establishment of Future Fort Worth, a development corporation listing current SWBTS staffer Colby Adams and a partner who “has had significant conversations about real estate matters with administrative officials at SWBTS,” the letter stated.

SWBTS released a statement from trustee chairman Danny Roberts following the board meeting late Tuesday night.

“Sligar and Bunnell stated their case. Each of the matters they presented was discussed and evidence or lack thereof was vetted. A task force presented its findings and two staff members whose personal morality was egregiously and baselessly questioned were able to speak and share about the harm that has resulted,” the statement read.

Four motions were passed, one unanimously that “affirms the ongoing work to strengthen financial guardrails recommended by the task force to ensure greater accountability and oversight of the president and other senior administrators.”

That motion also “unreservedly repudiates as unsubstantiated and egregious other rumors trafficked by Trustees Andrew Bunnell and Aaron Sligar made against employees of the Seminary.”

In March, Sligar, a former federal investigator, joined a task force that had been formed last October. Sligar brought a floor report from that task force at the board’s April gathering.

Three other motions, approved “overwhelmingly” according to the statement, called for:

  • Publishing financials for the fiscal years 2003-2022, “and examples of presidential expenses as generated by the Task Force review”
  • Authorizing the publication of a response to allegations made by Sligar and Bunnell
  • Officers of the board “to conduct an investigation of possible misconduct” by the two trustees and to report back within 60 days.

The task force, Roberts said at the April meeting, “was given unfettered access by the administration to all financial records of the institution, and concluded there were instances of imprudent, unwise and some activities contrary to institutional policies. These findings, however, did not rise to the level of requiring further action based on what is currently known.”

In a copy of his April report to the board’s executive committee obtained by Baptist Press, Sligar stated he became aware of a Department of Justice investigation “into matters of business within Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.”

“This investigation is currently in the hands of the FBI and they have begun their investigation. I did not initiate the investigation, nor have I spoken with the FBI or other federal investigators,” he said.

Per its protocols, the FBI’s Dallas bureau would not confirm or deny any investigation to Baptist Press.

In his floor report to the board over financial transactions from 2019 until Greenway’s 2022 resignation, Sligar went on to say, “The only way to understand where all the money had gone is to complete a forensic audit which would be extremely expensive and time-consuming.”

Tuesday evening, the first approved motion said the accusations in the email from Sligar and Bunnell “of financial mismanagement and misbehavior amongst those individuals to be without merit.” The motion went on to say the board “repudiates as unsubstantiated and egregious other rumors trafficked by” the trustees.

Baptist Press reached out to Sligar, Bunnell and Greenway after the meeting; all declined to comment.