FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Former Southern Baptist Convention President Paige Patterson was elected the eighth president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, June 24.
Trustees voted unanimously in public session to extend a call to Patterson, who recently completed 10 years of service as president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. He becomes the second Southern Baptist statesman to serve as president of two SBC seminaries.
A native Texan, Patterson, 60, is a third generation Southern Baptist preacher. His father, T.A. Patterson, once served as the executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., chairman of the Council of Seminary Presidents, praised the selection.
“The election of Paige Patterson as president of Southwestern Seminary is one of the great moments in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention,” said Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. “Dr. Patterson is one of our greatest leaders, and the Martin Luther in the reformation of our convention and the recovery of biblical inerrancy and authority.”
Patterson is the “obvious man” to take Southwestern Seminary into “its next golden era of theological education,” Mohler said. “He is Texan to the bone, courage in every inch, passion in every breath, vision in every thought, and driven by the Gospel in every dimension.”
In a press release issued by Southeastern Seminary, Patterson said it was the “clear call of God” that was taking him to Southwestern Seminary, a place that he added he loves “profoundly.”
“Our departure comes not as result of dissatisfaction of any kind,” he said. “To the contrary, a president has never enjoyed such support and counsel from a governing board, such camaraderie and stimulation from a faculty and staff, such encouragement from a board of visitors, or such love from students.”
Patterson himself was ordained at First Baptist Church Beaumont, Texas, at age 16. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, and a Th.M. and Th.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
After serving as pastor to churches in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas, Patterson became president of the Criswell Center for Biblical Studies, now Criswell College in Dallas. Under his leadership, the center grew from an unaccredited Bible institute into an accredited college offering both undergraduate and graduate degrees. He left Criswell College for Southeastern Seminary in October 1992.
Patterson was president of the SBC from 1998-2000. Texas Monthly magazine described him as a “modern prophet” who would soon become “one of the most important theologians in American Protestantism.” The Raleigh News and Observer included Patterson in its list of the top 100 people who helped shape North Carolina in 1999.
The article said that Patterson was a “conservative revolutionary” and “a tireless advocate of evangelism” who reshaped “what had been a moderate biblical seminary into one of the most conservative theological schools in the country.” The article also said that Patterson was committed to “the reliability of Scripture.”
Patterson’s previous posts and influence among Southern Baptists prove that he has a track record for success in theological education and church life, according to Denny Autrey, a Southwestern Seminary trustee and chairman of the seminary’s presidential search committee. He said that the committee was “unified” in its desire to call Patterson for his gifts in pastoral ministry and scholarship.
“We received numerous letters of recommendation, but more for him than any other candidate,” Autrey said. “We had two options. We could have taken the top two or three candidates and held interviews and invited them back for subsequent interviews or we could have called the number one candidate. Our committee chose to look at all the resumes, but we agreed upon Patterson as the first candidate to discuss.”
The search committee and Patterson first met for five-and-a-half hours, after which the search committee wished to proceed with the interview process. Patterson said that he would like to pray about the opportunity and, after several weeks of prayer, he also agreed to move ahead with further meetings.
Autrey said that Patterson well fits the qualifications for the presidency set forth by the faculty, staff, administration and students of Southwestern in questionnaires provided by the search committee. The new president, he said, must be able to gain the trust of faculty, staff and students; shape and lead the seminary over the next 10 years; exercise oversight in all matters; listen and communicate effectively internally and externally; and cultivate donors and raise endowment support.
He also said that the new president should display in his character personal maturity and family values, a personal call to seminary education and proven leadership as an administrator in the field of higher education. The president should also demonstrate openness and acceptance of all people and identify with the heritage of Southwestern. Patterson met all of the qualifications, Autrey said.
Retiring Southwestern Seminary President Kenneth S. Hemphill said that he supported the decision of trustees concerning the future of the seminary.
“Dr. Patterson has been used by God to build a great seminary at Southeastern,” Hemphill said.
Under Patterson’s leadership, Southeastern Seminary grew from 500 students to nearly 2,300. He initiated the “Scholarship on Fire!” capital fundraising plan, which will provide for a new library, campus center and other renovations. He also oversaw more than $18 million in campus construction and renovation and pioneered church planting relationships between Southeastern and the New Hampshire Baptist Association and the North American Mission Board.
Patterson also developed a respected faculty at the North Carolina seminary, Hemphill said.
“If you look at the excellent faculty he has assembled and the growth and enthusiastic student body that have been drawn to Southeastern, you will discover an eloquent testimony to his credentials to lead Southwestern. His passion for missions and his great heart for the world will suit him well to lead the greatest mission-training institution in the world,” Hemphill said.
Southern Seminary’s Mohler said that Patterson “will take Texas by storm” and “win the hearts of Texas Baptists to the great cause of Gospel and truth as represented by their beloved Southwestern Seminary.”
Mohler said that Southern Baptists “will greet this news with great excitement and joy.” He added that “we will be praying for Southeastern Seminary as they await their new leader. This we know: God will provide a leader to build on Dr. Patterson’s legacy at that great school.”
Hemphill announced his retirement from Southwestern April 8 in order to serve as national strategist for the SBC’s Empowering Kingdom Growth initiative. He said that he and his wife, Paula, were grateful for the nine years of service God gave them at Southwestern. He also said that he and his wife “stand ready to assist Paige and Dorothy in any way possible.”
“I urge the faculty, students, alumni and friends of the seminary to join me in praying for and supporting Paige and Dorothy as they come to Southwestern. No institution of higher learning has greater kingdom impact than Southwestern,” Hemphill said.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.bpnews.net. Photo title: NEW PRESIDENT.