A Southwestern Seminary professor who shared a platform with disgraced former seminary President Paige Patterson this spring either has been fired or has resigned, depending on who’s telling the story.
David Allen, who served 18 years as distinguished professor of preaching at the Southern Baptist Convention seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, will leave seminary employment July 31. He says he was fired; the seminary says he was offered a different role and refused it.
Allen released his own statement on Facebook July 28 saying he “declined (President Adam) Greenway’s directive that he accept a ‘senior professor’ role, which is a retirement position void of full-time salary and benefits.”
Benjamin Skaug, provost and vice president for academic administration, released a response later the same day saying he was “disappointed that Dr. Allen refused continued service when offered the opportunity to serve as a senior professor. Since beginning my service as provost on February 15 of this year, I have been closely involved in the conversations regarding Dr. Allen’s relationship to the seminary. I am grieved that Dr. Allen has chosen to publish a statement that so brazenly misrepresents these conversations and the seminary’s action.”
Skaug added: “Contrary to Dr. Allen’s portrayal, the role of senior professor is a position of honor for faculty members who have served a significant period of time in their roles. At Southwestern Seminary, this position is held by individuals like Craig Blaising, Jack Terry, Ken Hemphill, Dan Crawford and more. It is unfortunate that Dr. Allen suggests that the service these men continue to render to Southwestern Seminary is second-class service.”
In March, Allen was one of two high-profile SBC leaders who spoke at a Bible conference in North Carolina with Patterson, who was fired by Southwestern trustees over allegations that he mishandled known cases of sexual abuse. Because of the fallout over that firing and subsequent allegations of mismanagement and donor poaching by Patterson, he remains persona non grata on the Fort Worth campus.
Greenway has spent the three years of his administration making amends with faculty, staff, donors and alumni — even as the SBC has been embroiled in a reckoning over alleged coverups of sexual abuse that parallel Patterson’s actions. Amid that backdrop, Allen agreed to speak at the “March Like a Champion” Bible conference at First Baptist Church of Indian Trail, N.C., along with Patterson.
The other high-profile SBC leader on that platform was Johnny Hunt, who then was a senior vice president at the SBC’s North American Mission Board but this summer resigned after the SBC’s investigation found he had engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with a pastor’s wife.
No sexual impropriety has been alleged against Allen, although his willingness to tacitly endorse Patterson raised eyebrows in Fort Worth and beyond. In 2017, Allen gained national notoriety for posting to social media a photo of himself and four other white male faculty members dressed as Black gang members in what they believed was humor but was quickly called out as racist.
However, neither of these faux pas were publicly cited by seminary officials as contributing to the change in Allen’s employment status, even though Allen says his first notification of the intent to move him to senior faculty status came April 5, less than a month after he preached alongside Patterson. And Allen says in his nine-page letter to Greenway that another seminary administrator had expressed a “negative opinion” about him appearing on the same program with Patterson. He also notes that Greenway was upset with him about that appearance.
Privately and publicly, Skaug cited Allen’s extracurricular work as a preaching coach as a cause for concern.
“In recent months, it has become clear that Dr. Allen desires to devote his best time and energy to ministry endeavors outside of Southwestern Seminary, including his new Preaching Coach ministry,” Skaug said in his public statement. “While we are grateful for Dr. Allen’s ministry through Preaching Coach, in order to best steward the resources of Southwestern Seminary, it was determined that it was best that this new endeavor be pursued in a role that relieved him of full-time faculty and administrative obligations. As all of our full-time faculty know, the expectations placed on them are significant and would be impossible to fulfill if they were devoting significant time and energy to building outside platforms and ministries.”
“In recent months, it has become clear that Dr. Allen desires to devote his best time and energy to ministry endeavors outside of Southwestern Seminary, including his new Preaching Coach ministry.”
It is not unusual for full-time seminary professors to accept side gigs, most often as supply preachers and sometimes as interim pastors, usually with approval of the administration. Allen, however, has created a separate ministry of one-on-one coaching, complete with his own website.
Skaug said: “We rejoice when the Lord places new callings upon the hearts of his servants, but these new callings, and the time commitments involved, often require adjustments to our previous commitments. The offer of a senior professor role provided a way for the seminary to honor Dr. Allen while he was also provided the time to pursue new professional opportunities. While it was necessary to change the nature of his faculty service, to be clear, it was Dr. Allen who chose to separate himself completely from faculty service at Southwestern Seminary.”
For his part, Allen said he had sent a nine-page letter to Greenway and seminary trustees stating he had “no intention to retire or resign” from his distinguished professorship.
Before joining the faculty, Allen served 12 years on the seminary’s board of trustees and was involved in the controversial firing of President Russell Dilday in 1994. At the time, Allen was a pastor in the DFW Metroplex. He later went on to chair the trustee board.
After joining the faculty, Allen served 12 years as dean of the School of Theology and four years as founding dean of the School of Preaching.
Since Greenway’s installation as president in 2019 and in the fallout from Patterson’s firing, the seminary has experienced unusually high turnover in faculty — some inside sources claiming as many as 45 departures.
Skaug said the end of Allen’s employment was discussed in a called video meeting of trustees June 3. “The board affirmed the administration’s determination that Dr. Allen had written to President Greenway a de facto letter of resignation from Southwestern Seminary and affirmed the administration’s decision to accept Dr. Allen’s resignation from Southwestern Seminary” he said. “The board further affirmed the administration’s decision to deem Dr. Allen’s full salary and benefits received during the 2021-22 academic/fiscal year as severance, thereby releasing him from his institutionally owed post-sabbatical service obligations.”
Allen had just returned from a year’s sabbatical, which academic institutions typically offer with a requirement of continued service upon return.