This story was updated Friday afternoon, Sept. 23, at 3:30 p.m. Central time.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary confirmed Friday afternoon, Sept. 23, what BNG first reported Thursday evening, Sept. 22: Adam Greenway resigned as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in a meeting with seminary trustee leadership Thursday, Sept. 22.
Seminary officials also confirmed BNG’s report that O.S. Hawkins, retired president of the SBC financial management agency Guidestone, has been named interim president. The seminary news release said Greenway will assume an unnamed and undefined position with the SBC International Mission Board. Trustee chairman Danny Roberts said: “Final details of his transition as president are pending.”
Greenway has held the post for just three and a half years, following the tempestuous firing of the seminary’s former flamboyant president, Paige Patterson. Patterson, a divisive figure who was co-architect of the “conservative resurgence” in the Southern Baptist Convention, was fired mainly over allegations of mishandling reported cases of sexual abuse at Southwestern and at his previous post leading Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The cause of Greenway’s resignation was not stated, although there was no indication of moral turpitude. According to sources on campus, the resignation likely has to do with financial management and opposition to his leadership. By unconfirmed but reliable accounts from on campus, the seminary is running a $12 million deficit this year. The seminary reported total income of $71 million for the 2020-2021 academic year.
Hawkins, who has become interim president, is one of the most trusted figures of the SBC’s conservative old guard. He was hailed as an exemplary leader of Guidestone, which manages retirement assets and employee benefits for tens of thousands of SBC clergy, church staff members and institutional employees.
Ironically, Greenway initially made his mark at Southwestern by cleaning up various financial irregularities left by the previous administration. He quickly developed a reputation as someone eager to bring in a new day of reconciliation at the Fort Worth, Texas, school — even reaching out to Russell Dilday, who was fired from the presidency in 1994 by a new conservative majority on the board who wanted their own person at the helm.
However, Greenway also developed a reputation of cleaning house aggressively among faculty and staff — not only removing Patterson loyalists but also hiring new people who were loyal to him. Over the past three years, at least 45 faculty members have been retired, fired or have left.
There has been a noticeable, if not steady, stream of hires coming from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., which is now the largest of the six SBC seminaries — a title for decades held by Southwestern.
Greenway himself came to Southwestern from Southern, where he served as dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry.
In recent months, Greenway has been rumored to be a contender for the vacant presidency of the SBC’s Executive Committee. He has maintained a high profile in SBC life, including a stint as chairman of the Committee on Order of Business, previously serving as the youngest chair ever for the Lifeway Christian Ministries board of trustees. He has served as an assistant parliamentarian for the SBC since 2016 and was vice chairman of the 2017 Committee on Nominations.
A graduate of Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., he went on to earn a master of divinity degree from Southwestern, a master of nonprofit administration degree from Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame, and a Ph.D. in evangelism and apologetics from Southern Seminary.
He is the ninth president at Southwestern, which was founded in 1908. He had the shortest presidential tenure in the seminary’s 114-year history. Since 1994, every Southwestern president has been either fired or pressured to leave. That includes Dilday; Ken Hemphill, who succeeded Dilday and then was pressured to retire; and then Patterson.
In a bit of historical irony, Hemphill left the seminary presidency in 2003 and moved to a new position at another SBC entity in Nashville. The chairman of the seminary board at that time was David Allen, who later became a seminary professor. Allies of Allen and Patterson contend Allen recently was forced into retirement by Greenway after he broke protocol and appeared on a preaching conference program with Patterson, who is persona non grata in large parts of the SBC because of his alleged mishandling of sexual abuse cases. By some accounts, Greenway’s treatment of Allen was among the grievances he faced with trustees and other SBC powerbrokers.
The seminary’s founding president, B.H. Carroll, served from 1908 to 1914. He was followed by L.R. Scarborough, who served from 1915 to 1942. Then E. D. Head led the school from 1942 to 1953, followed by J. Howard Williams, who previously had the shortest tenure at five years, 1953 to 1958. Robert E. Naylor was the seminary’s longest-tenured president, serving from 1958 to 1978, in what were the golden days of SBC theological education. He was succeeded by Dilday, who served from 1978 to 1994; then Hemphill, who served from 1994 to 2003; then Patterson, who served from 2003 to 2018; and then Greenway.