Trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary have been summoned to a special meeting next Tuesday triggered by a bylaw provision that allows a simple majority of trustees to demand such a meeting.
The online meeting will occur just six weeks after the regular spring meeting, which was held April 17-18 on the Fort Worth, Texas, campus. At that meeting, trustees elected David Dockery seminary president and heard an oral report on a trustee executive committee investigation into alleged financial mismanagement by former seminary President Adam Greenway.
A letter sent from unnamed trustees to board Chairman Danny Roberts earlier this week invoked the bylaws provision to call for a full board meeting in executive session. That letter cited three causes of concern to be addressed:
- Why the investigation of financial irregularities led by trustee Aaron Sligar, pastor of Living River Chapel in Sutton, W.Va., was not fully reported to the full board. The letter contends executive committee officers asked Sligar not to share the full report with the board but to give “a selective verbal reading.”
- Why Baptist News Global reported on the existence of a written report from the Sligar investigation when most trustees were not aware of its existence. “Yet that report exists.”
- Why Colby Adams, vice president for institutional administration, has collaborated with two Fort Worth businessmen to create a new corporation named Future Fort Worth that uses as its registered address the seminary-owned home where Adams lives. “Adams, as lead negotiator on real estate deals for SWBTS, has not disclosed this business relationship to the board of trustees.”
Not mentioned in the letter calling for the special trustee meeting is the reported inquiry by the U.S. Department of Justice about some kind of sexual abuse case related to Southwestern or Southwestern employees. The absence of that matter from the letter could indicate trustees already were briefed on it or that those calling for the meeting were unaware of it when they wrote the letter.
“It is our carefully considered opinion that there are serious matters that demand urgent consideration by the full board of trustees,” the letter stated. “The questions raised by this information could affect the trustee system and our own institutional leadership, not to mention our public witness to Southern Baptists and the broader watching world.”
Then it added: “The special meeting shall be for the purpose of considering all matters related to the information above, including, but not limited to, a review of the conduct of the officers of the board and the trustee executive committee.”
Concerns about the seminary’s finances and enrollment already were known issues the board and administration face. What’s new in the call for this meeting is the existence of a new nonprofit corporation called Future Fort Worth.
A filing with the Texas Secretary of State’s office shows the business was filed March 14 — less than two weeks after Southwestern announced the pending sale of 15 acres of student housing to the City of Fort Worth. The two other local businessmen listed with Adams as directors — David Motheral and John Freese — are known to have been involved in local real estate development.
What role Future Fort Worth plays in the sale of that parcel, known as Carroll Park, or in the potential sale of other unused seminary property is not clear. According to the online database of the Tarrant County Appraisal District May 24, the Carroll Park property has not yet transferred ownership from the seminary.
Adams formerly served as chief of staff to Greenway but was moved from that role in February 2022.
BNG previously reported the trustee-ordered investigation into alleged overspending by the Greenway administration had been shared in detail only with the trustee executive committee but an oral presentation was made to the full board. The letter asking for the special meeting confirms that assessment.
Because of concerns raised by the letter writers, another document that is not the full report — labeled as “floor report” — was shared with all trustees this week. That document purports to be a draft of what Sligar said to the board at the April meeting. That summary document was leaked not only to media outlets such as BNG but to others outside the board of trustees.
Although lacking in key details — such as the total amount of deficit the seminary incurred last year — the summary does give a few examples of irregular spending:
“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,” this document states. “We already know that Dr. Greenway and others demonstrated a freedom in the finances of the seminary.”
The report identifies $12 million “spent on renovation projects, primarily to offices and cabinet member homes.” No time frame or context is given for that $12 million expenditure.
However, Sligar spoke of “out-of-control spending.”
A further concern not previously known publicly is that an unnamed seminary employee reportedly entered into an agreement with American Express to take out credit cards in the names of seminary staff members using their full names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers without their knowledge.
“This made the faculty/staff financially responsible for the card payments if SWBTS failed to pay,” the Sligar summary states. “When bills were paid late, it began to affect the credit scores of the individuals. This level of incompetence opens the door for the seminary and/or credit card manager for possible contract violations or legal issues.”
Also new to the discussion is an allegation that someone in the administration authorized using designated endowment funds for undesignated purpose. Such actions are illegal under federal law. When a donor gives a gift with a designation, the money must be used for that purpose only unless the donor gives permission to make a change.
“The level of incompetence of some of the upper staff and even those surrounding them have left this seminary in a vulnerable situation.”
“The level of incompetence of some of the upper staff and even those surrounding them have left this seminary in a vulnerable situation,” the report summary states. “This could lead to lack of trust from donors, lack of trust within the SBC, as well as leaving them and possibly the seminary exposed to outside investigations and potential criminal proceedings.”
In a statement to Baptist Press, Sligar characterized the leaked report as “a working document” that “does not represent an official statement from the board.”
Trustee Chairman Roberts issued a statement through Baptist Press: “Southwestern Seminary has inherited and endured a challenging period for more than eight months following the resignation of the former president. Out of a desire to balance charity to the former president with a need to address actions and decisions that have brought us to the seminary’s current state, the board of trustees has disclosed limited information to the Southern Baptist public while it has fulfilled its fiduciary duty to carefully evaluate certain financial matters.
“Unfortunately, some individuals have questioned the integrity of the board’s processes and actions. While it would be imprudent at this time to answer each claim that is now in circulation in various platforms, we assert claims of inappropriate activities of the board officers, executive committee, and/or named staff are without merit, and the board will release all relevant and appropriate information following a special-called meeting of the board of trustees to be held on May 30 to address these matters. Additionally, as has been previously reported, the Department of Justice is investigating the Southern Baptist Convention concerning sexual abuse. The seminary is cooperating fully in this matter.”
BNG reached out to Greenway for comment on this story and he did not respond.
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