Trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary have affirmed the board’s leadership and repudiated two board members who raised questions about leaders’ integrity and the financial management of the school.
Trustee Chairman Danny Roberts said the board voted to “publish the audited financials as one comprehensive report for the fiscal years 2003-2022 and examples of presidential expenses as generated by the task force review.”
Adam Greenway, who was forced out as seminary president last fall, has publicly asked for the trustees’ review of his alleged mismanagement to be made public. Up until now, trustee leadership has given no specifics about its concerns with Greenway’s financial oversight of the Southern Baptist Convention school. Roberts has made only vague and derogatory comments about Greenway’s leadership.
Baptist News Global has joined others in calling for release of the full investigation conducted by trustees and for publication of complete financial and enrollment information. The seminary’s current enrollment has fallen to levels not seen since World War II. Also, at the time of Greenway’s resignation, the seminary was reported to face a budget deficit of $6 million or more. No public accounting of that deficit has been given in the eight months since Greenway stepped down.
In an unexpected twist, trustees now have called for investigation of a man involved in the investigation of Greenway’s alleged mismanagement.
In an unexpected twist, trustees now have called for investigation of a man involved in the investigation of Greenway’s alleged mismanagement. That was one of several results of an hours-long Zoom meeting of the board Tuesday, May 30.
That called meeting was precipitated by a request made by trustees Aaron Sligar and Andrew Bunnell last week. Also last week, a written copy of the “floor report” given by Sligar to the full board at its April meeting was leaked. That document included incendiary accusations against not only Greenway but other seminary staff and trustees, as did the email calling for the special meeting. Trustee leaders never have said publicly who served on the investigation task force or who led it.
While it was unclear last week which trustees had called for the special meeting, Roberts identified them as Sligar and Bunnell. Sligar is pastor of Living River Chapel in Sutton, W.Va. Bunnell is a member of Prince Avenue Baptist Church in Bogart, Ga.
By his own account, Sligar earlier had been asked by trustee leaders to work with trustee Jordan Rogers, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Nederland, Texas, to review financial transactions from 2019 through Greenway’s resignation in September 2022. He made only an oral report to the full board, and details of even that report were not publicly known until last week’s document leak.
Here are key points made by Chairman Roberts in his statement after the May 30 meeting:
- Roberts and President David Dockery agreed to call the special meeting requested by Sligar and Bunnell even though fewer than the required 21 trustees concurred in the need for the meeting.
- At that meeting, held in executive session, “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 board adopted four motions, one “unanimously” and three “overwhelmingly.”
The first motion, which Roberts said was adopted unanimously “affirms the work of the officers, executive committee and task force empaneled to examine spending and financial practices of the previous administration as authorized by unanimous vote of the board during its October 2022 meeting.”
The same motion “further 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.”
The board “unambiguously expresses its support and complete confidence in Michele Smith and Colby Adams.”
And in this motion the board “unambiguously expresses its support and complete confidence in Michele Smith and Colby Adams and finds the allegations contained in the email from trustees Andrew Bunnell and Aaron Sliger of financial mismanagement and misbehavior amongst those individuals to be without merit.
Smith serves as associate vice president for finance, and Adams serves as vice president for institutional administration and previously had been chief of staff for Greenway. Allegations in the email calling for the special meeting concerned improper use of confidential information to obtain staff credit cards and improper use of designated endowment funds for other purposes.
The last part of the motion reportedly adopted unanimously takes direct aim at Bunnell and Sligar by name, saying “the board unreservedly repudiates as unsubstantiated and egregious other rumors trafficked by trustees Andrew Bunnell and Aaron Sliger made against employees of the seminary.”
Two other motions also named Sligar and Bunnell. One called for “publication of a response to allegations made” by two trustees. Another instructs that “officers of the board conduct an investigation of possible misconduct” by Bunnell and Sligar “and report back to the full board within 60 days.”
A fourth motion authorizes board officers “to publish the audited financials as one comprehensive report for the fiscal years 2003-2022 and examples of presidential expenses as generated by the task force review.”
When or how that financial information will be released was not explained.
“I state publicly and without equivocation my personal repudiation of the allegations made against my colleagues and me, as well as against staff members of the seminary.”
Roberts had harsh words for Sligar and Bunnell: “I’m grateful for the near-total support of the trustee board. I state publicly and without equivocation my personal repudiation of the allegations made against my colleagues and me, as well as against staff members of the seminary.”
Roberts also noted he had told trustees at their October 2022 meeting that “it was the growing involvement of trustee leadership and our insistence of greater presidential accountability and resistance to our attempts to implement financial safeguards that led to Adam Greenway’s resignation.”
The chairman also expressed dismay that Sligar had reported to the full board in April “certain matters that he failed to give proper notice of his intent to raise, some of which were clearly untrue, with others having been inadequately researched, baseless and/or egregiously harmful.”
And he denounced whoever was involved in leaking those documents last week, calling them “individuals obviously motivated to bring harm on the institution, the board and certain staff.”
“I condemn in the strongest possible manner the actions of any individual who has participated in spreading these baseless allegations,” Roberts said. “Such behavior is ungodly and is contrary to the spirit of Southwestern Seminary.”
While Roberts reported that in the special meeting “the board heard all the facts and has now acted,” others responded quickly on social meeting to say Sligar and Bunnell were limited in what they were able to say to the board.
The latest turn of events at Southwestern is, once again, highly unusual in SBC life.
This story will be updated as additional information and potential responses from Sligar and Bunnell become available.
Why we must be cautious about understanding what’s going on at Southwestern Seminary | Opinion by Mark Wingfield
Here’s how to force SBC entities to be accountable to people in the pew about their finances | Opinion by Mark Wingfield
What happened at Southwestern and why does it matter? | Analysis by Mark Wingfield