Midwestern–Wounded by Friendly Fire?

Posted: October 8, 2007 in Baptist News, Dr. Phil Roberts, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, SBC Seminaries, Southern Baptist Convention

In military circles the term “friendly fire” is used when comrades in arms get caught in an unintentional crossfire and end up getting wounded or even killed by shots intended for the enemy, but the bullets are from one of their own. Many casualties in war come from “friendly fire”. These casualties are sometimes proven to be incidental, but other times it is proven to be intentional. Either way, whether incidental or intentional, there is a wound inflicted and death is possible. In the times it is proven to be incidental the soldier is given refresher training on how to avoid future incidents. When it is proven to be intentional the soldier is reprimanded and charged with the crime.

This brings me to the latest incident at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I was preparing to enroll in the D. Min. program there, but have placed everything on hold until I can see where this issue is headed. The chairman of the board of trustees appears to have seriously violated his responsibilities. If the news reports are correct (three sources report the same thing here here and here) then Mr. Gene Downing has seriously violated his position. From Baptist Press please note this report and Mr. Downing’s quote.

Downing said Roberts had not followed directives from trustees on March 19 and July 9 which stipulated that he “let [Hodge] do his job. He [Roberts] didn’t.” Downing said he asked Hodge for a confidential review for the trustee executive committee of various facets of the seminary’s operations, such as its strategic plan and a “game plan” for how funds would be used from a recent sale of a parcel of MBTS property.

Allow me to just elaborate on this one quote. First, Mr. Downing freely discusses “personnel” issues he has with Dr. Phil Roberts in the press. Mr. Downing states that the trustees issued directives to Dr. Roberts and they have not been followed-up by the President. THESE ARE PERSONNEL ISSUES!!! These issues are to be spoken about before the board of trustees and only there in Executive Session. Any discussion of personnel issues outside of the trustee meetings I believe you will find are a violation of trusteeship.

Second, Mr. Downing instructed Mr. Hodge to put together a “confidential review”, it seems, of Mr. Hodge’s opinion pertaining to the strategic plan implemented by Dr. Roberts and also a “game plan” about how the funds from a recent sale of land should be used. Once again Mr. Downing has violated his role as a trustee. As trustees there is only one employee they direct–the president. No one at any of our seminaries works for the trustees. There are reports issued by employees to trustees, but the trustees employ only one person. Also, Mr. Downing requested Mr. Hodge to keep this report confidential from the President.

Another SERIOUS violation of his role as a trustee and even his role as chairman of the board: The board of trustees cannot micro-manage. Dr. Roberts must have freedom to lead. If employees of the seminary are not happy with the direction or items are not to their liking there is a grievance process to be followed. Any trustee meeting with employees of the seminary is in serious violation of his/her trusteeship. That is the purpose of the grievance process. Once an employee violates that process and goes to a trustee, it is the trustees’ responsibility to direct that employee to the grievance process.

Allow me to produce some facts that are clearly seen. First, Mr. Hodge has been an employee at the seminary for 5 months. Second, because of his banking expertise he was hired as VP of Business Services. Mr. Hodge certainly has the credentials to fulfill the “bean counting” duties that were assigned to him. However, I question his desire to see the seminary succeed. Mr. Hodge is a contributor to a political action committee (PAC). What one does on their own time is their business. However, I ask: Why would David Hodge contribute to a banking PAC under his previous employers position? Here Mr. Hodge is listed as of 8/31/07 as a contributor and he is listed as “David Hodge, Central Bank & Trust Co., Hutchinson.” Also, Mr. Hodge has not moved to the Kansas City area. What is his commitment to Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary? He was asked by Mr. Downing to give direction to a plan that calls for second-guessing the president, when Mr. Hodge will not even relocate to the area. These facts give the perception that Mr. Hodge was only there to advance his status in some way. As a new employee of 5 months how does Mr. Downing develop such a cozy relationship with Mr. Hodge that he feels comfortable asking Mr. Hodge to violate a known employee/employer confidence? These two men are business savvy and both know these actions in the business world will send an organization into anarchy.

Here are the facts. Dr. Phil Roberts is a human being. As a human being he makes mistakes. Both Mr. Downing and Mr. Hodge have asserted that nothing has been done in any underhanded, devious way by Dr. Roberts. Mr. Hodge has stated, “there were no financial improprieties at the school and that Southern Baptists can have full confidence in the seminary.” This statement assures Dr. Roberts’ integrity in the financial dealings of the Seminary.

Also, the Seminary has increased in full-time equivalents (FTE’s) by 63% since 2001. The last president was released and it appears now the seminary is entertaining the idea of releasing another. Systemic? I do not know. If it is systemic then it lies in the Board of Trustees. But, what can be so terrible at MBTS that the chairman of the board of trustees calls for a confidential assessment? There is no evidence of mishandling of funds on the part of the president.

Dr. Roberts and MBTS, it seems, has been wounded and this wound was inflicted by friendly fire. The job before the trustees now should be to find out if this friendly fire was intentional or incidental. If it was incidental, simply the result of someone not understanding their role and thus over-stepping boundaries, then the trustees need to deal with it and make certain everyone knows the boundaries. If it is proven to be intentional, then the trustees should bring a recommendation to the SBC in Indianapolis that the individual trustees responsible be removed so that MBTS can return to fulfilling her vision.

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Comments
  1. Tim,
    I’m also considering applying to MBTS to work on a D. Min. (well… specifically the D.Ed.Min.) and have been trying to follow the news. It certainly appears that a conflict between Downing and Roberts has been mishandled.

    I would like to suggest an alternate view of Hodges commitment to MBTS. The PAC file you referenced lists contributions from all of 2007; Hodges has worked for the seminary for the past 5 or 6 months. It’s possible he made the contribution at the first of the year when he was still employed by the bank. As to not having moved to the Kansas City area… it could be that he was in the process and had not moved yet. I know when I first started working in Tulsa I commuted for nearly one year. The housing market, children in school, etc. led to a much longer transition time than I would have imagined. That was 15 years ago: in retrospect my lengthy transition time had nothing to do with my commitment to being in Tulsa. Is it possible something similar may have been going on in Hodges life?

    I mention this because you began the paragraph by stating “some facts that are clearly seen”. Clearly there is something going on here that could be handled much better; but the facts aren’t that clear. Was Roberts withholding information from the Trustees? If so, did Downing request the information in an appropriate manner? Is it possible Hodges thought he was acting in the best interests of the seminary by providing the Trustees information they needed and were entitled to but did not have because they were being stonewalled? The one thing that seems clear – and I’m not sure how clear it is – is that Downing and Roberts are fighting a war and the rest of the Trustees have been left out of the loop. I think it’s the other trustees that have been done a disservice. I can’t understand why this is in the press before the Trustees as a whole have had an opportunity to address the situation.

  2. Micah Fries says:

    Tim-

    I’ve obviously been following the mess here as well. I’ve got opinions about that, but I have little substantive proof so I’ll keep them to myself. :-)

    However, I would really encourage you to consider going ahead with your D.Min. application. I’m planning on doing the same thing myself, at some point. While there is certainly upheaval at the executive level, the faculty at MBTS is an incredible one and your degree will be worth more than it will ever cost you. If I can ever encourage you in any way, I’d love to. MBTS is a wonderful institution.

  3. Tim Rogers says:

    Brother Bowden,

    Thanks for the insight. I considered your options of Mr. Hodges’ transition status and contribution. While I am aware he could have made the contribution between January and April, I cannot for the life of me understand why one would not get that corrected. I know that one may say that is just an oversight. However, Mr. Hodges is a “bean counter” and my dealings with bean counters is they are very aware where every penny they spend goes.

    Also, as to the housing situation. Though you commuted to Tulsa, I believe you would agree that during that period of transition you were more committed to the community where you lived than you were to the Tulsa community. While housing and family concerns always play into any decision to move, the commitment to the community you are going to plays out in the relocation to that community. I know when I moved to the present field of ministry I am serving, we sacrificed and took on two mortgages because we were committed to this area. Decisions are better made, I believe, in what is best for a community when one has invested him/her self in that community.

    As to the clarity of the facts, I concede these two would be open to not being as clear. However, they are still facts that have to be weighed. As MBTS finds herself in this controversy we need to remember that this outburst by the Chairman of the BoT takes away from the focus of the seminary. What I find appalling is the statements that the seminary is not in any financial crisis and there is no sign of financial mismanagement. If that is the case; why the confidential review? What does Mr. Hodge expect to find out in the review? Also, let’s play the devils advocate for a moment. Let’s say that Dr. Roberts is stonewalling and will not allow staff to give information to the BoT. Does it fall under the realm of the Chairman of the BoT to make contact with an employee of the seminary? Remember, according to policy governance, which I believe you will find MBTS falls under, Dr. Roberts is the only employee of the Trustees. By the Chairman going to an employee of the seminary he violated policy. The way to handle Dr. Roberts stonewalling (which as I said we are playing the devils advocate) is to bring it before the BoT in Executive Session and then if Dr. Roberts does not come through deal with him within the BoT. You do not go to the press to deal with a Personnel Issue.

    The MBTS Board of Trustees have to handle this strong armed tactic and deal with the Chairman. There is nothing that has proven Dr. Roberts has done anything to warrant this type of treatment. Both the Chairman of the Board and Mr. Downing have stated he has done nothing wrong. He is not a great administrator. Really? How has the seminary grown 63%? Dr. Roberts must be doing something right.

    Blessings,
    Tim

  4. Tim Rogers says:

    Brother Bowden,

    I know that you did not say everything that I answered, but I just vented. I was not aimed at you. I do understand what you are saying.

    Blessings,
    Tim

  5. Tim Rogers says:

    Brother Micah,

    I do desire to get my D-Min from MBTS. I have an A-Div. from SEBTS–BP. I have a BA from Campbell University–a NC Baptist University. I have a M-Div from SEBTS–AP. (BP= Before Patterson; AP= After Patterson :>)) Because all of my education has come from this one area I do want to expand that as I look at another degree. Having said that, I seriously have misgivings about attending a place where these type of issues are allowed. While I may not agree with everything that my president does I would hope he has the support of the faculty. If the faculty does not support the president then I question what will I be taught about authority? When I was working on my M-Div, I had Dr. Andrews for OT Intro. He is a great man of God and I do long to study under him again. While working on my A-Div. I did an Evangelism Practicum with Dr. Roberts. I also long to study under him again.

    However, I certainly do not desire to attend an educational environment where the BoT is running to the press every time he and the President have a disagreement. Micah, I would love to come to MBTS, but I seriously have concerns.

    Blessings,
    Tim

  6. Tim,
    I’m defending neither Downing nor Roberts; I’m only saying there’s smoke and it’s not clear to me from the press reports where the fire is.

    My hope is the trustees will meet, get to the bottom of things, provide a clear correction and then present the whole thing to the public in as transparent a manner as possible. Meanwhile I’ll take a wait and see attitude.

  7. Tim Rogers says:

    Brother Bowden,

    My hope is the same. However, I cannot see taking a wait and see attitude when the press reports presents clear violations of the BoT. These reports were instigated by Mr. Downing and also Mr. Hodge. MBTS has only issued press releases correcting information about finance. Mr Downing is quoted as stating that there is no financial impropriety. “No financial impropriety” means that Dr. Roberts has done nothing wrong concerning finances. If that is the case, then why go to Dr. Roberts employee and request a confidential review?

    Let me bring this close to home for you. You have a client that reports you to your supervisor for some small misunderstanding. Your supervisor goes to the press and states, Bowden McElroy is a great man, he is a good husband, he is a good counselor, and we have no problems with him. However, his counseling techniques have much to be desired. The client goes to the press and says; “All the other counselors and office staff are great and do a great job. None of them have ever done anything inappropriate”. From these two statements you have been accused by nothing but innuendo.

    This is the exact same thing that is going on at MBTS. Dr. Roberts has been accused by innuendo and that in the press. Let’s say that Dr. Phil Roberts is not a good administrator. Is that any reason to go to the press? Let’s say that Dr. Roberts has not been the best in people skills. Buy him “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, you do not go to the press. Dr. Roberts did the right thing in placing Mr. Hodge on administrative leave. Mr. Hodge chose to make an issue out of it by resigning and going to the press.

    Wait and see. Isn’t that like the same advice the 10 spies gave the children of Israel?

    Blessings,
    Tim

  8. Les Puryear says:

    Tim,

    How dare you question the action of the trustees of one of our fine seminaries! The trustee system has been in place since the 1800’s. It works. Trust the people you help elect.

    Les

    P.S. In case you couldn’t tell, this comment is made with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. :)

  9. Tim,
    I simply meant that I – personally – will wait and see what the trustees will do. I’m all for giving them a chance to clean up this mess without jumping in and passing judgment based on a few news reports. When I jump in – to malign or defend – without the facts I tend to get in trouble.

  10. Tim Rogers says:

    Brother Les,

    While your tongue is in your cheek, I cannot help but wonder if you are not a little gleeful as I find myself in this precarious position. I have always advocated trust in the system. :>)

    I do agree with your statement; “It works. Trust the people you help elect.” That is why I am personally contacting each Trustee. This event did not occur because a group of Trustees made a decision that puts Dr. Roberts in a bad light. This situation occurred when a Chairman bypassed the chain of command came together with an employee.

    Blessings,
    Tim

  11. Les Puryear says:

    Tim,

    Gleeful? No. Do I see the irony of the post? Absolutely. I hope your trek through the trustees goes well.

    Peace,

    Les

  12. Dave says:

    Tim,

    While I agree with you in principle and certainly believe that processes are put in place for a reason and should be followed, last night I ran across something that might be relevant. When Abraham Lincoln was running for the Illinois legistlature, one of his opponents leveled a charge against his integrity. A public claim was made that this person possessed evidence of corruption that would destroy Lincoln’s credibility; however, this opponent pledged to keep the information confidential.

    Of course, this kind of allegation had the power to derail any candidate, but instead of dismissing the charges, listen to how Lincoln handled the situation. He wrote a letter to his opponent that said this: “That I once had the confidence of the people of Sangamon, is sufficiently evident, and if I have since done anything, either by design or misadventure, which if known would subject me to a forfeiture of that confidence, he that knows of that thing, and conceals it, is a traitor to his country’s interests.”

    With MBTS, the situation is a little different–specific claims have been made. The handling of the allegations, though, is what is important. Yes, the trustee should have probably done things a little different and gone through the proper channels.

    The issue that gives me more difficulty, though, is the response. Roberts could have handled this so much better. If there is nothing to hide, sit back and let the report come out. The report will exhonerate him of all wrong-doing. Once the charge has been made, it’s there and there is nothing that can change that. We can’t always prevent unspiritual people from making spiritual decisions. It’s this veil of secrecy that SBC life seems to lend itself to that gives the world reason for cynisism and suspicion.

    Let’s look at the situation in a way most of us can relate. If we serve in a church, and if we’re smart, we have made sure there are proceedures and protocol for handling disagreements of this nature. If a church member goes out in the community and makes allegations that I’ve been stealing money, that represents a serious problem. At this point, I have at least two options. #1–I can flatly deny the problem and point out how this church member doesn’t know what he’s talking about and dig my heels in for a very public fight. Or #2–I can allow this person to see an audit report, allowing everything that is there to be known.

    If I am indeed guilty of improprieties, that needs to come out–for the benefit of all involved. If I am not guilty, that also needs to come out and my integrity has protected me from baseless accusations. To hide behind proceedures and protocols is unacceptable. Yes, they are in place for specific reasons and yes, under normal circumstances they should govern the way we do business. However, why not be the one to take the high road? Why not be the one to demonstrate a life above reproach and be completely open?

    There are times that these accusations come out of left field and demonstrate nothing more than a spiritual attack on our leadership and credibility. A life lived above reproach, though, does not need to fear anything leveled against us by the one Scripture calls “the accuser.” And furthermore, we don’t need to look too hard to find some real examples of the way this kind of system doesn’t work in every situation.

    Why not, as Christian organizations and as Christians, institute a policy of always taking the high road. This may (actually will) prove costly in certain ways, but our integrity will remain unquestionable. And, after all, that’s really what it’s all about, right? We speak of living sacrifice in terms of commitment to God, and that’s great, but I think there’s more to it than that. A living sacrifice in our leadership means that we will always try to do the right thing, regardless of the cost.

    I say all this with sincere desire to support Roberts. I want to, I really do–but because of the way he’s handled this, I am left with no choice but just to wait and see. Whether he does or not, his actions have communicated that he might have something to hide, which gives me reason to pause until all of this has played out. This could have been disarmed so easily.

    With regards to your plans to pursue a D.Min. at MBTS, I am actually a current student in that program. The price is right (less than half of that of Southeastern). They have a great program with the new church reviatalization tract (the idea is good, and can be very good, sometimes their execution is a little lacking), and they generally seem to be pretty laid back, which I like. I would encourage you to go for it. A new president isn’t going to drastically change the program immidiately anyway. I don’t see it effecting things for me in any way whatsoever. A D.Min. is so different from M.Div. that your past educational experiences may be misleading concerning your interaction with the school at large. It really feels like a big independent project.

    Well, sorry for the long post, but rather than make two or three, I thought I would just “unload” on you.

  13. Tim Rogers says:

    Brother Dave,

    Thanks for the response. You are correct about the D-Min program and the cost. After crunching some numbers with my wife we found that it would be financially more attainable for me to go to Kansas City, than to drive 2-1/2 hours to go to SEBTS. Of course cost is not everything, but it does play a role. I do believe that God has opened the door, but with this latest issue I do have some principles that I hold dear. One such principle is the turmoil within the administration.

    As I have stated at other places and in private emails, I will be the first to tell you that I do not have insider information. I did study under Dr. Phil Roberts at SEBTS and know him from that perspective, but I have not been in communication with him concerning the intricacies of the current situation. What I have written in the article is based on reports from three different news sources along with information picked up over at SBC Outpost when they did a spoof on this and other random research. SBC Outpost had a listing of Dr. Roberts place of residence with a handwritten note that the cost the home was exorbitant. This tells me something about what is going on at MBTS.

    Brother, let’s look at how this situation was handled. The Chairman of the BoT requested the VP to make a report for his eyes only. Also, this report and its contents were not to be revealed to the President. This report was to assess the Long Range Goals of the Seminary and to recommend to the Trustees what the Seminary was to do with the recent influx of capital from the sale of property.

    Allow me to paint you a picture of how this situation would play out in the local church. As Pastor you have presented your vision to the church about the direction and the goals you believe God is leading. This vision is accepted by the congregation, but you have some that are not really excited about them. The church has grown 63% since you have arrived. One of those that did not agree with your vision has now been elected to the Deacon and the Deacon Body has elected him as Chairman. This Chairman of Deacons now goes to the Youth Minister that has just come on board within the past 6 months. This Youth Minister has some experience in long range planning. The Chairman of Deacons ask the Youth Minister to put together a Long Range Plan about where he sees the church should be heading. Also, this Long Range Plan is to be kept confidential without anyone else knowing that he is working on it.

    I do not know about you, brother Dave, but once I found out this was going on, I would proceed to get the information from that Youth Minister so I could call all of the Deacons together and get to the bottom of what the Chairman was thinking. If the Youth Minister refused to give me, as his supervisor, this confidential material, I would place him on administrative leave and allow all of the Deacons to know what was going on. My response is not to hide anything but to reveal some things.

    Dr. Roberts did the same thing. He placed an employee on administrative leave in order to get to the bottom of the confidential report that no one else knew about except the Chairman of the Board and the VP. The VP resigns and either the Chairman of the Board or the VP goes to the media.

    All that you have told me I have honestly tried to understand. I can see some of the things that you are saying as it concerns one finding something that may be inappropriate. However, both the Chairman and the VP state that nothing is inappropriate about the Finances at MBTS. Also, the only thing said negatively about Dr. Roberts is that he is not good at administration. Shut, I could have told them that. I went with him on a mission trip to Romania and did not know until we got there that we did not have any places to stay. But God worked it out and we stayed and saw many come to know Jesus. You may say running a seminary is more important than a mission trip with no reservations. I agree. However, Dr. Roberts is one that will listen and work to make things happen. Treating him like this is absolutely wrong. He is owed the respect as the President of that Seminary and the Chairman along with the VP have participated in a scheme to put together a report that would undermine Dr. Robert’s leadership as President.

    I love you Brother Dave. I know I may be more passionate about standing for Dr. Roberts than you are on this and that is okay. I do not think less of you. But please know where I am coming from. I also love Dr. Roberts as my Brother in Christ. I have seen his integrity and I will stand on that at this time.

    Blessings,
    Tim

  14. Dave says:

    I completely understand what you’re saying, and I have no problem with Roberts. I’ve met him and talked to him, and he is a likable person and I must assume that he has a certain degree of competence and feel quite certain that he is a godly leader, or he would not likely be in his position. I don’t really feel like I’ve got a dog in the fight, or not much of one, so I’m not ready to send Roberts up the river or stake my claim in his defense. I’ve not been around as long as many others, but I have been around long enough to know that it is within the realm of possibility that a great and godly leader might stumble. So I’m witholding judgement either way on that one.

    My beef is with the whole situation that the current system of SBC polity has engendered. Your analogy of the youth minister is fine, but my understanding is that this is centered around a financial matter–otherwise the auditors would not be involved. This is my understanding and may indeed be incorrect, which I’m comfortable admitting. But the point is that if this is the common understanding by those who have been only casually paying attention, this represents a problem that really needs to be addressed, which is why I spoke of being above reproach and protecting integrity.

    Whether it is true or not, to those like myself who have not had the occasion to exchange emails with those on the inside and whatnot, the appearance is that at very best, some questionable decisions have been made. I’m not in any way defending the director of trustees or anything, and I do think he needs to be reprimanded or disciplined as well. The only point I am making is that once such matters have become public, there’s no sense in stonewalling. It just makes things seem like something is amiss. Personally,

    I don’t give a rat’s behind what kind of house he lives in, I don’t care what this professor or that one makes–I’m just not concerned about those kinds of things. But what I am concerned about is learning lessons from what we see unfolding, and the lesson is for the need to be completely transparant and completely open when it comes to disclosing how churches or ministries handle the money their congregants give them. Who cares if there’s an agenda behind the request? If it’s the right thing to do, it’s the right thing to do. Let’s be totally forthcoming.

    My understanding is that if a member of a cooperating church asks for a budget or for that kind of information, that institution is compelled to give it. Even our own state convention is like this. I never imagined how difficult it was to get an accurate, line by line budget until I needed one. I was always referred to budget that had everything lumped in together, and all I was trying to do is show people the missions and ministry that was done with CP funds. I was trying to build support for the BSC and still found this information next to impossible to attain. If I tried to give that to one of my church members and tell them that’s a budget, they’d tell me I was crazy.

    And most of these problems we see, it doesn’t matter if its MBTS, SWBTS, NAMB, Lifeway, or whatever, most critics could be silenced if someone would just step up to the plate, adopt a policy of full disclosure, and stope hiding behind the system. Just give people the information they ask for. Unsaved (and many church people) people have enough reasons to mistrust the church without us leaving the door wide open for another. And I’m becoming more and more disillusioned by SBC practices such as this. I just feel like in there are lots of ways denominationalism gets in the way of the Gospel. And that scares me for the SBC, because I know without question how committed I am to Southern Baptists and the things we represent and do around the world.

    Please don’t take this as a slam against Roberts. He is truly in an unfortunate situation that has taken on the appearance of a witch hunt. It’s things like this that have probably caused some of our best and brightest to shy away from leadership positions like his, and it is truly unfortunate. Again, my problem is with a system that tends to have a proclivaty for producing these attitudes and this kind of climate. The trust has to begin somewhere. Why not with our leaders leading the way?

  15. Tim Rogers says:

    Brother Dave,

    I do not take what you are saying as a slam. My issue is how this has been handled.

    You close with this statement and question; “The trust has to begin somewhere. Why not with our leaders leading the way?” I agree we must have a starting point of our trust. I also agree we must trust our leaders. However, I also believe we must trust those that are assigned to uphold our trust and they are named trustees. It is hard for me to trust someone that begins the process by going to the media instead of going to the group that is going to make the decisions.

    Blessings,
    Tim

  16. Tim

    As I told you privately, if you want a top notch DMin, Southwestern is the only place to consider. Not that I am biased or anything. :-)

    God Bless!

  17. Dave says:

    Sure, Tim, and I completely acknowlege that. The bottom line is that it’s a mess and it seems like everyone has some kind of bias this way or that way and all this becomes about personalities rather than the Person. It just shows our own human deficencies and reinforces our realization for the need for grace. I still wish that some of their private discussions (while I know they are private for a reason), or at least a glimpse behind the doors, would be made a little more accessible with such a public matter. Maybe it’s just our nature to be nosey or something, I don’t know. I just think if everything could just get aired out one or two good times, trust would reign the day.

    Anyway, thanks for the dialogue. In case you didn’t notice, writing some of this out to you helps me to think through it myself and keeps me from just throwing my hands up in the air and choosing not to think about it. Until next time…

  18. Tim Rogers says:

    Brother Dave,

    I too thank you for the dialog. You are correct, talking this out does make one look at the issues instead of just throwing your hands up and walking off.

    Blessings,
    Tim

  19. Tim Rogers says:

    Brother Robin,

    I already have Dr. Patterson’s name on my M-Div. degree. His blitz quizzes nearly kept me from getting his name on my degree.:>)

    Blessings,
    Tim

  20. cb scott says:

    Tim,

    I have been following the situation at MBTS. I do not know enough to say much at this point. I do know a trustee or two there and I know they are concerned and hopeful to find a directive from the Lord and I pray they do so. I pray they all seek the face of the Lord in this whole situation.

    The one thing I do keep seeing is the fact that our greater problems within any of our institutions are trustee problems. Some of you guys with the hearts of real statesmen are going to have to step up and become trustees of our boards, agencies and institutions. The SBC is truly in need of people with no agenda other than doing the will of God through service as Southern Baptist trustees.

    Now to the real purpose of this comment:-) You know good and well you need to do your D.Min. at SEBTS. Those guys are the only ones that know how to handle Tar Heel theologians.

    I do pity whoever gets you, though. You are the only guy I know that will raise his hand 38 times in one O.T. class other than Ben Cole. Of course we both know I never raised my hand in class. :-)

    Seriously, you will do well in any one of our six seminaries for even though there are some problems they are still the best in the world and that includes DTS or that little school in Memphis.

    cb

  21. Tim Rogers says:

    Brother CB,

    Thanks for the encouragement. I agree, we need the trustees to step up at MBTS and get to the bottom of this issue. The first action that needs to be taken is the Chairman needs to be removed. Not because he has tried to expose something he feels is a problem, but for the way he clearly over-stepped his duties in handling an issue. He openly spoke about personnel issues with the secular media.

    As to my hand raising tactics in class. I remember the late Dr. Max Rogers being the victim of my hand in the air quite often. :>)

    Blessings,
    Tim

  22. Paul says:

    I had to laugh when Les said what I was thinking.

    Beyond that, I hope that you have a better experience with the MBTS trustees than I have ever had with IMB or SWBTS trustee chairmen. If, perchance, you don’t, then you will begin to understand, if only in the smallest way, why some of us write for SBC Outpost.

  23. Paul says:

    I have to make a slight correction. My experience with Dr. Floyd has not been entirely frustrating.

  24. Tim Rogers says:

    Brother Paul,

    Yes, I understand that you may have been frustrated by the trustees and your desire to expose something that isn’t there. I personally have been treated well by all of the trustees and especially Mr. Downing. He has been very open with me and I look forward to God being glorified.

    As I have stated in my article he and I are in disagreement over the way he has handled this issue. I believe he needs to remain silent concerning personnel issues. He, on the other hand, feels he did what he did with good intentions. I believe the other trustees, once they see the merits of the issue, will agree that Mr. Downing needs to rectify a wrong.

    Blessings,
    Tim

  25. Tim Rogers says:

    Brother Paul and Les,

    If you giggled at this, wait until you see my post for tomorrow. That one will tickle you pink.

    Blessings,
    Tim

  26. Paul says:

    Tim,

    May I ask where you got a copy of the MBTS trustee policy manual?

  27. Tim Rogers says:

    Brother Paul,

    Who said I had a copy of the MBTS trustee policy manual?

    Blessings,
    Tim

  28. cb scott says:

    Tim,

    It is your right to ask questions as it was Paul’s. One thing I must say. Where Paul was looking there was so very much there it made some things easier to hide. Its there, Tim, its there and everybody knows it. There is far more there than where you are looking now.

    cb

  29. Paul says:

    Tim,

    You wrote: “These issues are to be spoken about before the board of trustees and only there in Executive Session. Any discussion of personnel issues outside of the trustee meetings I believe you will find are a violation of trusteeship.”

    I assumed that since you know this to be what is required of trustees that you read it in a trustee manual somewhere. If you did not then how did you come to know that this is what is required of trustees?

    and, “As trustees there is only one employee they direct–the president. No one at any of our seminaries works for the trustees. There are reports issued by employees to trustees, but the trustees employ only one person.”

    Again, I am unfamiliar with how you would know this outside of a trustee manual somewhere. I can tell you that when I was in management with AT&T if one of the board of directors was to ask me for a report I would not have told them that they could not have it until I got the directive from my boss. As a member of the board they were my boss. At least that’s how it works in the corporate world. Apparently it is different for SBC seminaries and I was simply wondering how you knew that it was different, because I did not know this. I do know that faculty and administrators must be approved by the trustees which always left me with the impression that they were, in some sense, accountable to them ultimately.

    and, “If employees of the seminary are not happy with the direction or items are not to their liking there is a grievance process to be followed. Any trustee meeting with employees of the seminary is in serious violation of his/her trusteeship. That is the purpose of the grievance process. Once an employee violates that process and goes to a trustee, it is the trustees’ responsibility to direct that employee to the grievance process.”

    Again, where did you find out about this grievance process? I’ve read the SBC’s Constitution and Bylaws as well as the Business and Financial Plan and they do not mention this grievance process. I guess I just assumed you read about it in a trustee policy manual or something. If not, then where did you hear about this grievance process?

    Thanks,
    Paul

  30. Paul says:

    Sorry, that last paragraph was not supposed to be italicized.

  31. Paul says:

    Oh, I forgot, I had one more question. Do you also view it as a personnel issue for Van McClain to suggest that the hiring of Sheri Klouda was a “momentary lax of the parameters” or announcing publicly that she was denied tenure?

  32. Tim Rogers says:

    Brother Paul,

    Great Questions. Allow me to tackle them one-by-one.

    “I assumed that since you know this to be what is required of trustees that you read it in a trustee manual somewhere.” Never read the policy manual and do not need to read a policy manual for this issue. Personnel issues are not to be discussed outside of Executive Session. Try discussing policy issues with your local City Council and see how far you get. Personnel Issues, if handled that way in the secular society, should be doubly guarded information within a Christian environment.

    Your unfamiliarity with the operation of the BoT at MBTS really has nothing to do with whether or not one knows if the President is the sole employee of the BoT. I have to admit my unfamilarity in this area also. I assumed that MBTS, like many other non-profit BoT, BoD, Councils, operate under the Policy Governance Theory. As I understand Policy Governance, it is like Pax Romana (sp). IOW, Policy is King. The BoT can change policy and have every right to change policy. However, when the policy is put in place everyone must abide by the policy or there is chaos. In Policy Governance it clearly advocates the the only employee of the BoT, BoD, Council, is the Ex. Dir., President, etc. The BoT signing off on other employees has nothing to do with whether they are employed by the BoT or not, it only tells me that the policy states that the BoT signs off in order to hold the President–their employee– accountable. Also, I and excited that you once worked in management for AT&T. I do not know if you ever experienced an individual BoD coming to you asking you to give him information that was to be kept confidential from the CEO. I think this is the issue that is before us.

    The grievance process can be found in the EMPLOYEE manual. Don’t need a Trustee Policy manual to get that information.

    As to your follow-up question concerning Dr. Van McClain. Did Dr. McClain seek out the media? No, the media sought him out as a result of phone calls and emails sent directly to ABP. Dr. McClain had to answer from the cuff. A little different in this case. The media apparently was contacted by one of the two individuals quoted. They had time to know what they were going to say and how they were going to say it. Did Dr. McClain violate the policy of personnel issues? Probably did and I guarantee you that he regrets saying that to the media. However, I can overlook a slip of the tongue, but I cannot overlook a concerted effort to place a person of integrity like Dr. Roberts in this position.

    One question to you. Mr. Downing is from Oklahoma. Is he a member of your church?

    Blessings,
    Tim

  33. Paul says:

    Tim,

    Trustees are not employees and are not, therefore, governed by the employee manual. I suppose you could argue that what is good for the goose is good for the gander, but I suspect that if it isn’t in writing somewhere it is unfair to assume that he has done something wrong in not following a manual that was not written with him in mind.

    I am glad to hear you say that you think Van McClain also violated protocol regarding personnel issues. I will tell you that from a legal standpoint whether it was a slip of the tongue or intentional wouldn’t make any difference. He would be equally liable. Of course, no one is taking anyone to court over any of this, but as you say, “Personnel Issues, if handled that way in the secular society, should be doubly guarded information within a Christian environment.” It just looks like you’re giving Dr. McClain a free pass, for the most part.

    And no, Mr. Downing is not a member of my church, I’d never heard of him prior to the news reports and I’ve never met him. If any of that were the case what difference would that make?

  34. Tim Rogers says:

    Brother Paul,

    This is what is so frustrating about debating with you. I have not referenced the Employee Manual concerning Mr. Downing. You asked about the grievance process. In the original statement you quoted to ask me about it, I was referencing Mr. Hodges as an employee. Mr. Downing stepped in and he along with Mr. Hodges openly criticized the seminary President and spoke with the secular and Baptist news media. Mr. Hodges, once he resigned, is free to speak with whomever he desires. However, Mr. Downing is still accountable to the entire BoT. He is not free to spout off his views on a subject concerning Dr. Roberts who is still an employee of the seminary.

    Notice this comment; ““This is the most irresponsible act of a board chair that I have ever come in contact with during my 33-some years in corporate life,” said G. Richard Hastings, a board of regents member and CEO of St. Luke’s Health System.” That is a pretty bold statement from a man who has been in corporate life for 33 years. Also, his position as CEO should tell you something about his view of what has happened.

    Mr. Downing should understand that serving as a trustee does give one privileges. Also, serving as the Chairman of the BoT adds privileges. However, with privileges comes accountability. Mr. Downing cannot arbitrarily ask for an audit has already been performed.

    As to my giving Dr. McClain a free pass. Dr. McClain was contacted by the news media and asked about the allegations of Dr. Klouda, someone who was no longer an employee. We are not speaking of the same things. Dr. McClain responded with, what I believe were, two objectives. One, to correct any mis-information that had been communicated on the blogs. Two, SWBTS was accused by you and others of stonewalling with a wall of silence. He had Southern Baptist asking for explanations and when he gives them you turn them against him. Now he is named in a lawsuit because he tried to respond with information you and others asked for. Free pass? No, I do not think so.

    Blessings,
    Tim

  35. Paul says:

    Tim,

    I am not trying to debate you. I am simply seeking some clarification. I appreciate the clarification you have given. I misread your statement about the Employee manual. I first read you to be saying that the trustees were bound by the employee manual, and as I say, I obviously misread that. But as I understand it Mr. Hodge did not go to the trustees with any complaints. The trustees (or at least the chairman) came to him. Is that not correct? In fact, Mr. Hodge didn’t seem to even complain about his firing. As I read his statements he was calling upon everyone to have full faith and confidence in MBTS and Dr. Roberts. Have I misread again?

    As to Dr. McClain, I can tell you that, legally, it doesn’t matter whether or not Dr. Klouda was still employed by SWBTS or not. If he divulged personnel information related to her employment with SWBTS he is on shaky ground. This is one area in which AT&T trained us well. They do not like lawsuits.

    In addition, I accused SWBTS of stonewalling, not based upon the release of private personnel matters. I never asked for private personnel information. I knew better than that. I would have never expected that. I know the law as it relates to that. I only asked for copies of public minutes spanning a seven-year period. I was stonewalled because they would not release those public minutes. I expressed my concerns privately to Dr. McClain about what I had heard regarding the Klouda incident. I did not ask him to explain what had happened. I told him that if there was any truth to what I had heard that it raised concerns for me. I expected that the trustees would handle the matter as trustees. I asked for minutes to public sessions because those are not considered private personnel issues. If they are dealing with private personnel issues in public sessions then that should be a concern. Thus, I asked for the minutes of public meetings because it was said that the public record indicated Dr. Klouda was hired unanimously. I wanted to see if that was true. In the end the minutes did not say. They only said that she was hired (along with other professors who were hired in that same trustee meeting). There was some other pertinent information there as well, but there really isn’t any need to go into that here. You’re simply wrong in what you are assuming I was asking and then that I now somehow criticize him for giving me what I asked for. I praised SWBTS when they released the minutes. I criticized them for taking seven months to do it. I do not apologize for that. They were wrong.

  36. Tim Rogers says:

    Brother Paul,

    You write; “The trustees (or at least the chairman) came to him. Is that not correct?” I do not know the chain of events.

    You also write; “In fact, Mr. Hodge didn’t seem to even complain about his firing. As I read his statements he was calling upon everyone to have full faith and confidence in MBTS and Dr. Roberts.” From the Kansas City Star; “Hodge added, however, that “I certainly do want to share my appreciation for the outstanding faculty committed to teaching Midwestern’s students … and for the men and women who are studying diligently at Midwestern.” I do not see any statement of confidence for Dr. Roberts.

    As for SWBTS, I want to correct something here that I may not have stated clearly. I am not referencing your asking for minutes after the lawsuit was filled. As I understand, and my time-line is a bit fuzzy, you asked for these minutes after it was public record that the lawsuit was filed and Dr. McClain had already made a statement. My reference to your chastising the seminary for being silent is clearly seen in this example. 2/8/07 Brother Wade wrote on his blog; “There are three SWBTS trustees who have visited with me about Dr. Klouda, but all three did not even know who Sheri was, or that she had been an employee of SWBTS. In addition, all three initiated contact with me after I had made repeated attempts to contact people responsible.” Dr. Klouda filed her lawsuit 3/8/07.

    What I am saying, Brother Paul, is that Dr. McClain, while not making the wisest move in speaking publicly did so only after blogs were posted criticizing SWBTS’ move and then being painted into a corner because they would not speak about the issue.

    Thus, once again, no free pass.

    Blessings,
    Tim

  37. Paul says:

    Tim,

    I’m not sure what you are saying, but I can assure you that I do not have multiple personality disorder. I am one person, Paul Littleton. Wade Burleson is a separate person. I don’t know what you mean when you say “your chastising the seminary for being silent…” and then quote Wade Burleson. I am not Wade Burleson and I did not chastise the seminary for being silent. If you are going to talk about me and what I have said or stood for I would appreciate it if you would quote me and not someone else. I don’t think you would want me holding you responsible for every comment of Robin Foster, David Worley or Wes Kenney and I expect that you won’t hold me responsible for every comment of Wade Burleson, Ben Cole or anyone but Paul Littleton.

    By the way, no one, no blog, can force Van McClain’s (or anyone else’s) hand or paint them into a corner. I faced a number of situations in corporate life where it would have been much to my benefit and the benefit of my workgroup to have divulged the reasons a particular person was no longer employed with us (or the reasons they were doing what they were doing and they were still employed with us). However, I knew the law and my liability and sometimes you just have to keep quiet and let them carp at you.

    You have said what Dr. McClain did was unwise and I appreciate that. It looks like a free pass because no one from your side of the spectrum was calling him on his lack of wisdom back in January or posting that he should be dealt with in San Antonio if he didn’t rectify the situation, yet here we are doing that very thing with a trustee of another school. Maybe you guys were concerned then and simply said nothing publicly about it. I’m just telling you how it appears on this side of the monitor based upon the words that have or have not been publicly spoken.

  38. Tim Rogers says:

    Brother Paul,

    I can tell that we are constantly dividing this further. The issue here has nothing to do with SWBTS and the Dr. Klouda issue.

    The issue here is that a Chairman spoke openly to the press and even sought out the press in order to make the statements.

    Blessings,
    Tim