President Patterson Affirmed by SWBTS Trustees

October 24, 2014

by Ron F. Hale

The board of trustees of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary met on October 22nd and affirmed the leadership and evangelistic heart of Dr. Paige Patterson. This comes after board Chairman Steven James, of Lake Charles, Louisiana promised messengers in the Baltimore convention that an investigation would ensue.

Before the Baltimore convention, a Baptist blogger in Oklahoma led the charge as various bloggers and news sources heightened the story that Dr. Patterson had granted an exception to a Palestinian Muslim man to enroll in the school’s Ph.D. archaeology program. The seminary has operated a dig in Tel Gezer in Israel and this man helped as a student from another cooperating school. After getting to know the students and leaders of Southwestern the student asked to study in the Southwestern archaeology program.

Dr. Patterson shared with the messengers in June that on rare occasions, he has made exceptions for a few non-Christian students as president of Criswell College, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and at his current institution. He estimated having done so four or five times in his nearly 40 years of academic administration. His hope with each exception was a desire to see these individuals understand the good news of Jesus Christ.[1]

After discerning that the Palestinian student was a man of peace and accepted the necessity of abiding by the moral code of the seminary, Dr. Patterson said, “We agreed to admit him into the archeology program.”[2]

Ghassan Nagagreh, the Muslim student, dropped out of the program after hearing of the controversy surrounding his studies. Dr. Patterson is quoted by the Religion New Service (RNS) that “He wrote me a letter declining to return. He was not specific about his reasons, but he had previously indicated that he had no desire to be a problem to anyone. He is one of the kindest men I know and I was not surprised at his decision, even though I was disappointed.”

On a personal note, while studying for a masters in missiology at Southwestern Seminary a number of years ago, I came face to face with the hardships we encounter in unlocking the Muslim strongholds around the world.

Did you know that one out of every five people on earth is a Muslim? The heart of Islam lives in the 10-40 window that our International Mission Board has been so focused on for several decades. Did you know that there is only one missionary for every one million Muslims?

Do you realize that finding a “person of peace” and loving and leading them to Jesus is crucial in building a bridge to any unreached groups; especially those who make up the most resistant people group in the world?

Thank you Dr. Patterson for taking the risk in reaching one Muslim man – you have my prayers. Thank you SWBTS trustees for having and showing grace—you have my respect!

*For the full statement from the SWBTS board of trustees, click HERE.

[2] Ibid.

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Robert Hutchinson

Brother Hale,

Should the seminaries allow any and all “person[s] of peace” to attend, regardless of religious belief?



Rick Patrick

Thank you for highlighting the relevant, gospel-centered, missional focus of Dr. Patterson’s leadership. My prayers are with Ghassan, although we have never met, that he might overlook this controversy and come to know the Savior in spite of the kerfuffle concerning his admission status. In the big picture, the salvation of his soul should certainly be a greater consideration to all evangelistic Southern Baptists than the specific wording, possibly outdated, of a bylaw or a policy. May the Bible ever be our Bylaws and the Great Commission ever be our number one policy.

Ron F. Hale


To your question of “any and all” – my answer is “no.”

However on rare occasions, a college president, a seminary president, and a senior pastor (and others) make decisions in the face of the consequences with a keen understanding that one day they will stand before a holy God and they will be held accountable for that single decision (regardless of the thoughts of men).

If we unleashed the hounds of history, each school could serve up certain examples—I’m sure.


    Robert Hutchinson

    And, perhaps, this controversy is God’s act of accountability.

      Ron F. Hale

      Your suggestion is beyond my limited understanding of His mysteries; and my pay-grade.

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