March 2007

March 6, 2007 Dear Dr. McClain: 

Thanks for the invitation to meet with the officers of the Board of Trustees on Monday, March 26th at SWBTS, LDC.  If this meeting occurs, the preferred times for me would be between 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm, due to an extremely heavy travel schedule just prior to the March 26 date. I’m willing to be flexible with the time of the meeting (if it occurs) if another time better suits everyone else schedule.  I would be delighted and honored to meet with the officers on the above date, time and place if the officers of the Board of Trustees are willing to meeting the following conditions: 

  • First, I need you to place in writing and forward to me the specific “concerns” that you would like to share with me by March 12, 2007.  You mentioned that I have “possibly violated the policy manual of the seminary trustees (in particular, you may refer to pages 65 and 71 in the policy manual).”  You must be specific and detailed about the possible violations of the policy manual.  What exactly have I possibly violated?  What is motivating you to raise these questions?  What evidence or proof do you have of possible violations?  I’m unaware of any violations.  I’ve read pages 65 and 71 of the policy manual and don’t see where I’ve violated anything on either page.  Therefore, I need you to state clearly and specifically in writing referencing these pages and the specific paragraphs or sentences that I’ve possibly violated.  Or you may place in quotes the possible violations from pages 65 and 71 along with the information or documentation that leads you to believe that I have possibly violated the Policy Manual.  Again, I need you to be specific and detailed regarding your concerns and to forward a list of the questions that you anticipate asking me on March 26.  It is important that I have all information that I’ve requested here prior to March 12 – so that I can make sure that I’m prepared for the March 26 meeting.  If you are unable to provide the information that I’ve requested in this email to my satisfaction prior to March 12, I will not attend the meeting.  Please forward each trustee the response you provide to this email, because I want everything out in the open.  I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO HIDE OR BE ASHAMED OF, SO PLEASE CIRCULATE ALL CORRESPONDENCE TO ME TO ALL OF THE TRUSTEES AND THE ADMINISTRATION.  My love and support of SWBTS is well documented. 
  • Second, I must be allowed to invite fellow trustees and or other Southern Baptist pastors, or church members of my choice who may attend as neutral observers.  Please extend an invitation to all trustees who may be interested in attending the March 26 possible meeting.  I want it to be open to them whether or not they are interested in coming.
  • Third, I must be allowed to record the entire meeting from the beginning to the end.  I will bring someone from my staff to record the meeting.  I plan to keep the tape recording of the meeting private unless and until something is said publicly that I believe misrepresents what was actually said and done in the meeting.  Again, the recording will only be available to protect everyone involved.  If there are no matters of dispute or misrepresentations, the recording will never be released publicly.
  • Fourth, in response to your request to “discuss with you [me] the appropriate portion of the policy manual dealing with faculty hiring and tenure recommendation process,” I am puzzled.  You make it crystal clear, “we will be discussing procedure and policy and not the particular case of Sheri Klouda.”  If we are not going to be discussing the appropriate portion of the policy manual dealing with faculty hiring and the tenure recommendation process with regard to Sheri Klouda, I want to know why do you want me to come to a meeting to discuss this?  I’m capable of reading and understanding the policy manual as it relates to these matters.  I would have no interest in spending time discussing the issue of faculty hiring and tenure recommendation process unless it’s directly related to the Klouda case.  I have plenty of questions about these matters in the context of the Klouda case, but I have no questions regarding these matters at this point separate from the Klouda case.  Therefore, if this matter is in regard to Klouda, I’m willing to discuss it.  If not, let’s skip it.  If you choose to discuss this matter given the conditions I’ve set, I certainly would not record this part of our discussion and if you wanted the “neutral observers” to dismiss themselves during this part of the discussion, I would be in accord with that decision.
    • Fifth, in the above referenced email you sent me in the fourth paragraph, you state “Third, it is right that trustees expect that the SWBTS administration follow established policies and the law, it is also right to expect that trustees themselves will follow established policies and the law.  Article II, item number 12 of the SWBTS Bylaws states, ‘All matters of alleged trustee misconduct shall be considered in an appropriate manner, as prescribed by a majority of the elected trustee officers, within the trustee body’ (page 28).”

    Please, specify in detail for me, what “established policies and the law” that you feel as if I’ve possibly violated.  Please cite specifically the policy (reference page number and place in quotes) and the law that you think I might have violated.  Please give me your rationale and supporting evidence for the possible violations of established policies and the law.  Again, please be specific and detailed.   

    Explain the significance of the page 28, policy manual quotation as it relates to any actions or inactions on my part so that I will be prepared to answer your alleged concerns. Finally, it is also my sincere prayer and hope that we could clarify issues and come to an understanding.  I trust that we can work this out for the good of everybody involved and to the glory of God.  Thanks for inviting me to the table to dialogue concerning these matters.  Again, I am more than willing to come and share in this discussion if you’re willing to accommodate the above conditions.

“I have received word through the media that the chairman of the board of trustees for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Van McClain, intends to consider asking the Southern Baptist Convention to remove me from the board. The reason he has given to the media is his “lost confidence” in me due to his perception that I have breached confidentiality. In the past months, I have asked Brother McClain to provide me with copies of any confidentiality policies governing trustee material. I have not received any copy of such policies, and I have been told by Brother McClain that no confidentiality policies exist.

The Executive Committee of Southwestern’s board of trustees has requested a meeting with me in writing. I have responded to that request, explaining my desire to meet and the conditions under which I am available for such a meeting. No specific details were given to me for this meeting, and I am only now learning of Brother McClain’s specific concerns through the media. I have not yet received any correspondence from him giving me a statement of his specific concerns, though I requested such an enumeration on February 23, 2007. The effort to remove me as a trustee at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is nothing but a twenty-first century lynching of an independent thinking Black man who has demonstrated strong support for the Southern Baptist Convention.  Because I will not join the “good old boys club” I’m subjected to removal as a trustee.

At this point, I will issue no further comment regarding this matter. My ministry at Cornerstone Baptist Church and the planning for our Baptist Conference on the Holy Spirit, April 27-29, 2007, controls my greater spiritual attention and personal preparation.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is very dear to my heart, and I consider my trusteeship to be a great privilege and responsibility given by Southern Baptists. I am unwavering in my support of the institution, and I am resolved to walk prayerfully and sensitively through these troubling times.”

We are hosting a conference on the Holy Spirit, April 27-29, 2007 at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. One of the reasons we felt led to host this conference and teaching on the Holy Spirit is because of the spirit of a letter that was received in our office. The letter is from a Pastor in Massachusetts and it is printed below for you to read. After reading the letter please seriously consider registering to attend this very unique conference. I look forward to seeing you at the conference April 27-29, 2007.

Thank you,
Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr.

Dear Dwight,

Well let me encourage you once more. Our church affiliated with the SBC Massachusetts Baptist Association last year. I have been active in the association, taught the Winter Bible Study to my colleagues, and serve as the prayer coordinator, introducing a variety of prayer initiatives to the association. As a pastor who has been at the same church for 22 years, I try to encourage my colleagues and share my experience to help them if I can. Beulah Baptist is a strong mission church with approximately 25% of what comes in goes outside the church to help others. I am going to be attending the Central Asia Summit in Washington later this month as our church has a heart for Central Asia. I became close friends with a student from there who I met when I taught a course I designed on Jesus and the Gospels at New Life Bible College in Moscow. Next year, I’ll be teaching the same course at the Albanian Bible Institute. We have mission dinners promoting NAMB, IMB, and the Psalm 139 project of ERLC. I have enthusiastically been promoting the Cooperative Program and Disaster Relief Training.

I tell you all this not to boast, but to comment that I am an enthusiastic supporter of the Southern Baptist Convention. I also have a private prayer language. It came upon me unexpectedly while I was in prayer. To me it enhances my prayer life particularly during intercession for difficult, complex situations and health concerns. I see it as a Spiritual gift that is just one of many in Scripture. It makes me no better or worse than anyone else. It doesn’t come with a Pentecostal agenda (whatever that is). I have been shocked that this is such an issue in SBC. I don’t care one way or another whether anybody prays in tongues, in silence, or in their own language. The Great Commission and the Great Commandments are what we are about. I have yet to meet another human being who agrees with my theological opinions 100% of the time. The strength of being a Baptist is the freedom to think under the authority of inerrant Scripture. Iron sharpens iron, so we think together, challenge each other in all humility, and help each other to think outside the box. Then we get on with the business Our Lord commands us.

That is why I think your work and prophetic voice has been invaluable. Your address at SWBTS took real courage. Your research has persuasively shown that, for the sake of the Great Commission, Baptists have historically cooperated despite differences in worship styles and theology. I am a Gordon-Conwell graduate who studied under Gordon Fee. It is just a fact that great evangelical scholars differ on the issues raised in 1Cor.14. So why should there be a SBC magesterium telling us the “theologically correct” interpretations of Scripture while also trying to dictate policies based on church tradition? Your scholarship and your persistence are truly admirable. It must be tough to take the hits that you are subjected to. But this is a thank you for your efforts at keeping SBC from becoming ridiculously narrow. When you get frustrated, just rest assured that there is a pastor here in New England who appreciates all you’ve done.

With respect,
John Brownlee
Beulah Baptist Church
Chicopee, MA 01020