Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Announces Layoffs

By Scott Barkley
southwestern swbts
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas has confirmed that the entity has initiated layoffs to avert a financial crisis. (Courtesy Photo)

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas confirmed on Thursday that the entity has initiated layoffs, a week after announcing steps to rectify a financial environment that could “quickly escalate to a crisis.” 

“As part of the previously announced intention to implement organizational restructuring, including budget reductions, at the direction of the board of trustees, the interim administration has informed certain staff their employment has been ended,” a statement read. “These have been extremely difficult decisions as we seek to address our current challenges.”

When asked if information on the number of affected staff could be released, a seminary spokesman responded, “Not at this time.” Media was unable to confirm whether more layoffs are forthcoming.

“We recognize the disruption that this causes for these staff members and their families,” the statement continued. “There is certainly no joy in having to make these decisions at this time. Appropriate severance is being offered to affected employees.”

Interim President David S. Dockery presented the aforementioned “organization restructuring” to trustees on the second day of their Oct. 17-18 gathering on Seminary Hill. It was the group’s first gathering since the resignation of former president Adam W. Greenway.

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“The [SWBTS] community is praying not only for the Lord’s provision and favor but for genuine renewal to come to the Southwestern campus,” Dockery told trustees on Oct. 18.

The restructuring includes a reduction of the operational and personnel budget by at least 10 percent, representing approximately $3.6 million. Those cuts will come primarily from the area of institutional support, beginning with programming over personnel, Dockery said. 

A years-long evaluation of the seminary’s 200-acre “campus footprint and its optimal use” has led to placing the B.H. Carroll Park Apartments on the market. Other parcels surrounding the main campus may follow suit, said Dockery.

Trustees spent Oct. 17 in closed session reviewing seminary financials and, said Chairman Danny Roberts, “had access to any and all information they requested.”

“As a result, we are requesting the auditors to do some additional work to carefully examine all expenditures, especially those which raised concerns,” he said in the group’s open session Oct. 18.

O.S. Hawkins, serving as senior advisor and ambassador-at-large since retiring as Guidestone president, commended trustees as “the most engaged group of men and women I have ever seen.”

On Oct. 24, Baptist Press sent a list of follow-up questions to SWBTS that requested clarity on the new financial guardrails and “multi-faceted matters” mentioned by Dockery that led to the current financial position as well as if details from the audits would be provided. 

Media received the following statement:

“Southwestern Seminary trustees continue to work with the interim administration in executing the actions taken by the board during its meeting. As it is appropriate to share new developments, we will provide that information. We were delighted to host the largest recent fall Preview Day in some years on Oct. 21, welcoming more than 300 prospective students and their families, and culminating with more than 650 participants in our fall festival. Our Admissions team is aggressively recruiting students to study with our first-class faculty of scholar-ministers who not only teach their subjects with excellence, but help our students live their calling as Gospel ministers during their studies. Our campus community has been infused with multiple prayer gatherings as students, faculty, and staff humbly seek God’s blessings under the theme verse of Psalm 90:17.”

This article originally appeared at Baptist Press.

Scott Barkley is national correspondent for Baptist Press.



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17 thoughts on “Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Announces Layoffs”

  1. Speaking as a CFO with 12 years experience in Higher Education, the entire industry is facing some of the most challenging circumstances of our lifetime. This is more prominent at smaller, faith based institutions. Dwindling enrollments are impacting 99% of schools that cannot respond quickly enough to the loss of revenue. In the past year, 4 schools within 100 miles around my institution have closed. Many more will follow. Schools such as SWBTS with an ultra conservative theology are experiencing a double negative because they no longer appear relevant to society, yet they are trying to attract graduate students to carry the torch for the denomination. Not to mention the impact of the SBC’s current and ongoing scandals, I am not surprised by this.

    1. SWBTS may have a legacy veneer of “ultra-conservatism,” but the reality is quite different. The school has liberalized dramatically over the past decade or two, presumably to make themselves more “marketable” and “relevant” to society. We see how that usually goes, such as church denominations which have embraced the entire sexual perversion agenda now seeing double-digit declines, and major splits as megachurch congregations leave (UMC.)

      Better to see contractions as you adhere to the core doctrines of your ancient faith than to kowtow to the culture, which is sure death.

      1. Keith: These are difficult and serious days, but your comment made me laugh. SWBTS becoming liberal. As compared to what?

        1. How about, as compared to what it once was.

          I’ve spoken to professors there who are die-hard evolutionists, who completely discount the Old Testament accounts of Noah and the Flood, Adam, the Garden, and most other accounts once deemed indisputable in Baptist circles. They have also softened considerably on the issues surrounding homosexuality. Just look at the words of the past two SBC presidents, which are mostly embraced by their affiliated seminaries.

          If you can’t see these things happening, I don’t know what to tell a blind man.

          1. Keith: There is no way that there are or have been at SWBTS that are die-hard evolutionists or soft on homosexuality. They would be fired immediately. Unless you want SBC professors to be hard core FUNDAMENTALIST the professors at SWBTS would be considered by most to be ultra conservative.

  2. I read at

    that after Greenway took over, he removed stained glass windows that had images of Paige Patterson (the previous president) and others of the “Conservative Resurgence” from the chapel at the school. Are these windows a common feature of Baptist school chapels?

    If you visit my Eastern Orthodox Church, you will see many icons of our Lord, saints and martyrs in the nave. The only living people are in photographs elsewhere in the the church.

    1. Mark Woolfington

      I graduated from Southwestern in 1996, and there were, at that time, no stained glass windows of any kind in the chapel. In the rotunda of the main building, there was (and perhaps still is) a portrait of the school’s founder. A portrait of the school’s president or founder is a common thing, even in state schools, but practically unheard of as a stained glass window.

  3. Well, isn’t that something? After being a very faithful member of a Baptist church for three years, tithing and volunteering, I attended a string of very hurtful, bully type sermons. First off, Lordship Salvation is heresy……..Free Grace is truth. Don’t dare try to control me with threats from pulpit. During a sermon concerning shunning and ex-communication, “Pastor” stated to all members in church verbatim: “If you are visiting today’s service and not a member, we have more patience for your behavior, than we do for members.” That was in middle of COVID. Not exactly good news. I never returned. I have been saying this for a long time………..Theology schools are doing a horrendous job of screening their students before conferring degrees. Spiritual medicine is just as vital as physical. Vet your students!!!!!!! If you don’t, you will allow bullies into substantive positions in culture, and there is absolutely no excuse for unloving, disrespectful pastors.

    1. Mr. Knight: What do you think the Church Fathers who attended the councils in Nicea and Constantinople would think of the Baptist churches that you have attended? Do you think they would also disapprove of today’s screening of theology students?

      1. Richard………I apologize, but you spoke over my head. Sounds as if you have a fair amount of knowledge. Can you bring question down to my level? Thank you for your thoughts.

  4. Rabindranath Ramcharan

    No connection with a falloff in donations after they fired Dr. Patterson in the middle of the night back in 2018. Not at all.

    1. Assuming you mean what you wrote and aren’t being sarcastic, then you are correct that Dr. Paige Patterson’s firing had nothing to do with this. But Dr. Patterson’s Conservative Resurgence might have. If you look at enrollment figures SWBTS reported to SBC messengers every year, they show that SWBTS enrollment was on a steady decline throughout Dr. Patterson’s tenure. They were in decline during the preceding administration under Dr. Kenneth Hemphill, too. In fact, Dr. Patterson himself executed a couple of these layoffs & expense-reduction measures during his time at SWBTS. If you want to trace the decline of SWBTS as a major force for US seminary education, go back to when the Conservative Resurgents changed the locks on the doors of former President Dr. Russell Dilday’s office in the middle of the night in 1994. Chart the enrollment numbers from then until now and you will see for yourself that where SWBTS had become the largest seminary in the world under Dr. Dilday, from an enrollment and funding point of view SWBTS has never recovered from the skullduggery of the Conservative Resurgents.

      1. Rabindranath Ramcharan

        Maybe, maybe not. I think most people familiar with the story would agree that Dr. Patterson had a substantial number of supporters and that some of those supporters donated large sums of money to Southwestern. The questions that emerge are, a) when the trustees sent him on his way, in the manner that they did it, how many of those people were sufficiently annoyed to withhold their financial support, b) how dependent was SWBTS on those contributions, and c) how much did the answer to a) and b) enter in to the trustee’s calculations?
        I don’t think that there is any way for an outsider to tell.

      2. Rabindranath Ramcharan

        Oh, and I’ve found that sarcasm as a literary device is poorly understood and generally ineffective in the comments sections.

  5. Sam you seemed to have hit the mail on the head, these younger guys are all about control. I really believe that they don’t trust the church members and it’s killing the SBC. If I moved to a new community I probably wouldn’t even consider going to a SBC church. They are quick to pass a resolution to ban women from thr pulpits but slow to deal with predatory pastors

  6. I have family that graduated from SWBTS. They are in a tough market. Fewer young people going to seminary overall. On top of that, there is a battle inside the SBC over reformed versus arminian theology. The former is preferred by a majority of the young seminary students. As a result Southern in Louisville is gathering most of the new students. Kind of like running the 4th place horse drawn carriage company about the time the Model T comes on the market.. Tough spot. Increased enrollment is only real long-term solution.

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