Thursday, June 14, 2012

Wayne Allen, part 2: Calling Southwestern trustees to apologize for seven ethical lapses

Last week, I wrote a Texas Baptists Committed blog post about the death of Wayne Allen, the retired senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Carrollton, and his lonely stand as the only Texan on the Southwestern Seminary Board of Trustees to vote against the firing of Russell Dilday in 1994.

Last night, I made a serendipitous discovery, and I'm convinced more than ever that God is quite frequently - not always, but frequently - the author of serendipity.

A little hungry just before bedtime, I decided to fix myself a piece of toast to quiet my hunger pangs and help me sleep (any excuse I can find for a late-night snack). But I wanted something to read as I ate, so I pulled something randomly from my bookshelves. Two shelves are taken up with old issues of magazines and journals. The issue I pulled down - entirely at random - happened to be the May 12, 1994, issue of Baptists Today, back when it was weekly rather than monthly and was printed in a newspaper format. (To my family and friends who needle me about keeping "everything under the sun," I say, "See? You never know when one of those 'everythings' might come in handy!")

On the front page was a provocative article by Cecil Sherman, then coordinator of the fledgling Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, in which he refuted First Baptist Dallas pastor O.S. Hawkins' false claim that Sherman did not accept the virgin birth of Christ. So I began reading, got to the bottom of the page, and found that the article was continued on page 4. But when I turned to page 4, my attention was diverted to an article on page 5 across the way: "Trustee says Southwestern board should apologize for 'wrongs.'"

Yes, there was much more to the story of Wayne Allen and the Southwestern trustees than his vote. He didn't stop there.

Yesterday, I was speaking to a friend who told me that he remembered Wayne Allen as being very conservative and didn't know he had taken this stand in the Dilday matter until reading my TBC blog post last week.

The article I found last night reminds us that the dispute between Fundamentalists and Moderates was not about theological differences. After all, Baptists have always had theological differences but have been able to cooperate in sharing the Gospel, because what unites us had been too important to let our differences divide us. No, the dispute arose because one faction wanted power and control. Unfortunately, when power and control become our desired destination, Christian ethics are thrown to the side as impediments to the journey.

But the story of Wayne Allen reminds us that not all who were sympathetic to the Fundamentalist cause were willing to surrender their commitment to following Christ's ethical example and teachings.

The article in Baptists Today, written by Associated Baptist Press, says that Wayne Allen challenged Southwestern Seminary trustees to "apologize to Southern Baptists for seven 'wrongs' committed in the firing of seminary president Russell Dilday. . . . 'Failure to do so is to refuse to be accountable,' the Dallas-area pastor said." It went on to say that Allen and a group of trustees had "fallen two votes short of the required 20 votes needed to call . . . an emergency trustee meeting" to discuss the drafting of such an apology.

Then the ABP/Baptists Today article listed seven wrongs, cited by Allen, "for which trustees need to answer and make amends. 'These are facts - not assumptions - because I was there,' he said." Following are these seven wrongs cited by Allen, copied verbatim from the May 12, 1994, article:
  • The 'plot' to fire Dilday was 'carefully orchestrated and planned' by a group of trustees, without the knowledge of the rest of the board.
  • There was a 'deliberate plan,' Allen said, to keep him and other trustees from knowing about the effort to fire Dilday.
  • Dilday, students, faculty, and some trustees were led to believe no attack on Dilday was imminent, Allen said. 'This was deceit.'
  • Each day of the three-day March board meeting, trustee leaders denied that a move against Dilday was afoot, Allen said.
  • Chair Ralph Pulley and other trustee officers, Allen said, were out of line when, 30 minutes prior to their last session, they told Dilday he could accept a 'buyout' or be fired. The leaders 'did not have the authority to make such an offer,' Allen said.
  • Neither were Pulley and the others empowered to hire former seminary vice president John Earl Seelig to handle public relations for the seminary, Allen said.
  • Changing the locks on Dilday's office and his computer-access code created the public perception that Dilday was guilty of some criminal or immoral act, Allen said. 'This was wrong!'
Again, I never met Wayne Allen. We probably would have had differences over some theological issues and scriptural interpretations. Good grief, the Epiphany Sunday School class at Wilshire, of which my wife and I have been members for almost 8 years, thrive on such differences every week, but all of us leave there with mutual love and respect.

So, I imagine, it would have been if I had known Wayne Allen. His devotion to Jesus and his determination to follow Christ's example of ethical living, even though it meant calling to account his friends and colleagues, leave me with admiration and a wish that I had known him.

There are still those among us, calling themselves Baptist Christians, who lust for power and control, and who feel no compunction about lying, deceiving, and even slandering their brothers and sisters to achieve it. May we all follow the example of Wayne Allen and stand up for Christ, living in the way Christ taught us.

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