Resigned president is suing Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for defamation

James Hartley, Fort Worth Star-Telegram on

Published in Religious News

FORT WORTH, Texas — The former president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth is suing the theological institute he used to lead over allegations of defamation following his resignation, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.

Adam Greenway, the president of the seminary from 2019 to 2022, alleges in the lawsuit that a social media post in which he criticized politicizing Christianity is what really caused friction with the board of trustees and influential alumni. The seminary, though, has accused Greenway of improperly handling institutional funds and making unnecessary expenditures.

The seminary said in a statement to the Star-Telegram that it is “regrettable that Adam Greenway is suing the seminary he has previously claimed to love in response to Southwestern’s refusal to agree to his demand of $5 million last fall.”

“We categorically deny the allegations contained in the lawsuit, will defend vigorously the institution, and are confident the outcome will demonstrate that these claims are entirely baseless,” the statement read.

The seminary also said Greenway’s attorney turned down an offer to inspect evidence it says would validate the public statements made by the university and board of trustees chairman Danny Roberts.

Greenway said in the lawsuit he was pressured to leave the seminary as a result of a social media post from Sept. 12, 2022.

“If America really was/is a Christian nation — as my Twitter feed indicates some are claiming today — then where are the cries to repent and believe instead of just calls to register and go vote?” he wrote in the post. “Don’t reduce the Bible to a political prop and Jesus to a candidate consultant, please.”

Following the post, Greenway said he received a text message from Jack Graham, a prominent seminary alumnus and the senior pastor of Plano megachurch Prestonwood Baptist Church, to a group that included influential alum OS Hawkins, Greenwood says in the lawsuit. Prestonwood has a history of political involvement, such as hosting and promoting a forum for Republic presidential candidates in 2016.

Graham demanded in the text that Greenway remove the social media post, according to the lawsuit.

Greenwood alleges Hawkins responded to Graham’s text, saying it seemed like Greenway thought he always has “to be the smartest person in the room.”

“You continue to burn bridges with such things as tweets that are total straw men and sadly it does nothing for the growth and health of our seminary of which you are a steward,” the lawsuit says Hawkins wrote in the text.

Hawkins also posted on social media on Sept. 12 a verse from Proverbs, saying “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall,” according to Greenway. “Why is it that some people never learn the value of losing a little battle in order to win a bigger war? You don’t. always have to push back insisting you are right… b/c you are not always right!”

Seven days later, Graham, Hawkins and Roberts, the trustee member, met with Greenway and demanded his resignation, according to the lawsuit. Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, was on the phone as a witness when the three men offered Greenway six months’ salary, benefits and housing, along with a non-disparagement agreement, if he would resign, the suit states.

Greenway didn’t accept the offer until Sept. 23, 2022, when he verbally agreed to the terms, he says in the suit. But on Oct. 18, 2022, Roberts said in a news release from the seminary that Greenway was responsible for mismanaging the budget and overspending that resulted in a monthly deficits of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and that Greenway tried to pass the blame to chief financial officers who were removed.

Greenway disagrees with this.

He alleges in the lawsuit that the budget deficits were actually the fault of a vice president of business administration, who was also the treasurer, who took out a line of credit for the university worth about $1.6 million without Greenway’s knowledge or approval.

Following the statement, Greenway hired an attorney and came to a settlement with the seminary on the terms of his resignation, the lawsuit reads. The terms included the requirement that Greenway and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary would issue a joint statement on Feb. 28, 2023, characterizing his departure from the seminary as “amicable.” The statement would also say Greenway and the leaders of the seminary were both praying for blessings for Greenway’s family and the seminary.


The settlement also included a non-disparagement agreement, according to the suit.

That statement was not issued, though, Greenway alleges, and when he asked the seminary to release that joint statement its leaders refused.

Over the next several months, multiple news releases from the seminary accused Greenway of overspending, mismanaging the budget and resisting attempts from the seminary’s trustees, along with different boards and committees, to implement financial safeguards.

In news releases from April 19, 2023, Roberts is quoted as saying that a task force investigated Greenway’s management of seminary funds.

“The findings demonstrated a need for greater accountability and oversight for the institution,” Roberts is quoted as saying.

In another news release on May 30, 2023, Roberts said “it was the growing involvement of trustee leadership and our insistence of greater presidential accountability and resistance to our attempts to implement financial safeguards that led to Adam Greenway’s resignation.”

Greenway says in the lawsuit that the references to spending and money mismanagement come from renovations done to the 10,000-square-foot house for the seminary president on campus. The building was not only a private residence but a place to host official gatherings and functions for the seminary. It included four offices, public gathering areas and a kitchen equipped to facilitate large events.

In the lawsuit, Greenway says he was required as a part of his employment to live in the president’s home. When he moved in, though, he found mold, maintenance problems and that the house was “unfit for habitation or use.” The lawsuit also notes that much of the furniture in the house was removed before Greenway arrived. He says Roberts knew about the condition of the building and saw the mold himself. The renovations were made in February 2019 and included an espresso bar that cost $11,123.49, a water filtration system and new accessories.

Greenway says in the suit the repairs and renovations were made with the approval of Roberts and the seminary’s treasurer.

He also notes in the lawsuit that he laid off many of the 14 people on staff in the house to serve the previous president, including a personal chef, in an effort to cut back on seminary spending. If food for a large gathering was needed, the seminary would cater or bring in cooks for the event.

In late 2021, mold was found in the HVAC systems in the house, according to the lawsuit. Risk management for the seminary determined that the systems required replacement.

Annual audits of the seminary’s finances reported to its board of trustees, according to the suit. From 2019 to 2022, while Greenway was president, the board took the audit reports and certified that “the expenses and perquisites of the president are not excessive and are in keeping with biblical stewardship, including every emolument and personal benefit of any kind (and specifically including housing, travel, automobile(s), and personal assistants) all valued at market rates.”

But in June 2023, the task force assigned to investigate Greenway’s spending said that he “engaged in a pattern of spending that the task force believes did not reflect proper stewardship of seminary resources,” according to the lawsuit. The task force noted that $1.5 million was spent from 2019 to 2022 to renovate the president’s home. The task force also mentioned nearly $60,000 for Christmas decorations, more than $25,000 for artwork and the cost of the espresso bar.

The task force also referred to the $180,000 spent to fix the HVAC system as “optional,” the lawsuit alleges.

Greenway’s suit says the task force was provided with specially selected and incomplete financial records that led to its findings.

The former seminary president is suing Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Roberts for defamation, breach of contract and allegations that Roberts and the seminary broke legally made promises.

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