Recorded Meetings Tell the Story: Why Professor Lopez Was Pushed Out of SWBTS
Last week, The Stand published a blog about Professor Robert Oscar Lopez’s release from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) and the pressure he had experienced to refrain from speaking forthrightly on issues of biblical sexual morality – especially homosexuality and sexual abuse within the church.
The same day, Baptist Press released a statement by SWBTS provost Randy Stinson, asserting Lopez had made “defamatory claims” that are “categorically false” and “demonstrably false.”
“Let me be absolutely clear,” Stinson said, “no faculty member, including Dr. Lopez, has been told, or would be told, they cannot discuss homosexuality.” He further claimed that Lopez’s position was “eliminated due to changing program needs” and was “undergirded by his own actions, which included his failure to comply with basic administrative policies…”
The statement prompted Lopez to release recordings from a September 13 meeting with dean Michael Wilkinson and a September 19 meeting with Stinson. He also released email correspondence concerning the “administrative policy” on media requests, public statements, and written publications – all of which, for Lopez, involved LGBT and sex abuse issues. The written communication reveals Lopez’s attempt to understand and follow the guidelines, and receive written clarification. He did, however, state from the onset he could not refrain from speaking on the issues altogether:
“I cannot abandon the many families and ministries that continue to ask me for help dealing with the LGBT issue and legislation that limits freedom of conscience,” he wrote in a June 27 email to Stinson, Wilkinson, and others. “I will apprise my dean of opportunities that arise and will notify Colby Adams when I receive media requests. But these issues are too urgent for me to stand down completely.”
On September 13, Lopez’s essay titled “To Affirm LGBT Ideology is to Support Abuse” was published by The American Thinker under a pseudonym – in order that SWBTS would not receive any attention for its content.
During a private meeting with Wilkinson on the same day the essay was posted, he communicated SWBTS’s expectations for Lopez to focus on his academic work and “not be involved in other areas.” Lopez asked specifically if his inability to be quiet on the issues addressed in his article would result in him being fired. (See transcript below.)
Days later, Stinson accused Lopez of lacking integrity for refusing to resign when he did not intend to “go by the requirements of [the] institution.” Lopez, on the other hand, called the requested degree of control over his public expression “censorship,” “wrong,” and “unethical.”
As expected, the reputation of the seminary as perceived by leadership in The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), as well as the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), appear to be at the forefront of Stinson’s motivation.
Stinson indicated that under the seminary’s administrative policy, the “entity that pays the bills” would be included in making decisions concerning venues and the content of public expression by Lopez and other professors. In addition, he made clear that he was very concerned about the resolution Lopez had submitted to the Southern Baptist Convention “On Southern Baptist Whistleblowers and Their Freedom of Conscience”.
“Then, I happen to be around some folks from the ERLC,” said Stinson, “where your reputation is not good there with these folks. So now, there’s a growing concern of mine in terms of a failure to relate constructively to another major entity of the SBC – which, in turn, compounds the problem of failure to relate constructively to this institution.”
In addition to his second-in-command position at SWBTS, Stinson is a senior research fellow with the ERLC, the SBC organization that has been increasingly moving away from its conservative roots and embracing liberal ideologies such as Revoice, that allows for “gay celibate Christianity” but does not promote the mindset that those living in homosexual sin can change.
I find it ironic that Stinson accused Lopez of lacking in integrity. For one to be lacking in integrity, there must be inconsistency in his stated position and his actions. At no point did Lopez indicate he would be willing to be silenced concerning his testimony or his position on biblical, sexual morality.
Now, let’s remember that Stinson released his statement on behalf of SWBTS before Lopez released the audio recordings, transcripts, and emails – all of which identified a lack of congruency in SWBTS statements and actions.
Stinson said no faculty member told Lopez he could not discuss homosexuality. The documentation shows otherwise.
Stinson stated Lopez was released because of the seminary’s changing program needs. In other words, they just don’t need him anymore. The recordings clearly reveal something altogether different. In private conversations, Lopez was asked to focus on his “courses and academic work” and refrain from being involved with other issues. Behind closed doors, they needed him to do his job. Now, they don’t need him to do his job at all.
After SWBTS released its statement, Lopez received an email from the seminary’s human resources department informing him that his employment would not continue through the month of December as initially understood. Rather a final check was cut to cover the first few days of December. So, apparently SWBTS leaders have now decided they either want Lopez to finish out the semester without compensation, or they can no longer claim to have released him under the guise of a “lay-off.”
Ladies and gentlemen, we are definitely seeing some inconsistencies – you might call it “a lack of integrity.” Things just aren’t matching up!
For an exhaustive explanation of the email documentation and recordings, click here. If the position of the SBC is important to you, this is an opportunity to investigate behind-the-scenes communication.