The stained glass windows in the MacGorman Chapel of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) have been removed.
The windows featured Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) leaders who figured prominently in the denomination’s conservative resurgence movement, including former SWBTS president Paige Patterson; Paul Pressler, considered one of the architects of the conservative resurgence; and several past presidents of the SBC.
In an April 11 email to The Alabama Baptist, SWBTS spokesperson Colby Adams confirmed what had been circulating on social media for several days: “The stained glass windows have been removed from MacGorman Chapel and we are working with donors to finalize plans for relocating the windows.”
No reason for the removal of the windows was provided.
A letter dated April 3 sent to “ministry partners” and signed by Kevin Ueckert, chairman of the SWBTS board of trustees, stated in part:
“After much prayerful consideration and discussion, we have concluded that it is in the best interest of the institution to remove and relocate the stained-glass windows installed in our J.W. MacGorman Chapel and Performing Arts Center. Expenses to remove the windows are minimal and will be covered by the seminary … The seminary will safety store the windows until we have a chance to discuss with you the next steps.”
The first of several stained glass windows were installed in the chapel in 2013, according to an article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The Star-Telegram reported then that the windows were the dream of Patterson’s wife, Dorothy.
“My dream was to portray the 20-year history of the conservative resurgence of the Southern Baptist church,” Dorothy Patterson was quoted as saying.
An Oct. 19, 2015, SWBTS press release stated a similar purpose of the windows:
“In order to pass along the story of the SBC’s Conservative Resurgence, Southwestern has dedicated stained-glass windows in MacGorman Chapel to those who played a major role in turning the convention back to a high view of Scripture.”
In addition to the Pattersons and Pressler, those depicted in the chapel windows include O.S. Hawkins, director of Christian-based financial services company GuideStone; Harold and Dottie Riley, whose contributions helped build MacGorman Chapel; Jimmy Draper, former SBC president and president emeritus of LifeWay Christian Resources; several past presidents of the SBC, including Charles Stanley, W.A. Criswell, Adrian Rogers, Bailey Smith, Jerry Vines and Edwin Young; and many others. Retired Alabama Baptist pastor Jimmy Jackson and Rick Warren, founding pastor of Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, California, also were among those featured in stained glass.
The original goal was at least 69 windows over a 12-year period, said Don Young, the artist/owner of Don Young Glass Studio, who designed and installed the windows, according to the Star-Telegram. A gallery of the windows can be viewed here.
The seminary fired Paige Patterson May 30, 2018, following weeks of news reports about the “handling of an allegation of sexual abuse against a student during Dr. Patterson’s presidency at another institution and resulting issues connected with statements to the board of trustees that are inconsistent with SWBTS’s biblically informed core values,” according to a statement by the executive committee of SWBTS trustees.
The windows became a topic of controversy on social media during that time and in the weeks that followed Patterson’s firing, with many calling for their removal.
Thomas Wright, executive director of missions for the Mobile Baptist Association and president of the SWBTS Alabama Alumni Association, noted that observers can only speculate about the reasons for the decision to remove the windows.
“Southwestern has not commented specifically why the McGorman chapel memorial windows are being removed,” Wright said. “It is appropriate for history to document the impact that individuals made during the crucial conservative resurgence transition. Perhaps some of the window subjects illustrate why institutions tend to memorialize those whom history has confirmed finished well. Some would contend we are best served remaining focused on biblical heroes of faith and practice.”
EDITOR’S NOTE–Updated at 2:12 p.m. April 11 to add comments from Thomas Wright.