Editor’s Note: We received a copy of Dr. Allen’s letter to Dr. Greenway following Greenway’s decision to terminate Allen’s employment at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary from an unnamed source unconnected to either party involved in the letter. You can find the text below. Southwestern’s explanation of Dr. Allen’s termination can be found here. Expect more on this controversy in coming days.
If you would prefer to read the letter in PDF format you can download a copy here.
Dr. Adam Greenway
President, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
2001 W. Seminary Drive
Fort Worth, TX 76115
Dear Dr. Greenway,
I am writing this letter to you regarding the matter of my employment at
Southwestern Seminary. This final letter is in response to your April 22 letter stating the
termination of my full-time position of Distinguished Professor, your intent I should enter a
new role of retirement as a “Senior Professor,” and your last email of May 24 requesting my
decision on either moving to the position of Senior Professor or resigning my position of
Distinguished Professor and concluding my service at the Seminary.
Once again, allow me to express my gratitude for the privilege of serving on the
faculty under your administration during these past three plus years. Like you, I have a
great love for Southwestern Seminary. I have spent a total of 30 years in her service—12
years on the Board of Trustees (3 years as an officer, including one year as Board
chairman) and 18 years as a member of her faculty (12 years as Dean of the School of
Theology; 4 years as the founding Dean of the School of Preaching)—hold the George W.
Truett Chair of Ministry; Director of the Center for Biblical Preaching; and appointed to the
rank of Distinguished Professor by the Board of Trustees in 2016 (currently one of only
two such positions in the School of Theology). It has been a joy and honor to be a small part
of the legacy that is Southwestern Seminary.
When I was granted sabbatical by the Board of Trustees in their April, 2021
meeting, I understood that I would be returning to my full-time role at the Seminary. At no
point did I receive indication to the contrary from anyone until April 5, 2022, when I was
informed by the Provost, Dr. Skaug, and the Dean of the School of Theology, Dr. Wills, of the
decision to terminate my full-time employment as Distinguished Professor and move me to
retirement status with the new title “Senior Faculty” effective August 1, 2022. He indicated
the administration deemed this action in the best interests of the Seminary.
During the April 5th meeting, I asked Dr. Skaug what my options were if I declined to
accept retirement status. He informed me that the Seminary and I would part ways July 31,
2022. Either way, my full-time status, along with full-time salary and benefits, would end at
that time. This was the first time I was informed that my change in status was even being
considered, let alone had been decided.
At the conclusion of the meeting, I requested of Dr. Skaug to appeal this decision to
you and ask that I be given at least one more year of full-time faculty service to prepare for
retirement financially, after which time we could have a conversation about retirement. I
felt that request reasonable in light of the fact that I had not been informed of this
possibility prior to accepting my sabbatical and the therefore unexpected disclosure of this
decision. Your April 22 letter firmly answered that request in the negative. That letter is
Subsequent emails between us have not proven successful in finding a pathway
forward that is agreeable to both of us. Therefore, I am sending this letter to you and
copying the Board of Trustees to appeal to them to intervene in this matter. I beg your and
the Board’s indulgence for its length, but such is necessary to provide the context I feel
necessary to resolve this matter in a meaningful, satisfactory, and equitable manner.
In response to your statement in our May 6 meeting that if I desired to propose a
pathway forward that would help us to address the situation in a way that would be
mutually beneficial, you would be open to considering it, on May 21 I proposed a four-point
plan which included severance. A copy of that correspondence is also attached. You
rejected any notion of a severance by email, a copy of which is attached as well.
Our final email exchange on May 24 ended with your insistence on an immediate
response from me by May 31. You attempted to frame the issue as to whether I will accept
your offer of retirement and enter the status of Senior Professor or resign. That demand is
enclosed as well.
Let me be clear. I will do neither. I have no intention of resigning. I have been
informed by you in writing on April 22 my position of Distinguished Professor will cease
July 31. You have already taken action and put a date on it. This is an act of termination.
Therefore, the option of resignation is inapplicable.
Moreover, you are attempting, contrary to Seminary policy, to unilaterally appoint
me to Senior Faculty status. This action cannot be used as a cover for a termination, nor do
I consent to your efforts to do so. Again, in the Faculty Manual, retirement falls under the
heading of “Termination,” and ipso facto means the end of full-time employment and incurs
the loss of full-time salary and benefits. I cannot and will not accept a Senior Professorship
forced upon me with its concomitant forced obligations. Seminary policy does not permit
this action on your part.
Your disregard for Seminary policy and consistent dismissal of my efforts to resolve
this matter equitably and fairly are why I am now asking the Board of Trustees to respond
Certain questions become immediately obvious. Why this action of termination and
forced retirement, and why now? In attempting to discern an answer to these questions,
two incidents, five months apart, may furnish a clue.
On November 5, 2021, at his invitation, I had a delightful lunch with the new Dean of
the School of Theology, Greg Wills. Dr. Wills expressed he wanted me to know with all of
the changes happening at the Seminary, I might find it a bit unsettling. He assured me of my
place at Southwestern and stated “whether you choose to retire in ten years or one year,
you are a valued member of this faculty. Personally, I hope it is the former and not the
latter.” I expressed my grateful appreciation to him for his kindness and that I was not
looking to retire from Southwestern any time soon. He asked about the launch of my new
non-profit ministry, PreachingCoach, and wished me well in that endeavor. Notably, this
conversation took place during my sabbatical leave.
Exactly five months later, on April 5, 2022, in a meeting in the Provost’s office along
with Dean Wills, I was informed that I was being moved to retirement status. This was the
first I had been told or heard of any discussion regarding a change in my employment
status. The reason given by Provost Skaug was this decision was in the best interest of the
Seminary. He further stated I was focusing on my new ministry, PreachingCoach. I
responded that this ministry was begun last October with the prior knowledge and
approval of then Provost David Dockery, is secondary to my work at Southwestern,
2operated on my own free time as a non-profit endeavor, and was not in conflict with my
duties at Southwestern.
At a point in the discussion where I indicated I am always an ambassador for
Southwestern at any speaking commitments, Dr. Wills interjected two comments regarding
my recent March engagement at FBC Indian Trail, NC. The first comment had to do with his
negative opinion concerning the activities of the immediate past president of the Seminary
who happened to be on this same program. His second comment was that he had listened
to my sermon and I had said nothing about Southwestern but did speak about
PreachingCoach. I presume this was intended to function as prima-facia evidence to
support a reason for the decision to move me to retirement, an effort that is both factually,
contextually, and practically incorrect.
The irony here is that Dr. Wills was unaware that I did work to recruit students for
Southwestern while at that conference, including the young man who shuttled me to and
from the hotel who is himself currently an MDiv student and whom I was encouraging to
pursue another degree at Southwestern upon his graduation. Additionally, I spoke to other
pastors who attended the conference about Southwestern, encouraging them to further
their studies with us, as is my practice at all venues where I speak.
Moreover, the only reason I said anything about PreachingCoach from the pulpit
was the pastor of the church, Dr. Mike Whiston, asked me specifically to say a word to the
pastors and congregation about it. Finally, apparently missed by Dr. Wills, was Dr.
Whiston’s introduction of me before I preached. He spoke about a young church staff
member who was preparing to choose where to attend seminary. Dr. Whitson called him
into his office and said to Joshua, “I want to encourage you to go to Southwestern Seminary
and study under Dr. David Allen.” Two hundred plus pastors along with other people in the
congregation that day heard those words of introduction before I stepped into the pulpit.
You can’t buy advertisement like that. Joshua is a student at Southwestern today.
I could multiply stories like this many times over.
In short, every time I step into a pulpit I serve as an ambassador first of Christ, and
second of the Seminary. PreachingCoach has been ancillary at best to those priorities,
despite your efforts to now assert otherwise.
Over the course of the next three weeks from the April 5 meeting and as word of my
situation began to spread, I received numerous expressions of concern from around the
Southern Baptist Convention coupled with strong disagreement with you for taking these
steps. Likewise, you received many contacts from people expressing their dismay and
displeasure at your actions. This precipitated your April 22 letter to me (see attached),
which I read with nothing short of incredulity.
In that letter, you subtly impugned my integrity as to the source and content of
some of the leaks; explained that my being offered the status of “Senior Professor” should
be viewed as an honor; shackled me with unrealistic and unenforceable restrictions as a
retired faculty member; then topped it off with the audacity to claim that if I did not fulfill
two additional years of service in retirement, I would owe the Seminary one year salary and
benefits to pay back my sabbatical. In fact, in your two-page letter, you mentioned this final
point no less than six times.
It seems to have escaped your notice that the use of the word “service” in context in
the Faculty Manual presumes one returns from a sabbatical to serve at the same status one
entered the sabbatical—in my case, as a full-time faculty member. To terminate someone
3from full-time faculty service and force them to retire—and retirement falls under the
heading of “Termination” in the Faculty Manual—renders null and void all requirements to
repay a sabbatical. This has been the precedence for interpretation of sabbatical service for
at least the past 30 years. I have checked with a number of educators and administrators
from three academic institutions and all have expressed surprise you would interpret the
language of faculty “service” as you have.
To be clear, had I been informed prior to my sabbatical my full-time employment
would be terminated and I would be unilaterally moved to retirement status upon
completion and owe the Seminary two years of service to repay the sabbatical, without full-
time salary, I would have never accepted the sabbatical leave. That interpretation of
“seminary policy” was never considered, proposed, or discussed with me, the trustees who
approved my sabbatical, or anyone in your administration. This makes sense, as no one
would under such conditions ever request let alone accept a sabbatical.
In our May 6 meeting in your office, the purpose of which was to answer my
questions related to this change in status being mandated by the administration, I asked if
you considered this move to Senior Faculty status forced retirement and if not, why not.
You stated you did not believe it could be considered as such. What you failed to do is
explain the basis for your interpretation of your own actions. Again, this makes sense; there
is no cognizable, defensible basis for your unilateral decision to force me to retire.
However, that is exactly what it is. Senior Professor is a retired position per the
Faculty Manual. I was given no choice in the matter. No notice; no previous warning; no
opportunity for discussion; no disclosure, no time to prepare financially or otherwise was
offered to me. Such treatment is unkind to say the least, especially toward someone with 30
years of service under his belt. It is also unethical and improper on at least two counts.
Forced retirement is not an option afforded you in the Bylaws and/or Faculty Manual of
SWBTS, as any cursory reading demonstrates. Moreover, in Texas forced retirement is
Whether you recognize it or not, there is a logical fallacy and a subtle subterfuge
embedded in your actions toward me and your explanation of them. Your April 22 letter
states clearly your decision to end my full-time employment. You allege this is not a
termination because you propose to unilaterally “give” me a Senior Professorship. But
according to the Faculty Manual, a Senior Professorship is granted to a faculty member who
chooses to retire so as to receive a Senior Professorship. Let me state again unequivocally, I
did not resign my Distinguished Professorship, nor did I choose to retire to receive a Senior
Professorship. Your action to cease my full-time employment, which is clear from your
letter, is by definition, termination. There is simply no way around this logically, legally, or
otherwise. Thus, while you continue to assert “Seminary policy” as a justification for your
decision to force my retirement, it is that very policy that demonstrates your decision as
outside the scope of the authority afforded your office in this instance.
For these reasons, I consider your actions toward me to be unethical, illegal, and
Our subsequent conversations and communications have done nothing to change
my conclusion. In fact, they have only heightened my convictions.
During the May 6 meeting, some comments made to me by you were especially
insulting. I simply inquired, in light of my faithful service to SWBTS for 30 years, why you
were attempting to unilaterally move me to retirement status against my will.
In response, to be told that “email correspondence exists” between the former
president of Southwestern Seminary and myself as his Dean; that “email correspondence
exists” from me or about me, during my tenure as a member of the Board of Trustees of
SWBTS in Ken Hemphill’s presidency, and then to be told that you had “read every one” of
them, in a word, left me flabbergasted. Such statements are inappropriate, an invasion of
privacy, and unethical. The very fact that you brought up these emails which have no
bearing on my present employment status is hugely problematic. Your comments were
certainly intended to intimidate me by bluffing that some problematic or inappropriate
document exists. The problem is, no such materials exist. To imply otherwise is
defamatory, insulting, demeaning, and completely unbecoming.
For the record, to the best of my ability, and with full awareness of my responsibility
to the people of the Southern Baptist Convention, I attempted to fulfill my trustee and
faculty duties with the utmost integrity. Whatever disagreement you may have with my
interpretation of events or actions taken prior to your tenure as president, I know of
nothing in any of those documents that could be construed as illegal, unethical, or
otherwise problematic as to warrant being a factor in your attempted explanation for my
termination from full-time employment at SWBTS.
Furthermore, in response to my claim of faithful service and support of your tenure
as president, you expressed that you had been “longsuffering” with me these past 3+ years.
I found that statement to be insulting and simply beyond the pale. Upon my further inquiry,
you declined to enter into specifics. Again, this is unsurprising as I have endeavored to
unceasingly comport myself to the highest expectations of my office as a professor, pastor,
and Christian. Apart from your unhappiness with my appearance on the program at the
Bible Conference at North Carolina’s Indian Trail First Baptist Church in March of this year,
I quite simply have no idea what you are referencing, and making these types of assertions
is nothing short of character defamation.
You said you have no problem with me personally or theologically, a statement that
seems incongruent with your attitude and words. You stated “many people” had urged you
to fire me long before now, and/or questioned you as to why you had not fired me, but you
again declined to give specifics as to what in my deportment had caused them, or you, such
difficulty. This, of course, begs the question of who those “many people” are, what the basis
of their urging may have been, and why you would have withstood those requests. Did you
receive any of these concerns from members of the Board of Trustees or others within our
Seminary family? If so, why did you not address these with me previously? I have received
numerous expressions of appreciation for my service by our Trustees over the years,
including some within the last three years, not to mention students and former students,
pastors, and others.
Dr. Greenway, when I asked why in the world you would want to “honor” me with
Senior Faculty status in light of your many concerns, you responded, “Romans 12, the text
that was just read in our graduation ceremony.” Given the content of Romans 12, it is
obvious you consider your actions as an exercise in Christian love toward someone whom
you feel is undeserving of such based on your interpretation of their actions.
Perhaps you will understand why I found it incredible and inexcusable for you to
say that my query of why I’m being forced to retire demonstrated one of two things: “a
desire to get me [Dr. Greenway] to say something that could be used by those who wish to
hurt this Seminary, or an incredible lack of self-awareness on your [David Allen] part.” You
stated you wanted to “lovingly caution” me as to what I might say to you in response, given
the things you had said to me to that point. That statement alone was a blatantly
unprofessional and baseless threat that was inappropriate.
In short, in our May 6 meeting, I asked for a reason why you were taking this action
to terminate my full-time faculty position as Distinguished Professor and force retirement.
You gave me none. Instead, you donned your counselor’s cap and suggested I needed to
From both your tone and words, the inference I took away from the meeting that
day was, as far as you were concerned, a 30-year trail of debris followed in the wake of my
Southwestern service, and given what you think about my deportment present and past, I
should be grateful I’m able to walk this earth as a free man, much less be offered the
“honor” of being moved to Senior Faculty status. This adds insult to injury and is, frankly,
offensive to me. “You are here because I want you here” rings hollow and is simply too
much to swallow. I want to be clear: there is no basis for the negative and defamatory
things you said, implied, or suggested and I reject and am offended by them.
Since the time has come for candor, I shall raise one more point of concern which
perhaps will shed some light on why I have such a bad taste in my mouth at this point. On
March 6, 2020, when in our meeting in the Provost’s office, you informed me that you were
granting my sabbatical request, and would be recommending my sabbatical to the Board of
Trustees. Notably, you did not say anything about a change in my status upon my return. In
that meeting you also informed me of your decision to close the School of Preaching. You
said the decision was not punitive, did not reflect negatively on my performance, and was a
matter of a difference in organizational philosophy from the previous administration.
Additionally, you stated that although I would no longer serve as Dean, you would
not be reducing my salary. You stated I would retain my current salary, “in appreciation for
my service past and present to the Seminary.” I thanked you for your kindness in this.
Imagine my utter astonishment when, three weeks to the day later, March 27 at 4:45 pm, I
was informed by the Provost by phone that my salary was being cut after all, effective
immediately—a total cut of 25% (23% salary and the loss of 2% annuity income). I was
told the decision was final. When I requested that the Seminary wait until the new
academic year began on August 1 for the salary cut to go into effect, I was told “no,” but that
the effective date would be May 8. I considered then, and I consider now, such action a
breach of promise and a lack of integrity. It is especially grievous to me that after 18 years
of service to the seminary, my current salary is significantly below my starting salary 18
You have said on more than one occasion, “I don’t trust anyone I don’t hire.” If I may
gloss your statement, perhaps you can understand why I might say with a tinge of cynicism
in light of how I have been treated, “I don’t trust anyone who didn’t hire me.”
Dr. Greenway, I have supported your presidency; prayed for you regularly; invited
you to preach at First Baptist Church, Sunnyvale, where I served as Interim Pastor; invited
you to contribute a chapter in a book I was editing; recruited for the Seminary; raised
money for the Seminary, including a February, 2020, commitment from a California
foundation for $90,000 for scholarships for Korean preaching students and support for the
Seminary’s Center for Preaching; taught my classes well; served as a supervisor for at least
a dozen DMIN and PhD students (see attached unsolicited letter I received just last week
from Shawn Nichols, one of my PhD students and a pastor in Oklahoma); received an
“excellent” rating in all five areas of annual Faculty Evaluation from the Dean of the School
of Theology during the past two academic years prior to my current sabbatical year;
received private and public praise from you for long-term service to this Seminary at the
time you informed me you were closing the School of Preaching in the spring of 2020; at
your request, assisted you to persuade Joyce Rogers not to remove the Adrian Rogers
Library from the Seminary over her concerns about your leadership direction; received
your approval for my sabbatical leave and your recommendation for my sabbatical to the
Board of Trustees on the grounds that I had three book contracts to fulfill and that I had
rendered good service to the Seminary; at the request of Provost Dockery and with your
approval, began service on the editorial board of the Southwestern Journal of Theology;
served, at your request, for the past three Southern Baptist Conventions at the Seminary
booth to greet guests and recruit for the Seminary; have financially supported the Seminary
as a member of the President’s Club; recruited several students to come to SWBTS over the
past 3+ years, including two students whose first 9 hours of tuition I paid out of my pocket
to encourage them to make the commitment to come to SWBTS, one of whom just
graduated this Spring; and have paid medical bills and provided other financial support to
some of our Asian, African, and Indian students.
Yet, with all this, not one time verbally or in writing did you express any discontent
or concern about my service. Longsuffering? I am astounded.
In addition, I also serve in other strategic roles that enhance the Seminary’s image,
foster the Seminary’s mission, and lay groundwork for future potential benefit to the
Seminary. I am the co-chair of the Christian Standard Bible Translation Team, along with
Tom Schreiner, under the auspices of LifeWay; on the Board of Directors for the Criswell
Foundation, a multi-million dollar entity; on the Advisory Board for the annual preaching
conference at Brown Missionary Baptist Church in Southaven, MS, one of the largest
African American churches in the nation, and have been a regular speaker at that
conference; represented Southwestern at numerous conferences and churches by speaking
and preaching annually; and have published just shy of 4000 pages of academic writing in a
dozen books and numerous journal articles, including two books published this year.
My love for, support of, and benefit to the Seminary cannot be gainsaid, and it is an
insult beyond measure to be informed that my full-time service to the Seminary is being
terminated and I am being forcibly retired, and you have tolerated me with such
“longsuffering.” I have never sought accolade or celebration for my contributions, but
instead have humbly sought to advance the mission of the Seminary as an extension of our
mission for Christ. No one has, until you, suggested or implied otherwise.
Your April 22 letter outlined your plans to terminate my full-time employment at
the completion of my sabbatical, inform me of your intention to do so less than four months
before the new academic year when the loss of my full-time income would go into effect,
inform me that I am being transitioned to a new position under the exalted title of Senior
Faculty status, which is nothing more than a pseudonym for retirement; attempt to extract
two years of service to SWBTS, stating “Your teaching load expectations and concomitant
remuneration for the required two years post-sabbatical is entirely a matter of
determination for the academic administration,” and this as a retired faculty member, and
at a fraction of my full-time salary; require me to seek your approval for any outside
income opportunities I may pursue, even though retired; and threaten me with dismissal if I
do not comply when you stated:
You also remain obligated to fulfill all expectations of a faculty member, including
the need of presidential approval for the providing of any recurring and/or ongoing
personal services—such as coaching, as well as to support and relate constructively
to the Seminary, its policies, its administration, and all of its constituencies. Should
for any reason you determine not to fulfill these two years of post-sabbatical service
(by act of resignation) or should for any reason the academic administration
determine that you are in breach of your duties as a faculty member (by act of
dismissal), you will owe back to the Seminary the amount equal to your full salary
and benefits received during your sabbatical year.
The letter smacks of the proverbial bully pulpit. Such a posture is at face value unkind,
unconscionable, and unchristian. I hardly think you are the longsuffering party here.
Essentially, what you have done is fire me, proposed to turn around and re-hire me
under a new title and in a role of retirement, yet obligate me to faculty service as if I were
full-time, and all for the pay an adjunct faculty member receives for teaching on a contract
basis. That you consider such an arrangement respectful, equitable, or even Christian, is
For these reasons, I must decline your offer to move to Senior Faculty status at
Southwestern. I cannot accept a retirement position because I have not chosen to retire.
Likewise, I will not resign and do not believe that your actions are in the best interests of
the Seminary, the SBC, or the Gospel.
Therefore, by your unilateral action expressly stated in your April 22 letter that my
full-time employment at Southwestern is terminated July 31, 2022, it is my understanding
and my intention that July 31, 2022, concludes my faculty service at the Seminary.
Severed full-time employment by the Administration of the Seminary renders null
and void obligations normally expected to be met by faculty while in full-time employment,
including post-sabbatical requirements. Therefore, I cannot legally or otherwise be held
under any burden or constraint to fulfill the requirements outlined in your letter of April
22. Should I choose not to accept the offer of Senior faculty status, you indicated in your
May 24 email I “will be deemed to have resigned from the seminary.” You informed me,
“You may petition for a forgiveness of the two years post-sabbatical obligation and a
release from employment, under which the full year’s salary and benefits may be deemed
to be a ‘severance.’” Since I reject your premise that there is an obligation to be “forgiven,” I
cannot petition for forgiveness. Nor can I petition to be released from employment when
your action has already mandated my release from full-time employment.
Furthermore, the Faculty Manual states in the Preface that “Nothing in this manual
or in any of the Seminary’s personnel policies or procedures is to be construed or
interpreted as a contract. . . .” Such language works both ways.
Should you choose to pursue this matter further and attempt to enforce the terms
and obligations of your April 22 letter, I will appeal to the Board of Trustees, and beyond
that, if necessary, seek other means available for remedy.
Should you relent regarding your decision to terminate my full-time employment,
and/or should the Board of Trustees prevail upon you to rescind your decision and
recommend me to continue to teach as a full-time faculty member, such a course of action
is no longer an option I deem acceptable. Given your posture reflected in your April 22 nd
letter and May 6 meeting, and that of your administrators Drs. Skaug and Wills, under such
employment conditions the slightest perceived infraction could result in disciplinary action
or dismissal. Working conditions at Southwestern are no longer conducive for an ongoing
healthy employment relationship. In short, you have poisoned the well.
Therefore, given these circumstances, once again I appeal to you, and now to the
Board of Trustees, that I be granted one year’s salary as severance. Due to the hardship
placed on me, financial and otherwise, by the lack of notice of your intentions, to vacate my
office; pack, move, and store my library; acquire health insurance coverage; seek
employment elsewhere; and given my 30 years of service to Southwestern, courtesy would
seem to warrant such an act of goodwill. Romans 12:9-21 would seem to warrant such as
It grieves me beyond words to be at this point in my relationship with Southwestern
Seminary and her administration. I shall always cherish the countless special friendships
and relationships forged over the years. Including my three years as a student from 1978-
1981, I have spent half of my life in service to the King at Southwestern.
In closing, there are yet two things on which you and I can agree: Southwestern
Seminary is a wonderful place, and if the Lord tarries His coming, she will be around long
after we both have made our heavenly journey.
As befitting brothers in Christ, know you shall have my ongoing prayers for your
personal well-being, for your leadership of our great Seminary, and for Southwestern and
David L. Allen
Distinguished Professor of Preaching
George W. Truett Chair of Pastoral Ministry
Director, Southwestern Center for Text-Driven Preaching
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Board of Trustees, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Benjamin M. Skaug, Provost and Vice President for Academic Administration
Gregory A. Wills, Dean of the School of Theology