Southwestern admits Muslim

Gary K. Ledbetter/Southern Baptist Texan

FORT WORTH (BP) – A Palestinian Muslim who assisted Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Gezer archaeological project in Israel was admitted to the school’s Ph.D. in archaeology program, in an apparent exception to the seminary’s admissions policy.

Seminary President Paige Patterson told the Southern Baptist Texan that the student enrolled at Southwestern last year because “he had no other options for Ph.D. work in his field” and because Patterson hoped to win him to saving faith.

Patterson had admitted three other non-Christian students to schools he led over nearly four decades; all came to Christ during their tenure as students. 

Patterson said he granted this most recent exception after taking counsel from other seminary administrators but that “the final decision was mine alone.”

“We required that the student would agree with our moral standards while a student at Southwestern. It was no problem for him,” Patterson added.

Seminary trustees were not advised prior to the exception being granted but were briefed on the situation in a letter sent from Patterson on May 16.

Steven James, Southwestern trustee chairman and pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Lake Charles, La., told the Texan that the trustee executive committee has a scheduled meeting in September and will “discuss this issue and will deal with it accordingly at that time.”

“That is the role and responsibility of the trustees,” James said. “I have a concern, obviously, about the spiritual condition of the young man in question; we don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that. And then from the executive committee meeting in September we will make any adjustments that need to be made.”

On the admission section of its website, the school says it “assumes the student has been identified as a prospective minister by announced intent, proven conduct in accordance with Christian standards set forth in the Bible, active church involvement, and unqualified approval from the church where they are currently members. Among the required credentials for graduate-level courses are “a mature Christian character,” “evidence a desire for Christian ministry (shown through the application process),” “a record of active church service.”