KANSAS CITY – The trustees of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) Feb. 10 accepted the resignation of MBTS President R. Philip Roberts effective Feb. 29 during a called meeting at an airport hotel and named as acting president Robin Hadaway, associate professor of missions at the seminary.
Roberts, an 11-year president, was facing questions about misuse of seminary resources and verbal abuse of seminary staff. Other trustee meetings in years past had revolved around those same questions. At the previous board meeting in October, James Freeman, an attorney and trustee from Kansas City, resigned.
“I’m glad that the trustee system finally worked,” Freeman said.
The resignation was announced in the afternoon by means of a three-paragraph press release. A morning trustee vote to express lack of confidence in the executive committee failed, and at some point in the overall meeting there was a transfer of the chairmanship from Wayne LeGe of Southlake, Texas, to Kevin Shrum of Madison, Tenn., who emerged as the sole trustee spokesman for the day’s events and the interim board chair until April.
Shrum wound up taking a few questions from the media in mid-afternoon. In answering one inquiry, Shrum said Lee resigned.
“He felt like he had done what he needed to do,” Shrum said. “He’s still on the board.”
Roberts’ last day as MBTS president will be Feb. 29.
Trustees met early in the morning, with the door of the Ambassador Meeting Room at the Embassy Suites Hotel left open, and after about a half hour Roberts was seen leaving the room. Roberts then greeted a representative of Baptist Press before walking down the hall to another room with staff and faculty. After saying a quick hello there, according to someone present in the room, he left that room and headed toward the front desk area. By that time trustees were fully engaged in executive session and had closed the door, and Roberts was not to be found.
The resignation was announced in the afternoon by means of a press release. Part of the statement was worded to explain that a meeting to consider the performance of the president was “suspended,” and that before that meeting, Roberts tendered his resignation. The rest of the meeting time in the morning and afternoon was spent in executive session. The press release made no mention of a severance package.
Shrum said that Hadaway, as acting president, will serve through the April board meeting, when the board’s executive committee will be recommending the process that the seminary will use to move forward in a search for a new president. Hadaway, who is an associate professor of missions, has been with Midwestern for 8½ years. He previously served as International Mission Board (IMB) regional leader for eastern South America, supervising more than 300 missionaries in Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay.
Missouri Baptists have been engaged in the process of seeking God’s will for Midwestern, and MBC Executive Director John Yeats signaled his level of spiritual concern after the news of Roberts’ resignation became public.
“We just need to be in prayer for the institution, for the faculty, and for the students, for Dr. Hadaway, for Dr. Roberts and his family, and for all the seminary families,” Yeats said.
Roberts was elected as Midwestern’s fourth president in January 2001 and began serving in February. Among facility projects during his time were the purchase of the Koehn-Myers building, constructing housing facilities and renovating many of the campus’ existing buildings. The seminary is currently building a 1,000-seat chapel complex.
He came to Kansas City after serving seven years with the North American Mission Board (NAMB), where he served as vice president for the Strategic Cities Strategies Group. He also was director of NAMB’s Interfaith Evangelism Department and vice president for urban evangelism and church planting.
In the early 1990s he was professor of missions and evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C., and co-directed the Lewis Drummond Center for Great Commission Studies.
Roberts has written several books from an apologetics perspective, most notably on Mormonism, and is known in Europe for his pulpit work in international churches in England, Germany and Belgium. His Ph.D. is from the Free University of Amsterdam, and he also conducted post-graduate research at Oxford University.
Among the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) leaders who came to Kansas City for the Feb. 10 meeting was Bryant Wright, SBC president. He left the meeting room before Shrum released the official statement and had no comment.
By Allen Palmeri