Tommy French looks like an unassuming elderly preacher. He was the founding pastor for Jefferson Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1959 and served as the Senior Pastor there for 50 years. For the last several years, he has served as pastor emeritus. He has been respected within the Louisiana Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention, previously serving as both Vice-President and President of the Convention. He also spent a decade on the Board of Trustees for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary as well as two years as the Chairman of that board. Currently, he serves as the Chairman of the Board of Louisiana College.
With a resume like that one would expect behavior fitting the consummate man of God. Unfortunately, that is not what Tommy French has so far demonstrated in his role as Chairman of the Louisiana College Board of Trustees. French first gained attention for his behavior as Chairman of the Board when in March he threatened Trustee Jay Adkins for speaking publicly about ethical issues at LC and accused him of possessing materials which he had no right to have. French later became even more notorious when he lied to the Board of Trustees about SACS requiring an expanded confidentiality agreement. In July, French was one of two persons who received a copy of the damning letter from SACS. He ,shortly thereafter, promised trustee members who wanted to see the letter that he would “send information when it becomes available.” Despite that promise French held onto the letter for a while two months until forced to release it because the Town Talk had obtained a copy. This failure frustrated trustees, including Jay Adkins, who in an e-mail to the board pointed out French’s failures at keeping his word.
Here is where it gets weird. Rather than admitting fault or even keeping silent French went on the offensive claiming that despite the clear evidence to the contrary he was above reproach and accused Adkins of slander, though interestingly he never explained how anything that Adkins had said was actually untrue. He further claimed to have word directly from God on the situation. He claims that God said to him:
“I am your shield. As I have protected you in the past I will protect you in the future. Leave Jay Atkins (sic) in my hands. The slander and lies that he has written about you is now written for eternity and cannot be erased. Therefore, he will wear his slanderous words as an albatross upon his character until I call him home. Anyone who joins with him in his slander will share in his guilt and I will hold them accountable.”
This sort of direct verbal revelation from God is very odd given Southern Baptist theology and even more odd from a person who previously went to the mat fighting over the inerrancy of scripture.
The reality is that French has lied. It is documented and seems to have been confirmed in the SACS letter. I do not believe that the words above are from God to French. God certainly knows that French has not been honest and is, in fact, taking God’s name in vain.
Read Jay Adkins’ blog post about this situation here.