Dr. Danny Lovett, president of Tennessee Temple University and co-pastor of Highland Park Baptist Church, admitted today that he plagiarized sections of another pastor’s work, an action sources say led to his recent resignation.
Early statements by members of the school’s board of trustees had said that Lovett, who began serving as president in 2006, had initiated a transition plan on his own and had discussed it with board members for “a number of months.”
But sources who wished to remain anonymous revealed that Lovett’s resignation came shortly after news that he had lifted passages from another book and used them as his own. After being discovered, Lovett did not disclose a settlement with the author to school officials.
Early attempts by Nooga.com to seek explanation for Lovett’s resignation raised more questions as trustees refused to comment on the record and deferred their comments to Dr. John Borek, chairman of the board of trustees.
Borek, who had initially denied knowing the reason as to why Lovett stepped down, has since acknowledged that the board of trustees was aware of Lovett’s actions at the time of his resignation.
But Borek continued to stand by his claim that Lovett’s decision to step down was his own.
“We did not ask him to resign and we did not fire him, he resigned himself,” Borek said. “My personal opinion is that he considered those things. But in the end, he did not use those things as the basis for offering his resignation.”
By “those things,” Borek was alluding to plagiarized portions of Lovett’s devotional “Jesus is Awesome,” which was written in 1998 and used as a textbook for classes at Tennessee Temple University.
Multiple sources confirmed that a chapter of Lovett’s book was not his, and provided information that led to Buddy Murphrey, a Baptist minister in Corpus Christi, Tx.
Murphrey, who at 79-years-old believes himself to be the longest-serving minister in Texas, said that it was brought to his attention two years ago that Lovett had incorporated portions of his book, “Drawing the Net,” into his own work without permission.
After realizing that his work had been duplicated, Murphrey contacted Lovett and expressed his concerns. The two pastors then decided to handle the matter privately.
“He told me that he had read my book in college, liked it, and was under the impression that I had passed away or that it was no longer in print when he used it,” Murphrey said. “We had a long talk, got it resolved, and I told him that I wasn’t going to try to hurt him or his ministry.”
The story lines up with Lovett’s, who contacted Nooga.com while conducting pastor training in Belgium and admitted to making a “major academic mistake.”
“I didn’t know copyright laws at the time, and I should have checked more thoroughly,” Lovett said. “Buddy told me that he was upset, and I told him that I understood completely. We hired an attorney and settled it legally.”
Neither pastor was willing to disclose the dollar amount of the settlement.
In later editions of “Jesus is Awesome,” Lovett said that he placed a picture of Murphrey as well as contact information in the front pages of the book, in order to clearly acknowledge his contribution.
Attempts by Nooga.com staff to purchase Lovett’s book from the university bookstore were unsuccessful, as it had been removed from the shelves.
Lovett said removing the book had been a board decision.
“If I had been trying to hide it, I would not have put his picture in the book and given him credit,” he said. “There was not a cover up, and I was planning on re-writing that section of the book anyway.”
But even though Lovett’s error had been presented in plain sight, it was not brought before the university’s board of trustees until two months ago, when students came forward and voiced concerns.
Lovett expressed his belief that fresh knowledge of his past actions may have given certain board members an “opportunity to bring a major issue” against him.
“That’s okay, I understand it,” he said. “I’ve been in the transition period since I became pastor of Highland Park Baptist in October. When that happened, I quickly realized that I couldn’t handle two jobs as president and pastor, and it about killed me.”
Lovett said that he has no plans to resign from his position as pastor.
Dr. Jim O’Neill, who currently serves as executive vice president for Tennessee Temple, is set to replace Lovett as interim president on July 1. After that, the university will begin to focus on finding a permanent replacement.
Borek stated his desire to see the university move on.
“We’ll be looking at how we can improve the quality of our institution, and select a permanent president who will bring the vision we need,” he said. “We want Tennessee Temple to be an institution that Chattanoogans can be proud of, and we’re going to work hard to earn more trust.”