The fall of a Southern Baptist leader

NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s Thursday, May 24th, 2018.

Glad to have you along for today’s episode of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Next up, the fall of a Southern Baptist leader.

After weeks of controversy over past statements, the board of trustees for the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary issued a statement yesterday removing Paige Patterson as president of that institution. He’d held that post since the fall of 2003.

EICHER: Beyond being a pastor and seminary president, Paige Patterson is also credited with leading the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention over the last 40 years. He was the SBC’s president from 1998 to 2000.

WORLD Radio’s Sarah Schweinsberg has more on this story that is shaking the Southern Baptist world.

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary board of trustees met on Tuesday, but they didn’t adjourn until Wednesday. The meeting lasted 13 hours, lasting until after 3 a.m. Wednesday morning.

In the end, they voted to remove their president, Paige Patterson. But not very far. He will instead serve as president emeritus with compensation, effective immediately.

The Patterson controversy began last month when a blog post highlighted comments he made at a conference in 2000. At the conference, Patterson was asked what counsel he gives to abused women in the church. He said he doesn’t believe abuse ever justifies divorce—only, perhaps, separation. Patterson went on to tell how he counseled one woman.

PATTERSON: But I said you just pray there and I said get ready because he may get a little more violent, And sure enough he did. She came to church one morning with both eyes black. And she was angry at me. And she said “I hope you’re happy.” And I said I’m sorry about that, but I’m very happy. And that her husband had come in and was standing in the back. The first time he ever came. Remember when nobody else can help, God can. And in the meantime you have to do what you can at home to be submissive in every way that you can and elevate him.

Patterson also came under fire for comments he made in 20-14 at an AWAKEN Conference where he told of a conversation he had with a woman while her son and a friend stood nearby. As they talked, a teenage girl walked by. Patterson commented on her figure:

PATTERSON: A very attractive young co-ed walked by and she wasn’t more than about 16, but let me just say that she was nice. One young man turned to the other one, and he said, man is she built.

Patterson then defended the boy’s comment when his mother scolded him.

PATTERSON: I said ma’am leave him alone. He is just being Biblical.

When confronted with his comments, at first Patterson said he’d done nothing wrong. Outraged Baptist men and women sent the board of trustees two open letters signed by more than 35-hundred men and women saying Patterson’s behavior and refusal to apologize was inexcusable.

In a May 10th statement, Patterson said he was sorry to the women who have been—quote—“wounded by anything I have said that was inappropriate or lacked clarity.”

This week The Washington Post reported yet another alleged incident—this one from 2003, when Patterson was the president of  Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina. There he allegedly told a woman who said she’d been raped to forgive rather than report the incident to police.

Charles Patrick is Southwestern’s communications vice president. He told me as of right now Patterson is still slated to give a sermon at the Southern Baptist Convention next month, unless church representatives called the messengers vote on Tuesday to not let him give the speech.

PATRICK: The messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention voted him to speak last year, and so the only two ways for that to not occur would be for him to state that he didn’t want to do it or if the messengers voted on Tuesday morning not to give it.

Albert Mohler is president of the Southern Theological Seminary and also a key figure in the SBC’s conservative resurgence. Today on The Briefing—his daily podcast—Mohler said the downfall of Patterson and others over the last month proves that evangelicals can no longer point to sexual misconduct as just a Catholic or secular culture problem.

MOHLER: The #MeToo moment has come to American evangelicals. This moment has come to some of my friends and brothers in Christ.

Mohler says the scandal proves critics right, that in a grasp for conservative political power the denomination has allowed for moral decay.

MOHLER: This is exactly what some of those who opposed the conservative resurgence warned would happen. They claimed that the effort to recover the denomination theologically was just a disguised move to capture the denomination for a new set of power-hungry leaders. I know that was not true. I must insist that this was not true. But, it sure looks like their prophecies had some merit after all… The SBC, solidly conservative theologically, has been revealed to be morally compromised. This is just a foretaste of the wrath of God poured out. This moment requires the very best of us. The Southern Baptist Convention is on trial and our public credibility is at stake. May God have mercy on us all.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.

REICHARD: Albert Mohler also serves on the board of WORLD News Group. W-N-G is the parent company of WORLD.

A link to Albert Mohler’s statement is here.

(Paul Moseley/Star-Telegram via AP) In this Oct. 12, 2010, file photo, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson poses for a photo in Fort Worth, Texas. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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