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Southern Baptist leader Paige Patterson apologizes to women ‘wounded’ by remarks

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, gives a report to messengers, or delegates, at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting on June 11, 2014. Photo courtesy of Matt Miller via Baptist Press

(RNS) — Longtime Southern Baptist leader Paige Patterson, embroiled in controversy over past remarks about domestic violence and his descriptions of women, has issued an apology.

“I wish to apologize to every woman who has been wounded by anything I have said that was inappropriate or that lacked clarity,” said Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, in a Thursday (May 10) statement titled “An Apology to God’s People.”

“We live in a world of hurt and sorrow, and the last thing that I need to do is add to anyone’s heartache. Please forgive the failure to be as thoughtful and careful in my extemporaneous expression as I should have been.”

The statement was the latest attempt by Patterson or his seminary’s officials to contain the reaction to an audio clip from the year 2000 that emerged two weeks ago, in which Patterson said he considered it unbiblical to recommend divorce, even in cases of domestic abuse.

In that clip he told a story of instead advising a woman who was physically abused by her husband to pray quietly on her knees while her spouse slept. In a 2014 video he describes a 16-year-old walking by as “built” and notes that the Bible uses similar language (“beautifully and artistically” made) to describe the creation of the first woman.

In the first sentence of his apology, Patterson cited a “sermon illustration used to try to explain a Hebrew word (Heb. banah “build or construct,” Gen. 2:22)” and said it and other sermons have “obviously been hurtful to women in several possible ways.”

“I would also like to reiterate the simple truth that I utterly reject any form of abuse in demeaning or threatening talk, in physical blows, or in forced sexual acts,” he said. “There is no excuse for anyone to use intemperate language or to attempt to injure another person. The Spirit of Christ is one of comfort, kindness, encouragement, truth, and grace; and that is what I desire my voice always to be.”


RELATED: Thousands of Southern Baptist women sign petition against Paige Patterson


A former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Patterson is considered an architect of its conservative resurgence (critics call it a takeover) that began in 1979 and has been a revered figure among many Southern Baptists. But in the last week, separate groups of Southern Baptist women and men have issued open letters to the trustee board of Patterson’s seminary questioning his current leadership. That board has scheduled a special meeting on May 22.

“To all people I offer my apology, but especially to women, to the family of Southern Baptists, my friends and the churches,” Patterson concluded. “I sincerely pray that somehow this apology will show my heart and may strengthen you in the love and graciousness of Christ.”

Karen Swallow Prior, a Southern Baptist, an English professor at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., and a signatory on a letter of Southern Baptist women concerned about Patterson’s remarks, said she was pleased to see the apology.

“It’s definitely a step forward,” Prior said in a phone interview Thursday. “Repentance is proven over time, and I hope that Dr. Patterson continues to weigh and consider the impact that his pattern of harmful statements to and about women has had.”

The May 6 letter she signed had more than 3,000 signatories by Thursday. It has been followed by a letter from Southern Baptist men signed by more than 200.

“We join our sisters in declaring that Jesus is nothing like this,” the men wrote. “Dr. Patterson’s behavior confuses the message of the Gospel. His continued leadership — without repentance and reprimand — calls into question the witness of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Meanwhile, some prominent men in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination tweeted their appreciation of his apology.

The current president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Steve Gaines, said: “I am so grateful for this apology to women from @_PPatterson_ . Please read and RT, and please pray for our Southern Baptist Convention.”

Ronnie Floyd, a former SBC president, thanked Patterson on Twitter for “clarifying your position and leading towards unity.” Jack Graham, another former SBC president, said: “Thank you Dr Patterson for your heart to seek peace and unity with a clear and unequivocal apology.”

About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.

39 Comments

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  • Paige Patterson last Friday May 6th “I can’t apologize for what I did not do wrong.”
    Paige Patterson today “I wish to apologize to every woman who has been wounded by anything that I have said that was inappropriate or lacked clarity.”

    Wow! I thought, Paige Patterson pulled his head out of his ass. Then I read on.

    “Please forgive the failure to be as thoughtful and careful in my extemporaneous expression as I should have been.”

    Wow! I thought, Paige Patterson must think the people who are reading this have their heads up their ass. Then I read on.

    Steve Gains tweeted…Ronnie Floyd tweeted…Jack Graham tweeted…

    Wow! I thought, shows how much I know. Can’t argue with see no head up, speak no head up, hear no head up.

  • Frederick Douglass left his abolitionist Black church because he “found that it consented to the same spirit which held my brethren in chains.” *

    Well, why would women and men stay in a church that consents to that same spirit that holds their sisters in chains of patriarchy?

    * My Bondage and My Freedom
    CHAPTER 22: LIBERTY ATTAINED
    1855

  • From “Biblical teaching on divorce: Start with Ezra
    MAY 10, 2018 BY FRED CLARK
    The Slacktivist on Patheos.

    “The book of Ezra goes on to describe the logistics of this mass divorce — a process that takes more than a week. It’s all presented as a pious act of devotion to God, an act of obedience to a divine commandment. “They sent them away” — their own wives, women they claimed to love — “with their children.”

    So if the only way you know to “read” the Bible involves illiterate concordance-ism in pursuit of propositional clobber texts, then what does “the Bible say” about divorce in the book of Ezra? It says that divorce is not only permissible, but mandatory.

    But a reading of Ezra that involves actual reading will come away from this text with a very different meaning. What does the book of Ezra teach us about “the rules” for divorce? It teaches us that men who consider the purity of their rules more important than the lives of women will delude themselves into committing monstrous atrocities.”

  • Quoted: “I wish to apologize to every woman who has been wounded by anything I have said that was inappropriate or that lacked clarity,” said Patterson …  

    His earlier statements in no way “lacked clarity.” They were perfectly clear. They betrayed no doubt, vagueness, etc.  

    Quoted: “Please forgive the failure to be as thoughtful and careful in my extemporaneous expression as I should have been.” 

    Here, Patterson is trying to suggest there was nothing wrong with the actual content of his earlier statements, just with their wording. But, the actual problem with them is not with his wording, but with that content itself.  

    Put it all together and you have a prime example of the non-apology apology. And that’s precisely what I expect of a militant fundagelical.  

  • This “apology” is nonsense. If this man is so stupid as to believe his nonsense in the first place, and then double down on it…how can anyone believe that this apology is anything other than an effort to win back supporters? I doubt that he really has changed his beliefs, or understood how evil they are.

  • Typical d-bag “non-apology”.

    “I am sorry you were offended by my remarks, which were obviously objectionable, but I am not apologizing for what I said or meant. Because I meant to be hateful.”

  • “I’m sorry you got offended” is not an apology. “I apologize to every woman that has been wounded” is not either. To every woman “that I have wounded” would be a proper apology. This statement is so passively voiced it’s nearly unattributable to Patterson.
    I’m not sure what’s worse, Patterson’s actual statements, or the fact he was trying to use the teenage boy’s “Man, she’s built” comment about a female peer to segue into a discussion of “And God built the side he had taken from the man into a woman” in Gen. 2:22.

  • When controversies escalate to this point, it’s impossible to know how much of the obligatory public apology is heartfelt contrition and how much is CYA. Personally, I don’t care what the percentages are. Either way, Patterson should go.

    He’s not a sacrificial lamb. He’s a dinosaur.

  • I’m sorry one of the primary leaders of America’s largest Protestant denomination thinks 16 year old girls are sex objects.

  • Good analogy of what he said. It is amazing isn’t it how folks like him think they can weasle their way out of a mess with the right choice of words!

  • “they can weasel their way out of a mess with the right choice of words”
    Some of the other weasels are applauding.

  • Where’s the part where Patterson acknowledged that abused spouses should actually leave the abuse, even ending the marriage if necessary? Because he kinda skipped over that.

  • It’s the standard “I apologize if anyone was offended… but I’m still right.”

  • Doesn’t sound like an apology at all. Perhaps he thinks Southern Baptists are stupid.

  • Damage control. “I’m sorry you were offended” is a classic non-apology. I also wonder if they planned the “thank you for apologizing. Let’s all move on” tweet storm from his buddies. I bet whatever PR firm they hired for damage control coordinating the whole thing. Wrote the apology too.

  • Re: “It is amazing isn’t it how folks like him think they can weasle their way out of a mess with the right choice of words!”  

    They can, because his followers just tell each other “he apologized” and move on, without understanding that he didn’t actually “apologize” in any meaningful sense. And they do that because they want to; he’s one of them, you see, a part of “the Club,” and they feel obligated to give him the benefit of all possible doubts.  

  • What is even more hurtful is the silence from other pastors regarding his remarks. Those that have responded to the apology are just trying to help the damage control. I am so done with the Baptist denim I was raised in. Fed up with the sex scandals and philandering pastors who pat each other on the back while victim blaming women. If this is how Baptist Christian men in America are, I would rather be in the company of an atheist. It’s safer. The leadership of the SBC are to Baptist women what the amVatican is to Catholic children. Disgusting. May God reign down justice on the sexually immoral perverts.

  • Spoken like a true Baptist man. When someone is called out for a transgression, throw down the “judge not, lest he be judged” card.

  • “I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce…”
    Jeremiah 3:8
    So while God hates divorce, He still invokes it at times. I’m quite sure if a man had gone to Patterson or one of his cronies complaining about an unfaithful wife, they would quote that scripture in a heartbeat.

  • No, just Southern Baptist women. After some things I have experienced and my teen daughter and her friends have encountered recently, this was all I needed to affirm my decision to leave SBC. I called and requested our names removed from the records. I am so done with this misogynistic organization. As another pastor from a different seminary told me regarding Patterson and his ilk…”it’s very sad for women and the church of Jesus.” The SBC does not have a monopoly on the Bible or Jesus. I’m quite certain what Jesus would advise in this case, is to wipe the dust from my feet and walk away, so I did. Good riddance to perverted and hard hearted men!

  • The part where Patterson licks his lips with bulging eyes while describing the teenage girl was the worst part for me. It reminded of when my much older brother, who just is happens to be a SWBTS alum, called my 13 yo daughter (his niece) “a smart little hottie.” This mindset is endemic in the SBC culture. It needs to be outed and cleaned up quickly and thoroughly. It is no wonder our nation is in the mess it is with that mentality being preached from “conservative” pulpits.

  • Live by the sword, die by the sword. They have fallen on their own swords. And I have as much compassion for them as Jesus had for Judas. That is all I can muster now.

  • Other replies in this threaqd have addressed this matter far more eloquently than I can.

    Patterson’s remarks are patently transparent, and anyone with an ounce of sense can see exactly whsat’s going on.

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