News

Paige Patterson’s role in Southern Baptist meeting in doubt

Paige Patterson preaches at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary campus in Fort Worth, Texas. Photo courtesy of SWBTS

(RNS) — Paige Patterson is still listed on the program as giving the sermon at his denomination’s upcoming annual convention, despite being condemned for expressing views “antithetical to the core values of our faith,” in the words of a member of a seminary board that fired him as president emeritus last week.

As the Southern Baptist Convention’s meeting approaches, the question remains: Will Patterson give the sermon or won’t he?

Denominational leaders say that the decision is up to Patterson. “It will be his call to make as to whether or not he would voluntarily withdraw prior to the annual meeting,” Roger S. Oldham, spokesman for the SBC’s Executive Committee, said Friday (June 1).

Long a lionized figure in the Southern Baptist Convention, considered a patriarch or founding father by many, Patterson was until recently best known for pushing back against feminism and the women’s movement. Last month, in a dramatic #MeToo moment, he was fired for demeaning women.

But according to the bylaws of the SBC’s meeting, to be held June 12-13 in Dallas, since Patterson was elected by the messengers, or delegates, at last year’s meeting to preach the sermon at the upcoming gathering in Dallas, that body must also vote to remove him.

“The only body that would have the authority to change that would be the messengers of this year’s meeting or he himself,” Oldham said.

If nothing else, Southern Baptists are sticklers for parliamentary rules, which can make governing the 15 million-member convention, the nation’s largest Protestant group, a knotty, difficult and sometimes taxing affair.

“The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest open meeting run by parliamentary procedure in the world,” said Wade Burleson, a Southern Baptist blogger and Oklahoma pastor. “It’s mass chaos.”

Still, few expect Patterson to give that sermon.

“Surely he will not press forward with giving the convention sermon,” said Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “I can’t imagine that he would or why he would.”

Moore added that if Patterson did try to give the sermon, he is “fairly confident” the messengers would vote to replace him with Kie Bowman, pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, who was chosen last year for the alternate spot.

Early Monday afternoon, Bowman said: “As of this moment I am the alternate and I have not heard anything further.”

Patterson also was originally expected to make at least two other appearances on the stage of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. He will no longer give the report from Southwestern Seminary and it is unlikely he will give a report from an evangelism task force he chairs.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustee chairman Kevin Ueckert, left, addresses trustees at a special called meeting at the Fort Worth, Texas, campus on May 22, 2018. The board met to discuss the recent controversies surrounding seminary President Paige Patterson, right. Photo by Adam Covington/SWBTS

Those recusals follow a damning letter by Kevin Ueckert, chairman of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s board of trustees released on Friday, in which Ueckert explained the executive committee’s action in firing Patterson.

Ueckert said that Patterson lied about an alleged rape at another seminary he headed in 2003, and that in the case of  alleged rape at Southwestern in 2015 he tried to meet with the victim alone so he could “break her down.”

The attitude expressed by Patterson in the email was “antithetical to the core values of our faith,” Ueckert said.

Paige Patterson reads a statement to Southwestern Seminary trustees at a special called meeting on May 22, 2018. At the meeting, trustees removed Patterson as president of the Fort Worth seminary. Photo by Adam Covington/SWBTS

In Ueckert’s letter, and in previous sermons and interviews over the past 20 years, Patterson has appeared to disrespect, if not demean, of women. In addition to Patterson’s email to Southwestern’s chief of campus security saying he wanted to “break her down,” referring to the alleged rape victim, Patterson has been criticized for his advice to a woman to return to her abusive husband and for objectifying a teenager’s body on another occasion.

On May 22, the Texas seminary’s trustees demoted Patterson from his position as president of Southwestern Seminary but gave him the honorary title of “President Emeritus” and allowed him and his wife, Dorothy, to remain on campus as “theologians in residence” with compensation.

Then on May 30, the board’s executive committee voted to strip Patterson of the title and benefits it granted him a week earlier.

Ueckert’s letter confirmed that the board had received student files from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., where Patterson served previously as president, corroborating reports that a student had been raped there in 2003 and that Patterson told the student not to report the rape to the police.

The victim in that alleged rape outed herself on Twitter last week as Megan Lively, a resident of Wilson, N.C.

Uekcert also confirmed that Patterson took files belonging to Southeastern Seminary with him to Southwestern when he became president in Fort Worth in the summer of 2003. His lawyer also appears to have misled trustees about the existence of those documents, which Southwestern has now seized from his residence after a supporter of Patterson’s published some confidential letters from those files.

Convention watchers say it is unlikely that Patterson will speak to the convention to which he has dedicated his life.

Burleson said there were three possible scenarios. The most likely is that Patterson will withdraw from giving the sermon ahead of the convention. The second is that the Committee on the Order of Business will recommend his replacement and ask messengers to approve that recommendation on June 12.

If the committee does not make that recommendation, the third scenario is that one of the estimated 9,000 messengers will make a motion asking that Patterson be replaced.

“I can guarantee there will be a motion to remove him at 8:35 on Tuesday morning,” said Burleson. “I’ve heard from several people that they intend to do it. Who gets to a microphone first is hard to say.”

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.

About the author

Yonat Shimron

12 Comments

Click here to post a comment

  • Patterson said that it was “a good thing” that a student was raped by another student and sought to get the survivor alone to “break her down,” according to the woman’s attorney as reported in the Star-Telegram.

    https://www.rawstory.com/2018/06/southern-baptist-seminary-president-said-good-student-raped-tried-break-investigation-report/

    Imagine inviting . . . that . . . to the annual convention of a Christian denomination.

    And to think it was only 11 days ago that a regular contributor to RNS threads made the following comment, using Reverend Patterson as a moral cudgel to beat the United Methodist Church with, as that contributor pushes his never-ending attacks on LGBTQ human beings in the name of his Christ:

    God used Patterson to help save the entire SBC from dropping into the same moral Hell that is now burning up the Methodist Church. Nobody gets to remove that accomplishment from Paterson’s portfolio

    Those words sound more than a little foolish in light of what we know 11 days later, don’t they?

  • Where are the SBC leaders calling on Patterson to recuse himself? Not leaders commenting on what they think he will or won’t do, but publicly saying that he is not worthy to preach at this convention. Not because it is a PR problem, not because it will cause chaos – but because he covered up a rape and shamed the victim (and his supporters are even now releasing her private school records). And yet, silence from Albert Mohler, Danny Akin, Jd Greear and others about this man giving a sermon at the convention.

  • Well William, I did say those words. I would ask you — indeed, dare you — to please refute the historical assessment I offered. But you often speak way beyond your capacity to support, as you do today.

    A lot of people were VERY disappointed & angry when they heard about King David’s “#Metoo moment.” Adultery, Murder, Cover-up, and a “love child” too. Israel (which prospered so much under David), was never the same again, even after David repented. Even godless nations chirped about this giant scandal.

    Yet God stated that David was, “a man after My own heart.” God made a singular promise to David that is still active and true today. Nobody gets to blow off all the good that King David did, despite the mess.

    Stated simply, liberalism — your kind of liberalism, William — is killing the Methodists. They’re less than a year away from crashing the guardrail and flying right off the cliff. Dying in slow-motion. But as I said, God DID use Patterson and a couple other folks, way back when, to slam on the brakes and save the SBC. Disprove it.

  • If Paige Patterson and others “saved” the SBC – why have so many women in SBC institutions been raped and abused and why has the leadership done nothing about it until forced to by being exposed in the secular media? To date, Paige Patterson – who objectified a 16 year old girl in a sermon, who fired an employee for tweeting a critical article, who tried to “break down” a rape victim – is set to give a sermon at the upcoming SBC. How is that an organization that has been “saved”?

  • Tribal loyalty. Apparently it matters more than all the morals and virtue they claim to care about and promote.

  • I see nobody is willing to read and engage SBC history with reference to Paige Patterson. No disproof is forthcoming.

    Meanwhile, if you’ll dial down and google a little, you’ll find that there is NO evidence of any kind of rape or abuse epidemics at SBC institutions compared to any other religious or secular institutions. Campus rapes exist all over, and both religious and secular schools are vulnerable. Again, we all know what was reported to Patterson, and we all know he did serious wrongdoing in this area, as well as in other areas.

    But that’s all on Patterson. There’s no evidence to support all this broad-brushing, I-hate-the SBC anger. The SBC women themselves are OPENLY refusing to rail on the SBC or SBC-theology for Patterson’s mess. They just wanted justice and they’ve got it now.

    Meanwhile, the RNS article lists three different ways that Patterson will be stopped from doing his sermon. (1) He may withdraw all by himself, and (2) if he doesn’t, there’s a Committee that’s ready to withdraw him and stick the alternate in there, and (3) if they don’t, the SBC removal petitions will come right in at 8:35 AM, and there’s already people ready to file.

  • No. It is not all on Patterson. It is on every man and woman in the SBC defending him and refusing to condemn his actions. And it is on the men who created an atmosphere where this kind of behavior takes place. I am indeed painting with a broad brush because, again, not one leader in the SBC has come forward to call for Patterson to recuse himself. Not. One.

  • Oh let’s see. The SBC opposed the Civil Rights Act, supported the war in Vietnam, promotes the subjection of women, was founded to help support the CSA and slavery, etc, etc. One thing for certain the SBC is anything but Christian.

  • Reading your comment, I thought you were actually describing the Democratic Party historically. Google it Stan. As a life-long SB church member, I can assure you that our past is not our present or our future. If that was the case, Democrats should simply go away and fade into history like you are wanting Southern Baptists to do. So please stop with the stone throwing in your glass house. And lastly, only God knows the heart and who is and who is not a Christian. Not you, not me, not Paige Patterson (count me as one who wishes he would first apologize vehemently, then ride off in the distance), not anyone else… just God!

  • somehow i’m not in that much shock that these “leaders” are so used to sweeping so much under the carpet and switching ministers’ locations around so everyone will keep mum, that they’ve had to eventually let most of the mud and dirt show…but “we’ll just have to wait and see what the messengers say”.

  • You cannot even post under your real name and yet you expect others to value your opinion? Bottom line you don’t have a clue and the Southern Baptist Cult follows the teachings of John Calvin & Oliver Cromwell, not The Christ. Therefore using deductive reasoning the SBC is not a Christian organization.

2019 NewsMatch Campaign: This Story Can't Wait! Donate.

ADVERTISEMENTs