Paige Patterson

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L. Paige Patterson
8th President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
In office
June 24, 2003 (2003-06-24) – May 23, 2018 (2018-05-23)
Vice PresidentCraig Blaising
Preceded byKenneth S. Hemphill
Succeeded byD. Jeffrey Bingham (interim)
52nd President of the
Southern Baptist Convention
In office
1998 (1998) – 2000 (2000)
Preceded byTom Elliff
Succeeded byJames Merritt
5th President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
In office
1992 (1992) – 2003 (2003)
Preceded byLewis A. Drummond
Succeeded byDaniel L. Akin
Personal details
BornOctober 19, 1942
NationalityAmerican
Spouse(s)Dorothy Jean née Kelley
ChildrenArmour (son) and Carmen (daughter)
ParentsThomas Armour "T.A." Patterson (father), Roberta M. "Honey" Turner Patterson (mother)
Alma materHardin-Simmons University
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
OccupationSeminary President, Theologian

L. Paige Patterson (born October 19, 1942) played a major role in the Southern Baptist Controversy, called "Conservative Resurgence" by proponents and "Fundamentalist Takeover" by opponents. He has been alternately described as a fundamentalist and a conservative evangelical. He served as the fifth president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., from 1992 to 2003, as president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) from 1998 to 2000, and as the eighth president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, from 2003 until his firing in 2018.

Education[edit]

Career[edit]

Patterson started preaching while still in his teens. He held several Pastorates before becoming president of the Criswell Center for Biblical Studies (now the Criswell College) in Dallas, Texas. Patterson formed a strong connection with Dr W.A. Criswell of the First Baptist Church of Dallas while in this position. After 17 years he became president of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina (1992-2003). Patterson was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in both 1998 and 1999. He has lectured and preached extensively and authored and edited many books and journals. In 2003, he became the 8th president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.[1] He was removed as president in May 2018 over his past advice to women concerning marital abuse and rape,[2] then stripped of his positions of emeritus president and theologian-in-residence for his handling of several rape investigations.[3] He served on the board of trustees of Cedarville University until he resigned on May 31, 2018.[4][5]

Paige Patterson (left) with a Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary student

Proponent of Expository Preaching[edit]

Patterson began preaching as a teenager, and continues to preach in churches and seminaries around the world. He is a strong proponent of expository preaching, once saying, "There is no genuinely good preaching except exposition".[6]

He has written on the topic of preaching, including the introduction to the 2010 publication Text-Driven Preaching: God’s Word at the Heart of Every Sermon.[7]

Role in the SBC Conservative Resurgence[edit]

Patterson is best known for his prominent role in the Southern Baptist Convention conservative resurgence starting in 1979 with the election of Adrian Rogers as Convention President. Believing SBC seminaries and other SBC institutions had drifted away from their conservative Biblical roots, Patterson joined with Judge Paul Pressler of Houston, TX to carry out a plan that included exposing the theology taught and practiced by the leadership in SBC institutions, which Patterson and Pressler described as liberal theology. The main issue that divided the SBC was the nature of scripture, particularly, whether or not it is inerrant. Patterson, Pressler, and a host of self-described conservative pastors and laymen began to spread the word that the teaching of SBC leadership was not reflective of their constituents, who were paying their salaries. Patterson and the conservatives won the support of hundreds of like-minded churches, and as many as 40,000 messengers (church members willing to travel to the annual Southern Baptist Convention to vote) by using the inerrancy argument as the issue to gather support.

Patterson's influence has been felt at all levels of Southern Baptist life. The seminaries have for the most part become conservative institutions. Local churches have been hiring pastors educated at schools led by conservatives. Missionaries have also influenced by Patterson's leadership. By the time Patterson was appointed president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2003, the conservative leadership required that all faculty sign documents stating their allegiance to Southern Baptist doctrine, most notably, the Baptist Faith and Message.

Patterson has been associated with the Council for National Policy, an umbrella organization and networking group for social conservative activists in the United States.[8]

Seminary President[edit]

As a reward for his role in the Conservative Resurgence, Patterson became president of two prominent Southern Baptist seminaries: first Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in Wake Forest, N.C., from 1992 to 2003, and then Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) from 2003 to 2018.[9]

Views on women[edit]

Patterson has attracted interest because of his stance on the role of women in churches and related areas such as the academic training of ministers. According to Patterson, the "highest and noblest calling of God" for women is that of "mother and grandmother". Additionally, Patterson's interpretation of the Bible includes "an assignment from God, in this case that a woman not be involved in a teaching or ruling capacity over men".[10]

In an interview taped in 2000, Patterson recounted how he counseled a woman, who told him about being abused by her husband, that she should pray for God's intervention. When the woman "came to him later with two black eyes" and said "I hope you're happy", Patterson said he was "very happy" because the next day the husband had come to church for the first time.[11][12] As reported in The Washington Post, in April 2018 Patterson stated on the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary website that:

"I have also said that I have never recommended or prescribed divorce. How could I as a minister of the Gospel? The Bible makes clear the way in which God views divorce ... I do not apologize for my stand for the family and for seeking to mend a marriage through forgiveness rather than divorce”.[12]

Paige Patterson's wife, Dorothy, is one of two female faculty members listed among the School of Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, the other being Candi Finch.[13]

Patterson explains a wife’s submission to her husband as voluntary rather than coerced: ““It means voluntarily to line up in the right order that God has given, and the husband is loving his wife sacrificially as much as Jesus Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it, so that all the husband can think of is, ‘Honey, what can I do for you? What can I do to serve you? How can I make your life better?’ And all the time she is submitting herself to her husband and saying, ‘You just lead and, honey, I’ll follow.’”[10] "It depends on the level of abuse, to some degree. … I have never in my ministry counseled anyone to seek a divorce and that’s always wrong counsel".[12] Instead of divorce he recommended temporary separation in cases of extreme spousal abuse.[12]

He has also compared female submissiveness to submissiveness to a police officer. Although the officer and Patterson would be equal before God, "He is above me,” Patterson wrote. Just as “God gave him an assignment that affects me and made him a minister of God to correct my evil ways," so he believed women should submit to men.[10]

Abuse cover-up[edit]

Patterson was a defendant in a 2018 suit which alleged he assisted in covering up sexual abuse by fellow Southern Baptist Paul Pressler.[11] The claims against Patterson were dismissed as they exceeded the statute of limitations.[14]

Removal as President of SWBTS and firing[edit]

From president to president emeritus and theologian-in-residence[edit]

On May 22, 2018, the board of trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) met to discuss "new leadership for the benefit of the future mission of the Seminary".[15][16] They removed Patterson as President[2] and conferred the title of President Emeritus upon him, with compensation, and provided for him and his wife to live in the seminary's Baptist Heritage Center as the school's first theologians-in-residence.[15]

Fired from all positions at SWBTS[edit]

However, on May 30, 2018 the seminary's Executive Committee made an abrupt change:

[N]ew information confirmed this morning was presented regarding the handling of an allegation of sexual abuse against a student during Dr. Paige Patterson’s presidency at another institution and resulting issues connected with statements to the Board of Trustees that are inconsistent with SWBTS’s biblically informed core values.[3][17]

Patterson was terminated "effective immediately"[18] in response to mishandling the rape investigation of a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2003, based on their internal review reported to SWBTS.[3] During that investigation, Patterson had sent an email "to the Chief of Campus Security in which Dr. Patterson discussed meeting with the student alone so that he could ‘break her down’ and that he preferred no officials be present";[3] the SWBTS Executive Committee stated that the "attitude expressed by Dr. Patterson in that email is antithetical to the core values of our faith and to SWBTS".[3] The Executive Committee also found "undeniable" evidence that "contradicts a statement previously provided by Dr. Patterson in response to a direct question by a board member".[3] Patterson has denied any mishandling of any investigation.[19]

The SWBTS Executive Committee removed "all the benefits, rights and privileges provided by the May 22–23 board meeting, including the title of President Emeritus, the invitation to reside at the Baptist Heritage Center as theologian-in-residence and ongoing compensation".[3] As both Patterson and his wife were named theologians-in-residence in the May 23 statement, Mrs. Patterson's relationship to the seminary remains unclear.

Impact beyond SWBTS[edit]

Patterson's firing affected his standing in Baptist circles more broadly. Since 2003, Patterson had served on the board of trustees of Cedarville University, a Baptist institution. On May 30, 2018, Cedarville's president, Thomas White, who had worked with Patterson at both SEBTS and SWBTS, issued a statement that emphasized Cedarville's policies for reporting abuse and his uncertainty as to whether Patterson would continue to serve on the board.[5] By May 31, 1,300 people had signed a petition for Patterson's resignation from Cedarville's board of trustees, which Patterson submitted that day.[5]

Patterson's standing in the SBC was also affected by his firing. After receiving pressure from various Southern Baptist leaders, including SBC president Steve Gaines, Patterson announced in a letter to Gaines on June 8, 2018, that he was declining to give the keynote sermon at the annual meeting of the SBC the following week.[20] Patterson said his decision came from his desires "to protect my family as much as I can", "to contribute to harmony within the Southern Baptist Convention", and "to respond to the request that has come especially from you and other Southern Baptist leadership".[20]

Although Patterson did not attend the SBC annual meeting in June 2018, the scandal prompted a greater focus on gender for attendees, who passed two resolutions on gender. One of those resolutions affirmed roles for women in the church, while the other condemned all forms of abuse against women and insisted that Baptist leaders report alleged sexual abuse to police.[21]

Attempts to undo Patterson's firing[edit]

Some within the SBC have attempted to return Patterson to his positions of president emeritus and theologian-in-residence at SWBTS and to punish those who fired him. At the SBC's annual meeting in June 2018, some brought a resolution to the floor to fire all the trustees of SWBTS who voted to fire Patterson; that resolution was "soundly defeated".[22] Then in early July 2018, two dozen major donors to SWBTS signed a public letter threatening to withhold funding from the seminary unless the SWBTS board reconsidered Patterson's firing.[22] Their letter called the SWBTS Executive Committee's firing of Patterson a "travesty" and stated: "Dr. and Mrs. Patterson continue to have our absolute and unwavering support. They are both esteemed scholars and were stately ambassadors for the Seminary".[22]

Patterson's public ministry since firing[edit]

Since his firing, Patterson has received public criticism for two sermons at a revival in September 2018. In the first sermon, he repeatedly highlighted the weight of a "fat" female parishioner, which led to charges that he was "body-shaming women".[23] His second sermon referenced the biblical story of Joseph, who was falsely accused by a woman of sexual abuse, to criticize some women in the Me Too movement.[23] Some Baptists who had previously called for Patterson's removal from SWBTS argued that his sermons showed a lack of repentance for his previous comments about women.[24]

In mid-October 2018, Patterson accepted the opportunity to co-teach an ethics course at Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES). His co-teacher for the course was Richard Land, the former head of the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and presently the president of SES.[25] Richard Mouw, president emeritus of Fuller Theological Seminary, noted that Patterson was an odd choice to teach the class because he was not a specialist in ethics and suggested that Patterson's hire was "a political statement" by the very conservative SES that "'He's one of us. We want to keep his voice strong.'"[26]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Arnold, Lauri (October 22, 2003). "Paige Patterson inaugurated as Southwestern's 8th president". Baptist Press. Retrieved July 27, 2007.
  2. ^ a b Neuman, Scott (May 23, 2018). "Paige Patterson, Head Of Southern Baptist Seminary, Ousted Over Remarks On Rape, Abuse Of Women : The Two-Way". NPR. Retrieved May 26, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Shellnutt, Kate (May 30, 2018). "Paige Patterson Fired by Southwestern, Stripped of Retirement Benefits". Christianity Today. Retrieved 2018-06-01.
  4. ^ Filby, Max (May 23, 2018). "Cedarville trustee fired from day job for comments on women". Dayton Daily News. Retrieved May 26, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c Laissle, April (May 31, 2018). "Paige Patterson Steps Down From Cedarville University Board of Trustees, Following New Allegations". WYSO. Retrieved June 18, 2018.
  6. ^ "Expository preaching best, Patterson says". Baptist Standard. Baptist General Convention of Texas. 2001-04-16. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2013-03-25.
  7. ^ Akin, Daniel L.; Allen, David L.; Mathews, Ned L., eds. (2010). "I. Ancient Rhetoric: A Model for Text-Driven Preachers". Text-Driven Preaching: God's Word at the Heart of Every Sermon. Nashville, Tennessee: B & H Academic. pp. 11–36. ISBN 978-0-8054-4960-0.
  8. ^ Jarboe, Jan (November 1991). "The War for Thee University". Texas Monthly. p. 191. Retrieved February 16, 2011. Both Patterson and Pressler serve on the board of the Council for National Policy
  9. ^ Pulliam Bailey, Sarah; Boorstein, Michelle (June 10, 2018). "How women led to the dramatic rise and fall of Southern Baptist leader Paige Patterson". Washington Post.
  10. ^ a b c Tomlin, Gregory (25 October 2004). "Patterson: Women are treasured by God, have high calling". Baptist Press. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007.
  11. ^ a b Bailey, Sarah Pulliam (2 May 2018). "Southern Baptist leader's advice to abused women sends leaders scrambling to respond". The Washington Post.
  12. ^ a b c d Boorstein, Michelle (29 April 2018). "Southern Baptist leader pushes back after comments leak urging abused women to pray and avoid divorce". The Washington Post.
  13. ^ "School of Theology Faculty". Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  14. ^ Roach, David (18 October 2018). "Pressler sexual abuse claims dismissed". Baptist Press. Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  15. ^ a b Ross Jr., Bobby; Pulliam Bailey, Sarah; Boorstein, Michelle (May 23, 2018). "Prominent Southern Baptist leader removed as seminary president following controversial remarks about abused women". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 3, 2018.
  16. ^ SWBTS Board of Trustees (May 23, 2018). "Statement Regarding Dr. Paige Patterson". Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Press release). Retrieved May 31, 2018.
  17. ^ SWBTS Board of Trustees Executive Committee (May 30, 2018). "Statement by the Southwestern Theological Seminary". Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Press release). Retrieved May 31, 2018.
  18. ^ "SWBTS: Paige Patterson terminated 'effective immediately'". Baptist Press. May 30, 2018. Retrieved May 31, 2018.
  19. ^ Roach, David. "Patterson denies mishandling 'reported abuse'". www.bpnews.net. Retrieved 2018-06-08.
  20. ^ a b Pulliam Bailey, Sarah (June 8, 2018). "Under fire, controversial Southern Baptist leader Paige Patterson has pulled out of giving key sermon at upcoming convention". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-06-10.
  21. ^ Zauzmer, Julie (2018-06-12). "Southern Baptists adopt resolutions on abuse and affairs, in a season of grappling with gender". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-07-18.
  22. ^ a b c Zauzmer, Julie (2018-07-04). "Angry donors threaten to withhold money from seminary that fired Paige Patterson". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-07-18.
  23. ^ a b Merritt, Jonathan (2018-08-14). "Disgraced Baptist leader Paige Patterson body-shames a woman in his return to the pulpit". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-08-20.
  24. ^ "A disgraced evangelical leader returns to ministry after #MeToo. He won't be the last". Vox. 2018-08-19. Retrieved 2018-08-20.
  25. ^ Adelle M. Banks (2018-10-02). "Paige Patterson, ousted Baptist seminary leader, to teach ethics course". Religion News Service. Retrieved 2018-10-13.
  26. ^ Tara Isabella Burton (2018-10-08). "Evangelical leader Paige Patterson was ousted for sexism. Now he's teaching an ethics class". Vox. Retrieved 2018-10-13.

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