More than 1,700 women have signed an open letter calling for the trustees of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to take action over leader Paige Patterson’s remarks about abused women over the last 20 years, including him counseling for abused women to stay with their husbands and making objectifying comments about a teenager.
“We urge you to exercise the authority you have been given by the churches of the Southern Baptist convention and to take a strong stand against unbiblical teaching regarding womanhood, sexuality and domestic violence,” the letter reads. “The fact that he has not fully repudiated his earlier counsel or apologized for his inappropriate words indicates that he continues to maintain positions that are at odds with Southern Baptists and, more importantly, the Bible’s elevated view of womanhood.”
Patterson is a luminary in the Southern Baptist world, president of the seminary since 2003 and a former head of the Southern Baptist convention. Audio of a 2000 interview of him saying he counseled abused women to submit to their husbands and pray rather than seek divorce surfaced last week, setting off a firestorm in the Christian world. Patterson wrote in a statement that he had never condoned abuse (or, for that matter, abused a woman himself).
A 2013 sermon shows Patterson warning Christians not to seek divorce, whatever the circumstances, lest they discourage the judge from becoming a Christian. In 2010, Patterson commented that a teenage girl walking by was "nice" and declined to scold a young man who commented, "Man, is she built." Back in 1987, the Dallas Morning News reported that Patterson did not believe multiple women who claimed a pastor, his mentee, sexually harassed them.
Southern Baptist Convention leader Steven Gaines has not addressed Patterson directly but did tweet this comment: "Southern Baptists are biting and fussy when we should be praying and weeping. Start talking directly to people, not about them."
Patterson, a Fort Worth native, is slated to deliver the keynote address at the Southern Baptist Convention in June in Dallas.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary bills itself as one of the largest seminaries in the world. The seminary is planning a meeting of the trustees on May 22 "in light of recent events," according to a release on its website. The release alleges that Patterson himself called the meeting.
The letter states that Patterson's comments are "damaging, sinful and necessitate decisive response."
“The world is watching us all, brothers,” the letter warns. “They wonder if the Jesus of the Bible is like such men. We declare that Jesus is nothing like this and that our first duty as Southern Baptists is to present a true picture of Jesus to the world.”
Anyone with more information should contact reporter Sarah Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org