Fort Worth

Southern Baptist leader: Don't go to court with marital problems, even abuse

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, is shown in a 2011 file photo.
Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, is shown in a 2011 file photo. Star-Telegram

A video clip of a Southern Baptist leader urging families to keep abuse within the church rather than seek outside help has emerged less than a week after an old audio clip surfaced of him counseling abused women to submit to their husbands.

"It is our Lord who says don't take it before the world," Baptist luminary Paige Patterson said in a sermon recorded in the 2013 video. "Settle it within the church of God. And if you suffer for it — and if you are misused — and if you are abused — and if you're not represented properly — it's OK. You can trust it to the god who judges justly."

Patterson is already the center of a firestorm in the Christian world after an interview he gave in 2000 surfaced in which he said he counsels women, even abused women, to submit to their husbands and pray rather than seek a divorce. Patterson is a fixture in the Southern Baptist world: He was president of the Southern Baptist convention in the late 1990s and is the president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. Patterson initially responded to the older interview in a statement on the seminary's website, in which he denied condoning abuse.

This 2013 sermon, however, echos an interview from 2000.

"You don’t have a problem in your home that ends up before the judge, and the judge has heard so many of these cases that his heart is now calloused against it, and one more Christian home bites the dust in front of a civil judge, and one more judge walks out into eternity lost without Christ," he said.

Charles Patrick, director of communications for the seminary, declined to comment on the sermon, saying he had not seen it. When the Star-Telegram offered to read him passages, he declined, saying he was still unable to comment.

Patrick said he was unable to offer any further comment other than Patterson's statement and a statement the seminary put out on abuse. He declined to say whether the trustees are seeking Patterson's resignation.

At other points during the 2013 sermon, Patterson emphasized that church problems, no matter what their nature, are to be handled within the church and not trumpeted to the world. "The fact of the matter is we don't take matters before unbelievers," he said. "Lord, may we make up our minds that we won't take our troubles to the press. We won't take our troubles to the government. We won't take our troubles anywhere except to the people of God and beyond that to the Lord Jesus."

That mindset played out back in 1987: as the Dallas Morning News reported, Patterson did not believe multiple women who claimed a pastor he mentored sexually harassed them. He did not take the allegations to law enforcement.

On Wednesday night, Patterson's chief of staff at the seminary, Z. Scott Colter, held a surprise prayer meeting in support of Patterson. In an email provided to the Star-Telegram, Colter wrote that he planned the meeting in response to the "very public attacks and false accusations" against Patterson (he did not specify which accusations were false or respond to a request for comment).

Someone who attended the rally and wished to remain anonymous to keep their position at the seminary said there were less than 100 people there, many of whom felt pressured to attend. People opposed to Patterson were called "enemies," and the group prayed battle Psalms.

Patrick, the director of communications, attended the prayer meeting. He declined to comment on it.

"Prayer," he said, "is a confidential thing."

Anyone with more information should contact reporter Sarah Smith at ssmith@star-telegram.com

State District Judge George Gallagher sentenced Emiliano Patino, founder of Freedom in Worship Church, to 10 years in prison for child sexual abuse.

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