Trustees of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary heard confidential details of assaults that Paige Patterson allegedly covered up during their closed-door meeting earlier this week.
Patterson was pushed to the position of “president emeritus” during the meeting, but two days later, there are few answers on what transpired in the 13-hour session.
These alleged assaults discussed at the meeting took place both on and off Southwestern Baptist's campus in October 2014 and April 2015, trustee chairman Kevin Ueckert wrote in an emailed statement. The allegations were made by a female Southwestern Baptist student against a male student in August 2015. The trustees discussed the alleged assaults and Patterson's response.
"The police were involved and met with the individual making the allegations," Ueckert wrote in an email.
The trustees' May 23 resolution that bumped Patterson from his presidency also stated that “evidence exists that Dr. Patterson has complied with reporting laws regarding assault and abuse." Neither the resolution nor Ueckert's email detailed what evidence exists or how the trustees came upon such evidence. Ueckert did not answer questions as to whether the trustees reached out to either the alleged victim or alleged perpetrator.
Patterson served as president of Fort Worth’s seminary since 2003 until he was engulfed in a controversy that started in late April, when a 2000 recording of him emerged during which he said he counseled abused women to submit to their husbands and pray. During the trustees’ meeting Tuesday, The Washington Post published an article alleging that Patterson discouraged a woman who said she had been raped from reporting her assailant.
In an emailed response to a list of 20 questions sent Wednesday, Ueckert sent a statement:
"As part of this, Dr. Paige Patterson’s legal counsel shared confidential details related to a specific incident of assault," Ueckert said in his email, "which included reporting the matter to law officials."
The trustees announced their decision at approximately 3:15 a.m. Wednesday and issued a full statement an hour later. Along with his position as president emeritus, Patterson and his wife, Dorothy, will be theologians-in-residence and live on campus.
Over the last two days, the Star-Telegram has repeatedly contacted Southwestern Baptist with questions regarding the trustees’ decision. A list of questions was sent to Charles Patrick, director of communications for the seminary. He deferred comment to the trustees, as he was not in the meeting. A list of 20 questions was sent to each of the trustees. The trustees who responded deferred comment to Patrick, who had already deferred comment.
Finally, the Star-Telegram sent the same list of 20 questions back to Patrick and Kevin Ueckert, chairman of the board of trustees, pointing out the issue. Ueckert responded with his statement, but did not answer the specific questions.
Also at issue was the firing of Nathan Montgomery, a former student and culinary worker at Southwestern Baptist who tweeted an opinion critical of Patterson when the abuse remarks first came out. Montgomery was fired from his position. Patterson made remarks in the Post disparaging Montgomery and his performance at the seminary. In the resolution, the trustees noted there was no evidence of misconduct in Montgomery’s personnel file.
“The trustees did acknowledge that there was no wrongdoing on my part,” Montgomery said. “I’m glad for that, but it clearly falls short of what I’ve asked for.”
Montgomery said he will be meeting with Ueckert and has confidence in his integrity, adding that he thinks Ueckert is “operating in good faith.”
In his emailed statement, Ueckert said, "The board did not completely explore every question surrounding Mr. Montgomery’s departure from SWBTS but elected for the Executive Committee to provide further review in its next meeting, to happen within the next two weeks."
Throughout the month of April other comments by Patterson surfaced: He’d urged people to not get divorced in a 2013 sermon (even in abuse cases) lest the judge not become a Christian; he was named in a lawsuit against a former Southern Baptist leader who allegedly abused a 14-year-old for years.
He is still slated to speak at June's Southern Baptist Convention.
Meanwhile, the seminary will be led by interim President Jeffrey Bingham, head of the theology department.
A committee was formed to work out the issue of Patterson's compensation and housing and the leadership transition, Ueckert said.