Southwestern Baptist Theological president Paige Patterson has been pushed into the position of “president emeritus” following a month in a media firestorm after his comments on abused women surfaced.
After a 13-hour meeting on Tuesday that stretched into the early hours of the next morning, the seminary’s trustees made a few announcements in minutes, including Patterson’s new position and that the interim presidency would be offered to Jeffrey Bingham, dean of the seminary’s school of theology.
Patterson was not in the final meeting when this was announced.
The meeting also addressed two other points that came out of the Patterson controversy. While the trustees met on Tuesday, The Washington Post published an article alleging that Patterson told a woman who said she’d been raped not to report it to police and to forgive her assailant.
The trustees said “evidence exists” that Patterson complied with reporting laws, which they had found after an investigation. Additionally, in a written statement the board said the seminary "stands against all forms of abuse."
It’s unclear exactly how the trustees conducted their investigation. Charles Patrick, who handles communications for the seminary, said he was not able to comment directly after the meeting. He was unable to answer questions as to when he would be able to answer questions.
The trustees also resolved the issue of the firing of Nathan Montgomery, who worked at the seminary and says he was fired for tweeting a comment critical of Patterson. They resolved that they had found no evidence of misconduct in Montgomery’s personnel file.
"As we begin the process of ushering in a new season of leadership, SWBTS remains steadfast in its calling to assist the churches of the SBC by biblically educating God-called men and women for ministries that fulfill the Great Commission and glorify God," the board's statement reads.
Who is Paige Patterson
Patterson was the former head of the Southern Baptist Convention, and a man credited with laying the foundations for the SBC as it exists today. In the 1970s and 1980s, he was key in leading the fight to make the SBC conservative.
“There’s hardly anybody alive who has higher stature in the SBC than Paige Patterson,” said Barry Hankins, the chairman of the history department Baylor University.
At the time the controversy began, Patterson was slated to be the keynote speaker at the Southern Baptist Convention in June in Dallas.
"I had a woman who was in a church that I served and she was being subject to some abuse and I told her, I said 'All right, I want you to do this every evening,' " Patterson said. "'Get down by your bed as you go to sleep, get down by the bed when you think he's just about asleep, pray and ask God to intervene.'
"I said, 'Get ready because he may get a little more violent when he discovers it.'
"Sure enough, she came to church one morning with both eyes black."
He called the story a success, because the woman’s husband came to church repenting and asking to be saved.
Then other accounts surfaced. A 1997 Atlanta-Journal Constitution article quoted Patterson cracking this joke about women: “I think everybody should own at least one.” In a 2013 sermon, Patterson urged Christians to keep marital problems (including abuse) in the church, lest they keep a judge from becoming a Christian. In a 2014 sermon, Patterson recounted admiring the body of a 16-year-old girl.
Patterson is also named in a lawsuit against Paul Pressler — a former Texas judge and legislator — who is accused of assaulting a former Bible study student. A Dallas Morning News article from 1991 accused Patterson of ignoring reports that another pastor, a protégé of his, sexually harassed a dozen women.
Right after the 2000 interview came to light, Patterson put out a statement saying he did not condone abuse. In an interview with the Baptist Press, he said women might pray in cases of “non-injurious physical abuse which happens in so many marriages” (the Baptist Press edited the article to show Patterson’s “intent” and changed the quote to “minor non-injurious abuse,” only making Patterson’s detractor’s angrier).
By May 10, over two weeks after the first recording came out, Patterson apologized for not being as “thoughtful and careful as I should have been” in choosing his words.
For a sampling of how much stir this caused, over 3,200 women signed this open letter calling on the seminary trustees to take action in light of Patterson’s abuse comments. A Washington Post opinion writer called it the Southern Baptist "#MeToo moment." Prominent Baptist leaders tweeted criticism of Patterson — from condemnations of abuse that didn’t name him to openly calling for his resignation.
Anyone with more information should contact reporter Sarah Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org