Paige Patterson should change his stance on submitting to physical abuse or step down

Paige Patterson on Wednesday, May 30, was removed from all positions with the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Paige Patterson on Wednesday, May 30, was removed from all positions with the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Star-Telegram file

There can’t possibly be any biblical justification for counseling a woman to stay with a man who is beating her and putting her life in danger.

Yet, that’s the message many shocked women and men heard after the Baptist Blogger posted a video of a sermon the President of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth delivered in 2000.

During his sermon Paige Patterson, 75, told of how a woman came to him after her husband had abused her. Patterson said he told her to pray about it. Later when she confronted the church leader sporting two black, she told him: “I hope you’re happy.” On the video Patterson said he was happy because the husband had apparently heard her prayers and come to church for the first time.

In a statement released by the Seminary - one of the largest in the world - Patterson tried to counter the resulting public furor and outrage of more than 1,700 Southern Baptist women who sent a letter to the Seminary demanding action. Patterson said: “I have never counseled or condoned abuse of any kind. I will never be a party to any position other than that of the defense of any weaker party when subjected to the threat of a stronger party.”

That’s good to hear. But Patterson also said he had probably been “unwise” to share that story “in the climate of this culture,” presumably referring the #MeToo movement.

So, is it just that he thinks what he said was politically incorrect? Wasn’t it wrong to advise a woman to passively remain in a domestic situation where she was in physical jeopardy?

That sermon is not the only example cited in news reports of Patterson counseling that women being abused by their husbands should pray, submit and stick it out. He said he never condones divorce when faced with physical abuse. What women should do, he said, “depends on the level of abuse.”

We don’t know what that means. Is it OK to slap your wife across the face or punch her in the stomach if it won’t kill her? Should she stay put and risk the possibility that a blow that didn’t put her in the hospital this time will when he loses control the next time?

We agree with the advice offered by Meredith Stone, director of ministry guidance at Hardin-Simmons University’s Logsdon School of Theology & Seminary. Following the unearthing of Patterson’s comments she said: “If you are being abused, whether you are a woman, man, child, any person at all, you do not deserve the abuse and you should not submit to it. Find help. Report your abuser. Seek the counsel and advocacy of someone who values you completely.”

That’s the kind of advice we’d like to hear coming from Paige Patterson who is among the most influential of leaders in the Southern Baptist Church. He needs to either disavow the need to submit to physical abuse in all forms or step down from his influential position.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram