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Paige Patterson’s Feast

A woman claims prominent Southern Baptist leader told her to be quiet about her rape. Another Southern Baptist pastor mocks her publicly
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This is not the most shocking thing you’ll read in this blog post, but it’s pretty hard-hitting. Sarah Pulliam Bailey of the Washington Post has quite a story:

A prominent Southern Baptist leader at the center of controversy this spring over comments he has made about abused women allegedly encouraged a woman who said she had been raped not to report it to the police and told her to forgive her alleged assailant, the woman has told The Washington Post.

The woman said that she was raped in 2003 when she was pursuing a master of divinity degree in women’s studies from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., where Paige Patterson was president at the time.

“I had bottled it up,” said the woman, who works in public relations in North Carolina. “My husband didn’t know about it until last week. … I told him ‘I need to do something.’ ”

A man who a seminary official confirmed was the alleged assailant’s roommate at the time of the incident said that the woman told him about the assault shortly after it allegedly happened. The woman also provided an email to The Washington Post from the seminary’s dean of students at the time referencing the alleged incident.

In that e-mail, the woman was disciplined by the seminary:

The woman shared a letter written to her by Southeastern’s dean of students at the time. In the letter, dated April 9, 2003, Allan Moseley told the woman that she would be put on probation after the incident, with suspension or expulsion as possible next steps if there were subsequent behavior the school deemed inappropriate. “It is evident that your memories of moral lapses with [the alleged assailant’s name] cause you sadness and humiliation,” Moseley said in the letter.

Read the whole story. Bailey spoke to a source who was the alleged rapist’s roommate at the time (that fact was confirmed by the seminary), and who told Bailey that the alleged rapist confessed his crime to him (the roommate) right after it happened. The woman says that a few years ago, her alleged rapist reached out to her via Facebook and asked for forgiveness, which she gave. She is still angry at Patterson, though. The Post quotes a sermon Patterson gave in 2013 in which he tells women who have “a problem in the home” not to go to the authorities, because it could cause them to stumble.

You may be thinking, “How on earth could Southern Baptist leaders have missed what the Roman Catholic bishops did to themselves and their moral authority by covering up and wishing away sexual abuse? Did they learn nothing?”

Well, sit back, because here comes the gut punch:

Moore, Stetzer, and the others on the list are considered to be enemies by certain conservatives a certain faction within the Southern Baptist Convention, because they’ve publicly stood up for women, and criticized Paige Patterson.

Who is Rick Patrick? He’s the pastor of First Baptist Church of Sylacauga, Alabama, publisher of SBC Today, and on the executive board of Connect 316. What’s that? According to the About Us statement, authored by the Rev. Patrick:

We are a ministry fellowship celebrating the Hobbs-Rogers tradition in Southern Baptist life. That’s a fancy way of saying that we believe in the kind of salvation doctrine one might hear at a Billy Graham Crusade. God loves you. He has a wonderful plan for your life. He sincerely wants you to be saved. Jesus died for your sins and the sins of the whole wide world. If you are willing, then you are certainly able to respond to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the gospel. Jesus has already said, “yes” to you. You can say “yes” or “no” to Him.

Connect 316 strives to strike the proper tone as we distinguish ourselves from brothers and sisters in Christ who hold opposing views.

Er, right. The proper tone. Brothers and sisters in Christ. What rot.

A woman claims she was raped at a Southern Baptist seminary led by Paige Patterson, who urged her to stay silent about it (“They shamed the crap out of me,” she told the Post), and then put her on probation for two years (the victim does not know why, but she senses that it was because she let a man into her home). And the pastor of First Baptist Church of Sylacauga, Alabama, makes fun of her, of the rape, and of Southern Baptist men who have publicly spoken out against Patterson’s prior remarks about women and violence!

What is wrong with Paige Patterson, Rick Patrick, and men like them? What kind of Jesus do they serve? Shame on them. The anonymous woman in the Post story said she only told her husband last week about her rape. If that was the rape of my wife — or sister, or daughter — that Rick Patrick was talking smack about…

How will the women in Rick Patrick’s church take a word he says seriously after that? What kind of example is he for the boys and men of the church? And Paige Patterson, what kind of example is he?

A very heavy reckoning is coming for Southern Baptists. It’s already here. Those who defend Patterson’s actions here, and Rick Patrick’s, may think that they’re standing up to liberals, but what they’re really doing is destroying the denomination’s moral authority.

Think of it! A female seminarian says she was raped at a Southern Baptist seminary, was pressured to stay quiet about it and not to go to the police — and now a prominent conservative Southern Baptist pastor is mocking her on social media.

Mene, mene, tekel upharsin, y’all.

UPDATE: I feel so strongly about this for the same reason I feel so strongly about it when the Catholic Church fails in this particular way: because the rest of us conservative Christians in this country, scattered in small churches and denominations, need them to be strong. The Southern Baptists are the largest Protestant denomination. They count in ways that no other Protestant denomination does. Some of my closest friends are Southern Baptist, and they are good, faithful men and women. They will not stand for this, and will fight it however they can. I’m confident of that. But they’re sure going to have to suffer for it. That suffering is not going to be confined to Southern Baptists, either, but will eventually be borne in some way by all of us theologically conservative Christians, whether we realize it or not.

UPDATE.2: Ryan Booth fills us in on the internal politics here:

What’s happening in my denomination is a cleansing. There is a change of power occurring, and there is resistance. But Rod, I think you are quite wrong to characterize the opponents of Moore and Stetzer as “conservatives.”

For those who don’t know, there is an election happening next month for a new president of the SBC. Two years ago, the election for president was deadlocked for two votes, with what I will call the “Old Guard” of the SBC supporting Steve Gaines and what I will call the “Young Guns” supporting J.D. Greear. Greear ultimately withdrew from the race for the unity of the convention and supported Gaines, and Gaines in turn, announced that he would back Greear this year.

That sounds like everyone is unified, right? But, no. Generalizations can be unfair, but the Old Guard is much more supportive of the Republican Party and now of Donald Trump. They see political power as a guarantee of religious freedoms and a key weapon against the increasing secularization of the culture.

The “Young Guns,” in contrast largely see power as less important than <I>witness</I>. They argue that attachment to the GOP or to President Trump corrupts our churches and also prevents the church from effectively working towards racial reconciliation and incorporating more historically black churches into the SBC.

The Old Guard also opposes the growing trend towards Calvinism in the SBC. Greear is one of a number of younger SBC pastors much more Calvinist than those pastors of the prior generation. Baptists have always had Calvinist and non-Calvinist pastors. In England a century ago, this led to separate groups of General Baptists and Particular Baptists. The “Prince of Preachers,” Charles Spurgeon, was Calvinist, but Calvinists have been a relatively small minority in the SBC since 1925 to the present.

I could continue with other differences, but the upshot of the story is that the Old Guard basically refused to go along with the deal made two years ago, and they are supporting Ken Hemphill for SBC president.

The Old Guard is rural. The Young Guns are urban and suburban. But the theology of the Young Guns is not any less conservative. They are no less committed to inerrancy. And, politically, they are no less conservative about matters such as abortion. But they are less committed to the GOP, so they might not be as enthusiastic about tax cuts, and they might be more supportive of measures intended to end racism. It might come as no surprise that one of Hemphill’s biggest supporters is Richard Land, who led the ERLC before Russell Moore and kept it in lockstep with the GOP.

I expect Greear to win the election, but even more so after today. The idea that a break with the past needs to be made, and the SBC needs to chart a new direction, will be stronger than ever.

Ultimately, I’m very hopeful about the future of the SBC. The upheaval in the denomination is unfortunate, but necessary, and I believe we are going to be much stronger going forward, with a real witness for Christ and not just the “GOP at prayer.”

UPDATE.3: Last night at bedtime I attempted to post a screen grab of Pastor Rick Patrick’s apology, and assumed that it had posted. It didn’t. In any case, he has left this comment in the thread below:

I am grieved beyond words that I made the sarcastic comment. I took it down about two minutes after making it, but someone had captured a screenshot and sent it all over. Serves me right. It was wrong and inexcusable.

I was deeply upset at the time, and no one should ever post when that is the case. My perception was that people were attacking a man I greatly admired, and I was endeavoring (poorly, inappropriately) to say: “Anyone can just say that anybody else did something fifteen years ago, and people just presume they are guilty before being proven innocent.”

In any event, my sarcasm was aimed at the men I felt were attacking Patterson. I see now that many have construed my words as attacking the poor women who are many times, most of the time, genuinely victims of abuse. I am so ashamed that I have given this perception. It does not represent my beliefs in the least. I was myself a victim of physical and verbal abuse in my childhood. I would never want to add to anyone’s pain.

I would probably not have overreacted if not for the timing of the release of the Washington Post story, right as Patterson’s fate was being determined by the Trustees. It just had the ring of a “hit job” and it bothered me that we did not really know very much about the charges.

In any event, I am truly, truly sorry. Sick to my stomach sorry. Stay up all night sorry. This is not who I am. My hero in the ministry was taken down, and I lashed out. I am ashamed. I will learn from this. And it will never happen again.

Good for you, Pastor. God bless you for your repentance. I am someone who posts in anger and haste from time to time, and I am grateful for forgiveness when people offer it.

UPDATE.4: Paige Patterson is out — with a catch:

Prominent Southern Baptist leader Paige Patterson was removed from his job as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary amid an evangelical #MeToo moment: a massive backlash from women upset over comments he made in the past that are being newly perceived as sexist and demeaning.

Seminary leaders were unspecific about why they made the dramatic move, issuing a statement that didn’t mention the controversial comments and saying they were moving “in the direction of new leadership” due to challenges related to “enrollment, financial, leadership and institutional identity.”

The brief statement released early Wednesday said Patterson will be president emeritus, “for the benefit of the future mission of the Seminary.” He will receive compensation and may live on campus as “theologian-in-residence” at a brand new Baptist Heritage Center, the statement said.

That’s a pretty swank golden parachute. A paycheck and housing, plus “theologian in residence”? But he’s gone.

UPDATE.5: It occurs to me that the seminary trustees have activated what you might call the Cardinal Law Option, making Patterson the equivalent of Archpriest of a major Roman basilica. This gives him a way to save face (they think) and to be taken care of. The thing is, John Paul II’s moving Cardinal Law to that cush sinecure in Rome struck very many people as an injustice. This Southern Baptist seminary move will have the same effect, I think.



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