Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) trustees were under immense outside pressure during yesterday’s meeting to oust long-term president and bulwark of the Conservative Resurgence, Paige Patterson. Patterson, an old war-horse of conservative evangelicalism, has survived many scandals over his tenure. From protecting rapist, Darrell Gilyard to enrolling Muslims in the seminary as an evangelism strategy, Patterson’s giant footprint in Southern Baptist life has generally protected him from closer scrutiny. He could not survive, however, the current trajectory of the Southern Baptist Convention’s political correctness and fixation on social justice. Largely influenced by the same Baptists who have recently been promoting victimology and Cultural Marxism through Critical Race Theory, like Thom Rainer, Ed Stetzer, and Russell Moore, along with some national exposure thanks to the Washington Post and homosexual journalist, Jonathan Merritt, SWBTS trustees yesterday decided to dismiss Patterson with a “golden parachute,” a robust retirement package, permanent on-campus housing and an honorary, life-long title.
I predicted as much several weeks ago to some Southern Baptist insiders…
Southern Baptists don’t really fire their scoundrels. They give them retirement packages. As a part of the corruption of Southern Baptist Culture, some of the more notorious villains – even when caught in grievous errors – are let go with honorary titles, housing, and six-figure retirement budgets. From Bob Reccord – who resigned from NAMB after pilfering millions of dollars and was given a 500 thousand dollar severance package – to Ergun Caner, who was allowed to resign from Brewton Parker College after sexting, divorce and racism scandals without full disclosure regarding the reason for his dismissal, we regularly see SBC leaders given sweet back-door, red-carpeted exits.
The issue with Paige Patterson’s dismissal really isn’t one of deservedness. There are an infinite number of reasons why Patterson is unfit as SWBTS seminary president, many of them theological. Promoting the historically untenable and ridiculous idea of an Anabaptist origin of the Southern Baptist Convention, allowing a Muslim to enroll in the seminary secretly and deceptively against SWBTS bylaws, installing a stained glass window of Rick Warren in the SWBTS chapel, letting Eastern Orthodox idolaters preach on campus as though they were Christians, questionable personnel decisions and – as stated above – the most egregious support of a sexual predator, are all reasons why Patterson should have left the SBC seminary years ago. Patterson’s commitment to Scriptural Inerrancy and his role as one of the commanding generals of the Conservative Resurgence that swept the moderate-progressives from the denomination in the late eighties and early nineties, all protected him from the consequences of his problematic leadership. The issue is that it wasn’t any of these things that led to his rightful termination. The issue is that Patterson – one of the last remaining SBC entity leaders not brought to power by the overwhelming influence of Albert Mohler at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) – was largely dismissed because of external influence from the media caught up in the #MeToo Movement and by New Calvinists hell-bent on Social Justice both inside and outside the Southern Baptist Convention.
Waking up to see the news from SWBTS of Patterson’s departure and realizing the victory of New Calvinism and the spirits of the age against the old warhorse is like waking up to read in the headlines that China has invaded Russia. Picking a side is near impossible. I am, at best, indifferent. However, for what it’s worth, Southern Baptists need to understand exactly what is happening and grasp the meta-narrative.
Paige Patterson has made several faux-pas relevant to the #MeToo Movement, a social media phenomenon that has led to no shortage of public apologies, resignations and firings among public figures in entertainment, news media, and religion. Most famously with Harvey Weinstein; women coming forward to complain of past mistreatment have taken out the careers of news professionals like Matt Lauer, politicians like Al Franken, and religious leaders like Bill Hybels. The #MeToo victims range from true and authenticly abused and mistreated women who were out-right raped or intimidated into forced sexual behavior, to those who were the subjects of unwanted sexual advance or crude humor, to porn stars who had voluntary sex like Stormy Daniels. In other words, the #MeToo Movement has attracted authentic victims of rape, women subject to uncomfortable or inappropriate comments, and women who exhibited voluntary promiscuous behavior who simply went on later to regret it.
In Patterson’s case, an 18-year-old clip surfaced of him saying that abuse was not necessarily cause for divorce and that he was “glad” a woman was beaten because it led to the salvation of her husband, who felt remorse. This comment was made at an event held by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, a council on which many of his critics serve and some of them were in the room for the comment. There was little to no outrage (although, to be fair, the Survivor Blog community have been discussing it for quite some time) until a homosexual journalist, Jonathan Merritt, brought it back to light in the mainstream Christian press after it again made waves in the blogsophere. Likewise, a video surfaced in which Patterson was telling a whimsical story as a sermon illustration, when he said that an underaged but physically developed young woman was “nice,” which brought outrage. Patterson issued a public apology, but this was not enough for men like Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer, who still wanted blood in an attempt to settle old denominational scores.
It was at this point that Pulpit & Pen was told by those closely associated with the SWBTS trustee board that Patterson was still likely to “squeak through” yesterday’s trustee meeting. However, that changed when the Washington Post ran a story on the very day of the trustee meeting about Patterson allegedly telling a rape victim to forgive her perpetrator and not contact the police while he was president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS). Although like many #MeToo accounts, the story has heretofore been presented without corroborating evidence, it quickly became the straw that broke Patterson’s back. Like with Judge Roy Moore, the last minute (and probably coordinated to coincide with the trustee meeting) expose’ was devastating.
SWBTS TRUSTEES MISSING THE OPPORTUNITY
If SWBTS Trustees were hoping to escape criticism toward them or the institution, they failed miserably. The could have signaled their own virtue, making a hardline statement about the treatment of women and strongly criticizing Patterson. They did not. Instead, the SWBTS trustees issued a vague statement that they were moving “in the direction of new leadership” due to challenges related to “enrollment, financial, leadership and institutional identity (source link, WaPo). Furthermore, the trustees signed a statement claiming that Patterson had acted in accordance to all laws regarding the reporting of sexual abuse, a move meant to protect them and ward off any potential litigioius behavior toward the institution.
This move will pacify no one. The WaPo cited who is arguably the most liberal figure in Southern Baptist life, Karen Swallow Prior – who is a feminist, animal rights activist, and doesn’t believe abortion is murder, the very kind of woman who the Conservative Resurgence was designed to expunge from the denomination – who couldn’t find any opportunity to commend the trustees. Instead, Prior just waved the bloody scalp and along with many others of the left-leaning Southern Baptist leaders who are particularly invested in victimology.
The concern for men like Ed Stetzer – who was utterly silent toward Patterson’s long history of missteps while he was a Southern Baptist employee at Lifeway “Chrsitian” Resources – is not one of the rightness or wrongness of Patterson’s actions, but is a matter purely born out of public relations. Regarding Patterson’s upcoming slate at the Southern Baptist Convention meeting, Stetzer said, “If Paige Patterson preaches at the SBC, he will, because of his past work, get a standing ovation. Every news story will point to that moment … and say that Southern Baptists don’t take abuse seriously. … It’s a message to women that we must not send.”
Nothing will satisfy men like Stetzer who do not innately have a conscious of their own, but are purely driven by the shifting winds of public opinion. Whether or not what the SWBTS trustees did was morally correct, it will not satisfy the critics that will not be satiated until every Southern Baptist entity is run by someone on the board of the socially-progressive Gospel Coalition or until Russsell Moore is made the Venerable Lord and Master of the SBC, setting up a throne for the ERLC somewhere in Jerusalem.
THE BIG PICTURE
Southern Baptists should have been policing themselves years ago. Patterson’s ongoing support for culprits like Gilyard and Ergun Caner typify the corruption in America’s largest Protestant denomination. The man isn’t innocent of chicanery. The men who called for Patterson’s resignation in such self-righteous and sanctimonious fashion, all sat silently for years while Patterson continued in his behavior. Only emboldened by the courage on loan to them by the Hollywood #MeToo Movement did these men (and a few women) set their sites on the elder theologian and demand his resignation.
It’s at this point we can wonder if maybe a cultural movement like #MeToo or #BlackLivesMatter or Cultural Marxism, Critical Race Theory, or Identity Politics can be used as a force for good. After all, didn’t Patterson need to go? If so, why does it matter that it really wasn’t Southern Baptists who took out Patterson, but a shifting wind of cultural standards? Can these movements be co-opted or borrowed from culture to bring about good?
The question should be what exactly – or who exactly – is driving the Southern Baptist Convention. It has become increasingly clear in recent days that men like Thom Rainer and Ed Stetzer (even though he’s no longer an SBC employee) have more control over Southern Baptist sentiment than three or four entity heads put together. It’s also become increasingly clear that Russell Moore’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and its hordes of leftist “Research Fellows,” who seem as numerous and plentiful as the scorpions released from Apollyon’s abyss, are the defacto heads of the SBC. Even Albert Mohler sits quietly while Russell Moore takes the SBC increasingly left. And in some cases, Mohler is moving along in tandem with Moore, taking cues and marching in coordination.
Before you celebrate the removal of Patterson from SWBTS, ask yourself who exactly made it happen, and then ask yourself why. Politics are at play, and the motives of his accusers are not nearly as innocent as you may think.