For over three decades the highest echelon of Southern Baptist Convention leadership has been a good-ole-boys network in which an elite and powerful few effectively answer to no one but themselves. For a long time, Paige Patterson was king of the SBC mountain. He belonged there. He didn’t build the mountain, but he kept the SBC from crumbing into unsustainable liberalism, the kind that has devastated mainline American denominations. As king of the mountain, Paige Patterson and his conservative allies took it upon themselves to identify the next generation of conservative leadership. One of them they identified was Darrell Gilyard.
Gillyard is at best a womanizer and is at worst a sexual predator. He is exactly the kind of man who should have never been in ministry. A fiery and charismatic preacher, Gillyard was once hailed as a “black Jerry Vines.” Vines was another member of the SBC good-ole-boy network of power brokers. Gillyard was taken under the wing of Jerry Vines and Patterson and foisted upon the Southern Baptist preaching circuit and the members of unsuspected churches. Eventually, woman after woman would come forward with stories of Gillyard’s sexual impropriety. Gillyard’s early behavior made it clear that he was once-and-for-all disqualified from pastoral ministry. Still, Patterson sought to rehabilitate him. Years later Patterson’s paternal promotion of Gillyard, whom he referred to as a “son,” to him has come back to bite him in the pages of the Houston Chronicle. Today The Chronicle published an article entitled “The women are hurting: Unearthed tapes show Southern Baptist leaders’ support for pastor who faced sex scandal.” The article is a part of The Chronicle’s “Abuse of Faith” series which has documented a number of abuse cover-ups in Southern Baptist Churches.
However, the Gillyard case is hardly breaking news. Baptist blogs have been exposing the cronyism of Patterson and the SBC good-ole-boys for years. Pulpit & Pen wrote about Gillyard and Patterson five years ago; Baptist interest blogger Tom Rich has written about the issue as well. It’s no secret. It’s old news of the same old, same old. From the convicted sex criminal Gillyard to the charlatan preacher Ergun Caner, Patterson and his ilk have looked the other way when their chosen ones choose to fornicate with or fleece the flock. Yet, the Houston Chronicle led its story with the following statement:
For decades, Paige Patterson has been a towering figure in the Southern Baptist Convention, having led the nation’s second-largest faith group toward a literal interpretation of the Bible and limits on the role of women in churches.
The implication here is clear: SBC leaders are misogynists who keep women out of leadership, looking down on them as lesser while failing to protect them from sexual predation. The problem is not the biblical theology championed by Paige Patterson and the other leaders of the SBC’s historic conservative resurgence era. The Bible is inerrant. The Bible should be literally believed (in a literal way where context demands it). Women do compliment men, the pastoral office being limited to men. Paige Patterson did the wrong thing with Darrell Gillyard and perhaps in many more cases. He enriched and empowered himself and his allies during the conservative resurgence…but he wasn’t wrong to condemn and fight against theological liberalism.
The lesson to be learned here is that the church should take out its own trash before the liberal mainstream media puts its own spin on events.
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.