Dethroned seminary president Paige Patterson defended a fellow Southern Baptist preacher often maligned for his unwavering support of President Donald Trump, anointing Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress a prophet in a column posted Nov. 19 on the Internet.
Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, retweeted Patterson’s tribute, written in a style mimicking the Fox News contributor’s many detractors under the headline “Come on, Dr. Jeffress!”
“Ah, come on now, Dr. Jeffress. Why don’t you just preach the gospel and leave politics to the social justice warriors who say that they know what they are doing?” the former president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary wrote on the Paige Patterson Ministries website, paigepatterson.org.
“Oh, wait a minute,” Patterson answered his own question. “You actually do preach the gospel about as consistently and insistently as anyone I know.”
Patterson returned to interrogation, asking the clergyman who once called the president’s alleged affair with a porn star “totally irrelevant” to his evangelical base, “Why do you not ‘trump’ Trump?”
“His style is not what anyone is used to, and his past is apparently not what a believer is looking for,” Patterson objected.
“Well, yes, I admit that the president has done more for the pre-born in their mothers’ wombs than any other president; the unemployment rate is the lowest anyone can remember; the economy is booming; he has kept his word about what he promised, and overwhelmingly minorities in America have a new start,” Patterson wrote. “He has openly asked for God’s intervention in the life of America, but he is just ’er … well, so different, and surely that must be sinful. Come on Dr. Jeffress! Can’t you understand that this is all about style? Thousands do not care what the president does. It is how he does it that makes feathers stand on end.”
Patterson went on to state that Jeffress gets it right, declaring “the mantle of Elijah has fallen around your shoulders.”
“The spirit of the prophet dwells in you because you follow God’s Word even if no one else sees it,” Patterson wrote.
“Amid the cacophony of thousands of non-biblical voices, many of us are grateful to you this day. Let Jeffress be heard!”
Patterson also defended himself against recent attempts to portray him as a racist.
Ben Cole, a onetime student of Patterson who is researching SBC archives for an upcoming book, recently resurfaced a 2012 letter from Patterson worrying that electing people of color to SBC leadership posts might water down commitment to core convictions of the Conservative Resurgence movement that he co-founded with Judge Paul Pressler in 1979.
Cole, now one of Patterson’s chief critics, taunted him in a Twitter post Nov. 12: “Oh hai Paige. Can you help us understand what you meant in 2012 when you said SBC Pres @FredLuter caused you to ‘quake’ and that ‘ethnic’ leaders don’t ‘understand the issues’ like white men do? Do black men have a greater propensity for ‘backsliding’?”
Patterson responded in kind Nov. 15, publishing personal correspondence from Cole in 2017 about a photo blasted on social media showing white faculty members at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary posing as black rappers.
“On the issue of race, your consistent witness is untarnished,” Cole wrote at the time. “I’m sorry this has created a headache for you and your faculty. If ever given the opportunity, I would defend you all the way and repudiate those who might attribute to you or the institution you lead any racist motive in this matter.”
Two years ago Southwestern Seminary apologized for the “offensive” Twitter photo posted by an individual and asked that it be removed.
“Sometimes, Anglo Americans do not recognize the degree that racism has crept into our lives,” Patterson said in comments quoted April 26, 2017, by Baptist Press. “Such incidents are tragic but helpful to me in refocusing on the attempt to flush from my own system any remaining nuances of the racist past of our own country. Just as important, my own sensitivity to the corporate and individual hurts of a people group abused by generations of oppressors needs to be constantly challenged.”
Patterson, long hailed as a hero who almost singlehandedly rescued the nation’s second largest faith group from drifting into liberal Mainline Protestantism, fell rapidly from grace when the #MeToo movement began viewing him as a misogynist whose indifference to rape allegations created a culture at two SBC seminaries that was inherently dangerous for women.
Southwestern Seminary trustees fired Patterson in May 2018, revoking retirement benefits and an honorary title bestowed a month earlier, amid allegations that he mishandled reports of sexual abuse both while serving as president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary 1992-2003 and during his 15 years as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
A lawsuit pending in federal court alleges that Patterson “had a custom of ignoring female students’ complaints of sexual harassment and stalking behavior by male student-employees” while leading Southwestern in 2014 and 2015.
Patterson denies specific allegations made in the lawsuit, while claiming a blanket First Amendment defense that the Constitution forbids secular courts from interfering in internal affairs of a religious body.
Jeffress defended Patterson in 2018, offering: “I think this is unfair what is being leveled against Paige Patterson – and I’m going to predict he’s going to survive it.”