When I pulled into the seven-figure neighborhood outside Dallas, I began to wonder to myself why a former seminary president would be living in a mansion in this posh suburb near Plano.
Then as I pulled up to the door, former Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson appeared with a calm but friendly presence, considering how the meeting developed a few months earlier. We had an intense email exchange regarding his infamous letter disparaging Fred Luter’s credibility and ability to lead the denomination.
After the pleasantries and being asked if I wanted afternoon tea and cookies, I was given a brief tour of the mansion with Patterson’s library being the focus. The furniture in the library struck me as unique. It felt as if it came from the seminary. After the tour of the library, Patterson and I had a cordial off-the-record, two-hour meeting and I flew back home to Atlanta. I appreciate that Patterson and I have remained cordial.
That library would show up again with the launching of the Conservative Baptist Network. As I watched the organization’s introductory video, I noticed that some of the testimonies were shot in Patterson’s library where I had visited. Patterson, as he has recently acknowledged, was involved in the creation of the Conservative Baptist Network.
Next week, the Southern Baptist Convention will congregate in Nashville for its annual meeting. Many items will be on the agenda, one of which is electing a new president. One of the men running for that post is Mike Stone, who also is deeply embedded in the Conservative Baptist Network.
Patterson, who has been accused of covering up sexual abuse issues, making crude remarks about a young woman during a sermon, and of abuses of power while seminary president, seems to have influenced Stone’s ideology. Like Patterson, Stone has sought to downplay the reality and threat of the sexual abuse problem in the SBC.
Russell Moore, former head of the SBC Ethics and Religion Liberty Commission, wrote in a recently publicized letter that SBC Executive Committee staff and others referred in his presence to victims of sexual abuse as “crazy” and as “worse than the sexual predators themselves.”
Stone issued a 15-minute video response to Moore’s leaked letter and declared, “I find the latest attack from Russell Moore to be absolutely slanderous, and it is as inflammatory as it is inaccurate.”
Yet on June 10, Pastor Phillip Bethancourt released audio clips of meetings he attended with Ronnie Floyd, chairman of the SBC Executive Committee, and Stone. Those recordings verify what Moore stated in a second leaked letter that had more recently been written to SBC President J.D. Greear.
Someone is not telling the truth. But the audio makes it clear who was attempting to block effective denominational responses to the convention’s sexual abuse problems. In fact, in one clip, Stone even puts forward the idea that the SBC Executive Committee felt they were the victims.
In one audio clip from an Oct. 8, 2019, meeting, Floyd says he is “not worried” about what survivors would say because his primary focus is to “preserve the base.” Floyd seems to have forgotten Matthew 18:12, where Jesus went after the one, leaving the 99. These women deserve better.
While Floyd says Bethancourt’s letter is a mischaracterization of his statements, it is hard to interpret his comments as anything other than protecting the denomination over the concerns of those who had been sexually abused by ministers of SBC churches. Protect the organization. Hide the abuse.
In another clip, Floyd wonders why there were no restrictions on speakers at an ERLC conference on combating sexual abuse in the denomination. One of the speakers brought up the mishandling of an abuse case, where the accuser states she was bullied and intimidated by the SBC Executive Committee. It’s obvious that story angered some, and Floyd felt it should not have come up.
David Phillips and I are not just friends but also are men who have been part of the SBC most of our lives. We both have left the denomination recently, but both of us have strong denominational affiliations. David served as the vice president of the General Mission Board of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. He also served on the SBC’s Committee on Committees in the mid-2000s. We also both agree that Ronnie Floyd and Mike Stone lack the integrity to lead a denomination in crisis.
Many are calling for an independent, third-party investigation into the actions of the Executive Committee. The potential also exists that more information will be released from those who were abused or who had interaction with the Executive Committee.
Actions and words have consequences. The actions and words of Floyd and Stone should result in them both being banned from denominational service in the future.
Maina Mwaura is a freelance writer and communications consultant who lives in the metro Atlanta area. A native of Orlando, Fla., he earned a bachelor of science degree in communications from Liberty University and a master of divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. David Phillips lives in Georgia and previously was a pastor in Delaware. He earned a bachelor of science degree from Athens State College in Athens, Ala, a master of divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and a doctor of ministry degree from George Fox Seminary and now works with an educational software company.