Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s new president emeritus offered no new apologies in his first words to the campus community since his removal as the school’s president.
“We are of course hurt, but we did not compromise,” Paige and Dorothy Patterson said in an email hours after Tuesday’s marathon trustee meeting precipitated by a backlash to his previous comments about women. “What matters in all this is not the lives of a couple of old soldiers, but your bright futures for Christ.”
Patterson has previously apologized for once counseling a woman to stay with an abusive husband and sexual innuendo in a sermon illustration involving a minor, but he also contends there is a campaign against him.
As seminary trustees gathered, a Washington Post story broke about a former student who says Patterson encouraged her not to report a rape when he was president of another Southern Baptist Convention seminary in 2003.
The woman, put in contact with Post reporter Sarah Pulliam with help from a Southern Baptist blogger often critical of Patterson’s views, says when she reported her sexual assault, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary officials interrogated her and ultimately put her on probation for having the man in her apartment.
Another woman reported similar experiences May 22 on Facebook. Megan Cox, a pastoral counselor in Denver who runs a non-profit to help women fleeing an abusive spouse, said she first went to campus officials to report what she knew about abuse happening to a friend.
Cox said a seminary official told her “this happens all the time” and said casually “there is nothing we can do,” even though the man was studying to be a pastor.
Cox said she called the same counselor many times about her own non-physical abuse by her then-husband, a seminary student, and he advised her to be more active in bed. Eventually, when “things began to get physical” she packed up their four kids and left.
“Paige Patterson’s teaching and support of the good ole’ boy system has hurt so many more women than I could count,” she said, encouraging the Post reporter to “keep on digging” into the story.
A pro-Patterson blogger, meanwhile, landed in hot water for doubting that women coming out against Patterson are telling the truth.
Rick Patrick, an Alabama pastor who in 2016 preached a sermon at Southwestern Seminary labeling Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention a Trojan Horse, resigned as publisher of the blog SBC Today after apologizing for sarcastic comments on Facebook.
Patrick said in social media the “hit job” against Patterson reminded him “of the time I saw a donkey being gang raped” by five specific individuals that he mentioned by name.
“As the only person who witnessed the act, I knew I should have reported it at the time, but I was afraid,” Patrick, pastor of First Baptist Church in Sylacauga, Ala., posted in a closed Facebook group for members of Connect316, the anti-Calvinist group behind Patrick’s blog.
Patrick said the post was up only a couple a minutes before he realized it was in poor taste and took it down, but by then screen shots were captured and spreading through social media. Patrick offered a “heartfelt apology and resignation” for words written in anger.
The Connect 316 board of directors called the remarks “reprehensible and unbecoming of Christian comportment” and accepted Patrick’s resignation.
Other Southern Baptists contend that seminary trustees gave Patterson, who will retire on campus with compensation, little more than a wrist slap.
Jacob Denhollander, husband of Rachael Denhollander — star witness in the January sentencing of former U.S. Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar — called the outcome “incredibly disappointing.”
“While Patterson is no longer the president of SWBTS, that was never the ultimate goal,” Denhollander, a doctoral student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, commented on social media. “The hope was that SWBTS trustees would recognize that this wasn’t about Patterson, but about sending a clear message about the worth of a woman.”
Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler said in an essay the denomination “is in the midst of its own horrifying #MeToo moment.”
“We thought this was a Roman Catholic problem,” said Mohler, a leader among the young, restless and Reformed Baptist crowd. “When people said that Evangelicals had a similar crisis coming, it didn’t seem plausible — even to me.”
“I have been president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for 25 years,” Mohler said. “I did not see this coming.”
“I was wrong,” Mohler added. “The judgment of God has come.”