By Bob Allen
There’s no room in the church for whistleblowers, a Southern Baptist seminary president said in a chapel sermon Oct. 15.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson said the prohibition in First Corinthians 6 on church members suing one another in secular court means “we don’t take matters before unbelievers.”
“This also means that you don’t take matters to the press,” Patterson said. “What goes on in the church of God doesn’t go to the press.”
“If I had fifty dollars for every time that I have told somebody from the press: ‘I’m not going to comment on that because, frankly, it’s none of your business; it’s the church of God’ — if I had fifty dollars for every time I’ve done that, this would be a wealthy institution and you wouldn’t have to pay any tuition at all,” he said.
Patterson said that response is never popular. “‘Well, don’t you believe in a free press?’ Yes. ‘Don’t you believe in a free ministry?’”
“I’m not going to talk to the press about things that are matters internal to the church of the Living God,” Patterson said. “It is none of their business. And they can’t possibly get it right, and they don’t get it right, so why do you take it to the world of unbelief? Whether that be the court, whether that be the press? ‘Well there’s just no other way to handle it.’ Yes there is. Commit it to the Lord God Almighty.”
Patterson said the reason grievances between church members wind up in court or the media is: “If I appeal to the church elders, if I appeal to the church congregation as a whole in the matter where I have been offended, where I’ve been misused and abused and misrepresented, if I appeal to them they may not get it right. What do I do if the church makes a mistake?”
“The church will make mistakes,” Patterson said. “The church is made up of fallible human beings — hopefully redeemed human beings, but we know not all of them are. We can tell it because by their fruits you shall know them, and we can’t be root inspectors but it’s unavoidable to be fruit inspectors. When there’s no fruit it’s pretty good indication that they’ve never really been saved.”
“But even if it’s the saved of the Lord Jesus, we still live in mortal bodies; we still can make mistakes,” he said. “The church of the Living God may very well make a mistake, and Paul anticipates it and says: ‘You don’t understand. You still don’t go to the court. Why don’t you learn to just accept wrong, just to accept injustice?’”
“You say it’s not in my basic makeup to do that,” Patterson said. “It isn’t in mine either. You know I’m an Irish Texan, let’s fight. But it is what God’s word demands.”