Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines sought forgiveness from women hurt by careless remarks in the past by a 75-year-old seminary president recently resurrected in social media.
Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., said in a statement released through Baptist Press that he appreciates Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson for leadership current and past but disagrees with advice Patterson gave years ago to a woman in an abusive marriage to stay with her husband and pray for his soul.
“I personally believe that if a husband abuses his wife physically, the wife should immediately: 1) notify the police and follow their instructions, 2) remove herself and her children physically from the abusive husband under the protection of police for her safety, and 3) notify the family’s pastor so the church can engage in church discipline toward the abuser,” Gaines said. “The church should also seek to come alongside the woman and help her in any way possible to ensure her protection and care.”
Gaines also said he believes more recent remarks by Patterson commenting on the appearance of a teenage girl were improper.
“On behalf of the SBC, I ask for the forgiveness of all women who have been hurt by these comments and the issue of ill treatment of women within churches in particular,” Gaines said. “The church especially is no place for misogyny or disrespect for anyone.”
Patterson, a lead architect of a 20th-century movement to purge moderates from SBC leadership and replace them with people who read the Bible more literally, has apologized for video of him referring to the teenager as “built” and “fine.” He also clarified comments he made in 2000, saying he does not condone abuse.
More than 3,000 names appear on an online petition calling for Patterson’s dismissal. The seminary’s board of trustees will meet in a called session May 22 to discuss the controversy in advance of next month’s SBC annual meeting, where Patterson is scheduled to give a major address.
Denominational officials expect the June 12-13 convention in Dallas to be the largest annual gathering in nearly a decade.
Gaines said people have asked him about disinviting Patterson from speaking, but it is out of his hands.
“The SBC president does not have the authority to make that decision,” Gaines said. “Neither does the SBC Committee on Order of Business. It was the messengers of the 2017 SBC meeting that selected Dr. Patterson to preach the 2018 convention sermon.”
Gaines said “only two scenarios” exist for Patterson not to preach. Patterson could voluntarily withdraw or convention messengers could vote to amend the agenda to hear an alternate preacher instead.