Hundreds of Southern Baptist women are signing an online petition calling for removal of a seminary president for views on the subjugation of women they say are unbiblical.
As of noon Monday, more than 1,700 names appeared on an open letter from Southern Baptist women who support the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 positions on the roles of men and women in the family and church.
The letter urges trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary “to take decisive action” against President Paige Patterson for resurfaced recordings of past comments on womanhood, sexuality and domestic violence and “the poor gospel witness they reflect.”
“The world is watching us all, brothers,” the women say. “They wonder how we could possibly be part of a denomination that counts Dr. Patterson as a leader.”
“They wonder if all Southern Baptist men believe that the biblical view of a sixteen-year-old girl is that she is ‘built’ and ‘fine’ — an object to be viewed sexually,” the letter says. “They wonder if all Southern Baptist pastors believe it is acceptable to counsel an abused woman in the way that Dr. Patterson has done in the past. They wonder if the Jesus of the Bible is like such men. We declare that Jesus is nothing like this and that our first duty as Southern Baptists is to present a true picture of Jesus to the world.”
Board chair Kevin Ueckert announced over the weekend that trustees will meet May 22 to discuss controversy swirling over Patterson’s advice in 2000 to a woman to prayerfully submit to an abusive spouse.
Patterson doubled down in a statement clarifying what he remembers saying 18 years ago and accusing Internet critics of intentionally mischaracterizing his views. Since then video emerged showing Patterson objectifying a 16-year-old girl in a sermon illustration in 2014.
Four decades ago, Patterson led a takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention using the banner of biblical inerrancy — the view that the Bible is free from error not only in matters of faith but also where it speaks to science and history.
He helped draft the Danvers Statement, articulating a view known as complementarianism that says men and women are equal in God’s eyes but created for different roles in the church and home. The statement underlies changes made to the Southern Baptist Convention’s official confession of faith calling for wives to submit to their husbands at home and saying that women cannot preach or hold authority over men in church.
The called trustee meeting comes at a time when a number of people are calling for Patterson, 75, to retire from the seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, he has led since 2003. Adding to the pressure, Patterson is scheduled to give an address at next month’s SBC annual meeting in Dallas, setting up the possibility of a public rebuke.
“The Southern Baptist Convention cannot allow the biblical view of leadership to be misused in such a way that a leader with an unbiblical view of authority, womanhood, and sexuality be allowed to continue in leadership,” the open letter to seminary trustees says.
Before becoming president of Southwestern Seminary, Patterson led Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. He was elected SBC president in 1998 and 1999.
In 2007, Patterson fired a Hebrew teacher because she is a woman. The same year Southwestern launched a course of study in homemaking. His wife, Dorothy, serves on faculty as professor of theology in women’s studies.
Patterson is also named in a sexual abuse lawsuit against his “conservative resurgence” co-founder Paul Pressler. Both men deny any wrongdoing.
Patterson has his defenders. An open letter on the blog SBC Today describes a “a coup to forcibly remove” him as president at Southwestern by putting pressure on seminary trustees.
“Honestly, if not for Patterson, our denomination would be so steeped in liberal theology we would have pro-choice homosexual ministers embracing evolution and endorsing Hillary,” SBC Today publisher Rick Patrick said in a blog April 30. “Instead of attacking him, we should be thanking him.”
Prior to the current controversy, the seminary executive board invited Patterson to live on campus after retirement as first scholar-in-residence at the Baptist Heritage Center, a new library opening this fall that will house collections relevant to study of the “Conservative Resurgence.”