Southern Baptist leader Paige Patterson has surrendered his assignment of delivering the keynote sermon at next week’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, while denying published reports that led to his recent firing as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Seminary chief of staff Scott Colter reported this morning on Twitter that Patterson had “announced his kind withdrawal” from the convention sermon “in an effort to bring harmony to the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Baptist Press published a letter reportedly from Patterson to SBC President Steve Gaines saying that after “days of soul-searching” he concluded that he would neither preach the convention sermon nor give a scheduled report at the June 12-13 gathering in Dallas.
In a separate letter sent to denominational media, Patterson, 75, said he is skipping the SBC annual meeting for the first time since he was 9 years old.
Patterson, a key leader in the Southern Baptist Convention for decades, ran into a firestorm of criticism after remarks he made decades ago about women. They were resurrected in the context of today’s #MeToo movement protesting abuse toward women by powerful men in entertainment, politics and the pulpit.
Leaders of the seminary’s board of trustees eventually fired him over allegations that he mishandled reported rapes both during his 15 years at Southwestern and before that at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina.
Patterson accepted blame for choosing his words poorly but denied that he “ever knowingly ignored or failed to follow appropriate protocols in cases of reported abuse of women, students, or staff at any institution where I have served.”
“For my words, demeanor, sentiments, or disposition to have been twisted to suggest the very antithesis to who I am and the biblical message I have presented over half a century not only is crushing to me and my family but also inevitably proves hurtful to others in the process,” he said. “I have never sought to inflict hurt upon a woman or man.”
Patterson is also among individuals accused in a separate lawsuit of covering up child sexual abuse by his “conservative resurgence” co-founder Paul Pressler. Both men deny the allegations.
Patterson’s voluntary withdrawal ends weeks of speculation about whether he would go forward with plans to preach at the convention despite the risk of being replaced on the program by a majority vote from the floor. Kie Bowman, pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, elected last year as the alternate convention preacher, will deliver the sermon in Patterson’s stead.