2018: allegations of sexual abuse
misconduct scandals within the
Southern Baptist Convention (SBC):
2018-MAY: Seminary Professor Paige Patterson was demoted because of his past comments about and to abused women:
More than 3,000 Southern Baptist women have signed a protest letter asking that Patterson be removed as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. 1 They were primarily concerned with past comments that he made about women that are many perceive as sexist and demeaning. They included:
"... remarking on a teenage girl’s figure, and saying female seminarians need to work harder to look attractive. He also said women who are abused almost always should stay with their husbands." 1
On MAY-23, he was fired as President by the seminary trustees after a lengthy consideration of his statements. This is remarkable because the trustees are about 90% male and 10% female. 1
However, they initially decided tht he will remain at the Seminary as President Emeritus, will continue to receive a salary, and may live on campus as a "theologian in residence." Trustees transferred D. Jeffrey Bingham, from the post of dean of the Seminary's school of theology, to become the interim president.
One incident in 2003 might have influenced the trustees in taking these steps. A female student at the Seminary had been sexually assaulted by a male student. She was required to describe her experience in a meeting that included Patterson and as many as five others. He told her to forgive her rapist and to not report the incident to authorities. She receive a probation notice the next day, which did not explain a reason why. It might have been because she had invited the man up to her dorm room, which is a violaton of Seminary policy.
Responses to the firing of Patterson by some of the SBC women who had signed the protest letter were mixed:
Some were pleased with the trustees' decision. Professor Karen Swallow Prior at Liberty University, said:
"Misogyny and disrespecting women has nothing to do with scriptural teaching." 1
Others felt that allowing Patterson to remain at the seminary did not transmit a strong enough message:
One is Krissie Inserra, who is married to a SBC pastor. She said:
"Women and men in the SBC and in general aren’t going to stand for this. There has to be some real consequences, and we need to show people — we need to have the conviction to do what’s right. None of this was right. Just because he had a major role to play decades ago -- and we’ll be forever grateful for that -- there still need to be consequences for his actions in recent years." 1
Another is Bekah Mason, 38, a Southern Baptist seminary alumna, who said:
“There hasn’t been any acknowledgment from the board or Patterson that we have considerably hurt and damaged not only those women who came forward, but because of that, we have a generation in our denomination who now has to work to overcome what we’ve been taught about gender roles and relations between men and women, and how we handle abuse."
Denny Burk, a Southern Baptist professor and president of the complementary group, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, said:
"I am very grateful that the trustees chose to act with moral clarity. If there was some question about that before, there can be no question now. Indeed, they declare ‘the Seminary stands against all forms of abuse and grieves for individuals wounded by abuse'." 5
On 2018-MAY-30, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary revisited their earlier demotion of former President Paige Patterson. They removed his title as President Emeritus, terminated his salary, and cancelled their invitation for him to live on the Seminary campus.
Albert Mohler Jr., president of the the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary -- the SBC's main seminary -- wrote a powerful and blistering article on his personal web site. He said, in part:
"Judgment has now come to the house of the Southern Baptist Convention. The terrible swift sword of public humiliation has come with a vengeance. There can be no doubt that this story is not over. This moment requires the very best of us. The Southern Baptist Convention is on trial and our public credibility is at stake. May God have mercy on us all." 2
There has been a massive change in SBC beliefs in recent decades which is often called "the Conservative Resurgence" by those promoting the change and "the Fundamentalist Takeover" by more liberal members. Patterson played a major role in the denomination's return to fundamentalist beliefs. This return has resulted in a major change to the perceived role of women. The denomination's interpretation of the Bible, which they believe to be inerrant, specifies that God created women and men be treated differently. They are to complement each other and are take different roles in the family and elsewhere. The SBC recently banned female senior pastors within their denomination and now teach that women should be submissive to their husbands. 1 But Mohler also notes that the Bible:
"... reveals God’s steadfast and unyielding concern for the abused, the threatened, the suffering, and the fearful. There is no excuse whatsoever for abuse of any form: verbal, emotional, physical, spiritual or sexual. The Bible warns so clearly of those who would abuse power and weaponize authority."
He concludes that physical abuse must not be tolerated. When it happens, it must be reported it to the proper authorities.
There is a passage in Matthew 25 referring to the "sheep and goats " that is often ignored by conservative Christians. It describes the "sheep" as those people who helped other people in need: the sick, naked, imprisoned, hungry, poor, etc. These "sheep" are admitted to Heaven. The "goats" are those who ignore the needy. Since abusing the needy is viewed by most people as worse than ignoring them, it is logical that abusers would also be regarded as "goats." The Bible says that the "goats" end up in the torture chambers of Hell after death, for eternity. However, the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) are ambiguous on this point. Some passages imply that the "goats" are actually annihilated and no longer exist in any form. During their lifetime, a typical individual will have helped some people in need and ignored or abused others. Unfortunately, the Bible does not define a rating system, so nobody can know in advance whether they have reached a "passing grade" to be considered a "sheep" until their "final judgment" after they have died.
Mohler compared the current crisis in the SBC with the ongoing crisis in the Roman Catholic Church that has involved some priests' sexual abuse, primarily of post-pubescent male minors 3 that has :
"robbed the Roman Catholic Church of so much of its moral authority." 2
2018-JUN-12/13: SBC Annual Meeting:
Because of the controversy over his past statements, Patterson cancelled his scheduled delivery of the main sermon at the denomination’s annual meeting in Dallas during June. 4
At the SBC meeting, a small group of protestors demonstrated outside the building. Some held signs that read "End Abuse Now - MeToo" and "Jesus never shamed women."
Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX) delivered the keynote speech at the convention. The theme of his talk was unrelated to the above crisis. He said that the U.S. faces a different religious crisis because some people are trying to:
"... silence the faithful and remove God from the public square. ... One thing that we all know is that the onslaught against religious liberty is going to continue to come in the coming years. And now, more than ever, we need your help to respond to this challenge."
He appears to be referring to the growing controversy over whether public accommodations -- typically retail stores that sell goods and services to the general public -- should be allowed to discriminate against customers on the basis of the owner's religious beliefs in violation of the Golden Rule, and both state laws and municipal ordinances concerning human rights. There have been many prominent conflicts after store owners refused to fill the orders of gay customers. Most were related to purchases of wedding cakes, photographs, venue rentals, etc. by engaged lesbian or gay couples for their wedding.
J.D. Greear, pastor at the Summit Church in Raleigh, NC was elected Convention President for the next year. Christian Headlines, from which information about the convention was obtained for this essay did not indicate whether he was male or female. However, the prejudice against female leaders is so high in the denomination that it is inconceivable that Greear is not a male.
Republican Vice President Mike Pence delivered a speech at the meeting. Garrett Kell, pastor of Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria, VA, made a motion to replace Pence's speech with an interval of prayer. Kell felt that Pence's speech could negatively affect the unity of the SBC, send confusing signals about the Gospel, and endanger SBC missionaries in some areas of the world. His motion was defeated. Pence thanked the Baptists for their witnesses and contributions to the moral fabric of the U.S. Most of his speech dealt with the political accomplishments of the Trump administration during its first 500 days in office.
Several messengers -- the term used to describe attendees at the convention, suggested that the SBC never allow an elected politicl official or candidate to address annual meetings in the future. These proposals will be considered by the SBC Executive Committee.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Bobby Ross Jr., et al., "Prominent Southern Baptist leader removed as seminary president following controversial remarks about abused women," The Washington Post, 2018-MAY-23, at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/
Albert Mohler, "The Wrath of God Poured Out — The Humiliation of the Southern Baptist Convention," Personal web site, 2018-MAY-23, at: https://albertmohler.com/
"Catholic Church sexual abuse cases," Wikipedia, as on 2018-MAY-28, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/
Adelle M. Banks, "Patterson won’t address meeting as Southern Baptists gather amid scandals," Religion News, 2018-JUN-08, at: https://religionnews.com/
Kate Shellnutt, "Paige Patterson Fired by Southwestern, Stripped of Retirement Benefits," Christianity Today, 2018-JUN-08, at: https://www.christianitytoday.com/
- Scott Slayton, "SBC Wraps Up Eventful Meeting in Dallas," email from Christian Headlines, 2018-JUN-15.
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Copyright © 2018 Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Author: B.A. Robinson
Original posting: 2018-JUN-15