He was twice elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention and, since June 2003, had led one of the largest seminaries in the world. Now, he's out – completely.
Last week, the board of trustees at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary announced that Dr. Paige Patterson was no longer president of the school and had been appointed president emeritus of the Fort Worth-based seminary. The reason? He had been accused of mishandling cases more than a decade ago dealing with women who say they were facing abuse.
Yesterday the trustees – citing "new information" – took it a step further, resolving unanimously to terminate Patterson, removing all the benefits, rights, and privileges provided under the earlier decision:
"During the May 30, 2018, Executive Committee meeting of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) Board of Trustees, new information confirmed this morning was presented regarding the handling of an allegation of sexual abuse against a student during Dr. Paige Patterson's presidency at another institution and resulting issues connected with statements to the Board of Trustees that are inconsistent with SWBTS's biblically informed core values." (Excerpt from SWBTS statement)
Dr. Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, made these statements earlier (before Wednesday's decision) in the context of the allegations against Patterson:
"The SBC is in the midst of what has to be described as its own horrifying #MeToo moment," Mohler wrote. "The avalanche of sexual misconduct that has come to light in recent weeks is almost too much to bear. These grievous revelations of sin have occurred in churches, in denominational ministries, and even in our seminaries."
Mohler suggests that the biblical teaching of men and women having different and complementary roles in the home and the church may have allowed what he calls "camouflage for abusive males and permission for the abuse and mistreatment of women" in Southern Baptist seminaries and churches.
As of this writing, Patterson is still scheduled to deliver the keynote sermon at the SBC's annual convention, this year taking place in Dallas on June 12-13.
Dr. Tom Ascol is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida. He has moved in and among SBC leadership for decades, and he says something indeed is wrong. "I think – as we are approaching our convention in Dallas – that God is removing the curtain behind which so much of our denominational life has been lived, and we are being confronted with some ugly realities," he tells OneNewsNow.
But Ascol warns to not let the cure be worse than the disease. "I hate to see the problems addressed in ways that are contrary to the very Bible that we say we believe," the Florida pastor offers. "That's my fear of what may be happening and could well continue to happen in even increased ways."
He is praying that Southern Baptist leadership exposes and roots out the sin and also maintains a biblical view of the roles of men and women as different and complementary.