Those trustees at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary who terminated Dr. Paige Patterson just a week after moving him to the position of president emeritus are being asked to step down.
Accusations of Patterson allegedly mishandling domestic abuse cases have dominated the headlines for weeks. But as more information comes in disputing those claims, the focus now has shifted to how the executive committee of the 40-member SWBTS board of trustees handled the removal of the 75-year-old Patterson, one of the leaders of the "Conservative Resurgence" in the Southern Baptist Convention.
Dr. Tom Hatley is pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church Global Outreach Center in Rogers, Arkansas, and a former board chair of the SBC's International Mission Board. Hatley argues that the executive committee failed to use traditional protocols that have served Southern Baptists well in past situations, plus they should have been more deliberate in the process.
"Why move in a matter of minutes and then not produce the evidence – [but] just claim that it exists – and then take a vote immediately and announce it to the press, and then continue to repeat in the press 'It's done, it's done, it's done'?" he asks. "That's just not the Christian way or the [proper] protocol for going through the most important decision in the history of a seminary."
In an open letter to Southern Baptists, Hatley recommends that because of their actions the seminary board chairman and executive committee members resign their positions. "As a former board chairman, this is not the way that you come to decisions that bring about the type of unity that's needed for a school or an agency to go forward and be effective," he tells OneNewsNow.
Hatley recommends in the letter "an honest third-party review of [the] accusations and evidence," and that Patterson be reinstated as president "but with no direct duties or involvement with any issues involving moral failure at the school" until his retirement.
In the letter, Hatley states:
"I know there are many programs and initiatives in place at Southwestern that will be damaged by a sudden change in direction. Dr. Patterson is near retirement and has been readying the ministries of the school for a smooth and powerful transition to whoever is the new president. The Kingdom of our Lord would be best served if he is leading the school while proper investigation is ongoing."
The Arkansas pastor goes on to tell OneNewsNow that if there is no smooth transition then "it's going to mean a lot of pastors are not trained and a lot of churches are not starting. This has Kingdom ramifications – huge Kingdom ramifications; not just about Paige Patterson having a job."
The future of the SBC is "up in the air," says Hatley, and he calls on the convention to pray and come together in love. He also says the SBC needs to look back at its heritage:
"Some of these people who are now in some of our boards and agencies do not believe in the inerrancy of scripture, and they do not believe in the scriptural application of things like the role of women in ministry. And that's what's driving a lot of these changes: people who want women to be pastors and other leaders and have more liberal tendency than is in our history. That's a factor.
"Who are we going to be in five years? And if we are not the denomination that's the only one – the major denomination – that turned back the clock and went from a more liberal stance to a conservative stance; the Conservative Resurgence of the '80s and '90s that turned us back to the Bible – if that now has no power, then what are we going to be able to call ourselves moving forward?
"We need to stop heading in this direction and go back to being the Conservative Resurgence denomination."