Included in this article are some personal thoughts regarding Dr. and Mrs. Patterson, a response by the Patterson’s lawyers to the charges made by the trustees, a link to some enlightening comments and documents provided by Sharayah Colter, links to the three public statements by the trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), and articles by Dr. David Allen, Dr. Norman Geisler, and Dr. Patterson’s open letter. The public statements by the SWBTS trustees are helpful if you are not aware of what has transpired recently regarding Dr. Patterson’s presidency at SWBTS.
In recent weeks, accusations and charges have been made against Dr. Paige Patterson regarding his leadership as former president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) and his now former presidency of SWBTS. These accusations ultimately led the executive committee of the SWBTS trustees to fire Dr. Patterson on May 30, 2018. Their decision included summarily canceling all agreements made between the full board of trustees and Dr. Patterson in its full board meeting on May 23, 2018.
Gina and I have known Dr. and Mrs. Patterson since we were students at Criswell College, 1982–85. Criswell was attended by both men and women going into ministry. Both were treated as individuals created in the image of God. We have been able to observe the Patterson’s lives and leadership in a host of scenarios for almost four decades. There have been many situations that were what I would consider unbearably painful for them; yet, by the grace of God, they graciously and steadfastly faced them all.
On one occasion, Gina and I were privy to a most painful betrayal by some people. Then, we were present in a public setting as the Pattersons served those who hurt them so deeply; they treated the ones who hurt them with kindness, grace, and the dignity their position deserved. No one who witnessed their sacrificial service could have detected the incalculable pain they were suffering.
The Pattersons would be the first to tell you they have made mistakes and have regrets of how they handled some things when they were younger; even this tells of their humility and keen awareness of their own human frailty as well as their ever-present need for Christ’s strength, grace, and forgiveness in their lives.
At critical times in serving in the convention and my local church, Dr. Patterson has given me wise and gracious counsel and encouragement. I assure you, wise and gracious does not mean soft and psychological. Rather, it means it proved to be a word from God for me, no matter how difficult it was to hear at the moment. God used this counsel to embolden me to remain faithful to my task without bitterness, anger, or seeking revenge, but only seeking grace.
Additionally, no one should deduce from the Patterson’s attention and care toward us that we are a part of Dr. Patterson’s close associates, friends, or have any significance with regard to the task God has given him. Quite the opposite is actually true. In the context of Dr. Patterson’s significance in the Southern Baptist Convention, conservative resurgence, and the kingdom at large, we are not even the proverbial flies on the wall. That is what makes their involvement in helping us all the more astonishing. We know we are not special because this is the way they respond to countless others. I have witnessed their treatment of layman, laywomen, and staff members of large and small churches with an equal sacrifice of their time, love, and attention. We do not deem their attention toward us as setting us apart, but rather, it once again sets them apart as sacrificial servants.
Without exception, they have proven to be exemplary role models for Christians, including awareness of their own flaws and failures. Gina and I have always been humbled and challenged by their untiring devotion to Christ and restoring of the biblical integrity of the gospel and Scripture into the very fabric of the Southern Baptist Convention.
No, we do not think they are perfect (or even close). Jesus said there is only one that is even good (Mark 10:18), which the Pattersons would unhesitatingly amen. Nor are we unaware of their unique personalities; neither are we blindly loyal or star struck. But if you believe the portrait of them painted by their enemies, you would have to be a blind dolt to trust and support them. However, I can truthfully say before my Lord Jesus that the picture drawn by many of Dr. and Mrs. Patterson are not the people we know.
Those in leadership surely know, if they are honest, they are unloved or even loathed by many of their detractors. This is generally proportionate to their visibility and the significance their leadership has. Dr. Patterson has been on the tip of spearheading the conservative resurgence, and the number of those seeking his demise is exponentially high. Gina and I do not evaluate the Pattersons by their critics or supporters, but we base it on decades of personal experience.
I served as a trustee at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS), 1991–98; serving as first Vice-Chairman, 1995–96 and then Chairman of the Board, 1996–98. From those years of service, I have an appreciation and understanding of the fiduciary responsibilities of trustee boards. During my years on the board, we moved from being a liberal seminary under the leadership of Dr. Milton Ferguson to a conservative seminary under the leadership of Dr. Mark Coppenger in 1995.
Consequently, I am very familiar with the intricacies and nuances of such transitions. Similar to Dr. Patterson, Dr. Ferguson was approaching retirement. Although we were definitely leading Midwestern in a different direction, and there were things one could certainly marshal as grounds for termination (like the pervasive undermining of the veracity of Scripture and the gospel), he was treated with grace and eventually retired with a generous package and his dignity. I had hoped for the same for Dr. Patterson.
Quite disheartening to me during this entire internet and trustee discordance, and this beyond the onslaught by critics, is that many who have been immeasurably blessed by Dr. Patterson’s sacrificial and courageous leadership, and who have known and served with Dr. Patterson for years, have chosen not to voice their respect and support of the man they know. Even though Dr. Patterson is equally against the abuse of women as any of his friends or enemies.
Rather, in this emotionally charged melee in the internet court of appeals, they have sought to distance themselves from not just the failures of the man, often only alleged failures, but from the man himself. This while simultaneously and anxiously seizing every venue to vociferously declare they are against abuse of women. I do not question the motives of such behavior, but I do disagree with the choice to so act.
Their lack of clarity regarding the man they have known and loved often either implies, or at least is easily inferable, that being against abuse and Dr. Patterson are inseparable; even if one believes there were failures in judgment or speech on his part, can one not stand up for the godly character of the man? Can we not distance ourselves from a failure, or perceived failure, without distancing ourselves from one who most definitely loves God and follows him regardless of the cost? Thankfully, others have spoken up for Dr. Patterson.
When we honor people, we are never honoring their failures, perceived or real, but we are honoring their faithfulness. Loyalty only in certain and triumphant times is a gauzily draped counterfeit loyalty. Without loyalty in uncertain and turbulent times, and in spite of alleged or actual failures, true honor and loyalty die.
Years ago I heard Dr. Adrian Rogers tell of an event that took place at the very beginning of the resurgence. The following is my recollection of the story; while some minor details may be missing, the gist of the story is accurate. Dr. Rogers saw Dr. Patterson enter what I believe was a basketball court. As Dr. Patterson was walking in, Dr. Rogers said people were immediately distancing themselves from Dr. Patterson like he had the plague. When Dr. Rogers witnessed Dr. Patterson being shunned and standing alone, he left his seat and went and shook Dr. Patterson’s hand, continuing to walk beside him.
Thank you, Dr. Rogers, for your example. I am glad to walk beside Dr. Patterson in this present arena where some choose to distance themselves from him.
- The following link is a response from Dr. Patterson’s legal representatives regarding the actions of SWBTS executive committee to fire Dr. Patterson in this most severe manner. It raises questions that surely deserve answers. It seems factual responses need to be public since the charges are very public and the dismissal process is extraordinarily severe.
- The following article is by Sharayah Colter. She provides helpful responses and clarifications regarding accusations against Dr. Patterson along with actual photocopies of correspondence between the alleged rape victim at SEBTS and Dr. Patterson at the time of the incident. Additionally, her husband served as Chief of Staff for Dr. Patterson and was in Germany with him when he received the call from Kevin Ueckert, chairman of the board of SWBTS, to fire him.
The untold truth: Facts surrounding Paige Patterson and his removal from SWBTS By Sharayah Colter
- This is the link to the news releases for SWBTS, https://swbts.edu/news/releases/ three of which are relevant.
- The first meeting of the full board of trustees regarding Dr. Patterson’s presidency. They voted to appoint Dr. Patterson as President Emeritus with compensation.
- The second meeting which was comprised of the Executive committee. They reversed the decision of the full board and voted to fire Dr. Patterson.
- A statement by the Chairman of the Board, Kevin Ueckert, defending the Executive Committee’s decision to fire Dr. Patterson and cancel the agreement made by the full board.
- Other helpful articles:
- Norman Geisler, Why Firing Paige Patterson from the Presidency of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary was a Serious Mistake
- David Allen, Paige Patterson: . . . the Way Forward?
- Dr. Patterson’s open letter, Dear Southern Baptist Family: Scroll down to June 8, 2018.
- Other helpful articles: