By Aaron Earls
After a whirlwind past few weeks, Paige Patterson will no longer deliver the convention sermon at the upcoming annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas.
In an email sent to convention leaders and Baptist Press, Patterson withdrew from delivering the prominent message after “days of soul-searching.” He also announced he is relinquishing his position as chairman of a task force on evangelism that was scheduled to make a presentation at the convention as well.
“All of this I do with a heart full of confidence in our God and with the hope that He will favor the Convention and her churches with the benediction of heaven,” he wrote.
Patterson said his decision was made, in part, “as an effort to protect my family as much as I can.”
Messengers at the 2017 denominational meeting selected him for the honor of giving the convention sermon, as he was a revered part of the SBC’s “conservative resurgence” and, at that time, the president of nearby Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Since then, however, Patterson has faced an onslaught of allegations—from making objectifying comments about a teenage girl in a sermon illustration to mishandling rape accusations by students at two different seminaries.
The most recent and potentially most damaging accusations came from a statement by Kevin Ueckert, chairman of the Southwestern seminary’s board of trustees.
According to Ueckert, the board confirmed that an allegation of rape was indeed made by a female student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2003. “This information contradicts a statement previously provided by Dr. Patterson in response to a direct question by a Board member regarding the incident referenced in our May 30 statement,” Ueckert said.
The student, who has since revealed herself as Megan Lively, claims Patterson encouraged her to not report the rape to the police and made her feel at least partially to blame for the incident.
Lively told the Baptist Recorder eight additional women with similar experiences involving Patterson have reached out to her since she came forward.
The board chairman also revealed that after a female student at Southwestern reported a rape in 2015, police were notified, but Patterson sent an email to the chief of campus security requesting to meet with the alleged victim alone so he could “break her down.”
In his statement, Ueckert said, “The attitude expressed by Dr. Patterson in that email is antithetical to the core values of our faith and to SWBTS.”
According to the woman’s attorney in a statement to the Star-Telegram, assaults took place in October 2014 and April 2015. They were reported in August 2015.
The alleged assailant was a Southwestern student and employee, according to the attorney, and had weapons at each incident.
The woman’s attorney alleges Patterson told his client it was a “good thing” she had been raped and that her future husband wouldn’t care if she was a virgin or not. Patterson “threated to sic lawyers on her [mother] for questioning his leadership at the school when she asked why the assailant was allowed on campus,” the attorney said.
Additionally, Ueckert’s statement confirms that documents related to Patterson and his tenure at Southeastern seminary were taken without permission from Southeastern. Sharayah Colter, the wife of Paige Patterson’s chief of staff, recently published some of those documents in a blog post defending Patterson and purporting to provide “a more complete picture” of the events that led to his termination.
Lively told The Washington Post that the documents had been altered and that the original ones referenced three meetings with Patterson.
George Harvey, Southeastern seminary’s legal counsel, told the Biblical Recorder the documents “should be held in the student file under protection of federal privacy laws regarding education records.” He said he had not seen them until they were published online by Colter.
In his statement, Ueckert said those documents were published “without the permission of the students referenced in the documents or appropriate leadership from SEBTS or SWBTS” and that doing so was “inappropriate and unethical.”
The Patterson saga began in early May when audio surfaced of him advising a woman to return to an abusive husband and using a sermon illustration that described a 16-year-old girl as “built.”
After initially telling The Washington Post he had nothing to apologize for, Patterson released a statement on May 10 saying he apologized to “every woman who has been wounded by anything I have said that was inappropriate or lacked clarity.”
After a 13-hour board of trustees meeting that stretched from May 22 to 23, Patterson was removed as president of Southwestern and appointed president emeritus. At the same meeting, Jeffrey Bingham, dean of the seminary’s school of theology, was appointed interim president.
Seven days later, the executive committee of the board of trustees voted to terminate Patterson’s position with the school completely. He would no longer be compensated by the school or live on campus as a theologian-in-residence.
Despite no longer being at Southwestern, Patterson was still scheduled to deliver the high-profile convention sermon until his letter on June 8.
As a result of Patterson’s withdrawal, Kie Bowman, senior pastor at Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, will deliver the message as the convention-elected alternate.
“My hope and confidence is that all will pray for him as he preaches and will hear him gladly,” Patterson wrote in his email.
In a separate letter to the “Southern Baptist Family,” Patterson announced he would not attend the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention for the first time in 66 years. “I do not want my role as a preacher to detract in any way from the important business of our convention and because my desire is to work toward biblical harmony at our annual meeting,” wrote Patterson.
He also defended himself against “accusations that I 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.”
This story has been updated to add information from Patterson’s letter to Southern Baptists.
- Patterson Terminated by Southwestern Trustees
- Trustees Shift Patterson to President Emeritus at Southwestern
- Seminary President Apologizes Over Past Comments on Women
- Who’s the Man Taking Over for Paige Patterson?
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.