“Southern Baptist women are pushing back against prominent denominational leader Paige Pattersonand what they say is his unbiblical counsel on domestic abuse and comments on women’s appearances.
Some in America’s largest Protestant denomination continue to support the Texas seminary president, who has been a key figure in the network of churches’ conservative shift. But the chorus of opposition to Patterson’s controversial remarks is growing — including a letter from more than 2,600 women and their supporters to the seminary’s board.
In Tennessee, where the evangelical denomination is headquartered, women who take issue with Patterson can be found worshiping in all of the state’s grand divisions.
Emily Brown, 23, a member of Redeemer Baptist Fellowship in Memphis, counts herself among them. She thinks Patterson should clearly apologize, acknowledge his wrongdoing and step down.
Megan Cassell, a 32-year-old member of Sojourn Community Church in Chattanooga, wants Patterson to repent. If he does not, she thinks he should resign or be fired.
“There is just no room for that in the Christian church,” Cassell said.
Recordings recently surfaced online of comments the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary leader has made over the past 20 years. In recent weeks, they have been widely circulated, setting off calls from men and women for him and others to denounce the comments and spurring statements from evangelical leaders on how to treat domestic abuse victims.
Audio recording about abuse sparks outrage
Patterson, in a 2000 audio recording, spoke against divorce and recounted how he advised a woman being abused by her husband to pray for God to intervene. When she showed up with two black eyes angry with his advice, Patterson told her he was happy because her husband had attended church for the first time that Sunday.
The seminary president responded to the mounting pushback in an April 29 statement. He denounced abuse, but said that he and his position are being deliberately misrepresented.
“I do not apologize for my stand for the family and for seeking to mend a marriage through forgiveness rather than divorce,” Patterson said. “But I do greatly regret that the way I expressed that conviction has brought hurt.”
On May 1, Patterson and the executive committee for the board of trustees followed up with a statement affirming the importance of protecting abuse victims.
Comments on teen attractiveness draw rebuke
A video of a 2014 church conference talk has also spread online. In it, Patterson comments on the attractiveness of a teenage girl and remembers telling a concerned mother that her teenage son and his friend were acting biblically when one of them called the girl “built.”
Liz Guinn, 31, whose husband is the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Elizabethton, Tenn., said in an email that she took issue with Patterson’s remarks and would like to see him show true humility and repentance.
“God created male and female in his image. And the freedom found in the gospel of Jesus is for men and women,” Guinn said. “Dr. Patterson’s tone in his comments towards the teenage girl, and in his counsel, do not reflect that.”
She would like to see leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention, which operates the seminary, pick someone else to deliver the sermon Patterson is slated to give at the denomination’s upcoming annual meeting in Dallas. And since Patterson has stood by his statements so far, Guinn thinks it would be ideal for him to quietly resign.
Brittany Klaus, 29, who worships at a Brentwood Baptist Church in Nashville and is considering attending seminary in January, does not feel she is close enough to the situation to call for Patterson’s resignation, but she does want to see him repent and show humility.
Joining 2,600 others in denouncing remarks
While they all live hundreds of miles from the Fort Worth seminary, Brown, Cassell, Guinn and Klaus all felt compelled to stand against Patterson’s remarks. They join more than 2,600 Southern Baptist women and their supporters who have signed on to a letter addressed to the seminary’s board of trustees expressing concern.
“We cannot defend or support Dr. Patterson’s past remarks. No one should,” the letter, dated Sunday, reads. “The Southern Baptist Convention cannot allow the biblical view of leadership to be misused in such a way that a leader with an unbiblical view of authority, womanhood, and sexuality be allowed to continue in leadership.”
In addition to those who fill the pews on Sundays, a number of other high-profile women have signed on to the letter, like Liberty University professor Karen Swallow Prior and Jennifer Lyell, a vice president at the Southern Baptist-affiliated B&H Publishing Group in Nashville.
The letter does not seek to push the denomination’s theological boundaries, but affirms the network of churches’ statement of faith, including its belief that men and women have different roles. The complementarian theology teaches that men lead in the church and in the home.
As a result of the rising fever pitch against Patterson, the seminary president has asked the board of trustees to call a special meeting, according to a statement published by the Baptist Press, an official Southern Baptist publication. It’s set for May 22.
Cassell said joining with the other woman signing the letter was powerful and beautiful. She said she appreciates the men who have supported them, too.
She said her church in Chattanooga has always valued all lives.
But Cassell, who can see how the recent #MeToo movement is bolstering their message, does think Patterson’s comments highlight a greater problem in the larger church about how women are treated.
“This isn’t new news to us,” Cassell said. “We know that this toxicity exists in our churches and we need our leaders to repent.””
Top Southern Baptist Leader Paige Patterson Apologizes To Women, Rejects ‘Any Form Of Abuse’
“A prominent Southern Baptist leader, facing mounting criticism for his remarks on domestic abuse and women, has apologized for a sermon story he shared about a teenage girl’s appearance.
The apology Texas seminary president Paige Patterson issued Thursday comes days afterthousands of Southern Baptist women and their supporters signed a letter raising concerns about his controversial comments regarding domestic violence and women.
“I wish to apologize to every woman who has been wounded by anything I have said that was inappropriate or that lacked clarity. We live in a world of hurt and sorrow, and the last thing that I need to do is add to anyone’s heartache,” Patterson said in the statement. “Please forgive the failure to be as thoughtful and careful in my extemporaneous expression as I should have been.”
As he did in an April 29 statement on his remarks, Patterson reiterated Thursday that he rejects any form of abuse.
“There is no excuse for anyone to use intemperate language or to attempt to injure another person,” Patterson said Thursday. “The spirit of Christ is one of comfort, kindness, encouragement, truth, and grace; and that is what I desire my voice always to be.”
What caused the controversy
Patterson, who leads Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, played an influential role in the network of churches’ conservative shift. He continues to have supporters in the largest Protestant denomination in America and one petitionstanding up for him has more than 300 signatures.
Opposition to Patterson’s controversial remarks has grown in recent weeks.
Recordings of comments Patterson made over the past 20 years are fueling the pushback. They recently surfaced online and have been widely circulated, setting off calls from men and women for Patterson and others to denounce the comments. It also spurred statements from evangelical leaders on how to treat victims and women.
Patterson’s Thursday apology acknowledged that his sermons have been hurtful to women.
In a video of a 2014 church conference talk that recently spread online, Patterson comments on the attractiveness of a teenage girl and remembers telling a concerned mother that her teenage son and his friend were acting biblically when one of them called the girl “built.”
A 2000 audio recording is also at issue. In it, Patterson spoke against divorce and recounted how he advised a woman being abused by her husband to pray for God to intervene. When she showed up with two black eyes angry with his advice, Patterson told her he was happy because her husband had attended church for the first time that Sunday.
“To all people I offer my apology, but especially to women, to the family of Southern Baptists, my friends and the churches,” Paige said in his Thursday statement.
Apology is not enough for some
Emily Brown, 23, who worships at a Southern Baptist church in Memphis, was pleased Patterson apologized, but she does not think it is enough.
“I do think that it’s an important step in the right direction,” Brown said.
Brown is one of the nearly 3,000 Southern Baptist women who have signed a letter to the seminary’s board of trustees, objecting to the Patterson’s comments. His Thursday apology felt incomplete to her.
“It seemed padded to me in a way that suggests less of a turning a way from behavior and more of, ‘I’m sorry that I got caught and I’m sorry that people have responded in this way,'” Brown said.
At the least, Brown wants leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention, which operates the seminary, to pick someone else to deliver the sermon Patterson is slated to give at the denomination’s upcoming annual meeting in Dallas. But she still thinks Patterson should resign.
“I don’t think it’s right to refuse to forgive someone,” Brown said. “I do think it’s important to recognize there are things that people can do that are wrong and there are consequences to your actions, and it’s necessary to name them as wrong and to respond in a way that shows that you know that they are.”
The seminary’s board of trustees are scheduled to meet May 22 for a special meeting at Patterson’s request.”