Paige Patterson and Richard Land Will Co-Teach an Ethics Course

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Yes, you read the headline correctly.

Paige Patterson, who was ousted at Southwestern Theological Seminary for dismissing women’s concerns about domestic abuse and rape  (see our coverage here), is teaching an ethics course at Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina.

But it gets better.  Patterson is co-teaching the class with Southern Evangelical Seminary president and court evangelical Richard Land.  In 2013, Land retired early from his post at the Southern Baptist Church’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission because he made racially insensitive remarks in the context of the death of Trayvon Martin.  (Russell Moore replaced him in the post).

Here is Adelle Banks’s piece at Religion News Service:

Patterson plans to co-teach a mid-October weeklong class on “Christian Ethics: The Bible and Moral Issues” with Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary, a school that is not affiliated with the SBC.

“Dr. Patterson’s one of the most significant figures in evangelicalism in the last 20 years, at least, of the 20th century and the first part of the 21st century,” Land told Religion News Service, “and we believe that there are a lot of people who would like to hear from him about living the Christian life in America. I believe he’s an asset to evangelicalism and we’re looking forward to it.”

Read the entire piece here.

Churches and the Legacy of Racism: A Tale of Two Congregations

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St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Richmond, VA

Back in June, I wrote a post about the 150th anniversary of the founding of First Baptist Church in Dallas, the congregation led by court evangelical Robert Jeffress.  In that post I referenced Tobin Grant’s 2016 Religion News Service piece on the long history of racial segregation at First Baptist. Daniel Silliman’s piece at Religion Dispatches is also worth a look.

Here is the 150th anniversary video that the congregation has been promoting:

A few comments:

  1.  The narrative revolves around three authoritarian clergymen:  George Truett, W.A. Criswell, and Robert Jeffress.
  2. It says nothing about the fact that the Southern Baptist Church was formed because southern Baptists defended slavery and white supremacy.
  3. It says nothing about Truett’s and Criswell’s commitment to racial segregation and Jim Crow.
  4. It does include an image of Robert Jeffress with Donald Trump.  Let’s remember that Jeffress defended Trump last year after the POTUS equated white supremacists and those protesting against white supremacy in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Rather than taking a hard look at its past, First Baptist-Dallas has whitewashed it.

I thought about this June 2018 post a couple of weeks ago when I had the privilege of teaching the Adult Faith Formation class at St. Paul’s Episcopalian Church in Richmond, Virginia.  St. Paul’s occupies and amazing building in the heart of Richmond.  It is located across the street from the Virginia State Capitol and adjacent to the Virginia Supreme Court.  The church was founded in 1844.

During the Civil War, when Richmond served as the Confederate capital, both Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis worshiped at St. Paul’s.   After the war, the church used its windows to tell the story of the Lost Cause.  It is often described as the “Cathedral of the Confederacy.”

But unlike First Baptist-Dallas, St. Paul’s decided to come to grips with its racist past.  In 2015, the church began its “History and Reconciliation Initiative” (HRI) with the goal of tracing and acknowledging the racial history of the congregation in order to “repair, restore, and seek reconciliation with God each other and the broader community.”  I encourage you to visit the HRI website to read more about the way St. Paul’s is trying to come to grips with the darker sides of its past.

Public historian Christopher Graham, who co-chairs the HRI when he is not curating an exhibit at The American Civil War Museum, invited me to Richmond to speak.  He is doing some amazing work at the intersection of public history and religion.

When I think about St. Paul’s, I am reminded of Jurgen Moltmann’s call to “waken the dead and piece together what has been broken.”  It is also refreshing to see the words “repair” and “restore” used in conjunction with the word “reconciliation” instead of “Christian America.”

Southern Baptists, and American evangelicals more broadly, may immediately conclude that they have little in common theologically with St. Paul’s Episcopalian Church in Richmond and can thus dismiss the congregation’s history-related efforts as just another social justice project propagated by theological liberals.  But this would be a shame.  They can learn a lot from this congregation about how to take a deep and honest look into the mirror of the past.

Evangelical Fear in Alabama

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Check out Stephanie McCrummen‘s Washington Post excellent piece on a Southern Baptist, Trump-loving church in Luverne, Alabama. Many of the members of this church fear immigrants, think Obama is a Muslim, and hate Hillary Clinton because they claim that she hated them.  It is also worth noting that most of the pro-Trumpers in this church appear to be over the age of 60.

 

Al Mohler Pontificates on the Origins of the Culture War

KavanaughWho “started” the culture wars?

Recently some members of the Evangelical left called for a “pause” to the culture wars.  Evangelical women want Congress to reject the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination and appoint a more moderate justice.  Read about their efforts here.

Meanwhile, Al Mohler, the conservative evangelical president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has told PJ Media that such efforts are “doomed to failure.”  Here is a taste of Tyler O’Neil’s piece:

“The ‘Call to Pause’ is just the latest effort by the Evangelical left to blame the culture war on conservatives,” Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), told PJ Media Sunday. He insisted that the “Call to Pause” is doomed to failure, and more likely to damage the reputations of its supporters than to achieve any cultural or political change.

Here is more:

Mohler fought back against the idea that conservative evangelicals are to blame for the culture war. “It was liberals who pushed the new ethic of personal autonomy and sexual liberation, and it was liberals who championed legalized abortion and celebrated the infamous Roe v. Wade decision in 1973,” the SBTS president told PJ Media.

He noted that “you can date organized evangelical involvement in American politics to Roe v. Wade,” noting that the conservative evangelical movement was largely a reaction to the Left’s culture war coups achieved by the Supreme Court. This became even more clear in light of Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which supercharged conservatives’ emphasis on the Supreme Court.

“Now, just after the nomination of a clearly conservative judge, Brett Kavanaugh, as the next justice of the Supreme Court, the evangelical left is predictably opposing the nominee, and calling for a ‘pause’ in the culture war,” Mohler noted. “Amazingly enough, those behind the ‘Call to Pause’ are transparent about their fear that Roe v. Wade might be reversed, or even that abortion rights might be curtailed.”

A few thoughts:

  1. Mohler is often at his dogmatic worst whenever commenting on sexual politics.  I do not expect Mohler to agree with the evangelical women who oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination, but why does he have to come across as such an authoritarian ecclesiastical strongman whenever the issue he is addressing involves evangelical women?  One thinks he might have learned something about the voices of women in his denomination.
  2. Mohler pins the entire culture war on Roe v. Wade.  While this Supreme Court case played an important role in mobilizing the Christian Right, it is much more complicated than this.  But nuance, of course, will not help Mohler and his friends win the culture wars.
  3. Mohler continues to operate on the old Christian Right playbook for winning the culture wars.  If we nominate the right Supreme Court justice, the playbook teaches, the problem of abortion will go away.  For some context on this playbook see Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

Male Authoritarianism and the Southern Baptists

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R. Marie Griffith directs the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis.  Some of you may remember our interview with her in Episode 32 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast. During that interview we talked with Griffith about her recent book Moral Combat: How Sex Divided American Christians and Fractured American Politics.

Over at Religion & Politics, Griffith makes some important links between Southern Baptists, religious authoritarianism, and evangelical support for Donald Trump.  She draws upon her own Southern Baptist upbringing in Chattanooga.

Here is a taste:

Ironically or fittingly enough, Pressler and Patterson, the takeover titans, were themselves taken down by sex scandals of various types. Earlier this year, Pressler’s name hit the national news for disturbing accusations of same-sex sexual misconduct and assault leveled against him; shortly thereafter, Patterson was ousted by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary over substantiated charges of damaging sexist behavior against women (from counseling an abused woman to stay with her husband and commenting on the body parts of young women to mishandling rape reports). That the architects of the “wives submit graciously” addition to the edifice of Baptist theology turned out to be men tainted by sexual misbehavior and chauvinism shocked many but could hardly surprise. As more sexual abuse scandals come to light, we’re getting a sad lesson in the ways that some respected leaders have ignored, neglected, and covered up injurious and even criminal behavior against vulnerable church members.

If that sounds like a plot from a movie, this is unfortunately not fiction, and the calculated strategy for retaining power regardless of fairness or due process has persisted in the denomination to this day. That the leaders of a tradition long known for touting its tolerance of independent thought within the wide bounds of the Bible became so thoroughly intolerant, not only of difference of opinion but of mere questioning and debate, has been a painful pill for many cradle Baptists to swallow. Untold numbers of people in the pews who have been perturbed by the machinations of denominational leaders and dismayed by the church’s patriarchal entrenchment have left the church for more democratic, egalitarian climes, even as many of those remaining have apparently grown comfortable with its top-down dogmatism. As one Baptist, removed as a trustee from the International Mission Board in 2006 for trying to prevent other trustees from removing some women from leadership there, put it recently: “Southern Baptist pastors are infatuated with and captivated by authoritarianism.”

No wonder so many white evangelicals are infatuated with and captivated by the authoritarian occupying the White House. It’s been a long time coming.

Read the entire piece here.

The Southern Baptist Story That Will Not Go Away

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Paige Patterson loyalists are looking for payback.  Some big donors to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary are threatening to withhold their donations unless the Patterson case is reopened.  Not familiar with the Patterson case?  Get up to speed with these posts.

Julie Zauzmer has the story at The Washington Post.  Here is a taste:

Thousands of Southern Baptist women decried the way Paige Patterson, for decades a revered leader in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, talked about women from the pulpit. Then two allegations came to light that Patterson had not gone to police when a rape was reported to him, and the trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary fired him from his post as president of the seminary.

But Patterson’s defenders are still numerous in this conservative evangelical denomination. At the denomination’s annual meeting last month, they made a resolution — which was soundly defeated — to fire all the trustees who had fired Patterson.

Now, they have fired their latest salvo: a letter from more than two dozen major donors, claiming the trustees acted improperly in ousting Patterson and vowing to withhold their donations from the seminary unless the decision to fire Patterson is reopened.

Read the entire piece here.

Karen Swallow Prior is quoted in the piece.  She is on the mark:

What we’re seeing is people who are committed to a person rather than to an institution or to the convention, putting their loyalty to a person ahead of their adherence to the principles of the institution,” said Karen Swallow Prior, a professor at Liberty University.

She said she wasn’t surprised to see the fight continuing but that the defeated resolution at the annual meeting should have put an end to it.

“It’s ironic, actually, that this letter, which is making complaints about alleged lack of due process, is also failing to follow due process within the Southern Baptist Convention. Due process in the Southern Baptist Convention looks like what happened at the annual meeting a few weeks ago, when a motion was brought before the convention to remove the executive committee for its decision about Paige Patterson, and that motion did not pass,” she said. “Since that was defeated, now we see something else enter into the picture, which is huge amounts of money. And there’s nothing Baptist or Christian about that.”

My Latest Piece at *Sojourners*: Pence’s Visit to the Southern Baptist Convention

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Here is a taste:

In the last several months, the #MeToo movement has found its way to one of the largest Protestant denominations in America — the Southern Baptist Convention. While this year’s annual meeting did address issues related to Paige Patterson, the former SBC Theological Seminary president, and how women are treated in the church, the SBC leadership also decided to welcome Mike Pence, who represents a presidential administration with a long track record of degrading women in public, to their meeting. 

In May, over 3000 SBC women sent an open letter to the Board of Trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary demanding the firing of Paige Patterson.

As one of the primary architects of the denomination’s “conservative resurgence” in the 1980s, Patterson is a living legend in the SBC. But over the course of the last few months, the world that Paige Patterson created collapsed around him. 

Patterson’s indiscretions are now widely known. He made inappropriate comments about teenage girls, he told a female victim of sexual assault not to report the incident to the police, and in 2015, when a Southwestern student told Patterson that she had been raped, he said he would meet with the student alone, so he could “break her down.”

The Board of Trustees at Southwestern eventually removed Patterson from his post. He is now gone, but the problem of authoritarian and misogynistic Southern Baptist leaders remains. The Patterson case exposed the dark side of the SBC and its conservative resurgence, prompting one seminary president to declare that the “wrath of God” is now being poured out on the convention. 

Read the rest here.

Tony Perkins Praises Pence Speech at the Southern Baptist Convention and Confuses God and Country…Again

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We have already weighed-in on Wednesday’s Pence speech.

Here is court evangelical Tony Perkins on the speech:

As [Pence] touched on the country’s divided times, several in the room probably thought about the division right there in that room. Just yesterday, one SBC messenger made a motion to disinvite the vice president, insisting that, “By associating publicly with any administration, we send a mixed message to our members, suggesting that to be faithful to the gospel, we ought to align with a particular administration.”

Fortunately, wisdom prevailed, soundly defeating the ill-conceived resolution. But it is a clear indication that there are some within the church that are either too ill-informed or too focused on the headlines to understand the difference between influencing and being influenced, or – as Jesus described in John 17 – being in the world but not of it. We can’t influence if we retreat. We don’t have to agree with everything this president has said or done, and we don’t, but it is foolish and even detrimental to persecuted believers around the world to fail to acknowledge that this administration is being used to set the table for the church to do its work unhindered. The vice president, Mike Pence, is an unabashed believer who’s championing their cause in the White House. Look at the doors this administration is opening for religious liberty and free speech. Now is not the time for shutting doors – now’s the time to rush through and seize this moment of opportunity.

Read the entire piece here.

Wow! There is a lot to unpack in Perkins’s post.

  1. Perkins criticizes pastor Garrett Kell’s resolution to replace Pence’s speech with a time of prayer.  But notice how he does it.  He blames Kell (“one SBC messenger”) for promoting disunity.  Actually, if you read Kell’s resolution, it was steeped in unity–not for the nation, but for the Southern Baptist Convention.  Perkins seems confused.  The SBC meeting in Dallas was not a political event or a God and country rally.  It was a religious event.  It seems to me that “unity” at a religious event should revolve around spiritual things, not politics or nationalism.
  2. Perkins suggests that anyone who opposed Pence’s speech is “too ill-informed or too focused on the headlines to understand the difference between influencing and being influenced.”  In other words, those who opposed Pence’s speech are not smart enough to realize that they are being played by the Left, the media, or (add your favorite bogeyman here).  But let’s remember that the Trump White House asked the SBC if Pence could come and speak.  Is it possible to view this as anything but an attempt to shore-up votes among the evangelical base?  Who got played here?
  3. Perkins has the audacity to quote John 17, a passage in which Jesus prays for unity in his church.  Again, he confuses Jesus’s prayer for unity among fellow Christians with national unity.  Jesus was not praying for national unity.  He was not praying for unity in the United States.
  4. Perkins’s piece would make a great primary source for students to read in an American religious history course.  It provides an amazing example of the way that the Christian Right conflates the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of America.  Politics don’t “set the table” for the church.  God sets the table.  Perkins sees everything in political terms.  He also talks about “seizing opportunities,” a clear reference to the 2018 election.

Mike Pence Delivers a Trump Stump Speech at the Southern Baptist Convention

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This, of course, is why Donald Trump picked him in the first place–to shore-up the evangelical base.

I think it is safe to say that the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention, J.D. Greear, might agree with the title of this post:

I wonder if Greear will elaborate on this tweet at some point.

Here are some more tweets from the Pence speech:

Politicians at the Southern Baptist Convention

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Mike Pence is not the first politician to speak at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).  Historian Thomas Kidd offers some historical context in a piece at The Gospel Coalition.  Here is a taste:

It was not unheard of for politicians to address the SBC annual meeting. In 1967, U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield, a liberal Republican and devout Conservative Baptist, addressed the annual meeting on the topic of poverty and the need for effective welfare policy.

The SBC made a significant turn in 1972 when it invited Nixon to address the annual meeting. With Graham’s assistance, Nixon had continued to cultivate support from the SBC, especially as Americans became disenchanted with the war in Vietnam. SBC officials extended a formal invitation to Nixon, who assured them that he would come if his schedule allowed. Some SBC leaders were outraged at the prospect of Nixon’s appearance, and Nixon thought better of it and decided to withdraw, citing scheduling problems. But a key precedent had been set: the SBC became a destination for major politicians in election years.

In 1976 Gerald Ford became the first sitting president to address the annual meeting. Jimmy Carter did likewise in 1978—in a sense, his was the most expected appearance since Carter was, at the time, still a Southern Baptist. But after his appearance, Democrats at the SBC annual meeting would become an endangered species.

Read the entire piece here.

Virginia Southern Baptist Pastor: Replace Pence Speech With a Time of Prayer

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Pastor Kell in action

Here is Pastor Garrett Kell of Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia:

I want to be clear, this has nothing to do with Mr. Pence personally.  From my understanding he is a born-again Christian man and attends one of the churches in our convention.  I think we should pray for him in his all-important service of our country.

But as a pastor that strives to grow in unity, gospel faithfulness, and mission efforts in our local churches, I have three brief concerns regarding this decision and the way it effects our churches.

The first is the unity of our church.  For many years we have been talking about loving and listening to our minority brothers and sisters.  This invitation [to Pence] does nothing to suggest that we actually listening.  Not only are many of us in this room hurt and bothered by this invitation, but also many of our minority brothers and sisters will especially be hurt by this invitation and I fear it will communicate to many of them that our political associations are more important than our associations with them.

Secondly, in regards to the clarity of the Gospel.  What binds this Convention together is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Because of that, this Convention ought to be marked by the things we share in common, not things that faithful Christians can disagree with.  By associating publicly with any administration, we send a mixed message to our members suggesting that to be faithful to the Gospel we ought to align with a political administration.  We must do all that we can to preserve the purity of the Gospel, and this invitation [to Mike Pence] works against it.  I even had a perspective member this week ask me if they needed to vote Republican in order to join our church….

Thirdly, and finally, the safety of our overseas workers.  Whether rightly or wrongly, this current administration provokes strong reactions and in some cases great hostility in many regions of the world.  I’m not here to debate those policies at all. But publicly aligning our workers with this or any administration puts our workers in unnecessary risk because of the decisions of an administration.  What is said in Washington echoes around the world and having Mr. Pence come [to the SBC meeting] further hinders our work I think.

In conclusion, I would like us to consider Romans 14:19: “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”  Which is the reason I would like us to reconsider this invitation because brothers and sisters right now there is a world filled with people who are going to hell and what we need to be about is the Gospel, and anything that can distort that I think is a step backward and not a step forward.  Thank you.

At this point, Grant Ethridge, the “chairman of the committee on order of business,” took the microphone.  Here is what he said:

Thank you Mr. President.  First of all dear brother I want you to know I love and respect you.  I hear what you are saying in your concern.  And I am personally very sensitive to the issue that you have raised.

I pastor in a city that is 53% African American.  Praise God–to his Glory–our church has moved from being an all-white, Republican church to a church that is multi-generational, multi-ethnic, and multi-site.  So again, I hear your concerns and I am very sensitive to it.

I want the messengers to hear the heart of our committee.  Our program recognizes and honors local, state, and national leaders.  Let me be clear: the Southern Baptist Convention aligns itself with no political party.  Our loyalty is to King Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  You need to know that the White House reached out to us.  Our president, Dr. Steve Gaines, asked me to follow-up on the opportunity. Our interim president of the EC Agi Boto asked me to handle this specific matter.

So in keeping with our SBC history, we have had many government official to address our convention.  We have many other government officials who will be addressing the convention today and tomorrow.  So as in keeping with what the precedent has been in the past, I have sought to carry out my duties in a Christ-honoring way.  Since we’re Baptists the Bible is our final authority for faith and practice, I will let the word of God speak for and to us.

1 Timothy 2:1: “First of all I urge that petition, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for everyone, for Kings and all those who are in authority.” Verse three says “this is good and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior.

Romans 13:1 says “let everyone submit to the governing authorities.  Titus 3:1 says “Remind them to submit to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to slander no one, to avoid fighting, to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people.”

I Peter 2:17 for me really sums it up. Honor everyone.  Love the brethren.  Fear God.  Honor the emperor, or some of your translations will say honor the King.  In Act 25:11, Paul even said I appeal to Caesar. So as a committee, we feel to not show hospitality to those in authority would be a bad testimony for Southern Baptists.

On a personal note, if President Obama’s White House had contact us and I was chairman of this committee, we would have exercised the same judgement and welcomed them to the Southern Baptist Convention.

The word of God is clear about our response to all governments, from Rome to the U.S., from Caesar to the President and I believe we respect the position regardless of whether or not you supported or voted for the person.

Therefore we strongly urge the messengers to extend a biblical Christ-like welcome to the Vice President of the United States.  Thank you.

You can judge for yourself what to make of these statements, but I have two very quick thoughts:

  1.  Rev. Ethridge made a pretty compelling biblical case for opposition to the American Revolution and the philosophy that the American Revolution rests upon.
  2. When he says that he would extend the same welcome to Barack Obama, I don’t believe him.  Sorry.  I cannot see that happening.  The same goes for Hillary Clinton.
  3. Why don’t red flags go up when the Trump administration asks to send a surrogate to the Southern Baptist Convention.  Didn’t anyone thing that the administration was using and manipulating them for political gain?  Was this even raised among the committee Ethridge leads?

Watch the entire thing go down here.

Can the Southern Baptist Convention Think of Any More Ways to Shoot Itself in the Foot?

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The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has announced that Vice President Mike Pence will be speaking tomorrow at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in Dallas as part of the denomination’s annual meeting.

At a time when the SBC needs to get its house in order, heal wounds, and discuss how it can move forward together, convention leadership has decided to welcome the chief surrogate of one of the most divisive presidential administrations in recent memory.  What are they thinking?

Anyone following religious news in the last several months knows that the #metoo movement has found its way to the largest Protestant denomination in America.  In May, over 3000 SBC women sent an open letter to the Board of Trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary demanding the firing of Paige Patterson, the seminary president.

As one of the primary architects of the denomination’s “conservative resurgence” in the 1980s, Patterson is a living legend in the SBC. He and his supporters managed to purge the SBC of those who did not believe in biblical inerrancy, a view of the Bible that teaches that the Old and New Testaments, as they were originally written, contain no errors in matters of faith and science.  The conservative resurgence also championed “complementarianism,” a reading of the Bible that teaches male “headship” in marriage, the family, business, and the church.

Patterson was a master political operator.  Along with Paul Pressler, a Houston judge who shared Patterson’s views, inerrancy and complementarianism became official SBC doctrines.

Once the conservatives gained power, Patterson ruled with an iron hand.  Those who disagreed with his views lost leadership positions in churches and seminaries.

But over the course of the last few months, the world that Paige Patterson created has collapsed around him.

Earlier this year, a recording surfaced of Patterson saying that he advised female victims of domestic abuse to stay with their husbands.  Then a video emerged showing Patterson, while preaching a sermon, describing the physical appearance of a teenage girl in an inappropriate manner.

These accounts led other Southern Baptist women to come forward with their own their stories.  When Megan Lively, a former student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary during the Patterson’s time as president, was sexually assaulted on campus, Patterson told her not to report the incident to the police.  In describing her meeting with Patterson and his self-proclaimed “proteges,” Lively said the men “shamed the crap out of me.”

In 2015, when a Southwestern student told Patterson that she had been raped, he said he would meet with the student alone, so he could “break her down.”

The Board of Trustees at Southwestern eventually removed Patterson from his post and stripped him of his retirement fringe benefits, including a large home on the Fort Worth campus

Patterson is now gone, but the problem of authoritarian and misogynistic Southern Baptist leaders remains.  The Patterson case exposed the dark side of the SBC and its conservative resurgence.  Albert Mohler, the authoritarian president of Southern Seminary in Louisville and another architect of the conservative resurgence, declared that the “wrath of God” is now being poured out on the convention.

On June 6, Former SBC president Ronnie Floyd, fearful that his beloved denomination was falling apart over the Patterson affair, pleaded with his people via Twitter: “Southern Baptists: Refuse disunity within our ranks!  There is nothing biblical or godly relating to creating disunity.”

Apparently, few are listening to Floyd, one of Donald Trump’s court evangelicals.  If they were listening, they would not have invited Mike Pence to their convention this week.

By welcoming Mike Pence to Dallas, the convention is sending a message to its members and the rest of the world that it does not really care about healing its wounds.  The opportunity to entertain the Vice President of the United States was obviously just too good for the SBC to pass up.  Healing and repentance will need to wait for another time.

Politics divides Christians.  It always has.  Southern Baptists should know this better than most. The convention was founded in 1845 when Baptists in the South split with Northern Baptists over the most contentious political issue of the age:  slavery.

Anyone who watched SBC leaders bickering and fighting in 2016 over whether to support Donald Trump can testify to the divisive power of politics.  Just ask Russell Moore, the president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.  He almost lost his job for opposing Donald Trump.

Rather than directly confronting the way it has treated women in the past, the SBC has chosen to welcome the chief surrogate of a presidential administration with a long track record of degrading women in public.

Instead of Pence, the SBC should have invited Carly Fiorina, Megyn Kelly or Heidi Cruz—all victims of Donald Trump’s misogyny.  But that would never happen.   If they were given a major platform at the SBC meeting it would undermine the doctrine of complementarianism.

In a statement on Monday, outgoing SBC president Steve Gaines said that Pence’s speech on Wednesday will “express appreciation to Southern Baptists for the contributions we make to the moral fabric of our nation.”

Oh the irony!

Mike Pence Will Visit the Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention

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This morning I was talking to a reporter about this week’s annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.  The reporter asked me if I thought the Southern Baptists will make some kind of resolution about Donald Trump or any of his policies.

I said I thought that it was highly unlikely that the convention would dabble in politics since it is so divided on whether or not Trump is good for America.  I told the reporter that the convention has enough problems to deal with in the wake of the #metoo and #sbctoo movements and, if they are wise, they would steer clear of politics.   I thought they might take the advice of former Southern Baptist president Ronnie Floyd:

I was apparently wrong.  The convention just announced that Mike Pence will be attending the meeting.

Here is a taste of a report from the Baptist Press:

DALLAS (BP) — Vice President Mike Pence will address the Southern Baptist Convention on Wednesday (June 13).

The announcement of Pence’s 11 a.m. address to messengers and invited guests at the June 12-13 annual meeting in Dallas was made by SBC President Steve Gaines and Grant Ethridge, chairman of the convention’s Committee on Order of Business, in a joint press release today (June 11).

“We are excited to announce Vice President Mike Pence will be attending this year’s SBC annual meeting to express appreciation to Southern Baptists for the contributions we make to the moral fabric of our nation,” Gaines said.

Southern Baptist leaders estimate the number of messengers from the convention’s cooperating churches may approach 11,000 with an additional 4,000 invited guests on the final day of the two-day convention.

“It’s an honor to welcome Vice President Pence,” Ethridge said. “While the Southern Baptist Convention aligns itself with no political party, our program recognizes and honors local, state and national leaders in keeping with 1 Timothy 2:1–2

Read the entire piece here.  The Southern Baptist Convention continues to shoot itself in the foot.

More on the Paige Patterson Story from *The Washington Post*

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Michelle Boorstein and Sarah Pulliam Bailey continue to work the Paige Patterson story for the Washington Post.  In their recent piece, they share additional stories of women treated poorly by Patterson.  Here is a taste:

Melissa Medley was there from 2010 to 2014 for her undergraduate studies in missions work when, she says, she was groped by her favorite professor. She went to a chaplain, who reported it to Patterson.

Patterson called and was “cordial,” and told her “corny jokes” before addressing the allegation, Medley said.

“The first thing he said was, making sure I understood the severity of what I was saying. I said yes,” said Medley, now pursuing a counseling master’s at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. “He said: ‘Do you have witnesses? Do you have proof?’ ”

She said that Patterson told her he would treat it as a “he said-she said” until he spoke to the professor — who denied everything. That was the end of the process, she said.

“That crushed me, because I knew nothing would be done,” she said.

Medley said she is not angry and, in fact, she “loves” the Southern Baptist Convention and is proud to be part of it. However, “Southern Baptists aren’t taught how to handle these situations. . . . We’ve got things we need to change.”

Ueckert, the board chairman at Southwestern, said last week that he didn’t know of the allegation. The professor denied it in an email to The Post.

Read the entire piece here.

I also found this part of the piece intriguing:

Patterson and a Texas judge named Paul Pressler — who now faces a state lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by a man in his Bible study, which he denies — met in a New Orleans cafe to sketch out a plan to get conservatives into all the leadership positions in Southern Baptist institutions, according to historians of religion.

The takeover, which lasted over a decade, was no holds barred, with Patterson keeping files on ideological opponents and cultivating spies in seminaries, according to historical accounts. A 1991 profile in D Magazine — which covers the Dallas area — said Patterson had been “likened to the Rev. Jim Jones and Joe McCarthy” by his critics in the denomination. “He’s been reviled as a power-mad fundamentalist on a witch hunt for heretics.”

Russell Moore: “The mood of the Southern Baptist Convention right now would be similar to that of the country after Watergate”

SBC

Check out Adelle Banks‘s piece at RNS on Paige Patterson‘s decision to forego delivering the sermon at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas next week.

Here is a taste:

“The mood of the Southern Baptist Convention right now would be similar to that of the country after Watergate,” said Russell Moore, president of the convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, in an interview before Patterson’s announcement.

Patterson, an architect of the 1980s Southern Baptist movement known as the “conservative resurgence,” claimed that he still enjoyed support among the delegates, known as messengers, to the annual meeting. “Many messengers have implored me to carry out this assignment, but this convention is not about me,” he said in his statement, “and I have every confidence that this decision is best and right.”

His statement was his most explicit denial of the allegations to date. “I take exception to 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,” he said.

Patterson’s downfall is only one of several crises, which some Southern Baptists describe as “volcanic,” that will be roiling next week’s meeting:

Patterson’s downfall is only one of several crises, which some Southern Baptists describe as “volcanic,” that will be roiling next week’s meeting:

In March, Frank Page, the man who handled the day-to-day operations of the SBC outside of its annual meetings, resigned as the president of the Executive Committee after what was described as a “morally inappropriate relationship in the recent past.” Committee spokesman Roger S. Oldham said an internal financial audit was conducted after Page’s departure and “there was no legal impropriety that was discovered.”

In October, Paul Pressler, a retired Texas judge and another prominent architect of what critics call a conservative takeover of the denomination, became the subject of a lawsuit by a male former office assistant charging him with decades of sexual abuse. Pressler has denied the allegations. The Southern Baptist Convention and Patterson, both named as co-defendants, have rejected the charges as meritless.

Despite the harrowing headlines, Moore said leaders at all levels of the denomination — which has local associations and state conventions — are trying to determine the best way forward.

“Part of the responsibility that churches and leaders have right now is to teach people through this how to react to such horror in the right way,” Moore said in early June. He said the scandals have helped churches think about how to protect victims of all sorts of abuse.

Read the entire piece here.

Paige Patterson Will Not Deliver Southern Baptist Convention Sermon

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Instead, Patterson will ride “off into the setting sun—but with a Bible in my hand and a witness from my heart until He comes for me individually or for us all in the air. ”

He also references his own place in history:   “I have with stumbling step, limited ability, and stuttering tongue desired to bequeath to the world an orthodox denomination with a heart and message for a world of lost people.  My part is small in the amazing history of the people we call Baptists. ”

Here is his full statement:

Dear Southern Baptist Family: 

On May 22 the trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary met together in a board meeting called at my request.  At that meeting, in which I briefly participated, I was asked to assume the position of President Emeritus of Southwestern, and I accepted this reassignment. One week later, May 30, the executive committee of the board met, though this time I was not asked to participate and was unable to address or answer questions for committee members since I was in Germany for a preaching assignment. While in Germany, I received a phone call informing me I had been relieved of all responsibilities with and compensation from the Seminary effective immediately. 

Since much has been reported and written about these matters in recent weeks, I wanted to address briefly a few points. It is not in my spirit or my heart to debate or revisit the decisions of the trustees to whom I was accountable as president of Southwestern, other than the brief comments that follow. 

Recently, I have been accused, publicly and privately, of a number of things—none of which I acknowledge as having done in the way portrayed, and others that I am confident I absolutely did not do. I’ll just speak to several examples. First, a poor choice of words has occurred, in and out of the pulpit, over decades of ministry.  I regret each case in which my heart and message were not clearly presented.

On the other hand, I take exception to 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. Indeed, the Southwestern trustees confirmed as much in their public statement of May 23, 2018: “The board affirmed a motion stating evidence exists that Dr. Patterson has complied with reporting laws regarding assault and abuse.” 

For my words, demeanor, sentiments, or disposition to have been twisted to suggest the very antithesis to who I am and the biblical message I have presented over half a century not only is crushing to me and my family but also inevitably proves hurtful to others in the process.  I have never sought to inflict hurt upon a woman or man. 

For the last 43 years, through service in three institutions, I have attempted to prepare pastors and missionaries academically, evangelistically, and spiritually for kingdom endeavors.  Today, on behalf of my sweetheart Dorothy, who has labored faithfully by my side through both sorrows and triumphs, and on behalf of my children and grandchildren, I want to express my gratitude to God for Southern Baptists.  You have often encouraged our hearts.  You have prayed for us in a multitude of ways.  I would ask of no one of you more than you have given.  What I have given back is a pittance compared to your kindness to me. 

I wish further to thank the faculties and administrators who have held high my arms during both calm and raging waters.  I love you all.  To all of my students, including nearly 10,000 graduates whose diplomas I have personally signed, I thank you for your uncommon love for me, and more important, your unwavering devotion to our Lord. 

To those who have ever opposed me or have embraced a different vision, I would be remiss if I did not thank you also.  Your opposition kept me on my face before God, reminded me of just how very human I am, and outlined in tantalizing colors the mercies of God, which I have received in profusion from our Lord.  I pray for heaven’s kindness for each of you.   

At age 75, while my occupation has changed, my calling and passion have not been disturbed.  Soon Southwestern will have a new president.  I am riding off into the setting sun—but with a Bible in my hand and a witness from my heart until He comes for me individually or for us all in the air.  I ask Southern Baptists to hold the new president of Southwestern before God in earnest prayer.  He will be a great man, but the level of his attainment will be dependent to a large degree on your concert of prayer.  I know that you will not fail in this endeavor.  

In a few days, for the first time in 66 years I will not attend the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention – having begun attending when I was nine.  As many of you know, I was elected in 2017 to deliver the 2018 annual convention sermon, but I have now respectfully requested to be released from this high privilege because 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. Many messengers have implored me to carry out this assignment, but this convention is not about me, and I have every confidence that this decision is best and right.   

Now, may I just leave you with a challenge?  I have with stumbling step, limited ability, and stuttering tongue desired to bequeath to the world an orthodox denomination with a heart and message for a world of lost people.  My part is small in the amazing history of the people we call Baptists.  But as insignificant as it may be, I will be praying every day that you will cling to the whole Bible as the Word of the living God and at the same moment give that Word to every lost person on this globe, knowing that Christ died for all and that every man, woman, boy, and girl who comes to the Lord Jesus in saving faith will be saved. Would you join me in that endeavor?  Please link your hearts with Dorothy and me in expressing thanksgiving to our Lord for His abundant mercies to us all.

Hey Southern Baptists: What Is Your Problem?

Midwestern

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, MO

Check out this excellent blog post by Eric Price, a Th.M student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.  Here is a taste of “Southern Baptists: The Gatekeepers of Christian Orthodoxy?“:

The Southern Baptist twittersphere has been up in arms about the Revoice Conference. One of the most extensive criticisms is from Owen Strachan of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Strachan’s article has been approvingly retweeted by numerous other Southern Baptists, including Jason Allen and Albert Mohler. Since the conference is hosted at a PCA church and features a speaker who is a professor at Covenant Theological Seminary, Strachan implicates both the denomination and the seminary in his criticism.

The Southern Baptist reaction to this conference has led Anthony Bradley to ask why Southern Baptists see themselves as the church’s gatekeepers of orthodoxy – our doctrinal and moral exemplars who have the prerogative to regularly condemn other denominations, churches, and individuals for supposed errors. It’s a good question, and one that I have thought about recently.

The question is especially relevant now, since the SBC’s #metoo moment has exposed the irony of looking to the denomination as a measuring line of Christian ethics. One might reasonably expect this moral crisis to produce an introspective humility among SBC leaders that would give them pause about publicly criticizing the faults of others.

Yet apparently no such humbling has come about; in addition to criticizing LGBT+ Christians, Covenant Seminary, and the PCA, they have also recently condemned Michael Currysome Australians“the left”, and Disney. Even Al Mohler’s article lamenting the SBC’s faults still managed to strike a triumphalist tone about the dominance of conservatism and complementarianism in the denomination while taking swipes at the Roman Catholic Church and egalitarians. I am grateful for Dr. Mohler’s honesty about the state of the SBC, but I wonder why he must criticize others even as he admits his own blind spots.

I have noticed a similar trend over the years.  Read some of these posts:

Evangelical Preacher Beth Moore Speaks-Out on Misogyny in the Southern Baptist Church

Paige Patterson’s World

The New Fundamentalism

What Was Being Worshiped Yesterday in First Baptist Church in Dallas?

A Signer of the Nashville Statement Says that He and His Fellow Signers are Like modern Day John the Baptists

Al Mohler Doubles Down on Pope Francis

Al Mohler on the Pope on CNN

Southern Baptists Are Not Happy About the New Starbucks Holiday Cups

The Most Masculine and Southern Academic Event in the World?

Alabama Religion Columnist: The “Swamp’s Got Nothing” on the Southern Baptist Convention

I think it is time for Southern Baptist to shut their mouths for a time and get their own house in order.

The History of the “Conservative Resurgence” in the Southern Baptist Convention

UneasyI am not a scholar of religion in the American South.  Nor am I an expert on the Southern Baptists or the so-called “conservative resurgence” in the 1980s.  But ever since I started writing posts about this whole Paige Patterson mess, people (mostly non-Southern Baptists) have been asking me for good books on the history of the conservative takeover of the Convention.

What scholarly books would you recommend on this subject?  Here are a few that I have found helpful over the years:

Nancy Ammerman, Baptist Battles

Barry Hankins, Uneasy in Babylon

Barry Hankins and Thomas Kidd, Baptists in America: A History

Paige Patterson’s Attorney Says His Client is the Victim of “wide-spread misrepresentation and misinformation”

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Here is the latest on the Paige Patterson mess.  It comes from David Roach at Baptist Press.  A taste:

An attorney for terminated Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson issued a media release late Monday afternoon (June 4) defending Patterson against alleged “wide-spread misrepresentation and misinformation…

Among Sharpe’s claims in his media release:

— “No reasonable reading of” correspondence from Patterson’s personal archives suggested Lively “reported a rape to Dr. Patterson” in 2003 when he was Southeastern’s president “and certainly not that he ignored” such a report, “as is alleged.”

— “Dr. Patterson first learned of the charges that he allegedly did not report a rape at SEBTS during the May 22 board meeting” of Southwestern’s trustees. “Dr. Patterson’s response was that he had no recollection of a rape being reported to him.”

Sharpe told BP Patterson didn’t “remember a lady reporting a rape” while he was at Southeastern, so he called Allan Moseley, Southeastern’s dean of students in 2003. “Dr. Moseley said, ‘I don’t recall the lady telling me that.’ And then the lady who became [Lively’s] accountability partner” said, when she was queried May 22, “I don’t ever remember this student telling me that.”

Sharpe alleged that Lively, in 2003, “confessed to consensual” sexual conduct and “referred to it as a sin on her part.”

— During the May 22 Southwestern trustee meeting, “Dr. Patterson explained the full context” of a 2015 email concerning a rape allegation by a female student at the Fort Worth seminary, including his alleged statement that he wanted to meet with the accuser alone to “break her down.” Patterson’s explanation was “to the apparent satisfaction of the full board, as evidenced by the fact that the full trustee board voted to name Dr. Patterson ‘president emeritus’ instead of terminating him.”

Sharpe told BP the accuser met “with Dr. Patterson and with others and report[ed] the rape. The guy was immediately expelled from school and it’s reported to law enforcement. A week later, she sends an email to Dr. Patterson thanking him for the way he handled the delicate matter.”

More than “a month later,” Sharpe said, Patterson made the “break her down” statement to express his desire to more fully understand circumstances “concerning a forthcoming meeting that had nothing to do with the reporting of the rape.”

— “Dr. Patterson flatly denies that private SEBTS archives were ever stolen,” and his personal attorney has invited Southeastern to “join with him in having Peacemakers Ministries provide an arbitrator agreeable to both parties to decide the ownership of” disputed records “in accordance with 1 Corinthians 6, which prescribes how Christians are to settle disputes rather than using the secular court system.”

Read the entire article here.