Liberty University Took Some of the Old Southwestern Seminary Stained Glass Windows

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Watch this video.

Last month I wrote a post titled “Big Changes at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.”  I wrote about the Fort Worth, Texas seminary’s decision to remove stained glass windows devoted to two architects of of the conservative takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention: Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler.  Both men were accused of sexual misconduct last year and Patterson was ousted as president of the seminary.   Jacob Lupfer wrote about this here.

In addition to Patterson and Pressler, there were also stained-glass windows removed with images of Jerry Falwell Sr. and Jerry Vines, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and a member of the conservative resurgence.  Jerry Falwell Jr. now has the Falwell Sr. and Vines windows.  They are on display at Liberty University.

In the video, Falwell Jr. praises the conservative resurgence of the Southern Baptist convention and mocks the “new regime” at Southwestern Theological Seminary who removed the windows.  He even calls the new administration a Southern Baptist “deep state.”

As Southwestern Theological Baptist Seminary tries to move beyond a horrendous year in which multiple cases of sexual harassment were revealed, the authoritarian leadership of Paige Patterson was exposed, and financial difficulties rocked the school, Jerry Falwell Jr. wants to keep that legacy–the darkest parts of the conservative resurgence in the SBC– alive and well at Liberty University.  Is it only a matter of time before the Patterson and Pressler stained glass window make their way to Lynchburg?

Here is a taste of a Liberty University press release:

At Liberty University’s Baccalaureate Service on Friday night, President Jerry Falwell made a bold statement to the Southern Baptist Convention when he displayed two stained-glass windows that were recently removed from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s chapel. The windows feature Liberty’s founder, Dr. Jerry Falwell, and Dr. Jerry Vines, who delivered the Baccalaureate address.

The two windows were part of a larger collection that honored the leaders of the Conservative Resurgence among Southern Baptist churches. Installed only a few years ago, the Falwell window was made possible by financial contributions from Liberty University.

 In a SWBTS press release from 2015, the seminary stated: “In order to pass along the story of the SBC’s Conservative Resurgence, Southwestern has dedicated stained-glass windows in MacGorman Chapel to those who played a major role in turning the convention back to a high view of Scripture.”

But on Friday, just moments before black drapes were removed, revealing the two large windows behind him on the stage, President Falwell said that “unfortunately, a new generation has taken the Convention away from those values in many ways.” He said the windows have been “removed by the new regime.”

Falwell demanded that SWBTS return the money donated for the windows and sent a plane to Fort Worth, Texas, this week to retrieve them. They will go on display in the Jerry Falwell Museum on campus.

Big Changes at Southwestern Theological Seminary

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It has been a rough couple of years at Southwestern Theological Seminary in Fort Worth and for the Southern Baptist Convention generally.  We have learned a lot about the dark underbelly of the so-called “conservative takeover” of the Convention that took place in the 1980s. Here are just a few of my posts over the last year:

A Southern Baptist Seminary Professor Reflects on the SBC Sexual Abuse Scandal

Southern Baptist Sexual Abuse: 20 Years, 700 Victims

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

Paige Patterson’s World

The New Fundamentalism

Southwestern has been at the heart of many of these SBC problems.  According to this article at SBC Voices, the seminary is releasing 25 faculty members and closing its Houston campus.  (I wonder if this prison program will close).

Southwestern has also decided to remove stained glass windows devoted to two of the architects of the conservative takeover:  Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler.  Both were accused of sexual misconduct last year.

Here is a taste of Jacob Lupfer’s piece at Religion News Service:

Pressler and Patterson eventually went from a metaphorical pedestal to actual stained glass. At Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, where Patterson was president, donors raised funds to immortalize leading figures of the conservative resurgence in the school’s chapel windows. The project originally intended to memorialize as many as 70 modern-day conservative Southern Baptist heroes.

Throughout Christian history, churches and cathedrals have used the medium of stained glass to tell the stories of prophets, apostles, saints and the Lord himself. The controversial Southwestern chapel window project, overseen by Dorothy Patterson, Paige’s wife, nicely illustrates the post-takeover SBC’s ahistorical infatuation with itself.

Normally, Christians allow the weight of history or the ecumenical consensus of the ages to decide which heroes of the faith to commit to stained glass. At a minimum, they wait until the honorees have died. But the Pattersons jumped the gun, and their brethren among the SBC powerful were too blinded by their own uncritical adulation for the conservative resurgence to stop them.

With no fanfare, and to the secret relief of many, the windows came down last week. This may reflect a preference for unadorned churches by the more Calvinistic leadership at the seminary, which until recently was a holdout among the SBC’s seminaries for resisting efforts to infuse the Southern Baptist Convention with Reformed theology.

More likely, the windows are untenable amid reconsiderations of Pressler and Patterson themselves. Patterson, 76, was forced out as Southwestern Seminary’s president last year, in part for mishandling sexual misconduct allegations years earlier at another seminary, and Pressler, 88, has been accused of sexual misconduct going back 40 years.

A spokesman for the seminary offered no comment on the windows removal when I called, beyond what was reported in the Alabama Baptist newspaper. The paper quotes an April 3 letter signed by trustee chairman Kevin Ueckert, which gave no reason for the removal, saying only, “After much prayerful consideration and discussion, we have concluded that it is in the best interest of the institution to remove and relocate the stained-glass windows.”

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.”

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.”

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.

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.

Southeastern Seminary: “At this time there has been no evidence discovered that disputes or discredits our former student’s account”

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Here is the official statement from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary:

During the last few weeks Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) has walked through a situation that began when our administration was contacted by a former student who was the victim of an alleged sexual assault in 2003. Dr. Danny Akin, president of SEBTS, communicated the institution’s willingness to assist her in any way, and began an internal review of the matter. At this time, the internal review is not complete because SEBTS is not in possession of documents deemed as being owned by the seminary. At this time there has been no evidence discovered that disputes or discredits our former student’s account.

As public conversation has continued, correspondence regarding the matter has surfaced which were not in any files possessed by SEBTS. Such correspondence should be held in student files under protection of federal privacy laws regarding education records. It is our express desire to acquire these documents as well as any others that should be held by SEBTS.

A statement released today by Shelby Sharpe, personal attorney for Dr. Paige Patterson, refers to a request that we join in an arbitration process provided by Peacemakers Ministries. The statement indicates that we have not accepted. While we do understand that mail delay or other extenuating circumstances may have arisen, to this date we have received no such request. Mr. Sharpe also references a statement provided by a former staff member associated with the Pattersons in which he verifies he only removed documents that were the property of the Pattersons. It is our understanding that these are documents that were stored in the SEBTS Library archives and are not related to the official Presidential communications of the institution.

SEBTS does not believe the official Presidential communications were maliciously removed from the property. However, we believe there is a misunderstanding on the part of the Pattersons and their attorney as to what is owned by SEBTS under the work for hire doctrine.

It is not our intention to settle this matter in a court of law, and SEBTS has never expressed the desire to pursue action in the courts regarding these documents. We have made a request to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) and are working amicably with the institution to preserve and return all documents that are the property of SEBTS to our campus in Wake Forest. We have no desire to be uncooperative. We simply cannot respond to a request that we have not received.

Our ultimate goal in this process is to provide a safe learning environment and to protect the privacy of all our students and graduates.

Get some context by reading our coverage here.

Ross Douthat on the “Baptist Apocalypse”

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The New York Times conservative columnist connects the Patterson scandal at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to the age of Trump.  Here is a taste:

Among Trump-supporting religious believers, the long odds he overcame to win the presidency are often interpreted as a providential sign: Only God could have put Donald Trump in the White House, which means he must be there for some high and holy purpose.

The trouble with this theory is that it’s way too simplistic about what kind of surprises an interventionist deity might have in mind. Such a God might, for instance, offer political success as a temptation rather than a reward — or use an unexpected presidency not to save Americans but to chastise them.

We’re a long way from any final judgment on God’s purposes in the Trump era. But so far the Trump presidency has clearly been a kind of apocalypse — not (yet) in the “world-historical calamity” sense of the word, but in the original Greek meaning: an unveiling, an uncovering, an exposure of truths that had heretofore been hidden.

That exposure came first for the Republican Party’s establishment, who were revealed as something uncomfortably close to liberal caricature in their mix of weakness, cynicism and power worship. It came next for the technocrats and the data nerds of the Democratic Party, who were revealed as ineffectual, clueless and self-regarding in opposing Trump’s clown-car campaign. And then it came for a range of celebrated media men, from Harvey Weinstein to Matt Lauer, who found that in the backlash against Trump’s misogyny their own sins were suddenly exposed.

But the unveiling has not been confined, as Trump’s providentialist supporters might like to imagine, to institutions and individuals that have arrayed themselves against him. It has come as well for figures whose style anticipated him (Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, that whole ménage) and for figures who have deliberately attached themselves to his populist revolt. The sins of Roy Moore were more exposed by the Trump era, and now likewise the racist paranoia of Roseanne Barr.

And lately a similar moral exposure has come to precisely the sector of American Christianity where support for Donald Trump ran strongest — the denominational heart of conservative evangelicalism, the Southern Baptist Convention.

The main case is Paige Patterson, the now-erstwhile president of a major Baptist seminary in Fort Worth, who was eased into retirement over revelations that he’d counseled abused women to return to their husbands and allegedly shamed and silenced at least one rape victim. But the outpouring of female testimony inspired by his case suggests that Patterson is a beginning, not an end. “Judgment has now come to the house of the Southern Baptist Convention,” the Baptist theologian and seminary president Al Mohler wrote in an agonized reflection last week, and “the terrible swift sword of public humiliation has come with a vengeance.”

Read the rest here.

This Paige Patterson Stuff Just Gets More Disgusting By the Day

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Here is Sarah Smith of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

The fired Southern Baptist seminary leader who wanted to get an alleged rape victim alone to “break her down” also said it was a “good thing” she had been raped and that her future husband wouldn’t care if she was a virgin or not, according to the woman’s attorney.

Paige Patterson, a giant in the Southern Baptist world, was fired from the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth on May 30 in response to his handling of sexual assault allegations. He had been pushed to president emeritus May 23.

The three alleged assaults took place in October 2014 and April 2015 and were reported in August 2015. The alleged assailant, according to the victim’s attorney, Stuart Cochran of Dallas, was a Southwestern student and employee.

“I am told he said it was a ‘good thing’ my client had been raped and that her future husband wouldn’t care if she was a virgin or not,” Cochran said of Paige in a statement to the Star-Telegram. “He threatened to sic lawyers on her [mother] for questioning his leadership at the school when she asked why the assailant was allowed on campus.”

Cochran said that Patterson sent around an email calling the woman’s mother “nuts.”

A request sent to Patterson for comment through his then-chief of staff at Southwestern, Scott Colter, has not been returned. Colter is no longer at Southwestern.

After the alleged assaults and Patterson’s behavior, Cochran said, the woman withdrew voluntarily from the seminary.

Read the rest here.  Indeed, Paige Patterson’s world HAS collapsed around him.

“Dr. Patterson discussed meeting with the student alone so that he could ‘break her down’ and that he preferred no officials be present”

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And he also took documents from Southeastern Seminary that did not belong to him.

Kevin Euckert, the chair of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Board of Trustees, published this statement today on the seminary website:

Based on a number of follow-up questions I have received this week, I am providing this additional statement related to our May 30, 2018 statement. The unanimous decision by the Executive Committee to immediately terminate Dr. Paige Patterson was prayerfully considered and warranted.  

We confirmed this week through a student record, made available to me with permission, 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. The 2003 rape allegation was never reported to local law enforcement. SWBTS will not release the student record to the public without additional appropriate permissions. 

In addition, as previously disclosed, a female student at SWBTS reported to Dr. Patterson that she had been raped in 2015.  Police were notified of that report. But in connection with that allegation of rape, Dr. Patterson sent an email (the contents of which were shared with the Board on May 22) to the Chief of Campus Security in which Dr. Patterson discussed meeting with the student alone so that he could “break her down” and that he preferred no officials be present. The attitude expressed by Dr. Patterson in that email is antithetical to the core values of our faith and to SWBTS. Moreover, the correlation between what has been reported and also revealed in the student record regarding the 2003 allegation at Southeastern and the contents of this email are undeniable.

Further, SWBTS received a request from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary requesting the return of any documents taken by Dr. Patterson upon his departure from Southeastern. Counsel for SWBTS, Michael Anderson, immediately reached out to counsel for Dr. Patterson, Shelby Sharpe, on May 25 and made inquiry regarding the documents. Mr. Sharpe advised Mr. Anderson that Dr. Patterson only took documents from Southeastern that belonged to him. Yet, independent of that request, following the May 30 Executive Committee meeting, SWBTS located Southeastern documents on the SWBTS campus and began taking steps to preserve them.  Mr. Anderson is in contact with George Harvey, counsel for Southeastern, and is working with Mr. Harvey regarding Southeastern’s request for the return of its documents. 

The morning after the May 30 Executive Committee meeting, Mr. Sharp provided a few documents he reportedly obtained from Dr. Patterson. The documents clearly dealt with Dr. Patterson’s tenure at Southeastern and should have been previously provided in response to Mr. Anderson’s May 25 request. Shortly after these documents were provided, the wife of Dr. Patterson’s Chief of Staff published a blog and attached these documents without the permission of the students referenced in the documents or appropriate leadership from SEBTS or SWBTS. I believe this was inappropriate and unethical. Regardless, the additional documents do not alter the decision of the Executive Committee.

Ultimately, the decision of the Executive Committee to immediately terminate Dr. Patterson was clear and unanimous. 

I also want to reiterate what SWBTS Interim President Dr. Jeffrey Bingham said earlier this week.  SWBTS denounces all abusive behavior, any behavior that enables abuse, any failure to protect the abused, and any failure to safeguard those who are vulnerable to abuse. 

In this difficult situation, the Executive Committee based its decision on the current performance of the president and did not allow the legacy of Dr. Patterson or the #MeToo pressure to steer the outcome. We did not react; rather, we decisively exercised our responsibility based on the Seminary’s biblically informed core values and integrity.

I join Dr. Bingham in his call for the SWBTS community to join the Body of Christ in praying for healing for all individuals affected by abuse.

The Latest on Paige Patterson

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David Roach has a nice summary of the most recent developments at Baptist Press.  Here is a taste:

Following Paige Patterson’s termination by a 12-member committee of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustees, reactions have ranged from affirmation of the trustees to defense of Patterson.

The seminary has canceled planned on-campus events in conjunction with the June 12-13 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Dallas, and at least two of Patterson’s speaking engagements at ancillary meetings have been canceled. Patterson has not said whether he will deliver the convention sermon in Dallas, a task messengers at the 2017 SBC annual meeting elected him to fulfill.

Meanwhile, the Southwestern trustee executive committee announced today (May 31) that it also “has reinstated” Nathan Montgomery “as an employee of SWBTS.” Montgomery is the student worker who was fired May 2 after he tweeted an article critical of Patterson that called for his retirement.

Patterson has been under fire since late April for statements he has made about domestic abuse and women’s physical appearance.

Read the rest here.  Not familiar with the Patterson scandal?  Get up to speed here.

What is the Current Status of the Paige Patterson Files Removed from Southeastern Seminary?

SOutheasternWe blogged about this last week.  Southern Baptist blogger Wade Burleson suggested that files pertaining to a 2003 rape of a student at Southeastern Seminary during the Paige Patterson presidency were removed from the seminary archives when Patterson left for Southwestern Seminary.  Get up to speed here.

It looks like Danny Akin, the current president of Southeastern, has weighed-in.  Here is a taste of Michelle Boorstein’s and Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s reporting at The Washington Post:

Danny Akin, president of Southeastern seminary, said he couldn’t confirm if the Southwestern leaders were referring to Lively’s alleged 2003 rape at his school. Akin said he believes files that would help them investigate the incident were taken from Southeastern when Patterson left that same year to become president at Southwestern in Texas.

“Whether by mistake or intentionally, I don’t know. We think there are files that probably belong to Southeastern so we’ve asked folks at Southwestern to look into that. They’re in the process of doing that,” he said.

Read the entire piece here

Paige Patterson’s Former Retirement Home

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When Paige Patterson was fired yesterday by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, he lost his cushy retirement package, including an on-campus mansion on the seminary property.   Find some context here and here.

Back in March, the Baptist Blogger, Rev. Benjamin S. Cole, posted a video of the house. To be fair, it seems like the building would also serve as some kind of center for Baptist heritage.

Here are some images:

 

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Southwestern Baptist Seminary is Dragged (Kicking and Screaming) into the #MeToo Era

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A few days ago, in a post on April Armstrong’s powerful piece on life at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, I wrote: “I imagine we will hear more stories like the ones April Armstrong has shared at the website #SBCToo: Breaking the Southern Baptist Seminary Silence.”

Sadly, it looks like I was correct.  Paige Patterson is now out completely at Southwestern, but more and more stories about life under his authoritarian regime are rolling in.  Here is a taste of Sarah Jones’s piece at The New Republic:

As president, he earned a conservative reputation on gender issues. In 2007, SWBTS terminated the contract of a female theology professor, Dr. Sheri Klouda, explicitly based on her gender. A spokesman for the school told the Associated Press at the timethat the decision to remove Klouda represented a “return” to the seminary’s “traditional, confessional, and biblical position.” In an email to me, Klouda described Patterson’s attitude toward women as “condescending and dismissive,” and added that prior to Patterson’s arrival at SWBTS, she had been treated with respect, first as a student and then as a professor in her own right.

In interviews, alumnae told me that the seminary could be hostile toward female students. “When Patterson was talking about women or the role of women in the church, that made the seminary feel like it was not the most comfortable place to be,” Armstrong told me.

Tricia Dimmitt, who attended SWBTS with Armstrong, echoed her sentiments. “I appreciate my theological education and I made good connections with students,” she said. But there were issues. For example, Dimmitt took a co-ed preaching class, though she did not intend to become a pastor. Dimmitt and her two female classmates had the option of delivering a practice sermon to female friends instead of to a mixed-sex group, and, feeling peer pressure, Dimmitt chose to preach to women. She still expected her male professor to grade her work. Instead, she says, the professor sent his wife in his place.

“His wife was a communications major, so she came and listened to our sermons and graded them,” Dimmitt told me. “I thought he was going to be grading them and that we were just going to invite our female friends to listen.”

Discrimination didn’t stop at the classroom door. Mary Burbrink, who says she was hired as the seminary’s first female patrol officer in 2013, described rampant discrimination at work. In a seven-page letter mailed to SWBTS trustees ahead of their decision to ease Patterson into retirement, she claimed that her supervisors regularly treated her differently because of her gender. “I remember always being sent away when we would go to calls of a serious nature. … I would arrive and would promptly be sent away by my supervisor once he arrived on scene with another officer,” she wrote.

Burbrink, a former Marine, told me that she’s used to being one of the only women in a group of men. But she said her experiences at SWBTS were unusual. She told me that she wasn’t allowed to be alone with any of her male colleagues, and that supervisors assigned her menial tasks more often than they did the men. She added that her experiences on the job reflected a general campus atmosphere toward women. “I felt like a petty annoyance on my best day, and on my worst day I felt like I was an evil seductress hell-bent on destroying the men around me, just because I was a woman,” she said, a gendered perception she believes the school actively reinforced.

She was particularly disturbed by a 2014 chapel sermon delivered by Patterson, during which he condemned women who dressed like “harlots.” “He was talking to the women,” she recalled. “And he asked us if we dress like harlots, and he said that if we dress like harlots and we cause our brothers and Christ to stumble into sin then, you know, we’re personally responsible for their sin.”

Burbrink referred to the sermon in her letter to trustees, and an archived recording confirms her characterization of its content. “May I just pause a moment and ask you, young ladies, is your attire the attire of a harlot? How do you dress? How you dress is a responsibility you have before God. You look like the world, you act like the world. Not long until you’ll be identified with the world. And you’ll be a part of the fall of some lustful man and your own fall also,” Patterson said. He went on to ask women in the audience if they are “loud and boisterous.” “That’s not going to be of God. That’s not what he’s looking for. He’s looking for the meek and the quiet spirit,” he added.

Burbrink, then a student in the school’s biblical counseling program, said she eventually began suffering from severe anxiety, which she attributed to an “emotionally and verbally abusive” romantic relationship and a “toxic” environment at work and in school. But she found little support. “I was hearing from them that I was depressed because I didn’t have enough faith in God, and I don’t really think that that’s a very responsible way to handle someone,” she told me.

Burbrink eventually left SWBTS without completing her degree. Asked if she believes the school has adequate resources available for women in abusive relationships, she answered emphatically: “No. No, I do not.” (The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, which sponsors a course at SWBTS, teaches that anxiety and depression have spiritual dimensions and advocates prayer as a treatment for psychiatric disorders like depression.)

Read the entire piece here.

This Time Paige Patterson is REALLY Out at Southwestern Baptist Seminary

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The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Board of Trustees was apparently convinced by evidence that Paige Patterson covered-up the rape of a female student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2003.  He is out.  No golden parachute.

Here is the Board of Trustees:

During the May 30, 2018, Executive Committee meeting of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) Board of Trustees, new information confirmed this morning was presented regarding the handling of an allegation of sexual abuse against a student during Dr. Paige Patterson’s presidency at another institution and resulting issues connected with statements to the Board of Trustees that are inconsistent with SWBTS’s biblically informed core values.

Deeming the information demanded immediate action and could not be deferred to a regular meeting of the Board, based on the details presented, the Executive Committee unanimously resolved to terminate Dr. Paige Patterson, effective immediately, removing all the benefits, rights and privileges provided by the May 22-23 board meeting, including the title of President Emeritus, the invitation to reside at the Baptist Heritage Center as theologian-in-residence and ongoing compensation.

Under the leadership of Interim President Dr. Jeffrey Bingham, SWBTS remains committed to its calling to assist the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention by biblically educating God-called men and women for ministries that fulfill the Great Commission and glorify God.

Further, the Seminary stands against all forms of abuse and grieves for individuals wounded by abuse. Today, Dr. Bingham made it clear that SWBTS denounces all abusive behavior, any behavior that enables abuse, any failure to protect the abused and any failure to safeguard those who are vulnerable to abuse. Additionally, Dr. Bingham called for the SWBTS community to join the Body of Christ in praying for healing for all individuals affected by abuse.

See all of our Paige Patterson coverage here.

 

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

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Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Check out Dana Hall McCain’s piece on Paige Patterson and the Southern Baptist Convention at Al.Com:

I care about the Southern Baptist Convention. I was brought up in an SBC church, heard the gospel and was baptized there, and have spent a significant portion of my adult life worshipping and serving in an SBC church. This body is not just an ideological football to me, to be kicked around like a any political party or secular institution. 

But the problem is that America’s largest protestant denomination conducts itself like any political party or secular institution much of the time, and that makes it really, really hard. And heartbreaking.

These days, the main fight within the convention is between two factions: generally younger pastors and seminarians (many of whom have Calvinist theological leanings), who value diversity and racial reconciliation within the church, and who espouse a high view of women, even if they stop short of desiring to ordain women for pastoral leadership. On the other side are largely older Southern Baptists, who give major side-eye to Calvinism and see the desire to do better by minorities and women as a symptom of liberalism.

You see, the SBC is controlled by the president and a couple of key committees. In order to dictate the agenda and narrative, the ideological war horses will broker back-room deals to gain control of those positions, trading busloads of presidential votes at the annual meeting for things like trustee seats at key SBC institutions.

The swamp’s got nothing on the SBC.

Last week I published a piece at Religion Dispatches on Jimmy Carter’s visit to Liberty University.  In his commencement speech at Liberty, Carter mentioned his attempts, in the years after his presidency,  to bring unity to the Southern Baptist convention.  Here is what I wrote:

Carter urged Liberty graduates to fight “discrimination against women and girls in the world.” He lamented the divisions over doctrine in his own denomination—the Southern Baptist Convention—and told a story about how he made efforts, in the years after he left the office, to heal divisions in the Convention. Carter’s attempts, he said, failed because Southern Baptist leaders were unwilling to compromise on the status of women in the church. (It’s hard to think about Carter’s comments on this front without reflecting on the recent controversial remarks of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president Paige Patterson).

The conservatives in the Southern Baptist Convention made the role of women an important piece of their so-called “takeover” in the late 1970s.  Today it is the place of women in the church that may lead to its implosion.

Mark Silk: May 2018 Was a “Humiliating Month”

WeinstienOver at his blog at Religion News Service, Trinity College professor Mark Silk reminds us what happened this month as it relates to the #MeToo era:

  • The elders of Willow Creek apologized for casting doubt on women’s allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of departing senior pastor Bill Hybels
  • Paige Patterson, denigrator of women, was relieved of the presidency of Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary.
  • “The judgment of God has come,” wrote Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “Judgment has now come to the house of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
  • Harvey Weinstein left a New York Police Department precinct in handcuffs.
  • And then there was Morgan Freeman, the Voice of God Himself.

Click here to get the entire list.

As of Now, Paige Patterson Will Still Deliver the Keynote Sermon at the Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention

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So let’s get this straight.  The June 13, 2018 keynote sermon for the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas will be delivered by a guy:

Here is a taste of Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s piece at The Washington Post:

Prominent Southern Baptist leader Paige Patterson was removed Wednesday from his job as president of his seminary amid a backlash from thousands of women, but that doesn’t mean his role in the Southern Baptist Convention is over. Patterson is still set to deliver the high-profile sermon at the convention’s annual meeting, which is expected to draw thousands to Dallas next month, and that prospect has alarmed many Southern Baptists, who fear it could send the wrong message to women.

Patterson was chosen as this year’s sermon preacher during last year’s annual meeting in Phoenix by about 5,000 Southern Baptists who were there. The only way he will not preach the sermon this year is if he personally withdraws or if “messengers” — delegates appointed by Southern Baptist churches — vote for him not to give the sermon. Messengers can make a motion on the first day of the meeting, which is June 12. Patterson is set to preach the next day.

Patterson has sent notices to some groups that were scheduled to have him speak in the future, saying he is willing to step away if it would harm their ministries, according to Ed Stetzer, a highly connected Southern Baptist who is also the executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. Stetzer said he hopes Patterson will also back down from giving the sermon at the convention.

“If he speaks at the convention, the incalculable damage of the last few weeks will be exponentially magnified,” Stetzer wrote in a statement to The Washington Post. Stetzer said that he hopes Patterson will step away but that if he doesn’t, a motion calling for him to step down will probably pass. Charles Patrick, a spokesman for the seminary, did not respond to requests on Saturday and Sunday for comment on whether Patterson still plans to give the sermon.

Read the entire piece here.

It almost seems like the Southern Baptist leadership WANTS to bring division and disunity to their convention.

April Armstrong on the Culture of Paige Patterson’s Southwestern Baptist Seminary

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I imagine we will hear more stories like the ones April Armstrong has shared at the website #SBCToo: Breaking the Southern Baptist Seminary Silence.  Armstrong attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary while Paige Patterson was president and then went on to get a Ph.D in Religion at Princeton.  She currently works in Princeton’s Mudd Library.

Here is a taste of her post “Why the ‘Removal’ of Paige Patterson Isn’t Enough“:

….My nightmare wasn’t over, however. My roommate and I were sitting a few rows back from the front in chapel that week when the predator and a group of men I didn’t know sat in the row behind me. It felt like an effort to intimidate me. He said, loudly and in my direction, that he had met with Paige Patterson and he’d been vindicated, because Dr. Patterson had exercised his authority to unilaterally reverse the decision of the ethics committee. He said, “Dr. Patterson said, ‘It’s not like you’re on drugs or anything. It’s just girls.’” He was not expelled, he said. He would continue his pursuit of a Master of Divinity degree. I wondered if the other men knew who I was.

I looked up at Paige Patterson, sitting less than 100 feet away from me on the chapel stage. He surely could see this, I thought, and must know who I was. I felt sure he could see that in addition to everything else, the predator was wholly unrepentant. It apparently did not matter. Some time later I discussed my disappointment with the situation with a professor whose response was that I was sinning by not accepting the decision of “those in authority over you.”

I believe a lay person rather than a minister or seminary professor did the more righteous thing in response to this turn of events. The Chief told me he’d told his entire squad to look out for me. They patrolled 24/7. It seemed as though wherever I went in that short span of time that the predator remained a student, a uniformed officer would walk up and say hello to me, just a friendly greeting, but it felt like more than that—a public warning, in a subtle way, that I was being watched over. It didn’t make me feel altogether safe at SWBTS—I never really did after that—but it mitigated a tiny bit of the harm, and reminded me that someone had believed me.

The predator left SWBTS not long after that, having been expelled again, a source close to the matter told me, because he refused to comply with the rules imposed by seminary housing. He was gone but my feeling of unease never left me, because after that I felt sure that no one was going to stand up for a woman at Southwestern.

Indeed, it felt like no one did. I was there when the last woman was fired as a professor in the School of Theology (Sheri Klouda, my Hebrew professor) on the stated basis that she wasa woman; when Paige Patterson approached the pulpit after a female student in chapel had sung a solo and said it was good she’d worn a skirt down to her ankles or else nobody would have been able to think about anything but her body; when a member of the faculty told me he agreed that women weren’t being treated well at SWBTS but “I’m only a few years away from retirement and I don’t want to die on this hill.;” when a man in one of my classes joked that sophia, the Greek word for wisdom, shouldn’t be in the feminine because “no woman is wise” and the instructor just shrugged and looked at me, the only woman in the room, with a kind of embarrassment but didn’t tell the student not to make such comments, or the rest of the class not to laugh at them; when a man laughed in my face because I was angry that another male student had sought me out to tell me that women and men are not equal in value; when a close friend was supposed to give a sermon in expository preaching class and the instructor told all the (male) students not to show up to hear it and sent his wife to take notes so he wouldn’t hear it either and graded her from that; I was there to experience three years of unrelenting misogyny that it seemed no one was willing to stop, because speaking out against it would realistically have drawn down the wrath of Paige Patterson, who could make or break your career, and I supposed these men had more fear of him than they did of the God they claimed to serve, or else they had sympathies with his misogyny and just weren’t as comfortable being quite as open about it to my face.

Read the entire piece here.