It looks like Southern Baptist women are having a #MeToo moment of their own.
Over 2,000 women from the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. have signed a petition calling for Paige Patterson to be removed from leadership after audio and video emerged of the seminary president counseling women to remain in abusive marriages.
The online letter states in part: “The Southern Baptist Convention cannot allow the biblical view of leadership to be misused in such a way that a leader with an unbiblical view of authority, womanhood, and sexuality be allowed to continue in leadership.”
Patterson is the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX.
According to Religion News Service:
In the audio interview from the year 2000, Patterson said he never counsels divorce, since it is unbiblical. He then proceeds to tell a story of a woman who was physically abused by her husband and his recommendation that she get on her knees and pray quietly at night after her husband falls asleep.
In the video from 2014, Patterson disparages an elderly woman for taking him to task for his views on women and then describes a 16-year-old walking by as “built” and “fine,” noting the Bible uses similar language (“beautifully and artistically” made) to describe the creation of the first woman.
There is no word yet on whether the Southern Baptist Convention will follow the petition’s recommendations, however prominent Southern Baptist leaders, including Russell Moore, have condemned the comments.
Patterson and the seminary released a statement in response to the controversy, affirming the church’s responsibility to not tolerate abuse: “Alongside every church’s responsibility to report abusers to civil authorities stands the church’s responsibility to seek that the abuser confess to, denounce, and repent of the sin of abuse, accepting responsibility for those sinful actions, and trusting in Christ for salvation and forgiveness from sin.”
However, Karen Swallow Prior, a Southern Baptist and a professor of English at Liberty University, who also signed the petition, says that is not enough. She told Religion News Service, “There’s an attitude of defiance in that apology and in the board’s refusal to address it more concretely. It’s the persistent present pattern of resisting wise correction and accepting responsibility for those past actions.”
She added: “Women, both inside and outside the church are waking up to these power structures and saying, ‘Enough is enough.’ It’s new everywhere, and even newer in the church. Once the dam starts to break, then it becomes a watershed moment. That’s what I hope this is.”
Patterson is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at the denomination’s annual convention next month in Dallas.