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.
The trustee executive committee convened May 30 in what an email from Southwestern called a “previously scheduled” meeting and voted unanimously to fire Patterson as the institution’s president emeritus, effective immediately. The decision, according to a statement, was based on “new information … regarding the handling of an allegation of sexual abuse against a student during Dr. 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.”
Previously, the full 40-member board voted to transition Patterson from president to president emeritus at a May 22-23 meeting that included 13 hours of executive session. As president emeritus, Patterson would have received ongoing compensation and an invitation to reside on campus as theologian in residence. Those benefits were revoked by Wednesday’s action.
The statement from Southwestern’s trustees did not specify what allegation or institution prompted the firing. A May 22 Washington Post report, however, claimed Patterson told a female student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2003 not to report an alleged rape to the police. Later in 2003, Patterson moved from Southeastern to Southwestern.
Current Southeastern President Danny Akin told The Post he could not confirm whether the Southwestern trustees were referencing the alleged 2003 rape in their May 30 statement. He added that files he believes would help Southeastern investigate the incident were taken to Southwestern in 2003, “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.”
Southwestern spokesman Charles Patrick told Baptist Press via email the full trustee board was notified of the decision to terminate Patterson before it was made public. Patterson also was notified in advance of the public announcement.
The trustee executive committee, according to the seminary’s bylaws, “is authorized, between meetings of the Board, to have charge of the Seminary and to transact all trustee matters pertaining to the Seminary which appear to demand immediate action and cannot be deferred until a regular meeting of the Board.”
Patrick said the executive committee comprises board chairman Kevin Ueckert (Texas), vice chairman Connie Hancock (Ohio), David Maron (Mississippi), Bart Barber (Texas), Jeff Crook (Georgia), Jamie Green (Texas), Danny Johnson (Arkansas), Philip Levant (Texas), Mark Mucklow (Arizona), John Rayburn (Texas), George Tynes (Pennsylvania) and Don Whorton (Texas).
Ueckert was not able to reply to BP’s request for comment by its publication deadline.
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told The Post the termination was “the right call.” He expressed hope Patterson will withdraw from delivering the SBC’s convention sermon.
“I’ve been hearing constantly from women in Southern Baptist life who are hurt and angry,” Moore told The Post, “and understandably so. I’m hoping that coming out of this, we will have a reconsideration of how to teach and train churches to deal with abuse and with abuse victims.”
Bible teacher and author Beth Moore said in a May 31 statement on her blog, “I deeply respect [the Southwestern executive committee’s] decision and applaud their tremendous courage in what has surely been a brutal process. The committee members, too, should be in our prayers.”
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Source: Baptist Press