Paige Patterson, an influential Southern Baptist leader, is under fire for his counsel to women parishioners throughout the years.
In a letter to the SWBTS Board of Trustees, Southern Baptist women expressed their concern regarding Patterson’s teachings relating to womanhood, sexuality, and domestic violence. The letter now has over 3,000 signatures in support that, “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.”
Womanhood and Sexuality
A 2014 sermon where Patterson described an unnamed teen girl in terms many interpreted as objectifying was recently released to which the ladies said, “We are shocked by the video that has surfaced showing Dr. Paige Patterson objectify a teenage girl and then suggest this as behavior that is biblical.”
The sermon that made the rounds on the Internet took place in January 2014 at a Las Vegas church during a conference in which Patterson recounted a time when a mother was speaking to him about something she was unhappy about while her teenage son and his friend stood nearby. When an “attractive” young girl walked by, one of the teen boys remarked, “Man, is she built!” The mother then rebuked him, but Patterson defended the boy, saying, “Ma’am, leave him alone. He is just being biblical. That’s exactly what the Bible says.”
The Southern Baptist women say they are, “grieved by the dangerous and unwise counsel given by Dr. Patterson to women in abusive situations.”
An audio recording of an interview that took place in 2000 was posted by the Baptist Blogger in which Patterson was asked how he counsels on spousal abuse.
“It depends on the level of abuse, to some degree,” Patterson said then. “I have never in my ministry counseled that anybody seek a divorce and I do think that’s always wrong counsel.”
He noted that only in “the most serious of cases” — when the “level of abuse was serious enough, dangerous enough, immoral enough” — he counseled temporary separation and the seeking of help.
He went on to note an example of when he counseled a woman to pray for her abusive husband by the bedside and then one morning she showed up to church with two black eyes.
“She was angry at me,” said Patterson in the audio recording. “And she said, ‘I hope you’re happy.’ And I said, ‘Yes ma’am, I am.’ And I said, ‘I’m sorry about that, but I’m very happy.'”
Patterson explained he was happy because the husband showed up at church that morning and repented of his behavior, and according to Patterson, he is now “a great husband today.”
With his influential positions as President of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and the Southern Baptist Convention, Patterson’s actions and words are being watched carefully.
The ladies remind the board that, “The world is watching us all, brothers. They wonder how we could possibly be part of a denomination that counts Dr. Patterson as a leader. They wonder if all Southern Baptist men believe that the biblical view of a sixteen-year-old girl is that she is “built” and “fine” —an object to be viewed sexually. They wonder if all Southern Baptist pastors believe it is acceptable to counsel an abused woman in the way that Dr. Patterson has done in the past. They wonder if the Jesus of the Bible is like such men.” With the labels the media has attempted to put on the South with figures like Roy Moore, this statement couldn’t be more accurate.
The Southern Baptist women affirm, “We declare that Jesus is nothing like this and that our first duty as Southern Baptists is to present a true picture of Jesus to the world.”
Patterson has since posted a written apology online where he says “Pastoral ministry that occurred 54 years ago, repeated as an illustration in sermons on more than one occasion, as well as another sermon illustration used to try to explain a Hebrew word (Heb. banah “build or construct,” Gen. 2:22) have obviously been hurtful to women in several possible ways. I wish to apologize to every woman who has been wounded by anything I have said that was inappropriate or that lacked clarity.”