After weeks of growing controversy surrounding Paige Patterson’s comments on domestic violence, the trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary have removed Patterson from the office of president.
In a closed-door meeting yesterday that lasted just over thirteen hours, SWBTS trustees forced Patterson to step down as president of the seminary, effective immediately. However, the board appointed Patterson president emeritus, complete with compensation and a retirement home for him and his wife on the campus of SWBTS. In other words, they gave Patterson the slightest of taps on the wrist.
A past president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Paige Patterson has become the rallying point for the #MeToo movement within the SBC. After videos resurfaced in which Patterson stated that he has counseled abused women to return to their husband and pray for them, a growing chorus of voices has been calling for his ouster. Over 3,000 SBC women signed a letter expressing outrage at Patterson’s words and actions and demanding that he step down.
Amidst the outrage, SWBTS’s board of trustees called for the special meeting that took place yesterday. Convening at 1:30 yesterday afternoon, the meeting ended after 3 a.m. this morning. Baptist Press reports that with the forced retirement:
…trustees adopted a motion stating “evidence exists” that Patterson has complied with reporting laws on assault and abuse. Trustees also found “no evidence of misconduct” in the employment file of Nathan Montgomery, a Southwestern student who was fired from his employment in campus dining services after he tweeted an article critical of Patterson.
Complicating things for the SBC, the Washington Post published an article late yesterday afternoon quoting a woman who claims that while she was a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Patterson, who was president of Southeastern at the time, told her to forgive her rapist and to not report it to the police. On top of Patterson’s alleged egregious mishandling of the rape claim, the woman says that she was punished for violating the school’s rule about not being alone with a member of the opposite sex (the Washington Post is behind a paywall, so I’m linking to a story about it in the Dallas News).
The current president of Southeastern, Danny Akin, released a statement to Baptist Press:
[The alleged rape] took place under a previous administration. I was only recently made aware of this event. Since being made aware of the event, I have asked our General Counsel to review the actions taken by the previous administration, and we have consulted with law enforcement. I have also spoken with the former student who has brought the accusation to make sure I have an understanding of the events, and to let her know of our love for her.
While this happened 15 years ago under a previous administration, I want to make sure the campus knows that we have a zero-tolerance policy on campus regarding rape, sexual harassment, abuse, etc. If you ever are the victim of any of these, I want to encourage you to immediately report what has happened to the authorities in addition to working with our Student Life division to receive care and counseling.
Paige Patterson and the controversy surrounding him has yet to fully play out, especially since he is the keynote speaker at the upcoming Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Dallas this June. The Washington Post‘s article and the SWBTS’s board of trustees’ toothless actions are going to ensure that the furor over Paige Patterson only increases.