Paige Patterson has apologized for a “failure to be as thoughtful … as I should have been” in describing domestic violence and the physical attractiveness of women in sermon illustrations.
In his May 10 apology, Patterson said in a statement, “Pastoral ministry that occurred 54 years ago, repeated as an illustration [of domestic violence] 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. We live in a world of hurt and sorrow, and the last thing that I need to do is add to anyone’s heartache. Please forgive the failure to be as thoughtful and careful in my extemporaneous expression as I should have been.”
Patterson added, “I would also like to reiterate the simple truth that I utterly reject any form of abuse in demeaning or threatening talk, in physical blows, or in forced sexual acts. There is no excuse for anyone to use intemperate language or to attempt to injure another person. The Spirit of Christ is one of comfort, kindness, encouragement, truth, and grace; and that is what I desire my voice always to be.
“To all people I offer my apology, but especially to women, to the family of Southern Baptists, my friends and the churches. I sincerely pray that somehow this apology will show my heart and may strengthen you in the love and graciousness of Christ,” Patterson said.
More than 1,000 Southern Baptist women are calling on Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson to resign over old teachings on divorce and past comments on women’s appearances.
“We cannot defend or support Dr. Patterson’s past remarks,” stated an open letter to SWBTS trustees. “No one should.”
“The fact that he has not fully repudiated his earlier counsel or apologized for his inappropriate words indicates that he continues to maintain positions that are at odds with Southern Baptists and, more importantly, the Bible’s elevated view of womanhood,” states the letter. “The [SBC] cannot allow the biblical view of leadership to be misused in such a way.
The controversy arose the week before SWBTS’s May 4 graduation ceremony after Patterson critics circulated audio clips from 2000. In the recording Patterson tells the story of a woman who came to him about abuse, and how he counseled her to pray for God to intervene. The woman, he said, came to him later with two black eyes. “She said: ‘I hope you’re happy.’ And I said ‘Yes…I’m very happy,’” because her husband had heard her prayers and come to church for the first time the next day.
The women’s letter also criticized Patterson’s characterization of a 16-year-old girl as “nice” and “built” in a 2014 sermon anecdote.
Patterson answered the initial criticism telling the Washington Post that he couldn’t “apologize for what I didn’t do wrong.” He also issued a response clarifying his older remarks and accusing critics of being motivated by “hatred” and sharing a “deliberate misrepresentation” of his position.
Patterson’s responses only proved to inflame the controversy. Several prominent Southern Baptists used the altercation to condemn domestic abuse on social media. On his blog, Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, also called for the SWBTS president to step down for the good of the denomination.
Several other SBC leaders are supporting the embattled Patterson. A petition in the seminary president’s favor went up over the weekend, blaming “outside sources” for trying to discredit Patterson’s ministry.
Dwight McKissic, an African American Southern Baptist pastor who has often criticized the “SBC mainstream establishment,” said Patterson’s remarks, while worthy of critique, should not disqualify him from leading SWBTS.
“To retroactively punish Dr. Patterson for remarks he inarticulately and wrongly made years ago is unfair in my judgment and not a way to treat a modern day patriarchal figure in SBC modern history,” wrote McKissic.
The escalation in tensions also comes just before the the SBC’s annual conference in June. Patterson is slated to give a sermon at the gathering.
Those who signed the letter from the Southern Baptist women include: Karen Swallow Prior, a Liberty University professor and research fellow with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Convention; Lauren Chandler, an author, worship singer and wife of The Village Church pastor Matt Chandler; Jennifer Lyell, a vice president at SBC-affiliated B&H Publishing Group; and Amanda Jones, a Houston church planter and daughter of Bible teacher Beth Moore.
The letter asks others to sign online. It now has almost 1,800 signatures, including those of men in the SBC.
Some SBC leaders have been pressuring Patterson for some time now to apologize and step down from his SWBTS post. The release of the recordings and the letter appear to be the latest additions to that campaign. They have been successful in forcing a special official meeting of the SWBTS trustees on May 22 to discuss “recent events.”