Ousted President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), Paige Patterson, has been asked to teach an ethics course at a seminary in Charlottesville, North Carolina, later this month.
“Dr. Patterson’s one of the most significant figures in evangelicalism in the last 20 years, at least, of the 20th century and the first part of the 21st century,” Richard Land, the president of Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES), told Religion News Service.
The course, titled “Christian Ethics: The Bible and Moral Issues,” will be one week in duration and co-taught by Land, who once headed the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberties Committee. SES is not affiliated with the SBC, although both men have been. Patterson led SBC’s conservative resurgence of the 1980s while Land (a personal friend) cheered on.
Critics Question the Fitness of Paige Patterson and Richard Land to Teach the Course
Critics will point out the irony of Land and Patterson teaching the course on ethics. Both men were removed from former positions of leadership due to breaches in ethics.
Paige Patterson and SWBTS
Earlier this year, Patterson was pushed out as the president of SWBTS after it became known that Patterson failed to report an allegation of rape to the proper authorities brought to his attention by a female student in 2003. In 2015, another female student reported an allegation of rape to Patterson, and while law enforcement was informed that time, Patterson wrote an email stating his intention of meeting with the student alone so that he could “break her down.”
Other issues, including comments Patterson has made in the past about women’s bodies, contributed to the groundswell of consensus that Patterson was no longer fit to lead a seminary. In fact, Patterson was scheduled to speak at the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas this summer but stepped aside in an effort to contribute to the “harmony” of the SBC. Patterson was terminated as president of SWBTS in May. He was stripped of any benefits the seminary originally offered him, including a house on the campus for use during his retirement years.
Richard Land and the ERLC
In 2012, Land made some controversial comments about race in relation to Trayvon Martin’s murder. Land had held the position of president of the ERLC for nearly 25 years before a probe into these comments and other accusations of plagiarism on his radio program led him to step down. Land took the position of president of SES in 2013.
As far as the course in October, which is offered online, Land is looking forward to it and brushing off criticism. “No one’s forcing [the students] to take the class,” Land said to those who raise concern over Patterson or himself. Further, Land believes “there are a lot of people who would like to hear from [Patterson] about living the Christian life in America.”
A spokesperson for Patterson, Scott Colter, told RNS that this course is just one of many speaking engagements Patterson has on his schedule. “His calendar is quite full in the months ahead, and he is currently booking into late 2019,” Colter said.