Paige Patterson, the former president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) who was recently dismissed amid controversy, has decided to step down from giving the keynote sermon June 13 at the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting in Dallas, Texas, according to Baptist Press. He made the decision to "contribute to harmony" in the SBC, Patterson wrote in an email to SBC President Steve Gaines.
An alternate preacher, Kie Bowman, senior pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, will give the address in Patterson’s place. Both men were elected as the primary and alternate preachers by messengers at last year’s SBC annual meeting.
Patterson also withdrew from his position as chairman of the Evangelism Task Force, a team of Baptist leaders appointed in 2017 by SBC President Steve Gaines to study how churches can be more effective in personal evangelism and evangelistic preaching. As chair of the group, Patterson was scheduled to give a report to messengers at this year's annual meeting, which is now delegated to vice chairman Adam Greenway.
As a long-time Baptist leader, Patterson is esteemed by many for his role in the denomination’s “Conservative Resurgence” in the 1980s and ‘90s. He became embroiled in controversy over recent weeks when recordings surfaced online that included comments he made in years past regarding domestic violence and a teenage girl’s physical attractiveness.
As SWBTS trustees met May 22 to discuss the matter, new information was released in a story by The Washington Post that Patterson had encouraged a seminary student in 2003 not to report her alleged rape to the police. The incident reportedly took place at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS), where Patterson was president at the time.
Patterson was moved out of active leadership May 23 – trustees named him president emeritus, an honorary role that included compensation and an on-campus housing arrangement – but the board’s executive committee terminated him completely after further reviewing the matter on May 30. In addition to the 2003 incident at SEBTS, the committee had discovered information about how Patterson handled another sexual assault allegation from 2015 at SWBTS, where he told the seminary’s chief of police in an email that he wanted to hold a meeting with the female victim without the presence of law enforcement in order to “break her down.”
Many Southern Baptists began calling for Patterson to forfeit the privilege of delivering the annual meeting’s keynote sermon soon after the controversial audio and video clips appeared online.
Patterson had previously resigned his position on the board of trustees at Cedarville University in Ohio, according to news reports.
Read the full statement below.
Letter from Paige Patterson to SBC President Steve Gaines
Dear Mr. President:
Days of soul-searching before our God, whose blessed forgiveness and grace are continually poured out upon us all, have led me to the conclusion that I herein now communicate to you. In an effort to do what I can to contribute to harmony within the Southern Baptist Convention and to respond to the request that has come especially from you and other Southern Baptist leadership, I am relinquishing my position as chairman of the Evangelism Task Force. The vice chairman, Dr. Adam Greenway, will bring the report we have prepared for the Convention in its 2018 annual session.
In addition, I will not preach the convention sermon as I was invited to do by the 2017 committee on order of business and SBC messengers. The able and gifted Dr. Kie Bowman, who is the convention-elected alternate will preach in my place. My hope and confidence is that all will pray for him as he preaches and will hear him gladly.
All of this I do with a heart full of confidence in our God and with the hope that He will favor the Convention and her churches with the benediction of heaven. I remain a proponent of God's plan and purpose for marriage as the union of one man and one woman in lifetime commitment as delineated in Genesis 2 and 3; in the biblical, complementary role assignments for men and women as given in Scripture (1 Cor. 11; 1 Tim. 2); in the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture in every syllable (2 Tim. 3:16-17); in the task of world-wide evangelism since Christ died for all and has invited all to trust Him as Savior (1 Jn. 2:2); in the protection by the strong of all who are weaker (Is. 40:11); and in calling for absolute justice for every human being (Mic. 6:8).
To those of you who have supported me with love, prayer, and encouragement, in addition to the reasons shared above, please understand this decision as an effort to protect my family as much as I can. Forever I am a debtor to all of you. May our Lord in heaven comfort your hearts and bless your every step.
Until He comes,