Over 2,000 women signed an open letter accusing the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary of condoning marital abuse and have demanded his resignation.
The women, all of whom are Baptists, published the open letter demanding Paige Patterson’s resignation after learning he counseled abused women to pray for their husbands, according to NPR. Patterson denied ever condoning the physical abuse of women and said while he has never recommended divorce, he has aided women in escaping abusive husbands.
“I have also said that I have never recommended or prescribed divorce. How could I as a minister of the Gospel? The Bible makes clear the way in which God views divorce. I have on more than one occasion counseled and aided women in leaving an abusive husband. So much is this the case that on an occasion during my New Orleans pastorate, my own life was threatened by an abusive husband because I counseled his wife, and assisted her, in departing their home to seek protection. In short, I have no sympathies at all for cowardly acts of abuse toward women,” a press release from Patterson states.
Patterson’s explanations did not, however, assuage the women demanding his resignation. They also accused him of condoning inappropriate comments toward a teenage girl.
“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. We are further grieved by the dangerous and unwise counsel given by Dr. Patterson to women in abusive situations. His recent remarks of clarification do not repudiate his unwise counsel in the past; nor has he offered explanation or repentance for inappropriate comments regarding a teenage girl, the unbiblical teaching he offered on the biblical meaning of womanhood in that objectification, and the inappropriate nature of his own observations of her body,” the letter states.
The letter refers to a 2014 sermon in which Patterson spoke of a conversation he had with a woman while her son and his friend were present. Patterson said a teenage girl walked by, and the woman’s son remarked, “Man, is she built.”
The woman reprimanded her son, but Patterson defended him.
“I said, ‘Ma’am, leave him alone,'” Patterson recounted. “‘He’s just being biblical. That is exactly what the Bible says.'”
As for the “unwise counsel,” a recording of an interview surfaced in which Patterson recounted how he once advised an abused woman to pray for her husband and how he believed God then used an ensuing instance of the husband’s abuse toward her ultimately for good.
Patterson said the woman followed his advice and then returned to church on a different day with two blackened eyes and said, “I hope you’re happy.”
“I said, ‘Yes, ma’am; I am happy,'” Patterson said of his response. “What she didn’t know when we sat in church that morning, was that her husband had come in and was standing in back — first time he ever came.”
Patterson gave his own explanation of the event in his press release and said when he saw the man sitting in church, he “knew that God had changed this man’s heart. What he had done to his wife had brought conviction to his heart.”
Patterson was not happy the woman had suffered but was happy because God had convicted the man of his sin and moved him to repentance, the church president clarified. The man accepted Christ that day in church publicly before the congregation and the couple has lived happily since then and often speak of their testimony, Patterson said.
“That morning, he did make his decision for Christ public before the church, and she was ecstatic. They lived happily together from that time on in commitment to Christ. There was no further abuse. In fact, their love for one another and commitment to their home was evident to all. She herself often shared this testimony,” Patterson wrote.
Patterson did not counsel women to stay in abusive environments but used the woman’s example to illustrate God can work good through difficult circumstances, the church president also claimed. He admitted, however, using the story as an illustration “was probably unwise.”
Patterson did not regret his views but apologized for the fact the way in which he expressed them “brought hurt,” he added. He also decried negative statements made against his family, who he says are not at fault for his statements, do not condone abuse, and were never subjected to abuse.
The over 2,000 signatories of the open letter to The Southern Baptist Convention concerning Patterson claimed the religious leader’s explanations were not enough and claim his lack of apology for his views and comments shows his beliefs are incompatible with a scriptural view of womanhood and Southern Baptist theology.
“We cannot defend or support Dr. Patterson’s past remarks. No one should,” the letter said.
“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,” it added.
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