The Patterson Pandemonium: What He Got Wrong, What He Got Right, and What We Can Learn About Handling Spousal Abuse Biblically in the Church
By Michelle Lesley
Unless you’re a student of late twentieth century Southern Baptist history or you’re just an old enough Southern Baptist to remember him, you probably don’t know who Paige Patterson is. (I wasn’t very familiar with him until recently, myself.)
The short version: Dr. Paige Patterson has been the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) since 2003. Prior to that he spent eleven years as president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS), served two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, was instrumental in the Conservative Resurgence, and pastored several churches. (You can read the longer version here.)
So why are we talking about Dr. Patterson today?
One of the ripple effects of the #MeToo movement has been #ChurchToo. Ephesians 5:11, in the context of addressing sexual immorality, says:
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
The #ChurchToo movement has rightly exposed many shameful instances of sexual abuse in the church and forced a reckoning- of criminal charges, of church discipline, and, hopefully, of genuine repentance on the part of the victimizers.
But ripples don’t rein themselves in, they keep spreading farther and farther out. And that’s what’s happening with this social (media) phenomenon. We’ve moved from sexual assault victims comforting one another, to rightfully exposing the guilty, to fishing expeditions into the pasts of high profile individuals to see if any inappropriate behavior or remarks turn up.
In some cases this is a good thing because it brings a guilty individual to justice. And in some cases, innocent people get caught up in the too-wide dragnet that’s been tossed out.
Which, at some point along that spectrum, is how Dr. Patterson’s name arrived in the spotlight recently.