As Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, explained in reaction to Paige Patterson being removed by the South Western Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) Board of Trustees Southern Baptists have been in the grips of a #MeToo social justice mob (emphasis mine):
The last few weeks have been excruciating for the Southern Baptist Convention and for the larger evangelical movement. It is as if bombs are dropping and God alone knows how many will fall and where they will land.
America’s largest evangelical denomination has been in the headlines day after day. The SBC is in the midst of its own horrifying #MeToo moment.
At one of our seminaries, controversy has centered on a president (now former president) whose sermon illustration from years ago included advice that a battered wife remain in the home and the marriage in hope of the conversion of her abusive husband. Other comments represented the objectification of a teenage girl. The issues only grew more urgent with the sense that the dated statements represented ongoing advice and counsel.
The #MeToo moment Mohler described started when Southern Baptist women agitated on social media for Patterson to be fired based on past statements he had made. This culminated with a May 6th letter signed by thousands of angry Southern Baptist women demanding that Patterson be removed as head of SWBTS. The letter from the angry women was addressed to Pastor Ueckert and the Board of Trustees, and strongly suggested that if they didn’t fire Patterson, the world would think they were the kind of men who either abused and objectified women, or covered for men who did (emphasis mine):
Dear Pastor Ueckert and Board of Trustees,
We are concerned Southern Baptist women who affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, including its statements on the roles of men and women in the family and in the church. We urge you to exercise the authority you have been given by the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention and to take a strong stand against unbiblical teaching regarding womanhood, sexuality, and domestic violence.
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 world is watching us all, brothers. They wonder how we could possibly be part of a denomination that counts Dr. Patterson as a leader. They wonder if all Southern Baptist men believe that the biblical view of a sixteen-year-old girl is that she is “built” and “fine” —an object to be viewed sexually. They wonder if all Southern Baptist pastors believe it is acceptable to counsel an abused woman in the way that Dr. Patterson has done in the past. They wonder if the Jesus of the Bible is like such men. We declare that Jesus is nothing like this and that our first duty as Southern Baptists is to present a true picture of Jesus to the world.
The day after the letter was published, The Washington Post picked up the story with the breathless headline ‘We are shocked’: Thousands of Southern Baptist women denounce leader’s ‘objectifying’ comments, advice to abused women. Just over two weeks later, the SWBTS Board of Trustees announced their decision to remove Patterson as President. Seven days after that, the SWBTS Board of Trustees Executive Committee released another letter announcing that it was stripping Patterson of all remaining honors and benefits based on his handling of a rape accusation while he was heading another seminary (Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) in 2003 (emphasis mine):
During the May 30, 2018, Executive Committee meeting of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) Board of Trustees, new information confirmed this morning was presented regarding the handling of an allegation of sexual abuse against a student during Dr. Paige Patterson’s presidency at another institution and resulting issues connected with statements to the Board of Trustees that are inconsistent with SWBTS’s biblically informed core values.
Deeming the information demanded immediate action and could not be deferred to a regular meeting of the Board, based on the details presented, the Executive Committee unanimously resolved to terminate Dr. Paige Patterson, effective immediately, removing all the benefits, rights and privileges provided by the May 22-23 board meeting, including the title of President Emeritus, the invitation to reside at the Baptist Heritage Center as theologian-in-residence and ongoing compensation.
Under the leadership of Interim President Dr. Jeffrey Bingham, SWBTS remains committed to its calling to assist the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention by biblically educating God-called men and women for ministries that fulfill the Great Commission and glorify God.
Further, the Seminary stands against all forms of abuse and grieves for individuals wounded by abuse. Today, Dr. Bingham made it clear that SWBTS denounces all abusive behavior, any behavior that enables abuse, any failure to protect the abused and any failure to safeguard those who are vulnerable to abuse. Additionally, Dr. Bingham called for the SWBTS community to join the Body of Christ in praying for healing for all individuals affected by abuse.
Note that the SWBTS board says it decided that the new information presented against Patterson stemming from 15 years prior, before Patterson was associated with SWBTS, was so urgent that they could not wait for a regular meeting of the board, and decided then and there to strip him of all honors and benefits. According to one defense of Patterson, this second meeting was conducted while Patterson was out of the country, and he therefore had no opportunity to defend his actions.
After midnight in Germany, while Patterson was sleeping, the chairman of the board of trustees, Kevin Ueckert, ordered Scott Colter to wake Patterson for a phone call. On the call, Ueckert told Patterson he was fired effective immediately, with no salary, no health insurance and no home. He then relayed that Patterson would receive instructions for vacating Pecan Manor upon returning to Fort Worth.
Before the phone call, both Pattersons’ and Colter’s email accounts, including personal contacts and calendar, were shut down without notice and while the three were traveling in Germany on behalf of Southwestern, leaving them without access to itineraries, train tickets, local contact information, hotel confirmation and flight boarding passes.
Two days later Kevin Ueckert, Chairman of the SWBTS Board of Trustees, released yet another press release explaining that he and the entire board were not reacting to the #MeToo hysteria, and their decisions were strictly made based on Patterson’s current performance (emphasis mine):
Based on a number of follow-up questions I have received this week, I am providing this additional statement related to our May 30, 2018 statement. The unanimous decision by the Executive Committee to immediately terminate Dr. Paige Patterson was prayerfully considered and warranted.
We confirmed this week through a student record, made available to me with permission, that an allegation of rape was indeed made by a female student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2003. This information contradicts a statement previously provided by Dr. Patterson in response to a direct question by a Board member regarding the incident referenced in our May 30 statement. The 2003 rape allegation was never reported to local law enforcement. SWBTS will not release the student record to the public without additional appropriate permissions.
Ultimately, the decision of the Executive Committee to immediately terminate Dr. Patterson was clear and unanimous.
I also want to reiterate what SWBTS Interim President Dr. Jeffrey Bingham said earlier this week. SWBTS denounces all abusive behavior, any behavior that enables abuse, any failure to protect the abused, and any failure to safeguard those who are vulnerable to abuse.
In this difficult situation, the Executive Committee based its decision on the current performance of the president and did not allow the legacy of Dr. Patterson or the #MeToo pressure to steer the outcome. We did not react; rather, we decisively exercised our responsibility based on the Seminary’s biblically informed core values and integrity.
Note how Chairman Ueckert genuflects to the angry mob immediately before claiming that the decision was not in response to the angry mob. Note also that he first reiterates the claim that Patterson mishandled a rape allegation 15 years ago, before Patterson worked for SWBTS, before claiming that the board’s decision was based purely on Patterson’s current performance. Ueckert further claims the board wasn’t reacting to #MeToo pressure punish Patterson, but was being proactive.