I have known Dr. Paige Patterson for over three decades. He is a lightning rod for controversy. His Irish blood mingled with his genetic inclination for practical jokes, his staunch stance on truth, his high tolerance of pain, and his Wild West “good fight” mentality is a mixture that draws even the most insignificant of lightning strikes. Anyone who has known Dr. Patterson for any length of time is vividly aware of his proclivity to draw controversy. But this time he may go too far in his response to the controversy.
In the past I have personally watched him return good for malicious attacks on him. I was in his home when he was falsely accused and attacked as President of The Criswell College. As a young student called into ministry, and on account of my friendship with his son and daughter I had the privilege of watching this sage kneel to his knees one evening and pray for those who were attacking him. As a small group of us joined him, I heard him: 1) plead to God for forgiveness for the times he had failed his God; 2) honestly admit his sinful nature was far worse than the false accusations which were being spread about him; 3) ask God to give him the grace he needed to love and pray for those who were falsely accusing him; 4) ask God to protect his family, the school, and the Kingdom; and 5) ask for truth to prevail.
This scene was intrinsically woven into the sanctification of this young ministerial student. As were light-hearted moments, like seeing him slide in socks across his kitchen floor doing his best lip-sink rendition of Tom Cruise singing “Old Time Rock and Roll.” Fortunately, for all, he was not dressed like Tom Cruise was in the Risky Business scene. I am especially fond of the time when the love of his life called to him from their library “Paige, don’t eat all of those chocolate chip cookies…those are for the students.” With cookie in hand, he smiled at us and said to his bride “Yes, Ma’am.” Ah, but she knew him too well. Next we heard, ”You have one in your hand now, don’t you.” To which, he responded, after cramming it in his mouth, a barely audible “no, ma’am.”
I learned so much from Dr. Patterson. I grew up in a divorced home. From junior high into college I only got to see my dad every other weekend. When I arrived at The Criswell College I was the product of public education, eighties football locker room education and a single parent home. My view of women was influenced by pornographic magazines (to which I was first exposed in the fifth grade at my public school), public education, and locker room chatter. My mom was used incredibly by God, to minimize these influences, but male mentors were largely missing, and thus I was a mess!
However, at The Criswell College, my understanding of how beautifully God created women, not as possessions, but as possessors of His image, grew immensely. In large part, this sanctification, was not just because of the intrinsic worth and immeasurable value which Scripture places on women, but also a result of how the Holy Spirit used what was modeled before me. The way Dr. Patterson viewed his wife and daughter as beautiful precious diamonds of priceless worth was not missed on this poor preacher boy from a broken home.
Nevertheless, this current controversy differs from the ones I saw Dr. Patterson endure decades ago. This current controversy is being fueled not just by his enemies but his “friends.” This time, I imagine he will handle it more graciously than ever before. He will probably go too far in his grace, wisdom, mercy and kindness. I have read the apparent epistolary grenades which have been launched his direction. It might prove beneficial to review these firecrackers dressed up as grenades, before making predictions of what will come.
Apparently, Dr. Patterson, gave some advice years ago regarding prayer for a lost husband, which he has since clarified with respect to both the context and his beliefs. In fact, he has made clear that he “has never…condoned abuse of any kind.” He further stated that he even had his very life threatened for helping a woman get out of an abusive home during one of his pastorates (something many of these tweeters have probably never experienced).
Moreover, he has admitted that, he does not counsel women to divorce abusive husbands, but rather, to get away from the abuse and apparently remain separated until the husband gets saved and changed. Whether one agrees with this counsel or not is a different topic, but to somehow construe this counsel as Patterson condoning abuse is as intellectually dishonest as it is evil. Even to hint, on Twitter, that Patterson believes such, is wrong. We all know how this game is played: news breaks that a leader said something evil about women decades ago. Then, everyone, gets out their Twitter birds to state how wrong it is to ever speak evil about women before the person is given a hearing explaining the context. It is as if we passively judge a person guilty before hearing the full story.
If one wants to grasp what Dr. Patterson believes about abuse, one should look no further than the statement to which he clearly stated he agrees with ENTIRELY: “We condemn all forms of…abuse…We believe…abuse is a hallmark of the devil….We believe that the local church…(has) a responsibility to establish safe environments…(and) to report abuse to civil authorities.”
This is the background to the current controversy. There are some in this controversy who have deservedly earned a reputation for being dirt diggers. For those of us familiar with the SBC, we have come to expect such behavior from them. Our expectations for them to couch half-truths in as bad of light as they can find, seem to always be met.
There are other so called “leaders” in the SBC for whom we seem to consistently lower our initial high expectations; and sadly, they seem to consistently fail to meet the ever-lowering expectations.
Ten years ago I would have expected some of these leaders to:
1) Stay above the fray. One leader (Dr. Stetzer) seems to imply that staying above the fray has been done by past leaders because of fear of retribution. I am disheartened he thinks so little of our past and current leaders. I have always felt, the ability to stay above the fray had more to do with wisdom and consideration of the kingdom than some sort of fear of man.
2) Recognize that casting stones is unbiblical. Sure, we can and should stand up for truth. I try to, and I do not mind calling out names (without a desire to get personal) when I am responding to things which have been said. However, standing up for truth is not the same as falsely or passively implying that something Dr. Patterson said almost twenty years ago in a totally different context (he was not speaking about abuse), is the advice he would give in abusive situations. I am certain many of these same leaders would cringe if someone took the time to research and publish things they may have said twenty to thirty years ago in a sermon or around a table. We all have sins in our past for which we are ashamed. To pick up stones to throw at Dr. Patterson as if he said these things yesterday, or as if he believes women should stay in abusive relationships is precisely the action Christ warns against in John 8. I wouldn’t even cast stones at those casting stones, for I am aware of my own sinfulness.
3) Be objective about facts rather than cowering to the latest societal fad. The men involved who actually know Dr. Patterson KNOW FULL WELL that he has always held the highest view and protection of women. To not objectively acknowledge this, when they take to social media, begs numerous questions. Moreover, the fact, they have not gone after Dr. John Piper (when his comments were much more recent and much more transgressive) also begs numerous questions. One would expect that those who were soo offended by Dr. Patterson’s comments would be even more offended by Piper’s comments. Their silence concerning Piper speaks much louder than their tweets. Sure they will say Piper issued a clarifying statement. As did Patterson! Again, this begs even more questions regarding consistency and credibility.
I am fully aware as I write this that I am a nobody in the SBC. I am also aware that truth doesn’t need a name behind it to be true. Logic and truth stand on their own. With this in mind here are my predictions and hopes.
I predict that those who enjoy stirring stuff will continue to do so. My grandmother often said “the more you stir (manure), the more it stinks.” Only, she didn’t say “manure”:) Apparently, some have grown accustomed to that smell. Nevertheless, I have hopes they will mature from the manure.
I also predict some so called “leaders” will continue to passively cast dispersions. My hope would be that these men would apologize to Dr. Patterson, as well as their readers, as loudly as they implied their misrepresentation of the situation, but I have my doubts.
Finally, my prediction concerning the aged reformer of the SBC is that he will, like the eighty plus year old prophet, Daniel, kneel to his God and pray “just as he has always done.” I feel the Holy Spirit will prompt the Southwestern sage to forgive as he has done so many times in the past. I am confident God will again close the mouths of the lions.
While many of us, wrongly, desire the Irish to come out in this man. I have an inkling that rather than the stench which has been stirred in this controversy, when Dr. Patterson rises from his prayer time we will once again see wisdom, love, joy, peace, patience and self-control. This fruit smells so much better. I have a feeling he will go further than before with this sweet-smelling aroma. Oh, for more wisdom like that.
Two iconic leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention have endorsed Ken Hemphill for SBC president.
Robert Jeffress, pastor of the historic 13,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, in an email, said, “I enthusiastically endorse Dr. Ken Hemphill for president of the Southern Baptist Convention,” noting that Hemphill “is a proven leader with a consistent track record of supporting all the various ministries of our denomination.”
“As our Convention faces so many critical decisions that will determine our denomination’s future for decades to come,” he continued, “we need a leader who has both the ability and the desire to unite, rather than further divide, Southern Baptists.”
Bobby Welch, who served as SBC president from 2004-2005 while then pastor of the 4,100-member First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Florida, shared similar thoughts through a social media message about the need for Hemphill’s seasoned leadership at a critical time in the life of the Convention.
“There are a number of excellently qualified Southern Baptists who would make a great president of the SBC, any other time except this time,” Welch wrote. “This time, we are in desperate need of a full time – 7 days a week – 24 hours a day – 365 days a year – president who can focus SBC on the things that are essential to regaining our place in evangelism-world missions-home missions.
Welch added a note of urgency that the SBC “pull out of our nose dive now – BEFORE IT’S TOO TOO LATE!!
“Dr. Hemphill knows how, has the experience – AND IS COMMITTED TO FULL TIME WORK,” he concluded.
Other recent endorsements include Steve Scoggins, Hemphill’s pastor at the First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, North Carolina, Michael Dean, pastor of the historic Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, and a former trustee of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary when Hemphill served as its president, and James Hester, pastor of Social Springs Baptist Church in Ringgold, Louisiana.
Scoggins called Hemphill “a hero to me,” for his extensive service to Southern Baptists, adding that he is “a faithful member of our church.”
He called Hemphill “a gracious leader at Southwestern Seminary” and “a constant help to churches seeking revitalization since leaving the seminary.” He added that Hemphill and his wife Paula have been champions of the church’s strong commitment “to supporting missions through the Cooperative Program.”
Dean said Hemphill “is a man of deep personal and doctrinal integrity” and noted that he has “selflessly served Southern Baptist churches and causes.”
Finally, Hester shared that he made up his mind after listening to both candidates speak on separate occasions as part of an interview series conducted by Brad Jurkovich, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Bossier City, Louisiana.
Hester wrote to the Baptist Message that after hearing both men he decided to “wholeheartedly and unequivocally endorse and pledge my support, and that of all messengers of Social Springs Baptist Church in Ringgold, LA, for Dr. Ken Hemphill.”
Hester explained his decision in terms of Hemphill’s “understanding and vision for our convention” as best representing “Scripture and the traditionalist values that the vast majority in our churches hold dear.
“It matters to me that every church that Dr. Hemphill ever pastored knew that they were Southern Baptists,” he said. “We are, first and foremost, a people of the Book. That is nothing for which we should ever be ashamed.
“May we each prayerfully consider the future of our denomination, and be intentional in voting our convictions.”
These leaders join 29 Louisiana pastors and others who announced their combined endorsement of Hemphill on April 5.
Rick Patrick, Pastor
FBC Sylacauga, Alabama
Executive Director, Connect 316
Publisher, SBC Today
In breaking news, Paige Patterson shockingly made a comment in an interview eighteen years ago exalting the timeless truth of Scripture regarding the matter of divorce. Unfortunately, Patterson’s point, when taken completely out of context, appears to call into question his sensitivity to our contemporary culture’s Me Too Movement, a development that arose seventeen years after he concluded the interview.
A hit piece in The Washington Post appears to draw from an anonymous blogger (who may or may not be Ben Cole) and the non-stop Twitter War launched against Patterson by Jonathan Merritt, a writer, blogger and news personality who was outed in a 2012 Salon article by Azariah Southworth.
Writers today would be wise to restrict their application of current cultural sensitivities to today’s events. To illustrate, through the years, the term “Colored” was replaced by “Negro” and then “Black” and then “African-American.” It would be unfair to fault people for being racist fifty years ago because they did not use the term “African-American.” Any writer who would apply a six month old cultural template to an eighteen year old comment must realize that the foundation of their criticism crumbles under the weight of their misplaced historical context.
It has been said that a man should never explain himself, for his friends don’t require an explanation and his enemies won’t believe one. But I cannot stand idly by while two backslidden bloggers take cheap shots at the greatest living Southern Baptist. Honestly, if not for Patterson, our denomination would be so steeped in liberal theology we would have pro-choice homosexual ministers embracing evolution and endorsing Hillary. Instead of attacking him, we should be thanking him.
In one anecdote from his years of marital counseling experience, Patterson urged a woman who had endured some level of abuse to pray by her bedside for her husband. She then endured more abuse one last time, only to see her husband fall under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, walk the aisle, and give his life to Christ. The abuse never continued, and they lived happily ever after in a Christian marriage. Without knowing all of the details of this specific situation, it is difficult to know what type of counsel any minister might give. Admittedly, some ministers might urge this woman to leave the home. Patterson himself admitted that on more than one occasion he had given women this very same advice. In this particular case, however, he urged her to pray faithfully, resulting in the saving of both a husband and a marriage.
Below are a few points highlighting Patterson’s response to the accusations.
Patterson said he was being “subjected to rigorous misrepresentation.”
2. Never Abused or Accused
Patterson said he has never abused anyone or been accused of abusing anyone.
3. Separate From Abusive Husbands
“On more than one occasion” Patterson has counseled women to leave their abusive husbands.
4. Report Abuse To Authorities
Patterson has counseled that physical or sexual abuse of any kind should be reported “to the appropriate authorities.”
5. Supports CBMW Statement
Patterson praised the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood statement and said it reflected his view.
6. Does Not Recommend Divorce
Patterson has 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.”
7. Regret For Pain Caused To Supporters
Patterson said, “To all who love me and have supported me across the years and to those who have been wounded by these accusations, I express my deepest regret.”
8. No Apology For Biblical View Of Family
Patterson said, “I do not apologize for my stand for the family and for seeking to mend a marriage through forgiveness rather than divorce.”
The most insidious false accusation against Patterson is the wrongful insinuation that he would encourage a woman to remain in a situation where she would be nothing other than a punching bag for an abusive husband. When Patterson says he opposes divorce, this does not mean he opposes a woman’s safe separation. A woman can separate from her husband and find a safe place without seeking a divorce.
In Malachi 2:16, the Lord says, “I hate divorce.” I am comforted rather than scandalized by the fact that Paige Patterson agrees with both God and the Bible in that he too hates divorce. No, there is nothing to stop Monday Morning Counselors from second guessing specific marital advice given several decades ago in which they do not possess all of the facts known by the Counseling Minister. But honestly, if I were in need of marriage counseling, I would not get on Twitter and listen to a couple of backslidden bloggers. Rather, I would seek the godly wisdom of a faithful minister like Dr. Paige Patterson, a man who believes the Bible is completely true and has been very happily married for more than half a century.