On Wednesday, after 13 hours of meeting behind closed doors, the trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, removed prominent Southern Baptist leader Paige Patterson as president "for the benefit of the future mission of the seminary." Patterson, 75, is at the center of what's being described as a #MeToo moment in the Southern Baptist Convention, America's largest Protestant body. Earlier this month, two recordings emerged of Patterson, one from 2000 in which he talked about counseling a woman being physically abused to stay in the relationship and pray for her "abusive husband," and another, from 2014, in which he discussed a 16-year-old girl in a biblically and morally questionable manner.
The recordings prompted more than 1,400 Southern Baptist women to call for Patterson's resignation, and on Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that Patterson had urged one woman in 2003 to forgive the man who raped her, a fellow student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and told her not to report the incident to police, before suspending her for two years.
Kevin Ueckert, chairman of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary board, said the trustees had decided to appoint D. Jeffrey Bingham, dean of the seminary's school of theology, as interim president and "appoint Dr. Patterson as president emeritus with compensation, effective immediately." Patters and his wife will also be allowed to retire on campus, on the grounds of the near-complete Baptist Heritage Library, as offered last September.
Washington University's R. Marie Griffith called Patterson's ouster a "turning point moment" for Southern Baptists. "The tide has shifted so strongly on these issues of sexual harassment and assault, all I can think is: Enough leaders knew they'd really be condemned and look terrible if they stood up for him at this point," she told the Post. Peter Weber