Paige Patterson’s remarks at a 2000 CBMW conference–about which I was unaware until almost 2 weeks ago, but which have resurfaced due to the work of some watchbloggers–have ignited quite the conflagration in the Southern Baptist Convention.
This is because it isn’t simply about what Patterson said in a sermon in 2000.
This is because:
(a) Paige Patterson was–and still is–a very powerful force in the SBC. He was a co-architect of the conservative movement in the SBC, he was President of Criswell College, he was a two-term SBC President, and was President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS), and is the sitting President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS). He and his co-architect–Judge Paul Pressler–are enshrined in stained glass at chapel at SWBTS.
Many SBC leaders today, including SBTS President Al Mohler, would not be where they are today without Patterson.
(b) What Patterson said back then betrayed the way many SBC churches are predisposed to covering up family jewels.
There are a plethora of abuse scandals–including sexual abuse–that churches have swept under the rug by “passing the trash”: allowing offending ministers to resign, where they can go onto another church to carry on their abuses.
There are also a plethora of abuses within the ranks of evangelicals who are party to alliances including SBC leaders such as Mohler and Patterson, and yet no one has called out the abusers.
There are countless instances in which divorces occurred, with no fault to the offended party, and the SBC pastors have shunned those parties.
There are also countless instances in which pastors–who knew better–failed to report sexual abuse allegations even when they were required by law to do so.
(c) While the SBC has long claimed that they have no contempt toward women, that claim is dubious. The recent letter from Lifeway author Beth Moore revealed an underlying contempt for women in the evangelical world, and the SBC in particular.
And the complaints in her letter were credible, as Thabiti Anyabwile conceded in his own apology in response to Moore’s letter.
With the Southern Baptist Convention coming up, that brings us to a couple of important issues:
(1) Does the SBC allow Paige Patterson to give the keynote sermon, as he is currently slated to do? (I sure hope not.)
(2) Given the spate of abuses in the evangelical world–and given that there is an epidemic of sexual misconduct among clergy, as the studies I’ve seen (which were “self-reporting”) put the number of offenders at more than one third–what kind of leader can truly provide a culture shift while not abandoning sound doctrine?
Al Mohler may have had traction once upon a time, but that ship has long sailed. Mohler, who has failed to hold other leaders such as Mahaney, Dever, and Chandler accountable–the Deebs have more stones than Mohler on this–does not have the gravitas to deal with the SBC scandals. Given that he has said nothing about Patterson’s remarks for 18 years–and has said nothing since the recent revelations–tells me that, in spite of outstanding intellectual firepower, he is utterly unprepared for this task.
So who, on the horizon, can provide the combination of gravitas, sound doctrine, and firm understanding of the internal issues facing the SBC?
I present to you Rachael Denhollander, the Louisville attorney who blew the lid on Larry Nassar. If you haven’t watched her statement at the Larry Nassar trial, you need to. It’s gold.
In addition to being a survivor of Nassar, she also has called for a truly independent investigation of Sovereign Grace Ministries, providing a devastating legal case for why their “investigation” was not truly independent and why Mahaney and other leaders have much for which to answer.
Her speaking out on that matter effectively got her run out of her church.
But why do I think she should be the next SBC President?
(1) She’s theologically conservative;
(2) She has the desire and gravitas to push the Church to deal with the longstanding internal baggage, baggage which MUST be exposed and removed from the camp.
(3) For her, it’s not simply about exposing baggage; it’s about making the Church a refuge from the world.
If you go to a pastor today, it is nothing short of abhorrent that you could have about a 1 in 3 chance of being a sexual target.
While her husband, Jacob, has told me that they are members at a Reformed Baptist Church and not a Southern Baptist Church, I still think there is a compelling case for her to be SBC President.
Rachael, I don’t know you, and that’s okay. But the SBC needs someone who can bash some proverbial heads. (If you need to bash literal ones, I stand prepared to help.)
The SBC needs a cultural change. And right now, you’re the one who can do it.
Maybe your church can add an additional alliance with the SBC to make you eligible.