By Aaron Earls
Seminary leader Paige Patterson expressed regret today for previous comments about women that have gained attention online in recent weeks.
In a statement posted online Thursday afternoon (May 10), the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) said a sermon illustration he used had “obviously been hurtful to women in several possible ways.”
In the illustration concerning the Hebrew word used in Genesis 2:22 to describe God creating Eve, Patterson said a young boy who described a 16-year-old girl as being “built” was being biblical.
On Sunday night, an open letter to SWBTS trustees from Southern Baptist women began circulating and gathering signatures. The letter expressed severe concerns over Patterson’s statements on domestic abuse and the sermon illustration. The women wrote, “We cannot defend or support Dr. Patterson’s past remarks. No one should.”
In his statement on Thursday (May 10), Patterson offered an apology “especially to women, to the family of Southern Baptists, my friends and the churches.”
Current SBC president Steve Gaines responded to the apology by tweeting:
— Pastor Steve Gaines (@bellevuepastor) May 10, 2018
Patterson has been a central figure in Southern Baptist life since his role in the “conservative resurgence” of the denomination in the late 20th century. Before coming to SWBTS in 2003, he had served as a local church pastor, president of Criswell College, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Patterson has been embroiled in controversy in recent weeks over additional past comments, particularly those concerning domestic abuse and divorce.
In an audiotaped interview from 2000, Patterson spoke about what he recommends for women “who are undergoing genuine physical abuse from their husbands.”
In the recording, Patterson said, “It depends on the level of abuse, to some degree. I have never in ministry counseled anyone to seek a divorce and that’s always wrong counsel.”
He said he had only twice recommended a temporary separation when the abuse “was serious enough, dangerous enough, immoral enough.”
In the interview, he shared an illustration of a woman who came to him saying her spouse was abusive to her.
Patterson advised her to go home, kneel beside her bed, and pray for her husband, but expect her husband to “get a little more violent” in response to her prayers.
Later, Patterson said, the woman came to church with two black eyes and told him, “I hope you’re happy.” He said, “Yes, ma’am, I am,” as he went on to explain he saw her husband come to church that Sunday.
After the interview came to light, Patterson released a statement on Sunday, April 29. He said, “For the record, I have never been abusive to any woman. I have never counseled or condoned abuse of any kind.”
He maintains he has “aided women in leaving an abusive husband” and has even had his life threatened by an abusive husband because he helped an abused woman get help.
Patterson told Baptist Press he did not suspect any physical abuse of the woman in the illustration he shared.
“For sharing this illustration, especially in the climate of this culture, I was probably unwise,” he said in his statement. “However, my suggestion was never that women should stay in the midst of abuse, hoping their husbands would eventually come to Christ.”
On Tuesday, May 1, Patterson and the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees at SWBTS released a statement on abuse and affirmed a previous statement on the topic by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
SWBTS’ full board of trustees is scheduled to meet on May 22 at the request of Patterson.
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.