Southwestern Seminary trustee chairman Kevin Ueckert (left), addresses trustees at a special called meeting at the Fort Worth, Texas, campus May 22. The board met to discuss the recent controversy surrounding seminary President Paige Patterson (sitting at right). Photo by Adam Covington/Southwestern Seminary
Southwestern Seminary trustees vote to remove Patterson after marathon meeting
FORT WORTH, Texas – Paige Patterson was removed as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary May 22 following a marathon 13-hour special called
meeting of the seminary’s trustees in response to controversy surrounding Patterson since late April over statements he made years ago on domestic
violence and a teenage girl's physical appearance.
In a meeting that began at 1:30 p.m. May 22 and ended just after 3 a.m. May 23, trustees named Jeffrey Bingham, dean of Southwestern's School of Theology, interim president. Patterson was named president emeritus. In a statement released following the meeting, trustees stated, “… the Board determined to move in the direction of new leadership for the benefit of the future mission of the Seminary.
Patterson, 75, will receive compensation and will be allowed to live on campus as “theologian-in-residence” at the new Baptist Heritage Center, the statement said.
Prior to the special called meeting on May 22, an online petition signed by more than 3,200 Southern Baptist women (as well as men) – some of them representing Arkansas Baptist churches – requested that the board of trustees at Southwestern take action against Patterson.
The petition cites a video that had surfaced from a 2014 speech in which Patterson talked about a 16-year-old girl as being “nice” and quoted a teenager as saying she was “built.” Additionally, the letter mentions Patterson’s refusal to repudiate comments from a recording made 18 years ago in which he said he would counsel most women in abusive marriages to stay in the marriages and pray for their husbands.
Patterson issued a statement May 10, in which he apologized for a "failure to be as thoughtful ... as I should have been" in describing domestic violence and the physical attractiveness of women in sermon illustrations.
Additionally, as Southwestern trustees met May 22, The Washington Post published a report claiming Patterson told a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2003 not to report an alleged rape to the police. He was Southeastern's president at the time, moving to Southwestern later that year.
In their meeting, trustees adopted a motion stating "evidence exists" that Patterson has complied with reporting laws on assault and abuse. Trustees also found "no evidence of misconduct" in the employment file of Nathan Montgomery, a Southwestern student who was fired from his employment in campus dining services after he tweeted an article critical of Patterson.
The trustees announced their decisions at 3:09 a.m. after more than 13 hours of executive session. Patterson appeared to be present with trustees for just over two and a half hours of the executive session. One trustee attended the meeting via video conferencing. All other trustees in attendance were present in the meeting room at Southwestern's Riley Center.
As the Southwestern trustees deliberated, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee interim president D. August Boto said in a statement, "In the Southern Baptist world, entity governance is a matter of trustee involvement and determination. Entity leaders are directly responsible to their boards. Baptists have long thought that the best outcomes are derived through the priesthood of the believers – committee and trustee deliberations involving many Christians, and a breadth of inclusion. Group deliberations are cumbersome, difficult and frustrating; but they seem to produce more maturity, more patience, more accountability and more sense of a family wherein love abounds.
"What is going on at Southwestern Seminary is that sort of process. I trust our system, but I trust Christ more. I know He is there, and cares. I know what His Word says in Romans 8:26-28. Therefore, I have confidence that what has been decided will work out for the betterment of the seminary, for the Pattersons and for our convention if, as I trust, the trustees have been driven by a deep desire to fulfill God's calling and accomplish God's purpose," Boto said.
In response to The Post’s report about Patterson at Southeastern, current Southeastern President Danny Akin sent an email to Southeastern students Tuesday evening stating that the alleged rape "took place under a previous administration. I was only recently made aware of this event. Since being made aware of the event, I have asked our General Counsel to review the actions taken by the previous administration, and we have consulted with law enforcement. I have also spoken with the former student who has brought the accusation to make sure I have an understanding of the events, and to let her know of our love for her.” He said he is committed to a “zero-tolerance policy on campus regarding rape.”
– Compiled from reporting by the Arkansas Baptist News, Baptist Press and other media sources.