Baptist leader Paige Patterson out completely for mishandling rape claim

Paige Patterson Baptist removed as head of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Paige Patterson, then-president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, spoke inappropriately about a 16-year-old "coed" at the AWAKEN Conference in Las Vegas on Jan. 2014.
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Paige Patterson, then-president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, spoke inappropriately about a 16-year-old "coed" at the AWAKEN Conference in Las Vegas on Jan. 2014.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has fired Paige Patterson entirely — after previously demoting him — over his handling of a sexual abuse case at seminary where he previously served, according to a statement released Wednesday.

Patterson will not receive compensation or be the theologian in residence and is no longer president emeritus, the statement said.

The executive committee came to a unanimous decision after it confirmed new information about the previous case that is "inconsistent with SWBTS’s biblically informed core values," according to the statement.

Patterson, who had served as Southwestern's president, was pushed into the position of “president emeritus” on May 23 after he came under fire for his comments and teachings about women when recordings recirculated online. In one, he said he advised a woman who was the victim of domestic violence to stay with her husband and pray for him. In another, he commented on the physical attributes of a 16-year-old girl.

On May 6, a group of Southern Baptist women had posted an open letter to Southwestern's trustees asking the board to remove Patterson from his post, saying his remarks about women, sexuality and domestic violence were counter to the Bible's teaching and reflected poorly on the denomination. More than 3,300 women signed the letter.

The board's initial action, which came after that letter, satisfied some who argued that Patterson had been a faithful servant and a strong leader for decades in the Southern Baptist denomination. It angered others, who said it could hardly be interpreted as disapproval for what they considered egregious teachings.

The trustees' letter on Wednesday did not name the seminary where the mishandled report of sexual assault occurred. But the Washington Post recently published an article alleging that Patterson told a woman who said she had been raped in 2003 while a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest not to report the assault to police and to forgive the assailant. Patterson was president of Southeastern at the time, and held the job for about 11 years before moving back to his native Texas to take the helm at Southwestern.

On May 28, a woman named Megan Lively, who lives in Wilson, said on Twitter that she was the victim of the assault described in the Washington Post story.

"I am the woman you read about, #SEBTS 2003, not afraid, ashamed, or fearful," she wrote. "I am proud to be #SBC bc of how many have responded with compassion & love. Our history isn't our future. Ephesians 4:30-32, Romans 8. Please join us in praying tomorrow. ."

In comments connected to the tweet, she said she had talked with her husband, they forgave the man who raped her and, as a result, "a huge weight has been taken off my shoulders."

Responses to the tweet included messages of support from Christian writers Ed Stetzer, Beth Moore and others who said Lively was brave for speaking out, as well as at least one commenter who said Lively had "cast an elderly couple out of their home and stripped them of their income."

Patterson, 75, also is the former head of the Southern Baptist Convention and is still scheduled to deliver the keynote sermon at this year's annual meeting in Dallas, June 12-13.

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