Paige Patterson Fired by Southwestern Seninary, Stripped of Retirement Benefits
Paige Patterson Fired by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Stripped of Retirement Benefits Kate Shellnutt, A week after trustees voted to immediately shift Paige Patterson to “president emeritus” at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), the board’s executive committee has stripped the Southern Baptist stalwart of all benefits.
New details of mishandled sexual abuse allegation lead to Southern Baptist seminary president emeritus losing honorary title and on-campus residence.In a statement announcing Patterson’s termination, the committee stated today that it had confirmed information regarding reports that he mishandled a sexual abuse allegation while president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS).
Last Tuesday, a former SEBTS graduate student told The Washington Post that after she reported her rape to Patterson and fellow seminary officials in 2003, they failed to notify authorities and the former president encouraged her to forgive the perpetrator. Patterson did not respond to the claims, but SEBTS launched an internal review of its own.
The news came after weeks of controversy—and calls for Patterson’s dismissal—over his past counsel and statements regarding women, abuse, and divorce.
Best known as the leader who orchestrated the “conservative resurgence” in America’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Patterson spent decades as a revered and seemingly untouchable denominational figurehead; previous controversies had come up, but had not threatened his position or reputation until now. His case has been widely viewed as a prominent example of the fallout of the #MeToo movement and how it has changed expectations for institutional leaders.
The same day as the former student’s story broke last week, following a 13-hour meeting of SWBTS’s board of trustees, Patterson was ousted from the presidency he’d held since leaving SEBTS in 2003. The board’s decision came despite his issuing an apology “especially to women” who were hurt by his past remarks.
The initial move seemed to go both ways: Patterson was out of the presidency, partly satisfying critics who opposed his stances or were concerned about his impact on the SBC as a whole, but still kept the campus clout that came with the position, partly satisfying supporters who did not want to see the legacy of such a significant denominational leader tarnished by contemporary pressures.
“Patterson supporters seemed willing to live with the decision but it infuriated many, especially conservative Christian women, who said Patterson had not been explicitly held accountable and had been allowed to retire with his stature intact,” The Post reported today.
During the May 30, 2018, Executive Committee meeting of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) Board of Trustees, new information confirmed this morning was presented regarding the handling of an allegation of sexual abuse against a student during Dr. Paige Patterson’s presidency at another institution and resulting issues connected with statements to the Board of Trustees that are inconsistent with SWBTS’s biblically informed core values.
Deeming the information demanded immediate action and could not be deferred to a regular meeting of the Board, based on the details presented, the Executive Committee unanimously resolved to terminate Dr. Paige Patterson, effective immediately, removing all the benefits, rights and privileges provided by the May 22-23 board meeting, including the title of President Emeritus, the invitation to reside at the Baptist Heritage Center as theologian-in-residence and ongoing compensation.
Under the leadership of Interim President Dr. Jeffrey Bingham, SWBTS remains committed to its calling to assist the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention by biblically educating God-called men and women for ministries that fulfill the Great Commission and glorify God.
Further, the Seminary stands against all forms of abuse and grieves for individuals wounded by abuse. Today, Dr. Bingham made it clear that SWBTS denounces all abusive behavior, any behavior that enables abuse, any failure to protect the abused and any failure to safeguard those who are vulnerable to abuse. Additionally, Dr. Bingham called for the SWBTS community to join the Body of Christ in praying for healing for all individuals affected by abuse.
Patterson is still slated to speak at the upcoming SBC annual meeting in Dallas on June 13, but the delegation will have an opportunity to vote to replace him on the schedule.
Fellow Southern Baptist affiliates had already been forced to distance themselves from Patterson and SWBTS prior to his firing.