The Southern Baptist Convention: One Step Forward and Two Steps Back

For the majority of my life, I considered myself a Southern Baptist. I was proud to be so identified, and even spent a great deal of my time and energy promoting the work of the SBC. That ended a few years back, so if you want to claim that I’m not qualified to speak on this subject, I’m willing to accept your criticism. But, I will speak anyway.


This morning, I saw the announcement that the Trustees at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary finished what they started (and should have finished) last week—terminating their relationship with Paige Patterson. To be honest, this should have been done a decade ago since the incident that precipitated their action occurred that long ago. Any objective observer who didn’t have the need for Patterson’s tenacity to fight other unrelated battles knew that his actions and attitude disqualified him for the position.

However, it took ten years for the Trustees to see the need to nudge him aside, and then another, even more, disturbing revelation, to realize he needed to be gone entirely. It was a slow, hesitant step, but at least it was a step forward. Probably too little too late but at least a move in the right direction.

Then two steps back.

A sizable number of Southern Baptist leaders were accepting of the Trustees’ original move to nudge Patterson aside and even celebrated that he would be allowed to hang around and enjoy the seminary’s generosity. Talk about being tone deaf. Many failed to recognize that his attitude and actions were a problem. It’s like they were saying, “Ok, in order to hold off bad publicity, we’ll make it look like we solved a problem even though we don’t really think it’s a problem.”

I don’t know for sure, but I suspect some of these are the same people who think Donald Trump’s sexual dalliances don’t matter and that the women involved in the #metoo movement should just shut up. Their continued support for Patterson was one step back for the SBC.

Step number two was taken by Al Mohler. Mohler appeared as the new President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville about 25 years ago—a few years after I graduated. Since that time, he has become one of the leading voices for the Southern Baptist Convention.

In that role, he commented on the situation with his fellow seminary president and the problem of mistreating women. He confessed that he thought it was always a “Roman Catholic problem” and their “unbiblical requirement of priestly celibacy and the organized conspiracy of silence…” over sexual abuse. That’s nice. While coming to the defense of your own organization, throw the Catholics under the bus.

Then he added, “When people said that evangelicals had a similar crisis coming, it didn’t seem plausible—even to me. I have been president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for 25 years. I did not see this coming.”

Wow. And this is the voice of the SBC. As I said earlier, the event that precipitated the recent actions occurred a decade ago, and it wasn’t a secret. Everyone knew about it—they just didn’t care.

It got worse. Mohler went on to say the problem was not because of power-hungry individuals who were more interested in seizing control of the denomination than they were in protecting people. In other words, Patterson was not allowed to keep his position of influence because he was a capable warrior for our side, it had nothing to do with a power struggle.

Then he adds that the conservative theology was not the problem either. If you let me paraphrase, “Just because we believe women should keep their trap shut at church and play second fiddle to their husbands and other men at all times, that doctrine did not cause us to ignore rape and abuse.”

He’s wrong. It is their theology that creates these problems. They don’t know what to do with women, especially women who don’t want to be subservient. They use the term “complementarian” in speaking of the roles of men and women, but their understanding is complementary only in the sense that baked potatoes are complementary to a good steak dinner.

It’s probably safe to say that Patterson had used up his usefulness in the denominational battle, so things will continue unabated. Casting him aside, even though they really didn’t want to, is not a significant blow. Now they can pat themselves on the back and claim to be better than the Catholics.

Did I say that I no longer consider myself a Southern Baptist?


1 Comment

Filed under Church, Family, Ministry, Politics, Southern Baptist, Uncategorized

One response to “The Southern Baptist Convention: One Step Forward and Two Steps Back

  1. Pingback: The Future of Southern Baptists Hangs by a Thread (by Malcolm Yarnell) — SBC Voices

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s