A Critical Day for Southern Baptists
I am at least a fourth generation Southern Baptist. I just enrolled Jonathan as a third-generation Southern Baptist seminary student. I am proud of what Southern Baptists have accomplished for the glory of God. We are not perfect, but we have chosen to work together as autonomous Baptist churches in order to be the largest missionary sending organization as well as provide high quality seminary education to our pastors and staff. The Cooperative Program has served us well in raising funds for our great organizations, so our missionaries and other leaders can invest in the work at hand instead of raising their own funds. The Baptist Faith and Message has been our confession of faith providing a foundation for conservative, biblical doctrine while uniting the varying cultures found throughout our denomination.
For these reasons my heart hurts when I see negative headlines that threaten to undermine what we have accomplished. The headlines in national news agencies have been about the failure of our leaders and not the work we are accomplishing for Christ’s sake all around the world. Specifically, Paige Patterson, a leader in the Conservative Resurgence that happened 30 years ago and President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, has been making national headlines of late. His counsel to women in abused relationships, his inappropriate remarks about a teenage girl’s physical appearance, as well as the alleged covering up of sexual abuse to women on his campus has led many people to ask for his resignation. A special called meeting of the Board of Trustees for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary on May 22 resulted not in his resignation, nor his termination, but rather he was given a new title (President Emeritus), promised financial compensation for his new position, and will be honored as the first Theologian in Residence, where he will live in a currently being constructed home on campus.
Dr. Patterson has done a lot to help us hold firm to our conservative convictions while most main-line denominations turned to liberalism, but these current accusations should not be ignored. If there was enough evidence to remove him as president, he should not be allowed to remain on campus. The actions by Southwestern’s Board of Trustees, has made all Southern Baptists appear insensitive to women’s issues. It came with no apology nor clarifications on why he was given a new title, compensation and housing. On top of this, Dr. Patterson holds the honor of preaching the annual sermon at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Dallas in a couple of weeks. This convention holds great importance for the future of our denomination. Thirty years after the Conservative Resurgence we return to the same city with a new challenge. I believe what happens in Dallas will propel us into the future or divide us into irrelevancy. Let us pray for our leaders during this critical time.
Lucas and I have decided we need to be in Dallas for the convention. We will have to miss the Tuesday night of VBS in order to accomplish this. We wrestled with this decision knowing that VBS is an important ministry of our church. Please pray for us and our convention as we look to unify around the Gospel. May our current generation not be the last to experience a relevant, biblically conservative, powerful Southern Baptist Convention.