Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Watching Southern Baptist dominoes: Whither the Paige Patterson files on 2003 rape report?

Watching Southern Baptist dominoes: Whither the Paige Patterson files on 2003 rape report?

Several weeks ago, I recommended that editors needed to budget for airplane tickets and hotel space so that their religion-beat pros could be on the scene when the Southern Baptist Convention meets in Dallas, Jun 12-13. Those that acted back then saved money.

Yes, leaders of Southwestern Baptist Theological seminary have acted twice in reaction to controversies surrounding the Rev. Paige Patterson. Seminary trustees voted on May 23 to remove him as president and then, reacting to new evidence, their executive committee acted yesterday to strip him of his new "theologian in residence" title, his new living quarters on campus and, well, any other remaining ties that bind.

What new evidence? Once again, head over to The Washington Post -- since the religion-desk team there has been leading the charge on this story since Day 1. I'll come back to that subject in a minute.

First I want to note two items in the very buzz-worthy essay written by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Al Mohler, after the May 23 action by the Southwestern trustees. The headline on that Mohler essay -- discussed in last weekend's GetReligion "think piece" -- was colorful, to say the least: "The Wrath of God Poured Out -- The Humiliation of the Southern Baptist Convention." Read this Mohler passage carefully:

The church must make every appropriate call to law enforcement and recognize the rightful God-ordained responsibility of civil government to protect, to investigate and to prosecute.

Doesn't the word "prosecute" jump out at you, just a bit? Mohler goes on to say:

A church, denomination, or Christian ministry must look outside of itself when confronted with a pattern of mishandling such responsibilities, or merely of being charged with such a pattern. We cannot vindicate ourselves. ... I believe that any public accusation concerning such a pattern requires an independent, third-party investigation. 

With that in mind, consider this important passage in the new Post report about yesterday's action by Southwestern Seminary leaders to cut remaining ties to Patterson. This passage is, of course, linked to the earlier Post bombshell by Sarah Pulliam Bailey that ran with this headline: "Southern Baptist leader encouraged a woman not to report alleged rape to police and told her to forgive assailant, she says."

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