School trustees announced early Wednesday morning that Patterson, one of the most powerful and influential figures in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), had become the seminary’s president emeritus overnight, appointing theology dean Jeffrey Bingham as interim president.
After deliberation that went on past 3 a.m., the board voted him into paid retirement, complete with an on-campus home where he and his wife can live as theologians-in-residence.
Although a hero to many decades ago, the more one reads about his ministry since then, the more sad one becomes. Besides his ethical and legally questionable decisions, some of you may remember that he admitted practicing Muslims into his seminary.
The announcement regarding Patterson’s departure came hours after The Washington Post reported further allegations against him. A former student claims that while he was president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS)—his previous role— Patterson discouraged her from reporting an incident of rape to police and asked that she instead forgive the perpetrator.
Thank God for “caving in”
The article claims, “Patterson’s defenders view any punishment as unnecessarily caving to outside pressure and chatter.” Although such reasoning does not surprise me, it always baffles me. It is typical of many people, especially those in southern culture, to plant their heals in the sand simply because people are criticizing them or someone they like.
That is not acceptable. Yes, sometimes we do need to yield to pressure because that pressure is an alarm that should wake us up to the gravity of the situation. We must have discernment and not let pride get in the way. We must be willing to admit that even heroes make mistakes and commit sin. Admitting this guards us against idolatry and humbles us. After all, we all are susceptible to doing wrong.
We badly need to be slow in becoming defensive. Genuine humility displays Christlikeness. How quickly we forget that.