Golden Parachute, Deflated

Ex-president of seminary, a week after being eased into new paid positions, is fired amid reports of how he handled a report of sexual assault at a previous institution.

June 1, 2018
 
Paige Patterson

A week ago, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Texas, announced that Paige Patterson was stepping down as president. The seminary's statement said that its board was "grateful" for Patterson's contributions to the institution. The board named Patterson president emeritus (a position with compensation). Further, it announced that Patterson and his wife would live on campus as "theologians in residence."

A week later, those retirement positions have been eliminated. After another board meeting, Patterson was fired.

At the time Patterson stepped down as president, the board was facing growing pressure to remove him because of a series of comments or actions he took or is alleged to have taken with regard to women and sexual assault or sexual harassment. Among those comments are that women in seminaries need to work hard to become attractive, and that women should almost always stay with their husbands. (He apologized for a few, but only a few, of the comments.) Last week's board statement also said that the board "affirmed a motion stating evidence exists that Dr. Patterson has complied with reporting laws regarding assault and abuse."

In the week since, evidence has been growing that the board resolution may not be accurate.

The Washington Post reported that when Patterson was president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, in North Carolina, he allegedly told a woman who said she had been raped not to report her allegations to police and instead to forgive the man who assaulted her.

The woman about whom the Post wrote has now come forward on social media to confirm the article.

And she is receiving support from the current president of Southeastern.

These reports prompted a new statement from the Southwestern board.

"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," the statement said.

"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."

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