Paige Patterson: . . . the Way Forward?


Having known Paige Patterson for forty-three years as mentor and friend, and serving under his leadership at SWBTS since 2004, first as the Dean of the School of Theology and currently as the founding Dean of the School of Preaching, I am compelled to speak.

As a student (1978-1981), later as a trustee (1992-2004 and chairman of the board 2003-2004), and then faculty member/administrator (2004-2018), I have invested thirty years at SWBTS. My tenure on the Board of Trustees overlapped three presidents: Drs. Dilday, Hemphill and Patterson. The SWBTS Board of Trustees elected Dr. Patterson as the Seminary’s eighth president in 2003.

Pucker or duck, when it comes to Dr. Patterson, there is little middle ground. Larger than life public figures have enemies who oppose them for different reasons and at different levels. Some oppose his leadership in the Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention. Some oppose his strong stand theologically on a variety of issues such as inerrancy and marriage/family. Some oppose his remarks made about certain issues or decisions made as president of three theological institutions over four decades.

Though his friends occasionally disagree with Dr. Patterson, the larger picture of his leadership and commitment to the Word of God, the Kingdom of God, and the churches and institutions within the SBC is self-evident to them. His heart for a lost world is unparalleled in the SBC, and his concern for the churches in the SBC is undisputed. 

Though I am in agreement with Dr. Patterson on most things, occasionally there have been issues over which we differed, and there are letters and emails in his files and mine to prove it. Support of a friend does not necessitate lock-step agreement on all issues.

Some are linking comments made by Dr. Patterson in a counseling situation fifty-four years ago with comments made more recently and are now calling for his resignation or termination. No doubt some of this concern is genuine and some people feel that strong action should be taken. On the other hand, the way the issue is being treated, especially on social media, is dishonest and misleading on the part of others. Disagreement does not warrant being ugly and ungodly. I have observed what appears to be a fair amount of feigned outrage, piling on, double standard, virtue signaling, and some just good old-fashioned reprehensible behavior. Sadly, Christianity has its own version of the drive-by media.

Over four decades, in numerous venues from a distance and up close, I unequivocally attest to Dr. Patterson’s integrity as a man who seeks to act in accordance with his conscience guided by the Word of God and a desire for the good of God’s Kingdom.

I join Dr. Patterson and our Board of Trustees in denouncing abuse, physical or otherwise, as sin.  

What is the way forward? Let us leave the matter in the hands of the Lord, Dr. Patterson, and the Board of Trustees at SWBTS. Let’s treat Dr. Patterson the way we would want to be treated. After all, that has something of a Biblical ring to it.


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22 thoughts on “Paige Patterson: . . . the Way Forward?

  1. I agree. I’m one that will take Dr. Patterson at his word. I trust that God will lead him and southwestern seminary in the right direction. I’m disappointed in some of our sbc presidents that want to complain. They’ve given scathing remarks against Dr jeffress for his comments on the news and our current US PRESIDENT. Dr Gaines gave a message to the men of fbc Dallas to pray, praise, live a sanctified life and don’t bicker and complain.

  2. Such a well written letter of what is surely a painful,situation, but better still it sounds like the Christian way to handle difficult situations and I was blessed by reading it.

  3. Good word. To try anyone in the court of social media is both unfair and inappropriate. It neglects both biblical guidelines and established processes.

    • Dr. Hemphill, have you taken your concerns with Dr. Patterson’s comments to him personally? Or, would you say that his comments do not warrant concern?

      I’d also love to hear your response to the issues and concerns raised by Ed Stetzer.

      Dr. Allen, would you put Ed Stetzer in the category of the “some” who have genuine concerns and voiced them appropriately or is he someone who is “dishonest and misguided” in his critique?

      Thanks for your time!

  4. Knowing the history and character of many who have commented pro or con, here and elsewhere, I am compelled to observe that the disparity of it all is telling, but hardly surprising.

    – One of thousands among Dr. Patterson’s grateful debtors.

  5. P.P . has clearly stated that he is against abuse. On a few ocasions he worded illustrations poorly (who hasn’t) but he expained what he meant by them. I dont think accusations should be entertained against an elder of his tenure unless they are serious and substantial. All this talk of “being a poor witness to the world” is misguided. A seminary president preaching to seminary students about saving marriages and winning souls is always going to be foolishness to the world. I hope the board of trustees and convention leaders are not actually falling for this satanic attack.

  6. After 33 years of close working association, friendship, and fellowship with Dr. & Mrs. Patterson at the Criswell College, at SEBTS, and now at SWBTS, I can wholeheartedly concur with Dr. Allen’s statements herein. May the Pattersons “bear up under” the weight of all this.

  7. Academic credentials, board tenures and gang signs notwithstanding, Allen demonstrates how birds of a feather stick together. At least he has the integrity (right or wrong) to hold course. The same cannot be said for the friends of Patterson who began the week bashing his critics only to end the week signing petitions for his ouster at SWBTS.

  8. Having known and worked with Dr. and Mrs. Patterson since 1972, having been married by him in 1973, and having watched and learned from his stands on Biblical inerrancy and marriage/family, the recent attacks on him personally have wrought great sadness. Dr. Patterson has been constant and consistent in the 46 years that I’ve known him. He has been a friend and mentor to me over these years and anyone who truly knows him or has spent time around him also knows that he is not the villain that he has been portrayed to be. His critics appear to have motives that reach beyond the command to “love God” and “love others as yourself.”

    • The timing of this onslaught against Dr Patterson is suspect, but the tactic is so familiar. The Calvinists wanted the ERLC and went after Dr. Land (and Moore subsequently hired a handful of Presbyterians for his staff).
      Who would doubt that the Calvinists now want SWBTS?
      If true, then electing Dr. Hemphill is all the more imperative.

      • You can’t be suggesting that Dr. Greear has something to do with this? I am not saying Dr. Hemphill is not qualified or would not make a great leader. I am not a Calvinist, but it would be a great step forward to elect Dr. Greear as our new president. Saying that…to mix these two issues is ridiculous.

  9. For years we fought “the battle for the Bible” and won. Now, we have our own rendition of “Shoot out at the (non) OK Coral.” Instead, we should now turn to the inerrant words of Paul to the non-ok divisiveness of the Ephesian church, “. . . bearing with one another in love, eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

    This infighting must cease or we will lose all credibility before the eyes of a watching world. We need some spiritually mature leadership among us in this crisis hour. Who will step forward and be that leader?

  10. We should all recognize that the intent of Satan remains the same — kill, steal, and destroy. Thank, Dr. Allen, for helping us see the importance standing on the Word. We should pray for all involved in this matter so that God receives the honor.

  11. As a graduate of SWBTS (MATh 98), I speak as a member of the family. As one who attended other Christian schools (Wheaton, Brite Divinity), I speak as an outsider with a wide experience in Christian education. As one who studied at the undergrad, graduate, and PhD level, I know the pressures of academia and administration. As a director at one of the largest private Foundations in the state of WV, I have worked with universities of many sizes and different types of organizations in the area of education.
    We find ourselves at each other’s rhetorical and spiritual throats because none of us have done a good job of listening to each other over the last many years. We have preferred the easy way to win arguments – grab the spiritual high ground and believe the worst of our opponents – rather than the hard way – dialogue and prayer WITH our opponents.
    This episode is a symptom of the larger problem of unhealthy community which is why “suddenly” the steam kettle exploded. The stories that have come out (and what I have witnessed myself) are not normal for educational institutions. It is not normal for a PhD student to lose his job and scholarship over a retweet critical of the administration.
    If we are to accomplish the Lord’s goals we must move past the demagoguery we are so easily entangled with and prioritize forgiveness and communication. I always believe that starts with leaders like Dr. Allen, the trustees, and Dr. Patterson. I am hopeful they will model the fruits of the Spirit rather than recycling the mistakes of BOTH sides of the past decades. Institutional leadership and trust is earned, not appointed. I pray that this opportunity to build them both is not wasted.

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