NASHVILLE, Tenn.?The heads of the Southern Baptist Convention’s seminaries and agencies closed ranks in prayer and verbal support around one of their own during the SBC Executive Committee’s fall meeting, defending fellow leader Paige Patterson against what was termed “a level of unprecedented attack ? in the form of innuendo and smear and caricature and character assassinations.”
Speaking before the Executive Committee on Sept. 17, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. cited the unanimous vote of affirmation of Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and his wife, Dorothy, by Patterson’s 11 fellow SBC entity leaders.
Mohler, apparently alluding to the persistent and often sarcastic criticism of Patterson by several Internet bloggers, said the group of entity leaders, known as the Great Commission Council, voted to “make a statement about the fact that we will not tolerate personal attacks upon one of our colleagues.”
Before calling the members of the Great Commission Council to the podium to pray over the Pattersons, Mohler noted such a move was likely unprecedented in Southern Baptist proceedings, “and it’s because we are living in a different day and a day in which there is a level of unprecedented attack among some of our own leaders. This attack is personal.”
“There is no room in Baptist life for teasing, for taunting,” Mohler told the committee. “There is no room for cowardly attacks upon character.”
“There is a right way to raise concerns about those in leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention,” said Mohler, adding that respectful dialogue with trustees is the correct method.
“Two of our own have suffered in particular along these lines, and we want to ask Paige and Dorothy Patterson to join us here on the platform,” Mohler said. “Dorothy, I am going to ask that you join Paige here, and this is a surprise to them, because as the rest of us were meeting in the course of these days, we felt that a statement needed to be made about the vitriol and the malice of character assassination and personal attacks, and they have been particularly directed at our colleague, Paige Patterson and also his wife.
“This is an unprecedented development in modern Baptist history, and it is one that we felt needed to be named for what it is. The entire Great Commission Council voted unanimously, in the absence of Dr. Patterson, to make this statement.”
International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin led in public prayer over the Pattersons, noting their faithfulness, their heart for the convention’s doctrinal integrity, commitment to the Great Commission and “their passionate commitment to train and equip seminary students to serve our churches and to go out as missionaries throughout the world.”
Rankin continued: “I pray that you would give them grace in their response when they are abused and criticized. And I pray that you would keep them faithful and focused on the task to which you have called them because we commit them to you in Jesus’ name as our friend, as our colleague, as a leader and mentor, as a model and example of your love and your grace and obedience to your calling in Jesus’ name, Amen.”
The Great Commission Council’s actions come after months of Internet criticisms, much of it by a former Southwestern employee and a former Arlington pastor, Benjamin S. Cole. Cole is now an associate pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Okla., where IMB trustee Wade Burleson, a critic of Southwestern’s policy of male-only theology faculty and its ban on public advocacy of charismatic practice, is pastor.
Cole’s persistent criticism over Southwestern’s new homemaking program aimed at pastors wives, for example, spurred media interest and led to an appearance in August on the Fox News channel by Patterson, who defended the program as relevant and needed.
The complete transcript of Mohler’s remarks and Rankin’s prayer is available at texanonline.net.