I don’t know if Paige Patterson is a fan of poet Dylan Thomas. But he seems to be taking to heart Thomas’ admonition not to “go gentle into that good night.”
Patterson, the “theo” half of the theo-political takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1980s, has been fired from the presidency of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, at one time the world’s largest preacher prep academy –now shrunken to one-third of its student full time equivalent of 1979, the year the Pressler-Patterson combine achieved its goal to elect a fundamentalist SBC president.
Pressler was the “political” half of the theo-political maneuvering. A Texas judge whose membership was nominally at Second Baptist Church of Houston for purposes of identity with the SBC, Pressler teamed with Patterson in symbiosis until their names were seldom spoken in isolation one from the other. Any reference to the leaders of the internecine war they incited was always “Pressler-Patterson” or “Patterson-Pressler,” as if one was the given name and the second was the family name.
And now their names are linked again in ignominy, to which the victims of their outrageous acts can only shake their heads. Victims’ intense emotions already are burned out, leaving the ash of acknowledgement that others finally see what they’ve seen for decades.
For most of those they despoiled by casting aspersions – killing careers, plummeting godly servants into poverty, denying them their calling because they refused to use certain words to describe the Bible or because they were denominational employees and therefore suspect or because their genitalia was innie instead of outie – I suspect the rage, anger, revenge, frustration, fear and disgust that once might have roiled their guts have simply, and thankfully, dissipated over time.
And now Pressler is fighting charges in court about his long rumored and finally charged predilection for the company of young men. And Patterson has been cut loose from the seminary position he coveted even while leading a different seminary. His cronies orchestrated the departure of a fine man at Southwestern just to make a place for him. Ironically, that ousted president, Ken Hemphill, is one of two candidates being considered as the next SBC president.
Although both men are so ego centric it’s unlikely they’ll ever make this connection, dozens, if not hundreds, of people around the globe in the past few days have nodded, with maybe a hint of justifiable satisfaction, and thought, “Now they know how it feels.”
Patterson feels like he’s been done wrong, and his lawyer has issued statements that indicate Patterson is not going to go quietly into the good night of his good riddance. And he is still scheduled to bring the annual sermon at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at 9:55 a.m. June 13.
He’s not clueless. He knows that when he steps up behind the pulpit in the grand convention hall, messengers (delegates) will shift and squirm uncomfortably in their seats as they consider whether to applaud his audacity, or whether to walk out. (Update: Citing requests from SBC president Steve Gaines and other SBC leaders, Patterson has decided not to preach the convention sermon.)
The residue of the Pressler-Patterson “battle for the Bible” continues to coat the SBC like acid rain. As predicted by those outside the shrinking circle drawn by the Pressler-Patterson coalition, all the measureable indicators of denominational health are down since their ilk waved the Bible aloft and declared that anyone who didn’t use their terms to describe it were anathema.
When questioned about that irony, current leaderships’ response is, “But think how bad it would have been if we hadn’t done it.”
How bad, indeed, as even their primary flag waver, Al Mohler, president of the oldest SBC seminary, has declared: “Judgment has now come to the house of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
There is no satisfaction here. Full disclosure, I am one of those whose motives and faith and certainly “loyalty” was questioned, who was eased out from a job and calling which I did well and for which God prepared me my entire career. In fact, I was told by a state convention administrator in the midst of my wondering why I received no cooperation from his office, “You were set up to fail.”
Instead, what remains for me is a feeling similar to that which gurgles through my veins when I drive down County B in Wisconsin past the old farm where I grew up. When I lived there, we kept the buildings painted, the grass mowed and edged, the driveway graded. The current owners do none of that and to see the pending collapse in that disrepair leaves my heart sore.
Atop the barn was a cupola with a weather vane, that swung with the wind and told us from which way a storm was approaching.
Now even that is gone.
5 thoughts on “Pressler-Patterson linked again as storm approaches”
We both had visits in Raleigh or and the Biblical Recorder Office as we watched the NCBSC go the way of the SBC. The half truths and stench of Patterson nauseated us. I can’t say I am sorry to see karma get the ground even.
The real tragedy is all those trusting little churches which can no longer trust SEBTS to provide a Student Pastor who is not trained in sneaky ways to make them desert autonomy. . .
Well written, brother! My heart has hurt for decades wondering how many have died and gone to hell without knowing heaven was even an option because so much mental, emotional, physical and spiritual energy —- not to mention finances —- have been invested in the war within the body of Christ led by the men of whom you speak in this piece. I can’t bring myself to utter their names! Thank you for sharing this piece!
Thank you Caroline. I know YOUR energy has been well invested in a lifetime of focused service.
Norm, this is my favorite of all the responses I have read (and I’ve read what we refer to in Hawai’i as, “planty kine”) to the events at SWBTS. And, re-reading your lovely 2014 blog about returning to your hometown raised wistful memories. The reminders of days gone by (both at home, and in my former denomination), of the experiences of contending with and releasing rage, of (what I believe are thousands of) lives tossed into disarray (and blessedly, resurrection), strike a mutual, solemn chord. Yes, there is a sense of vindication. But it is overshadowed by a sorrow that in war, there are no true victors, and the “spoils” lose their value — everything and everyone is soiled.
Danette, on your next visit to the mainland, you MUST come all the way east. Thank you for your comment, and maybe our sorrow is lessened by the sharing.