To preach or not to preach . . .


The 2018 Southern Baptist Convention was originally scripted — from start to finish — as the Paige Patterson show.  The year before, at the recommendation of former SBC President Steve Gaines, the Committee on Order of Business nominated Patterson to serve as the convention preacher. He was named Chairman of the Evangelism Task Force appointed by Gaines. He would give the Southwestern Seminary report.

His former Chief of Staff and student was named Chairman of the Resolutions Committee.  Another member of that committee occupies the Dorothy Patterson Chair of Women’s Studies, for the time being. The Chairman of the Committee on Committees was one of Patterson’s Young Turks, quite literally.

It was meant to be a victory lap. Some thought it was going to be Patterson’s swan song.

Instead, it became his Waterloo. Or perhaps, more fittingly, his Münster.

By the time the Broadus gavel dropped to open the first morning of the annual session, Patterson was out.

No sermon. No task force report. No seminary presentation.

Not even a mention of his name one time from the platform or the floor of the convention. Baptists, as a rule, have a splendid capacity to ignore the Proboscidea in the parlor.

It was, perhaps, the most ignominious defenestration in denominational history. Only the Behatted One made an appearance, and then only for afternoon tea. The Conservative Resurgence — or Fundamentalist Takeover, depending on which side you took — had chewed up any number of Baptist potentates since 1979, but perhaps none was more deserving of so poetic a benediction as that given to Paige and Dorothy Patterson.

For a moment, we were a little sad.

When Patterson’s letter of withdrawal was published, one point stood out.  His decision, the erstwhile seminary president contended, was “an effort to protect [his] family” as much as he could. When the dust settled, not even his home church of Birchman gave him pulpit or platform before the convention.

But one North Texas church — and one pastor — kept Patterson’s name on the marquee: Hunters Glen Baptist Church in nearby Plano.  And on the appointed morning — mere hours after he’d stood down from the convention sermon to “protect his family” — Paige Patterson gripped the corners of that sacred desk and went unhinged.

According to numerous direct reports from those who were present, Patterson launched into one invective after another.  Decrying the #metoo movement as “liars,” Patterson seemed to liken his tribulations to those of Joseph, the biblical patriarch. His accusers were like Potiphar’s wife making up falsehoods against him and attacking him because of his righteous convictions and unassailable character.

Some people walked out. Others sat quietly, not sure what to do.

Through it all, the church’s pastor watched the undoing. His wife surely sat there in waves of simultaneous pain and horror. Over the next days, the two of them would make numerous visits to apologize for Patterson’s hurtful words.  The following Sunday, the pastor stood before his congregation and apologized for what Patterson had said to his church, reassuring the congregation that his words did not reflect the beliefs of the church.

Neither the audio nor video of Patterson’s double-hitter sermons on the morning June 10, 2018, are available on the church’s website. Neither is the audio of the pastor’s repudiation of Patterson’s remarks the following week. But the damage was done, and the fallout was largely contained by the careful, transparent way the pastor addressed the matter.

But here’s the rub.

Paige Patterson, who insisted that his desire to “protect his family” prompted him to stand down from the convention sermon, went full tilt at the only place in Dallas that would give him a pulpit to preach the week of the convention. So horrendous was his sermon — so offensive and hurtful — that the church cannot even make it available online.

Oh, we almost failed to mention: the pastor who apologized the following Sunday at Hunters Glen Baptist Church is Patterson’s own son-in-law.  In one of the cruelest, most self-centered misjudgments of his ministry, Patterson made a difficult moment even more difficult for his own family.  So forgive us if we were a little skeptical that anything he was doing that Sunday was “to protect his family.”

In late April– against the counsel of his trustee chairman — Paige Patterson released one of several statements of defiance. The opening paragraph insisted that his family did “not deserve” what was happening to them.

We totally agree with that. No man’s children should suffer because of him.

But it wasn’t a blogger in the pulpit that Sunday morning. And it wasn’t a #metoo victim that sent women crying from the sanctuary or compelled the pastor of Hunters Glen to apologize to his church the next week.