Dick Land from the hip . . .

Dr. Richard Land, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and current president of Southern Seminary (no, not the one he wanted), appeared on DoveTV’s (whatever that is) webcast earlier this month.  In his back-and-forth with the show’s host, Land talked about everything from Jews and federal judges to Ravi Zacharias and Mark Twain, the Deep State, unemployment, Herbert Hoover and Barack Obama’s subversion of the American electorate. It’s truly a free-wheeling interview with Land swinging for the fences.

Interesting enough, when Land resigned from ERLC, one of his complaints about the job was that he couldn’t be “as outspoken” as he’d liked to have been.

Good thing we don’t have that to worry about anymore. Among the more interesting things Land had to say on DoveTV was this:

“When we have Donald Trump nominated by one major party and Hillary Clinton nominated by the other major party, that’s like holding a mirror up to ourselves. And it tells us that all is not well in America. In fact, if these are the two best people we could have nominated, we need to be concerned.”

So for the three Baptist Blogger readers who care what Richard Land has to say about things, here’s the video:

On the matter of transitions

There are too many leadership transitions to count happening in the Southern Baptist Convention right now, and we are reliably informed that there will be more SBC entities in search of new presidents before the Birmingham convention next year.

Something has been nagging us about leadership transitions.  Rather than a long post, we’re just going to say it plainly:

  • If you  “stay on” at your church or entity so that your successor will have an easier time with the transition, you are deceiving yourself, harming your successor’s ministry, and doing a disservice to your church or entity.
  • If you “stay on” at your church or entity for a period of 2 years or more after announcing your departure, you have an inflated anthropology, a bizarre ecclesiology, and an anemic pneumatology. Not even Jesus “stayed around” that long after the resurrection.  Time allowed for the first leadership transition of the early church: 40 days.  That worked pretty well, didn’t it?
  • If you feel the need to hand pick your successor — or if your congregational lay leadership or trustees invite you to do so — you are likely dooming both your successor and the church or entity to unnecessary and otherwise avoidable conflicts.
  • If you have been at your church or entity for 32 years and they are not “ready” for a transition, you have failed as a teacher and leader.  Doctors can perform open heart surgery with about 1/3 that many years’ training.  If 32 years of your leadership have not prepared them for a new leader, 34 years won’t make a difference.

That is all. Rant over.

Send in the clowns . . .

House Judiciary CommitteeScreen Shot 2018-09-27 at 1.33.51 PM

The Tony Award-winning musical by Stephen Sondheim, A Little Night Music, debuted in 1973 to near universal acclaim. Among the hits songs was one written for the inimitable Glynis Johns entitled “Send in the Clowns.”  For years, Sondheim has explained what the lyrics mean:

“It’s a theater reference meaning ‘If the show isn’t going well, let’s send in the clowns.’ In other words, ‘let’s do the jokes.’ I always want to know, when I’m writing a song, what the end is going to be, so “Send in the Clowns” didn’t settle in until I got the notion, ‘Don’t bother, they’re here,’ which means that ‘We are the fools.'”

The following press release was sent today to recipients associated with the ministry of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, NC. The sender was Hamilton Strategies, a Christian public relations firm headquartered in Skippack, PA (Population: 3,750).  The firm frequently represents Dick Land.  The Baptist Blogger contacted Hamilton Strategies to confirm the press release was accurate.

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—This fall, Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES, www.ses.edu) will offer a new week-long course taught by two well-known Evangelical leaders.

Global theological educator Dr. Paige Patterson and SES President Dr. Richard Land will team-teach “Christian Ethics: The Bible and Moral Issues” from Oct. 15-20 on the new SES campus in the Charlotte area as part of its Fall Modular schedule.

This class may also be live-streamed and/or audited for a small audit fee. SES’s ethics course is offered at the bachelor’s, master’s and D.Min. credit levels with differing requirements at each level.

“This course will seek to apply the timeless truths of God’s Word to the moral issues of our day,” Land said, “and I am more than honored to team-teach the class with my friend and colleague Dr. Paige Patterson. SES is delighted to be able to offer Christians both here and overseas this unique opportunity to be taught by one of the most significant Evangelical leaders of the past half-century.”

Patterson is an architect of the Conservative Resurgence among Southern Baptists with 60 years of ministry experience. Having served as president of three theological institutions and as president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1998 to 2000, Patterson brings a lifetime of leadership and pastoral expertise to his ministry as evangelist, educator and theologian.

The course will meet on SES’s new Charlotte campus in the rapidly growing West Ballantyne area. For both campus and streaming students, the class is set for 6 to 10:30 p.m. ET, Monday, October 15 through Friday, October 19 and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET Saturday, October 20. Students taking the course for credit will then have 14 weeks to complete the course requirements, after the week of live lectures from Land and Patterson.

For more information or to enroll, contact Dianna Williams at (704) 847-5600, ext. 216, or dwilliams@ses.edu.

SES’s new 35,000-square-foot, two-building campus symbolizes the 26-year-old seminary’s reaffirmed commitment to both on-campus and online learning. While other schools offer apologetics, SES was the first to be grounded in apologetics throughout all its degree programs, which equip students to more effectively proclaim and defend the Gospel in all areas of ministry.

The more centrally located campus in the greater Charlotte area features state-of-the-art classrooms, better technological advances and increased streaming capabilities. In fact, online students will have one of fastest bandwidths available in order to stream their courses.

With fall classes under way, registrations for SES’s annual National Conference on Christian Apologetics are also growing each day, with nearly 1,500 now planning to attend. The 2018 conference will focus on the theme of “The God Who Is” and will take place at Calvary Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, Oct. 12-13, when the seminary will welcome top thinkers, scholars, authors, apologists and scientific minds, including Ravi Zacharias, Josh McDowell and Chip Ingram. For answers to frequently asked questions about SES’s NCCA conference, click here.

Read more about Southern Evangelical Seminary and SES President Dr. Richard Land, as well as his radio feature, “Bringing Every Thought Captive,” which airs on nearly 800 stations nationwide, here.

For more information on SES, visit its web site at www.ses.edu or its Facebook page, follow the SES Twitter feed, @sesapologetics, or call (800) 77-TRUTH.


Cancer and the Cooperative Program


On March 21, 1973, White House Counsel John Dean told the president the harsh truth: “We have a cancer — within — close to the Presidency, that’s growing. It’s growing daily. It’s compounding, it grows geometrically now, because it compounds itself.”

The process Dean described to President Nixon involves something the medical community calls “angiogenesis.” That is, when a cancer cell begins to divide, it wants to grow fast. That rapid, irregular growth can only happen if the vascular system supplies the growing cancer with oxygen and nutrient rich blood.

So the body begins to work against itself. New blood vessels are formed and stretch to feed the growing cancer. The tumor begins to take shape, and the more geometrically and quickly the cancer grows, the more the healthy cells begin to die. The body literally reconfigures itself to feed a metastasis and starve healthy tissues.

I remember the first time I saw this in action.  The patient’s name was Lela Kate Butler, and she was 82.

I had spent every night for about a week at Arlington Memorial Hospital visiting Mrs. Butler. On Friday night and into Saturday, I stayed alone in her room with her.  By that point, she was pretty much sleeping all the time.  The doctors had told us that she would probably not make it through the weekend.

I stayed up that evening reading the Bible aloud to her and praying, at times through tears.  Just the previous Sunday, Mrs. Butler had been in church, seated at her regular place with her daughter, Bertha, by her side. But on Monday or Tuesday, she had fallen in her home and was rushed to the hospital less than a mile away. What we thought was going to be a fracture turned into something much, much worse.

It was ovarian cancer, and it was bad.  Very bad. She probably had a week at most.

Mrs. Butler didn’t want to go through chemotherapy or radiation. She’d been down that path before.  She just wanted to be comfortable and prepare her soul to meet Jesus while her body wasted away.  I anticipated she would get increasingly weak, and shriveled, and her eyes would become cloudy.  And I hoped she would die peacefully.

But that’s not how things went down.  Lela Kate Butler stopped eating by mid-week, and the doctors continued to supply her with nourishment intravenously. But we were warned: “The cancer cells are the hungry cells. Most of the nourishment she’s receiving is only going to feed those cells.”

Her family couldn’t bare the thought of her starving to death. And to be honest, none of us were really prepared for what happened next.

Lela Kate began to grow. Every day over the next several days — and almost every few hours — we could see a change.  Her abdomen was swelling, like she was being pumped full of air.  But the doctors told us that can happen.  It was the cancer, getting larger, feasting on the nourishment which the sustained food source supplied.

By the time she died, Mrs. Butler had more than doubled in size. The pain and the pressure was immense.  She stopped talking.  All she could do was groan. It was, to that point, one of the more horrifying deaths I’d ever witnessed.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about cancer recently, and studying almost every night about various forms of cancer, their treatments, the effects of those treatments, and survivability rates.  According to the National Cancer Institute, there are more than 100 different types of cancer cells.  But they all have one thing in common.

They grow faster than healthy cells.  And the faster they grow, the more of the body’s healthy blood supply they need.

A radiologist looking at test results will tell you that a pattern of rapid, irregular, and unexplained cell growth could indicate the presence of cancer. Something the body tries to conceal at first — even compensate for — but that eventually reveals itself when the right tests are performed and the right questions asked.

This biomedical evidence of cancer can also be true of institutions, organizations, and corporations.

Think of Enron’s meteoric revenue growth or Krispy Kreme’s ambitious expansions.

But it can also be true of churches, associations, conventions, and seminaries.

Now to be sure, the Book of Acts records the unprecedented, culture-transforming, politically-destabilizing, and miraculous growth of the early church.  On day one there were 3,000 souls added to the church.  Within a few more days, the number grew to 5,000.  Even the modern church has seen the kind of growth that only God can do: Billy Graham’s Los Angeles crusade in 1949 saw 350,000 come to hear the evangelist and several thousand decisions. Just last month, Saddleback Church announced it had baptized 50,000 people.

When growth like that happens in the church, the instinct of any believer should be to trust that God is working among his people and adding to their number by the power of the Spirit.

But in the Southern Baptist Convention, rapid growth — like precipitous decline — can indicate that something else is happening.  And questions should be asked.  And second opinions sought.

Because it could be a sign of something very unhealthy in the Body of Christ.  Or it could be God at work.  Either way, the Southern Baptist Convention’s funding formula — for all its strengths — is designed to work like an ecclesial angiogenesis.

Rapid growth will result in more blood flow, i.e. Cooperative Program dollars.

You might call it the jugular.

To be continued . . .


The Patterson firing Pt. 2


The tape began recording at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, February 22, 1985.  Present in the meeting was Dr. Russell Dilday, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Also present were Curtis Vaughan, John Newport, and Bill Tolar.

And of course, Farrar Patterson was there.

Dr. Dilday began:

“It is February 22, 1985 at 11:00 a.m. and we have come together to meet in compliance with the bylaws step suggested on page 17 in our faculty manual related to the bylaws of the seminary suggesting that if reconciliation over a personnel matter cannot be effected through informal discussions, then we meet for formal discussions and that formal charges shall be discussed with the faculty member involved, the dean, the vice president of academic affairs and the president, and the faculty member shall feel free to request the presence of a colleague in these discussions.  So we have Dr. Farrah Patterson and his colleague, Dr. Curtis Vaughan.”

Tolar interrupted:

“Is it beyond the realm of informal discussions up to this point? I am asking for information — are we at the point of the formal, or is it still in the realm of possibility that the informal discussions between you and Farrar?

Dilday responded:

“We are at a formal step as outlined here, but I think the indication in the bylaws is that if some negotiated agreement can be reached even at this stage, then you can move on to a solution without progressing to the full steps outlined in the manual.  To that extent, I would assume that at any point where that becomes possible we can continue on that line. So the door is wide open for that, although officially we have moved from what the bylaws describe as an informal kind of confidential level to a more formal step. But if in this discussion we come to some agreements, or negotiations, then that is perfectly O.K.”

From that point, Farrar Patterson clarified that he was eager to hear the formal charges against him, though he hoped to avoid “forcing” the matter to the trustees.  Dilday then outlines the history that had brought them to an impasse:

“I believe it was the 14th of January that I called Dr. Patterson following the faculty meeting to ask him to come down to the office as soon as possible to talk about a very important matter. His response was that he couldn’t come, just to drop everything at my call at that point. I insisted that it dealt with his future here at the seminary and would wait as long as necessary but we needed to talk before he left that day. I told him to call me back as soon as he could arrange his schedule to come to the office. He called back to say that he would be there. He appeared with Cal Guy who said he wanted to meet with us. I told that that this would not be possible and met with Dr. Patterson alone.

“I shared my concerns over the past years and the incidents of the past few days indicating that we had reached a point where we could no longer tolerate this behavior and I asked him to resign or face steps taken to dismiss him. I needed a reply soon as to whether he would pursue the informal steps outlined in the bylaws or else we would move to the formal steps of dismissal.  He said he would need until February 11 to decide that. So we set a meeting date for February 11. It was made clear that these discussions were to be confidential if we were to continue with informal discussions. A few days later, I heard from Davis Cooper. Someone had called him and Jimmy Draper about this matter indicating the word had already spread.”

Farrar Patterson responded and clarified why he had asked Dr. Cal Guy to join him in the Jan. 14 meeting.  Dilday noted that despite the requirement of confidentiality for the informal process to proceed, Cal Guy had been “talking to others.” about the Patterson debacle.  Farrar insisted that he was within his rights to talk about Dilday’s request for his resignation with attorneys and “several advisors.”

Dilday then reads quotations from his Jan. 14 notes:

“I offered him a choice between two approaches: (1) continued negotiations related to the informal stage of our procedure, or (2) proceed with formal steps outlined in the manual. Dr. Patterson said, ‘If you continue this — hurt me and my family, you will die paying for it.’ I asked him again to repeat that threat and he said, ‘I say it to you again, if you continue this and hurt my family, you will die paying for it. You will lose your job. You are selfish, vindictive, hurtful. You are out of your gourd.’ He threatened to publish this on the front page of the Star-Telegram and when he was through with me . . . “

Patterson interrupted: “Wait just a minute.”

Dilday continued:

“Let me complete and then you can answer — when he was through with me before the Board I would be ruined. I told him if he chose to move to the formal stage of procedure, he would be suspended from class teaching responsibilities and meet with the dean, vice president and me with a faculty colleague (not Dr. Guy). He said he wouldn’t trust me — that I lied.  And he hung up the phone. Then that ended that day…”

By this point in the negotiations, Patterson had been suspended from teaching responsibilities and his classes were covered by other faculty. Having been an elected and tenured — back when tenure was a possibility for a Southwestern professor — Patterson asserted his right to be terminated only by the trustees.  Dilday called his bluff and moved forward with a recommendation at the spring trustee meeting that Patterson be fired outright.

But a 2/3 majority of the trustees — the number required by the seminary bylaws — would not vote to fire Farrar Patterson.  And he stayed on payroll without any teaching responsibilities. As best we can tell, he did not have a 10,000 sqft. residence on campus paid for by Southern Baptist churches.

What he did have were allies on the seminary board of trustees. And he was an open line of information about the internal workings of the seminary whom they were careful to protect. In the end, however, concerns about Patterson’s use of profanity, his secret recordings, his classroom performance, and his church participation proved too convincing — or perhaps too problematic — for his trustee confidants to countenance.

Jimmy Draper was one of the handful of trustees who did not vote to fire Farrar Patterson in the Spring of 1985. Later that year, at the Fall 1985 trustee meeting, the trustees voted to fire Patterson. But not before he’d received a year’s compensation.

So let’s recap our lessons to date:

  1. If you choose the path of formal termination at Southwestern instead of voluntary resignation, you may survive a vote of the trustees.
  2. On the first vote.
  3. Eventually, if you choose termination over resignation, you will be likely be terminated. Those who have supported you in your “righteous cause” will slowly, but surely, die off or peel away.
  4. If you are terminated, you may choose to file a lawsuit. And you will do so alone.
  5. If you file a lawsuit, you will likely lose.
  6. While you are fighting your losing battle, you will not be given access to a seminary classroom to make your case to students studying for ministry.
  7. The above holds true whether you are a male professor in the 1980s or a female professor in the 2000s.
  8. When the dust settles, you will likely not teach again in a higher education context because even if you are 100 percent right, litigious and stubborn intrepidity tend to tarnish the most sterling curriculum vitae. There are exceptions, but they are few.
  9. And without a seminary willing to hire you, you become the proverbial bridesmaid who never catches the bouquet.
  10. It’s best to resign.

Now a final point before we continue with Part Three of the Patterson Firing . . .

Southwestern Seminary has a history of taking very seriously the church participation of its professors. In fact, failure to serve faithfully in a local church has been grounds for dismissal from the faculty.  But Southwestern also remains one of the few Southern Baptist institutions that will not allow a professor to serve concurrently in a ministry staff position.

Full-time pastors, on the other hand, are advised to enroll and take full-time course loads. The outdated CP funding formula, and all.

These incongruities warrant further examination.

Stay tuned . . .


Transcriptions of the meetings between Russell Dilday and Farrar Patterson are located in the Russell Kaemmerling papers, Archives and Special Collections, Library at Southeastern, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC. The secret recording of some of these meetings became a subject of Baptist controversy in the mid-1980s.


The Patterson firing

The year was 1985.  Farrar Patterson had been an increasingly difficult thorn in the side of the seminary administration. He was now facing termination, and that long process had resulted in a number of transcribed meetings with Russell Dilday, John Newport, and Bill Tolar.

In one of those meetings, Dilday laid out his concerns. And point by point, Farrar Patterson used them to sue the seminary and Russell Dilday, personally. They were:

(1) Patterson’s lifestyle and behavior were inconsistent with the example expected of faculty members at Southwestern;
(2) Patterson presented a poor example of churchmanship;
(3) the quality of Patterson’s work at the Seminary was poor;
(4) Patterson had engaged in insubordination and had intruded into administrative affairs;
(5) Patterson had intentionally distorted the truth in reporting Seminary matters; and
(6) Patterson did not adequately respond to significant warnings and attempts by the Seminary to work with him to resolve his problems.

Now here’s where you have to wait . . . while we edit.

Coming . . .

The Baptist Blogger has come into possession of authenticated, transcribed recordings of conversations with Dr. Patterson about his possible termination, job performance, and subversive activities that undermined the ministry and mission of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. These recordings shed light on an administrative framework at the Fort Worth school that remains in place, compromising the ability to recruit and retain qualified faculty to teach the next generation of pastor-theologians.

We anticipate publishing this material within the next 24 hours.

UPDATE 9/21/18 @ 11:57 AM ET:  We have just received a copy of court filings in the case of Patterson vs. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

UPDATE 9/21/18 @ 4:05 PM ET: The post will go live at 11:59 PM ET tonight.

Stay tuned . . .

RIP: Dr. Royal Everett Smith, Jr.


As providence would have it, The Baptist Blogger was seated next to Dr. R.E. Smith and his wife, Marilyn, on a Delta flight from Salt Lake City home to Dallas, TX, on the Thursday morning following the 1998 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The conversation launched a friendship of two decades, through bitter disagreements (he once called Wade Burleson and me “Satan’s legions” in an all-trustee email about the Klouda lawsuit), clandestine collaborations, a few funerals and weddings, and regular conversations that made me a better minister, and a better man.

After 89 years, R.E. Smith went home to Jesus on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. He’d battled Parkinson’s for decades. He’d nursed his wife through cancer and prayed her through to a miraculous cure.  He’d maintained a home in Austin, TX, so he could be near his daughter and grandchildren. But he was a permanent fixture in Southlake, TX, at First Baptist Dallas where he served as a deacon and Sunday School teacher, in Texas Republican politics, and at Southwestern Seminary where he served as an officer on the Board of Trustees.

He was without a doubt among the most generous, courteous, and delightfully stubborn laymen upon whom a Baptist congregation ever laid hands. When I was needing a new car, R.E. sold me his old Mercury for $3,000, allowing me to make monthly installments for a year until it was paid off. When I wrote him the last check for $500, he endorsed it and dropped it in the offering plate of the Parkview Baptist Church in Arlington, TX.

When Paige Patterson fired me from a part-time position in the Southwestern press office, stripped me of my grading responsibilities for a Southwestern theology professor, and removed me from the presidency of the Southwestern Student Theological Society, R.E. Smith delivered $400.00 cash every month through Patterson’s then Chief of Staff to help me make ends meet.

When David Allen — now dean of Southwestern’s School of Preaching — was advocating the hiring of Sheri Klouda, R.E. Smith hired me to read Klouda’s published writings and cull them for suspicious theology.  I found nothing, and reported back to R.E. that Klouda’s published scholarly work raised no concern about her agreement with the Baptist Faith & Message.

When Southwestern Seminary revised its bylaws, R.E. Smith worked with Miles Seaborn, the longtime pastor of Birchman Baptist Church, to tighten the language of trustee authority. I sat for several afternoons in Smith’s living room in Southlake pouring over the language, proposing edits, and weighing the consequences of certain amendments.

When Paige Patterson wanted to hire a prominent Texas pastor to serve as the seminary’s chaplain, R.E. Smith called me.  He told me that somebody had inadvertently delivered a package to his home with my name on it. The package would be sealed on his front porch, and he didn’t want me to knock or ring the doorbell.  He just wanted me to pick up the package and never mention it to him.

That evening, after dark, I drove over to his home in Southlake and picked up the package, no clue what was inside. It turned out to be the entire audit report that had precipitated the pastor’s resignation from the Dallas-area megachurch. The package also included copies of redacted email correspondence between Smith and a Vice President of Southwestern Seminary. There was a handwritten post-it note on the front. It read “Call Lollie.”

Within days, the pastor declined the position at Southwestern. The rest of that story (minus the linked attachments, which we made private years ago), can be found here.

For a long time thereafter, Patterson would chide R.E. about his friendship with me, and blame him for “leaks” from the trustee board. We always got a laugh out of that.

In April of this year, I gave R.E. a call. I could tell he was frail.  His words were a little more slurred than usual, a consequence of the medicine he was taking to combat the effects of Parkinson’s.

But his mind was sharp, and his laughter energetic. We talked at length about the ups and downs of our friendship.  We both talked about how much we missed Lollie Cogswell. And then, despite our agreement some ten years prior not to discuss Southwestern Seminary or Paige Patterson, R.E. turned the conversation to the Fort Worth School.

“I think it’s time for Paige to step down,” R.E. said.

He’d been following the news — and some of the blogs — and was aware that finances at the school were in bad shape.  He told me he’d been designating his contributions to the seminary for the exclusive purpose of student scholarships, but he wanted to know what I had heard about the enrollment numbers.

That afternoon, I sent R.E. copies of the enrollment reports that showed the school’s steady decline under Patterson.

The next day, R.E. called me back.  He’d been reading The Baptist Blogger and he had a proposal. He had done the math, and estimated it would cost a little more than $1 million to fund a recent offer we made. He pledged to give a matching $5 contribution to help start the fund.

R.E. had a great sense of humor, and we had a few conversations after that.

Several weeks ago, I called R.E.’s home to check on him.  His son, Alan, answered the phone.  He told me his dad had taken a spell, of sorts, and was in the hospital.  He wasn’t doing well, Alan told me, and they didn’t know how long he would last.  He lasted a little more than a month.

I remember well the last time we spent the day together.  A mutual friend had died and I picked R.E. up so he could ride to Denison, TX, with me for the funeral, which I was to preach. We got to the funeral home, found a cup of coffee, and sat down alone on the front pew well in advance of the family’s arrival.

I told R.E. that day that I was planning to exit full-time pastoral ministry, and that I planned on moving to Washington, D.C. or attending law school.  R.E.’s countenance fell a little.

“The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable,” he told me.  And he told me in no uncertain terms that he’d considered his support of me through the years as an investment in the Kingdom. He told me that using my gifts in the political arena was like putting a grand piano in the barn.

I preached the funeral (through blinding tears), went to the graveside, and then R.E. and I drove home. At some point in that drive, R.E. interrupted conversation and said, “You realize this means Paige won.”

“Won what,” I asked?

“He’ll tell everyone that you quit the ministry because of some failure.”

“What’s one more lie about me from Paige?” I responded.

For the rest of the ride home, we talked about the Southern Baptist Convention, First Baptist Dallas, and reminisced about conventions past and Republican politics.

Royal Everett Smith, Jr., loved Jesus.  He loved the Freemasons too, something we’d disagreed about despite my accompanying him as a guest for some Masonic honor ceremony in 2004.

He loved his wife, Marilyn. He loved his family.

He loved his church, the First Baptist Church of Dallas.  And he loved Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

I will miss R.E. a great deal, and every ministry that benefited from his consistent encouragement and financial support will miss him too.  But I’m glad he lived long enough to see Southwestern entering a new semester of promise and hope, and not another chapter in the long history of Patterson-led decline.

Cowardice and courage

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In the late Spring of 1999, the First Baptist Church of Dallas was preparing to welcome a new pastor. Dr. O.S. Hawkins had resigned less than two years earlier to become president of the Annuity Board, now Guidestone Financial Resources. The church had been led in the interim by the late Roy Fish, a longtime professor of evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Criswell remained Senior Pastor Emeritus, but had long since relinquished both day-to-day administration of the church and his historic pulpit ministry.

The search for a new pastor was far and wide.  Having seen two successive pastors leave the church after only a few years each — an ecclesial whiplash of sorts for a congregation accustomed to decades-long continuity — the search committee, led by Ken Stoner, was determined to find a pastor who could help the church heal and thrive again in its downtown location.

Their search took them to High Point, NC, where a 41 year-old man named Donald McCall Brunson was leading the Green Street Baptist Church. Then in his second term as president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, Brunson had been an increasingly sought-after preacher across the convention though a dark-horse candidate for the prestigious Dallas church.

On the second Sunday in May, Mac was unanimously elected senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, which gave him a two-minute standing ovation following the morning service. With a blend of tears and truth-telling, Brunson courageously told the church in no uncertain terms his expectations:

“If you call me to come to this church, and God brings us together, I am telling you now: We are going to get along. No back-room politicking. No jockeying for position. We’re going to stand together.”

The Baptist Blogger was there that Sunday. There was an unmistakable sense that the great First Baptist Church in Dallas was getting a new start in the right direction. Brunson promised humility: “I’ll come to you contrite. I’ll come to you trembling at the Word of God.”

Less than a week later, Paige Patterson received an email from a longtime member of First Baptist Dallas and the former chairman of the city’s motion picture classification board.

“I have heard that you are not overly excited about Mac Brunson. You intimated a little of that in your last communication with me. I am not is (sic) a position to know, and again, I wasn’t consulted…so I have to rely on the committee and the moving of the Holy Spirit in the heart of Dr. Brunson . . . Mac said all the right things, at least on Sunday night…I was out of town for the a.m. services. We just have to believe that it is God’s church and He is in control.”

On June 4, 1999, Patterson responded:

“I suppose the grapevine is unerringly accurate in some things. It is not that Mac Brunson is the person I am less than excited about. I think he is a dear saint of God . . . My reticence about Mac has always been at the point of his courage. He claims that he is a man [of] courage, but, of course, if he is a man of courage  then I have a question about the precision with which he evaluates certain situations.  Mac, it seems to me, is always willing to compromise if he can avoid a fight. I guess it is good to have people like that in the world since if everybody were like me we would be in a serious situation. I just hated to see the church call a person who did not have all of it worked out clearly in his own mind and heart, including the hills on which he would choose to die.”

One month later, Brunson officially assumed the pastorate in Dallas. Before he was installed, Mac Brunson received his own letter (dated June 25, 1999) from Patterson.

“My dear Brother Mac, you bring to the pulpit the solid, clear exposition of the Word of God, which you deliver without compromise or diminution. And the remarkable thing to those of us who have heard it is that you do it all with such grace and clarity that no one will ever leave wondering what God has said through his preacher on this day.”

There you have it, folks. To one man, Patterson nurtures suspicion about Mac Brunson’s “willingness to compromise” and in another letter to Brunson himself Patterson lauds the new Dallas pastor for not “compromising.”

No doubt is left about who acted courageously, and who acted cowardly. Writing a letter to a member of man’s new congregation and planting seeds of doubt about his ministry is about the nastiest thing a denominational leader can do.

It makes us think of a spin on the old song written by radio’s legendary singing cowboy, Stuart Hamblen:

“It is no secret what Paige can do. What he’s done to others, he’ll do to you.”

And that, pilgrim, is where we leave it.

Proverbs 16:28.


(Copies of both letters are in the Paige Patterson Papers (1998-2000) held at the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives in Nashville, TN; Call Number AR554.)

MERRITT: Don’t call it a comeback

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Religion writer Jonathan Merritt has published a new column in the Washington Post.  It’s definitely worth a read:

Disgraced Baptist leader body-shames a woman in his return to the pulpit
By Jonathan Merritt
The Washington Post
September 14, 2018

Don’t call it a comeback. Paige Patterson has been here for years.

After being fired in May from his post as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for a history of misogynistic comments and mishandling of sex abuse allegations, Patterson returned to the pulpit this week to offer a pair of sermons at a revival in Pisgah, Ala. But rather than offer a statement of humble contrition, the 75-year-old Southern Baptist leader body-shamed an unnamed woman and decried women who falsely accuse men of sexual misconduct.

In his first of two sermons, Patterson told a story of evangelizing a former church member’s mother whom he wanted to meet after being told she “could whip” him. Upon visiting her for the first time, his parishioner’s mother didn’t knock him out but, according to Patterson, “she filled the door.” After being invited into her home, Patterson said he was finally able to persuade the woman to convert to Christianity, and when she came to his church for baptism, he joked, they had to “fill the baptistery half full.”

Click here to read the rest . . .

Patterson: Don’t shoot the kids, Peggy


On Nov. 23, 1998, Paige Patterson — then concurrently serving as president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and the Southern Baptist Convention — received a kind note from a woman named Peggy. In the letter, Peggy describes herself as a former Catholic who has come to Christ and worships in a non-denominational church near Huntsville, TX.

She asks for a copy of the Baptist Faith and Message — which Patterson sends to her along with some additional materials written by Dorothy Patterson — and then raises questions about the word “submission” in Scripture and how it is to be manifest in contexts of spousal abuse. Peggy states:

“It seems ludicrous to me that our loving God would expect wives to submit to physical abuse, severe psychological abuse or where there is child abuse, to continuously submit to their abusers.”

Her letter continues:

“I believe that when Christ came, He was trying to teach a more compassionate way of relating to one another between men and women, slave and free and across racial lines…in other words, human beings in general. So much of Scripture deals with “cultural” issues at that time in history. Men were dominant and privileged – women were virtually ‘property.’ Jesus came to change those patriarchal practices and attitudes. He taught that we must relate to each other with love, and that in God’s eyes we are all equal. Is it possible that Paul’s writing might have allowed for some of the cultural influences of his time?  That is why Scripture must be taken in its entirety…and the overall message is that LOVE overcomes all things and that LOVE is the fulfillment of the Law!”

On December 17, 1998, Paige Patterson sends Peggy a response. The entirety of that response is below:

Dear Peggy:

Thank you for your letter of November 11. Enclosed you will find a copy of the Baptist Faith and Message document. In addition, I have also enclosed a copy of the additional amendment, together with a commentary that was written by my wife, who served as one of the authors of the statement. In addition to Mrs. Patterson, Mrs. Mary Mohler, the wife of Dr. Al Mohler (president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky) also served on the drafting committee.

In understanding biblical instruction, it is often helpful to use a correlated analogy. The Bible also tells us to submit to magisterial authorities or governmental authorities that God has placed in our lives. Obviously, this is a general rule that does not include every situation. That is why when Peter and John were instructed not to preach anymore in the name of Jesus, even though they respected the law, they, nevertheless, had to conclude in this case that a higher law was operative over the lesser law and that they must obey God rather than men. Of course, the same thing is true in marital relationships. To use an absurd example, if a husband comes home and hands his wife a pistol and tells her to shoot the children, it would be an outrageous misrepresentation of Scripture to argue that she should submit to that order and shoot the children.

On the other hand, the question of what a wife should do regarding an abusive husband is not so easily settled. Certainly there comes a time, if life and health are endangered, when she might of necessity have to seek protection under the aegis of either of friends and family or those which society provides for protection in such situations. But there are other situations of abuse when the kindness, gentleness, and loving submission of a wife may very well be exactly that which God will use to win a sinful husband. In this matter we are not constrained to speak hypothetically, but rather in my own ministry I have often seen that very scenario take place.

Remember, Peggy, that “submission” is much more an attitude than it is a response on any given issue anyway. It is a word that has no meaning if it is in response to coercion on the part of another. For example, if an officer of the law must coerce me with a billy club, I may in fact obey, but I am not being submissive. I am only being submissive when I choose to do what is asked of me. So the word is a word in the New Testament which relates to godly behavior, an attitude on the part of wives and is, of course, as we indicated in the statement, balanced by a husband who should love his wife as Jesus loves the church.

Peggy, also remember that it is easy to look for exception. That is what got us into the mess that we are in to begin with. If I am always looking for exceptions to what God tells me to do, I can always from my own perspective justify just about everything I do. My own experience in the matter is that the exceptions are pretty obvious and that, indeed, they need to be those where a pretty clear violation of God’s Word is taking place before I feel freedom to do the opposite.

Hopefully this will be helpful to you in understanding what Baptists have said. Remember that because Baptist churches are completely autonomous, the Convention per se has no way of correcting “errant interpretation” in its local churches. The churches instruct the Convention, not the Convention the churches. Consequently, there are frequently teachings that happen in individual Baptist churches with which I am less than happy. However, what you have before you in the Baptist Faith and Message statement is a summary of what the vast overwhelming majority of Baptists believe.

Until He Comes,

Paige Patterson

And in unrelated news, we’ve been sent this little sound clip. But more about that very soon.


The correspondence quoted above is located in the Paige Patterson Papers (1998-2000) held at the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives in Nashville, TN; Call Number AR554).

Dear Chuck . . .


That’s the way Paige Patterson’s hand-written letter begins.  What follows is a bizarre confluence of quasi-apology, explanation, shaming, historical and literary errata, and condescension.

Anyone who’s received one of Patterson’s many missives knows the pattern. We suspect Dr. Charles Kelley, Jr. has had more than his fair share of such knee-jerk epistolary blisterings through the years.

The letter opens:

“First, I apologize for jumping you as strongly as I did on the women in chapel issue. I know that you did not schedule them. So, I do regret the temporary vehemence of the encounter.”*

Patterson continues:

“Chuck, in all candor, a couple of things happened at the SBC which confirmed (in my mind) what I had begun to suspect. What you said to Charles Stanley about running was mostly very good. But toward the end you used a line which suggested to all at the table that your own comprehension of what is happening in the SBC is at best limited, at worse skewed by environment.”

There it is in plain English. Patterson had developed growing concerns that his brother-in-law — a man who’d completed his undergraduate work in philosophy at Baylor University and successfully completed his doctorate in preaching at New Orleans Seminary without so much as a single failing grade — was (1) limited in his ability to comprehend issues in the Southern Baptist Convention and (2) predisposed toward osmotic influence by liberals who — in Patterson’s mind — were pulling the levers of theological education in the Crescent City.

The letter goes deeper:

“You indicated to Charles [Stanley] that you felt his emphasis, focusing on evangelism rather than theology, would be what the convention needed as a healing agent . . . The controversy is not a grab for power. It does have a political ramification in that it seeks to dipose (sic) an SBC oligarchy of 35 years reign and return the decision making processes of the SBC to the people who pay the bills and do the real work. But while that aspect is undeniable it remains periphreal (sic) — and temporary.”

The next two paragraphs:

“In other words, this controversy will not go away even in an evangelistic whirlwind. One cannot ignore a tiger in his bedroom. He may shoot him, try to domesticate him, abandon the house to him, etc. — he cannot ignore him. So, here, the issue must be dealt with only because it, like Schaffer’s (sic) God, is there, but also because the whole issue of world evangelization, what kind, how, and when, is bound up in the issue.

“By now it should be apparent that while the Judge, Russ, and I have provided the stackpole, we are hardly alone — or even a minority. Suppose, for example, that we took all of those employed by the convention or its agencies out of the voting process. While all the rest of us go to the convention on our own nickel or that of a local church, almost every member of every seminary faculty was there on the co-op program nickel (or at least on convention money). In other words, thousands of us paid the expenses of denominational employees to come, and for the most part vote against us. Approximately 1500 votes would be eliminated if everyone had to come at either church expense or his own.”

Question: When was the last time Paige Patterson attended a convention at his own expense?  Or did much of anything at his own expense?  As of today, he’s still living in a house that he doesn’t pay for.  But we digress . . .

What proceeds thereafter is a list of assertions, which Patterson “simplifies” for Chuck. These include (1) An enormous number of “our people” (Patterson’s words) want a change; and (2) Southern Baptists were losing confidence in SBC entities and their leaders.

Sound familiar?

Then comes the point, and the patronization:

“These situations cannot be remedied by evangelism alone. They must be addressed and even solved . . . Now Chuck, I am not suggesting that you ought to lead the parade. Still less that you need to be the Patterson/Pressler man on campus . . . A vote for neutrality or for noninvolvement is, in fact, a vote for the status quo and for bureacratic (sic) inertia. In Luther’s reformation, Grebel’s Zurich, and Helwy’s (sic) England, non-participation was a vote for the establishment. As Dante so well put it, ‘the hottest places in hell must be reserved for those who, in a day of moral crisis, remain silent'”

Really? The hottest place in hell?

We’ve read Dante’s Divine Comedy and painstakingly translated portions of the original Latin at various times. That quote isn’t from Dante.  Instead, it’s from John F. Kennedy. But let’s forgive Patterson for mistaking a 20th century philandering politician for a 13th century Florentine poet. The point was to shame his brother-in-law, not give a lesson in Italian renaissance literature.

We should note, however, in Dante’s Inferno both the gluttonous and the greedy were located closer to the inner circles of hell than were the indecisive.  Even deeper were those who used language — particularly flattery — to manipulate others. But we digress again.

Patterson concludes:

“My brother, how proud of you we are. Your (sic) a man of God and a man with a mission. You are not to be in my image or my pattern, but His! But neither must you allow your environment to shape you . . . Because I believe in you so much and love you so greatly, I plead with you to sort out these pressing issues with the Lord — your face in an open Bible. And do not let Satan deceive you into believing that to do so would cause evangelism to suffer. I have been directly involved in over 2500 conversions and ten new church starts in the past five weeks.”

As for some remaining portions of the letter, we have already published them here. 

Some brief, though incomplete, reflections on this letter:

  1. The only reason The Baptist Blogger has a copy of this intensely personal and private handwritten letter is because it is found in the papers of Russell Kaemmerling located in the publicly-available archives of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In other words, Patterson sent a copy of this letter to his other brother-in-law, Russ Kaemmerling. We wonder if Chuck Kelley knew the letter was being copied and distributed, which has been a decades-old pattern for Patterson. Piecing together the volumes of Pattersonian correspondence on the back-end through the Kaemmerling and Pressler Collections is time-consuming, but not impossible thanks to the Red Bishop’s penchant for blind-carbon-copying unrelated parties. And he was especially crafty at bcc’ing letters that the primary recipient had reason to believe were personal and confidential. Some of them are even marked so.  The archives don’t lie. Patterson loved to breach confidences — even with close family members — but more on that later.
  2. Chuck Kelley has had one consistent heartbeat throughout his years of service to Southern Baptists as a professor, dean, and now president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary: evangelism. This passionate commitment has never been a liability to the convention, but an asset.  In fact, Chuck is at his best when he is talking about evangelism.
  3. It’s quintessential Paige to suggest that his own “vehement” response to Chuck Kelley’s advocacy for evangelism was shared by others. Paige is notorious for projection; he simply cannot fathom that intelligent, godly people would ever disagree with him.  That vanity bleeds through in this letter, and one is left wondering how much better off the SBC might have been with Chuck Kelley’s passion leading the charge instead of Paige’s.
  4. What’s with that line about Patterson’s having been “directly” involved in 2500 conversions? What braggart says such things?  And, while we’re on the subject, what happened to those “ten new church starts” Patterson boasts having accomplished?  The Artful Dodger spent years assailing Jerry Rankin about the survival rate of the IMB’s new church starts. One wonders how Patterson’s “church starts” panned out the moment his jet left the tarmac.
  5. The women issue has been a fixation of Paige’s for decades. He simply cannot handle a woman speaking in chapel, despite the fact that he’s had his own wife speak in chapel a number of times. It causes one to ask questions about everything the Pattersons have touched when it comes to biblical anthropology: The Danvers Statement, the 1998 BFM, the 2000 BFM, and the list goes on.  Here is a man who has a serious issue with women. Not just his mother, or his sister, or any other of the women whose  names appear in the correspondence he secretly shared with men across the convention. That he would have blasted Chuck Kelley for not openly opposing a female chapel speaker at NOBTS, and then shared the letter detailing it with unrelated parties, would require teams of psychiatrists to dissect.  We are not psychiatrists at the Baptist Blogger, but we can identify mommy issues when we see them.
  6. Paige Patterson hasn’t paid his own way to the annual convention in decades, if ever. And when he had the power, he sent his professors and staff as voting messengers and paid their way on the “CP nickel” too.  This sort of hypocrisy knows few limits. Having fought the “bureaucracy” for so long, Patterson was all too eager to use the bureaucracy to further his own eccentric agenda. In fact, Paige hasn’t been paying much of his own living costs, food costs, or automobile costs for years.  The main reason he is STILL in the presidential home at Southwestern is because he’s never learned to live on his own.  Without CP-provided luxuries and staff, he and Dorothy have been at a loss. And where have all of those millionaire home-building donors been for the last four months?

To be continued . . . in book form.


*Handwritten letter located in the Russell Kaemmerling papers, Archives and Special Collections, Library at Southeastern, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC.