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.”*
“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.
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.
“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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
21 thoughts on “Dear Chuck . . .”
Why was PP allowed his reign of terror for so many decades? Is PP still on campus? If he is why?
One begins to think that perhaps Patterson has been successful in obtaining some kind of restraining order against eviction or forced evacuation. SWBTS trustees remain silent.
Sadly PP’s iron clad hold over leaders in the SBC continues to this minute IMO. Southern Baptist should scream as loud as they can–CP money for PP, but had to call 1,000 missionaries home.
None of this is surprising to any who have heard Paige Patterson speak at length or observed his unChristlike treatment of others who disagree with him. What IS surprising is that, although he was terminated more than 90 days ago, he is still being compensated by free room and board at SWBTS! WHY are the trustees of SWBTS still allowing the Pattersons to leach off of the “CP nickel”?
Do the Pattersons not have children who can provide beds for Paige and Dorothy? Or, perhaps Chuck could do so? Or his friend, Judge Paul Pressler could provide a place for the Pattersons to stay. Ahh, but then that would remind everyone of Paige’s connection to the horrendous and very expensive lawsuit against Pressler in which Paige Patterson is named as also culpable and guilty of collusion in the coverup of Pressler’s alleged homosexual predation on young boys and youth.
We understand that Paige Patterson’s former chief of staff, Scott Colter (and his notorious wife, Sharayah) have taken up residence in a spacious home in Prosper, Texas on Toledo Bend Court. Perhaps Mr. Colter could house the Pattersons while all the Patterson paraphernalia is put in storage. Oh, but who would pay the storage fees? Surely Paige has Social Security income? Retired FMB and IMB missionaries are expected to live on the charity of family members and their own meager retirement savings. Why should the Pattersons be any different?
What must be done to get the Pattersons weaned off the Cooperative Program funds? This is a very timely question. Shall the Sheriff be called to evict?
Time for someone to step up in the SBC and tell the Patterson’s to move today or be evicted. Two days notice to evict would be fair in my books at this point.
They’re going to need a lot of storage for all those Christmas decorations, animal trophies and 25,000+ volume personal library. I think I’ll buy the Patterson’s a pair of Kindles for Christmas in lieu of a Christmas ornament this year. I wonder if SWBTS is making him take all the animal trophies that were donated to the school 10-12 years ago as well? Maybe they could do a yard sale? I just don’t know where I would put a Polar Bear though…
Thank God those animals have been removed from the student center with the tattered remains of the display cases still in evidence. I have heard many a story about prospective students deciding against SWBTS once they saw those trophies on display.
The stuffed animals are gone! This is the best news I have heard all day! They certainly stifled student life.
Things get left behind when you grab boxes in the dark of the night. If memory serves, thirteen of ‘his’ boxes remained in the archives after the night raid. Curious as to the knowledge and attitude of the present archivists concerning the presence of those boxes and the fate of their fellows.
I really can’t wait to buy your book. Your intelligence and wit shine through in your writing as a stark contrast to Patterson’s inability to spell words correctly.
“My brother…You are not to be in my image or pattern, but His.”
Head scratcher. It seems that such a statement can only be written by one who actually believes people are purposefully, intentionally, and personally patterning their lives after him rather than Jesus Christ.
Stunned while continuing to scratch my head.
Unfortunately, Wade, as you and I both know, the SBC is filled with far too many sycophants who have thought their path to success laid in doing just that, and are only in the last few months coming to terms with the fact that they hitched their wagon to a man whose “oligarch[ic]…reign” is no more. The Red Pope, as they say, has been “diposed.”
And about time too. Who can one call at the SBC to ask that CP funds are no longer used to pay Patterson’s way? SWBTS TTTEES seem to be failing in their fiduciary responsibility. Where is the transparency promised?
Today has been interesting, to say the least. A torrent of emails have come — some with attachments. And some video and audios have been passed along. So much to sort through.
Sadly maybe the Trustees lied. They need to do do their jobs IMO.
T Parker and Fred,
Apparently after PP was hospitalized a few months ago Bingham rather magnanimously allowed them an extension, and according to people on campus he is making himself scarce. It does, however, appear that the clock is running. Word is they will be out by the first week of October.
So, you are saying that Dr. Bingham is authorized to spend CP funds to provide lavishly for a person whom the SBC has unanimously terminated? From what budget category is that money coming from to finance this extended free rent and board and Pecan Manor staff salaries? Are these funds being taken from Southwestern’s operating budget, scholarships, what?
Forgive the cynicism…but for what was Paige Patterson hospitalized? EDITED by The Baptist Blogger
I read your comment, and understand much of your sentiment. However, we’re not going to get into the substance of your comment because discussing someone’s health in such details is in poor taste. I did not want to open that vein of comments and speculation. Hope you can understand. Keep coming back, though. There’s more where this came from . . .
The Baptist Blogger
Will you ever write about the school of church music? It is the worst place in the Fort Worth campus for the students.
Will you investigate Music School as well? It is a total mess….