Paige Patterson was right…and we were wrong


In January 2004, The Baptist Blogger was employed part-time at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary as a news writer in the Department of Public Relations. One morning, we arrived at work to learn that we had been terminated by edict of the then-seminary president, Paige Patterson.

We had, according to Patterson, posted on a former blog of ours “criticism” of a “sister Baptist institution.” Over the previous weekend, we had written our frustration at the “crap” that was sold at LifeWay Christian Stores. As a person receiving a paycheck from a ministry supported by the Cooperative Program — and particularly as a student-employee who was working in an office responsible for the seminary’s public relations — we were unwise to use our personal blog to openly criticize another SBC entity.

In addition to our termination, Patterson placed us on disciplinary probation for the second time in five years. That probation was lifted, however, within 24 hours of its imposition. Our use of the word “crap” constituted “unchaste and profane speech” in violation of the student code of conduct, as interpreted by the seminary’s president. His reversal of that decision, and the correspondence surrounding it, have given us many opportunities at dinner parties to keep the table laughing.

The silliness of Patterson’s ham-fisted disciplinary action against us as a student does not diminish the rightness of his decision regarding our employment.

We should have been fired. Patterson was right.

The bottom line is this:

When a man or woman is employed at a Southern Baptist entity, he or she should have the soundness of mind and the prudence of self-preservation NOT to use social/digital media platforms to communicate negatively about another SBC entity or the persons who work for or with that entity.

We’ve been watching more and more of this happen in recent weeks, and it warrants immediate administrative action at every SBC entity. Midwestern’s president should not allow his professors to Tweet negatively about LifeWay authors. Southwestern’s president should not allow his staff to post comments on Facebook that are injurious to the ministry witness of ERLC leaders. LifeWay employees should not be allowed to blister SBC entity heads on Twitter. And so forth and so on.

It’s time for this to stop, forthwith.

Brethren (and sistren) these things ought not be. Without question, no SBC entity employee should be posting their ruminating criticisms about entity leaders during work hours, from their CP-funded cubicles, desks, or offices. At the very least, during work hours and on their personal social media accounts, SBC employees should be restricted to post only those things that are “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable.” (Phil 4:8)

For years at Southwestern, Patterson had seminary administrators trolling Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and the blogs to find students, faculty, and staff who were posting things that he felt were injurious to the school’s witness. Forgetting the fact that he was himself injuring the school’s witness on a near-daily basis, we must admit that his overall principle regarding the use of social media by SBC employees was correct.

Bottom line: if you want to be a Twitter warrior, fine. If you want to engage the debate from your smartphone, well and good. If your little fingers won’t rest until you fire off some passive aggressive broadside at your fellow convention employee, have at it.

But you shouldn’t be allowed to do it on the convention’s time or dime.

Let no one defy this order.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

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Rev. Philip Levant
Iglesia Bautista La Vid

Rev. Kevin Ueckert, Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church, Georgetown, TX

Dr. Lash Banks, Pastor
Murphy Church, Murphy, TX

Dr. Hance Dilbeck, Executive Director
Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma

Rev. Steven James, Pastor
Trinity Baptist Church, Lake Charles, LA.

Dr. John Mark Caton, Senior Pastor
Cottonwood Creek Baptist Church, Allen, TX

Mr. Geoffrey Kolander, President & CEO
Citizens, Inc., Austin, TX

Dr. T. Van McClain, Professor of Old Testament
Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary

Dr. David Galvan, Senior Pastor
Primera Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida

Dr. David Allen, Dean of the School of Preaching
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, TX

Dear Sirs:

On May 22, 2019, a former female student of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary was granted leave by a federal magistrate judge to file an amended complaint under the pseudonym “Jane Roe” in a civil action against the seminary’s former president, Leighton Paige Patterson, and the school.  The case, which is styled 4:19-cv-00179-ALM-KPJ, alleges “multiple violent sexual assaults…on the campus of SWBTS by a fellow student and SWBTS employee,” as well as “Leighton Paige Patterson’s negligent and intentional acts that resulted in further harm to her.”[1]

In the complaint, Plaintiff Jane Roe alleges that a fellow student and SWBTS employee sexually assaulted her on campus, resulting in blood loss due to her injuries. She further alleges that the male student violently forced her to the floor, called her profane names, brutally pulled her hair out in clumps, and engaged in mock strangling to the point that she nearly lost consciousness. After raping her, the male student is alleged to have forced her to take the morning after pill. [2]

The details of Jane Roe’s rape are gruesome. The troubling allegations that a former seminary president – a man ostensibly serving under the authority of and accountable to the seminary’s board of trustees – characterized the girl’s mother as “nuts” when she demanded a meeting about the rape, inquired about whether the rapist “ejaculated,” pressed if the victim had “her monthly period,” and told the victim that it was a “good thing” that she had been raped now warrant your full attention.[3]

As successive chairmen of the seminary’s Board of Trustees, each of you was uniquely responsible for the oversight, supervision, and annual performance evaluation(s) of the seminary president.

In fact, the Business and Financial Plan of the Southern Baptist Convention states:

Entity boards of trustees should oversee the operations of the entity in such a manner as will assure effective and ethical management(emphasis added).[4]

Additionally, the Constitution of the Southern Baptist Convention states:

All [board] officers shall be subject to the control and direction of their directors in matters pertaining to the work and obligations of the board institution, or commission.


The executive head of each board, institution, and commission shall be responsible to the directors for all the work of the entity and shall carry on the work as the directors may direct.[5]

Moreover, the seminary’s bylaws state:

The Convention has committed to the Board the responsibility to manage the Seminary for the Convention and the trustees have full authority in all matters of its management, except to the extent that powers are vested in the Convention by law.


The Executive Committee [of the Board] shall be composed of the Chairman, the Vice Chairman, and the Secretary of the Board, and the Chairman and one other member of each standing committee for a total of thirteen members…


The Executive Committee will conduct an annual performance review of the President, and shall review the President’s performance evaluation of the other officers of the Seminary, in accordance with the procedures in the Policy Manual. The Secretary will maintain a written record of these reviews.


The President shall be elected by the Board. His term of office, duties, and administration of the affairs of the Seminary shall be under the direction and authority of the Board. (emphasis added).


The President reports directly and is accountable only to the Board.


It shall be the duty of the President to report to the Board or the Executive Committee all matters connected with the operation of the Seminary which may be of interest to the Board or which the Board, as the manager of the Seminary should know.[6]

For more than fifteen years, and under the immediate supervision of each chairman listed above, Leighton Paige Patterson served as president of the seminary. The present federal civil action raises significant questions about the fiduciary oversight of trustees during his tenure as president.

Notwithstanding such questions, the seminary has now filed a response to the civil complaint in Roe v. Patterson. That response, which is now public record, asserts that  “Leighton Paige Patterson was not in the course and scope of any alleged employment with SWBTS, and was not otherwise an agent for SWBTS at the time of the alleged acts or omissions at issue.”[7]Moreover, SWBTS denies that it “ratified any conduct of Leighton Paige Patterson at the time of the alleged acts or omissions at issue.”

Simply put, the seminary’s defense in the present civil suit hinges on the following claims:

  1. Paige Patterson was not authorized by the trustee officers to whom he was solely accountable for actions alleged in the lawsuit.
  2. Paige Patterson’s alleged conduct was inconsistent with the duties and responsibilities granted to him by the trustee officers.
  3. Trustee officers were unaware of the events described in the lawsuit, and were not informed of them in violation of the seminary’s bylaws.

As the seminary frames its defense in the lawsuit and moves toward a potential discovery phase, it will be incumbent on each of you as present and past trustee officers to cooperate fully with the seminary’s new president, Dr. Adam Greenway, and legal counsel. Specifically, you may be asked to provide corroborative evidence that substantiates the seminary’s claim that trustee officers were not aware of the president’s actions, were not informed of the events described in the lawsuit, and would have taken action to safeguard the institution against the president’s alleged acts and omissions had they known of them.

In fact, the entire process of trustee oversight of Paige Patterson may become relevant to this case as it proceeds. With that in mind, you may consider the importance of turning over to Dr. Adam Greenway and the seminary’s legal counsel any exculpatory trustee correspondence or other records in your possession that might serve to bolster the seminary’s defense in this case.  Specifically, the seminary president and legal counsel should know the following:

  1. Did the seminary president ever communicate with trustee officers concerning misconduct by students and employees?
  2. Did the seminary president ever inform trustee officers of criminal investigations conducted against seminary students and/or employees?
  3. Did trustee officers ever express to each other concern about the president’s ethical management of the school?
  4. Did trustee officers ever express to other parties concern about the president’s ethical management of the school?

It is possible that each of you gentlemen may be deposed in a discovery phase or even be called as a trial witness should this case advance to that point. As former trustee chairmen, your testimony could serve to corroborate the seminary’s assertion that Leighton Paige Patterson exhibited a pattern of acting without trustee authorization, supervision, or notification.  On the other hand, your testimony could demonstrate that the former president was, in fact, acting fully within the scope of his employment and trustee officers were routinely apprised of matters like those described in the amended civil complaint.

As men who were elected by the Southern Baptist Convention and entrusted to safeguard the institution and not protect its former president, it is incumbent upon you to carefully compile all relevant communications and other records, disclose them to the current seminary president and legal counsel as soon as possible, and prepare yourselves to be fact witnesses in the case of Roe v. Patterson.

Until He comes,

The Baptist Blogger








A true homemaker has gone home


At 4:43 a.m. this past Saturday morning, my cell phone buzzed on the nightstand where it was charging after a long day of meetings in the Big Easy. It was a text message from a friend of nearly 25 years, Kentucky pastor and mission strategist Dr. C.B. Scott. The message didn’t mince words.  C.B. never does.

“Karen went to be with the Lord last evening,” he wrote. “Her suffering is over. Her race is run. She finished well.”

For more than two decades Karen battled multiple sclerosis, a progressively debilitating neurological disease that affects two to three times more women than men and cuts the average person’s life span short by as much as ten years. Every year, around 20,000 people die from complications associated with MS, and about 200 new patients are diagnosed every week in the United States.

I remember the first day I met Karen Scott. As a new student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, I went to the business office in Stealey Hall to pay the first installment on Fall 1996 tuition. Sitting behind the counter at her desk was a dark haired woman with big, kind eyes and a voice so soft you could barely hear her.

Karen had come to Southeastern with her husband, C.B., who was completing his M.Div. and concurrently working on campus in the department of plant services. Meeting Karen was a joy. Meeting C.B. the first time was unsettling, and perhaps intimidating. The two were a perfect complement to one another.

Some days after that while entering the Ledford Center, a stocky man with blonde-gray hair wearing a blue shirt and paint-stained pants stopped me between the double doors and abruptly announced, “You’re Ben Cole.”

“Yes,” I answered. “And who are you?”

“You’ll figure that out in time,” he responded. “I know who you are, and I’m watching you.”

He turned and exited the building, leaving me standing there in a state of confusion and concern. Was this man threatening? Did he intend me harm? Or was this some weird practical joke? I went immediately to an administrator’s office and described what had happened and profiled my then-anonymous would-be stalker.

“Oh, that’s just, C.B.,” I was told. “He’s harmless.”

And that’s the first and last time I regarded C.B. as harmless. In fact, he’s one of the most dangerous men I’ve ever met, not because he is deranged as a Southeastern trustee once alleged.  And not because he was physically threatening, as a Southeastern administrator once feared.

But C.B. is dangerous because his commitment to the truth is stronger than his impulse for self-preservation. When faced with the option of fight or flight, C.B. will always fight. Any man who hurts a child or hits a woman, can be assured that C.B. Scott will hunt them down till the day they are brought to justice. And by justice, C.B. is not just concerned about criminal justice. He’s concerned about eternal justice. Inside his belly is a unquenchable fire to protect innocence. His fists are solid steel, and he’s had to use them on more than one occasion to stop an attacker.

But as hard-scrabble and rawhide as C.B. is — and he’s never written a book on manhood because he didn’t have to — his wife, Karen, was the textbook definition of quiet grace. With C.B. by her side, she never had to fear for her safety or that of her children.

But with Karen at his side, C.B. never lost his bearings. To be honest, every demon in hell is probably afraid of C.B.  But the Devil himself was afraid of Karen.

Few people have prayed as consistently for so many people. Her handwritten notes of encouragement fill folders in my archives. For the past years as MS ripped into her body, Karen was less and less able to get out of the house. But she sat in her wheelchair, day after day, reading and studying God’s Word and writing little notes of encouragement to hundreds of people to whom she’s ministered as a pastor’s wife, seminary employee, denominational servant, and mentor.

The last time I called Karen was during the Southern Baptist Convention.  C.B. was in Birmingham for the annual meeting, and left Karen behind in Kentucky because she was still fairly able to take care of herself, though it was getting more difficult.

I gave her a blow-by-blow of what was going on at the convention, and then she asked me the question: “Is The Hat there?”

“Yes,” I told her, “The Hat is here with her lady’s maid and manservant.”

Karen laughed a little.

In the last 72 hours, I’ve gone back and read threads of messages Karen and I exchanged over Facebook in the last 12 years. We talked about C.B.’s termination from Southeastern Seminary because, in part, he stood up to administrators who had engineered an improper transfer of title for a 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix to a seminary official. We talked about his termination from a Baptist college in Georgia, also for standing up to a school official who was abusing both his office and his family.

We talked about Southwestern Seminary a good bit, and Karen was always on point to remind me of small details about the misuse of school funds — usually with documentation — and various instances of financial mismanagement and shady accounting.  On more than one occasion, Karen would fact check a claim in a draft blog post to ensure narrative accuracy. She was meticulously attuned to details, and never wanted the slightest exaggeration or misstatement to compromise the full force of truth told well.

And then, she would tell me how much she laughed at the way I was writing the story.

C.B. told me that in these last years, he could hear Karen from the next room laughing out loud at one post or another. “Get in here, C.B.,” she would call out from her office. “You’re not going to believe what Ben just posted. They’re really going to hate him now.”

These last few months, Karen was particularly chatty on Facebook. Like the time she found furniture online she considered purchasing for a home in Parker, Tex. Or the time she nearly overdosed on afternoon tea. Or when she got a chuckle out of thinking about all the staff it would take to keep the Sandy Creek Foundation mansion fully operational.

That last one really got to me.

Here was Karen, her body wasting away and wondering if she would have enough strength to draw her next breath and unable to walk at all, remembering how the former First Lady of Southwestern moaned and bellyached about ironing presidential shirts through arthritic pangs.

Side note: I’ve never seen C.B. Scott in a wrinkled shirt. And I’ve never seen an article about Karen’s homemaking prowess.

No, there will never be a building on Southeastern’s campus named for Karen Scott. And there won’t be a lecture series at a Georgia Baptist College named for her either. But she wouldn’t have wanted those things anyways. Her husband, her children, and her grandchildren are her true legacy. And they have all gathered in the mountains of Appalachia this week to say goodbye.

Tonight at the First Baptist Church of McDowell, K.Y., the family of Karen Scott will pay tribute to her life and remember her faith. Most importantly, they will pay tribute to the Lord who gave Karen the strength to stand alongside one of the strongest men many of us have ever known, and to do so while her own physical strength was fading day after day.

And from Nashville, Tenn., we have paused this afternoon to pay our own small tribute to Karen, and we’re hoping she will get one more good laugh.

In her honor, we have made today a small designated contribution to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The designation?

“To be used for the replacement of missing presidential home furnishings.”