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.

3 thoughts on “Paige Patterson was right…and we were wrong

  1. I agree with you completely. It’s not about freedom of speech .. it’s about the hypocrisy of taking a paycheck from an entity, while saying elsewhere negative things about that same entity.

    Not to mention the liberal use of pejoratives in such statements.

  2. The 750 IMB missionaries mentioned above mostly would have served during Tom Elliff’s tenure as president of the IMB. Paige seemed to be saying that Tom was allowing, promoting and enabling errant theological practices. Maybe that is why he didn’t get a stained glass window.

    1. This post was a follow up to a previous post that apparently didn’t post. I was referring to Patterson’s 2015 speech calling for the firing of 750 IMB missionaries most if not all served during Tom Elliff’s presidency. Ben, you should be aware of Patterson’s series of attacks trying to get both Keith Parks and Jerry Rankin fired. Did he get it right when attacking other entity heads?

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