Yesterday I wrote an editorial entitled “What to Expect at the Southern Baptist Convention. In an effort to give Dr. Paige Patterson the benefit of the doubt I suggested that he may want to preach the convention sermon, because of his passion for proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ or he may decide to relinquish that honor to ensure that his preaching is not a distraction to anyone and to defang his detractors who seem to be bent on attempting to bite and devour him.
That editorial was written before I had knowledge of the decision of the Southwestern Theological Seminary Trustee Board’s Executive Committee decision to terminate Patterson, “effective immediately, removing all the benefits, rights and privileges provided by the May 22 – 23 board meeting, including the title of President Emeritus, the invitation to reside at the Baptist Heritage Center as theologian-in-residence and ongoing compensation.”
The Executive Committee had before them an assignment none of us would covet and none of them could have imagined as a possibility when they agreed to serve their respective terms as trustees. In last week’s full meeting of the board, this group balanced their judgment between the best interests of the seminary and their gratitude to the Pattersons for their lifetime of service. In yesterday’s decision, they concluded that the former would be compromised by the latter. Their first decision was characterized by generosity. Yesterday’s decision appears to be one of necessity.
A new week and a new set of facts can make enough difference to reverse what seemed to be a fixed decision. For those of us with questions over this about face, we should remember that there are also 32 Southwestern Seminary trustees who do not have the privilege of exposure to the information, which led to the reversal of their decision by the 12 people on the Executive Committee. One thing I do know: it may be now or it may be later, but information of this kind is never kept secret. Washington, D.C., and the SBC have this in common: someone always leaks additional information. Until that time, we must trust that our system and polity are fulfilling their providential purpose.
Perhaps yesterday’s terminal decision to banish the Pattersons from Southwestern Seminary will bring to a close the bitter hostility and caustic social media tirades we have been forced to endure. Is it possible for us to move forward in the love of Christ, a love that reaches out to a lost world, but which also reaches in with redemptive grace to bind up the wounds among its own? I believe it is.
My love and gratitude for Paige and Dorothy Patterson remains true and full. And so does my love for the Convention and its seminaries, which the Pattersons fought so tirelessly to recapture for the Bible. Southern Baptists, we have work to do! The Lord will take care of who preaches to us in Dallas, but He’s called us to get on with the work to which the Pattersons and many others before them devoted their lives—reaching souls for Jesus Christ.