This past week was an interesting moment for those who study the split of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Paige Patterson’s official documents from his tenure as president of the Southern Baptist Convention were published on a website called The Red Bishop Files at thepattersonpapers.com.
Patterson, who was planning to retire as president emeritus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Dallas and live in a specially built house on the campus, came crashing down in 2018.
Patterson came under fire for his years of advice to women who had been abused or raped. He would tell the women to pray for their abusers. In one instance, a woman approached him with two black eyes after going back to her husband on Patterson’s advice. She asked Patterson if he was happy. He said he told her yes. And part of his reason was because the husband had attended church that Sunday for the first time.
Patterson was also charged with the mishandling of female students who told him of being raped on seminary campuses. One woman said she was raped three times at gunpoint by a fellow student.
In a lawsuit, the woman claimed Patterson inflicted distress on her and prodded her for graphic details of the rape. She also claimed he interfered with the police investigation of her case.
The papers published online July 6 are the official files of Patterson’s two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1998 through 2000.
In a tweet, The Baptist Blogger says that in two days the papers have been downloaded 20,000 times. At this point, people are still sifting through the first round of pages, so there hasn’t been much analysis. The next months should have interesting commentary on Patterson and his leadership.
And the website allows viewers to download the files, meaning you can read these yourself.
Patterson also played a role in the split of the Southern Baptist Convention, which began in 1979. The split is called the Conservative Resurgence or the Fundamentalist Takeover, depending on which side is talking.
It has roots in many places, including New Orleans. In 1967, Paige Patterson, who was working on a doctorate at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and Paul Pressler, a judge in Texas, met at the Café du Monde in the French Quarter and discussed what they saw as a liberal theology being taught in Baptist life. They were particularly upset at what they saw as the authority of the Bible being questioned.
This led to the takeover of the convention, which in turn led the convention to become active in American politics. Much of that action can be seen in the discord of today’s political arena.
Sources: tinyurl.com/ybp5cm2j, “The Long Southern Strategy: How Chasing White Voters in the South Changed American Politics,” by Angie Maxwell and Todd Shields, “The Sacred Trust: Sketches of the Southern Baptist Convention Presidents,” by Emir Caner, Ergun Caner, https://tinyurl.com/yajowk5l, tinyurl.com/ya94ers7, tinyurl.com/yclsgm7m, tinyurl.com/yd3peme5, tinyurl.com/y949ocnf, tinyurl.com/ybc9sgf5, tinyurl.com/y99vozpc