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Baptist leader apologizes to women

by Lynde Langdon
Posted 5/11/18, 11:18 am

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in a statement Thursday apologized to “every woman who has been wounded by anything I have said that was inappropriate or that lacked clarity.” Last month, remarks Patterson, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, made 18 years ago about domestic abuse and divorce began circulating widely on social media. He spoke of advising an abused woman to go home and pray at her bedside for her husband. She did so, came to church with two black eyes, and asked Patterson, “Are you happy?” He said he was because her remorseful husband came to church that day for the first time. Patterson also received criticism for a sermon illustration in which he spoke approvingly about teenage boys saying a 16-year-old girl was “built.” Initially, the seminary issued a press release in which Patterson condemned physical and sexual abuse of women and said, “I do not apologize for my stand for the family and for seeking to mend a marriage through forgiveness rather than divorce. But I do greatly regret that the way I expressed that conviction has brought hurt.” Since then, more than 3,000 people have signed an online letter from Southern Baptist women expressing a lack of faith in Patterson’s leadership. In Thursday’s statement, Patterson asked forgiveness for “the failure to be as thoughtful and careful in my extemporaneous expression as I should have been,” adding, “to all people I offer my apology, but especially to women, to the family of Southern Baptists, my friends and the churches.” On Twitter, Patterson’s latest apology drew gratitude from some and criticism from others who said he didn’t go far enough to recant his earlier statements. The seminary’s board of trustees has called a meeting on May 22 to address the controversy.

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Lynde Langdon

Lynde is a WORLD Digital assistant editor and reports on popular and fine arts. She lives in Wichita, Kan., with her husband and two daughters. Follow Lynde on Twitter @lmlangdon.

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  • OldMike
    Posted: Fri, 05/11/2018 02:35 pm

    Here’s a part of human history and male character we don’t like to admit:  men have abused and misused women; have treated them as objects for our own gratification; have taken and discarded women as the mood hits us... all with no thought of there being anything wrong. This has occurred through all human history. Maybe we’ve done it because we could, because bigger and stronger people can dominate smaller, weaker people. It’s not pretty, but it is what it is. And the majority of men continued to accept this behavior as normal right up until the last 20 years or so.

    Jesus, Paul, and others taught us different, but you could say, the teaching didn’t really take. 

    Now we've finally started to know different and most of us are trying to match our words and actions to our beliefs. 

    But that does not remove the actions or words some of us committed 20, 40, 60 years ago.  Nor it is easy to completely shed thinking and beliefs we grew up with 

    All I can say is, “I’m sorry,” but I can only speak for myself.  But I do believe a lot of my contemporaries share regrets over things we’ve done, words we’ve spoken.  But no one should honestly claim they are surprised to hear of any revered leader who expressed beliefs 20 or 40 years ago, that are now considered wrong and hurtful.  




  • Allen Johnson
    Posted: Fri, 05/11/2018 02:49 pm

    Well said, Old Mike.

  • JosieB
    Posted: Fri, 05/11/2018 03:22 pm

    “I’m sorry,” is a step in the right direction for Dr. Patterson and other Christian men. Taking responsibility for hurtful words shows some concern for the wounded, but unless a clear admission of wrong, sinful attitudes is forthcoming, “I’m sorry” sounds like “I’m sorry I got caught.”

  • OldMike
    Posted: Fri, 05/11/2018 08:38 pm

    JosieB, and other Women reading this, I AM sorry that for years I, like a majority of the men I’ve known, treated relationships with women like some sort of pretty serious contest, intending to “win” by whatever means.  Yes, we did this in most aspects of our relationships with you, and we did this with our wives, girlfriends, female co-workers and subordinates, casual acquaintances, neighbors, sometimes our friends’ or brothers’ wives.  We also at times simply played it like a game.

    We mostly never regarded you as equals.  We mostly didn’t worry about your feelings.    When we decided the “game” was over, whether we got what we wanted (a “win”) or not, mostly we did not concern ourselves with the damage we left behind.

    I believe we acted out of selfishness—“I want what I want, and I’m entitled.”

    And I AM sorry.

    I do not recall ever discussing this with another man.  Perhaps we also need to have those conversations.  


  • Nat Manzanita
    Posted: Sat, 05/12/2018 03:49 am

    I appreciate OldMike's humility and honesty, and yet there is another thread to be considered in history and literature: the fact that many men have *not* taken advantage of women but have tried to honor and protect them at great personal sacrifice. For much longer than 20-40 years, there have been men like those on the sinking Titanic who died to let the women and children escape first. These men were following the principles taught by Jesus and the apostle Paul, even if they weren't explictly aware of it.

  • Hans's picture
    Posted: Sat, 05/12/2018 11:46 am

    This is important. OldMike has used this same language several times on these threads, not as a means fundamentally of expressing personal repentance, but as a means of justifying his support for men who have done terrible things to women. The fact is that not all men (no, even from thirty or forty years ago) were dismissive of the suffering of DV victims, just like not all men bragged about sexually assaulting women (cf. Trump). While there may have been and continue to be elements of our culture that do both, that does not mean that the standard of behavior is somehow recent, or that violations of it should not be considered disqualifying for leadership. The behavior of these men is egregious, and it should not be diminished by claiming that we are applying today's standards of behavior in a post de facto manner.

  • OldMike
    Posted: Sat, 05/12/2018 03:30 pm

    Hi, Hans. 

    Sins we commit can be repented of, forgiven, even forgotten. Sadly, some offenders will never repent, some of those offended will never forgive, many can never forget. Sometimes, honest repentance will be met with disbelief, honest forgiveness will be scoffed at, persons who have been burned and remain cautious lest it be repeated will be accused of refusing to let go of the past. 

    It’s hard for me to understand my own motivations and actions at times, so I guess I’m not in a position to make hard judgment of others’ hearts. 

    God’s grace is sufficient. 

  • Hans's picture
    Posted: Mon, 05/14/2018 04:24 am

    Mike, I'm sure you do feel sincerely sorry, and that's good, but it also doesn't make a good basis for dismissing the scandalous behavior of current leaders. It's very difficult to take apologies seriously from these kinds of men when their first instinct is to refuse to apologize, which is then followed up by blanket statement apologies when it becomes apparent that their job is at risk. And again--my point is also that these "mistakes" are egregious, almost beyond comprehension in terms of the pastoral relationship. This isn't come guy who made a wolf whistle at a woman 40 years ago and feels guilty about it now. This is someone who looked at a battered woman in the face and told her that he was less concerned about her being beaten in the face than he was happy that her abuser had come to church that morning. I don't think that spousal abuse was somehow more acceptable "back then" (certainly not to the degree that it would have been commonplace for a pastor to say something like this), and it is unnerving to hear you suggest that these kinds of problems can be dismissed as the norm from a few decades ago. This behavior--particularly since it was done in the context of the pastoral relationship in the first place--is permanently disqualifying from church leadership as far as I am concerned.

  • West Coast Gramma's picture
    West Coast Gramma
    Posted: Sat, 05/12/2018 09:01 pm

    Thank you OldMike. Thank-you for your expression of sorrow to all women and the recognition that you may have hurt some. Your comments will help you and others change. As a woman, it IS good to hear men discussing these things out in the open and attempting to make amends and to create a new future. Thank you again, OldMike.

  • Cavanaugh's picture
    Posted: Sun, 05/13/2018 09:46 am

    I am not a Baptist, nor want to stand in defense of dumb behavior/attitudes of people in leadership.  But, while I appreciate WORLD’s even handed reporting of “the fallen”, I do think in this one case the visual could have better chosen.   Surely there is a more neutral “file” picture of this man that could have accompanied this article – rather than an old one showing hand on hip as he makes a probably unrelated point.   If we do not read the date, we may think that his apology was delivered without fitting “body language”

  • OldMike
    Posted: Wed, 05/16/2018 02:07 pm

    Most people younger than 60 simply do not understand how much our culture and our views have changed in the last 60 years.  There are things we accepted as normal, appropriate, ordinary, that we now view with horror--and we can't imagine that any of us found those things as acceptable.  That, is, those of us who weren't here back then can't imagine it.

    Examples: I recall scenes from TV sitcoms and movies in which a husband pulled a wife OVER HIS KNEE TO SPANK HER!  because she had acted like a spoiled child!  This was considered a husband's right when the wife acted like one of the children.  Oh, I'm sure not everyone in the US accepted this behavior, but enough did that the scenes were considered "comedy."  I also believe I recall a movie scene (probably in a Western) in which a husband--who was the hero/protagonist in the movie--hogtied his rebellious wife and threw her over the back of his horse to take her home.  Are you saying, "No way!  THIS never could have been portrayed in movies or on TV as appropriate/normal/acceptable!"  I'm not taking the time, but I bet some of these scenes can be found thru Google.

    If things like this were considered "normal" enough to be portrayed as acceptable in popular entertainment, is it really right to condemn someone today as unfit for leadership because they grew up surrounded by those attitudes, and took a while to unlearn them?  Race relations is another subject, but similar in that, what we once considered "normal" ways of treating members of minority races, younger Americans now find unbelievable.  And yes, it is soooo easy to say, "Well, if I had lived back then, I certainly would not have accepted it!"

    Finally, I must point out, in most of America at that time, those who did not agree with treating women and minorities as lesser persons WERE USUALLY NOT SPEAKING OUT.  Giving the appearance of acceptance, if not acceptance in actual fact.




  • Narissara
    Posted: Thu, 05/17/2018 08:34 pm

    Women 50 and 60 years ago had a different perception of themselves in relation to their husbands.  After all, the typical vows a bride took still included promises to love, honor and obey. Sitcoms tend to be parodies of real life; that’s why people laugh.  Conventional wisdom of the day said they weren’t supposed to be taken seriously.  I suspect women probably laughed at the sitcoms you talk about as much as men because it was assumed that no self-respecting man would ever really do such a thing, and no respectable wife would behave that way.  

    Back then, people didn’t think about things like “worldview” when they sat down to watch TV.  They assumed the distinctions between serious subjects and entertainment were clear cut, although, really, it was anybody’s guess what the producer’s intent was.  I have a feeling most of that generation still thinks in those terms, but most of the younger generations are aware that every show, sitcoms included, express a worldview, even if they don’t completely understand the term. 

    Maybe you had particular shows in mind, but the ones I immediately thought of when you mention the husband turning his wife over his knee were just before the sexual revolution.  We know now that while people tend to watch TV passively, messages are getting through.  So while people might have laughed at the situation, it probably got some to start questioning accepted norms.  But it might have also had the effect of reinforcing them for others.  One of them, though, was “I Love Lucy,” which aired quite some time before.  People thought it was cute because this was a real-life married couple that seemed very much in love.  No one had any idea what a destructive marriage they really had until much, much later.   

    I’ve gotten a little off topic, but your comments got me thinking again about how important it is to guard our thoughts.  You know the old saying, “Garbage in, garbage out.” 

  • OldMike
    Posted: Mon, 05/14/2018 05:19 pm

    Here’s another I’ve remembered. 

    In the early 80’s, the youth pastor at my church, then probably not yet 30, told a church gathering this:  When he and his wife had not been married long, one morning he wanted his wife to get up and fix his breakfast. She was not ready to get up. He went and got his cattle prod (he was a farm-boy) and made her get up and “do her job.”  He said ruefully, “ I was just a dumb farmer, I didn’t know anything about women. I just thought you were supposed to treat a balky woman like a balky horse.  MAKE them mind.” 

    For those of you who don’t know, a cattle prod delivers a fierce electro-shock to make a reluctant cow go into a chute, to stop it from charging, etc. I’m sure this pastor’s wife still has a burn scar today. 

    BUT...  She DIDN’T leave him, she DIDN’T file assault or abuse charges on him, NO one in the church demanded he step down from his position. (This had happened prior to them coming to our church). I recall quite a bit of laughter at the telling, although I’m sure some who heard this were shocked and horrified. 

    The point is, this was less than 40 years ago, yet these attitudes about what a man had the right to do to a woman were still prevalent enough that no one condemned that man, as far as I ever heard. 

    And Brother, if you’re reading this, I want you to know I have NEVER mentioned your name when I told this. ;-)