Baptist Seminary President Paige Patterson Fired as Files Go Missing in Sex Abuse Case
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The Southern Baptist seminary that demoted its president last week has now fired him, citing new information regarding the handling of sexual abuse allegations.
The executive committee of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's Board of Trustees announced the unanimous decision late Wednesday.
In a statement the committee said it had received new information that it had confirmed regarding the way Dr. Paige Patterson handled the allegation of sexual abuse against a student while he was president at another institution.
The committee said that the information "demanded immediate action" and could not wait for the next board meeting.
Just last week, the seminary had in effect demoted Patterson from president to the position of president emeritus after an audio recording surfaced in which he recounted advising a woman to stay in her physically abusive marriage. Another comment was made in public in which he commented on a teenage girl's body.
On Wednesday, however, the committee cut ties completely with Patterson, saying it was 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."
Last week The Washington Post reported that in 2003 Patterson allegedly told a Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary student who said she'd been raped to forgive her attacker and not go to police. Patterson was president of that seminary at the time.
A North Carolina woman, Megan Lively, identified herself on Monday as the student.
Danny Akin, the current president of Southeastern, told the Post that "he couldn't confirm if the Southwestern leaders were referring to Lively's alleged 2003 rape at his school" when they made their decision on Wednesday.
Akin also said that files that would help investigate what happened were taken from Southeastern when Patterson left that year to become president of Southwestern.
Akin said he didn't know if the files were taken "by mistake or intentionally." The Post says he's asking for Southwestern to return them to Southeastern.
A spokesman for Southwestern declined to comment when asked by CBN News Thursday about the files.
On Wednesday interim Southwestern president Dr. Jeffrey Bingham called for prayer for healing for all individuals affected by abuse and said that the seminary "denounces all abusive behavior, any behavior that enables abuse, any failure to protect the abused and any failure to safeguard those who are vulnerable to abuse."
In early May more than 3,000 Southern Baptist women signed a letter calling for decisive action againt Patterson. On Thursday, some of those signers expressed hope that good will come in the wake of Southwestern's latest decision.
Writer and speaker Karen Swallow Prior thanked the Southwestern Board of Trustees "for standing for what is right."
Writer and speaker Mary DeMuth said she hoped that Southwestern's decision will help the church to focus on the needs of trauma victims instead of dismissing and shaming them. She told CBN News that she appreciated Dr. Bingham's response.
"He communicated a strong desire to keep this conversation going so it didn't feel like an ending to me," she said.
Popular Bible study author and teacher Beth Moore blogged that she respected the decision and called for further repentance by others involved.
"I know how much healing can come when those who added to the hurt and did not act faithfully – or rightly repent when confronted with such – ultimately repent then, rather than shrinking back in shame, become an active part of restoration," she said.
It's not clear yet whether or not Patterson will step down from delivering the keynote sermon June 13th during the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting in Dallas.
Wheaton College professor Ed Stetzer has been one of the prominent Southern Baptist voices calling for Patterson to step down from giving that message. After Southwestern's decision late Wednesday he tweeted, "Now the hard conversations have to begin."
Stetzer told CBN News on Thursday that Southern Baptists must grapple with the failure "to hear the voices of women in so many places."
He also called for a hard look at the ways that complementarianism, the view that men and women have separate roles, has mixed with misogyny and harmed the denomination.
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