In the midst of a two petitions from Southern Baptists calling for his resignation, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president Paige Patterson posted a new statement of apology late yesterday. In it, he asks forgiveness for his “failure to be as thoughtful and careful in my extemporaneous expression as I should have been.”
The full statement is below. What I don’t see in the statement is a clear admission that he was wrong to advise women in abusive relationships to go home to an abusive husband. Here is yesterday’s statement:
Pastoral ministry that occurred 54 years ago, repeated as an illustration in sermons on more than one occasion, as well as another sermon illustration used to try to explain a Hebrew word (Heb. banah “build or construct,” Gen. 2:22) have obviously been hurtful to women in several possible ways. I wish to apologize to every woman who has been wounded by anything I have said that was inappropriate or that lacked clarity. We live in a world of hurt and sorrow, and the last thing that I need to do is add to anyone’s heartache. Please forgive the failure to be as thoughtful and careful in my extemporaneous expression as I should have been.
I would also like to reiterate the simple truth that I utterly reject any form of abuse in demeaning or threatening talk, in physical blows, or in forced sexual acts. There is no excuse for anyone to use intemperate language or to attempt to injure another person. The Spirit of Christ is one of comfort, kindness, encouragement, truth, and grace; and that is what I desire my voice always to be.
To all people I offer my apology, but especially to women, to the family of Southern Baptists, my friends and the churches. I sincerely pray that somehow this apology will show my heart and may strengthen you in the love and graciousness of Christ.
Paige Patterson, President
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Fort Worth, Texas
Here is the “illustration” he used in 2000 that has been the focus of the recent uproar (this is the full quote from his answer to a questioner – listen to the audio here):
It depends on the level of abuse to some degree. I have never in my ministry counseled that anybody seek a divorce, and I do think that’s always wrong counsel. There have been, however, an occasion or two when the level of the abuse was serious enough, dangerous enough, immoral enough that I have counseled temporary separation and the seeking of help. I would urge you to understand that that should happen only in the most serious of cases. I would cite examples of it but the examples that I have had in my ministry are so awful that I will not cite them in public. That’s enough to say however, that there’s a severe physical and/or moral danger that’s involved before you come to that. More often, when you face abuse, it is of a less serious variety but all abuse is serious.
There are two or three things that I say to women who are in those kinds of situations. First of all, I say to them that you must not forget the power of prayer. Just as one of your little children comes to you with a broken heart and crawls up into your arms and looks into your face and with tears running down his cheeks asks you to intervene in a situation. If you have anything in you of a loving parent’s heart at all that’ll bring you to your attention and you’re off and running. And now if you then being evil know how to give good gifts to your children how much more shall your Father in heaven do good if you ask of Him. Do not forget the power of consecrated concentrated prayer. Get on your face and ask him to intervene and He is a good and a dear heavenly Father at some point He will intervene. I give one brief example of it.
I had a woman who was in a church that I served, and she was being subject to some abuse, and I told her, I said, “All right, what I want you to do is, every evening I want you to get down by your bed just as he goes to sleep, get down by the bed, and when you think he’s just about asleep, you just pray and ask God to intervene, not out loud, quietly,” but I said, “You just pray there.” And I said, “Get ready because he may get a little more violent, you know, when he discovers this.” And sure enough, he did. She came to church one morning with both eyes black. And she was angry at me and at God and the world, for that matter. And she said, “I hope you’re happy.” And I said, “Yes ma’am, I am.” And I said, “I’m sorry about that, but I’m very happy.”
And what she didn’t know when we sat down in church that morning was that her husband had come in and was standing at the back, first time he ever came. And when I gave the invitation that morning, he was the first one down to the front. And his heart was broken, he said, “My wife’s praying for me, and I can’t believe what I did to her.” And he said, “Do you think God can forgive somebody like me?” And he’s a great husband today. And it all came about because she sought God on a regular basis. And remember, when nobody else can help, God can.
And in the meantime, you have to do what you can at home to be submissive in every way that you can and to elevate him. Obviously, if he’s doing that kind of thing he’s got some very deep spiritual problems in his life and you have to pray that God brings into the intersection of his life those people and those events that need to come into his life to arrest him and bring him to his knees.
Patterson is facing criticism because he advised this woman to go back into an abusive situation. This is clearly bad advice but he has not admitted it was wrong. His apology is vague and focuses on how he expressed himself not on his bad advice. He also deflects his objectification of a young girl in a sermon rather than saying he was wrong for his statements.
I have no evidence that Paige Patterson is a danger to any person. At all times, his bad advice has been the focus of his critics. If those who have criticized him are looking for a statement that he now believes his advice on abuse has been wrong, this apology is not it.