A recording from 2000 reportedly featuring a prominent Southern Baptist leader saying women in abusive marriages should avoid divorce in favor of prayer and being “submissive in every way that you can” has resurfaced, causing an outcry on social media.
Paige Patterson is president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, a Fort Worth school whose Web site says it is one of the largest seminaries in the world. About 15 million people are part of Southern Baptist churches, the largest Protestant group in the United States. Patterson is slated to deliver the primary sermon — a high-profile honor — in June at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Dallas.
Patterson, who declined to comment Sunday, is heard on an audiotape being interviewed in 2000 about what he recommends for women “who are undergoing genuine physical abuse from their husbands, and the husband says they should submit.”
Patterson’s view, according to the tape, was that divorce is not an option, and seemingly that it is the responsibility of abused women to correct their husbands’ behavior – all while enduring the physical, emotional or sexual abuse.
And the religious leader also implied there are degrees of abuse that women should simply tolerate in their marriages:
“It depends on the level of abuse, to some degree,” Patterson says. “I have never in my ministry counseled anyone to seek a divorce and that’s always wrong counsel.” Only on an occasion or two in his career, he says, when the level of abuse “was serious enough, dangerous enough, immoral enough,” has he recommended a temporary separation and the seeking of help.
He goes on to tell the story of a woman who came to him about abuse, and how he counseled her to pray at night beside her bed, quietly, for God to intervene. The woman, he said, came to him later with two black eyes. “She said: ‘I hope you’re happy.’ And I said ‘Yes … I’m very happy,’ ” because it turned out her husband had heard her quiet prayers and come for the first time to church the next day, he said.
The tape surfaced on a website called the Baptist Blogger, but the author of the piece wished to remain anonymous due to having left the Southern Baptist community.
According to the author, Patterson in the tape was being interviewed by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, an evangelical organization that promotes the idea that men and women have different traditional roles. Efforts to confirm that with the council late Sunday were not successful.
The views expressed on the tape were roundly rejected by many in the conservative evangelical community, including the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood:
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood tweeted a statement it adopted in March that said physical, sexual or emotional abuse is “not only a sin but is also a crime … that must not be tolerated in the Christian community.”
“We believe that the church must offer tender concern and care for the abused and must help the abused to find hope and healing through the gospel. The church should do all it can to provide ongoing counseling and support for the abused,” the statement read.
In response to the tapes re-emergence, Patterson issued a statement on his website, though declined to comment directly to The Post:
In the statement on his seminary website, Patterson did not dispute the tape but said he was being “subjected to rigorous misrepresentation.” Patterson was president of the Southern Baptist Convention in the late 1990s.
In his statement, he said that he has never been accused of abusing anyone, that he has counseled “on more than one occasion” women to leave abusive husbands, and that physical or sexual abuse of any kind should be reported “to the appropriate authorities.” He praised the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood statement and said it reflected his view.
“I have also said that I have never recommended or prescribed divorce. How could I as a minister of the Gospel? The Bible makes clear the way in which God views divorce,” he wrote.