*Please note that the following is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.
“So the Lord said to Solomon, “Because you have done this, and you have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant.” 1 Kings 11:11
Page Patterson is a big deal in the Southern Baptist Convention…and he deserves to be. He’s done much to make the convention better and his influence will be long lasting. (Students study him in seminary. I’ve studied him in seminary.) As President of the Southern Baptist Convention, Page Patterson appointed the committee that revised the Baptist Faith & Message, the confession most widely employed by Southern Baptists, and presided over the historic session of the convention in which this revised confession was adopted. Patterson currently serves as the President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), a position he has held since 2003. Unfortunately, Page Patterson’s ministry seems to be coming to an inauspicious and disappointing end. Using his influence and authority as President of SWBTS, Page Patterson has reportedly allowed Muslim (this has been confirmed by Patterson, himself) and Mormon students to enroll in the school. This is flatly unacceptable and unjustifiable. To make matters worse, if that’s possible, the admission of the Muslim student seems to have been done with a degree of secrecy (as if Patterson knew he was doing something wrong and sought to hide it). Patterson should be removed from his office for this transgression. However, it is doubtful that he will. His influence is much too great; it spans generations.
In March 1967, Patterson met at Café Du Monde in downtown New Orleans with Judge Paul Pressler to hatch a plan to take over the Southern Baptist Convention. At the time, the convention was drifting towards liberalism and away from a commitment to biblical inerrancy. Things were so bad that in 1971 the SBC approved a resolution advocating legal abortion and faculty members at seminaries were teaching that the Bible wasn’t true. Patterson and Pressler conceived a plan to remove liberal influence from the convention. To do so, they would need to see that a succession of conservative convention presidents was elected. The presidents would appoint committee members. Committee members would appoint SBC agency trustees. The SBC agency trustees would hire conservative missionaries and seminary faculty.
Their plan worked. In what became known as “the conservative resurgence”, the influence of liberals was purged from the SBC. Thanks in part to the conservative resurgence, the Southern Baptist Convention is the only American Christian denomination that has not seen a precipitous slide in membership as the United States has become a more secular culture. In 1990, leaders of the conservative resurgence gathered at Café Du Monde to celebrate Patterson and Pressler; both of these men received plaques commemorating their work. Celebrants sang “Victory in Jesus”.
I, for one, have personally benefited from the influence of Page Patterson and the conservative resurgence. I have the blessing of studying in a Southern Baptist seminary free from liberal professors who have no interest in seeing a risen Christ proclaimed. Where I go to school, I see no academics looking for a mere paycheck to teach their esoteric subject matter. I see men of God, both faculty and students, looking to better Christ’s kingdom by training up evangelists and Christian ministers. I’m thankful for them. Praise God for their influence on my life.
For an inexplicable and unjustifiable reason, Page Patterson has, in direct violation of the schools mission statement, polluted the atmosphere he helped create by admitting Christ-denying non-Christians to the Christian training ground that is SWBTS. To paraphrase a righteously indignant character from The Lord of the Rings, “Patterson! A minister should know better! There is no curse in the tongues of men for this treachery”
Well…except maybe in the Psalms of Imprecation. It’s time to go for the juglar, here. There is yet one conservative southern Baptist in this convention that still draws breath! I’ll use my breath to pray against the evil being perpetrated against Christendom by Page Patterson and speak out against it. Like an elderly King Solomon, Patterson has turned away from the wisdom of God and towards something altogether different. Some may think such prayers harsh. I think them justified and practical. Patterson is too big and too ensconced to be fired or forced to resign. He must be removed by Providence. In the wake of the Louisiana College and Ergun Caner debacles, no one would be reasonable to expect justice for the Southern Baptist Elite from the trustee system. We have no Jimbo Fisher to replace this Bobby Bowden. Lighting won’t strike twice.
As heroes of the past all stumble and fall all around us, as in case with Johnny Hunt to name one, young Southern Baptists can stand up and demand the accountability and transparency that congregations deserve from their leaders. I know I will…and I can tell you that some friends of mine and I sat around a table at Café Du Monde ourselves quite recently. We’re not going to stand for this. I pray, if we succeed in righting the ship or even abandoning with a faithful remnant, that we don’t suffer the same unfortunate fate as Page Patterson and his commemorative plaque.
No matter what happens, we can take comfort that the Lord will never fail us nor forsake us. Unlike our fallible human leaders, the Lord is not a man that he should repent. My hope ultimately rests in Christ, the chief cornerstone. I hope yours does, too.