Paige Patterson, Sex Abuse, Southern Baptist Convention
Admin note: This blog was written and submitted to Spiritual Sounding Board. The author wishes to remain anonymous. ~ja
Paige Patterson called an abuse advocacy group “as reprehensible as sex criminals”
Did you hear about the movie Spotlight? It won Best Picture in 2015.
It’s a true story about an investigative reporting team from the Boston Globe who uncovered systematic hiding of sexual abuse and abusers in the Catholic Church. The Spotlight team accomplished their exposé, published in 2002, with the help of the organization Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
When the movie aired in 2015, many who had never before heard of SNAP now found out the heartbreaking and heroic work they’d been doing for decades.
But there’s a SNAP outreach for Baptists too, and Christa Brown, the author of the outstanding book This Little Light, was in 2008 the leader of that outreach, having recorded in that book and at www.stopbaptistpredators.com her work of many years in calling for the Southern Baptist Convention to deal with abuse seriously and establish a database of predators so that churches would better be able to avoid filling their pulpits with them.
These efforts failed.
But this does bring us around to Paige Patterson.
This article, from The Nashville Scene in February of 2000, gives a graphic account of abuse at the beginning of the article, and then focuses on the arguable need for a database of verifiable predators in the SBC. It highlights two confirmed SBC preacher abusers, one of whom is Darrell Gilyard, whom Paige Patterson admired and promoted in the 1980s. When Gilyard’s victims went to Paige Patterson for help, to quote the Nashville Scene article:
They say Patterson refused to help them, at times refusing their phone calls or telling them that unless they had proof, he would not see them. Some women said he asked them to refrain from talking about the abuse. In press accounts at the time, Patterson said he was “dealing with a man of special gifts and talents” [Gilyard] and that he was “unwilling to call anyone guilty until I had demonstrable evidence that these allegations were true.”
That “demonstrable evidence” wouldn’t come until 1991, when, as the Dallas news account detailed, Gilyard admitted to Patterson that he had committed adultery—even though many of the women’s allegations seemed much more akin to rape than consensual sex. It was then that Patterson finally cut ties with his protégé—but not before he personally prepared the goodbye speech for Gilyard to deliver to Victory Baptist.
A few years later Gilyard resigned from the pastorate of yet another church, a 7000-member church of devoted admirers, just before being arrested for having sent lewd messages to a 14-year-old girl.
This is where SNAP got involved with Paige Patterson.
This article by Bob Allen of Ethics Daily shows that SNAP called for a temporary suspension of Patterson from the presidency of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary so an investigation could be conducted in his failure to warn church after church that there was a predator in their pulpits in the form of Darrell Gilyard.
One childhood clergy sexual abuse survivor from the SBC, Debbie Vasquez (the subject of the graphic account at the beginning of the Nashville Scene article), after reading the account of Darrell Gilyard, wrote emails to various SBC heads for help in her own case. She was rebuffed at every turn.
One man she wrote to was Paige Patterson. Another Ethics Daily article from that time quotes what Patterson said to her in his email reply, regarding SNAP (the organization that only six years earlier had helped the Spotlight investigative reporting team expose the huge problem with sexual abuse and its covering in the Catholic Church):
SNAP is just as reprehensible as sex criminals. To make false accusations against a person in an effort to tarnish his reputation, as they regularly do and have most recently done to me, is just as reprehensible and involves just as little integrity. My little granddaughters, 10 and 8, were here the other day and heard on TV that their grandpa harbored sex criminals! I suppose that this is somehow OK since I am a pastor?
And in another email to her, also quoted in the Ethics Daily article:
You continue to suggest that I am not doing enough, without any facts whatsoever. You also protect evil doers who have slandered others. Is the slander of SNAP somehow not a hideous sin also? I am sorry Debbie, but I cannot help anyone whose mind is made up to do wrong even when I regret deeply what has happened to them. I will pray that God meets your every need.
To recap, SNAP had asked for Patterson to be temporarily suspended so he could be investigated for the protection and promotion of an abuser in the pulpit.
Patterson responded by calling them—not to their faces, and not to the public at large, but to a childhood sexual abuse survivor—a “reprehensible” organization, “just as reprehensible as sex criminals.” According to Patterson, this organization bent on exposing abusers and protecting victims was just as reprehensible as the abusers.
He accused Vasquez of “also protecting evil doers,” equating a childhood sexual abuse survivor seeking help from SNAP with the promotion and protection of a sexual predator he had been credibly accused of.
He called out SNAP as “evil doers” whose sin of “slander” was also a “hideous sin,” and by the use of the word also, he implied again that their sin was comparable to the sin of childhood sexual abusers. He said their minds were “made up to do wrong.”
SNAP sent Patterson a letter, which you can read here, expressing their dismay that he would speak to a childhood sexual abuse survivor in such a way, asking him to apologize for his hateful speech, but adding that they would like to have a dialogue with him even if he didn’t want to apologize.
It appears Patterson never responded to that letter.
That was ten years ago. Would Paige Patterson now be willing to acknowledge that this was wrong for him to do? Would he be willing to issue an apology for speaking in such a way about the organization and the people who worked to help expose abusers and protect victims?
Their hearts were to protect the vulnerable and oppressed.
27 thoughts on “Paige Patterson called an abuse advocacy group “as reprehensible as sex criminals””
Patterson has said so many things, ya’ll…
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Roman Catholic clergy could not be prosecuted by the state in era before the Protestant Reformation. The Roman church deemed its clergy to be exempt from prosecution for crimes.
The Roman church would intentionally ordain criminals to protect the criminals from being prosecuted. That’s how bad the Roman church was. (See “The Story of the New Matthew Bible” — an excellent book that has just come out.)
The way many so-called Protestant denominations behave today is similar. These days the state does at least have the power to prosecute clergy, but a denomination’s leaders can keep the crimes from being reported for decades — by bullying the victims into silence and by firing any lower-level clergy / staff / PhD students who oppose the cover-up.
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It seems pretty common for the Evangelical institutions (I’m most familiar with colleges) to buy off the local government entities so that they can use those entities for their purposes. So, some students get off when they’ve committed crimes and others get threatened with jail even when there is no evidence anything was done.
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Thanks Mark. 🙂
When you throw a rock into a feral dog pack (wolves have more class than that), the one who yelps the loudest is the one who got hit.
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After reading this, I feel that Pastor Patterson is a close-minded man, arrogant who doesn’t seem like he has real compassion or empathy for those who claim to have been abused by the clergy and a bit too unfairly bias in favor of Pastor Gilyard. If could have been decent enough to hear out the women who made the accusations and listen to their sides of things even if he didn’t want to believe it’s true but to ignore and dismiss them was a jerk move. Also him calling the SNAP organization evil doers and using that as an excuse to shun a possibly sexual abuse survivor seems almost vindictive and why does he assume they slander clergy members? Sounds like he was in denial about a man he admired and let that affect his judgment and only turned his back on this Pastor Gilyard only when he confessed to adultery rather than offer forgiveness and encouragement of repentance although I don’t know the full story in that situation. Anyway, I feel sad for the victims and glad these predatory clergymen are exposed. God Bless.
As a lawyer, I’m wondering what the man’s talking about. No evidence? What of those dozens of women who approached the Patterson? That’s not evidence that he sheltered an abuser, cynically looking the other way? He’s either an imbecile, insane, or evil. Based on his stilted, high school-level writing, I don’t care about his education, he shows signs of the first quality; based on his unhinged demeanor and his bizarre speaking patterns, he shows signs of the second, and based on the fact that the man just digs his heels in and refuses to acknowledge his errors or the pain and abuse he may well have caused dozens of women to suffer, he shows earmarks of the third.
I cannot judge the man all-in-all, don’t know what I’d have become had I been given his nature and nurture (perhaps an axe murderer), but I can look at his fruits and opine, and to me, the man seems absolutely corrupt.
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I’m not a lawyer but other than that I second what Truth Detector said.
Truth Detector, guys like Patterson incorrectly use Matthew 18 as an excuse to never believe the victim. Unless there are 2 or 3 eye witnesses of each event, the victim is always disbelieved. It is horrible. They dismiss forensics, profiles, psychology, and modern investigative techniques as “worldly” and “of the devil”. I was once appealing to a minister to listen to a victim and used a study done by Anna Salter to try to explain how predators work. He rebuked me for being “too worldly”.
the irony is that even if there were 3 eyewitnesses to an event, they still wouldn’t believe it. I am convinced that the ones who steadfastly refuse to see abuse right in front of them are abusers themselves. I wonder how many pastors abuse their wives, are addicted to porn, and are child predators themselves.Ugh. The battle is far, far deeper than Patterson. As an aside, I am a pastor and a Christian. I also believe that no good will come from simply closing a blind eye to the obvious abuses in the church. Clean the mess up!
Barbara, you are right. The similarities between these guys and Rome in the 16th century are astounding. And that is simply a repeat of the 1st century. The devil doesn’t have new weapons.
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When I listen to PP I find his demeanor to be arrogant. He comes across as knowing he’s untouchable. I think PP has enjoyed too many years of no accountability. The tables have turned. There will be some who will support him until the day they die, but I have a feeling that the voices will be stronger from those who want to see change.
Wartburg Watch today was wondering why all this dirt on PP is surfacing all of a sudden. There is speculation this could be a propaganda blitz of leaks setting up for a coup in the SBC.
Curious Thinker said “and a bit too unfairly biased in favor of Pastor Gilyard”
Yes, he pushed Gilyard as hard as he could, and when confronted with the increasing stories about Gilyard’s misdeeds he had two choices, accept the truth that he was pushing a wolf on unsuspecting churches, or double down on the lie that Gilyard was the man he thought he was.
It’s obvious what he chose, and even now, he continues to double down on saving face even though it’s brutally obvious that he was further abusing Gilyard’s victims.
What strikes me here is that the context appears to be a suggestion from SNAP that the SBC put together a list of former pastors/staffers who have been shown the door due to varying degrees of sexual misconduct. In response, you’ve got some fairly sharp attacks on SNAP by Patterson that I don’t believe are accurate. Yes, SNAP has, rightly or wrongly, been criticized on certain fronts, but I don’t believe they’ve been credibly attacked for spreading false allegations. I’m pretty close to suggesting Patterson is guilty of slander there.
And that response is troubling to me. Either the request/suggestion is good or bad, and you evaluate it on its merits, right? Apparently not in Patterson’s world. Moreover, another part of the response is that doing so would violate something of local church autonomy. Now I’ve held a position of church autonomy for about 30 years, can explain why I hold it, all that, but if it indeed is an essential of autonomy that you can’t keep a list in your association about who’s a pervert, sign me up for bishops.
Regarding the notion itself, you’d definitely want a good lawyer to look over how it’s done so you don’t get sued for putting people out of work, but I like it. Specify who was shown the door, why, whether it was a criminal issue or not, and make it available to the association and for that matter churches outside the association. Done right, it expands the information available to churches far beyond the standard background and reference checks.
The thing I’d guess a lot of people might object to is the likely consequences of not using the list when it’s available, or if someone “nudges” a name off the list and a disaster occurs. Put gently, if the list exists, I don’t want to be on the witness stand before a hostile plaintiff’s lawyer asking why I either didn’t consult the list, or I ignored it, in hiring someone. “here’s the keys to the facility, sir, it’s yours now”
HUG – that certainly could be. Think of how the Neo-Calvinists take over churches with Calvinist theology without letting congregants know they are Calvinist. We know there has been a long-time Calvinist conflict in the SBC.
Kathi – yes, his demeanor is definitely untouchable . . . and when he talks about the “built” teen, I found it creepy, that he was getting sexual enjoyment over looking sexually at a minor. Disgusting!
Good comment, Sam (sorry, it got stuck in moderation. I’ve been “stuck” at school!)
I second the notion that there needs to be inter-church, perhaps even interdenominational, accountability for pastors and other church officials, so we can know who has done well and who has disqualified themselves. This was clearly practiced the New Testament church, as Paul repeatedly either commends or condemns church leaders and officials by name to the churches to whom he is writing, and speaks of sending letters of recommendation more than once.
Probably ought to modify what I wrote above just a touch, per Roscuro’s comment. (thx) There are a couple of reasons that you might not want to have a church directory of those shown the door for sexual misconduct. First of all, you could have church discipline getting it dead wrong–a number of people who comment here can speak to that. Second, you might cause false confidence among the users, and then find out that your real bad actors had chosen not to enter relevant actions into the database.
For a good example of that, think of the Eric Schneiderman case in New York. Yes, politics and not religion, sure, but notice in the writing that people urged his victims not to report because he was valuable for the Democrats there. You get the same thing in church circles, too–I’m not just pointing my finger at the left here!
So to make the database work–and I encourage doing just that–you’ve got to really start a culture of dealing properly with sexual abuse/etc.. in SBC churches first. And in that case, I would guess that your list would be nowhere near as long as it otherwise would be. Good things all, but it takes some doing.
I am beginning to come around to this way of thinking, Sam. Not all, some may need education in the way predators work. But the ones who refuse such education, who look someone dead in the face, hear their tears, see their bruises, and send them home with some sort of ‘submit harder/this is your cross to bear’ advice? Those guys I would not trust for a second.
Twitter is a fascinating insight into these mens minds too. Get them talking about abuse, and before long they are lamenting that if they shove their wives in anger, or hit her once, or XYZ then the wives should not get a ‘pass” or a get out jail free card. There is NO way those homes are happy if their chief worry here is that a wife will hear that she has freedom and chose to use it.
Thanks Sam Powell, and thanks especially for saying this:
“I am convinced that the ones who steadfastly refuse to see abuse right in front of them are abusers themselves. I wonder how many pastors abuse their wives, are addicted to porn, and are child predators themselves.Ugh. The battle is far, far deeper than Patterson.”
@TruthDetector, here is a post by Jeff Crippen. It talks about how abusers use Matthew 18 and the ‘two or three witnesses’ thing to resist being held accountable.
“I am convinced that the ones who steadfastly refuse to see abuse right in front of them are abusers themselves.” I, too, agree with this quote. I’ve seen it happen.
Paige Patterson complains, “My little granddaughters, 10 and 8, were here the other day and heard on TV that their grandpa harbored sex criminals! I suppose that this is somehow OK since I am a pastor?” No, Mr. Patterson it is OK because YOU DID IT. OWN IT. How would you like your little granddaughters to be treated the way you treated Gilyard’s victims? SHEESH. Narcissistic, bull-headed man, cannot even see himself for what he is. Is being a grandpa supposed to confer some kind of immunity in his mind?
Shy1, these men are constantly using women or in this girls as shields for themselves. Does my wife deserve this? Do my kids deserve this? Do my grandkids? When this=hearing about stuff this man has done. Don’t do it then, bub. I’m not hear for it.