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.