June 19, 2018

Hope Is a 4-Letter Word

This week, David Pittman continues his series in exploring the impact that ongoing abuse within the church has on one's capacity to remain hopeful.

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Paige Patterson, president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Dallas, was fired. I’ll explain why this matters shortly.

When this story first broke a few weeks ago, a childhood friend of mine sent me a link with one question, "Did you hear about this?" Since then, several others have as well. And I know their reasons for asking me.

Having been sexually abused and raped by a Southern Baptist minister, they wanted to know my thoughts on this most recent occurrence within the Southern Baptist Church (SBC).

It’s taken me a while to respond to their question of the Paige Patterson matter because once again, the SBC is proving tone deaf to the children who’ve been harmed, to the adult survivors, and to the very call of Christ that the SBC supposedly adheres.

It’s taken me a while to speak about it because every time ANOTHER Baptist minister defiles a child, acts in predatory ways or aides and abets a sexual predator, I have to relive my own abuse. That and the Southern Baptist Church’s dismissal of me and my story when I came forward to tell of a minister utilizing their Church as a haven for sexually abusing little boys.

Every time I begin to gain a little confidence that the Church is beginning to turn a corner when it comes to sexual abuse, ANOTHER predator is protected by, covered for, or harbored by the SBC. The very people who are supposedly called to protect the children within their fold seem to act instinctively to deny, lie, cover-up and victim-blame.

So, what does this have to do with Paige Patterson?

Without giving you a dissertation of events, I’ll simply give you the timeline of events.

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April/May: a video resurfaced from a 2014 speech in which Patterson talks about a 16-year-old girl as being "fine" and quotes a teenager as saying the girl was "built." The letter also mentions Patterson’s refusal to repudiate comments from a recording made 18 years ago in which he said he would counsel most women in abusive marriages to stay in the marriages and to pray for their husbands.

May 6th, 2018: Nearly 2000 Southern Baptist women signed a letter posted online asking the Board of Southwestern Baptist theological Seminary to take action against Patterson.

May 23rd, 2018: The board said it voted to allow Patterson to resign, appoint Patterson as "President Emeritus" with compensation, the invitation to reside at the Baptist Heritage Center as theologian-in-residence and ongoing compensation.

The seminary's board of trustees said it also affirmed a motion stating 1) evidence exists that Dr. Patterson has complied with reporting laws regarding assault and abuse.

Even though - The Washington Post published a story detailing a new allegation against Patterson.

The newspaper says that in 2003, while Patterson was president of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., he allegedly advised a woman studying there who said she had been raped by a fellow student not to report it to police.

(Yes, that’s right, they gave him a highly decorated title, house and salary till he dies as "punishment".)


May 30th, 2018ONLY after MUCH outrage and demonstrations by victims of abuse, it was "discovered" that Paige Patterson lied to the board of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) about a rape allegation that came before him at another seminary, withheld documents from his previous presidency, and referenced attempting to 'break down" the victim of a more recent rape incident.

Additionally, while president of SWBTS, "Patterson sent an email (the contents of which were shared with the Board on May 22) to the Chief of Campus Security in which Dr. Patterson discussed meeting with the student alone so that he could 'break her down' and that he preferred no officials be present."

Based on the details presented, the Executive Committee unanimously resolved to terminate Dr. Paige Patterson, removing all the benefits, rights and privileges provided by the May 22-23 board meeting, including the title of President Emeritus, the invitation to reside at the Baptist Heritage Center as theologian-in-residence and ongoing compensation.

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What breaks my heart is this is another in what is a seemingly endless line of predators and their enablers/protectors. It hurts my heart because it gives me pause to the possibility of hope.

Hope?

That seems to be a 4-letter word for survivors of sexual abuse within the SBC.

As I recently told a colleague, it’s not that I have given up total hope. Just hope in institutional change. Working with GRACE and TWH, I am thankful to and DO see hope within individual churches and individual lives. But I have no "faith" in the SBC or its leaders until they prove otherwise. The Church as a whole had lied for too long to give them any benefit of the doubt.

To reference the words of Jesus, it would appear there will be a lot of Southern Baptist leaders and church members cast to the bottom of the sea with millstones around their necks. And that breaks my heart...and I’m guessing the heart of God too.

Whose child is important enough to matter?

What pastor, big money donor, or influential leaders’ child has to raped before the Southern Baptist Convention cares?

And even then, will that child matter enough? Or will once again saving face be the modus operandi to cover up another instance of sexual abuse?

At this moment in time, it seems the only doctrine embraced by the SBC is CYA (cover your ass).


Let’s "hope" we can make them change!


Read Part 4: Failure to Report Sexual Abuse - Who Cares?



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David is the Executive Director of Together We Heal. Its purpose is to provide guidance for those who suffer from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. It works to educate through public speaking, collaborates with other groups to raise awareness and expose sexual predators and their methods.

In 2015, David was asked by Boz Tchividjian, founder of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) to become part of their Child Safeguarding Certification team. The mission of GRACE is to empower the Christian community through education and training to recognize, prevent, and respond to child abuse.

David represents TWH & GRACE all across the country as a public speaker and instructor, teaching churches, schools and families how to talk with their kids about sexual abuse, how to better identify predatory behavior and sexual predators grooming methods.




For more information on GRACE Child Safeguarding Certification please email certification@netgrace.org

Or you may email me at dpittman@together-we-heal.org if you’d feel more comfortable.

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