More than 1,000 Southern Baptist women have signed an open letter denouncing Paige Patterson, head of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and called for his removal, Christianity Today reported.
Criticism surrounding Patterson's controversial remarks regarding women has placed the 75-year-old leader under increased scrutiny.
The letter addressed to the SWBTS trustees urged them to "exercise the authority you have been given by the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention and to take a strong stand against unbiblical teaching regarding womanhood, sexuality, and domestic violence."
Some well-known women are signatories on the letter, including Rachael Denhollander, a former gymnast who spoke out against former Olympic doctor Larry Nassar, and Amanda Jones, daughter of the popular Bible teacher Beth Moore.
What were Patterson's comments?
Audio and video of the Patterson's comments reveal expressions of his “unbiblical view of authority, womanhood, and sexuality,” the letter said.
The letter claimed that Patterson advises women in abusive marriages not to divorce.
At a conference in 2000, Patterson said separation should be reserved for “the most serious of cases” and divorce is “always wrong counsel” when he was asked about wives submitting to an abusive husband.
Other comments highlighted in the letter included objectifying a teenaged girl.
During a sermon, he told a story about a time he was talking to the mother of a young man when a 16-year-old girl walked past him.
"She was nice,” Patterson said.
“Man, is she built," the woman's son commented.
Then the mother scolded her son to which Patterson responded, “Ma’am, leave him alone. He’s just being biblical.”
The letter's signatories highlighted the “inappropriate nature of his own observations of her body.”
What has Patterson said about the controversy?
Patterson said in a statement April 29 that he had "never counseled or condoned abuse of any kind," but also stated he has "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 said in the release. "I have on more than one occasion counseled and aided women in leaving an abusive husband."
Patterson makes no apology for his "stand for the family and for seeking to mend a marriage through forgiveness rather than divorce."
"But I do greatly regret that the way I expressed that conviction has brought hurt. I also regret for my own family this deliberate misrepresentation of my position as well as the hatred that lies behind much of it."
The SWBT's board of trustees announced Sunday that it would hold a special meeting "[i]n light of recent events."
It also stated that Patterson requested the meeting.
"The Southern Baptist Convention has entrusted to the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Board of Trustees a responsibility to oversee the mission and direction of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. As chairman of this Board, I know I speak for each of our trustees in saying that we carry out this responsibility with great seriousness," the statement said.
The meeting will be May 22 at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.