What Critics Are Saying
What has come to light has upset many Southern Baptists, women in particular, and on May 6 an open letter to the SWBTS board of trustees demanding accountability was circulated online from concerned Southern Baptist women who expressed their shock and dismay at Patterson's words. So far, the letter has been signed by just over 3,000 people. Notably, the list includes some signatures from men and from non-Baptists.
"We are shocked by the video that has surfaced showing Dr. Paige Patterson objectify a teenage girl and then suggest this as behavior that is biblical. We are further grieved by the dangerous and unwise counsel given by Dr. Patterson to women in abusive situations. His recent remarks of clarification do not repudiate his unwise counsel in the past; nor has he offered explanation or repentance for inappropriate comments regarding a teenage girl, the unbiblical teaching he offered on the biblical meaning of womanhood in that objectification, and the inappropriate nature of his own observations of her body," the letter reads.
"The Southern Baptist Convention cannot allow the biblical view of leadership to be misused in such a way that a leader with an unbiblical view of authority, womanhood, and sexuality be allowed to continue in leadership."
Among the Southern Baptist women who signed the letter is Karen Swallow Prior, a Liberty University professor, who tweeted that signing the letter was "most heartbreaking."
"I've been Baptist most of my life, Southern Baptist for almost two decades. I made this appeal privately but was not heard," she said.
"The church cannot be led by men who speak lasciviously of teen girls."
Writing in The Washington Post April 30, Jonathan Merritt — whose father is a former SBC president — asked if the denomination was ready to face the cultural reckoning now affecting every corner of America regarding sexual misconduct. He urged Southern Baptists to reconsider allowing Patterson to give the keynote sermon at their upcoming annual meeting in June "lest they appear both culturally out of step and lacking in moral courage."
"Replacing Patterson will send a message to millions of Southern Baptist women that their bodies are not dispensable and that their valid concerns have been heard loudly and clearly," he added, arguing that how the denomination responds at their annual meeting "will tell you everything you need to know about their courage and convictions in this time of #Metoo."
Many others have also called for Patterson's ouster as the story, which continues to develop, has made national headlines, appearing in influential publications like The Atlantic and on the front page of The Washington Post.
Well-known Southern Baptist figures like Russell Moore, Thom Rainer, Danny Akin, and Bruce Ashford have also weighed in, decrying the evil of abuse of women and asserting in no uncertain terms that a physically abused wife should separate from her husband, that the church should provide a safe haven for her, and that any counsel saying otherwise is unacceptable.
Brandon Watts Tejedor, an alumnus of SWBTS, has also spoken publicly about his frustrations with the SWBTS, noting in a Facebook post that the institution has a "good ol' boy protection system" that muzzles dissenting voices.
"What I am furious about is that one of my friends and former peers has been fired and his scholarship revoked for endorsing a balanced view that shows both appreciation for Patterson's positive contributions and concern over the areas of severe controversy going on," he wrote, referencing the firing of Ph.D. student Montgomery.
"This is the kind of self-righteous indignation and power plays that represent the very worst of the largest Protestant denomination and its politics."
Some SWBTS and SBC officials have a "revered and untouchable status," he explained, and during his freshman year, he would sometimes refer to a few of them as the "emperor" or "crowned prince" of the SBC given how overt the displays of that status was.
"[A]nd that was before I had any suspicion of anything malicious."
Watts Tejedor recounted how a seminary official called and rebuked him for being out of step with Matthew 18 when he voiced objections publicly to the seminary's sharing of blog entries in support of Donald Trump on their official TheologyMatters website during the 2016 election season.
Author Matthew Anderson articulated Saturday his disgust with this kind of culture within SBC-dominated evangelical Christianity, commenting on Twitter that the firing of Montgomery was "deplorable" but that he was not surprised.
"The aversion to public criticism among conservative evangelical leaders is often cowardice and self-interest cloaked as prudence," he said.
"Nothing in evangelicalism will change until those people with influence on the inside are willing to take risks and break ranks. And right now...they aren't," he added, noting that the solution to the Patterson situation was "obvious."