Russell Moore, Thom Rainer on Former SBC President's Comments: Abuse of Women Is Never Acceptable

Southern Baptist Convention Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore, giving remarks at the MLK50 Conference in Memphis, Tennessee on Tuesday, April 3, 2018.
Southern Baptist Convention Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore, giving remarks at the MLK50 Conference in Memphis, Tennessee on Tuesday, April 3, 2018. | (Screenshot: The Gospel Coalition)

Prominent Southern Baptist leaders Russell Moore and Thom Rainer are speaking out against the controversial comments of a former Southern Baptist Convention president who in 2000 appeared to advocate for women to remain with abusive husbands.

Last Saturday, the Baptist Blogger posted an audio recording from 2000 in which former SBC head Paige Patterson, who currently serves as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, spoke of encouraging a woman to remain with her abusive husband.

Rainer, who is president and CEO of LifeWay, released a statement on Monday, declaring that there "is no level or type of abuse of women that is acceptable."

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"We have been called by God to show honor and respect to all women and girls. They are our mothers, our sisters, our daughters, our granddaughters, and our wives," stated Rainer.

"And I stand with all who say 'no' to any type of abuse of women at any time and under any circumstance."

Moore, who heads the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, echoed Rainer's position on Tuesday.

"A woman being abused should leave the house and call the police. The state should prosecute the abuser and the church should discipline him," tweeted Moore.

"Marriage as a picture of the Christ/church mystery (Eph. 5:32) means that spousal abuse is not only cruel and unlawful, but is all that and also blasphemous against a Christ who loves and sacrificed himself for his Bride."

The controversial recording was reportedly of an interview Patterson gave to the Council on Biblical Womanhood and Manhood in 2000.

Patterson said in the recording, "It depends on the level of abuse to some degree. I have never in my ministry counseled that anybody seek a divorce, and I do think that's always wrong counsel.

"There have been, however, an occasion or two when the level of the abuse was serious enough, dangerous enough, immoral enough that I have counseled temporary separation and the seeking of help. I would urge you to understand that that should happen only in the most serious of cases."

Patterson went on to note an example of when he counseled a woman to pray for her husband by his bedside and then one morning showed up to church with two black eyes.

"She was angry at me," said Patterson in the audio recording. "And she said, 'I hope you're happy.' And I said, 'Yes, ma'am, I am.' And I said, 'I'm sorry about that, but I'm very happy.'"

In the posted audio, Patterson then noted that the husband also showed up to church, repented of his behavior, and according to Patterson, he is now "a great husband today."

In response to the outrage, Patterson released a statement on Southwestern's website on Sunday in which he declared that he has "never counseled or condoned abuse of any kind."

"I will never be a party to any position other than that of the defense of any weaker party when subjected to the threat of a stronger party. This certainly includes women and children," stated Patterson.

"Any physical or sexual abuse of anyone should be reported immediately to the appropriate authorities, as I have always done."

Regarding the anecdote of the woman who came to church with two black eyes, Patterson said in his Sunday statement that there was "no further abuse" and that furthermore, the woman herself has "often shared this testimony." Patterson did add that he believes that the sharing of the anecdote was "probably unwise."

"I do not apologize for my 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," he said.

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