Dear Southern Baptist Family:
On May 22 the trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary met together in a board meeting called at my request. At that meeting, in which I briefly participated, I was asked to assume the position of President Emeritus of Southwestern, and I accepted this reassignment. One week later, May 30, the executive committee of the board met, though this time I was not asked to participate and was unable to address or answer questions for committee members since I was in Germany for a preaching assignment. While in Germany, I received a phone call informing me I had been relieved of all responsibilities with and compensation from the Seminary effective immediately.
Since much has been reported and written about these matters in recent weeks, I wanted to address briefly a few points. It is not in my spirit or my heart to debate or revisit the decisions of the trustees to whom I was accountable as president of Southwestern, other than the brief comments that follow.
Recently, I have been accused, publicly and privately, of a number of things—none of which I acknowledge as having done in the way portrayed, and others that I am confident I absolutely did not do. I’ll just speak to several examples. First, a poor choice of words has occurred, in and out of the pulpit, over decades of ministry. I regret each case in which my heart and message were not clearly presented.
On the other hand, I take exception to accusations that I ever knowingly ignored or failed to follow appropriate protocols in cases of reported abuse of women, students, or staff at any institution where I have served. Indeed, the Southwestern trustees confirmed as much in their public statement of May 23, 2018: “The board affirmed a motion stating evidence exists that Dr. Patterson has complied with reporting laws regarding assault and abuse.”
For my words, demeanor, sentiments, or disposition to have been twisted to suggest the very antithesis to who I am and the biblical message I have presented over half a century not only is crushing to me and my family but also inevitably proves hurtful to others in the process. I have never sought to inflict hurt upon a woman or man.
For the last 43 years, through service in three institutions, I have attempted to prepare pastors and missionaries academically, evangelistically, and spiritually for kingdom endeavors. Today, on behalf of my sweetheart Dorothy, who has labored faithfully by my side through both sorrows and triumphs, and on behalf of my children and grandchildren, I want to express my gratitude to God for Southern Baptists. You have often encouraged our hearts. You have prayed for us in a multitude of ways. I would ask of no one of you more than you have given. What I have given back is a pittance compared to your kindness to me.
I wish further to thank the faculties and administrators who have held high my arms during both calm and raging waters. I love you all. To all of my students, including nearly 10,000 graduates whose diplomas I have personally signed, I thank you for your uncommon love for me, and more important, your unwavering devotion to our Lord.
To those who have ever opposed me or have embraced a different vision, I would be remiss if I did not thank you also. Your opposition kept me on my face before God, reminded me of just how very human I am, and outlined in tantalizing colors the mercies of God, which I have received in profusion from our Lord. I pray for heaven’s kindness for each of you.
At age 75, while my occupation has changed, my calling and passion have not been disturbed. Soon Southwestern will have a new president. I am riding off into the setting sun—but with a Bible in my hand and a witness from my heart until He comes for me individually or for us all in the air. I ask Southern Baptists to hold the new president of Southwestern before God in earnest prayer. He will be a great man, but the level of his attainment will be dependent to a large degree on your concert of prayer. I know that you will not fail in this endeavor.
In a few days, for the first time in 66 years I will not attend the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention – having begun attending when I was nine. As many of you know, I was elected in 2017 to deliver the 2018 annual convention sermon, but I have now respectfully requested to be released from this high privilege because I do not want my role as a preacher to detract in any way from the important business of our convention and because my desire is to work toward biblical harmony at our annual meeting. Many messengers have implored me to carry out this assignment, but this convention is not about me, and I have every confidence that this decision is best and right.
Now, may I just leave you with a challenge? I have with stumbling step, limited ability, and stuttering tongue desired to bequeath to the world an orthodox denomination with a heart and message for a world of lost people. My part is small in the amazing history of the people we call Baptists. But as insignificant as it may be, I will be praying every day that you will cling to the whole Bible as the Word of the living God and at the same moment give that Word to every lost person on this globe, knowing that Christ died for all and that every man, woman, boy, and girl who comes to the Lord Jesus in saving faith will be saved. Would you join me in that endeavor? Please link your hearts with Dorothy and me in expressing thanksgiving to our Lord for His abundant mercies to us all.
Dr. And Mrs. Patterson, There are no words that adequately express the gratitude in our hearts for your years of ministry to our Lord. As recipients of your leadership in our lives, our time at Southeastern was incredible and we are ambassadors who have gone out into the world well equipped to be about His business. We stand with you and pray God’s richest blessings on your family as you enter your next assignment. Your humility and gracious heart will continue to be useable in the Master’s hands! You have all our love and prayers as you march forward.