On January 24, 2020, The Houston Chronicle published an article quoting J.D. Greear with respect to Paige Patterson’s ministry opportunities following his disgraceful exit from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Here is a clip from the article:
“The president of the Southern Baptist Convention on Friday said churches should consider disgraced former leader Paige Patterson’s history of mishandling sexual abuse complaints before inviting him to preach to their congregations.
President J.D. Greear’s remarks in response to Chronicle questions are the most forceful to be issued by SBC leadership regarding Patterson, who was ousted as the leader of a Fort Worth seminary in 2018 for his handling of multiple students’ abuse claims.” The article can be read in its entirety by clicking here.
While is it fine that Dr. Greear has the opportunity to voice his opinion, it is interesting that he would make that opinion public since it is really none of his business what Dr. Patterson does or does not do. The truth is, it should not surprise anyone if churches do in fact, offer him more invitations to speak. Patterson’s ousting from SWBTS has not been a popular move among many pastors and churches. It is not Dr. Greear’s responsibility to tell churches what they should or should not do.
Here is the troubling statement in Greear’s comments:
“Greear said on Friday that “local church autonomy” does not excuse Southern Baptists from holding one another accountable.
“Southern Baptist churches must take our mutual accountability to each other more seriously than we have in the past,” he said. “If our system of governance means anything, it means exercising due diligence and heeding what those whom we put in positions of trustee oversight have reported about official misconduct.”
My major issue with Greear’s comments can be found in the following phrase: “If our system of governance means anything, it means exercising due diligence and heeding what those whom we put in positions of trustee oversight have reported about official misconduct.”
There is no “system of governance” where the convention officers are concerned related to oversight of the churches that are part of the SBC. There is no system of governance where the trustees elected to serve the entities of the SBC are concerned related to the oversight of churches that are part of the SBC. To suggest that there is such a “system of governance” is a gross overstatement with respect to the leadership of the SBC, including trustee responsibilities. For Dr. Greear’s information, there is no system of governance where the churches are concerned but rather a system of cooperation. The SBC is built from the ground up and not from the top down.
The real problem with Greear’s comments is the idea that the current political climate of the SBC has been seen by some as a move to a presbyterian type of leadership where someone is given the responsibility of determining what is theologically correct where the local church is concerned. “In the 2000 BF&M a subtle change in the language can be seen in two terms, “the priesthood of the believer” and “the priesthood of believers” with the latter being a move toward the idea that the individual is subordinate to the church and the church subordinate to some ecclesiastical body to hold the church accountable.
Greear’s comments seem to suggest a move toward this latter position that has never been part of the SBC. The SBC is an organization that is to be advised by the churches through the messengers that gather for the annual meeting. There is no place for any move to make the convention a body that has the responsibility to advise the local churches.