First Baptist Dallas Stands By Paige Patterson As Scrutiny Intensifies

By Sarah Einselen
paige patterson first baptist dallas
Paige Patterson preaches at First Baptist Dallas on May 29, 2022. (Video screengrab)

One of the country’s largest Southern Baptist churches is standing by its choice to have Paige Patterson fill its pulpit last weekend. That’s despite continued scrutiny into how Patterson responded to reports of sexual abuse within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

Patterson, a former president of the SBC and two Southern Baptist seminaries, delivered the sermon for the two morning services May 29 at First Baptist Church Dallas. His sermon came one week after the release of a lengthy and damning report that detailed how a few Southern Baptist leaders controlled the denomination’s response to allegations of clergy sexual abuse.

On Friday, a Tennessee newspaper reported that a seminary Patterson led knowingly enrolled a registered sex offender. The offender was also on a secret list of abusers that SBC staff kept for over a decade until making it public last week.

Many in the congregation this past Sunday—in both services—gave Patterson a standing ovation as he approached the pulpit. But leading evangelical voices expressed outrage that Patterson was permitted to preach.

“I nearly went down there and protested,” author and survivor advocate Mary DeMuth tweeted. DeMuth was an emcee at the recent Restore conference hosted by The Roys Report.

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And Russell Moore, who left the SBC in part over its handling of sex abuse, said on Twitter that he was “thunderstruck” that Patterson would be speaking.

Hailing Patterson’s legacy

Pastor Robert Jeffress introduced Patterson in both services at FBC Dallas. He noted Patterson and his wife Dorothy Patterson joined the church in 1975. The church’s statement indicated that’s when Patterson became an associate pastor at FBC Dallas and president of the church’s Bible school, Criswell College.

Robert Jeffress patterson first baptist Dallas
Robert Jeffress

Patterson went on to become president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Jeffress said, and then was president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth for 15 years.

Jeffress did not mention that the Southwestern Seminary board fired Patterson in 2018 for alleged mishandling of a rape report and misogynist statements. The seminary has also accused him of stealing confidential information and valuable artwork from the seminary.

“Dr. Patterson teaches our Presidents’ Sunday school class,” Jeffress continued.“ He is a noted theologian, writer, a gifted preacher of God’s word.”

Jeffress also praised Patterson’s role in the “Conservative Resurgence” driving out Baptist leaders seen as denying inerrancy in the 1970s and 1980s.

“It was Dr. Paige Patterson who led the greatest turnaround in church history, in turning the largest Protestant denomination in the world, the Southern Baptist Convention, back to a firm unapologetic belief in this book as the Word of God,” Jeffress claimed.

Paige Patterson receives a standing ovation from First Baptist Dallas before preaching on May 29, 2022. (Video screengrab)

Jeffress had also lauded Patterson as “the Winston Churchill of the Southern Baptist Convention” almost exactly a year before, when Patterson previously filled the First Baptist Dallas pulpit.

A ‘focus on liability,’ not survivor care

In contrast, the report from Guidepost Solutions depicts Patterson in a negative light.

The Guidepost report states that a handful of SBC leaders responded to abuse survivors “with resistance, stonewalling, and even outright hostility.”

The report doesn’t explicitly name Patterson as one of those leaders. But it states Patterson was the only former SBC president to withhold access to his presidential papers for the investigation.

The investigative team received just two pages out of three boxes’ worth of Patterson’s papers held at the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, according to the report.

Patterson was also one of three former SBC presidents who did not accept Guidepost’s request for an interview, the report indicates.

However, Guidepost’s investigative team reportedly received papers from another source that showed Patterson advised a pastor to implement sex abuse prevention education “not (as) a means to prevent child sexual abuse, but rather as a way to defend against lawsuits.”

The Guidepost report cites that counsel as an example of a “focus on liability” that “has been a defining characteristic of the SBC.”

According to the report, the focus on liability meant, “Survivors were always viewed through the lens of potential plaintiffs threatening lawsuits, rather than as individuals who had been harmed and were in need of care.”

The report also notes that Patterson has been accused of having turned a blind eye to allegations that his protégé, Darrell Gilyard, was a serial sexual abuser. Gilyard was later convicted of molestation, then reportedly hired by a Florida church after his release.

first baptist dallas
First Baptist Church of Dallas (Photo: Joe Mabel / Creative commons)

The Roys Report asked a spokeswoman for First Baptist Dallas whether any discussion took place ahead of Patterson’s sermon about whether he was an appropriate choice to fill the church’s pulpit in light of the Guidepost findings.

The spokeswoman didn’t answer that or other questions posed by TRR, but provided a statement about Patterson instead.

“Dr. Patterson was invited to preach about God calling his people to ministry months ago,” part of the statement reads. “It is important to note that the report released this week regarding the Southern Baptist Convention does not accuse Dr. Patterson of assault or abuse of any kind.”

Shortly after the Guidepost report’s release, the SBC’s top leaders made public a list of about 700 sexual abusers that had been kept by denominational staff for over a decade. About 400 on the list were tied to the SBC.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where Patterson was president for about 15 years, announced this week that 14 people on the list had either studied or taught at Southwestern Seminary in the past.

No one on the list was a current student or employee, according to an open letter from the seminary.

But The Tennesseean reported Friday that Southwestern Seminary administrators knew one man was a registered sex offender when they decided to allow him to enroll.

That took place during Patterson’s tenure at Southwestern. His attorney said Patterson wasn’t involved in the decision, according to The Tennesseean.

Sarah Einselen is an award-winning writer and editor based in Texas.

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18 thoughts on “First Baptist Dallas Stands By Paige Patterson As Scrutiny Intensifies”

  1. I am not surprised by this. PP is almost deified by many in the SBC. He led the charge to rid the SBC of all the “liberals.” I have not had hope for the SBC in decades. It is rotten to the core.

  2. If your Church or denomination is more concerned with liability and scandal, than protecting the flock and disciplining the predators, then you are just another sleasey business..

  3. Why would this come as a surprise to anyone? This is the church led by Robert Jeffress, who called evangelicals who refused to support President Trump “absolutely spineless morons.”

    It’s not only that Jeffress is a terrible judge of character, he doesn’t even want or care to know the truth.

    1. Jeffress is insufferably smug. Men like him are driving an entire generation of young people away from Christianity.

  4. Protecting their pocketbooks, power and reputation is the connecting themes…and then they are celebrated by people like Jeffres, who unabashedly supports them… but Jeffres has been dogmatic and hypocritical for years, loving the illusion of power he received from being an advisor to Trump. What a rude awakening awaits him when he is called to account before God for supporting his and Paiges “tiny title syndrome,” where they are more focused on their titles and illusion of power that goes with it, than actually serving Jesus. Instead of conserving God’s truth, they are conserving their own self-importance, even at the expense of those surviving abuse…because the show must go on – at least for now. But God is not fooled and there will be no double standards to rely on when God reveals their inner most thoughts and desires in the judgment and they will be naked before Him. At that time, there will be no excuses, no avoiding the ultimate reality of God, God’s integrity and their lack of integrity. (Hebrews 4:12-13)

  5. I hope people are not surprised that Patterson was invited to First Dallas.

    Jeffress invited Trump to speak during Christmas time at First Dallas. Trump who is a foul mouthed, abusive person and who drops the constantly drops the F-word was allowed to speak at the church… go figure.

    The SBC denomination is experiencing an existential crisis and I think it is typical that Jeffress would invite Patterson. Make no mistake, many in the SBC are mad that the whole abuse thing is being debated and exposed. For their part they want the whole thing buried.

    Russell Moore mentioned he was “thunderstruck” Patterson was speaking. Moore wrote an article last week and mentioned how SBC leadership acts in cases like mafia dons.

    Jeffress, Trump and Patterson are all peas of the same pod….. it is pretty sad how the evangelical church came to its current state……Jesus spoke during his time of how the religious leaders would strain gnats, but swallow camels…. I do not things have not changed much since Christ’s time.

  6. I could really put my finger on religion vs followers of Jesus when I saw the TV show “handmaidens’ tale”. There was more truth in the hard-core RELIGIOUS mentality vs following what JESUS actually taught us. Since 300 AD MEN have really used the bible to form fit their view of how the world should be. We started with Jesus and 12 disciples. Then since 300AD hundreds of denominations have grown and they all agree on one thing. Their view is the only view to follow and for those that don’t. Well hell is just around the corner. and they often say it with a glee in their voice. Very sad.

    1. Cathie Boucher

      The American so called “church”, in many instances, is only a vehicle for the unscrupulous to get rich and famous. Jesus is treasured by these people because He is their means to book deals, women and friendship with the world. Ben Franklin and Alexis De Tocqueville both warned that the Republic would endure until the day Congress discovers that it can vote themselves money. They could have said the same about the church.

  7. A brood of vipers who are all in the same scam together. And people love it! They flock to the cesspool and jump right in! Jesus has been reinvented to be greedy and just like these celebrities. Of course this is a Satanic “Jesus,” a true anti-Christ, but give the people what they want. That is what they do in show business after all…

  8. Richard Stadter

    Having read the article twice, and the comments once, I ask what the purpose of this article is if not to smear Paige, SBC leadership and Jeffers. As the article says, the report has not named Paige as having done anything wrong, yet we are expected to cancel him as the world does, without compassion, conviction, or circumspection. Many of the commentors have done just that. For what purpose? A godly one? Is this holding the church of Jesus Christ accountable? Is this restoring it in some way?

    1. Neil Cameron (One Salient Oversight)

      “Jeffress did not mention that the Southwestern Seminary board fired Patterson in 2018 for alleged mishandling of a rape report and misogynist statements. The seminary has also accused him of stealing confidential information and valuable artwork from the seminary.”

    2. Richard, I can hear your sincerity but I have to disagree with you.

      If this were a matter of confidentiality, then yes this article, comments and rhetoric would be out of line. Sadly, Patterson, Jeffers and the like have consistently aired their shortcomings, sins and absolute disregard for their fellow man way to many times. As a result, they have placed themselves in the court of public opinion and have dragged the bride of Christ, the Church, with them.

      The author set the ugliness of reality, which I’ve seen happen, it’s when we as the church are more worried about covering our own tail instead of taking care of the victim. As the church, we will establish programs or counseling groups in response to a situation to make it look like there is care, all the while it is just a cover job. Much like the author described in the article.

    3. Marin Heiskell

      I’d like to echo Daniel’s response to Richard and add:
      Where are these calls for “compassion, conviction, or circumspection” when it involves canceling someone on the left? It’s as if we only want to show these traits to those “within our own tribe”, which is little more than “loving those who are like us.”

  9. The Southern Baptist Convention may vote to kick out Saddle Back at the Convention because they dared to have “wimin” preachers, but little to nothing will be said or done about Paige Patterson and First Baptist Dallas.

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