Paige Patterson feared backslide after election of first black SBC president

Religion News Service | 11/14/2019 | Staff
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(RNS) — A newly discovered letter from one former prominent leader of the Southern Baptist Convention to another reveals a depth of mistrust and suspicion toward the denomination’s first black president.

Shortly after the convention’s 2012 meeting, Paige Patterson, then a seminary president and the architect of the denomination’s conservative turn, sent a letter to another denominational leader expressing doubt that the newly elected SBC president, Fred Luter, who is African American, would nominate future leaders of denominational boards and agencies who would continue the conservative resurgence in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

Difficulty - Groups - Issues - Seriousness - Patterson

“The difficulty is that among many of the ethnic groups there are not so many of them who understand the issues involved and the seriousness of them,” wrote Patterson to Jimmy Draper, a former SBC president. Patterson, a revered figure in the SBC, was fired last year as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for mishandling student reports of sexual abuse.

In his letter to Draper, Patterson says he wrote Luter after his historic election to tell him that his appointees must uphold biblical inerrancy — the belief that the Bible is without error — and must also be committed to the appointment of others with like beliefs.

Patterson - President - Fred - Warning - Fred

Though Patterson said he was “glad we elected a black president and specifically Fred,” he sounded a warning: “Under Fred’s leadership it would be possible for us to slide a long way back toward where we once were, and that would be devastating.” This, he said, left him “quaking about it a bit.”

The letter is among a trove of papers given to Southwestern by Draper upon his retirement. It was discovered by SBC layman and blogger Benjamin Cole, who is writing a book about evangelicals and public life. He posted it to Twitter Wednesday (Nov. 13).

Existence - Letter

“I believe the existence of this letter substantiates...
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