For the past several months, my life and the lives of my family have been subjected to rigorous misrepresentation. Even had I done some hideous wrong of which I am accused, my wife, children, and grandchildren have not and do not deserve such mischaracterization.
For the record, I have never been abusive to any woman. I have 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. Any physical or sexual abuse of anyone should be reported immediately to the appropriate authorities, as I have always done.
I have also said that I have never recommended or prescribed divorce. How could I as a minister of the Gospel? The Bible makes clear the way in which God views divorce. I have on more than one occasion counseled and aided women in leaving an abusive husband. So much is this the case that on an occasion during my New Orleans pastorate, my own life was threatened by an abusive husband because I counseled his wife, and assisted her, in departing their home to seek protection. In short, I have no sympathies at all for cowardly acts of abuse toward women.
Many years ago in West Texas, a woman approached me about the desire of her husband to prevent her attendance in church. He was neither harsh nor physical with her, but she felt abused. I suggested to her that she kneel by the bed at night and pray for him. Because he might hear her prayer, I warned her that he could become angry over this and seek to retaliate. Subsequently, on a Sunday morning, she arrived at church with some evidence of physical abuse. She was very surprised that this had happened. But I had seen her husband come into the church and sit down at the back. I knew that God had changed this man’s heart. What he had done to his wife had brought conviction to his heart. I was happy—not that she had suffered from his anger, but that God had used her to move her husband to conviction of his sin. I knew that she was going to be happy for him also. That morning, he did make his decision for Christ public before the church, and she was ecstatic. They lived happily together from that time on in commitment to Christ. There was no further abuse. In fact, their love for one another and commitment to their home was evident to all. She herself often shared this testimony. For sharing this illustration, especially in the climate of this culture, I was probably unwise. However, my suggestion was never that women should stay in the midst of abuse, hoping their husbands would eventually come to Christ. Rather, I was making the application that God often uses difficult things that happen to us to produce ultimate good. And I will preach that truth until I die.
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood released a statement regarding abuse with which I agree entirely. I do not believe there is a woman or girl ever associated with me who would allege any abuse on my part. To all who love me and have supported me across the years and to those who have been wounded by these accusations, I express my deepest regret. 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. I also regret for my own family this deliberate misrepresentation of my position as well as the hatred that lies behind much of it.
Paige Patterson, PresidentSouthwestern Baptist Theological SeminaryFort Worth, Texas