DAEJEON, Korea (SWBTS) -- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president Paige Patterson taught pastors and seminary students about issues related to church governance and women in ministry during a visit to South Korea, March 12-19. During lectures and Q-and-A sessions, Patterson spoke on the topic of elders within the church as well as the biblical model of women’s roles in ministry.
““Mrs. Patterson and I were greatly honored by the invitation from the editor of a Korean Baptist journal and other Korean pastors to spend a portion of our Spring Break in South Korea lecturing on matters specifically relating to Baptist identity,” Patterson said.
“At the Korean Baptist Theological Seminary in Daejeon, I specifically addressed matters of Baptist history, heritage and identity. In the day seminars with pastors, which met at one of the churches in Daejeon, I addressed some of the major issues facing Korean Baptists at this time. In each of these I attempted to state the historic Baptist position and demonstrate that the historic Baptist position is also the position of the New Testament.”
Baptists, a minority denomination in Korea, have been accused of adopting the ecclesiology of the Presbyterian Church, the prominent denomination in Korea. Many in Korea view the term elder as synonymous with the role of deacon, which has caused confusion and conflict in the churches.
“Since the Korean Baptist Convention adopted the elder system in 2009, many Baptist churches now have elders,” said Jonathan Kim, Patterson’s translator on the trip and professor at Dallas Baptist University. “Unlike the elders in Presbyterian churches, Baptist elders currently do not have administrative authority. However, as time goes on, Baptist elders will probably act just like Presbyterian elders. Some people are insisting that the convention's decision must be reversed.”
Kim also pointed to the growing desire to ordain women: “Since 2004, some Baptists have pushed for women ordination. Many believe it will be adopted in the 2011 convention meeting.”
Patterson answered questions regarding the issue during several Q-and-A sessions. He addressed the roles of women in the Bible, including Deborah in the Old Testament and Anna in the New Testament. A pastor’s wife in the audience said her husband gave her responsibility to preach at times, to which Patterson replied that her husband asked her to violate Scripture. However, he explained, the Bible provides a venue for using her teaching gifts to disciple women in the church.
Additionally, Patterson’s wife, Dorothy, who serves as professor of theology in women’s studies at Southwestern, spoke to pastors’ wives, sharing her testimony and how to do woman-to-woman ministry.
“She biblically defined the role of a woman as a helper and what is the true meaning of obeying,” said Jeremiah Kim, director of Southwestern’s Doctor of Ministry program in Korea. He noted that many were amazed to hear these views from a woman of Patterson’s “caliber and position.”
“Many Korean Christians give themselves in to the current secular culture of expanding women's roles with no or little resistance,” Jeremiah Kim said. “What Mrs. Patterson succeeded to convey to the audience was emphasizing not only the correct biblical foundation and understanding of a woman's role but also the superiority of Scripture even in this pragmatic and postmodern culture.”
Paige Patterson also addressed questions by pastors frustrated with the direction of the Korean Baptist Convention. Referencing his own experience during the Conservative Resurgence, he encouraged pastors to stand for biblical truth with grace and love and to pray for courage and discernment.
“My hope is that the Korean Baptist pastors who attended the conference were encouraged to stand strong in light of the inroads of ecumenical and non-Baptistic perspectives,” Patterson said.     
“Many people told me how they were impressed by the Pattersons’ Christian demeanor and biblical knowledge,” Jonathan Kim said. “They told me that the seminar was most helpful in understanding the issues clearly and that it should have happened years ago. It certainly served as a springboard for discussion on Baptist identity in Korea. The impact of the seminar is expected to last for a long time.”