Paige Patterson and Jerry Vines will be speaking at the annual Pastors’ Conference in Jacksonville, Florida on February 2nd. I wish the pastors in attendance would ask Patterson and Vines some tough questions, but I expect most will be inclined to treat them like celebrities.
There will probably be a lot more pastors lining up to get their books signed than pastors posing questions about accountability.
For those of you who haven’t followed this story, Patterson and Vines are former Southern Baptist presidents, and both of them had significant information about pastor Darrell Gilyard, who is now accused of sending obscene text messages to underage teens in Florida.
Gilyard had a past in Texas, and they knew it. Why didn’t they try harder to protect people?
Gilyard left 4 churches in 4 years after allegations of sexual abuse and sexual assault surfaced in each of them. There were 25 allegations reported in his first church alone.
Many college students and church women said that they tried to tell Paige Patterson about Gilyard. One said Gilyard raped her, and another described Gilyard pushing her to the floor. You can read the tragic history of how Patterson reportedly responded in the Dallas Morning News. A couple other ministers and a pastoral counselor also tried to get through to Patterson.
Read the Dallas Morning News articles for yourself.
The hurtfulness of Patterson’s reported responses should haunt every decent Southern Baptist pastor in the country. They show a sad pattern of victim-blaming and victim-bullying.
We do not have as many published details about exactly what Jerry Vines knew, but we know that Vines “agreed to forgive” Gilyard for his Texas troubles. Also, a woman who says she resisted Gilyard’s unwanted advances when she was 18 says that she told her pastor, Jerry Vines, about it at the time. Nevertheless, she reports that Vines later spoke at Gilyard’s church, thereby giving continuing credibility to Gilyard.
The recent charges against Gilyard brought a new spotlight to the stories about how Southern Baptist leaders mishandled the accusations against Gilyard years ago.
Wouldn’t it be nice if they could just acknowledge that they made terrible mistakes and didn’t do nearly enough, express their regret, and promise to work at trying to prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future? But so far we haven’t seen anything resembling that.
So how about the rest of you Southern Baptist pastors out there? Will you hold your leaders’ feet to the fire, ask some tough questions of them, and insist on accountability?
WANTED: Courageous Southern Baptist pastors! Are you out there? Are you going to Jacksonville for the Pastors’ Conference?
Here are some possible questions you could ask:
- How many women would it take before Patterson would give credence to their reports of sexual abuse and consider the reports to be substantiated? Would 50 be enough? 100?
- Absent a minister’s confession, would Patterson require multiple eyewitnesses? Male eyewitnesses? How likely is that?
- Was it enough that Patterson allowed Gilyard to confess to “adulterous relationships” after what many women and college students reported was actually sexual abuse and sexual assault?
- In 1991, a woman publicly stated that “Paige Patterson asked me to refrain from speaking to anybody about this.” Now Patterson says that he “never asked anybody to remain quiet about anything.” Which story is true?
- How was any pastoral concern shown for the many college students and women who reported abuse by Gilyard? It’s certainly not reflected in Patterson’s responses in the Dallas Morning News article.
- Was it enough to get Gilyard out of the SBC, or should Southern Baptist leaders have also taken steps to warn congregations outside the SBC – i.e., Gilyard’s next Florida congregation?
- Given the extent to which Patterson, Vines, and First Baptist of Dallas officials reportedly promoted Gilyard’s career, didn’t they have some obligation to be equally proactive in later warning people about this person whom they had built up?
- Didn’t Patterson at least send a mixed message about the seriousness of Gilyard’s conduct when Patterson publicly stated his view that the complaints against Gilyard involved “culpability on the women’s part?”
- Even after multiple accusations against Gilyard, Patterson reportedly said, “It’s amazing how jealousy, frustration and racism can be motives for making accusations.” When high-level Baptist leaders are so dismissive of clergy abuse allegations, why should anyone imagine that other churches would take such accusations seriously?
- If someone like Paige Patterson claims that he didn’t have the resources to conduct an investigation, why should anyone imagine that ordinary churches would have the resources? Isn’t this a perfect illustration of why Southern Baptist churches need the resource of an independent objective review board to consider whether accusations against clergy are credible or not?
- Why did officials at First Baptist of Dallas (where Patterson worked in connection with Criswell College) reportedly “continue to recommend” Gilyard despite multiple allegations against him?
- Why did Jerry Vines lend credibility to Gilyard by speaking at Gilyard’s Florida church, even though Vines knew about Gilyard’s past in Texas and even though one of Vines’ own congregants told him about Gilyard?
- Is it acceptable that high-level Southern Baptist leaders claim to be powerless while leaving kids and congregations at risk from serial predators?
- What will Patterson and Vines do NOW to assure that the mistakes of the past aren’t repeated?