Last Monday I posted a letter I received from John V. Rutledge, that was clearly racist and expressed low regard for the intellectual capacities and Christian understanding and commitment to the biblical faith. A common response to the Rutledge letter from some Southern Baptists (SB) was that he was not representative of the SBC, and he has not been active in the SBC for the past 20 years (although he was active for 50 years).
The reason I posted the Rutledge letter was to make people aware that racist attitudes exist among some SB; and I raised the question, “what percentage of the SBC is represented by the mindset conveyed in this letter by John V. Rutledge?” I have no way of quantifying this percentage.
Today, I am publishing a letter written by Dr. Paige Patterson, former president of SWBTS, to Dr. Jimmy Draper, President Emeritus of Lifeway Christian Resources, an SBC entity. Roughly, from 1975 to 2020, Paige Patterson will be viewed by historians as the most influential personality in the SBC and the one who shaped the trajectory and doctrine of the SBC more so than anyone during that time frame.
My point is Paige Patterson is not a peripheral figure in SBC life and he currently is an active participant in SBC life. A copy of this letter is posted below. My sincere question is: what is the difference between the Patterson and the Rutledge letter? For sure Dr. Patterson does not use vile language to describe persons of African descent. But he does express a very similar discomfort with African American leadership and engagement with the SBC based on his perception of their lack of understanding of SBC issues—which is a polite way of referring to SBC African American pastors as ignorant of SBC doctrine.
Furthermore, he acknowledges that the election of a Black man as president caused him “quaking…a bit.” The letter indicates he believed the election of a Black pastor, Dr. Fred Luter, could result in a “slide a long way back” for the Convention. I am struggling to find—other than Patterson’s use of diplomatic and less offensive or alienating language—a difference between the Rutledge letter and the Patterson letter. They are both in agreement that Black leadership is unsettling and unwelcomed in the SBC, due to a perception that Blacks are somehow intellectually and doctrinally deficient.
Finally, you will never convince me that Paige Patterson’s mindset is not a significant current mindset of SBC pastors and congregants, although I want to believe they will be less than 50%. The Conservative Baptist Network organized in 2020, represents the Patterson faction of the SBC. In their inaugural announcement, they made it very clear that they were anti-social justice. The Conservative Baptist Network (CBN) has also come out expressing full support for the Council of Seminary Presidents (CSP) statement that is a total denunciation of Critical Race Theory (CRT), and it is incompatible with the BF&M and the gospel.
The mere fact that the CSP, CBN, and former President Donald Trump are all in agreement on this issue is quite troubling for African Americans in the SBC. I am not sure why people want to paint Rutledge as an outlier when his views are represented in this Paige Patterson letter. The CSP statement is sanctioned by the Patterson-Trump faction of the SC which is a large segment of the SBC. How large? We don’t know. All those SBC leaders who denounced the Rutledge letter should also denounce the Patterson letter. Rod Martin, a current member of the SBC Executive Committee called Ralph West a “Marxist.” Steve Swofford, also a current member of the SBC EC, called Madam Vice President, Kamala Harris, “Jezebel Harris.” Neither has been denounced by the SBC EC board.
Furthermore, there needs to be a walking-back of the CSP statement if there is to be a rebuilding of the trust between African American Southern Baptists and the SBC. I assure you…trust has been broken, and it needs to be restored before we get to Nashville in June 2021. Evidence flies in the face of the SBC, that Rutledge is merely a lunatic and outlier, detached from current SBC mindsets. The current racial posture of the SBC is extremely disturbing.