Dr. Susan Codone is an “SBC Voice” – an active and supportive Southern Baptist. Her approach to this issue has been direct but it has honored local church autonomy. The church in question is free to do as it chooses, but she is also free to dissent and to put public pressure on that church when it does something that violates her conscience. Susan is a professor at Mercer University, an abuse survivor, a powerful voice within the SBC on issues of sexual abuse, and has spoken at ERLC and other SBC events. Here is Susan’s story.
Timothy Pigg, pastor of Fellowship Church in Immokalee, Florida, is hosting Paige and Dorothy Patterson at Fellowship’s Great Commission Weekend February 7-9, 2020. Because I opposed the platforming of the Pattersons, Pastor Pigg reported me to Twitter today, resulting in the temporary suspension of my ability to tweet because I shared the publicly available church office phone number and his email address as listed on the Fellowship Church website, on their Facebook page, and in Google search.
Read this again: A Southern Baptist pastor reported a survivor of sexual abuse within the SBC to Twitter for posting publicly available information without ever engaging in communication with her.
I oppose the platforming of Paige and Dorothy on behalf of all sexual abuse survivors in the Southern Baptist Convention, of those who suffered sexual assaults at Southeastern and Southwestern Seminaries, and of those affected by the ministry of Daryl Gilyard. For many documented reasons, I am confident the Pattersons are not qualified to lead or speak in a Southern Baptist church.
Following the guidance given to many sexual abuse survivors, I first followed the “Matthew 18 rule” and reached out to Timothy privately by email to voice my opposition and ask him to find replacement speakers. He did not respond. I extended my correspondence to Tommy Green, Executive Director of the Florida Baptist Convention and Ronnie Floyd, President and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee. Both Tommy and Ronnie responded kindly and generously. I also reached out by email to numerous Florida pastors, including Erik Cummings, 2018-19 President of the Florida Baptist Convention. None of these Florida pastors responded to me. Given Timothy’s refusal to respond, I took to Twitter, publicly asking him to replace the Pattersons and asking others to call the church and write Timothy with the same request.
I will stake my Baptist heart on the autonomy of the local church as a foundational principle of Baptist life, but I will also die on the hill that cooperation is essential to autonomy. Autonomy demands both accountability and cooperation. Following this reasoning, the SBC appears to agree with me.
Under Frequently Asked Questions on SBC.net, in reply to “Why is the SBC so committed to the autonomy of the local church?” the Southern Baptist Convention says this:
“We recognize that in the New Testament there was no centralized ecclesiastical authority over the churches that forced the churches into any form of compliance. There was encouragement, exhortation, and admonition, but there was never enforcement. We strongly adhere to that principle. Jesus Christ is the head of the local church—we are not. Each church is responsible before God for the policies it sets and decisions it makes.” (http://www.sbc.net/faqs.asp)
Brothers, it is both biblical and within the range of SBC autonomy to exhort, encourage, and admonish Timothy Pigg for inviting the Pattersons to speak at a Southern Baptist church and for publicly silencing a fellow Southern Baptist, a woman, an SBC sexual abuse survivor, and someone who followed the biblical guidelines for approaching an offending party.
If Timothy had invited a woman to preach the outcry would have reached the heavens. Yet Timothy has invited the most polarizing, unrepentant man in the SBC, and only an awkward silence has resulted. This is unacceptable.
I call on all of my brothers to exhort, encourage, and admonish Timothy Pigg for this reproachful behavior and to ask him to replace the Pattersons for this event. Better, I ask you to recommend replacement speakers for him, as his loyalty to a man has apparently blinded his ability to treat women and believers biblically.
Contact Timothy at:
Church office: 239-657-2694
We have come too far with the Sexual Abuse Initiative and Caring Well to allow the Pattersons to speak in an SBC church. Their presence pours salt into too many open wounds.
Even though one pastor has “suspended” me, I trust that the rest of you will act.