Dozens of Southern Baptist male leaders have added their voices to calls for Paige Patterson, the controversial head of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) to face action from the institution.
Patterson, 75, helped orchestrate the 'conservative resurgence' in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) during the 1990s and served as SBC president in 1998 and 1999.
He is under fire after a recording emerged from 2000 where he appears to argue that abused women should stay with violent husbands and submit to them. He is also accused of defending the sexual objectification of a 16-year-old girl as 'biblical'.
More than 2,000 Southern Baptist women, who adhere to the theology of complementarianism – the theology that women should submit to men at home and in church leadership – have signed a letter criticising him.
Now dozens of men have added their voice as the controversy escalates.
'These comments and his decision to share them give the watching world cause to question Dr Patterson's character and his view of women,' they say in an open letter to the chair of the SWBTS board of trustees that had nearly 100 signatures at the time of publishing.
'That Dr Patterson's remarks have been public for four years without reprimand by your board or repudiation by Dr Patterson suggests that the unbelieving community takes a stronger stand on the public treatment of women than Christians,' they add.
'As our sisters suggested, the watching world is asking if Southern Baptist men believe it is biblical to view and speak of sixteen-year-old girls as sexual objects. They wonder if abused women will be counseled according to the pattern of Dr Patterson's remarks. Far worse, they wonder if such views and counsel reflect the God of the Bible and our Lord Jesus Christ,' the letter reads.
It comes after prominent Southern Baptists including Russell Moore, president of the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, implicitly criticised Patterson by tweeting their abhorrence of abuse, without naming him specifically. Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, named Patterson and noted that we live in a 'politically charged environment', but said 'I cannot be silent on the issue of abuse of women'. 'And I stand with all who say "no" to any type of abuse of women at any time and under any circumstance,' he said.
But Patterson has defended his comments and thus far has refused to resign. In a statement he said: '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.'
SWBTS chairman of trustees Kevin Ueckert has said Patterson has asked for a meeting with the board of trustees to discuss the incident. That will take place on May 22.