SYLACAUGA, Ala. – A social media firestorm was sparked Tuesday when First Baptist Church of Sylacauga Senior Pastor Rick Patrick made what many deemed inappropriate comments on social media. Patrick, who has been the pulpit minister at FBC Sylacauga since 2011, later publicly apologized for his comments with a digital post.
Patrick’s comment comes after a 13-hour meeting surrounding Dr. Paige Patterson, President of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Tex., was held on Tuesday. According to a statement released from SWBTS, the meeting was to “discuss our seminary, its future and our responsibility as trustees to ensure SWBTS is in the best position possible to fulfill our mission to biblically educate God-called men and women.”
On Tuesday, the Washington Post published an article citing the possible fate of Patterson stemming from his position on an alleged sexual assault that happened under his watch at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., in 2003. That, coupled with past comments in 2014 about a 16-year-old female’s appearance in an anecdote at a Las Vegas conference (below) and counsel to domestic abuse victims in 2000, triggered an open letter to SWBTS Board of Trustees from Southern Baptist women. An accompanying petition with nearly 3,300 signatures has since been circulating the internet calling for change.
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Patterson was relieved of his duties on Tuesday effective immediately. In a statement released by the seminary: “The board passed a motion through a majority vote to appoint Dr. Patterson as President Emeritus with compensation, effective immediately, which he accepted. In addition, the board passed a motion to affirm the trustees’ September 2017 offer for Dr. and Mrs. Patterson to live on campus as the first theologians-in-residence at the Baptist Heritage Center, scheduled to be completed in July 2018.”
Patrick responded to the news on social media and it went viral among pastors and parishioners.
This is one of the most disgusting things I have ever seen posted by a pastor. It is shameful and unbecoming of the office of pastor. I hope his church holds him accountable. pic.twitter.com/k8gpm1l7OS
— Chad Keck (@keck75) May 22, 2018
“It was exaggeration for effect. It was hyperbole,” said Patrick in an exclusive interview with SylacaugaNews.com on Wednesday. “It was the worst thing I could think of to describe a sin that anybody could say about anybody else.”
The comment was made on a closed Facebook group, 316 Roundtable, a prominent group made “to encourage discussion among Southern Baptists and other Christians who affirm the Baptist Faith and Message tradition of E. Y. Mullins in 1925, Herschel Hobbs in 1963 and Adrian Rogers in 2000. Patrick is the Executive Director of the organization.”
Patrick said the Washington Post article was released during the meeting that further suppressed his “hero” in ministry.
He added, “…anyone can say anything and by the time that that trustee meeting was over, they didn’t have time to explore it,” said Patrick, also saying there is “just not time to sort it all out at the moment.”
Patrick apologized in a digital statement and publicly to SylacaugaNews.com.
“I took it down when I realized I was overreacting to this hero in the ministry and his fall — his being ‘kicked to the curb’ — a lot of people saw it. I’m not alone in thinking there was foul play there…I overreacted,” said Patrick.
The post, Patrick claims, was made in the closed group and outed by someone who was not on the same “denominational wave.”
“I deeply, profoundly regret posting that,” said Patrick noting he has personally apologized every person who was named in his comment.
SylacaugaNews.com learned the gentlemen mentioned in Patrick’s Facebook comment had, at some point in their ministries, written against Patterson and were critical of him.
“The motivation behind it was simply the thought that were attacks against someone I deeply admired and I could not possibly believe they were true,” said Patrick.
SylacaugaNews.com asked Patrick what his parishioners should expect moving forward.
“What I would say is: they’ve never heard me speak like that. I don’t talk like that. That’s not me. I was upset at a development in Southern Baptist life that was absolutely the very worst development in my entire ministry that has happened in Southern Baptist life. Someone I admire deeply went through all of this. I made a mistake. I made a terrible mistake and I regret it and that’s not my way of acting normally. I will learn from this and I will not do that again, obviously. I deeply regret my overreaction to this news. I’m profoundly sorry and it won’t happen again.”
In addition to being the Executive Director of Connect 316, Patrick is also the Publisher of SBC Today.
“For sometime now I’ve been involved with convention life, writing blogs and involved with organizations and have probably been too invested in the political life of the convention and I am stepping away from that in this. That’s not who I am. That’s not what I believe. It was said, frankly, in frustration on a very bad day when a man I deeply admired was kicked to the curb. I did not react well and I deeply apologize,” said Patrick.
SylacaugaNews.com reached out to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Tex. and First Baptist Church of Sylacauga late Wednesday afternoon for a statement and did not receive a response.
UPDATE 4:38 p.m. 5/23/18
Patrick issued an apology on the First Baptist Church of Sylacauga Facebook group this afternoon.
UPDATE 3:50 p.m. 5/24/18
The organization of which Patrick was the Executive Director has dissolved its 316 Roundtable group.