On the defensive

Southwestern Baptist Seminary President Paige Patterson, one of the architects of the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention, got downright defensive about reports showing the SBC in decline and fellow Southern Baptists’ suggestions that the convention might need to change.
In his Baptist Press commentary, Patterson gave these excuses for declining baptism and membership statistics:
1. Many churches didn’t turn in reports.
2. Small membership loss is no big deal.
3. It would have been worse if moderate Baptists were in charge.
4. I’m not mean-spirited; those who call me mean-spirited are mean-spirited.
5. Many young leaders are still in SBC.
6. Suggestions that churches should be more sensitive to culture are misguided.
Patterson steadfastly excuses himself and his cohorts from any blame for creating an unattractive image of the SBC.
“Thrashing the Conservative Renaissance (his new name for the so-called Conservative Resurgence) as though it were somehow responsible for this decline is irresponsible,” wrote Patterson.
He sounds more agitated at the current SBC insiders who question the convention’s course of exclusion than those he helped exclude from the SBC years ago.
Interestingly, the SBC’s problems have nothing to do with nearly three decades of ever-narrowing doctrine and negative resolutions aimed at all sorts of people. According to Patterson, the real problem is simply a lack of prayer, a failure to witness, shallow preaching and seeking to adapt the church to the culture.
Now we get it.


  1. Resident member and baptism numbers remain important metrics of church health, but not as exclusively as they were in prior years. Increasingly, as Baptists embrace other cultures such as Asian and Hispanic, traditional membership does not measure the extinct of the impacts.

    Even so, the percentage of the world that is Christian (or Adherents including Baptists) has been diminishing for decades. This in spite of new effort churches not affiliated denominationally, movements such as the Emergents and the Conservative Resurgence.

    Robust numerical growth is necessary for percentage regression not to occur in increasing populations.

    Wade Burleson, whose blog (http://kerussocharis.blogspot.com/) is a thorn in the SBC flesh, also took Patterson’s “take” on the statistics to task. Actually Patterson is relatively insignificant to the global issue whether he understands the data or not.

  2. John:
    Take a look at the links at bl.com SBC Trends, particularly the new book by Mother Jones’s dickerson on SBC Numbers.
    She says in reality there are only 4 million Southern Baptists and she makes a strong case.
    Still the religious right is a force cause at any moment the “bedside baptists” can be aroused.
    Her article is well worth your time and from there you can decide about her book.
    An aside, Newsweek’s Berlinbleau has joined the Manifesto Discussion whose signers now include the Progressive Brian Kaylow of the Shut Up Blog, and Adrian Rogers’ Son David, the Spain Missionary.

  3. Whether or not the decline in Southern Baptist growth has anything to do with their rightward shift, I don’t know; furthermore, don’t care.

    But as a matter of principle I find it down right laughable than anyone who even makes a pretense of Christianity would suggest that the spiritual correctness of a movement could be judged by its size or its image in the eyes of the world.

    Paul characterized his image, to the worldly wise Corinthian saints, as “the filth and offscouring of all things”. He was shamefully treated everywhere he went. Near the end of his life he was forsaken even by most of the other Christians.

    Will anyone suggest that Paul’s image problem was due to his lack of spirituality? Ooops! I almost forgot that I am in a forum dedicated the the proposition that the theology for which Paul suffered was, indeed, errant!


    I mean really, when did anyone ever read the Bible and decide that the people who follow it will be accepted, liked, loved and many? I am reminded of the words of Jesus:

    “Fear not, little flock, it is the father’s good pleasure to give to you the kingdom.”

    Mark Osgatharp
    Wynne, Arkansas

  4. Mark,

    I want to make sure that I understand what you’re saying. Would it be correct to summarize your statement, and perhaps some others that you’ve made, as follows?

    If something is popular (in this particular case, well-attended), then it must not be of God. The true church will be persecuted and a small remnant.

    Is that an accurate portrayal, or am I reading a bit much into what you’ve said?

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