For more than 50 years, the names Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler have surfaced simultaneously in conversations, news stories and official Southern Baptist Convention business documents.
The latest report regarding the two longtime friends and co-leaders in the SBC “conservative resurgence” of the 1980s and early 1990s revolves around lawsuits leveled against them.
Patterson lawsuit dismissed
A four-year-old civil suit against Patterson and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where Patterson served as president from 2003 to 2018 when he was terminated, was dismissed April 4.
The plaintiff, a former female seminary student, claimed defamation and negligence by Patterson and the seminary when she was allegedly sexually assaulted by a male student, who also was employed by the seminary. She says she reported the abuse, which took place on at least three occasions from October 2014 through April 2015, to seminary leaders but was not protected nor cared for appropriately in the situation.
According to Judge Sean Jordan, seminary leaders contacted the authorities when the student reported the abuse and no evidence pointed to their acting negligently regarding the prevention of sexual abuse on campus.
“Still, we recognize that the biblical standard for responding to allegations of abuse and caring for victims of abuse is much higher,” Southwestern Seminary board chair Danny Roberts said in a statement reported by Baptist Press.
“It was a failure to live up to this higher standard that led, in part, to a presidential transition in 2018. Southwestern Seminary remains committed to the biblical standard, which demands doing everything we can to ensure the safety of all members of the seminary community and caring well for victims of sexual abuse.”
Pressler lawsuit ongoing
It’s been a year since the Texas Supreme Court allowed a lawsuit, originally filed by Duane Rollins against Pressler in 2017, to proceed. Now, new details have surfaced indicating Pressler’s former longtime law partner as well as First Baptist Church Houston reportedly knew of abuse allegations in 2004.
Rollins, a former assistant to Pressler, claims Pressler sexually abused him beginning when Rollins was 14 and a member of Pressler’s Bible study. The alleged abuse, Rollins says, continued into his adult years.
According to court documents, Rollins and Pressler had “an altercation in a Dallas hotel room” in 2003 that led to an assault lawsuit, which was settled. As part of that $450,000 settlement, Pressler agreed to pay Rollins $1,500 per month for 25 years as “long as the confidentiality of this agreement is maintained.”
Rollins testified it took years for him to realize what had happened to him was abuse, thus extending the statute of limitations, and is now seeking $1 million in damages.
To read FBC Houston’s response to the allegations, check out this article from Baptist Press. To read the original report of the latest developments in the Pressler case, check out this article by the Texas Tribune.
Also named in the suit are Pressler’s wife Nancy, Jared Woodfill (Pressler’s former law partner), Woodfill Law Firm, Southwestern Seminary, FBC Houston and Patterson.
Included in Guidepost investigation
Patterson and Pressler also appear in the 2022 independent investigation report from Guidepost Solutions.
To read the information shared, pull up the report here and do a search for their names.