“His account had to have been hacked; surely it was hacked. This does not sound like Rick Patrick at all.”
More than a few Alabama Baptists repeated this sentiment over and over in their minds — and many stated some form of it out loud — the afternoon of May 22. For those intricately involved in Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) life, the 13-hour Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustee meeting in Fort Worth, Texas, became an online reality show of sorts.
As the trustees met to decide the fate of their embattled leader, concerned Baptists and others hung anxiously on the Twitter feeds of the media representatives camped out in the hallway outside the closed-door meeting at the seminary.
It was in the relentless hours of waiting to hear the fate of Paige Patterson that emotions built and online chatter intensified. Patrick, pastor of First Baptist Church, Sylacauga, was among those watching from afar — and in a self-described, momentarily lapse of judgment — ended up in a media firestorm of his own.
“I posted my comment when I was extremely upset at the news of my ministry hero’s (likely) firing,” Patrick wrote in his May 23 apology and letter of resignation from his role as executive director of the board of Connect 316 and publisher of the blog SBC Today. “I will not repeat the comment, for it was honestly reprehensible and completely unworthy of Christ. I do not speak of such things in my daily conversation. It is truly not who I am. After lashing out with sarcasm, I realized how wrong I was and removed the post from the private Facebook group after about 90 seconds. However, someone had already taken a screen shot and posted it publicly. My sin was thus exposed on social media.”
Patrick’s comment targeted the timing of the latest round of news reports about Patterson as well as the #MeToo movement in general.
At press time, Patrick was attempting to contact each of the five men he mentioned in his post to apologize. He also resigned from his position on The Alabama Baptist board of directors, effective May 23.
“Even preachers make mistakes, and Tuesday (May 22) I made a big one,” Patrick wrote in his apology letter to the members of First, Sylacauga. “I am truly, truly sorry. I am grieved beyond words. I will learn from this. And it will never happen again. If you can find it in your heart to do so, please forgive me.”
Larry Morrison, minister of education and administration for First, Sylacauga, confirmed that Patrick is “remorseful, very broken and really repentant” and said church leadership is committed to walking with Patrick through his healing. “We are working with him to encourage him and help restore him,” Morrison said. “This was out of character for Rick and while it doesn’t excuse what he wrote, we do want to help him through this. None of us is without sin, and none can cast the first stone.”
Patrick met with church leaders on May 23 to determine the plan going forward which will include a refocusing of his attention to be solely on God, his family and the church and removing himself completely from denominational politics.
“We want to move forward in a positive way and still be open to God’s leadership,” Morrison said.