Nearly 1,700 Christian women are calling on Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson to resign.
In a letter to the board of trustees, the women state, "We cannot defend or support Dr. Patterson's past remarks. No one should."
Patterson came under fire after audio surfaced of the 75-year-old pastor seemingly advising women to stay in abusive marriages.
"It depends on the level of the abuse to some degree. I have never in my ministry counseled that somebody seek a divorce. I do think that's always wrong counsel," Patterson says in the decades-old recording.
"There have been, however, an occasion or two where the level of the abuse was serious enough, dangerous enough, immoral enough that I have counseled temporary separation and the seeking of help," he continued. But he says it should only happen in the "most serious of cases."
He goes on to urge women not to forget the "power of prayer."
After a recent firestorm, Patterson doubled down on the statement in an interview with the Baptist Press, saying, "My suggestion was never that women should stay in the midst of abuse, hoping their husbands would eventually come to Christ. Rather, I was making the application that God often uses difficult things that happen to us to produce ultimate good. And I will preach that truth until I die."
Patterson also says his words have been misrepresented.
The controversy over Patterson's views of women intensified when video surfaced of the pastor defending a teenage boy's sexual comments about a "very attractive" girl.
Patterson is accused of excusing the boy's actions, calling them "biblical." He also seems to agree the girl was "built."
In their letter to the board of trustees, the Southern Baptist women respond by stating, "The world is watching us all, brothers. They wonder how we could possibly be part of a denomination that counts Dr. Patterson as a leader. They wonder if all Southern Baptist men believe that the biblical view of a 16-year-old girl is that she is "built" and "fine" — an object to be viewed sexually."
Liberty University professor and author Karen Swallow Prior talked to CBN News about the "heartbreaking" decision to sign the letter.
"The Southern Baptist leaders who, years ago, brought the denomination back from the brink of impending liberalism have long been heroes in my family of faith," she said. "These men did great work on behalf of biblical fidelity in the face of cultural decay."
"It is heartbreaking to see now this failure to take loving correction concerning the treatment of women and girls, fellow image bearers of God whose dignity and worth is equal to that of men," she continued. "I believe there is a moral blind spot here, something we are all subject to, and I pray that the veil will be lifted."
Prior tells CBN News she reached out to the board of trustees privately with her concerns before signing the letter but got no response.
Four of the SBC entities have also weighed in on Patterson's comments.
"Any physical abuse on any level is completely unacceptable in a marriage. The church should immediately step in & provide a safe place for the abused. This has been my consistent counsel my entire ministry. Any counsel to the contrary is unwise & even dangerous," tweeted Daniel Akin, president of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Any physical abuse on any level is completely unacceptable in a marriage. The church should immediately step in & provide a safe place for the abused. This has been my consistent counsel my entire ministry. Any counsel to the contrary is unwise & even dangerous.
— Daniel Akin (@DannyAkin) May 1, 2018
Russell Moore, president of the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, agreed.
"Marriage as a picture of the Christ/church mystery (Eph. 5:32) means that spousal abuse is not only cruel and unlawful but is all that and also blasphemous against a Christ who loves and sacrificed himself for his Bride," tweeted Moore.
Marriage as a picture of the Christ/church mystery (Eph. 5:32) means that spousal abuse is not only cruel and unlawful, but is all that and also blasphemous against a Christ who loves and sacrificed himself for his Bride.
— Russell Moore (@drmoore) May 1, 2018
The question remains as to whether Patterson will deliver the sermon at the SBC's annual convention in June.
Delivering the key address is considered a high honor that some say would affirm the church's allegiance to Patterson.
CBN News reached out to the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for comment on this story and had not heard back by the time of publication.