DAEJEON, Korea (BP)–Issues among Baptists in South Korea relating to church elders and women in ministry were addressed by Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and his wife Dorothy, a SWBTS faculty member, during a mid-March visit to Korea.
Patterson said he and his wife “were greatly honored by the invitation from the editor of a Korean Baptist journal and other Korean pastors … [to lecture] on matters specifically relating to Baptist identity.”
At the Korean Baptist Theological Seminary in Daejeon, Patterson said he “specifically addressed matters of Baptist history, heritage and identity. In the day seminars with pastors, which met at one of the churches in Daejeon, I addressed some of the major issues facing Korean Baptists at this time. In each of these I attempted to state the historic Baptist position and demonstrate that the historic Baptist position is also the position of the New Testament.”
Jonathan Kim, Patterson’s translator on the trip and a professor at Dallas Baptist University, noted, “Since the Korean Baptist Convention adopted the elder system in 2009, many Baptist churches now have elders. Unlike the elders in Presbyterian churches [Korea’s predominant denomination], Baptist elders currently do not have administrative authority.
“However, as time goes on, Baptist elders will probably act just like Presbyterian elders,” Kim said. “Some people are insisting that the convention’s decision must be reversed.”
Kim also reported, “Since 2004, some Baptists have pushed for women ordination. Many believe it will be adopted in the 2011 convention meeting.”
Patterson, in several question-and-answer periods, addressed the roles of women in the Bible, including Deborah in the Old Testament and Anna in the New Testament. A pastor’s wife in the audience said her husband gave her responsibility to preach at times, to which Patterson replied that her husband asked her to violate Scripture. However, he explained, the Bible provides a venue for her to use her teaching gifts to disciple women in the church.
Additionally, Dorothy Patterson, professor of theology in women’s studies at Southwestern, spoke to pastors’ wives, sharing her testimony and how to do woman-to-woman ministry.
“She biblically defined the role of a woman as a helper and what is the true meaning of obeying,” said Jeremiah Kim, director of Southwestern’s doctor of ministry program in Korea. Kim noted that many were amazed to hear these views from a woman of Patterson’s “caliber and position.”
“Many Korean Christians give themselves in to the current secular culture of expanding women’s roles with no or little resistance,” Jeremiah Kim said. “What Mrs. Patterson succeeded to convey to the audience was emphasizing not only the correct biblical foundation and understanding of a woman’s role but also the superiority of Scripture even in this pragmatic and postmodern culture.”
Paige Patterson also addressed questions by pastors frustrated with the direction of the Korean Baptist Convention. Referencing his own experience during the Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention, he encouraged pastors to stand for biblical truth with grace and love and to pray for courage and discernment.
Patterson said he hopes that the Korean Baptist pastors who attended the various sessions March 17-19 “were encouraged to stand strong in light of the inroads of ecumenical and non-Baptistic perspectives.”
“Many people told me how they were impressed by the Pattersons’ Christian demeanor and biblical knowledge,” Jonathan Kim said. “They told me that the seminar was most helpful in understanding the issues clearly and that it should have happened years ago. It certainly served as a springboard for discussion on Baptist identity in Korea. The impact of the seminar is expected to last for a long time.”
Keith Collier is director of news and information for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas (www.swbts.edu/campusnews).