News Articles

Patterson ponders Clinton impeachment, echoes Mohler’s call for discipline

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr.’s call for church discipline of President Clinton has received support from a sister seminary and the president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Paige Patterson, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C., presented Mohler with a “Citation of Thanksgiving and Appreciation” during a Sept. 10 chapel service at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.
In a subsequent news conference, Patterson said if President Clinton refuses to resign his presidency, Congress should impeach him.
“Regrettably, I support impeachment if there are, in the reports that are coming to Congress, evidences of subornation of perjury or obstruction of justice,” said Patterson, who called for Clinton’s resignation several days earlier. “Those are impeachable offenses, and certainly I would view him in that case no different from President Nixon.”
The citation to Mohler, presented by Patterson during the chapel service, bears the signatures of 34 Southeastern faculty members. The citation praises Mohler in his call for church discipline of President Clinton by “loving Jesus and the Bible more than you love comfort and political correctness.”
Joining Patterson in the news conference, Mohler noted, “The situation created by President Clinton is not merely a political crisis, it is a spiritual crisis as well.”
Along with his call for impeachment, Patterson was careful to add that Clinton’s spiritual condition is a matter of deep concern to him and many Southern Baptists.
“We want the president to know we love him, and that he can be forgiven, and we urge him to seek that forgiveness from God,” Patterson said.
Mohler added: “He should stop his efforts to save his administration, and make clear his efforts to restore his relationship to Jesus Christ and to model and live what is indicated in Scripture as the authentic life of the Christian disciple.”
In the Southern chapel service, the citation from the Southeastern faculty received a standing ovation from the Southern Seminary community following Patterson’s reading of the document.
Patterson told the chapel audience he wrote the citation in response to a Sept. 1 editorial in Kentucky Baptists’ Western Recorder newsjournal which criticized Mohler’s call for church discipline by the president’s home church, Immanuel Baptist in Little Rock, Ark.
Mark Wingfield, editor of the paper, charged in his editorial that Mohler was “unbaptistic” in his call for Immanuel Baptist to practice church discipline with Clinton. The editor also accused Mohler of failing to show Christian love for “many of those subject to his authority.”
In a monthly commentary for Religion News Service, Mohler wrote Aug. 24 that Immanuel has allowed Clinton to “claim to be a Southern Baptist” while continuing his “public display of serial sin” because it has failed to practice biblical discipline.
“Southern Baptists will be watching Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock to see if it musters the courage to make clear its own convictions,” Mohler wrote in reference to Clinton’s nationally televised admission Aug. 17 that he had misled the American people by denying having a sexual affair with a young White House intern.
Patterson responded in the citation: “… President Mohler did not ‘instruct’ a church to act in any fashion but rather called upon that church to follow the mandates of the New Testament.”
The citation to Mohler further stated: “We thank you, Mr. President, for loving Jesus and the Bible more than you love comfort and political correctness. We thank you and commend you for loving President Clinton and the President’s local church sufficiently to call upon them to honor the God of all the earth by practicing what God prescribed in the Scriptures as acceptable behavior for individuals and for churches. We thank you for your courage and love in this matter even when you knew that persons such as Editor Wingfield and others would misrepresent your motives.”
In response to Wingfield’s editorial, the faculty at Southern Seminary passed a resolution Sept. 3 supporting Mohler’s views on church discipline by a 32-3 vote with one abstention.
The faculty resolution stated, “Dr. Mohler’s urgency about discipline exactly conforms to the biblical principles and Baptist practice of corporate holiness.”
The faculty also noted, “Exhortations from individuals and associations of churches have been prominent in Baptist history and constitute no violation of church autonomy.”
Like most churches, Immanuel has not practiced public discipline, including the removal of members from the church, in recent decades, according to staff members.
Clinton has been a member of Immanuel since July 1980, according to church records. He attended Immanuel regularly and often sang in the choir during his years as governor of Arkansas. Since becoming President in 1993, Clinton has attended Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington with his wife, Hillary, who is a Methodist.
Patterson’s call for the president to resign was first reported by the Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer-Times after he was asked his opinion by a reporter following a Sept. 6 sermon at First Baptist Church in Linden, N.C. The article by Earl Vaughan Jr., the paper’s religion writer, was in the Sept. 7 issue. A portion of the article was distributed by the Associated Press. Linden is located between Raleigh and Fayetteville.

    About the Author

  • Lee Weeks & James A. Smith Sr.