Southern Baptist Convention President Paige Patterson gestures as he makes his opening speech to the Southern Baptist Convention Tuesday, June 15, 1999 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Patterson asked church members to get beyond their own concerns and focus on evangelizing cities in a last worldwide missionary effort. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Over the past 20 years, the Southern Baptist Convention has weathered an onslaught of controversies, from renaming the denomination to repudiating the Confederate flag. But in the end, all it took to potentially rend the organization in two was a single quote about domestic violence from a solitary leader that most Americans have never even heard of.

Paige Patterson is the 75-year-old president of Fort Worth’s Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, which claims to be one of the largest schools of its kind in the world. He is lionized among Baptists for his role in the “conservative resurgence,” which is what some call the movement to oust theological liberals beginning in the 1970s.

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Written by Jonathan