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Discrimination against women

Discrimination at Southwestern
Baptist Theological Seminary

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Sexism and the treatment of Dr. Sheri Klouda:

Dr. Sheri Klouda obtained her bachelor and master degrees at Criswell College with high honors. She then enrolled at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) in Fort Worth TX. SWBTS is a seminary associated with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. The Convention went through an internal conflict between moderates and fundamentalists between the late 1970s and late 1980s. The fundamentalists won control of the denomination and made a series of significant changes:

bullet They required their employees to sign a loyalty oath.
bullet They have issued a statement on the submissive role of women in the family.
bullet They published a series of prayer guides to help their membership pray for and evangelize non-Christians, in order to lead them to salvation.
bullet They prohibited the future ordination of women as pastors, while allowing existing female pastors to continue serving.

As a graduate student, Dr. Klouda taught classes at the SWBTS in Hebrew as an adjunct professor for three and a half years. In 2002, after obtaining her doctorate at Southwestern, she was approved for a tenure-track position as full time elected faculty by the trustees. Her understanding was that she would be allowed to teach language courses rather than courses with major theological content. She recalls that the president at the time, Ken Hemphill, said that:

"There was not a policy where [women] would not be able to teach church history or the languages."

After two years on the faculty, Dr Klouda was informed by an administrator on 2004-JUN-07 that she could not attain tenure and should look for a job elsewhere.

She discussed the matter with the president, Dr. Paige Patterson. She recalls:

"He essentially said that his perspective and understanding in this regard was that in the teaching role in the school of theology, where we're training pastors, those teachers should also be qualified to be pastors. Therefore, those teachers should be men."

Dr. Van McClain, chairman of the trustees at Southwestern said that the decision to hire Dr. Klouda was a "momentary lax of the parameters," and that the seminary had later reverted to the "traditional, confessional and biblical position" that women should not teach men in theology or biblical languages. He continued:

"The administration was patient with her and allowed her to teach a full two years after she was told that she would not have tenure. ... During that time, she looked for a job, and the seminary even agreed to continue her support after her teaching responsibilities were over, so her family would have financial support. The seminary went far beyond anything that could be expressed as its duty or responsibility. ... I do not know of any women teaching in any of the SBC seminaries presently in the area of theology or biblical languages. In my estimation all of the seminaries have sought to be more consistent with most Southern Baptists' understanding of Scripture on the matter."

Dr. Klouda has responded:

"I don't think it was right to hire me to do this job, to put me in the position where I, in good faith, assumed that I was working toward tenure, and then suddenly remove me without any cause other than gender.

After speaking to Dr. Patterson, she said:

"He essentially said that his perspective and understanding in this regard was that in the teaching role in the school of theology, where we're training pastors, those teachers should also be qualified to be pastors. Therefore, those teachers should be men."

During the summer of 2006, Dr. Klouda was elected to a professorship at Taylor University in Indiana.

Women have taught and continue to teach at Southwestern outside the school of theology. The only woman now teaching in the school of theology is Dorothy Patterson, the wife of the president. However, she teaches only women's studies courses where men are excluded.

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Reaction to Dr. Klouda's removal:

bullet Wade Burleson of Enid, OK, writes in his blog:

She excelled in the classroom, building a strong reputation as both a scholar and teacher. Her classes were frequently full, and her students testified often of their admiration for Dr. Klouda. Donald Moore, a theological student at Southwestern who was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma during his tenure, expressed his appreciation for Dr.Klouda in an article published by the school's journal: 'I was taking first-year Hebrew with Dr. Klouda at the same time I was going through my first round of chemo,' Donald Moore said. 'I thank God for (her) grace and good teaching and patience'. ..."

It is critical to understand that Dr. Patterson replaced Sheri Klouda with a male on the basis of an interpretative application of I Timothy 2:12 which, according to Patterson himself, goes far beyond a prohibition of women pastors. According to his rigid and narrow understanding of this Pauline text, Patterson believes that it is God's will for a woman to not serve in any position of 'authority' over a man. ..."

"Sheri Klouda did not want to leave her job at Southwestern Theological Seminary. She had outstanding job performance evaluations, a student body that appreciated her, and an academic world that respected her. She was at the job of her dreams. Her family established themselves in Arlington, and her daughter was active in high school there. Dr. Klouda was focused on giving her best efforts to the service of the school. When she was told that she would not be given tenure because she 'was a woman' in a man's position, she was troubled. Her confidence in the administration was shaken. She and her family operated under the assurances of Dr. Patterson, given in September, 2003, and as a result took on the responsibilities of a more expensive home in order to be closer to the seminary, relying on her hospital benefits to meet [her husband] Williamís medical needs. ..."

"What bothers me is the extraordinarily restrictive views of certain leaders in our convention regarding women. This is not about 'being a pastorí' of a church. This is not a BFM 2000 3 issue. This is all about the belief among some that women should not have authority over men, whether it be in the home, the church, a business, or society in general."

His blog entry of 2007-JAN-17 received 361 comments by 2007-FEB-14. Essentially all were critical of the SWBTS. 2

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare the above report in the year 2007, and update it since. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Sam Hodges, "Baptists at odds over removal of female professor. FW: Seminary case fuels debate on women's role in theology programs," Dallas News, 2007-JAN-19, at:
  2. Wade Burleson, "Sheri Klouda: Gender Discrimination, Federal Law and the Law of Christ in the SBC and SWBTS" Personal blog, at:
  3. "BFM 2000" refers to the "Baptist Faith and Message" statement passed in the year 2000. See:

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Copyright © 2000 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-MAR-8
Latest update: 2007-FEB-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

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