Discrimination against women
Baptist Theological Seminary
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
||They required their
employees to sign a loyalty oath.
||They have issued a statement
on the submissive role of women in the family.
||They published a series of
to help their membership pray for and evangelize non-Christians, in order to
lead them to
||They prohibited the future
ordination of women as pastors, while allowing existing female pastors to
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
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.
Reaction to Dr. Klouda's removal:
||Wade Burleson of Enid, OK, writes in his
"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
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.
Sam Hodges, "Baptists at odds over removal of female professor. FW: Seminary
case fuels debate on women's role in theology programs," Dallas News,
Wade Burleson, "Sheri Klouda: Gender Discrimination, Federal Law and the Law
of Christ in the SBC and SWBTS" Personal blog, at:
"BFM 2000" refers to the "Baptist Faith and Message" statement passed in the
year 2000. See: http://www.sbc.net/
Copyright © 2000 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-MAR-8
Latest update: 2007-FEB-06
Author: B.A. Robinson