New York Times January 27, 2007
FORT WORTH, Jan. 26 (AP) — A former theology professor at a prominent Southern Baptist seminary here said officials had told her to leave because women are biblically forbidden to teach men.
The professor, Sheri Klouda, said she was hired in 2002 to a tenure-track position as an assistant professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where she taught Hebrew and had earned her doctorate. But in 2004, Dr. Klouda said, an administrator, whom she would not name, told her that the seminary’s president, Paige Patterson, would not be recommending her for tenure because she was a woman, and that she should plan to move on.
Dr. Klouda said she continued teaching for two more years, receiving good evaluations and usually filling her classrooms. In January 2006, the same administrator told her she would no longer be able to teach but would be paid through the 2006-7 academic year. A couple of weeks later, she said, she was told she would be terminated at the end of 2006 instead. She appealed to Dr. Patterson in April, she said, to no avail.
Dr. Patterson did not respond to requests for comment, and Van McClain, president of the board of trustees, said he could not discuss the matter but e-mailed several previously written statements.
Mr. McClain said Dr. Klouda had not been dismissed, but he did say that she had not been granted tenure. He also said it had been rare for women to teach theology at Southern Baptist seminaries.
“With regard to the tightening of the policy of women teaching in the School of Theology, there has been no change in policy, but rather a return to the way it has always been,” Mr. McClain said.
“There was a momentary lax of the parameters,” he said, adding that the seminary had “now returned to its traditional, confessional and biblical position.”
Southern Baptist leaders agree that the role of pastor is reserved for men, based on a verse in I Timothy in which the Apostle Paul says, “I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man.” The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message prohibits women from serving as pastors.
But critics say the interpretation should not be applied to the seminary because it is not a church.
Wade Burleson, a Baptist pastor and blogger in Enid, Okla., has denounced the seminary’s treatment of Dr. Klouda. Mr. Burleson said leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention were trying to expand the church’s statement of faith.
“The extraordinary belief that women should be forbidden from teaching men the Bible, or ‘doctrine,’ is held by only a handful of Southern Baptist leaders, including at least one agency head and a few strategically placed trustees in various agencies,” Mr. Burleson wrote on his blog. “Unfortunately, the majority of Southern Baptists let them dictate policy for the entire convention.”
In June, Dr. Klouda took a position with Taylor University, a nondenominational evangelical college in Indiana. “I gave up four years toward tenure,” she said. “I had to begin all over again.”
She said she did not know if she would take any action against Southwestern.