Dr. Van McClain, chairman of the Board of Trustees at Southwestern Theological Seminary, has sent an email to anyone who inquires about the Dr. Klouda issue. That email contains the following statement about my Klouda post: "the blog is filled with inaccuracies."
Upon reading Van's public statement, I immediately called him. It has not been my privilege to meet Van. Several people to whom I sent the Klouda post prior to making it public offered factual corrections, but Van was not one of them. Paige Patterson himself had not offered any corrections either, though he was on the list of people to whom I sent the post prior to publication. Since Van seemed concerned enough about 'inaccuracies' to speak of them in general terms to a newspaper, I felt it appropriate to contact him by phone to find out more details. His secretary said Van was unable to receive my call, so I emailed him last Friday and asked him the following four questions:
(1). Did you vote for Sheri Klouda to teach Hebrew at Southwestern
Theological Seminary in 2002?
(2). Why do you now believe that she is not qualified to do so? Is it really the 'statement of faith' (please show me where the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 says a woman can't teach a man Hebrew, or theology, or doctrine), or is it the narrow view of President Patterson that now guides you?
(3). Have you had any formal or informal discussions with Dr. Patterson about joining the School of Theology, teaching in the position vacated by Dr. Klouda?
Van, this next one is the big one:
(4). Would you please, in print, tell me where I am wrong in my post?
Van Mclain emailed me back the following day, Friday, January 19, with the following one sentence email, dated Friday, January 19, 2007:
I have had neither any formal or informal discussions with Dr. Patterson about joining the School of Theology or teaching in the position vacated by Dr. Klouda. Nor am I seeking any faculty position at Southwestern.
I responded immediately, thanked him for his email, and then closed by saying,
"Van, thank you for your answer to one of my questions. I counted four questions, however, and must have missed your response to the other three."
Today, four days after my last email to Van and five days after his public statement that my blog post on Klouda was filled with inaccuracies, I received this one sentence explanation of the 'inacuracies' in my Klouda post from Van McClain.
"The vote for Klouda was not unanimous."
I assume Van means the vote to hire Dr. Klouda as a full faculty member of the school of theology in 2002. I received my information regarding Sheri's hiring from the Baptist Press articles, and a sitting SWBTS trustee at the time of the vote. I realize that sometimes there are discrepancies regarding vote totals (i.e. 'the vote totals for the new IMB policies'), but if the vote was taken in the plenary session, there should be some record of the total. I have a call into Dean David Allen, who was on the SWBTS Board of Trusteees at the time Sheri was hired, and to Ken Hemphill, the President of SWBTS at the time. Once someone shows me the vote total I will be happy to take out the word unanimous if, indeed, that was not the case.
I am grateful for Van's response, and I look forward to further information forthcoming from him and President Paige Patterson regarding the reasons for the President's refusal to allow Dr. Klouda to come before the board of trustees for tenure review and defense. There may be some uncomfortableness with this issue being addressed in the public arena, but unlike some who believe a closed door policy is best in SBC denominational work, I am of the firm opinion that open doors, transparent communication, and a high degree of accountability is essential for all Christian ministries, especially those in the Southern Baptist Convention. The major questions which still must be answered include these:
(1). Is it an ethical, moral or just action to remove a woman from Southern Baptist service as a professor of Hebrew simply because she is a woman, particularly when the institution who hired her conferred upon her the very degrees necessary to fill the position she held, and in light of her outstanding service and accomplishments in that particular field?
(2). Some may argue that Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary had 'a momentary lapse of parameters' when SWBTS hired a woman to teach Hebrew in 2002, but then the question becomes, 'Were the trustees who hired Dr. Klouda informed of the effort to remove Dr. Kluoda, or did the President take this action by himself, based upon his 'opinion' that women should not teach in the theology department,'?
(3). How can we not challenge those who suggest that Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is a church and Dr. Sheri Klouda is a pastor? Is not SWBTS an institution of higher learning, and is not Sheri Klouda an educator? Are we seriously saying that a woman cannot teach a man Hebrew, cannot teach a man to exegete the Bible for himself, or instruct him in theology? Is this the direction we desire our convention to head? Is our ecclesiology so messed up in the Southern Baptist Convention that we call a seminary a church? (wink: I couldn't resist that last question).
(4). Does this action against Sheri Kluoda, without trustee knowledge or approval, violate institutional bylaws or policy, and if it does, will SWBTS face problems with future accreditation or legal action if it is not corrected?
On a good note, we have raised several hundred dollars for Dr. Klouda and her family to help them during their financial hardships. If you would like to contribute to the Dr. Sheri Klouda fund, please contact Emmanuel Baptist Church, Enid or Upland Community Church, 439 W. Berry Ave, Upland, IN 46989 (Sheri's church in Indiana).
God's people should watch out for their own, and Southern Baptists should take care of their own. I personally believe Sheri Klouda should be given her job back, but right now it is one step at a time.
In His Grace,