Most everyone has heard by now that Dr. Sheri Klouda has filed a cause of action against Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, President Paige Patterson and Chairman of the Trustees Van McClain. There are few Southern Baptists, in defense of Dr. Patterson and SWBTS, that are making the claim that no Christian should ever file a lawsuit for any reason. I find it ironic that some who argue this position only decry a cause of action with which they disagree, but remain strangely silent on those suits with which they agree in principle.
A well known and highly respected Southern Baptist pastor has done a fine job articulating a very balanced Scriptural position on going to court. One of his conclusions from his textual and interpretative work on I Corinthians 6 is that "Christians are free, maybe even responsible for the use of those courts in matters that clarify legalities and criminal matters that are beyond the reach of congregations.It speaks of a high submission to the powers ordained of God."
Ultimately, it matters not what you or I think about what Dr. Klouda has done in filing the cause of action. There will be a determination of a twelve member jury on whether or not seminary policy, and/or federal law, and/or contracts have been broken. If a wrong has occurred that has led to harm, it would be immoral for those able to bring about correction to not seek to rectify that wrong and make restitution. Repentance and restoration is at the heart of the Christian ethic.
Why I'm Sad About Klouda vs. Southwestern
(1). I'm sad that after numerous and repeated attempts to personally contact the parties involved weeks ago, not one person at SWBTS responded to my hand written notes, personal phone messages, or correspondence when this matter could have been resolved early on -- and now, it is impossible for those same parties to speak with either Dr. Klouda or myself without attorneys present.
(2). I'm sad that there are those in leadership at SWBTS who still don't understand that the Klouda issue began as nothing more, nothing less, than a pastor fulfilling a vow he made over a year ago that he would no longer sit by, uninterested and unengaged, as 'the little guys' in the SBC, who have often been used and abused, are run over by a political machine that seems to pay little attention to Christian principles and grace.
(3). I'm sad that some will fall into the trap of choosing sides based upon who they believe are 'hurt' the most by this cause of action. Some will believe those hurt the most by this suit are Dr. Klouda and her husband Pinky and their daughter with their mounting medical and home bills. Others believe it to be Dr. Patterson because of his concerns over the fallout at his institution and his seeming detoriating health. While a few will side with Dr.Van McClain because of his painful and mounting worries that his public statements after the Klouda issue broke, spoken with a genuine desire to protect the institution, might be proven false and ultimately harmful to the very institution he so desires to protect.
(4). I'm sad that the SBC will be distracted from our mission to share the gospel with the world while we seek to resolve a conflict over a controversial 'lapse of parameters' regarding the non-essential issue of a woman teaching Hebrew to men. This controversy began when a woman was denied the right to tenure defense and review solely because of her gender. I'm sad that we seem to be more concerned right now in the SBC with a person's gender than we are a person's lostness.
(5). I'm sad if the courts find SWBTS guilty of those charges enumerated within the cause of action, SWBTS might possibly face continuing consequences with the EEOC, the national accrediting agency for seminaries and universities, and possibly the SBC herself. The ramifications of the outcome of this cause of action are potentially enormous. I'm sad that, if that happens, then those that will be blamed are the ones who brought the Klouda problem to the light, rather than those who caused the Klouda problem in the first place.
Why I'm Glad About Klouda vs. Southwestern
(1). I'm glad Dr. Klouda will possibly find a satisfactory resolution to her wrongful and harmful removal -- a resolution that was not coming via the preferred means of private dialogue.
(2). I'm glad SBC educators will think twice before removing a woman for gender and that might be an encouragement to the young ladies now in seminary.
(3). I'm glad Southern Baptist people might begin to realize that you can stand up to the system.
(4). I'm glad Southern Baptists might discover the necessity of talking through disagreements rather than 'choosing sides' and ignoring those who aren't on yours.
(5). I'm glad elected leaders in the SBC will stop narrowing - by personal fiat - the doctrinal parameters of cooperation among SBC churches.
I am praying for all the participants in this issue.
I believe God can ultimately bring good come from it all.