"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

The Silence That Sounds Serious at Southwestern

This morning I read a post by Paul Littleton over at SBC Outpost that reraised a couple of questions in my own mind about the ongoing Sheri Klouda incident at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas and the continuing implications for the Southern Baptist Convention and agency oversight.

I wrote in my initial post on the Klouda termination that Dr. Klouda had been hired unanimously as Professor of Hebrew by the Board of Trustees of SWBTS on June 24, 2003, only to be later forced out because 'she was a woman in a man's position.' When Dr. McClain, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Southwestern, gave an interview to a couple of news wires two days after my post first appeared, he said my blog post on Dr. Klouda's forced removal was 'filled with inaccuracies.' After repeated attempts to contact Chairman McClain by phone in order to speak with him personally about his statement to the press, I finally left a detailed message with his secretary. I told her that I would like to be informed specifically of the 'inaccuracies' in order to immediately correct them.
Five days later I was sent a short and abrupt email from Dr. McClain's office explaining his comment to the newspaper reporters. Dr. McClain's email contained these five words . . .

'Dr. Klouda was not hired unanimously.'

Subsequent to Chairman McClain's email I requested a copy of the minutes of the January 2003 SWBTS Board of Trustee meeting. I wanted to see for myself if Dr. Klouda's hiring, indeed, was NOT unanimous as Dr. McClain alleged. If Dr. McClain was correct, then the factual 'inaccuracy' in my post needed to be immediately corrected and I needed to publicly apologize. I assumed Dr. McClain had already backed off of the previous use of the word 'inaccuracies' since his email contained only one fact from my post that he was disputing. I knew my initial written statement on the vote count did not come from the SWBTS minutes - it came from the person who was present at the meeting and hired by SWBTS - Dr. Klouda herself. Could Dr. Klouda have been wrong?

When I attempted to obtain the minutes of that January 2003 SWBTS trustee meeting, I was told by the SWBTS Presidential office that I could not receive them. Even though the minutes were the approved, plenary session minutes of the SWBTS meeting when Dr. Klouda was hired, and even though the Southern Baptist Convention bylaws state every Southern Baptist entity shall send its' minutes to the Executive Committee, I was forbidden to see them. Paul Littleton posted today about his similar frustration as he sought to obtain those same SWBTS minutes for himself.

To this date I have not received the SWBTS minutes of that June 2003 trustee meeting, though I have asked both verbally and in writing that they be sent to me. However, I did have a SWBTS trustee call me and tell me that, contrary to statements to the press by SWBTS board leadership, my post was completely accurate, and the minutes would reveal that Dr. Klouda was hired unanimously.

As I see it, the administration and leadership of the SWBTS Board of Trustees are making a huge mistake. I am not convinced the entire SWBTS board is fully aware of the difficult moral and legal predicament in which they have been placed through misleading statements to the press by SWBTS administration and board leadership. I have friends on the SWBTS board who I am sure are completely in the dark regarding the handling of the Klouda situation. Yet, what concerns me is the implication by SWBTS adminstration and board leadership that the entire board was fully informed and consented to the direction of SWBTS administration in forcing out Klouda because she was a woman. According to the Associated Press, which cites court papers that have been filed, Dr. Klouda was removed from her position because "Dr. Klouda was a mistake that the trustees needed to fix."

Two questions come to my mind when I read statements about Dr. Klouda being a 'trustee mistake' that needed to be fixed. (1). Is it possible for the entire body of SWBTS trustees to vote 'unanimously' in hiring Dr. Klouda, and for that same board to later call their unanimous decision 'a mistake'? Surely there is at least one trustee who was confident he did the right thing when he voted to hire Dr. Klouda. Or, (2). Could it be that when Sheri Klouda was forced to leave Southwestern, only the SWBTS adminstration was involved in the decision, and the trustees of SWBTS were not even informed?

The answer to the second question according to board leadership, specifically Chairman Dr. McClain, is 'no.' He has publicly stated that all the SWBTS trustees were kept fully informed by the President of SWBTS. However, I have had at least a half dozen SWBTS trustees tell me they had no clue about Klouda's forced removal, much less the reasoning behind why a unanimous action of the Board of Trustees needed to be 'corrected.' Again, if a 'trustee mistake' were being 'corrected,' then there should be a public record of where the detailed explanation is given to the trustees as to why their unanimous decision was a mistake. In addition, there should also be a recording in the minutes of the trustees 'vote' to correct their mistake.

What complicates the matter for SWBTS is the fact that Dr. Klouda's personnel file and job evaluations prior to her removal are stellar. Her exemplary work record and personnel file negates any attempt by someone to say she was removed for reasons other than gender. The multi-million dollar question is this: Did the trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary believe they made a mistake when they hired a female Hebrew professor in June of 2003, and did they, through informed consent, vote to reverse their mistake?

I firmly believe any examination of the minutes of SWBTS will show that the SWBTS trustees, in spite of statements to the contrary to the press by board leadership, were never informed of the steps taken to remove Klouda. I would be more than happy to be corrected in my assessment - and this can easily be done by providing the minutes of the trustee meetings. Yet, nobody is able to confirm or deny what actually happened in SWBTS trustee meetings regarding the Sheri Klouda situation because nobody in administration or board leadership is willing to let Southern Baptists see the minutes.

I am convinced that operating an SBC agency in this manner must change. Ironically, when SWBTS's leadership refuses to listen to Southern Baptists dressed in suits, ties and dresses who politely ask for information, they may end up listening to non-Southern Baptists dressed in robes who aren't so much asking for information as they are mandating change and decreeing penalties.

In His Grace,

Wade

56 comments:

SBC Pastor said...

I appreciate your persistent, firm, but gracious approach. I do believe Southern Baptists are beginning to see a pattern of abberant behavior that will require strong men who have no political or denominational ambition to break.
Thanks for being one of those men.

Darby Livingston said...

Wade,

I know all the talk like, "It takes a lot of time to steer a big ship," and maybe I'm just a pessimist (though my flock disagrees with this assessment), but do you see a point in the future where the differences within the sbc are irreconcilable? Do you see a larger split coming than has previously ever happened? I can't help but think that, whether I want to or not.

Wade Burleson said...

Darby,

When a convention splits into smaller and smaller pieces each successive split is more of a non-event. Maybe it is just my optimistic nature, but not only am I not thinking split, I personally am believing in Christian reconciliation and restoration among all conservative evangelical Baptists who wish to be work together in missions and evangelism for the sake of the kingdom.

Darby Livingston said...

may your view prevail!

Anonymous said...

What are you doing privately to put the two parties together? Be a statesman behind the scenes. You have led a good effort to provide comfort and compassion to the Klouda family. Now do the same behind the scenes with the lawsuit. I say to you again, be very careful. I would think you would want to work behind the scenes with your words and counsel than to have you put on the stand in a federal hearing and have you cross examined. All that you have done--especially what you do not want know--will be revealed. This needs to be settled outside of a courtroom. Why is SWBTS not responding to you publicly? Because there is a lawsuit in progress. Surely your Tulsa attorney friend has told you that. Should trustees abide by the rules and should the process of oversight be adjusted and then adhered to? Absolutely. I am anon b/c I cannot get the login to work.
Mike

Bennett Willis said...

atIt seems quite clear that Dr. Klouda was fired for gender reasons. There are a number of clear statements that this was the reason for her firing. Then we get to the point that will be argued which is that SWBTS had the right to fire her for gender reasons because this is a policy or right of someone (but I'm not quite sure who).

The fact that the trustees voted unanimously to accept her should destroy any argument that it is a policy. So we are left with whether it is the "right" of an SBC entity to fire someone because she is "in authority over" pastors. I doubt that this thought would prevail--especially in the light of the comments that have been made by a number of administrators that were involved.

Do you think that we are about to "disappear" a couple of sets of trustee minutes? Surely not. :)

A couple of questions for the "women should not teach men" crowd. When does this kick in? At puberty? Does this just apply to things religious or only to pastors? Why are you not out there striving to remove all women teachers (past the 7th grade)--other than the obvious impossibility of it. These are honest questions on my part (even if asked in a somewhat tacky manner). It seems to me that if it is a commandment that it should apply everywhere. Or is this another of the scriptures that you selectively "believe" (and based on the unanimous vote of the trustees on Dr. K, only when reminded of the applicability of the scripture).

Anyhow, give me some help here. Clearly there is something that I don't see clearly.
Thanks,
Bennett Willis

Bennett Willis said...

The problem that Southwestern has regarding the minutes is that "it is better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth [the records in this case] and remove all doubt. Stonewalling is a popular (though invariably dumb) response when you have messed up.

Bennett Willis

Wade Burleson said...

Mike,

If you were a regular reader of my blog you would know that I made repeated efforts to bring both parties together. I made phone calls to SWBTS (unreturned), requested a meeting (denied), wrote emails and letters offering a solution. In effect, every attempt to work behind the scenes for resolution was rebuffed. Thank you for asking.

Bob Cleveland said...

The saddest part of this, for me at least, is that none of this is surprising. None of it.

John Moeller said...

Someone needs to drive to Texas with policy in hand and demand a copy of the minutes. Has the SWBTS become another whitewater, Watergate, contra affair? Was there a second gunman on the grassy knoll and was he a SWBTS executive? It’s disappointing when supposed Christians act like this…

Sinbad said...

Note the following story:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070809/ap_on_re_us/baptists_homemaking;_ylt=AkgwrccsWkldrfsSeHZ.Eas7Xs8F

It sounds like it ought to be a parody in response to the scandal you mention but, alas, I think not.

foxofbama said...

Wade:
Know you have an active board here; but check my recent comment on the Ben Cole blog. I am about 33 or so, close to the last one
Proud of you for the ongoing resistance on the Klouda matter.
You may want to check ethicsdaily.com for the latest on Parham and Paige Patterson on Fox News this morning

peter lumpkins said...

Dear Wade,

It's been much too long. I must get to this side of town more often. It's a pity we do not have more quality time :^)

Does it not occur to anyone that the reason for the alleged "serious silence at Southwestern" is perhaps due to an ongoing litigation or did I miss something? I'm quite sure any public info about this now will only taint the situation, similarly to the public release of Dr. Cole's Enid address prematurely. Do you not agree?

Grace Wade. I know your Church is excited about Dr. Cole's coming.

With that, I am...

Peter

Anonymous said...

The worldly stubbornness in evidence at Ft. Worth is so intractable that an open accounting might well require Dr. Page going there personally with a court order and federal marshals on hand to maintain order, unless Judge Pressler can spare some of his security men. The chairman of that board would have responded long ago if he felt his current circumstances were due to the SBC and its churches. Clearly his allegiance lies in a different direction.

Steve Austin

Wade Burleson said...

Peter,

I freely confess that sometimes I have absolutely no clue what you are saying. The silence of SWBTS preceded the suit by weeks. And I have no idea what you mean by the 'premature release of Ben Cole's Enid address.' I don't even know Ben's Enid address.

peter lumpkins said...

Wade,

That's fine, Wade. But why, then bring up silence now? If SWBTS cannot speak of this matter, what's so strange about the silence? Please.

As for Dr. Cole's Enid address, if you cannot get the connection between the "silence" of SWBTS and "silence" about Dr. Cole's move to Enid, well, I suppose we'll leave it at that.

Have a good evening. With that, I am...

Sinbad said...

"If SWBTS cannot speak of this matter, what's so strange about the silence?"

There is no general prohibition in the law upon parties or representatives of parties to litigation from speaking publicly about the matter, though they may choose to remain silent for their own reasons or upon advice of counsel. Thus it is false to suggest that they somehow "cannot speak" without a specific court order precluding it, though they may deem it advisable to remain silent for strategic advantage. That said, litigation does not abrogate any obligation the school and its trustees may have to its constituents (e.g., providing copies of minutes).

Debbie Kaufman said...

Peter: Even I don't get the connection.

Anonymous said...

Wade,

While this post was about SWBTS and the inability of Southern Baptists to get copies of minutes, as provided for in our SBC constitution, please look at the trustee board of which you are a member...I cannot get copies of approved minutes, and have been trying for a year. Each time, I am given a bogus song and dance about security concerns.

My concern about BOTH boards of trustees is that "Deeds done in darkness..."

A 10-40 Window Missionary

Wade Burleson said...

10/40 Missionary,

Email me your name and address and I will be happy to get you a copy of the board approved public IMB minutes - tomorrow.

Darby Livingston said...

"Email me your name and address and I will be happy to get you a copy of the board approved public IMB minutes - tomorrow."

And people have accused you of being hypocritical. I can't see it.

Anonymous said...

one other prof. gone. dr. devargas. check it out. denied tenure.

irreverend fox said...

well put Wade.

peter lumpkins said...

Dear Sinbad,

Thanks for the clarification. Unfortunately, you simply over-reached in your assumption about the words I penned. You conclude: "Thus it is false to suggest that they somehow "cannot speak" without a specific court order precluding it."

Frankly, I wasn't even thinking of a "specific court order." Rather, if you will read my original post, it had more to do with "tainting" the litigation process.

Besides, even as you admit, there may exist various reasons, apart from special court orders--not the least of which is the defendant's legal counsel--that precludes sharing info (i.e. I *cannot* because my lawyer said it's best not to). Hence, it's odd, my Brother Sinbad, you'd even bring this up.

Debbie: My advice, my sister, is to always ignore my very confusing thoughts.

Grace to you. With that, I am...

Peter

Debbie Kaufman said...

Peter, I've lost count of the times you have squeezed this argument into posts that have been written and it's hard to ignore.

Anonymous said...

Shall the Administration or Trustees lead? Some would say, BOTH and not agree when. Others would say ALWAYS the TRUSTEES. Others would say ALWAYS the ADMINISTRATION. The fact is(having served for 10 years as a SBC seminary trustee) that the Board, having made a unanimous or non-unanimous vote(it really doesn't matter), may have been approached by the Administration that they needed to make a "change". It is not that unusual, unanimous or not, to change or refine a hiring or policy. Lots of reasons for doing so. Sometimes unintended consequences call for a change or withdrawal of a new-hire or policy. The Board and/or the Administration have that perrogative if it's within the law and their own governing documents. Clearly, the court is not going to involve itself in a "church dispute". They hate the thought of that.
Could it have been handled better? Clearly, yes! How about withholding the pejorative sexist language and giving her a recommendation letter along with a modest severance?
Just because several years later you believe Ken Hemphill + Co. made a mistake doesn't mean you need to demean her or make her 'landing' a little softer. Neither does it require you to keep her on staff if you don't think it "going to work"...but make it as easy for everyone as possible.
Sometimes in an effort(of overkill) to show who's in charge we spell our doom for the future.
Southern Baptists of all stripes have a 'short fuse' for that elitist arrogant behavior.

jack said...

Wade, it appears from the comment stream @ sbcoutpost that others (not just "10 40 Window Missionary") are now being denied IMB minutes, zafyi.

-Most distressing if true.

One Salient Oversight said...

As an outsider looking in I would say that the key here is transparency and accountability.

It appears as though the decisions of one group of people (the trustees) was over-ridden by another group of people (the administration). I am not knowledgeable of the hierarchical relationship between the two bodies but it appears as though someone has acted beyond their power.

Although we wish for men and women of impeccable character and integrity to man our committees and run our institutions, we cannot assume good faith all the time. Men and women of good character and integrity will welcome any and all efforts to make procedures like this transparent and accountable.

The fact is that the current process is flawed - it is opaque. Documents that should be publicly available are kept secret. I suggest that, as men and women of God, you fight to change the way things are done to ensure that transparency and accountability are basic, unalterable standards.

Sinbad said...

"Unfortunately, you simply over-reached in your assumption about the words I penned."

I disagree. "Cannot" speaks to ability, not willingness.

"You conclude: 'Thus it is false to suggest that they somehow 'cannot speak' without a specific court order precluding it.'"

That's a fair and accurate statement of the law.

"Frankly, I wasn't even thinking of a 'specific court order.'"

I didn't think you were, but I was being careful to be accurate.

"Rather, if you will read my original post, it had more to do with 'tainting' the litigation process."

If so, "cannot" is inappropriate.

"Besides, even as you admit, there may exist various reasons, apart from special court orders--not the least of which is the defendant's legal counsel--that precludes sharing info (i.e. I *cannot* because my lawyer said it's best not to)."

Such expediencies do exist. If a party isn't speaking on the advice of counsel, an explanation to that effect should make that clear. More to the point, however, other obligations (such as providing minutes) don't disappear because of litigation.

"Hence, it's odd, my Brother Sinbad, you'd even bring this up."

I only raised the issue for clarity which, given the unusual usage of "cannot" you describe above, seems to have been necessary.

Bob Cleveland said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the stonewalling and the (seeming) lying about the vote and about Wade's blog being full of inaccuracies started long before the lawsuit. Hence the current refusals don't seem to have anything to do with the litigation.

peter lumpkins said...

Sinbad,

If you choose to be pedantic, Sinbad, be my guest. I possess little interest in quibbling over nothing.

Grace. With that, I am...

Peter

Rob Ayers said...

But Peter my brother...

You started arguing about nothing!

Rob

peter lumpkins said...

Dear Rob,

Trust you are well, my brother.

To the contrary, if we are speaking about the exchange with Sinbad, if you will look back, the quibble began with his comment about my alleged misuse of "cannot."

Yet that is not really the nothingness to which I primarily referred. I have before attempted to converse with those who, in a *pedantic* sort of way, parse pretty much one's whole post, taking exception with virtually every statement.

The formula goes similar to this:
You said:" "
Now Me: " "
You said:" "
Now Me: " "
You said:" "
Now Me: " "
ad infinitum.

From my standpoint, I hardly attempt genuine dialog with commenters who employ this approach. That's all.

Have a great day, Rob. With that, I am...

Peter

Sinbad said...

"I possess little interest in quibbling over nothing."

One man's quibbling pendantry is another's careful exegesis.

Stephen Pruett said...

It seems that Southwestern badly needs some PR advice from a professional. I have heard such people say that taking the advice of lawyers not to make public statements or admit culpability is a huge mistake. It raises doubts about credibility that cannot be effectively addressed. Apparently, there is a short period of time when the news is still in mind, and if responses are not forthcoming during that time, making them later has no effect.

As a teacher, I begin every semester with excitement and expecting everyone to be ready to learn. It is the triumph of hope over experience! I have the same attitude toward Southwestern.

Alycelee said...

It seems that SWBTS refusal to give any member access to minutes is a big mistake on their part.
It reminds me of when Dr. McKissic was silenced when he spoke in the chapel. (please don't tell me he wasn't)
This current policy seems to be; 'you can have access' if and when we say so.
I can't understand ANYONE, (no matter what side of camp you reside in) could in good conscience tolerate this proverbial thumb in the nose to the very people who sacrifice monetarily to support this institution.
Yes, there are issues where we disagree.
In this case, if you don't see red flags, that's just scary.
This silence is telling.
Thanks again Wade

Steve said...

Surely the trustees and administration at Southwestern are more engaged than to simply ignore these attempts to get information. Sure they care more about what SBC members think of them than what they've shown so far!??!

Dona Nobis Pacem

Dave Miller said...

I would guess that if Wade Burleson called Southwestern and asked if it was raining, they would refuse to answer him. The nature of this kind of controversy is that someone has to become the bogey-man.

I don't know if I could get any of the minutes (probably not). But I have a feeling that Tom Hatley, Paige Patterson and others have nightmares about Wade.

As long as this little controversy trudges on, Wade, Ben Cole, and others will find very little accoomodation and cooperation from the "powers-that-be."

A question: Is there a policy or bylaws article that makes board or agency minutes open to the public? Are they just being difficult by denying the minutes, or are they violating policy?

Dave Miller said...

By the way, my previous post was meant as an observation, not an accusation.

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Wade,

You said; "I have had at least a half dozen SWBTS trustees tell me they had no clue about Klouda's forced removal,". At least would mean above 6 and that would constitute an large number. Who are these trustees?

Blessings,
Tim

volfan007 said...

if i had people trying to sue me, ridiculing my wife, attacking me on a daily basis, putting down the school i was trying to lead, laughing about the death of my pet, have spies watching me, put up videos to try to shame and humiliate me; i guess i might keep quiet too. especially with a lawsuit looming.

david

Wade Burleson said...

Tim,

That information is in the minutes book I keep and is unavailable for your perusal.

*wink*

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Wade,

I take it that means you are not going to say. Am I correct?

Blessings,
Tim

Wade Burleson said...

Tim,

If I knew of one valid, God-honoring reason to tell you I would.

I can think of none.

Dave Miller said...

Two Questions

1) As I asked earlier, do the bylaws of our boards require public release of minutes?

2) My understanding of modern business practice is that personnel matters are to be held in the strictest confidence.

I am not trying to be argumentative. As an alumnus of SWBTS, I am bothered by the recent actions of its leaders. But I am wondering if they are legally obligated to keep those items confidential.

I have never served on a board or agency, so I am unaware of what is proper.

I would love to be instructed.

Anonymous said...

I consider myself pretty web-savvy. Perhaps I consider myself TOO highly?!?!?

I have been unsuccessful in discovering a list of SWBTS trustees anywhere on the internet.

I'm sure that they are there in plain sight on the SWBTS website.

Or not.

Gary from Norman

Debbie Kaufman said...

Alyce: Amen!

Wade Burleson said...

Dave,

(1). The law does not require release of minutes of any SBC agency to constituents of the SBC.

(2). Personnel matters are confidential, but the hiring of a seminary professor is a matter of public record, occuring in a plenary (public) session.

Though there is no requirement that minutes should be available to SBC members, the question is 'should' SBC members who fund SBC entities have the right to minutes? I believe the answer is yes. If something needs to be confidential, go behind closed doors. Very, very few things in kingdom work should be secret.

Anonymous said...

Is there a place where the names and addresses, or contact information, for SWBTS trustees can be found? I think the trustees need to hear from a lot of Southern Baptists from a wide constituency on this issue.

Lee said...

Sorry, I don't know how it happened, but that previous anonymous post is mine.

Wade Burleson said...

Lee,

There is no place on the internet where that information is available. If you call the Executive Committee of the SBC they will probably tell you to call SWBTS and request the names, addresses and contact information of the trustees.

I believe you should call and request this information and make it available to the SBC at large.

john mac said...

volfan007,

Honestly, if I were in such a hot seat, I would be very likely to more than fully disclose the pertinent information. Nothing being asked regarding salaries, minutes of meetings, etc., is anything but non-threatening to the light of day. These requests for information are readily available within each church represented on this message board. The fact that this feels tense and controversial is not necessary. This is simply the business of accountability...

Anonymous said...

Very, very few things in kingdom work should be secret.


Wade.... that's a pretty naive statement. I would guess there are many things, dealings with people, decisions etc in your own church that are "kingdom work" yet are kept in secret.

I don't disagree with your statement, but we both know that churches don't operate that way. Much less boards and seminaries.

Anonymous said...

Wade - If you discover a secret to deciphering Peters comments, please post on it.

Sinbad - Good luck with the whole "logical thinking thing" with Peter.

Debbie - I rarely comment, but I read several blogs daily. From where I sit, your comments "own" Peter on this blog and his. Keep it up!

I now see why Peter is a synergist. He doesn't understand what "cannot" means in the brief wording of statement just as he doesn't understand it when John says it in his gospel.

With that...

He is at least consistent.

Anonymous said...

All this other talk is silly.
Let's put the situation in high relief:

The leadership of SWBTS are LIARS.
Just say it.

LIARS.

Then consider who won't inherit the kingdom of God.

Anonymous said...

With Dr. Albert Mohler being put forward as the future president of the SBC, I think it is essential we find out exactly what his view is on this case. He may be required to speak to this issue in the press and I want to know what he will say. Given the fact that his senior vp for academics, Russell Moore, has already spoken to the press supporting the actions of the SWBTS, we need to know what to expect from this potential future SBC president. The SBC needs ethical leadership, not a leader who will not speak against this wrong. So, what say you Dr. Mohler? Was SWBTS correct or not? Do you support this action against this faculty member of not? Would you have taken the same action based on your views if this had happened at SBTS? If so, how will you leadership impact the future of the SBC? Can we expect more legal actions under your "command?"