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,