Trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary approved the establishment of a cultural engagement center during their October 2007 meeting at the seminary's Fort Worth, Texas, campus. According to Baptist Press, the center will be named for Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission since 1988, and will be a partnership between the seminary and the ERLC.
It is obvious that Southern Baptist Richard Land is deemed a brilliant cultural and philosophical thinker by trustees and administration at Southwestern Seminary. One does wonder, however, if the naming of the cultural center after Richard Land places Southwestern's official argument for terminating Dr. Sheri Klouda on dangerous footing. Dr. Klouda was released by Paige Patterson with the explanation that she was a woman in a position reserved for men. A nationwide uproar ensued over Klouda's dismissal. SWBTS trustee Chairman Van McClain found himself in an awkward position. Seeking to explain away the unanimous trustee vote to hire Dr. Klouda in 2002, a scant one year prior to Dr. Patterson becoming SWBTS President, Dr. McClain told the Associated Press that Klouda's hiring was a 'momentary lax of parameters.' Van McClain further said that Southwestern's removal of Klouda (without a trustee vote) was an effort by administration 'to be more consistent with most Southern Baptists' understanding of Scripture on the matter.'
Ironically, Southwestern's 'offical' rationale on the Klouda matter is completely opposite of the views of the very man for whom their new cultural center is being named. In James Hefley's book "Truth in Crisis: The Controversy in the Southern Baptist Convention" (vol. 4 of a 5 vol series), page 176, Dr. Richard Land is quoted, verbatim, during his 1988 job interview with the Christian Life Commission (now ERLC) Board of Trustees, as saying.
“I understand that [women’s ordination] is a problem with many [Southern Baptists] . . . and it is one that we need to be sensitive in addressing. It has been my experience and I hope I’m not being judgmental here, that many people, I suspect, use the women’s ordination issue as an excuse for having attitudes about women that aren’t Christian. I think we have to . . . make it very clear that we affirm the equality of women . . ., and be extremely cautious about extrapolating from two spheres, the home and the church. For instance, I don’t’ think that anything in the New Testament would prohibit a woman from being a professor or an administrator in any of our seminaries or colleges.”
I can hear almost now hear the argument being prepared by SWBTS attorneys that there was a momentary lapse of parameters in the naming rights of the new cultural center at SWBTS. I don't anticipate, however, that a judge or jury will accept that argument. When one man (President Patterson) believes a woman should not teach Hebrew to men, and then that one man seeks to enforce that peculiar belief on an SBC institution - regardless of previous trustee decisions and the Southern Baptist Convention's collective will about the matter - then the agency in question opens herself up to both public embarrassment and tremendous liability. Sadly, the danger of an oligarchy of philosphically like-minded men handpicking agency trustees over the course of several years is that an agency finds herself being governed by trustees who find it difficult to hold accountable the very person to whom they owe their position. One only has to look at the strategic SWBTS trustees who were hired to serve on faculty at SWBTS after Patterson was hired by them to serve as SWBTS President to understand the machiavellian tendencies of some within the SBC.
Maybe the trustees should consider naming the new cultural center the Sheri Klouda Center for Cultural Engagement. In all practical purposes she may very well end up owning it.
In His Grace,