Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Poor Reporting but Good Results from the IMB Meeting

I was unable to make the IMB meeting in California due to celebrating my wife's birthday and not wanting to miss my son's basketball games for his senior season. The Ad Hoc Committees on the Baptism and Private Prayer Language policies did not issue any recommendations. They will finalize their report and any official recommendations regarding the policies before the next IMB meeting, March 19-21, 2007 in Memphis, Tennessee. I will be at that meeting.

I have already commended the board for the change of spirit in the board meetings since Dr. John Floyd became chairman. The forums have been filled with prayer and testimony since the summer of 2006, which they should have been in the Fall 2005/Spring 2006, and it is my understanding that the same spirit of cooperation and decorum prevailed in California. No longer are closed door meetings being used to attack individuals, including anyone in administration, and for that I am deeply grateful. I think some have finally realized everyone will be held accountable for their actions, and that always insures that any conduct, even in private, is full of grace, consistent with our calling, and honoring to Christ.

There are already reports being filed about this week's IMB meeting in California. I am hopeful that reporters will not make the same error that Tammi Reed Lebetter of the Florida Witness has made. I have never been barred from a pre-business session forum (closed door meeting) or Executive Session of the International Mission Board, nor have I ever missed attending one. Her reporting is evidence that people often misunderstand what is happening, even those who should be in the know.

The board must vote to exclude a member form forums and Executive Sessions, and they have not voted to remove me, nor will they. I continue to attend forums and closed door meetings, abiding by every policy and procedure -- even reminding my fellow trustees what they are at times. The Chairman alone has the power of appointment for committees, and we trustees do not vote to approve his appointments, or lack thereof. Though I have not been appointed to a committee, I am a fully functioning trustee, duly elected by the SBC, and I attend every meeting where business is brought to the full board -- even closed door sessions.

So, before anybody gets to excited or riled up about what did, or did not, happen in California - relax. Issues that have been raised this past year will eventually have to be addressed by Southern Baptist Convention, but at least the spirit is much better on the board itself.

Blogs have a way of helping reporters and people within the Southern Baptist Convention to get their facts straight. :)

In His Grace,


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Let's Focus on the Issues Through Good Dialogue

The following is a letter, reprinted with permission, that was sent two weeks ago to select leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention. It is an open letter, thus, the author intended a wider circulation. The writer of this letter is David Shibley, president of Global Advance, a Dallas-based missions ministry that has provided training and resources for church and business leaders in 73 nations. He is the author of several books including A Force in the Earth. The letter is self-explanatory and well written. I post it today as a reminder for us all that we should be discussing the issues in the Southern Baptist Convention.

An Open Letter to Southern Baptist Leaders
David Shibley
January 18, 2007

The recent actions by the SBC International Mission Board and the trustees of my alma mater in issuing statements against the practice of a private prayer language do not bode well for the influence of this great denomination in coming years.

In the late 1970s, when I could not have afforded an education at other evangelical seminaries, the generosity of Southern Baptists through their Cooperative Program made it possible for me to sit under the teaching of some of the finest, most gifted men of God I have ever known. I remain deeply grateful for the magnanimity of Southern Baptists, both in allowing a Pentecostal to attend one of their seminaries and in making that education financially feasible.

Embracing and Restricting

When I was a young pastor the great preachers were Southern Baptists – John Bisagno, W. A. Criswell and, of course, Billy Graham. Wishing to leave what appeared to me the cloistered little world of my early Pentecostalism (but not leaving my charismatic encounter with the Holy Spirit) I wanted to realign with those who were serious about evangelism and missions. In the 1970s, that led me straight to Southern Baptists. Yet in comparison to the recent phobic edicts of the International Mission Board and the trustees of Southwestern my early Pentecostalism doesn’t seem so cloistered, after all.

Apparently we have come full circle. Just as it is now, thirty years ago the charismatic movement was causing convulsions among Southern Baptists. But at Southwestern in the seventies, there was a higher agenda. The focus was on reaching people for Christ. Roy Fish was imparting evangelistic passion that helped inspire students like Rick Warren to impact millions with the gospel. My missions professor, Cal Guy, was espousing innovative missions methodologies and assigning us to read missiologists ranging from Assemblies of God to Anglican. The atmosphere at Southwestern exuded a warm, broad evangelicalism.

But thirty miles away from the Fort Worth campus, Beverly Hills Baptist Church and Shady Grove Baptist Church were being “disfellowshipped” from the Dallas Baptist Association for charismatic practices that were deemed unscriptural by the association and not in keeping with standard Baptist practice. Little by little, the outward-looking, evangelistic giant – the Southern Baptist Convention – began to be inverted and, at times, petty.

With a few encouraging exceptions – like the highly effective Prestonwood Baptist Church – a legion of Southern Baptist churches in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex have declined in numbers and influence since that unfortunate earlier posture against charismatic phenomena. Is there a correlation? It may at least be worth considering by those who have taken recent similar positions.

When G. Campbell Morgan was asked if he was a fundamentalist he replied, “In doctrine, yes, but I abominate their spirit.” If he were still alive, might even the venerable English expositor “abominate the spirit” of the recent statements by two Southern Baptist boards against charismatic practices?

The statement by the International Mission Board was an evident slap at its current president, Jerry Rankin, who has acknowledged a private prayer language. This hints at deep fault lines within the denomination on this issue. Yet, following the lead of the IMB in rejecting practice of a private prayer language by Southern Baptist missionaries and missionary candidates, the trustees of Southwestern Seminary issued a similar resolution:

“Southwestern will not knowingly endorse in any way, advertise, or commend the conclusions of the contemporary charismatic movement including ‘private prayer language.’ Neither will Southwestern knowingly employ professors or administrators who promote such practices.”

This edict harkens back to the days of a threatened fundamentalism. Yes, trustees have the right and responsibility to set policies within their purview. But it’s a bit of a reach for them to monitor personal encounters with God and pronounce what is kosher and what isn’t. Such a statement, especially by a graduate school, seems unnecessary and out of place. It is not, as the Southwestern trustees purport, a defense of historic Baptist practice. Rather, it is a departure from it. Historic Baptist practice endorsed tolerance of differing views regarding non-essential doctrines.

Historically Broad Baptists

These two recent resolutions are completely out of sync with a long-standing record of Baptist altruism. Roger Williams, renowned Baptist leader in early America, championed the priesthood of all believers and freedom to worship according to the dictates of one’s conscience. Based on his wide yet firmly evangelical faith, Williams helped Baptists become known as “people of the Book.” They had “no creed but Christ.” The deeply cherished priesthood of all believers protected and welcomed individual interpretation of Scripture.

Eventually, with the encroachments of liberalism, Southern Baptists understandably felt the need of an agreed-upon statement of faith. The Baptist Faith and Message became a general framework that held unequivocally to evangelical tenets but allowed for breadth of interpretation on secondary matters. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, while more stringent than the original document, is still wisely silent on the issue of charismatic practices and a private prayer language. But a few current board members evidently feel compelled to interpret what is acceptable Baptist practice regarding glossolalia for the rest of the sixteen million Southern Baptists. These recent statements by the IMB and Southwestern trustees smack of being very “creedal” for a denomination that prides itself in being non-creedal.

Shrinking Parameters

This irony was not lost on Joyce Rogers, widow of Adrian Rogers, former SBC president and long-time pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis. In a tribute to her late husband last June 12 at the Southern Baptist Convention she expressed concern at the shrinking parameters of Southern Baptist life. To sustained applause she noted that her husband “would not have been a part of what is going on in some parts of our convention today, getting narrower and narrower about very highly interpretive issues.”

In a trenchant statement clearly targeting the IMB resolution she continued, “He would try to convince you of his view, but not to exclude you from service and fellowship, or to prevent you from going around the world with Southern Baptists to share the gospel if you disagreed on these controversial issues.”

Most Pentecostals and charismatics rejoiced when biblical conservatives repelled a widening liberalism and returned Southern Baptist institutions and agencies to the standard of the Bible as God’s infallible Word. But now, in some parts of Southern Baptist life we are witnessing conservatism gone amuck.

Hoping to follow in Roger Williams’ train, I readily acknowledge the right of cessationists to believe as they do. At the same time, they have thrown down the gauntlet on this issue and these recent resolutions beg a response.
It seems an anomaly that some of those who most vociferously support inerrancy (which I too endorse) are also cessationists. When it comes to a rationale for cessationism, these otherwise conservative scholars can sound quite liberal. After all, the essence of liberal biblical interpretation is to either downplay or disregard the obvious intent of Scripture. This is what cessationism does.
Most cessationists will always consider both charismatic doctrine and experience somehow “sub-biblical.” But it is cessationism that has constructed a convoluted hermeneutic. At Southwestern I was often reminded that we show honor to the Bible by careful exegesis. Yet to interpret Paul’s 1 Corinthians 13 phrase “when the perfect has come” to mean “when the Canon is closed,” as many cessationists do, is to rely on weak, even embarrassing eisegesis.

It is unfair and untrue to caricature Pentecostals and charismatics as biblically illiterate. We disagree with Baptist cessationists (and they may not now be even the majority of Baptists) regarding the practice of a private prayer language. But this is an issue of interpretation, not authority. With conservative Baptists we affirm that the Bible is completely true, without any mixture of error, and the final arbiter in all matters of faith and practice.

A Plea to Southern Baptist Leaders

So, where do we go from here?

First, I would urge my Baptist brothers and sisters to return to their greatest strength as their greatest priority – evangelism and missions. Paige Patterson, Southwestern’s current president, has expressed his hope that this will indeed be Southwestern’s emphasis and ongoing legacy. I fully concur with him in this hope. However, I do not believe the future of evangelism and missions among Southern Baptists is in any way helped by denouncing charismatic practices.

Second, where the Baptist Faith and Message is silent trustees should be silent. Baptists do not necessarily have to embrace charismatic practices, but officially opposing these invites a continued decline in their evangelistic effectiveness. Some trustees need to wake up to twenty-first century realities. Baptist seminary students today almost certainly represent the last generation of denominational loyalists. Pentecostal and charismatic churches continue to burgeon worldwide while many Baptist churches are flat-lined. Trustees of Southern Baptist institutions do not have to like these realities, but they do have to deal with them.

One would think that directors of agencies or institutions of a denomination that has nosedived in numbers of baptisms over the last decade would be doubly concerned not to grieve or quench the Spirit. Evidently, however, protecting what they perceive as standard denominational practice trumps any concern that they just might be grieving the one called along side to help, fill and empower us.

Third, I encourage Baptist leaders in large numbers to boldly speak out and call for reconsideration and even rescinding of these damaging resolutions. Let’s take a cue from the ancient church motto: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

Sunday, January 28, 2007

A Clash of Ideologies and the Future of the Southern Baptist Convention

There are currently two ideologies within the Southern Baptist Convention wrestling for the future control of the hearts of Southern Baptist people, and ultimately, the direction of the Southern Baptist Convention herself. Recently a handful of Southern Baptist bloggers have alleged that all the current issues within the SBC are politically motivated. Several of these men, including Bart Barber, Brad Reynolds, and others suggest that Ben Cole and I are the leaders of a group of people ready to overtake the Southern Baptist Convention. Bart Barber went so far as to say:

"The stakes are pretty high for the SBC in 2007. Burleson and Cole are very well organized and focused. I think it very possible that they will carry the day in San Antonio, because they have quite the head start on conservatives. Your faithfulness to attend in San Antonio and bring your full slate of messengers could make all the difference."

I chuckled when I read the above paragraph for a couple of reasons. All the people I know in the SBC are conservative. Whichever ideology ultimately prevails, conservatives will ultimately 'carry the day,' because both ideologies are held by conservatives within the Southern Baptist Convention. In addition, I can't speak for, or on behalf of, Ben Cole, but I can say with an easy assurance that I have as much interest in organizing people for political purposes as Bill Clinton does in attempting to raise funds from staunch Republicans.

My desire for the last year and a half has been to raise the awareness within our convention that there really is an ideological conflict among those who call ourselves Southern Baptists. Both ideologies are similar in that they are both based on a conservative approach to the holy Scriptures and a firm adherence to the fundamentals of the faith. However, beyond these two areas of agreement, the two ideologies are as different as night from day. I believe with all my heart that if one of the ideologies prevails, then the SBC will not be, within a generation, the vibrant, evangelical missionary convention we are today. So, in one respect, I agree with Bart Barber --- the 'issues' in the SBC are important, but I disagree they are 'politically' motivated -- the issues are ideological in nature.


An ideology can be defined as "the unifying system of beliefs, attitudes, and values expressed in the superstructure of a culture."

A separation ideology held by crusading conservatives

Doctrinal purity is essential for cooperation, and since there are no non-essential or unimportant doctrines in the Bible, it is absolutely necessary for there to be a uniform doctrinal interpretation of all Bible doctrines, and if not, separation from those who hold to different doctrinal interpretations.

A gospel ideology held by cooperating conservatives

A desire to advance Christ's kingdom on earth through the confession, proclamation, and application of the good news. The Bible is undoubtedly central to this cooperation, but Jesus Christ is the center of it. Therefore, there is a desire to cooperate with one another, affirming the essentials of the gospel and our Baptist identity, but granting liberty in the non-essentials and love in all things.

Those who know me well understand that my passion in life has always been my family and my church. I was involved with what is now called 'the conservative resurgence' in the 1980's, but beginning in 1995 until 2005 I was totally uninvolved in Southern Baptist denominational life except through support of our denominational missions program and positions of leadership within the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. During my ten year absence from SBC leadership I did not hang around with the powers that be in the SBC. I did not 'network' with pastors in national meetings, or attend conferences where SBC leadership spoke. I also did not attend most Southern Baptist Convention meetings. I was too busy with church, young kids, and state ministry.

That all changed in 2005 when a sitting trustee of the International Mission Board contacted me and asked me to serve as a trustee of the IMB. I quickly discovered that the SBC I loved and cherished for over forty years had significantly changed in the previous decade. I had fought 'the battle for the Bible' believing it was essential that the Southern Baptist Convention take a stand on the veracity, reliability and sufficiency of God's Word, but I soon realized in the summer of 2005 that a small group of Southern Baptist leaders seemed to be forcing the entire convention to accept uniform doctrinal interpretations regarding matters that go far beyond the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. When I publicly expressed a different opinion and biblical interpretation regarding certain views held by those separatist ideologues,, they took the steps they believed necessary to keep the convention pure, and I experienced first hand the effort to exclude a conservative, evangelical Southern Baptist from leadership. The convention I believed was built on gospel cooperation seemed to be overtaken by a separatist ideology.


When there are ideological conflicts, even among brothers, there is always the possibility for misunderstandings and hurt feelings. It is unconscionable for any Southern Baptist to lie about a brother in Christ or spread slander or gossip. In addition, it should be possible for Southern Baptists with opposing ideologies to discuss the issues without rancor. It is one thing to talk about verifiable facts and quite another thing to go public with unsubstantiated statements which cannot be supported. Take it from a person who realizes everything he writes is scrutenized to the nth degree -- never write anything you are unwilling or unable to prove as fact. I would go further and say that anyone who falsely slanders a brother in Christ should be held acccountable -- in every way possible.

However, to discuss the ideology of separation involves describing how people are excluded from Southern Baptist missions and ministry. The separation ideology is only exposed when you tell the stories of the people who have been hurt by forced removal through a narrow interpretation of non-essential doctrines that are forced on the entire convention -- without convention approval. Again, the two ideologies discussed in this post are both held by conservative evangelicals. This is not 'us' versus 'them.' The questions is rather simple: Which ideology do we wish to prevail in the SBC?

Regardless of the outcome, I think a letter I recently came across expresses my heart regarding my brothers in Christ within the SBC with whom I disagree. The letter, written in 1940 by M.K. Ghandi to Aruthur Moore, aptly summarizes my feelings toward those in the SBC who are holdinga to the separation ideology in our Southern Baptist Convention:

I see that we cannot agree as to facts and, where we agree, we view them from different angles of vision. Therefore we must for the time being agree to differ. We shall know each other better when the mists have rolled away. I know that our friendship can easily bear the strain of our differences.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A Knowledge of Our History Keeps Us Humble

The Southern Baptist Convention is a collection of eclectic, diverse churches who hold to the fundamentals of the Christian faith and the Baptist distinctive of believer's baptism. We are known for our belief in the sufficiency and inerrancy of the Word of God, and we willingly cooperate with each other for the purpose of missions and evangelism. Some wonderful work for God's kingdom at large is being accomplished through our cooperative ministry and service.

It has been the contention of some for the last year, including me, that certain leaders of our Southern Baptist Convention are taking us down a dangerous course of doctrinal conformity that far exceeds the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. The attempt to exclude Southern Baptists with a private prayer language from missionary service has been well documented. The attempt to force others to believe that the only legitimate Christian baptism is one that takes place in a Southern Baptist church or a church that believes in 'eternal security' has also been well documented. The refusal to hire professors because they are 'reformed' in their soteriology has not been as well documented but is very real. In addition, just as in the 70's some conservative Southern Baptists suspected all amillinialists as being liberals, there is a resurging belief among some strategically placed trustees that no Southern Baptist is a 'true conservative' unless he holds to a dispensational eschatology. Each of these examples is not necessarily cause for alarm in and of itself, but taken together there is a pattern that is developing in the Southern Baptist Convention that goes like this:

"If you have an opinion on an issue that is not addressed by the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, but it is a different opinion than 'the powers that be,' you must not be a true, conservative Southern Baptist."

The vast majority of Southern Baptists don't believe the above statement, and realize that our convention is built upon cooperation of diverse people and churches, but because most Christians in the SBC are quiet and humble followers, they allow leadership to direct the convention without any challenges. So even though most Southern Baptists may not believe the above statement, they choose to remain silent during the narrowing process, exhibit an unwillingness to defend those persons being excluded, and in general trust leadership to do 'the right thing.' Many followers take this particular course of action out of a belief that leadership is 'smarter than me,' and a few in leadership have no problems reminding the laity of that belief's validity. There has been within the culture of Southern Baptists, since the turn of the century, 'a hermanuetic of silence.' In other words, in the last five years institutional dogma that exceeds the BFM 2000, and the resulting exclusion of those who may disagree, is being met with little opposition.

The tide, however, may be turning. Men and women of the Southern Baptist Convention are beginning to wake up and realize where the intentional narrowing of parameters of cooperation and ministry is leading. Dr. Sheri Klouda's removal from Southwestern Theological Seminary, against her will and in violation of SWBTS faculty policy and procedures - which lay out clearly and precisely the reasons for a denial of tenure for tenure track faculty positions - is the most recent example of the damage caused by this narrowing. We must not lose sight that real people, including professors, God-called missionaries, pastors, and trustees are all being unnecesarily hurt by those who say, "you can't be one of us, because you don't believe like us." The view of some within our convention is that 'women should not teach men the Bible' and that 'women should not be in a position of authority over a man.' This view of women is not found in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, is contrary to the interpretation of the Bible that many of us in the Southern Baptist Convention hold, and is by its very nature exclusionary. At least two God-called, God-gifted, God-appointed (and trustee approved) female professors (not pastors) have been removed for gender. The story of Dr. Karen Bullock has not yet been publicly told, but very well soon may be. In addition, a God-called, God-gifted, God-appointed woman administrator at one of our agencies was removed from her position because of gender. Her removal came at the insistence of strategically placed male trustees, many of whom share an opinion regarding women consistent with what is being displayed at Southwestern. This action was in opposition to the agency's administration, but forced upon them by the trustee leadership. A coule of years ago a a very public white paper was distributed to trustees of the International Mission Board, with a cover letter by Paige Patterson, that denounced women 'strategic coordinators' and expressed concern in general about the role of women in missionary work overseas. People are beginning to connect the dots.

There are some who might say, "All that Paige Patterson and those who wish to determine the dogma of our convention are simply doing is upholding the inerrant, Word of God. To oppose them is to oppose God's Word." In other words, there are some who say, "The Bible contains eternal truths! It never changes! We should NEVER compromise our convictions or beliefs!" I agree -- if you could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that something in the Bible is a principle for all time. I suspect that we may find one's interpretation of non-essential, disputable passages may change over time. Let me give you some examples.


The Southern Baptist Convention began in 1845 over a disagreement with the Northern Baptists whether or not slave-owners could be appointed missionaries. To justify the split with the north, Southern Baptist leaders noted that Paul and Barnabas had disagreed over the use of John Mark in mission service, and "two lines of service were opened for the benefit of the churches." These leaders hoped that "with no sharpness of contention, with no bitterness of spirit, . . . we may part asunder and open two lines of service to the heathen and the destitute."

It is also interesting to note that Southern Baptist leaders, at the time, defended slavery based upon their interpretation of the Bible. Southern delegates to the 1841 Triennial Convention of the Board "protested the abolitionist agitation and argued that, slavery . . . was not a sin according to the Bible." (J.G. Melton, "The Encyclopedia of American Religions," Volume I, Triumph Books, (1991), Volume II, Page 5)

One hundred and fifty years later, in 1995, the Southern Baptist Convention officially apologized, by resolution, for her previous views on the subject of slavery. The resolution declared that messengers, "unwaveringly denounce racism, in all its forms, as deplorable sin" and "lament and repudiate historic acts of evil such as slavery from which we continue to reap a bitter harvest." It offered an apology to all African-Americans for "condoning and/or perpetuating individual and systemic racism in our lifetime" and repentance for "racism of which we have been guilty, whether consciously or unconsciously."


There were dozens of books written by Southern Baptists in the late 1800's and early 1900's chastising Southern Baptists for activities of amusement participated in on Sundays. The inviolable law of God, said these Southern Baptist leaders, forbad anything but worship and rest on Sundays. Their views were based on an interpretation of the Word of God that the acts permitted by the Bible on the Sabbath, and those acts barred by the Bible on the Sabbath, were to be immutable and unchangeable. SBC Vice-President Dr. James Taylor wrote, "The fourth commandment does not institute a Sabbath, nor does it sanctify a day; it simply writes the Sabbath among the immutable things of God." (Joseph Judson Taylor, The Sabbatic Question, 1914, pp. 22, 24)

These deep convictions, based on a very specific interpretation of the Word of God, led Southern Baptists to adopt the following two statements as the 'offical' views of the Lord's Day in 1925 and 1963 respectively.

The 1925 Baptist Faith and Message and the Lord's Day

"The first day of the week is the Lord's day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should be employed in exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private, and by refraining from worldly amusements, and resting from secular employments, works of necessity and mercy only excepted."

The 1963 Baptist Faith and Message and the Lord's Day

"The first day of the week is the Lord's Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should be employed in exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private, and by refraining from worldly amusements, and resting from secular employments, work of necessity and mercy only being excepted."

Nearly forty years after the adoption of the 1963 BFM, the 2000 BFM was adopted by the conventon, and the interpretation of the Bible regarding the Lord's Day drastically changed. As you read the following statements regarding the Lord's Day, notice that what was once interpreted as an 'inviolate command of God's Word' has now become a matter of 'individual conscience.'

The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message and the Lord's Day

"The first day of the week is the Lord's Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should include exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private. Activities on the Lord's Day should be commensurate with the Christian's conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ."

Again, just like the interpretation of slavery once held by Southern Baptists, the official 'interpretation' and application of the Lord's Day has changed.


The BFM 2000 forbids women from serving as pastors. The current issue in the SBC, as well as the subject of this post, has nothing to do with the advocation of women pastors. The problem is that certain leaders in our convention are attempting to press the issue beyond the BFM 2000 and the prohibition of women serving in the 'office of pastor' and are now saying that no woman shall ever teach a man the Bible, or should be able to hold a 'position of authority' over a man - period. This view goes FAR beyond the BFM 2000 and its application to the local church, and is forced upon our convention's agencies to include a prohibition of female professors, female administrators, and other 'positions of authority' that have absolutely nothing to do with the 'office of pastor.'

What really makes me sad is that not ALL Southern Baptists hold this interpretation. In fact, I would go further and say that not even a majority of Southern Baptists would hold this view. Unfortunately, unless the past 'hermenuetic of silence' is broken, and pastors and laymen throughout the Southern Baptist Convention wake up and realize that what started out simply as a prohibition of women pastors is now being pressed to include women in all places of society, we may one day, again, have to issue an apology to the world for our unjust treatment of a class of people (women) that God tells us in His Word are equal to men.

Some argue that the 'eternal, inerrant Word of God forbids a woman from teaching a man, or holding a position of authority over a man - period. It has nothing to do with the 'church.' It should be an inviolable principle for culture.' Unfortunately, this defense of a Biblical interpretation regarding women sounds very familiar to the former SBC interpretation regarding slaves and the Lord's Day. Thank goodness Basil Manley, Jr. spoke out against slavery. Thank goodness the BFM 2000 Committee spoke out against mandatory prohibitions regarding the Lord's Day. Thank goodness Southern Baptist people are speaking out regarding this very narrow view of women.

I close with some very wise words from a Southern Baptist who has preached over five decades in the Southern Baptist Convention, and whose wisdom regarding what the Paul says to Timothy regarding a woman in I Timothy 2:12 ("I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence") is needed by us all within the Southern Baptist Convention.

"'If'…Paul was speaking to a specific woman [v11 “the woman”] who was involved in leading her husband by hook or crook into false doctrine, thus the reminder of Adam and Eve, after having herself come out of the worship of Diana, where women, in their false theology, were believed to have been created first and superior to men, [again, Adam and Eve set this straight] then he [Paul] is saying “the woman” [v12] is not to teach her “husband” [v12] this false theology, but is to learn under him in “quietness.” In fact, it would make sense of v15 where the “she” could refer back to the “woman ” of v11 and Paul is recommending that being a godly mom would be good for her and help both if “they” [husband and wife] continue in their faith love, and holiness of balanced living. Boy were they a messed up couple…”if” in fact, this is a correct interpretation.

It is that..”if”..along with the other references where women taught and led as did, it seems perhaps, Phebe in Romans 16:1-2 where the word “succourer” is translated in other places “rule” or “give direction” when used of men [see Titus] and Paul says Phebe did this to him, [you don’t suppose Phebe actually gave some helping leadership and direction to Paul the Apostle] that keeps me from being dogmatic about this being a principle for men and women for all time. I, too, am open to further understanding.
" Paul Burleson

I am hopeful that will not allow a narrow interpretation of women, that goes FAR beyond the BFM 2000 become dogma in our convention. We must not be afraid to let our voices be heard -- no matter who may see things differently.

In His Grace,


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Information Begins to Trickle In From SWBTS

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:

Dear Wade,

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.

Van McClain

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,

Wade Burleson

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Sheri Klouda Issue Will Not Go Away Quietly

McClain Says, "A Momentary Lax of Parameters:" I Say, "Another Step In The Narrowing Of Parameters"

Aristotle and other Greek philosophers contributed the idea that all equals should be treated equally - or if unequally, then fairly based on some standard that is defensible. According to Santa Clara University's Markkla Center for Applied Ethics, "we use this idea to say that ethical actions treat all human beings equal. We pay people more based on their harder work or the greater amount that they contribute to an organization, and say that is fair. But (if) there is a debate over CEO salaries that are hundreds of times larger than the pay of others, (it is because) many ask whether the huge disparity is based on a defensible standard or whether it is the result of an imbalance of power and hence is unfair" (emphasis mine).

One would be hard pressed to find a person within the Southern Baptist Convention who would publicly claim that women are not equal to men. Many of us are willing to give Paige Patterson the benefit of a doubt that he was joking when he responded to a reporter's question, "What do you think about women?" by quipping, "I think everybody should own at least one" (The Atlanta Journal Constitution, “Wake Forest to open Moderate Seminary," May 4, 1997, Section A, Page 14).

There can be no doubt, however, that women are treated in an unequal manner, compared to men, by certain leaders within our Southern Baptist Convention. The Sheri Klouda issue is a clear example of the inequality of treatment between male and female professors at Southwestern Theological Seminary. Sheri Klouda herself told The Dallas Morning News, "I don't think it was right to hire me to do this job, to put me in the position where I, in good faith, assumed that I was working toward tenure, and then suddenly remove me without any cause other than gender."

One might say with a fair bit of confidence that there has been no male professor in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention, at any institution of higher learning, who has been denied tenure for being a male.

Frank J. Beckwith, President of the Evangelical Theological Society, and Associate Professor of Church-State Studies at Baylor University, is one of the brightest philosophers and theologians of the modern era. In an online essay entitled "What Evangelicals Can Learn from John Paul II," this conservative intellectual commends John Paul II for believing that "human beings have intrinsic dignity because they are made in the image of God and that we ought to treat each other justly, and that this affirmation and obligation, grounded in the nature that God gave us, ought to be reflected in our laws so that the state may advance the public good. Although he (John Paul II) believes we can find these truths in Scripture, he also believes that these truths may be found in natural moral law, accessible to—and therefore binding upon—all human beings, even those unacquainted with the Christian Bible or its teachings.

Though there are some who would seek to defend the unequal treatment of female professors at Southern Baptist higher institutions of higher learning, but I believe it will be virtually impossible to successfully do so, particularly since professors are not 'pastors,' and to forbid a woman from teaching a man the Bible would be a violation of Scripture, Baptist history and the BFM 2000, so says the very committee who wrote our convention's official statement of faith. It would be quite unfortunate for those of us in the Southern Baptist Convention -- who have the privilege of knowing and cherishing the higher revelation of Scripture (which explicitly teaches the equality of men and women in Christ) -- to find ourselves being corrected by those who have no understanding of the Bible, but pay attention to their own sense of natural law for the public good.

I remind everyone, again, that the Klouda issue is NOT about 'women pastors,' which would violate our convention's official confession of faith, the 2000 BFM. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is not a church. Sheri Klouda is not a pastor. SWBTS is an institution of higher learning. Sheri Klouda teaches Hebrew and the theology. Nowhere does the Bible, the convention, or our official confession forbid this from happening. Some are of the opinion that a woman should not be in the position of professor in a school of theology, but when we let the opinions of a few select men become policy or dogma for the entire convention, then the fabric of our cooperation is ripped to shreds.

The Two Reasons I Chose To Make the Klouda Issue Public

For over a year I have attempted, through this blog, to point out the problem of the narrowing of the parameters of cooperation within the Southern Baptist Convention. That is a phrase which I have chosen intentionally. I became concerned in 2005 that this convention, known for cooperation and mutual love for Christ and the Word of God, was finding herself torn apart by the intentional removal of good, conservative inerrantists who would not conform to the narrow interpretations (or opinions) of a few key leaders.

Baptist theologian, Roger Olson, offers a useful analysis of theological categories that might be helpful to understand what I mean. Dr. Olson, in his book The Story of Christian Theology, says Christian beliefs through the years can be grouped into three levels:
(1) Dogmasthe great essential Christian convictions about the trinity, incarnation, creation, sola scriptura, These define the essence of Christian belief and are worthy of serious and heated defense.
(2) Doctrinesdenominational distinctives such as the immersion of believers, eternal security, etc . . .
(3) Opinions
such as details of events surrounding the second coming of Christ, worship styles, the exact nature of angels, and dates for creation. Protestant reformers labeled this category adiaphora, from a latin term for "things that don’t matter very much."

Regardless if we use Roger Olson's theological categories or Al Mohler's theological triage, the problem in our convention is especially clear to me, and is the first reason I chose to make the Klouda issue public:

Some of our Southern Baptist leaders are demanding that everyone in the Southern Baptist Convention conform to their opinions of Scripture, and those who do not conform are removed from leadership or ministry.

This is what I call the narrowing of the parameters of cooperation. Again, it is simply the demand by some leaders that their opinion be considered dogma, and then there is exclusion or removal for those who do not treat those opinions as dogma. What may even be worse, is the inability of some leaders to admit that what they believe could be classified as opinions -- to them everything they believe is dogma -- even those things the reformers said 'didn't matter.' As Al Mohler states, "The error of Fundamentalism is that third-order issues are raised to a first-order importance, and Christians are wrongly and harmfully divided."

(1). It is the opinion of some that those Southern Baptist with a private prayer language should not serve as missionaries, and some go as far to say that if you only believe in the continuation of the gifts (without practicing them), then you ought not be given a faculty position. It would be difficult to add the number of Southern Baptists who feel called to the mission field who have been disqualified because of a demand that the entire convention, through the demands of just a few, conform to this opinion.

(2). It is the opinion of some that those who have been baptized by immersion, after having come to faith in Christ, and are currently members of a Southern Baptist Church who has received the baptism as biblical, should be rebaptized in order to be qualified for mission field service. If one is not willing to conform to this opinion, then attempts are made to remove that person from service.

(3). It is the opinion of some that women should not be professors in Southern Baptists schools of theology, even though some of the brightest theologians, linguists and academicians Southern Baptist institutions are conferring theologial degrees upon are female.

(4). It is the opinion of some that women should not serve as overseas strategy coordinators with the International Mission Board, and that opinion has been actively promoted and shared with trustees, with attempts by some to bring all others into conformity with that opinion.

There are more illustrations that I could give, but I have simply chosen to point out those issues that have already been made public. Too many Southern Baptists in the past have not spoken out when opinions have been raised to first order dogma, and as a resulty, many Southern Baptists have been hurt, and some have been removed from service.

It's fascinating to me that Van McClain, the chairman of the Southwestern Theological Seminary's Board of Trustees, told The Dallas Morning Newsthat Dr. Klouda's hiring was "momentary lax of the parameters." I would respectfully disagree. Dr. Klouda's removal was yet an additional step in the continuing narrowing of the parameters within the SBC, and I believe it is essential that the entire convention be aware of what is taking place.

The second reason I decided to post the Klouda issue is because of vow I made a year ago:

If I ever became aware of a Southern Baptist treated unjustly, or run over by a political machine for either standing up for what they believe, or excluded from ministry or service by people who were forcing others to comply with their 'opinions' that exceeded the BFM 2000, I would do everything in my power to both correct the injustice and protect the person. I believe Dr. Klouda qualifed on all counts. For the above two reasons I posted the Klouda issue.

In His Grace,


Saturday, January 20, 2007

For Your Lord's Day Worship and Study

A New Law

Listen to this relevant worship song for Southern Baptists by Christian artist Derek Webb entitled A New Law

In addition to directing you to the above song for your personal edification, I highly encourage you to read carefully a tremendous Bible study on the subject of 'authority,' written by my father, entitled Authority in the Local Church.

Both the song and the message will be a blessing to you today.

Tonight, I will post on the specific reasons why I posted about the Klouda issue, and why I have a very heavy heart in doing it. You may be surprised on both counts.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Strange Belief that a Woman Cannot Teach a Man the Bible

There have been one or two commentators on this blog who have defended the view of Paige Patterson that a woman cannot teach a man 'doctrine' from the Bible. Dr. Sheri Klouda was forced out of Southwestern Theological Seminary because she taught men the language of the Old Testament and how to properly exegete the Hebrew Scriptures. She was forced out of her position because she was a woman. Some have acted as if Dr. Patterson's view of women is 'Southern Baptist.' Thank God, it is not. In fact, in this post I will show that for a woman to 'preach' (proclaim the truth) or 'teach' men is not contrary to the views of the SWBTS trustees who hired Dr. Klouda in 2002, the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, and the very Bible itself.

The extraordinary belief that women should be forbidden from teaching men the Bible, or 'doctrine,' is held by only a handful of Southern Baptist leaders, including at least one agency head and a few strategically placed trustees in various agencies. Unfortunately, the majority of Southern Baptists let them dictate policy for the entire convention.

Let me reiterate for those who rarely read posts and jump straight to the comment section: This post is not addressing the 'office' of pastor. The BFM 2000 does that quite clearly. This post is gently rebuking those who would justify the removal of a female Hebrew professor, as well as a female history professor in 2004, simply because they are women teaching men the Bible.

The Trustees of SWBTS

It can easily be said that the belief which leads to the forbidding of a woman professor teaching a man Hebrew, or 'biblical doctrine,' or giving that woman a 'position' of authority in the classroom over men, was not the predominate belief of the Southwestern Theological Seminary trustees in 2002. Those 2002 trustees are the ones who unanimously hired Dr. Klouda to the position of professor of Hebrew at SWBTS at the recommendation of Dr. Ken Hemphill.

It can also be said that this extraordinarily narrow belief that a woman should not teach a man Hebrew, or 'Biblical doctrine,' is the view of President Paige Patterson who was hired as President of SWBTS in 2003, after giving his promise that he had no intention of removing women from the theology faculty (see June 24, 2003 press conference and this article about a private meeting with faculty in 2003). It is obvious that Paige Patterson's narrow view of women led him to force Dr. Klouda out of her position as professor of Hebrew. Since my post went public, several people have emailed me saying that there is at least one other female on SWBTS faculty who has been forced out due to gender, but unfortunately, I do not have enough information to verify if that is the case or not. Nevertheless, Southern Baptists need to realize that just ONE unjust forced removal of an SBC employee based upon gender is ONE too many. If we don't correct the problem, the courts may correct it for us. The plea of immunity may not hold water when the forced removal based on gender is an action that is CONTRARY to the position of our convention's offical statement of doctrine.

I have said over and over for the past year that the very serious problem in the SBC is the narrowing of the parameters of cooperation by demanding conformity on very rigid doctrinal interpretations of Scripture. In other words, there are a handful of influential people in the SBC who are seeking to impose their doctrinal interpretations on the entire convention -- interpretations that go FAR beyond our BFM 2000. If we do not speak up and speak out, regarding various interpretations with which we disagree, including this view that a women cannot teach a man, then we might just find those narrow views becoming convention policy post de facto (after the act) -- after several women have been hurt by our leaders' actions.

In Dr. Klouda's case, it is possible that SWBTS trustees were never informed that Dr. Klouda was being forced out because she was a women. It is feasible that Dr. Klouda never said anything about her gender discrimination out of fear of not being able to obtain good references for future employment. The SWBTS trustees will need to answer what they did know, and what they did not know, about the circumstances related to the quiet removal of Dr. Klouda because of gender. However, it is a matter of public record that SWBTS trustees in 2002 had absolutely no problem with a woman teaching Hebrew to men or teaching men how to properly exegete the Bible (more than half the Bible is written in Hebrew). For a very successful and highly acclaimed professor to be forced out by the President because she is a woman, possibly puts SWBTS in serious legal jeopardy, not to mention accreditaion problems and the angst in the hearts of a majority of Southern Baptists who always demand that we treat our convention empoloyees in a moral, ethical and Christian manner.

The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message

The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 does not forbid a woman from 'preaching,' 'teaching,' or 'proclaiming' the gospel of Jesus Christ to men. Dr. Bill Merrill and Suzie Hawkins, two of the most conservative Southern Baptists I have ever known, have spoken publicly and on the record regarding this specific issue. Bill is the former VP of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee and Suzie Hawkins is the wife of O.S. Hawkins, President of the Annuity Board of the SBC. Suzie happened to be a member of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message Committee. The following is taken directly from a Baptist Press news article dated June 7, 2001 where both Bill and Suzie respond to an interview with Ann Graham Lotz, the daughter of Billy Graham, and an alleged misunderstanding by the CBS interviewer regarding what the BFM 2000 has to say about women. The interview in question was from a broadcast on CBS Television News Program '60 Minutes.' ---

Susie Hawkins of Dallas, a member of the Baptist Faith and Message Study Committee, shares Lotz's desire to see women empowered for Christian service. But Hawkins suspects the characterization that there can be no women preachers in the SBC as a mistatement of the BFM 2000 (My editorial comment: Suzie uses the word "preachers" intentially instead of "pastors." 'Preach' is Gk. kerusso which means to 'proclaim' - as a rooster proclaims the rising of the sun --- preachers proclaim the risen SON). Again, to say there can be no woman preachers in the SBC is a misstatement of the SBC's doctrinal statement. Instead, she said, Article 6 of the BFM, dealing with the Church, states that "the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture."

Hawkins added, "Nowhere does it say that women can't proclaim the gospel. In fact, it is in this article that women are affirmed in the statement as being 'gifted for service.'" Hawkins noted that Lotz "never pressed the issue of women pastoring" in the 60 Minutes interview, but related the example of Mary Magdalene bringing the message of Christ to others.

Her suspicion seems to be confirmed in an interview of Lotz by Jim Jones of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram last year. Lotz stated that she agreed with conservatives who say a woman should not be a senior pastor. "I know Christians disagree on this issue, but I believe God has called me into the ministry where I am," she said.

Hawkins added, "In our own Southern Baptist tradition we have the obvious examples of missionaries Lottie Moon and Bertha Smith who were used greatly by God. But Mary Magdalene was not the spiritual authority for the disciples. She was their co-laborer, their partner in spreading the gospel."

From other interviews, Lotz has stated that she does not see herself as assuming an authoritative role when teaching. "I feel when I stand up in a pulpit I'm not coming from a position of authority," she said in an April 5, 1999, Christianity Today article. "Everywhere I go, I'm invited; if men have invited me [to speak], I'm under the authority of that committee. But I don't accept the fact that as a woman I can't preach to or teach men. My authority is the authority of God's Word." (WB's editorial comment: This is exactly what Suzie Hawkins and the BFM 2000 Committee say the BFM 2000 means)

Hawkins also disputed the characterization of the BFM Study Committee as "an elitist group of men that issued some decree." Instead, she reminded, the committee was appointed in 1999 by then-SBC President Paige Patterson and included theologians, ministers and laymen, with two of the participants being women. "Upon the discussion of the issue of women in ministry, I am eager for others to know that the men on the committee were more than willing to hear the women's perspective." Once the revised statement was submitted to Southern Baptist messengers meeting last June in Orlando, Fla., it was approved overwhelmingly as the new doctrinal statement for the largest non-Catholic denomination.

Bill Merrell, SBC Executive Committee vice president for convention relations, agreed that the reference to the decision by messengers to last year's convention was misapplied in the case of the 60 Minutes interview. "The Southern Baptist Convention position is plainly stated in the Baptist Faith and Message that we understand the pastoral office to be reserved to men as qualified in the Scripture. To my knowledge, Anne Graham Lotz makes no claim to be a pastor. She exhorts and teaches and does so, I think, with a high degree of excellence."


Unlike some in our convention who wish to use the BFM 2000 as a 'doctrinal' club, I affirm the right for those who forbid a woman to teach or preach the Bible to disagree with the position of the BFM 2000. I will, however, seek to hold accountable those who forcibly exclude Southern Baptists from service and employment in cooperative areas of ministry in the SBC for doctrinal reasons that go beyond the BFM 2000.

We have all kinds of examples of women teaching men in Baptist history. Spurgeon learned the doctrines of grace from his family's female cook. Lady Huntington taught many Baptist men the Scriptures in her home in the 18th century. Lottie Moon led several men to faith in Christ in China and discipled them quite vigorously. Mrs. Criswell taught men the Bible in the auditorium of FBC for years. LIFEWAY clears $750,000 every time Beth Moore holds a Bible conference in a major city, and not everyone present is of the female persuasion. Where would we be without our own mothers? I could go on, and on, and on. Some have countered these examples with a notion that a woman can teach the Bible to a 'boy' until he reaches the age of twelve, as one commentor on my blog proposed, but that absurdity reminds me more of the Pharisees of Jesus day, and many radical fundamentalists in the Middle East in our own day, than the Southern Baptists I have known and loved for the past 45 years.

Let's get it straight. Women can teach and preach the Bible. They have. They will. They shall continue. The BFM 2000 affirms this. So does the Bible.

The Holy Bible Clearly Affirms Women Teaching Men

What is really odd to me is the fact that all the passages in the New Testament which speak of women prophesying (I Corinthians 11:5), participating in the gifts on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), being equal to men (Galatians 3:28), and multiple other texts, too numerous to mention here, are all ignored to jump to I Timothy 2:12 and Paul's statement to Timothy "I suffer not a woman to teach nor usurp authority over a man."

There are many ways to interpret this verse. The BFM 2000 Committee applies this verse, and others, to a prohibition of women serving in the office of pastor. Let me be clear, again,that this post is not an attempt to oppose the prohibition of women pastors. As stated, there are other texts that deal with that particular subject. Dr. Klouda did not desire to be a pastor. Dr. Klouda was not ordained to the ministry. Dr. Klouda AFFIRMED THE BFM 2000.

She was removed as a professor because a very narrow interpretation of this verse that says a 'woman' is forbidden to hold a position of 'authority' over a man or 'teach' a man --- period. This verse, according to those who hold this narrow view, goes far beyond the office of pastor. WOMEN SHOULD BE MOTHERS AND GRANDMOTHERS - and they should not hold a position of authority over a man, whether it be a professor, teacher, police officer, president, etc . . . and for heaven's sake, they should NEVER teach the BIBLE to a man. I wish to show this interpreation cannot be upheld by a proper exegesis of the text.

I believe every word of the Bible. I am an inerrantist. I believe every statement of I Timothy 2. But my interpretation of I Timothy 2 is consistent with the rest of the Bible and exalts women to their proper New Covenant position. The following is an exegesis of I Timothy 2 that has been graciously provided by evangelical conservative Pastor Dave Johnson and his fellow elders at The Church of the Open Door. This church, a large, conservative evangelical fellowship of believers in Minneapolis, Minnesota has reached thousands of people for Christ. I believe the following will be a help to all us Southern Baptist pastors who are trying to resist this very narrow view of women not that is creeping into the SBC, allegedly based upon I Timothy 2.

Again, this exegesis is to deal exclusively with women’s roles as they relate to I Timothy 2:9-15. Again, there is NO attempt in this post to justify women pastors. I am showing that the the narrow interpretation of I Timothy 2 which leads some to remove women as professors of Hebrew and theology because they 'teach men' the Bible cannot be justified from I Timothy 2. The first portion deals with the exegetical approach. The next section deals with the actual exegesis of I Timothy 2, and the last section provides conclusions.

Key Principles of Accurate and Effective Exegesis

1. Grammatical Integrity

This involves the use of original languages. We need to know what is really being said.

2. Historical Integrity

An understanding of the historic and cultural events that surround Apostolic letters gives insight into why certain things are being taught and exhorted. Failing to work in this arena results in incorrect or shallow application.

3. Contextual Integrity

Through the verse by verse study we do every week, we have comet o appreciate the importance of staying with the context. It helps avoid ‘eisegesis’, i.e. Philippians 4:13.

4. Distinguish Between Timeless Truth and Temporary Regulation

Timeless truth = love God/Ten Commandments/ Salvation by Grace/

Temporary Regulation = Deuteronomy 23:12-13/ Acts 15:8-11, 19-21

Exegesis of I Timothy 2:9-15

It is obvious that at first glance this passage creates some serious problems, not only as it relates to women in ministry, but also to women in general.

Verse 12

This verse seems to cement forever the role of women in the church as that of silent, behind the scenes support. Is that what Paul meant with these words?

When Paul came to Ephesus with the gospel originally, the Power of God rocked that city. Literally thousands were saved and it even effected the economy (Acts 19:17-29). You can be sure that among those saved were temple priestess prostitutes, priests, and leaders of false religions. Under Paul’s leadership, teaching was solid, and lifestyles were changed. Under Timothy’s leadership false teaching and sloppy living were eroding the work of God in the church.

Side Note #1

Historically, one of the greatest enemies to pure biblical doctrine is a phenomenon called syncretism. This is the blending of Christian doctrines with pagan doctrines so they coexist. We saw this illustrated clearly when we went through I Corinthians. It was also happening in Ephesus. Josephus records that Clement of Alexandria complained in his Memoirs that Christian groups had turned their communion services into drunken orgies. This was clear syncretism. Throughout the Greco-Roman world there were various groups who called themselves Christians that combined worship, teaching, and sexual immorality. This syncretism was part of what Timothy faced.

Side Note #2

Because I Timothy is a personal letter, some of these problems are not directly spelled out in the text. The reason for that is because both Paul and Timothy had common knowledge of the situation at Ephesus. In fact, Paul is most likely responding point by point to the issues Timothy raised to Paul in a previous letter. This again illustrates why history and context are so vital to accurate application.

Timeless Truth of Temporary Regulation

If Paul’s prohibition of women to teach or exercise authority is a timeless truth, there is a problem with other areas of scripture in which women are involved in ministry activity, and with Paul’s experience. Even the Ephesian church had been established in part by the skillful teaching of a Godly woman named Priscilla. She and her husband Aquila taught Apollos when he first came to Ephesus with an inadequate knowledge of the Gospel (Acts 18:18-28). Timothy knew all about Priscilla! Do you think Paul would consider a ban on women teaching a timeless truth that reflected the Divine order of things? I Don’t!

Grammatical Integrity

A closer look at the Greek word for authority (authenten) is helpful. This is a rare Greek verb that appears no where else in the New Testament and only on rare occasions to Greek literature. The usage in classical Greek is one of the only resources to shed light on the meaning of this word. The most basic rendering translates: ‘to thrust oneself’. It almost always carries, however, vulgar connotations of a sexual nature. Some evidence indicates that authenten involves a soliciting of sexual liaisons. St. John Chrysostem (400 A.D.) in his commentary on I Timothy, translated authenten as ‘sexual license’. In lengthy description of various tribal practices, the Byzantine Historiographer Michael Glycas uses authenten to describe women ‘who make sexual advances to men and fornicate as much as they please’.

Add the above information to what we know historically and culturally about Ephesus. It’s a center for pagan cults with immoral practices Syncretism was clearly at work and manifesting itself through false teaching. Paul had already warned the women who were not dressing modestly – literally wearing the garb of temple prostitutes (braided hair), but now he prohibited them from teaching or using sexual manipulation to gain influence in the church (as was the common temple practice). Instead, these women are to quietly learn correct doctrine and change their lifestyles.

As we come to verses 13-14 it appears to get stickier because Paul is apparently appealing to creation itself to explain why women can’t teach but must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.

More History

Related to the various cults and misguided Christian groups we’ve already discussed was the most powerful movement called Gnosticism. Among the many heresies was teaching that proposed women possessed superior intellectual and spiritual knowledge and in fact had priority in creation. They proposed further, that Eve was born before Adam and had a special knowledge that Adam did not have. These heresies were rampant in the early church era, but especially in places like cult centered Ephesus. An understanding and awareness of the active heresies help us unlock the meanings of these verses.

A Paraphrase

Women, you will not be allowed to sexually manipulate men to gain power and authority in church, the way you used to do it in the pagan temple. In fact, I do not allow you to teach at all. Instead, you need to quietly sit and receive instruction with entire submission! And while we’re on this thing, why don’t you wear decent clothes? You look like whores! Don’t try to blend pagan teaching with Christian doctrine. Eve wasn’t created first – Adam was! And Eve didn’t have any special knowledge hidden to Adam. In fact, she was the one who was first deceived. If she had so much special insight, why was she deceived at all?

Verse 15

This verse seems to indicate that women are saved or preserved by childbearing. What does this mean? Is it true? Really? How many children would be enough to preserve a woman? What about single women? Infertile women? Infertile husbands? Maybe something else is going on historically or culturally in Ephesus that will help make sense of this.

Applying the Principles

Contextual Integrity

The context of this epistle reveals that it was a personal letter from Paul to his good friend Timothy, who was the Pastor at the church in Ephesus. It is clear that Timothy was struggling in his ministry for a number of reasons. One reason is that he was a bit timid and easily intimidated. The founder of the church was Paul, and the sheer force of his bold and confrontive style had kept the wolves at bay. Those wolves, however, were moving in on Timothy.

The most obvious expression of their presence came in the form of false teaching (Gnosticism), and syncretism of pagan religions with Christianity (1:3-10). In chapter two he begins to deal with the people who were apparently using public meetings to air disputes. From those specific problems he zeros in on some inappropriate behavior among the women.

Apparently some of the women were dressing in a manner that was indiscreet and inappropriate: indeed immodest. Some work on history will help explain this.

Historical Integrity

Ephesus was the center for a number of pagan cults and religions. The most prolific was the worship of Diana and Artemis. A significant part of worship in their temples included the involvement of temple priestess prostitutes. These women, who numbered in the thousands, were more educated than the common Greek women, more cosmopolitan, and may be compared to a high class call girl.

Marriages in those days were arranged for convenience. The result was that Greek men used their wives for producing their heirs and cooking their meals, but went elsewhere for friendship, companionship, and sex. This was a common and accepted practice; that’s just the way it was. Add to this cultural reality, a religious element. Their pagan religion taught that the highest level of communion with the gods was attained through sexual intercourse. Euphoria was a sign that you had ‘made contact’.

Verse 15 still troubles, but there are legitimate possibilities. Keeping with the context, Paul may be indicating to these women that even if they have borne illegitimate children because of their participating in cultic activities, they will still be preserved if they repent in faith, and continue in love and holiness.

If that explanation is not acceptable, then we must also reject the face value idea that proposes women are somehow saved by bearing children. It simply is not true! Thousands of redeemed women have never had children! Sometimes it’s because they’re single, sometimes it’s a physical problem, sometimes it’s because of their devotion to ministry.

Michelson: “This verse seems to point to women’s role in bringing
into the world a godly posterity.”

I Corinthians 11:12 may also shed some light.


In my opinion, this passage is not a timeless truth that forever prohibits women from positions of authority and teaching. There are however, timeless truths in this text. Don’t let people without understanding teach. They should receive instruction in all submissiveness before they give instruction. Morality and purity in living is also a timeless truth that is called for here! Another timeless truth is that you confront false teaching out loud! Don’t try to coexist!

Helpful Resources for Study

Daughters of the Church; Walter Liefeld / Ruth A. Tucker

No Time for Silence; Janette Hassey

Women at the Crossroads; Karl Tojeson Malcolm

Reformed Journal; Ancient Heresies and a Strange Greek Verb;
Richard & Catherine Kroeger

Reformed Journal: May Women Teach?;
Richard & Catherine Kroeger

Women in the Church; Berkeley Michelson

My Personal Conclusions About Dr. Klouda and the SBC

There are two issues surrounding Dr. Klouda. There is the issue of broken integrity when it comes to things said, and actions done, toward Dr. Sheri Klouda by the administration of SWBTS.

But then, to me, there is even a deeper issue that faces us as a convention. We have already placed a prohibition regarding women pastors in the BFM 2000. Are there those who are now desiring that we place in our BFM 2000 a statement that no woman shall teach a man the Bible?

If so, we will be violating our own history, the examples of women teaching men in Scipture itself, and the principles of the New Covenant gospel. It's time we as Southern Baptist stopped the creeping demand for conformity in the acceptance of a very narrow and strict interpretation of texts like I Timothy 2.

It is not too late to do something.

And we owe it to the future women of the Southern Baptist Convention -- not to mention Dr. Sheri Klouda.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Sheri Klouda: Gender Discrimination, Federal Law and the Law of Christ in the SBC and SWBTS

Dr. Sheri Klouda, Professor of Hebrew, The School of Theology, Southwestern Theological Seminary, 2002-2006.
Dr. Klouda pictured at the seminary's convocation, August 29, 2002 affirming her adherence to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message

"Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought." J. Rawls

"For [it is] time for judgment to begin with the household of God" (I Peter 4:17).

It is essential for Southern Baptists to speak out when there is an injustice within our convention. This post is written for the purpose of drawing attention to a brilliant theologian who served Southern Baptists as a professor of Hebrew at Southwestern Theological for a total of seven and a half years, three and a half as an adjunct professor and four as full time elected faculty, establishing impeccable credentials and an extraordinary track record, only to be forced out from the job of her dreams for solely one reason --- her gender.

A Bright Light in the SBC

Dr. Sheri Klouda joined the faculty of Southwestern in April, 2002, as assistant professor of Old Testament languages. She received her Ph.D. from Southwestern in May, 2002. She had previously been conferred her bachelor's and master's degrees from Criswell College in Dallas, and as already stated, she served three and a half years as adjunct professor at Southwestern prior to joining the faculty as professor. In the summer of 2001, Sheri served as assistant professor of biblical Hebrew at Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Alabama.

Her conservative credentials are unquestionable. During the same trustee meeting at which she was hired, the SWBTS trustees passed a resolution thanking fellow trustee Ralph Pulley for his 22 years of service as a SWBTS trustee. One can rest assured that all eight faculty hired that day, including Dr. Klouda, were solid, evangelical conservatives who possessed a record of unashamedly defending the authority, sufficiency and inerrancy of God’s Word. Ralph Pulley and his fellow trustees would have guaranteed that to be the case.

Dr. Klouda was an exemplary employee of Southwestern and a tremendous representative of the Southern Baptist Convention to the evangelical world at large. She excelled in the classroom, building a strong reputation as both a scholar and teacher. Her classes were frequently full, and her students testified often of their admiration for Dr. Klouda. Donald Moore, a theological student at Southwestern who was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma during his tenure, expressed his appreciation for Dr.Klouda in an article published by the school's journal. “I was taking first-year Hebrew with Dr. Klouda at the same time I was going through my first round of chemo,” Donald Moore said. “I thank God for (her) grace and good teaching and patience.”

Sheri Klouda gained the respect of the evangelical academic world. She served on the editorial committee and as a regular contributor to the Southwestern Journal of Theology. Klouda also contributed to The Bulletin for Biblical Research, a journal specializing in ancient Near East and biblical studies. Sheri also was a guest lecturer at the 57th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania in 2005, and the 58th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Washington DC, in 2006. She also served as guest lecturer at SBL in 2006. In March of 2006, Sheri received a grant from The Association of Theological Schools, the prestigious Lilly Grant for Theological Scholars to partially fund her work entitled Building a Biblical Theology for Today: The Theology of Intertextuality.

A Sad Story

Paige Patterson was a hired as President of Southwestern Theological Seminary on June 24, 2003, a little over a year after trustees had hired Klouda. The trustees voted voted unanimously to hire Dr. Patterson just as they had Dr. Klouda a year earlier.

Some of the faculty at Southwestern were concerned about the hiring of Paige Patterson. Paige was asked during a June 24, 2003 press conference following his appointment if he would hire women in the school of theology. He responded that “Dorothy serves on the theology faculty at Southeastern”, and that “ provides somewhat of an answer.” Then he added, “there are ample numbers of men who are well-qualified for those positions.” Patterson said he planned to build the faculty with “God-called men.”

Patterson’s philosophical perspective on the roles of women in theological education prevented him from feeling comfortable about women teaching biblical studies or theology to men. In September of 2003, two months after his appointment as President of Southwestern and a one month before his official inauguration, Paige met privately with all staff and faculty . David Allen, the 2003 chairman of the board of trustees responsible for hiring Dr. Patterson, and who himself would be hired by Patterson in 2004 to serve as dean for the SWBTS School of Theology, said of that private meeting with faculty and staff, "While some speculate about Patterson's compatibility with our faculty, I have high hopes that our excellent faculty will work well with Dr. Patterson."

At that closed door meeting in September 2003, Paige gave personal assurances to faculty that their jobs were safe, regardless of gender. Sheri acknowledges her concern at the time, but after the faculty meeting, and the personal assurance by Dr. Patterson that her job was secure, she relaxed and continued in her commitment to invest her life and service in the school she loved. A few days after Patterson's inauguration, four professors resigned unexpectedly, including Dr. Bruce Corley, however, Klouda placed her focus on serving her school and being loyal to President Patterson and the constituency that hired her.

Sheri is the primary provider for her family due to several illnesses which have plagued her husband over the years. In July of 2003 William and Sheri purchased a home in Arlington, in order to be closer to the seminary so that she could spend more time at the school and with her family than on the highway commuting.

A little over a year after Sheri received the personal assurance that her job was secure, she was called to attend a meeting in June, 2004, where she was informed that she would not be granted tenure because 'she was a woman.' Ironically, Dorothy Patterson was serving as Professor of Theology in Women's Studies, but unlike Sheri, Dorothy 'only taught women’. Though it was often said by Paige and Dorothy that Dorothy worked ‘officially’ under the auspices of the School of Education at Southwestern, she was listed on the school’s web site as teaching in the School of Theology. As of January 2007, Dorothy Patterson’s name continues to be listed on Southwestern’s official web site as teaching in the School of Theology.

In that June, 2004, precisely a year after Patterson had been appointed President of the school, Sheri was told that it was ‘the President’ who would never recommend her for tenure. Why? It had nothing to do with her professional performance or collegiality, but simply her gender. She would not be given tenure by the President, because she was the only female teaching biblical studies in the school of theology, and that was not the proper place for a woman. There were many qualified men that could fill that position and it was the President's desire to replace her. Southwestern would give her two to three years to find another position at a reputable school, but she was to do her best to find another position as quickly as possible.

Sheri was stunned. In her mind she had the job of her dreams. While the issues surrounding tenure do not guarantee that a professor will retain his or her position at an institution, she saw herself as working towards tenure at Southwestern. She had invested her life, her family, and all her energy to be close to the school she loved. There was not one thing she had done to discredit her school. Rather, she was well liked by the students, had been loyal to administration and faculty, and had done her best to bring excellence to the school of theology in evangelical circles.

She was being forced out because she was a woman.

The Dark Ages of 21st Century SBC Life

If one wonders what goes on in the psyche of a man (or woman) who does not believe a woman should teach men Hebrew or teach men to properly exegete the Scripture through the study of the languages, one only has to read the words of Paige and Dorothy Patterson.

On October 25, 2004, just one year after Paige was inaugurated, and four months after Sheri was told to look for another job, Paige Patterson gave an interview with Baptist Press. He addressed the rumors that circulated a year earlier, just prior to his inauguration, that women would not be allowed to take classes with men at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and “the rumor that women would be drummed out of the theology school altogether."

Patterson said he knew at the time that he would have to speak to the rumors one day, “But I sort of enjoyed watching the rumor mill work for a year," the Texas seminary president said. "Every once in awhile I've been known to feed one and watch how far it goes.” {Editorial comment: I am surprised at Paige's confession here and wonder if the content of some of the rumors he 'fed' will one day be revealed.}

According to the October 25, 2004 Baptist Press article entitled 'Women are Treasured by God.' Patterson said he purposefully scheduled a discussion of the issue of women in ministry because others often misrepresent his views on the subject, calling such misrepresentation a “diatribe and lie of the left.” Of the many attempts to explain what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote the passage about the submission and silence of women (I Timothy 2:12), Patterson said, “Oftentimes, the answer of the evangelical world is that a woman cannot serve as a senior pastor.”

”Would somebody please find that in the text?” Paige asked. “It is not in the text. That is not said. There is no mention of occupation in this text at all. This is not a question of occupation. It is a question of an assignment from God, in this case that a woman not be involved in a teaching or ruling capacity over men.” Patterson concluded by saying "It is a prohibition of a woman teaching or ruling over a man . . . ."

There it is. Patterson's narrow interpretation of I Timothy 2:12 says it all and should cause our convention some serious concern. Paige is saying that this verse is not just addressing 'women pastors', but rather no woman shall have 'authority' over a man - period. No woman shall teach a man - period. No woman shall have 'authority' over a man - period. Dr. Klouda needed to be replaced as a professor because she was a woman.

Dr. Klouda was not a pastor of a church. Dr. Klouda was a professor at Southwestern. Dr. Klouda was not performing 'ministerial' services and was not 'ordained' or 'licensed' as a pastor. Dr. Klouda had been trained to teach Hebrew; in fact, Dr. Klouda had been trained to teach Hebrew at Southwestern Theological Seminary. Dr. Klouda was unanimously voted to be professor of Hebrew by the trustees of Southwestern in 2002. It cannot be argued that the institution had religious convictions that a woman cannot teach men - the institution's ultimate authority (the trustees) hired Dr. Klouda. It cannot be argued that the institution had religious convictions against a woman being in a position of 'authority' over a man -the institution's ultimate authority hired Dr. Klouda.

It can be argued that, in violation of federal law, Dr. Klouda was discriminated against because of gender.

It is critical to understand that Dr. Patterson replaced Sheri Klouda with a male on the basis of an interpretative application of I Timothy 2:12 which, according to Patterson himself, goes far beyond a prohibition of women pastors. According to his rigid and narrow understanding of this Pauline text, Patterson believes that it is God's will for a woman to not serve in any position of ‘authority’ over a man. Understanding his thinking answers several questions that have been raised in my own mind over the last two years:

(1). Why would Keith Eitel and Paige Patterson write a 'White Paper' and 'cover letter' respectively, taking to task the International Mission Board for women serving overseas as strategy coordinators with the International Mission Board?

(2). Why would the North American Mission Board no longer endorse women as military chaplains, particularly when the military is facing a shortage of women chaplains for ministry to women soldiers?

(3). Why would Dorothy Patterson only 'teach' women in Southwestern's School of Theology?

(4). Why would trustees serving any Southern Baptist Convention agency have a problem with a competent administrator of an SBC agency simply because she was a woman?

(5).Why would Dr. Sheri Klouda, one of the finest Hebrew professors our convention has ever produced, be forced out due to her gender?

Dr. Patterson closes out his October 2004 interview by giving us a concise answer to the above questions: “Ladies, the highest and noblest calling of God is mother and grandmother. Write it in bold letters with a big magic marker . . . (even) though it runs counter to an American culture that drives women to succeed in business and other endeavors."

Obviously, there are many of us who would oppose any philosophy that minimizes and marginalizes the role of women far beyond that of pastor in a local church, but when people in our convention are hurt by the application of that philosophy, then it is time for us to do something.

The Law of Christ and the Law of the Land

Sheri Klouda did not want to leave her job at Southwestern Theological Seminary. She had outstanding job performance evaluations, a student body that appreciated her, and an academic world that respected her. She was at the job of her dreams. Her family established themselves in Arlington, and her daughter was active in high school there. Dr. Klouda was focused on giving her best efforts to the service of the school. When she was told that she would not be given tenure because she 'was a woman' in a man's position, she was troubled. Her confidence in the adminstration was shaken. She and her family operated under the assurances of Dr. Patterson, given in September, 2003, and as a result took on the responsibilities of a more expensive home in order to be closer to the seminary, relying on her hospital benefits to meet William’s medical needs.

Through a series of broken promises that eventually led to Patterson quietly not assigning her teaching responsibilities for the fall of 2006 because of her gender, and then seeking to terminate her contract and benefits in December by 2006 (the middle of an academic cycle, and the worst possible time for an academician to find a job), this popular Hebrew professor found herself being phased out. Only because of the prestigious Lilly grant, which required seminary support of Dr. Klouda’s research, Paige agreed to find a way to pay Sheri until the spring of 2007. However, in the summer of 2006, Sheri was graciously elected to a professorship at Taylor University in Indiana, where she is appreciated for her work and for the contributions she is making to the academic community there.

The Klouda's house has not yet sold the Fort Worth metroplex, causing unnecessary hardship for the family, since the salary levels for professors differ greatly among institutions. When asked why she said nothing about her situation in 2004 when she was told she would have to leave because of her gender, she said she did not want to jeopardize her family by saying something that would cause the seminary to sever her salary while she was looking for a new job. In addition, she did not want to bring reproach on the seminary or on those who had effected her appointment to the faculty, hoping to make a quiet transition without publicity and conflict. Her husband's health has not improved, and he is currently having difficulty finding regular work in central Indiana, an area known for its economic struggles in recent years.

Our church has helped the Kloudas from our benevolence fund and I have personally given money to help support them. However, this post is not designed to draw out sympathy for the Kloudas. Sheri herself speaks highly of God's providence, and though she struggles to, she has expressed to me her solid belief that God is gracious and that he will bless her in whatever place of service she finds herself.

What bothers me is the extraordinarily restrictive views of certain leaders in our convention regarding women. This is not about 'being a pastor’' of a church. This is not a BFM 2000 issue. This is all about the belief among some that women should not have authority over men, whether it be in the home, the church, a business, or society in general.

The United States federal law forbids discrimination of employment based upon gender:


SEC. 2000e-2. [Section 703]

(a) It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer -

(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or

(2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

It is argued that churches and religious institutions do not follow under the authority of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines (EEOC), but my good friend, Gary Richardson has given me some great counsel in the past regarding the law and Christians. He told me that every good principle that forms the basis for government protecting her citizens is a principle that can be found in the Word of God.

For our convention to treat in such a poor and humiliating manner a Christian who is as gifted and competent as Sheri Klouda – just because she is a woman- is a very poor witness to the love of Christ in us, a sense of His justice over us, and an appreciation of the equality He brings to us all.

If there is not a change in the way we as the Southern Baptist Convention view, treat, and appreciate women, there will be more lights that go out in our beloved convention than the shining luminary known as Sheri Klouda.

For those who say, “But Scripture demands that ‘a woman should not teach or have authority over a man’!” (I Timothy 2:12), I would respond that I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture as much as anyone, and that word ‘authority’ is used just this once in Scripture. A clear meaning cannot be found in any place where Greek is used. It is not in the Septuagint, nor in classical Greek, nor any other literature of the day.

Some have surmised the only way to understand is as a slang word used to describe how the priestesses of the Temple of Diana tried to control and dominate men in that particular mystery religion popular in Ephesus. Could it be that some of those women were converted but were having problems staying away from the habit of using their sexuality and feminine charm to manipulate men, just as the people in Corinth were having a problem staying away from drunkeness which was part of the worship of Aphrodite in their mystery religion? Whatever the case, to interpret that text to teach that a woman cannot teach Hebrew or theology to a man, but at the same time grant doctorates to women in theology and the languages is at best illogical, and at worst chauvanisitc.

For those who say it is nobody’s business what goes on among the faculty of Southwestern, I would gently disagree. This is a Southern Baptist institution, and it is our duty to insure that things are done ethically, judicially, and biblically. The poor treatment of Sheri Klouda leads us to ask several pertinent questions regarding the direction of Southwestern and the Southern Baptist Convention as a whole.

(1). First, will our Southern Baptist seminaries eventually move to bar women from obtaining theological and doctoral degrees? If not, then why would an institution confer a doctorate in theology or the languages but at the same time forbid that woman from being hired in the professional jobs that require such a doctorate.

(2). Why would trustees unanimously hire a woman professor of Hebrew, affirm administration’s excellent job reviews of her, only to then allow her to be dismissed for being a woman? Does no SWBTS trustee comprehend that nothing changed but the President of their institution and his differing views of women?

(3). Do we really desire for just a few to dictate and determine policy that affects people throughout the entire Southern Baptist Convention, including some of the brightest missionaries and educators in our convention, particularly when the interpretive view that excludes people from service far exceeds the BFM 2000?

(4). Is there a conflict of interest when the chairman of the board of trustees, David Alan, adamantly supports Dr. Klouda’s hiring, but then just a year later, as an employee of that same institution, find himself being in a position where he could not object to her removal because of her gender? Or more precisely, how can an institution make decisions that place our convention in possible violation of federal law and nobody say anything?

(5). If someone says, “It is the President’s prerogative to do as he pleases,” then the question becomes, “Do trustees, administrative employees, and others not have the courage to speak out regarding an unjust action?”

The treatment of Dr. Klouda is indefensible biblically, ethically and morally.

I emailed Paige Patterson and Sheri Klouda prior to this posting to alert them and give them an opportunity to respond if they desired. Sheri Klouda preferred not to go on the record. I did not hear from Paige via email so I called Paige before this post went up to speak with him personally. He has not returned my call. I have gone to great lengths to insure that every fact in this post is accurate.

This post will be taken by some as a strike against Dr. Patterson's. It is not. I hope this post is a very strong rebuke against the belief by some in our convention regarding women. The unbiblical, narrow and unjust view of women is at the heart of what I believe to be a growing problem in our convention is putting us all in danger. I will do my best to convince everyone that the continued minimization and marginalization of women is detrimental to the SBC. I repeat: this issue is not about women pastors. It is about spreading a distorted view of women, allegedly based upon Scripture, but contradictory to the true meaning of God's word, not to mention the spirit and power of the New Covenant established by Christ Himself.

It would be consistent with a publicly confessed propensity for feeding rumors that false things might be said about Dr. Klouda in order to justify her removal from Southwestern for reasons other than gender, but those who know Dr. Klouda recognize the foolishness of taking such an approach. In fact, true Christians will seek to address the issues raised through the treatment of Dr. Klouda rather than attack the characters of those involved.

I am grateful for Paige Patterson and his contributions to Southern Baptists. I gladly call him my brother in Christ and I desire nothing but the Lord's blessings upon him. My love for Dr. Patterson, however, does not negate my desire to correct a very distorted view of women that places our agencies in general, and Southwestern Theological Seminary specifically, in grave jeopardy both morally and legally.

I close with the words of Sheri Klouda herself:

"Abraham's willingness to relinquish Isaac expresses his dependence on the Lord himself, not just on the divine promise alone. Abraham recognizes his son Isaac as a gift ultimately belonging to God, and the fulfillment of the Lord's covenant promises as a privilege, not a right." A. Boyd Luter and Sheri L. Klouda, "Isaac," DOTP 448.

Our convention belongs to God. It's time we gave it back to Him.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson