The second letter…

January 25, 2006

Dr. Jimmy Dukes, Dean
Extension Center System
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
3939 Gentilly Blvd.
New Orleans, LA 70126

Dear Dr. Dukes:

While I regret that the nature of my letter concerns your role as chairman of the Commission on Accrediting for the Association of Theological Schools, I first wish to thank you for your faithful service to Southern Baptists, in particular, during these difficult days at New Orleans Seminary following the Katrina disaster. You have a long and honored tenure of service at New Orleans, serving under both Drs. Landrum Leavell and Chuck Kelley, and I am confident that your distinguished career has well suited you to address the issues which this notice of complaint raises.

I submit to you this letter of official complaint against one of the member institutions accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, and I am forwarding this letter to the members of the Commission on Accrediting for their review. Officially, I am still a student of record at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, though circumstances unrelated to this immediate complaint but consistent with a potential trend of accrediting violations has caused me to suspend the pursuit of any degree from the Fort Worth seminary and pursue doctoral candidacy at another institution.

I am requesting that you investigate what appears to be a serious breach of the accreditation guidelines for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX. Should the commission determine that such a breach has occurred, I hereby request that you undertake any and all means necessary to bring Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary back in line with the accreditation guidelines of the Association of Theological Schools.

Below are the facts that warrant investigation by the Commission on Colleges:

  • During the April 8-10, 2002, Trustee Meeting of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, TX, seminary trustees approved the election of Dr. Sheri Klouda as a tenure-track professor to teach biblical languages in the seminary’s theology school. Dr. Klouda is a graduate of the Criswell College in Dallas, TX, holding both the B.A. and the M.A. with honors. She received her Ph.D. in Old Testament from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary later that Spring. I have attached to this letter Dr. Klouda’s Curriculum Vitae as Appendix A.
  • Dr. Klouda was elected with the status of assistant professor.The Policy Manual of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Section VII, page 30, defines an assistant professor as “a teacher who holds a doctor’s degree or its equivalent in professional experience in the field of instruction and who has shown evidence of special ability as a teacher and scholar.” I have attached to this letter the entirety of Section VII as Appendix B.
  • As a tenure-track professor in the school of theology, Dr. Klouda was guaranteed a clearly-defined process of tenure review. Section Ten of the seminary’s Policy Manual defines the process of tenure review, which I have attached to this letter as Appendix C.
  • All pronominal language in the Policy Manual is careful to reflect the gender diversity of faculty status and the equity of tenure review for both male and female professors at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
  • The Policy Manual makes no gender distinction between the various schools of music, evangelism, theology, and educational ministries relevant to the selection of tenure-track faculty.
  • Dr. Sheri Klouda, subsequent to her election as a tenure-track assistant professor, was informed by the seminary administration that she would be ineligible for tenure review because of her gender. I have attached as Appendix D several news articles substantiating this claim, including statement from both Dr. Klouda and the trustee chairman, Dr. Van McClain.
  • Considerable evidence exists that Dr. Sheri Klouda was denied the process of tenure review outlined in the Policy Manual, and that she was denied the process on the basis of unenumerated criteria and gender bias, which constitutes a violation of the tenure policy guidelines adopted by the seminary trustees and governing the institution.

I am available to you should you require further information to substantiate an accreditation review of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, an institution which has already, in the recent past, faced investigations and citations for its failure to meet accreditation guidelines as required by the Association of Theological Schools.

Should you feel the necessity to recuse yourself from this investigation on account of potential conflicts of interest due to your service at Southwestern’s sister seminary and the fact that your seminary president is the brother-in-law of Southwestern’s president, I will fully understand.

Thank you for your diligence. The solvency of accrediting agencies such as the Association of Theological Schools is further assured by your expedience and thoroughness in this matter.




CC: Susan E. Davies

Bangor Theological Seminary

Bangor, ME

Wendy Fletcher

Vancouver School of Theology

Vancouver, BC

Paul Rajashekar

Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia

Philadelphia, PA

Anne T. Anderson

University of St. Michael’s College

Toronto, ON

David E. Draper

Winebrenner Theological Seminary

Findlay, OH

Gary Riebe-Estrella

Catholic Theological Union

Chicago, IL

Mark R. Ramseth

Trinity Lutheran Seminary

Columbus, OH

Mary Ann Donovan

Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley

Berkeley, CA

David Esterline

McCormick Theological Seminary

Chicago, IL

Melody Mazuk

Palmer Theological Seminary

Wynnewood, PA

Barbara Mutch

Carey Theological College

Vancouver, BC

Kevin LaGree

Pastor, First United Methodist Church

Des Moines, IA

Gordon Smith

Overseas Council Canada

Mayne, BC

Hillary Gaston Sr.

Philadelphia Baptist Association

Philadelphia, PA

5 thoughts on “The second letter…

  1. Anybody wanna guess how long it takes for me to get a letter that my inactive student status at SWBTS has been suspended permanently?

    Twenty bucks says two weeks.

  2. There is only a grudging tolerance for accrediting agencies. We would like to have the approval of the “world” on one level. But if it came down to it, we would certainly disdain their approval, convincing ourselves that we are to “obey God, not men.”

    They will likely be told to drop dead–with all piety–if it comes to it.

    A lot turns on whether or not a Seminary is a church, or an “integrated auxiliary” of the church, whether for tax (IRS) or accreditation purposes. If it is an institution, without church-like authority to those who are it’s “members” (students, faculty, staff), then 1 Timothy doesn’t properly apply.

    Regardless, due process wasn’t followed in Sheri’s case. Process is important. If the Seminary violates it’s own rules…. Worse, if the President repeatedly over the years flaunts his institutions’ rules–jerking the leash of faculty and staff to remind everyone that “I’m in charge here”–while the Trustees go MIA or turn a blind eye, accrediting agency action is warranted.

    What is the shame is that we find it necessary to appeal to “secular courts,” as it were, for justice on behalf of the oppressed. Lest anyone think that 1 Cor 5 is somehow being violated, remember that the seminaries voluntarily apply for accreditation, and agree in advance to submit to discipline or probation.

    Thanks, Ben, for “calling for the question….” It has lingered in the air for two long and we should have answered it long ago. If a real investigation does ensue, the agencies ought to put forth a general call: “Are there any other cases like this, or is it an isolated incident?” Methinks there is a pattern, and you never know how many Sheri’s might pop up from the past.

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