The defenseless and inequitable employment practices of Leighton Paige Patterson…

When it comes to hiring seminary faculty, Paige Patterson weighs with uneven scales. Wade Burleson’s exposure of the Sheri Klouda incident has provided the occasion to question whether or not the Southwestern seminary administration under Patterson’s leadership may restore the confidence of Southern Baptists in the Fort Worth school.

The firing of Sheri Klouda is now well known. The facts surrounding her election continue to be concealed in an administrative cover-up that keeps seminary trustees from viewing the minutes of earlier trustee meetings. So far, all Southern Baptists have is the testimony of Sheri Klouda on the matter, and the early comments by trustee chairman Van McClain. Their testimonies do not harmonize, and the seminary’s silence frustrates any acceptable adjudication of her case.

Until such time as either (1) a lawsuit is filed and a judgment is rendered; (2) Paige Patterson breaks his silence and explains his actions; or (3) the seminary trustees proffer a full report on the matter, the issue will not go away. Much has been written about the case, and more is sure to follow. This blog, however, will raise a different set of questions about the inequitable and peculiar employment practices of Paige Patterson.

So far, the only reason that Southern Baptists have been given for Sheri Klouda’s dismissal is that her gender did not satisfactorily reflect the administration’s programme of theological education. The argument goes as follows:

1. The majority of Southern Baptist Convention member churches do not recognize women to serve in authoritative ecclesial teaching roles.
2. Because of this limitation on women’s roles in the local church, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 to codify a confession regarding women’s roles excluding them from service in the office of pastor-teacher.
3. Those Southern Baptist churches expect their seminaries to reflect the practices and beliefs common to the majority of Southern Baptists.
4. The academy of theological education, therefore, is to train pastors in an environment consistent with a paradigm for local church ministry in which women are forbidden to teach men.
5. The purpose of the school of theology is to train pastors who will lead Southern Baptist churches.
6. Women, who are excluded from teaching ministry to men in the majority of local Southern Baptist churches, ought also be excluded from teaching men in the seminary context.

This logic, of course, raises another set of questions:

1. Are women allowed to serve as church planters in the context of Southern Baptist missionary enterprises?
2. If women are allowed to serve as missionary church planters, what differences can be found between the role of local church pastor and local church planter?
3. If it is true that Southern Baptists are uncomfortable with women teaching men who will become pastors, does Paige Patterson intend to keep Dr. Rebekah Naylor, the missionary daughter of former president Dr. Robert Naylor, from teaching in the Roy Fish School of Evangelism & Missions?
4. If women are not to be tolerated in roles that require their teaching men biblical truth, will the Bible be removed from the classes of Drs. Margaret Lawson, Terri Stovall, Karen Kennemur, Marcia McQuitty, Esther Diaz-Bolet, and Dana Wicker?
5. If women are not to teach men the Bible, should women be teaching men how to teach the Bible in courses offered in the School of Educational Ministries?

The major premise behind the rationale excluding women from teaching men at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is that they are disqualified by 1 Timothy 2:11-12 and 3:1-7. These texts allow for only men to occupy teaching offices in the church, and by extension the seminary classroom, according to Paige Patterson and whatever faculty member he can find to write the next white paper justifying this, the latest attempt to force his narrow, idiosyncratic view upon Southern Baptists.

But there are more reasons than gender that could possibly disqualify a person from teaching at Southwestern Seminary. In fact, 1 Timothy 3 speaks a great deal about the qualifications for pastoral leaders. Logical consistency demands that Paige Patterson would apply the full scope of qualifying tests to his prospective faculty members.

In other words, candidates for faculty appointment and/or election should be “able to teach, not given to drunkenness, and not quarrelsome.” They must be able to manage their own households well, having children who obey him in proper respect. They must not be recent converts, which could be stretched to mean that they shouldn’t be recent Baptists; and they must not be lovers of money.

Men whom Paige Patterson would hire to teach his young preachers must meet this heightened criteria for pastoral office if the seminary’s president is to be credited with the faintest hint of intellectual honesty or administrative consistency.

Sadly, this has not been the case.

Van McClain, the trustee chairman, has alleged that the trustees loosened the seminary’s parameters to hire a professor, Sheri Klouda, who does not meet the qualifications set out in the Pauline epistles. But in 2004, the same year that Professor Klouda was told to begin circulating her resume, Paige Patterson tried to hire another professor to teach in the School of Theology who was anything but qualified.

So disqualified was he for pastoral office, that his church asked him to leave his post. And I say that Paige “tried to hire” him, because if it had not been for careful trustee oversight – contrary to Van McClain’s allegation of lax oversight – Southwestern Seminary would find itself in an even more awkward position of hiring and retaining one professor who was clearly disqualified from pastoral office, while terminating another.

To ask the question more succinctly, why was Paige Patterson so careful to exclude a woman from teaching future pastors, and not concerned about hiring an embezzler and potential felon the very same year?

To be continued tomorrow…with documentation..