SWBTS Dean David Allen helping train women preachers

If ever there were signs that Southwestern Seminary is under new leadership with a new commitment to train women for ministry apart from the school’s joke-worthy homemaking concentration, this is it.

Dr. David Allen, dean of the preaching school and the former trustee chairman who engineered Sheri Klouda’s hiring at the same time Interim President Jeffrey Bingham was originally brought on board, helped train female preachers in the art of sermon preparation during this years’ E.K. Bailey Preaching Conference:

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(Note: SWBTS Provost Craig Blaising “liked” this one.)

Specifically, Allen led a workshop during the 2018 session in Dallas, TX, on the subject of “Preaching Romans 5 – 7.” From the image posted on the SWBTS Twitter, it seems that there are at least 6 women sitting front-and-center participating in Allen’s workshop on sermon preparation. Best we can tell, nobody from the Southwestern Homemaking Program was invited to lead a session at this year’s conference.

In fact, there’s no trace of the seminary’s “women’s studies” faculty ever participating in any session during the now decades-old conference.

Not only is this a great indication that Southwestern Seminary could be moving toward a more affirming and sensible posture when it comes to women in ministry, the seminary dean’s participation further underscores the institution’s commitment to interracial dialogue and ministry endeavor. A review of the conference highlight video reveals how well-received Allen’s panel participation was by his fellow session leaders.

No doubt, the entire Southern Baptist Convention is simultaneously awakening to the need for a more text-driven theology of women’s ministry roles and a more text-driven priority on racial diversity in Kingdom leadership. The trend toward a more intentional inclusion of women and ethnic minorities is evident, and long overdue.

Or put more succinctly: Twenty years ago, could you have ever imagined a Southern Baptist Convention where women are unanimously elected to serve as trustee chairpersons or a major seminary dean is teaching women alongside men in the art of sermon preparation and delivery? Even ten years ago? Five?

Can you think of a time when there was open, honest conversation about electing a woman to serve as convention president?

Clearly, this isn’t Paige Patterson’s convention any more.

But we should also be thankful this isn’t Randall Lolley’s convention any more either.

Just last week while doing some research at Southeastern Seminary for my upcoming book project, I spent several hours going through the seminary’s publicly-available archives. While going through a boxed file in the Kaemmerling Collection, I ran across a copy of a 1983 order of worship from Southeastern’s chapel.

(Credit: Archives and Special Collections, Library at Southeastern, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC.)

Without necessary reforms, the SBC could well have become a place where Jesus is hailed as a “feminist,” men were called to “discard” their “masculine role,” and liturgical readings from Sistercelebrations were commonplace.

But the Doctors Patterson pushed the pendulum too far in the opposite direction, making the convention into a place where men had to “prove” their “manliness,” female rape victims are “broken down,” and seminary curriculum includes graduate courses in cookie baking and campfire building.

Come to think of it, the only redeeming thing about the bizarre epoch of Pattersonian androcentricity is that fewer and fewer students were enrolling at Southwestern with each passing year.

The Baptist Blogger welcomes the idea that Dean David Allen is returning to his earlier, more biblically perspicacious theology of women in ministry. His willingness to teach women alongside men in a room where white men are the minority is promising indeed.

The Patterson era is fast being recognized for what it was — a momentary, yet destructive crunch of parameters. Indeed, it has ended not a day too soon, and almost too late. The seminary is now returning to its traditional, confessional, and biblical position.

As someone has wisely said, “Blessed are the balanced.”