Compromised Complementarians Repent!

Written by Father Bill 15 Comments

Patterson presiding over a faculty where women train men to be pastors.On January 19, 2007, the Dallas Morning News reported what was already spreading merrily through the blogosphere.  I could cite the facts from many such sources, but will confine my citations to this news source, which gave the central facts as these:

Conservative Southern Baptists are fighting again, this time over whether women should be able to teach men in seminary theology programs.  They agree that the role of pastor is reserved for men, based on a verse in 1 Timothy in which the Apostle Paul says, “I permit no woman to teach or have authority over a man.”

But some conservatives say Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, under president Paige Patterson, wrongly applied the verse to remove from its faculty Sheri Klouda, who until last year had been teaching men Hebrew in the seminary’s school of theology.

The print and digital media had a nice time with this, mostly by way of painting the seminary and its president and officers as theological Neanderthals, and the dismissed female Hebrew professor as yet another victim of The Patriarchy.

Now that the chattering classes have moved on to something else, I offer the following reflections.

Women Training Pastors?

This is de rigueur these days, but it has not been so until the feminists consolidated their reign over the academy about 30 years ago.  Before that, Protestantism generally consigned the training of their pastors to the academy.  So, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary was unremarkable in having a woman on its pastor-training faculty. 

The truly remarkable thing was her presence on the faculty while the seminary, its president, and its Board all confess, teach, and defend the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, which contains within it the prohibition of what the Seminary was, in fact, doing – setting a woman to teach men on a theological faculty, particularly a theological faculty whose purpose is to train men for congregational leadership.  That sort of thing is usually called hypocrisy.

Why was this state of affairs not newsworthy?  I guess we’ll have to keep wondering.

Repenting from Hypocrisy

Was it news that the seminary, its president and Board, repented of hypocrisy?  Almost.  You see, they did change their minds (the essence of repentance) about the propriety of the female professor’s labors in that setting.  What made it all so newsworthy, of course, is the feminist-victim angle.  The press (another bastion of feminism) loves that sort of thing , as do those religious feminists who infect almost every corner of the religious academy. 

So, the story got reported like this:  “Woman victimized by Chauvinist Patriarchalists!”  The true story should be this:  “Compromised Complementarians Repent!  Dismiss Woman from Theological Faculty!”

I have no doubt that the whole episode is one Dr. Patterson and his Board would rather not have had to deal with.  In their favor, the victimized female was hired under the administration of Patterson’s predecessor.  But, no matter where the leadership for bringing the seminary’s words and works into congruence originated,  Patterson and the Board did the right thing:  they decided to walk the walk that comports with the talk.  On the contemporary scene, that’s rare, whether in the church or outside it.

Cherry-picking Baptists

Once the conflict between the seminary’s profession and its deeds was cleared up (in this area, at least), a commenter at the Dallas Morning News religion blog decided to level a different charge, providing a fascinating admission in the process:

I am a Baptist with a woman Sunday school teacher and she is fabulous. There are hundreds of women teaching men in hundreds of Baptist churches. So why make a big deal about a woman doing the same thing in a seminary?

If Paul’s instructions to Timothy are to be considered to be on the same level as God’s Ten Commandants, then ALL of Paul’s instructions should be followed: such as 2:9 which says that women should not braid their hair, wear gold or pearls or expensive clothes. And how about 2:15 when he says that women can ONLY be saved by having children! does this mean that my wife is going to hell? And what about 5:23 when he tells the deacons to drink wine!! 

We Baptists, and many other denominations, are practicing the pick and choose approach when it comes to our religious practices.

How refreshing!  I’m currently checking with the president of a flagship evangelical seminary in Dallas, to see if its talk comports with its walk, but while I await a response, I’ll congratulate this commenter on his candor. 

Of course, he is a virtually anonymous layman, so he can say such things and not suffer any consequences from indignant complementarian alumni.  Still, I suspect his cherry-picking approach to the Christian faith is pretty well dispersed among Baptists and evangelicals generally.  Cherry-picking is, of course, the standard hermeneutic for main-line Protestants of all varieties. 

Patterson after correcting the seminary’s compromised complementarianism.But, when recognizing a choice of remaining compromised or repenting, the Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth showed real integrity to the public, its alumni and other constituency, and to the LORD by correcting the mistake, even in the face of certain censure from the chattering classes. 

By the way, you may hear the sneering report that Dr. Patterson’s wife is still on the faculty at the seminary.  This is true, of course.  What you are usually never told is that she does not have any male students.


15 Comments

  1. Kamilla   |  Saturday, 03 February 2007 at 8:17 pm

    Hello Fr. Bill,

    Thanks for the update. I did see one of those sneering comments on another website. I strongly suspected that Mrs. Patterson didn’t teach men on campus, but didn’t have a sure enough source to counter the comment at the time.

    I guess we should applaud complementarian consistency where we find it. But for myself, I’ll retain my applause until the SBC ceases having its seasonal offerings honoring Lottie Moon and Annie Arnmstrong for doing on the mission field what it now prohibits women from doing in its churches and seminaries. To honor these women for doing things they now prohibit is nothing short of racism.

    Kamilla

  2. Fr. Bill   |  Saturday, 03 February 2007 at 8:38 pm

    I’ll retain my applause until the SBC ceases having its seasonal offerings honoring Lottie Moon and Annie Arnmstrong for doing on the mission field what it now prohibits women from doing in its churches and seminaries.

    Hi, Kamilla,

    Well, maybe there’s hope for that, but it’ll take more than Paige Patterson working from his seminary office to accomplish what you suggest.

    You raise an interesting (to me) issue, though. I’m happy to honor Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong for doing what they did, so long as it was done with integrity. Honestly, I don’t know the salient facts here; but, I can at least conceive a situation where their “fault” is significantl ameliorated by ignorance, misunderstanding, and/or suborning by those who knew better (or, should have).

    In the case of the seminary prof, so far as I know no one is questioning her competence (which evidently is very high), or her Christian character. She prepared and performed her duties in good faith, if we’re going to credit the news reports. Her difficulties arise from the mistakes of others on whose word and leadership she relied. The end of this tale is not told, and we may never know it until the Judgment.

    I laughed out loud when you brought up Lottie and Annie, though. I often mention them (from vibrant memories of vacation Bible school at First Baptist Church in the middle of the Mojave Desert) when discussing “gender issues” with those who share my Baptist roots. But, when I mention them, it is to poke gently at a Baptist prejudice I recall from those days, one against Jesus’ Mother.

    There’s very little likelihood that Baptists will ever honor Mary as in the manner of non-Baptist communions. But, they would reduce their reputation for cherry-picking if they could figure out a way to honor the Virgin Mary at least as much as they honor Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong.

  3. Kamilla   |  Saturday, 03 February 2007 at 8:46 pm

    Agreed as to your last point!

    And, to be fair, I understand they are developing a more consistent application of complementarian principles in their current mission field policies.

    I am just not sure one can consistently apply complementarian principles without descending into a sort of reductio ad absurdum limbo. Where do we draw the line? Is a pastor allowed to read, for instance, Ann Graham Lotz, but not be taught by her in person? What do we do with a latter-day Huldah? I’m not sure complementarians have figured it all out.

    Should be interesting to watch, though.

    Kamilla

  4. Andrew McIntyre   |  Sunday, 04 February 2007 at 8:01 pm

    Father Bill,

    I love your wit and sarcasm. It is biting, yet subtle. If nothing else, modern feminism gives us good fodder for comedic reflection and a just plain good chuckle. Boo silly feminism…hooray repentance, even of the Baptist variety.

    Andrew
    http://www.deadmensvoices.blogspot.com
    http://www.mcintyrestavern.blogspot.com

  5. Michael   |  Monday, 05 February 2007 at 2:49 pm

    > Wade Burleson, an Oklahoma pastor and leader of dissident conservatives…

    Are the so-called ‘moderates’ calling themselves “dissident conservatives” now? Or are the conservatives becoming so-called ‘moderates’?

    > Dr. Klouda said she was never given any reason other than her gender for not having her contract renewed.

    What’ll seminaries do when a transgendered individual wants to teach men theology? (We have all these males trapped in female bodies who need operations to attain their true identity, you know…)

    > But Mr. Burleson said Southwestern had gone too far in decreeing that women shouldn’t be involved in the theological education of male pastors-in-training.

    It is very wierd that he thinks it is fine for women to teach a whole class of men how to be pastors. Seems worse than having them teach a mixed SS class of lay people to me.

    > “Sheri Klouda is not a pastor, she has not been ordained or licensed, she does not perform ministerial duties.

    Now, where it is that Paul allows women teaching men as long as they don’t have a licence? That is even sillier! We project our modern system of professional preachers back on him (for the purpose of ignoring the intent of what he said).

    > “What bothers me is the extraordinarily restrictive views of certain leaders in our convention regarding women,” he wrote on his blog.

    So, what’s conservative about this dissident guy? He makes it sound like sticking to the historical norm is all of a sudden a great travesty of justice. Women weren’t teaching men in the early great seminaries in this country or anywhere. And that went beyond just theology and biblical languages, too.

    > “I am a Baptist with a woman Sunday school teacher and she is fabulous. …So why make a big deal about a woman doing the same thing in a seminary?

    She may be fabulous, but she’s not doing a very good job of teaching theology, then, or this guy would know what the problem was.

    > “And how about 2:15 when he says that women can ONLY be saved by having children! does this mean that my wife is going to hell?”

    Lame, real lame. Typical full-blown post-modern egal dismissiveness.

    > “And what about 5:23 when he tells the deacons to drink wine!!”

    I though that was part of communion?

    > [Dr. Merrill, DTS “a conservative evangelical seminary”] believes [1 Timothy] shouldn’t [keep women from teaching men training to be pastors], arguing that Paul was speaking about the local church, “not the broader academy, which didn’t exist in Paul’s time.”

    This is more of that illogical minimalist interpretation again. Just because there wasn’t something in Paul’s day (academia, in this case) means we can do what we want? Surely Paul wouldn’t have approved of women teaching Hebrew to boys (they weren’t even men) in the synagogue! And since they didn’t have what is known as Sunday School classes in Paul’s day, then women should be able to teach men there, right? He wasn’t referring to that, obviously, since it didn’t exist. Those female Sunday School teachers aren’t preaching — they are just following through the standard lesson book, which was written by a man. They’re only facilitating, not teaching.

    Is a seminary to be considered unrelated to the “local” church, where these future pastors will serve? The issue again seems to be one of pragmatism in giving out degrees and pleasing men (gifted women).

    > “This strikes a chord in the hearts of all Southern Baptists.”

    All? Let’s hope not.

    > [Fr. Bill:] Dr. Patterson’s wife …does not have any male students.

    I wonder if there is any restriction as to what women can get degrees in or classes they can take at Southwestern? Or does the seminary just give degrees to whoever shows up with the money, and expect the “local churches” to sort it all out, since that’s all Paul was really talking about?

    –Michael

  6. Fr. Bill   |  Monday, 05 February 2007 at 3:05 pm

    Hi, Michael,

    Both you and Kamilla have pointed to issues that will provide me blog fodder for weeks (assuming I can carve out the time to write them!).

    Fr. B

  7. Stenides   |  Tuesday, 06 February 2007 at 11:09 pm

    “In the case of the seminary prof, so far as I know no one is questioning her competence (which evidently is very high), or her Christian character. She prepared and performed her duties in good faith, if we’re going to credit the news reports. Her difficulties arise from the mistakes of others on whose word and leadership she relied.”

    All in all, a good result.

    The woman, who was highly competent, has proceeded to another institution who appreciates her talents and will hopefully treat her more honorably than the chivalrous males of Complementarianland.

    Dr. Patterson has distinguished the complementarian cause and his institution by firing an employee who was hired in good faith and executed her job well.

    Whether he agrees with his predecessor’s choices or not, he was responsible for treating the employees he inherited with decency and fair practice. Even the heathens do that, which is why they’re so disgusted by this story.

    I love it when this stuff happens, because it is a warning to women that complementarians are more attached to their idea than they are to treating other Christians with any semblance of fairness or respect.

  8. More Egalitarian Flummery « Faith and Gender   |  Wednesday, 07 February 2007 at 1:12 pm

    Fr. Bill responds to Stenides’ comment via a separate top-level blog entitled “More Egalitarian Flummery.”

  9. Michael   |  Wednesday, 07 February 2007 at 4:35 pm

    > [Fr. Bill:] This is not fair practice? This is not
    > chivalrous? Heathens treat people they dismiss
    > better than this? More flummery.

    Yes, Southwestern went “above and beyond,” it sounds like. Never enough for the quarrelsome feminist, though.

    > [Stenides:] I love it when this stuff happens,
    > because it is a warning to women that
    > complementarians are more attached to their
    > idea…

    *their* idea? It is not THEIR idea that comps are “attached to.” The egals are arguing with the Word of God. We are supposed to fear God and not men — or Sheri Klouda and pious-sounding feminists. This person’s reasoning has no biblical rationale behind it whatsoever. Another casualty of post-modernism, I suspect. It is so clear, I wonder why they don’t see what they are doing? They argue for whatever seems right in their own eyes.

    > …than they are to treating other Christians with
    > any semblance of fairness or respect.

    > To which [Fr. Bill] respond[s], I love it when
    > egalitarians like Stenides write things like this,
    > because it is an example of how egalitarians love
    > to run rough-shod over the facts, over any
    > reasonable interpretation of the facts,

    …and love to turn perfectly legitimate facts into something unreasonable…

    They are never satisfied, no matter how gingerly the touchy situation is handled, and are always looking to lay blame. It’s what they need to justify themselves, since Scripture doesn’t affirm them.

    Oddly, they expect us to recognize their beliefs as a possible, legitimate interpretation of Scripture (‘Since this is such a minor issue of the faith, after all’), and validate them as “brothers and sisters” with a little different viewpoint, while not giving the slightest bit of recognition to comps being allowed to oversee their realms of influence in a responsible manner according to the dictates of their beliefs. To hear them talk, Sheri Klouda was tarred, feathered and run out of town on a rail.

    In this regard, let’s not leave out Jesus whipping out the money-changers. Couldn’t he have just asked them politely to leave? …told them their contract wasn’t going to be renewed (like the seminary did)? The egals even gripe about the polite approach, since the end result was that a woman had change jobs. This is why women shouldn’t lead. Constantly being fixated on being “nice and fair” is contrary to preserving sound doctrine. We are sufficiently warned of all the false teaching we can expect to have to strongly refute.

    > …and especially how they value their own
    > offended sensibilities over the guidance of the
    > Holy Spirit in Scripture.

    That is definitely one of the hallmarks of egalitarianism — “Unfair!” “They’re mean!” “We’ve been victimized!” It always sounds like “Chicken Little” reporting on the weather. They should read Paul more carefully. Isn’t he the one who told the Galatians he wished the Judaizers would castrate themselves? That wasn’t very “loving/nice.” Why don’t they call him mean, nasty, unfair, indecent and disrespectful, worse than heathens? He had plenty of tough talk for more than a few real people. He chewed out Peter himself before the church for hypocrisy, just over a matter of eating. He said some very unkind things in public about those who didn’t stick with him on his missionary journeys.

    The egals’ heads would no doubt be spinning and their ears burning, if he showed up today. Yet Patterson is nominated for Meanie of the Year for handling this in a restrained manner. So typical.

    > [Stenides:] Whether [Patterson] agrees with his
    > predecessor’s choices or not, he was responsible
    > for treating the employees he inherited with
    > decency and fair practice. Even the heathens do
    > that, which is why they’re so disgusted by this
    > story.

    …”why the heathens are so disgusted”? I can’t believe it. What they are always arguing for is so unfounded, but it doesn’t ever phase them in the slightest. This response you got, Fr. Bill, is a perfect example of what I said at CCC today– they trample Scripture and manufacture doctrine borrowed from secular humanism, then have the nerve to think themselves more spiritual and superior than folk who believe the Bible means what it says, and try to faithfully live according to it! It is quite arrogant, in light of their making it all up as they go along.

    When the godless are cheering them on, it is time to re-evaluate their footing. The Bible says the world will hate Christians for what we believe. The religious feminists side with the world, hating what we believe as well. Yikes – red flags and buzzers going off all over the place!

    Good “stolen saw” analogy, by the way, Fr. Bill. I get a good laugh out of the graphics you come up with, too — so appropriate!

    –Michael

  10. Scott   |  Friday, 09 February 2007 at 5:50 am

    Fr Bill,

    I have a somewhat different take on this issue. My reading and training suggest that the idea of teach in the passage in 1 Timothy 2 is different that the modern idea of teaching in the university. The modern idea of the university lacks the sense of authority which teaching meant in biblical times. If I understand and remember correctly the idea of teaching at that time is more closely related to the idea of mentor today than the idea of teacher today. In modern times, a person can teach a class without any inherent authority. A person can take a class without having to submit in any real way to the authority of the teacher.

    I like to look at ideas by taking the idea to an extreme. This comes from my reading of Francis Hall’s idea of conflicting truths. Taking the idea of women not teaching men to its extreme would say a woman could not tell a man anything because that would be teaching. That to me is clearly not what Saint Paul is saying. I really think the operative idea of the passage is authority. As I have heretofore mentioned I understand the Greek idea of teaching to have a much stronger idea of authority and mentor than does the modern idea.

    Now here we are discussing a seminary. I agree that makes it different from the secular part of the university. Nevertheless, even here the subject matter is language. It is not theology. It on the line, and if it falls on one side or the other is something which honest people can disagree.

    Scott+

  11. Fr. Bill   |  Friday, 09 February 2007 at 6:42 am

    Hello, Scott+,

    You raise some issues that I will explore in a blog I’m working on now, which addresses several of these issues. And, other ideas you mention are fodder for future blogs, to wit:

    The nature and role of the seminary in the training of contemporary pastors, and the impact this has on the future feminism of the Church.

    The magisterium of modern evangelicalism.

    How, when, where, and why men may learn from women.

  12. Scott   |  Friday, 09 February 2007 at 6:43 am

    Kamilla February 3rd, 2007 at 8:46 pm

    . .I am just not sure one can consistently apply complementarian principles without descending into a sort of reductio ad absurdum limbo. Where do we draw the line? Is a pastor allowed to read, for instance, Ann Graham Lotz, but not be taught by her in person? What do we do with a latter-day Huldah? I’m not sure complementarians have figured it all out.

    This is why I think the idea of authority comes into play. As an Anglican the authority idea of the office of priest is clearer than it is to be a Protestant Pastor. I have no problem with the idea that women are not to be priests. I struggle with the idea if guest preaching or adult Sunday School crosses the line which Saint Paul established. To me a woman being responsible for what is preached would cross the line. But does a woman giving a lesson cross the line? I do not know.

    I would say that quoting from the works of a woman would not be a problem. The authority comes here not from the source work but with the decision to use that source work. While for social reason it will likely not happen, I would say that having a woman as a guest preacher would not cross the line. The inviting pastor is still in control of what is being taught. I have been places were the senior pastor has given a short follow up talk after a guest preacher just to be sure his people know where he and the denomination stand. In that sense the senior pastor is not granting authority to the guest preacher in any real sense.

  13. Michael   |  Friday, 09 February 2007 at 3:17 pm

    > If I understand and remember correctly the idea of teaching at that time is more closely related to the idea of mentor today than the idea of teacher today.

    Some interesting ideas, Scott. It’s definitely not all black and white, is it? I see the distinction you are making. In the end, perhaps unintentionally, is the result not another case where culture negates what the Bible says? “Paul wasn’t thinking of our present circumstances.” Are not professors still seen as mentors to their students?

    > In modern times, a person can teach a class without any inherent authority. A person can take a class without having to submit in any real way to the authority of the teacher.

    Well, the modern teacher still has real authority over the student: he is given reading lists, papers, deadlines, and tests. The teacher determines his grades. And woe unto him if he didn’t obey the assignments! Further, there is also the idea of the authority of the material being taught, and who is represented by that material. Man represents Christ; woman, the Church. Things like created order and Eve’s being deceived are also used in Paul’s reasoning. It doesn’t seem to be merely a matter of “do I have to obey this teacher?” The material being taught is the real authority. Christ is the head of the man, and the man the head of the woman. It seems natural for the man to teach the things of Christ, not for the woman to teach the man.

    > Taking the idea of women not teaching men to its extreme would say a woman could not tell a man anything because that would be teaching. That to me is clearly not what Saint Paul is saying.

    Yes, surely. But there has to be a line drawn somewhere, and admittedly some of them might end up looking rather arbitrary. Yet we can’t negate all line-drawing because some of them are drawn differently than someone else might draw them. Teaching a class is a formal setting; discussing theology over a cup of coffee is not, so that is a legitimate place to draw a line.

    > I really think the operative idea of the passage is authority.

    Good point. But surely teaching is somewhat authoritative, especially when training a class of future pastors. The passage is “I do not allow a woman to teach *OR* exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.” It sounds like there is more to it than bare authority alone — teaching itself is ruled out. Especially in light of the verse prior: “A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.” (If the egals are right, this has absolutely no business in the Bible. Why is it there? Why does Paul insist on making a big issue of this? Why do we want to ignore it?) Teaching can’t be divorced from authority. If someone’s teaching doesn’t have authority, then why are we sitting in their class? Yet people are wanting women to be able to *GIVE* instruction in seminary! The very nature of the thing assumes authority. It just doesn’t seem remotely compatible with the simple wording, without doing a bunch of gymnastics to make a round peg fit in a square hole.

    I’d think becoming used to being taught by women would compromise the thinking of these future pastors and jeopardize the theological stance of the churches they end up serving in. Not to mention women pointing out the ludicrous inconsistency and insisting they be able to not just teach pastors, but also be one.

    Frankly, I think pastors in Paul’s day were different than today — they had way more authority back then. So, since pastors have little or no authority today, one could argue that women can now be pastors. But it is the decline in pastoral authority which is the problem, and that cannot be used to justify something else even more incorrect, which is what happens all the time today. Because there may be a decline in teacher authority doesn’t now mean women can teach. Because husbands no longer rule, egals will gladly tell you that the man is the head of the woman, but that doesn’t have anything to do with authority.

    > Now here we are discussing a seminary. I agree that makes it different from the secular part of the university. Nevertheless, even here the subject matter is language. It is not theology.

    I hear you, but whoa there! Have you not heard what egalitarian “scholars” do with Greek and Hebrew? Words like “kephale” and “ezer”? They can really slant theology by how they teach the languages the Bible is written in.

    Also, I have to admit my suspicions regarding the intentions/philosophy of women who would be in these crucial positions. I should think they would tend to want to expand the opportunities and spheres of service for women, want more women to be able to use their gifts, want the whole body of Christ to be effective in ministry, and so use their existing positions to advance and expand women’s roles into other positions, which would show up in their teaching, obviously. The question is, how many female seminary professors are staunch complementarians? If not many, what sorts of future problems will that cause?

    > I struggle with the idea if guest preaching or adult Sunday School crosses the line which Saint Paul established.

    Okay, so a man is the spiritual head of his home, but his wife can teach him the Bible in Sunday school? It seems inconsistent. The cart is before the horse. Things that are inherently different become interchangeable.

    > I have no problem with the idea that women are not to be priests.

    But how is it that women can teach men to be priests, then? It seems even more arbitrary/backwards/splintered thinking: women can teach priests in seminary, but not laymen in church? We have to keep the big picture in mind. Earthly sexuality represents spiritual realities. There must be cohesion and wholeness to the doctrine. Often it ends up sounding like our focus is how little of this we actually need to pay attention to — very minimalist. And as a consequence, all sorts of disjointed inconsistencies result.

    Paul says sound doctrine is for the older women to teach the younger wives to be keepers at home, so there is no chance they’d ever be in seminary, anyway, right? I think we look at Paul through our present scrambled grid, and try to impose that frazzled framework backwards in time.

    Thanks for the discussion,

    Michael

  14. Seminaries: Pro and Con « Faith and Gender   |  Friday, 09 February 2007 at 4:26 pm

    […] Seminary and the departure of a female professor of Hebrew from its theological faculty (see here  and here  below) surfaced issues relating to the purpose and value of seminaries as institutions […]

  15. Kamilla   |  Saturday, 10 February 2007 at 5:19 pm

    Hello Scott,

    As an aside to another of Fr. Bill’s posts – I converted to Anglicanism (AMiA) while attending a Baptist seminary, go figure!

    Frederica Mathewes-Green has said she has more freedom to minister in Orthodoxy than she ever had as a liberal Episcopalian feminist. She has been known to preach the occasional sermon, but would never consider the priesthood. I think the Orthodox have it right on this point.

    Kamilla

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