Baptist Pastor Files Complaint Over Dismissal of Female Professor

A Baptist pastor filed complaints after a female professor was dismissed from her seminary job allegedly because she is a woman.

Complaints were made to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and Association of Theological Schools asking them to probe into the dismissal of Sheri Klouda, now former professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The letter of complaint was written by Benjamin Cole, pastor of Parkview Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas.

Klouda said she was refused tenure at Southwestern and was told her contract would not be renewed because she is a woman.

Van McClain, chairman of the Southwestern trustees, had confirmed that the seminary is taking the "traditional" and "biblical position" that women should not teach men in theology or biblical languages, according to the Associated Press. Klouda was teaching Hebrew.

The desire of the seminary is "to have only men teaching who are qualified to be pastors or who have been pastors in the disciplines of theology, biblical studies, homiletics, and pastoral ministry," McClain told Religion News Service.

McClain, however, denied that gender discrimination played a role in her dismissal.

Klouda's hiring at the school was a "momentary lax of the parameters" of the seminary, McClain said.

Klouda, who now teaches at Taylor University in Upland, Ind., said the widespread media coverage and public outcry were unexpected.

"It just kind of ballooned," she told the Associated Baptist Press

Klouda had learned in 2004 that she would not get tenure and her contract was terminated in December of 2006.

“I was told this [dismissal] was a non-issue and I couldn’t say anything about it, and if I did say something about it, it would cause problems for my job,” Klouda told ABP. “Then it was ‘Well, take all the time you need [to find other employment]’ to ‘Well, we’re going to terminate your contract on such-and-such a date.’ It was disappointing to find out that the rules keep changing.”

The outcry against her dismissal began with a Jan. 17 blog post by Wade Burleson, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Okla., who said the professor was dismissed by Southern Baptist Convention President Paige Patterson because of her gender.

In response to claims of her terminated contract, McClain further noted that Klouda did not have tenure and was told that she would not be awarded one "like hundreds of professors around the U.S. every year."

Cole called for an investigation of "a serious breach" of accreditation guidelines.

While in its decision, the seminary was said to be keeping with the statement of faith of the SBC, which states that the pastorate is reserved for men, Klouda believes the role of women in the academy differs from the role of women in the pastorate.

"You can’t take the role of pastor and superimpose it to the role of professor in the academy," ABP reported Klouda as saying.

According to McClain, no women teach theology or Biblical languages at Southwestern, but they do teach music and other classes at the seminary.

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