Baptists Debate New Seminary Degree in Homemaking

A new, women-only homemaking course at one of the largest Southern Baptist seminaries has gained media attention as it reignited debate over the biblical role of women.

The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) will offer this fall an undergraduate program with a concentration in homemaking, aiming to prepare women to model the characteristics of the godly woman as outlined in Scripture, according to the course description.

Paige Patterson, president of the seminary in Forth Worth, Texas, said that by offering the course, the school is not saying women should stay at home but that "if a woman chooses to stay home and she chooses to devote her energies to her husband and to her children and to the development of her home that that is noble and not ignoble and we feel that she should ought to have the opportunity," he said on Fox News Channel.

There are women in the Bible who worked outside of the home, noted Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, in a debate on Fox.

"We should never claim for the Christian faith what the Bible does not claim for itself. The Bible offers many examples of women who we would today call professional women who worked in professions – Deborah was a judge, Lydia was a merchant. We believe that it's important to allow women a great deal of freedom and we should not impose on women a false biblical model."

While Patterson also stated that every person is free to do anything they want to do, he called attention to the importance of the role of family.

"I do believe that society will do better when the family is placed in a prominent position and role that it needs to be," he said. "And I do believe that any society, societal order is endangered whenever the home is not given the importance that it has in its biblical context."

According to The Associated Press, Patterson said wives of seminary students asked for the homemaking course which will focus on hospitality in the home and teach women clothing and textile design, nutrition and food preparation, and how to nurture and care for the family.

Patsy Eastwood, who describes herself as an emerging evangelist, couldn't disagree more with the wives.

"A seminary degree in homemaking. I cannot imagine a bigger waste of money," she wrote on her blog. "Wives need to be their husband's closest ministry partner."

SWBTS offered classes in cooking, housekeeping and sewing in 1909 and beginning next week, the seminary announced that it "plans to continue one of its founding purposes of training women for ministry" as it again offers these classes for women.

Patterson first announced that SWBTS will be offering the homemaking program at the annual SBC meeting in San Antonio in June.

"We are moving against the tide in order to establish family and gender roles as described in God's word for the home and the family," Patterson said at the meeting, according to Parham. "If we do not do something to salvage the future of the home, both our denomination and our nation will be destroyed."

The Southern Baptist Convention's current faith statement limits the office of pastor to men.