Putting Women in their Place

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has announced a curriculum targeted at women that will teach them sewing and cooking and begin this Fall. It will be a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities and feature a 23-hour concentration in homemaking. The main focus of the instruction will actually be “cooking and sewing” and extending hospitality in the home. While the seminary president Paige Patterson believes he is going against the tide of modernity on this issue, there are also those among Southern Baptists who think this idea is a waste of money and resources. It is interesting to get differences of opinion on this one.

It’s hard to imagine that an accredited theological school that offers coursework in theology, greek, hebrew, ethics, and doctoral seminars to boot would have students learning about cooking and cleaning. Of course, I need to mention that only women are allowed to take these classes. I’ll say this much, at least the president is consistant is his views on the subordination of women and doesn’t mind utilizing the school to emphasize this point. What I find even more difficult to fathom is that one of the world’s largest centers of theological education would find it necessary to offer academic credit for who can cook the best meals.

There is a place and value in learning these aspects of homelife, but don’t offer academic credit at a seminary for it. I can’t believe I’m having to say that, but this really depicts the direction of the SBC in regard to the role and place of women if nothing else does. The seminary and many others sympathetic with this approach claim the courses affirm the biblical roles of men and women. Women are to be at home, hospitable, and “graciously submit” to their husbands according to the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message. This reminds of what another prominet Southern Baptist leader said about young couples in the denomination having more babies to keep up with the Mormons.

In a day when both men and women need education and encouragement to use their gifts and calling, there should be maximum usage of time and resources to teach the Bible and theology to seminary students. Yes, cooking is important but putting in a seminary curriculum is demeaning to the role of women and relegating them to a particular function and task in the marriage relationship. I wonder how other women at the seminary feel about this development, knowing how the seminary really feels about their ministry goals. By the way, I know a few men who can cook, and really enjoy it. I wonder if they could audit some of these courses for extra credit.

Many women are working hard toward their God-given ministries through theological education. I am grateful for seminaries who offer legitimate theological courses to all persons regardless of gender, and let the churches determine who comes to serve on their ministerial staffs. Women who pay the price for their academic accomplishments should be commended, and seeing an Mrs. degree at a seminary is a waste of resources. Not every woman is called to vocational ministry, and there are many who find their ministry in the context of the home. This is wonderful, but there shouldn’t be academic credit given toward a seminary degree for it.

I am privileged to serve with several women on our staff and others on the deacon board who take their ministries seriously. They are effective in their work and are building the Kingdom of God every day. Their place is alongside men who are doing the same things to the glory of God. So, when I see something like this occur I rub my eyes and wonder whether I’m seeing this correctly. The redeeming thing in all this at least is that Southwestern, as a flagship SBC seminary, paints a clear picture about how the denomination views women and how they should be devoting their time and energies. This offers a contrast to other Baptist schools who recognize the seriousness of theological education and offer challenging coursework to women and men in order for them to achieve their goals of vocational service.


4 thoughts on “Putting Women in their Place

  1. Several years ago in a Southern Baptist publication, readers were invited to weigh in on a particular issue. The question was “Should pastor’s wives be allowed to work outside the home.” Thinking it was one of the most ridiculous questions I had ever read, I wrote a long response to the publisher. Then I changed my mind and just wrote, “Only when the grass gets too high!”
    I got letters from all over!

  2. While the purpose of the course work is clear and it certainly should surprise no one the direction Paige Patterson, whose wife received better Theology grades than him and whose wife helped to publish a translation of the Bible, is committed to relegating women to a hierarchal universe, I disagree that such coursework is useless.
    Having been in seminary, such coursework would help to alleviate the burden on young seminary students who are quite destitute. I find many individuals in my generation lack the basic household skills necessary to create meals more complicated than what can be “nuked” in a microwave or the importance of separating laundry out by type and color. By offering such courses, for both genders, and I can say perhaps with accreditation as I will explain later, poor seminary students can help offset the high financial costs of being called to do God’s work. Further, such courses for future missionaries and pastors will provide the same financial benefit through lean years or sparse foreign resources. Another important consequence of this type of degree will be the opportunity for foreign and home missionaries to teach valuable skills to women (let us agree that women are traditionally going to benefit most from household skills) so that these same women can create cottage industries freeing them financially. There are many examples of such cottage industries in the third world for women that have created quite a success. Many of these groups are non-Christian, but to do this with a Christian message might help short-circuit the suffering many third world women endure. This is what unintended consequences of such a degree could mean for poor seminary students with little support or for women in third world economies (U.S. or foreign). Patterson shouldn’t be seen as an enemy of women’s rights and advancement, but as inadvertently helping the marginalized. I disagree with his philosophy and his purpose, but I have faith that courses like this might have unintended consequences and we should remember that Patterson is an older man and maybe a future seminary president may have enough foresight to fully utilize such courses to bring light to darkness.

  3. Are you serious?

    Let me get this right, D.R.

    1) Many of your generation lack homemaking skills, implying that they are not capable of taking care of themselves, or others.
    2) This degree could help families and stimulate a financial windfall for women (you mention men too, but, alas, Paige won’t allow it).
    3) The unintended consequences could save women all over the world.
    4) Paige Patterson is the champion of women and the downtrodden.




    Is there satire in your comment that I’m too dense to recognize?

    Surely, upon reflection, you have to recognize how…um…crazy this sounds.

    Using your logic, why don’t we start Baptist slavery camps? Think of it: African-Americans, while outwardly having their human dignity stripped from them could learn important agricultural and industrial labor skills, the very talents we value in community development specialists and Peace Corps volunteers. They could ultimately use their abilities to help their families and cultivate a new life for the marginalized.

    Here’s another option: As followers of Jesus (and as a father of daughters in my case), how about we encourage everyone to learn to take care of their households through mutual submission, then make it our mission to counter the nonsense of Patterson and his ilk with the liberating gospel of Christ? Maybe then Baptists wouldn’t appear completely irrelevant and foolish (not for the reasons Jesus and Paul talked about) to the public. Maybe then Baptists could actually engage the world around them with a godly love that was untainted by the agenda of culture wars.

    Well, that’s all for now. I’m gonna get my wife to make me sammich.

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