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.