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Not allowing women to teach: Shaky theological ground

Update March 25, 2008:

Woman's suit against seminary dismissed (Yahoo News)

Wade Burleson's blog (a friend of Klouda) links:

 An Email from Dr. Klouda Revealing Her Feelings

 A Woman Indulging in the Exposition of Scripture

 The Practical Implications of the Klouda Ruling

 The Motion for Summary Judgment Is Granted


 

Original Post January 29, 2007:

Below I have placed links to a few articles in newspapers about my colleague at Taylor University, Sheri Klouda, leaving Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Southern Baptist).  Sheri was let go because she was a woman.

Professor Says Seminary Dismissed Her Over Gender (NY Times) 

Wade Burleson, a pastor in Oklahoma, uncovered and publicized the story, not Sheri.  See his blog here.  It is high drama.   
In leadership, when you make a mistake the very best approach is to quickly apologize, be clear, and try to make it right.  I learned this from reporter Bob Woodward who said that this was the enduring lesson of Watergate.  It is one thing to make a mistake, it is another thing to cover it up.  Basically, Southwestern should say they are sorry for giving Sheri a tenure-track position and then changing their mind.  But they continue to hedge and therefore this continues to drag on.  They have a meeting in April with the board of trustees and they may decide to do something then!   
But this situation is really rooted in bad theology.  It is hard to present a united front on institutional issues when you are on shaky ground theologically.  The complementarian (or hierarchical or traditional) position on women in ministry is filled with contradiction because it is based on widely-varying, almost-arbitrary application of 1 verse: 1 Timothy 2:12. 
I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. (1 Timothy 2:12 ESV)
If women can't teach men, what can't they teach?  Hebrew?  Church history?  Sunday school?  And at what age do men become men?  Can a woman teach 12 year olds? 18 year olds? 21 year olds?  When does it become unbiblical?  Some have said when boys start getting hair under their arms.  At that point, no more women Bible teachers.  Should we do armpit checks starting at age 11? 
Others say it is ok for a woman to teach if her husband is on stage with her so that he is teaching "under his authority."  Others say it is ok as long as he is in the front row.   
My favorite example is that of complementarian and well-known New Testament scholar Wayne Grudem entitled "But what should women do in the church?" (PDF document)  It is hard to figure out how to apply 1 verse (1 Timothy 2:12) to everything women do in the church today but he sure tries.  His attempt at application reveals to me how absurd the position is. 
The egalitarian position more fully I think represents the scope and trajectory of Scripture - that Christian women are filled with the Spirit and thus given gifts to serve the kingdom of God. 
That one verse (1 Timothy 2:12) which everything depends upon in the egalitarian perspective can actually be explained by reading the rest of 1 and 2 Timothy.  There was false teaching going on in Ephesus that had to be stopped (1 Timothy 1:3-7) and probably had connection to younger widows (1 Timothy 5:13; 2 Timothy 3:6).  Yes, complementarians say, but this doctrine is rooted in creation (1 Timothy 2:13) and is therefore permanent for all time.  No, in 2 Corinthians 11:3 Paul used a reference to Eve to speak about temptation in general.  Women are not more easily duped always and for all time.  Paul is speaking about a certain situation (Ephesus) in the first century.  The surrounding context of 1 Timothy 2 makes that clear.  (1 Timothy 2:9  "I also want women to dress modestly . . . not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes").  The point of 1 Timothy 2:12 is that loose talk and false teaching (such as saying the resurrection has already occurred (2 Timothy 2:16-18)) need to be dealt with seriously.  But this does not mean women who have an outstanding education and have no evidence of heresy should not be allowed to teach men. 
There are many many verses in the New Testament where women are encouraged to teach, lead, minister, and exercise their gifts.  I don't have time to list them all.       
For the authoritative description of the egalitarian position on women in ministry see the book Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy  and out of fairness I also always say: "Feel free as well to check out the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood's rebuttal to it here (PDF)."  Bible-believing Christians take different points of view on this subject.
Scot McKnight has had a bunch of entries on Women in Ministry at his blog here.  Scot is an outstanding NT scholar and an egalitarian.  See also Christians for Biblical Equality blog  for a steady diet of egalitarian perspective.
I have tried to give just a tiny bit of my take on the subject and some other links to have you read further.  I really don't want to argue and debate here on the blog.  All of my writing on the blog about "Women in Ministry" is here including extensive bibliographies of the complementarian and egalitarian position.  If you do want to argue, you will find more argument partners at the links above at Scott McKnight's blog or at CBE blog. 
Again, I will say it again.  Bible-believing Christians differ on this issue.  Complementarians are trying to be faithful to Scripture in their position which I respect.  This is a complex issue and the various relevant passages need to be studied in detail (1 Cor 11, 14, Eph 5) in order to come to a full position on the issue.  I have looked at this issue for 10 years so please forgive my simplification above as it represents just a fraction of the thorough reflection I have done on this issue over the years. 
 
February 5, 2007 Update:
Sheri spoke at Taylor University Chapel on January 22, 2007 and you can listen to it here.  She did an exegetical presentation on Psalm 103 and didn't mention the situation with Southwestern as far as I heard.  (I listened to the first 3/4 of it from home while giving Ryan a bath).      

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