My comments follow the article:

Southern Baptist Seminary to Often Academic Program in Homemaking
Associated Press Writer

The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary offers coursework in Greek and Hebrew, in archaeology, in the philosophy of religion and _ starting this fall _ in how to cook and sew.

One of the nation’s largest Southern Baptist seminaries, the school is introducing a new, women-only academic program in homemaking _ a 23-hour concentration that counts toward a bachelor of arts degree in humanities. The program is aimed at helping establish what Southwestern’s president calls biblical family and gender roles.

Coursework will include seven hours of nutrition and meal preparation, seven hours of textile design and “clothing construction,” three hours of general homemaking, three hours on “the value of a child,” and three hours on the “biblical model for the home and family.”

Seminary officials say the main focus of the courses is on hospitality in the home _ teaching women interior design as well as how to sew and cook. Women also study children’s spiritual, physical and emotional development.

Yet the program is raising eyebrows among some Southern Baptists, who say a degree concentration in how to be a Christian housewife is not useful, and a waste of seminary resources.

Seminary President Paige Patterson, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, which has its executive committee headquarters in Nashville, said wives of seminary students asked for the homemaking courses. The program was approved by seminary trustees.

“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 denomination’s annual meeting in June. “If we do not do something to salvage the future of the home, both our denomination and our nation will be destroyed.”

Terri Stovall, dean of women’s programs at Southwestern, which has its main campus in Fort Worth, Texas, said the purpose of the program is to strengthen families.

“Whether a woman works outside or strictly in the home, her first priority is her family and home,” she said. “We just really want to step up and provide some of these skills.”

Stovall said the homemaking degree is one of 10 women’s programs at the seminary and is “only targeted to women whose heart and calling is the home.”

A description of the homemaking program on the seminary’s Web site says it “endeavors to prepare women to model the characteristics of the godly woman as outlined in Scripture.

“This is accomplished through instruction in homemaking skills, developing insights into home and family while continuing to equip women to understand and engage the culture of today.”

The Rev. Benjamin Cole, pastor of Parkview Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, and a frequent Southern Baptist critic, wrote about the homemaking program on his blog.

“At first it was almost incredible to me,” Cole said. “I thought this is not happening. It’s quite superfluous to the mission of theological education in Southern Baptist life. It’s insulting I would say to many young women training in vital ministry roles.

“It’s yet another example of the ridiculous and silly degree to which some Southern Baptists, Southwestern in particular, are trying to return to what they perceive to be biblical gender roles.”

Patterson took a leading role in the 1980s in a successful campaign to oust moderates from leadership posts in the Southern Baptist Convention. While he was president of the convention from 1998 to 2000, Southern Baptists issued a statement that women should not be pastors and that wives should “graciously submit” to their husbands.

In 2003, when Patterson left his post as president of North Carolina’s Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary to serve as Southwestern’s president, he was asked whether women would teach in the seminary’s theology school under his leadership.

“The New Testament is crystal clear that pastors are to be men,” he said.

In March, a former Southwestern professor filed a federal lawsuit against the school and Patterson, alleging she was fired from her tenure-track position because she was a woman.

Professor Sheri Klouda was hired in 2002 and was the only woman to teach at the school of theology. But last spring, school officials informed Klouda that her contract was terminated because she was “a mistake that the trustees needed to fix,” the lawsuit states.

Patterson’s wife, Dorothy Patterson, is the only woman faculty member now teaching in Southwestern’s theology school.

David Key,director of Baptist studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, said part of the reason why the seminary may be introducing the new homemaking program is in reaction to the Klouda lawsuit.

“Women continue to make more inroads into traditional male bastions, which could be provoking Patterson to do this,” Key said. Patterson is “trying to draw the line in the sand of where women need to be.”

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., also offers programs for women, including a 13-hour certificate of ministry studies. Required courses cover child-rearing, “God’s plan for marriage,” and managing a budget.

Key said neither seminary will allow women to be pastors, but notes that Southern hasn’t “articulated homemaking like Patterson.”

“Southern at least appears to realize the realities of modern day life _ that often times husbands and wives must both work outside the home to support the family,” Key said.


On the Net:

Southwestern Theological Seminary:

Copyright 2007 by the Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

I thought this article was very interesting. I’m not so sure that a “degree” per se concentrating in homemaking is particularly useful. I mean–who exactly is going to be reading that resume? (BTW, I’m not saying that women who plan to stay home shouldn’t seek educational degrees.) However, I think something can be said about the fact that women were requesting that these courses be taught. These women obviously want to manage their homes well, and they’re asking for the resources to help them do so.

The Bible says where women should go for their resource–the older women are to train the young women to “love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” (Titus 2.4) Sadly, I have seen very little of this verse put into action in my personal experience. Specifically, I mean the older women training the younger women. The fault probably lies in both camps, with many older women not taking an active interest in the domestic pursuits (or lack there of) of the younger women, and likewise, the younger women not seeking out the older women when they want to learn something. I guess the end result is a Seminary offering homemaking classes!

So if someone wants to make the case based on Titus 2 that it isn’t the role of a seminary to be giving homemaking courses, I would entertain such an argument. However, that particular objection isn’t listed in the article. But listen to an objection that is made. Notice the words of Rev. Benjamin Cole:

“At first it was almost incredible to me,” Cole said. “I thought this is not happening. It’s quite superfluous to the mission of theological education in Southern Baptist life. It’s insulting I would say to many young women training in vital ministry roles.

“It’s yet another example of the ridiculous and silly degree to which some Southern Baptists, Southwestern in particular, are trying to return to what they perceive to be biblical gender roles.”

Maybe Cole had some more to add on the subject that’s not included in this article, but from these words alone, Cole seems to be implying that women who seek to maintain their homes are not in “vital ministry roles”. Sadly, many wives/mothers probably feel guilty about not having the time or energy to be involved in what Cole would define as “vital ministry roles” because frankly they are spending all of their time changing diapers, taking care of sick family members, wiping germs off the toilet, fixing meals every day and teaching their children. A mother has her evangelism field clinging to her leg everyday–her children! Is that not a “vital ministry role”?! How many problems in our nation and churches today stem from the fact that family and homelife are being uprooted and neglected?

I would agree that there are roles in the church that are more grandiose than others. Some people as pastors and missionaries are going to reach far more people with the gospel than the mother at home with her three children. However, that doesn’t mean her ministry isn’t vital. 1 Corinthians 12.21-26 says:

And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked,so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

I think that passage pretty much speaks for itself.

But what is the dissension really about? The rest of Cole’s words, along with the focus of the rest of article, shows that the root of the issue is a disagreement, likely with disdain, of the seminary’s “perceived” role of women in their family and in their church.

An apologetic for the biblical teaching of the role of women in the home and church is outside the scope of this post. But I will say that the reason the Bible gives for the older women teaching the younger women to do these domestic things is one that I think stands regardless of time or culture: “That the word of God may not be reviled”.