Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sheri Klouda: "I Was Let Go 'Because I'm Female'"

I encourage you to read Sheri Klouda's interview with WFAA-TV in Dallas/Fort Worth. In the interview she makes some strong statements about the events surrounding her departure from Southwestern Seminary. The following statements, if true, make me even more outraged about what happened and the way that it happened:

"I was told that I was a mistake that trustees needed to fix," she said. "Those are the exact words." And she said she was told she could no longer teach at the seminary for one simple reason. "Because I am a female," she said...

But Dr. Klouda said she was deceived as well by Seminary President Paige Patterson. "Initially, I felt like Dr. Patterson lied to me as far as his intentions," she said. In 2003, Dr. Klouda said she went to Dr. Patterson for reassurance after he had taken over the seminary. Even though Klouda got her degree from Southwestern and had been teaching there for three years, she said she was troubled by Patterson's strict interpretation of the passage from Timothy. "He told me I had nothing to worry about, his exact words," she said. But two years later, she had plenty to worry about. She said while no one challenged her teaching, Dr. Patterson said she was no longer wanted at the seminary as a teacher.

Whether or not you believe that it is proper for women to teach men theology and biblical languages, the issues raised by Klouda's statements should be troubling. If it is true that Paige Patterson misled Sheri Klouda into believing that she would continue in her tenure-track position at Southwestern, then his ability to effectively lead the seminary is compromised. If it is true that a seminary trustee or administrator told Klouda that she was a "mistake that trustees needed to fix," we should be concerned that our leaders are so insensitive to the human aspect of this situation. And should these allegations turn out to be false, we in the SBC should be concerned as to why so many Southern Baptists found such allegations to be plausible.

6 comments:

Debbie said...

Tim: I too listened to Sheri Klouda and reacted just as you have. I hope this does not die quietly. I know I'm going to be following it and I am so glad that Sheri is agreeing to tell her story. It needs to be told and it needs to be made right by SWBTS. There sermons are going to sound pretty hollow to me until they do.

Debbie said...

That should be their sermons. Ha. Sorry.

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Brother Tim,

Thanks for following this story. Dr. Patterson seems to be right on almost every issue, but leaves a trail of debris behind him as he executes his right ideas in wrong ways.

Love in Christ,

Jeff

Tim Sweatman said...

Debbie,

I too am glad that Sheri is telling her side of the story. I wish that Patterson and/or the trustees would give their side as well. I know some have speculated that they are remaining silent for confidentiality reasons, but no one is asking for any kind of personnel records. All we're asking them to do is confirm or deny Sheri's account of what happened, and if they deny it then to tell us their account of what took place.

**********

Jeff,

I have no problem with those who agree with Patterson's views on these controversial matters (which for the most part I don't). But it's the ones who don't see any problem with or who try to justify his methods that cause me the greatest concern.

Lee said...

I'd disagree with the contention that a female seminary professor teaching men (and women) studying for the mission field and the ministry is equal to whatever Paul was attempting to do 2000 years ago when he asserted a little bit of apostolic authority and made a couple of remote statements about women teaching men or having authority over them in the church. I don't see how that applies to this situation at all.

Aside from that, there is the larger problem of how Southwestern specifically, and perhaps Southern Baptists generally, treat their employees. I've been taught for years that, in terms of respect, my behavior as a Christian should far exceed the standards of the world. I'm with you on this issue Tim, in that I think it is a serious breach of trust, and does indeed call into question Dr. Patterson's ability to effectively lead the seminary.

How to resolve it now that the damage has been done? At the very least, Dr. Klouda should be compensated for the loss of her job and tenure. A year's salary, what she would have received as a tenured professor with her experience, would be in order.

Tim Sweatman said...

Lee,

Great points. It seems a bit ironic (not to mention inconsistent) that some of those who strongly argue that the word "church" in the Bible primarily refers to individual local congregations want to take Paul's statement about teaching and authority in the church and apply it to a situation outside of a local congregation.

I also agree that we have some problems with the way our entities treat their employees. Many of these problems appear to stem from a lack of open communication on the part of some administrators and trustees, not just with the public but with employees as well. We also appear to have some history of leaders being less than truthful with employees (the Dilday example comes to mind).