One of the highest-profile faculty members at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary announced via Twitter March 20 she will resign at the end of the current semester and has no other job lined up.
Karen Swallow Prior, research professor of English and Christianity and culture in Southeastern’s undergraduate college tweeted: “While I adore my students and colleagues at SEBTS, it has become clearer through heartfelt discussions with leadership and much self-reflection over the past few years that the institution and I do not share the same vision for carrying out the Great Commission. It has also become clear to me that I am simply not well-suited to the politics of institutional life in the SBC. Therefore, I have made the difficult decision not to return to SEBTS in the fall. I don’t know what the Lord has next for me, but I’m excited to see how he directs my steps.”
Prior is one of only seven women among 67 faculty listed on Southeastern’s website. She began teaching there in the fall semester of 2020 and was the first research professor in the history of The College at Southeastern. She came to the North Carolina school from Liberty University in Virginia, where she served two decades as professor of English.
Although a theological conservative, Prior has drawn occasional suspicion from male leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention. She also came under intense fire last year from the pastor of a small East Texas Baptist church who accused Prior of leaking a draft column previously written by his wife about her experience with abuse.
Prior vehemently denied leaking the draft and was cleared by seminary President Danny Akin. The pastor and his allies — part of the most conservative wing of the SBC today — broadened their attack to include both Akin and Prior. The same pastor was responsible for scuttling the SBC presidential campaign of Florida pastor Willy Rice last year.
The drama of this story played out in several Baptist News Global stories last year.
Prior is a frequent speaker and commentator. Her academic focus is British literature, with a specialty in the 18th century.
She earned a Ph.D. and a master of arts degree at the State University of New York at Buffalo and completed undergraduate studies at Daemen College in Amherst, N.Y.
She is the author of Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me, Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More—Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist, and On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books. She is co-editor of Cultural Engagement: A Crash Course in Contemporary Issues and has contributed to numerous other books.
The year of being threatened by smart women | Analysis by Mark Wingfield