FORT WORTH, Texas (ABP) — Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has adopted a policy statement that declares men and women equal before God but created for specific roles of headship and submission in the church and home.
Seminary trustees voted Oct. 21 to add the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood to the seminary’s policy manual under “Guiding Documents and Statements.”
The statement, composed in 1987 in Danvers, Mass., by the then-new Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, responds to “widespread uncertainty and confusion in our culture regarding the complementary differences between masculinity and femininity” and “increasing promotion given to feminist egalitarianism” in church and culture.
It affirms, among other things, that “Adam and Eve were created in God’s image, equal before God as persons and distinct in their manhood and womanhood,” that “distinctions in masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created order” and that “Adam’s headship in marriage was established by God before the Fall, and was not a result of sin.”
“Complementarianism,” a conservative theological view that men and women have different roles and responsibilities in marriage and religious leadership, has been gaining ground in the Southern Baptist Convention for 20 years.
Detractors say it is nothing more than Bible-sanctioned male chauvinism. But proponents say that choosing to live by what they interpret as God’s design is in reality a form of women’s liberation.
The opposing view, known as “egalitarianism,” takes a view that values giftedness over gender distinctions. Egalitarians say men and women should share equal authority and responsibility in marriage and have equal leadership opportunities in the church.
The Southern Baptist Convention chose sides in the debate in 1998. That year, the group inserted a family article into its Baptist Faith and Message confessional statement that says the husband “has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family,” while a wife “is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband.”
Two years later the convention again amended the confession of faith to add, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”
Mimi Haddad, president of the Minneapolis-based Christians for Biblical Equality, said it is illogical to say on the one hand that men and women are equal but different in their access to authority. “To claim that men and women have equal access to salvation and equal access to the spiritual gifts is to suggest that the Holy Spirit may provide individuals with gifts not according to human prejudice, but according to God’s pleasure, as we clearly note throughout Scripture especially in the New Testament,” she said.
Haddad, who has a Ph.D. in historical theology, said a good example of that principle is Lottie Moon, a famous Southern Baptist missionary to China in the 19th century whose unconventional ministry was so influential that an offering named in her honor is collected yearly in SBC churches to this day.
The Baptist Faith and Message remains Southwestern Seminary’s only confessional document, meaning professors are required to teach within its confines. The additional statement, seminary President Paige Patterson said in a news release, will be used to establish “the general posture of the school” regarding gender roles.
Patterson, who had a hand in drafting the Danvers Statement, said it will serve as a guide in hiring and evaluation processes. In 2006 Patterson terminated Sheri Klouda, an Old Testament professor hired by his predecessor in 2002, saying he did not believe I Tim. 2:12-14 permitted a woman to teach the Bible to male students in a seminary classroom.
Klouda sued the seminary for gender discrimination in 2007, but a judge dismissed the case the following year. He said the dispute was over a religious matter protected by the First Amendment.
Also in 2007, Patterson announced the seminary would begin offering a new bachelor’s degree with a concentration in homemaking. Patterson said the program was a way of “moving against the tide in order to establish family and gender roles as described in God’s Word for the home and the family.”
In April Southwestern Seminary dedicated the Sarah Horner Homemaking House, an educational building equipped with a teaching kitchen, clothing and textiles lab, formal dining room and parlor in addition to library and classrooms. It is home to Southwestern students working toward a B.A. in humanities with a concentration in homemaking.
The concentration requires 22 hours of instruction in a wide range of homemaking skills like meal preparation and clothing construction out of a total 127 hours to earn a bachelor’s degree.
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.