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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Remembering Addie Davis and Sheri Klouda

In 1964, Addie Elizabeth Davis became the first woman to be ordained to the gospel ministry by a Southern Baptist congregation - Watts Street Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina. At the time of her ordination, Rev. Davis was a student of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Not all Baptists in the Durham area took kindly to Davis' ordination. She received dozens and dozens of letters spewing with vitriol. One of these letters urged Davis to "learn from her husband." Davis never married. One man from Richmond, Virginia demanded that Davis renounce her ordination. Another man called her "a child of the Devil."

Unable to find a pastoral position in a Southern Baptist church, Davis had to leave the South in order to practice the vocation given to her by God. Eventually, Davis was called to pastor First Baptist Church in Readsboro, Vermont. According to David Stricklin, author of A Genealogy of Dissent, Davis' experience showed how people's attitudes are conditioned by what they observe. Davis "once noticed some children of the congregation she was serving in Vermont 'playing church.' When one of the little boys wanted to take his turn being the preacher, his older sister admonished him saying, 'You can't be the preacher; only women are preachers!' Such was not the attitude of most of the people from the region of her upbringing."

Upon Addie Davis' death in 2005, Pam Durso remarked that "what made Addie Davis so remarkable was not her place in history as the first woman to be ordained by a Southern Baptist church; it was her humility, her compassion, and her warm spirit. She faithfully followed God's calling, serving three churches as pastor or co-pastor. Her focus in those churches was on caring for the people and being with them in times of crisis." Throughout her ministry, Davis often encouraged other women to "keep on dreaming and cherish the dream God has given you!"

Southern Baptists LOVE Controversy - or so it seems. Recently, several self-described Southern Baptist "Reformers" have decided to revisit the women's issue. Well, kinda. At the center of the latest SBC Controversy is a woman named Sheri Klouda. Dr. Klouda served as Professor of Hebrew at Southwestern Theological Seminary's School of Theology from 2002-2006. Dr. Klouda was denied tenure and essentially fired by Southwestern's President, Paige Patterson, for one reason and one reason alone - Dr. Klouda is a WOMAN.

After being chosen as President of Southwestern in 2003, there were rumors that women would no longer be allowed to take classes with men. In an attempt to clear up these rumors, Patterson stated that not only are women prohibited from serving as senior pastor but they are also forbidden from serving in a teaching or ruling capacity over men.

Take a moment and consider the consequences if such a rigid belief was actually put into action at all Southern Baptist churches....

Southern Baptists should be outraged by the actions of Paige Patterson. But Southern Baptists should not be surprised. Remember the tenured Professor of Theology that Al Mohler forced to resign in 1994? The outrage that Southern Baptists are currently experiencing SHOULD HAVE extended to both inerrantists and non-inerrantists alike.

Inconsistencies aside, almost 43 years after Addie Davis was ordained Southern Baptists are debating whether a woman has the authority to "teach" a man Hebrew or friggin Sunday School.

Fortunately, many of the self-described "Reformers" like Wade Burleson don't share Paige Patterson's "spooky fundamentalist" beliefs concerning the role of women in church life. Nonetheless, these "Reformers" would not invite Addie Davis to share their pulpit on any given Sunday. Women like Addie Davis are still unable to answer their call to the gospel ministry in the Southern Baptist Convention. Instead, the Addie Davis' of this world are forced to seek refuge in organizations such as the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, American Baptist Churches U.S.A, and the Alliance of Baptists.

Women such as Dr. Sheri Klouda should never ever be discriminated against because of their gender.

Same goes for these women.

Remember Addie Davis.

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Blogger texasinafrica said...

Well said. Thanks be to God for the life of Addie Davis and hundreds of Baptist women who have followed her example of faithfulness in responding to God's call in their lives.

10:36 AM

Blogger D.R. said...

I just recently was alerted to the situation with Sheri Klouda. So please let me offer my opinion as a conservative Southern Baptist who is a Complimentarian.

First, let me say that if it is true that she was fired only because of her gender, then I think Patterson was wrong and should be called to account in some way (though I think it is too extreme to call for his firing, as according to Burleson's account, he did give her ample time to find another position and did pay her until that point - thus I don't think it was malicious, but rather an interpretation of a text that is too narrow and not in line with the convention).

Second, I think it is important not to confuse this issue with other issues that Southern Baptists are clear on. I believe it is clear from Scripture that the ultimate human authority in a CHURCH rests in the hands of elders, which are by Scriptural description men who qualify according to Biblical standards. The "senior pastor" should be one of those male elders.

What Baptists have said historically, including the position of Albert Mohler and Southern Seminary, is that outside of the CHURCH, it is perfectly permissible for women to teach men in Seminary, in business, and generally in life. Most Complimentarians see no extention of the text used by Patterson applying to women teaching men outside of the CHURCH. I would fall into that category.

Third, thus I think that bringing into the mix the issue of women pastors and the example of Molly Marshall (neither of which represents a one-to-one correlation with this unfortunate situation at Southwestern) actually misses the point of what should be discussed in the SBC, which is "where does one draw the line in Scriptural interpretation whereby the most people can cooperate within the SBC, but without violating the individual convictions of its members?"

It is clear that Southern Baptists have drawn the line at women serving as senior pastors. That will not change, nor should it based on the historical record of Baptists. However, this issue at Southwestern is one that should be taken up so that minority interpretations should not dominate the SBC (and I say that because while many have made much of the problems of the conservative resurgence, those involved DID represent the theological positions of the majority of the SBC at that time - and history proves that in how the convention has maintained a majority of its membership, as opposed to other denominations which have moved left and lost over half of their members).

So, while I can appreciate you bringing this up on your blog, I do want to point out that bringing in issues that are settled in SBC life actually misses the real problem with this situation. That might not be true in your opinion, but certainly it is how Burleson has dealt with the issue and how Southern Baptists must deal with it as well.

1:20 PM

Anonymous Kathryn said...

It should be clear too that Dr. Klouda shares the opinion (I do not) that women should not be pastors. She was not pressing to be a pastor; she only wanted to teach Hebrew. Therein lies the strange situation of someone who was fired because of her sex despite the fact that she basically agreed with Dr. Patterson's views on women pastors. Reportedly, Dr. Patterson assured her that her teaching there would not be a problem. On the strength of that promise and tenure, she and her husband bought a house. The promise was not kept, which is puzzling. Did Dr. Patterson not realize when she was hired that she was a woman? There seems to be a problem of integrity, regardless of how you feel about women pastors.

2:34 PM

Anonymous Kathryn said...

In my last statement, I was referring in the first sentence to the fact that Dr. Klouda is on record as supporting the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message which states that women cannot Scripturally be pastors. It is puzzling too how the patriarchs believe that a woman pastor would lead men astray with false doctrine, but a woman seminary professor would not.

2:44 PM

Anonymous Kathryn said...

I just now learned that Dr. Klouda joined the staff in 2002, and Dr. Patterson assumed the presidency of the seminary in 2003. That does not mitigate the fact that promises were made and not kept, including his promise to her that her job would not be in jeopardy because of his position on women pastors.

10:42 PM

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11:51 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

From the egalitarian side.

Consider this.

When we pass on from this world into heaven all of these gender curses shall be lifted off men and women ... this enmity will be gone at last ... for in heaven there is no marriage relationship - no gender, nor is there work by the sweat of the brow. We shall all stand before Christ on equal footing in heaven.

Equality...you could say is heavenly.

Lord, as it is in heaven, so let it be on earth.

Read Gene Edward's great book - The Christian Woman Set Free, or Frank Viola's - Who is Your Covering.

Google it.

11:08 PM

Blogger Luke said...

So sad that an otherwise influential leader today (like Patterson) could be so out of touch with the human emergence from the ape-like attitude that men are somehow superior to women. You go, Dr. Klouda!

3:52 PM

Blogger Lin said...

Hmmmm. I have to wonder if these same men would allow Elizabeth Elliot to speak from their pulpit.

After all, she not only taught men but she also kept her last name after remarrying.

If there is one thing I have seen it is the hypocrisy. As if Mrs. Patterson has not taught men with her many writings and speaking engagements.

8:22 AM


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