If you do not receive the daily emails from Baptist Press and Baptist News Global, I encourage you to sign up. Baptist Press is the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. Baptist News Global is an independent news organization that typically comes from a more moderate/liberal perspective. The advantage of reading Baptist News Global in addition to Baptist Press is that they will provide news and information that Baptist Press just isn’t going to report.
With that being said, Baptist News Global had an interesting article this week. The article asks, “Can Southern Baptist seminaries maintain gender restriction for pastors while encouraging women theological scholars?” Bob Allen, the article’s author, goes on to report on a new Society for Women in Scholarship at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. SEBTS is my alma mater, but I had not heard about this new society until reading the BNG article.
Apparently, the idea for this society began about a year ago, after a conversation between two female students about their academic ambitions. It is now a part of Southeastern’s Kingdom Diversity initiative, which is led by Walter Strickland. Strickland is quoted in the BNG article as saying, “Women are our largest and most diverse minority group on campus. I’m convinced that the fruit of the society will extend beyond the confines of the group by emboldening women to contribute more readily in the classroom discussion, providing opportunities to publish written work and by sponsoring events for both genders to think deeply about the Christian faith.”
The article also makes clear that the creation of this society is not a rejection of complementarianism. Complementarianism is clearly the position of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, both of which are confessional documents for the seminary.
I judge this to be a positive development. Complementarians have not always done a good job of encouraging women in their educational pursuits and leadership opportunities. Amber Bowen is one of the ladies responsible for starting this society. She is quoted in the article as saying, “Theologically robust women with well-cultivated giftings can only be a benefit and not a harm to the church.”
I agree. The command to make disciples includes women and men. We need more women with sound doctrinal training within the church. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we need to send more of our women to seminary, though seminary training is certainly not prohibited. But it does mean that those women among us who choose to pursue seminary training should be encouraged and supported in that pursuit.
But back to the question asked by Bob Allen in his article at BNG. “Can Southern Baptist seminaries maintain gender restriction for pastors while encouraging women theological scholars?” He’s likely suggesting that he thinks the answer is no. But I believe the answer is a resounding yes! In fact, women who receive sound training in our seminaries will be more prepared to combat the egalitarian mindset that pervades our culture and often our churches.
So, I am excited to find out about this new society at Southeastern. May God use it to raise up a generation of women who are well-trained theologically as they seek to make disciples in their homes, churches, and to the ends of the earth.