Starting this fall Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary will offer a program in Christian homemaking, the seminary’s president said Tuesday. “We are moving against the tide in order to establish family and gender roles as described in God’s word for the home and the family,” seminary President Paige Patterson said in his prepared report to the Southern Baptist Convention this week in San Antonio, Texas.
According to the seminary Web site, the bachelor-of-arts in humanities degree, with a concentration in homemaking, will be offered through the seminary’s undergraduate college program.
“The College at Southwestern endeavors to prepare women to model the characteristics of the godly woman as outlined in Scripture,” a description of the program reads. “This is accomplished through instruction in homemaking skills, developing insights into home and family while continuing to equip women to understand and engage the culture of today.”
Course work includes three hours of “general homemaking,” three hours on “the value of a child,” seven hours of “design and apparel”–including a four-hour “clothing construction with lab”–seven hours of nutrition and meal preparation and a three-hour course on the “Biblical Model for the Home and Family.”
Responding to a question at the SBC annual meeting about the program, Patterson said many wives of future preachers have said, “We need to know in a day when homemaking is no longer honored whether or not it would be possible for us to have a course of study that would lead to a degree in homemaking.”
“It is homemaking for the sake of the church and the ministry and homemaking for the sake of our society,” Patterson said. “If we do not do something to salvage the future of the home, both our denomination and our nation will be destroyed.”
The seminary’s trustees were told about the new program last fall. It wasn’t mentioned in news stories or the seminary’s press release, but a Baptist blogger critical of Patterson’s administration reported he “nearly shot Diet Coke out of my nose” when he heard the recommendation.
Trying to imagine how such a degree falls under the umbrella of the institutional mission of a theological seminary, blogger Benjamin Cole dismissed the idea as “quite silly.”
“A seminary degree in cookie-baking is about as useful as an M.Div. in automotive repair, if you ask me,” Cole said. After the fall trustee meeting, Cole proceeded to parody what he nicknamed the “Mrs. Degree” in 10 blogs between Oct. 30 and Nov. 21.
The new undergraduate degree is in addition to an existing 13-hour program of seminary studies for student wives and women’s ministries concentrations in both the master-of-divinity and master-of-arts-in-Christian-education seminary degrees.
Dorothy Patterson, wife of the seminary president and professor of theology in women’s studies, is the only woman faculty member currently teaching in Southwestern’s School of Theology.
Another, former Old Testament languages professor Sheri Klouda, sued the seminary in March, claiming she was dismissed from her job simply because she is a woman. The chairman of the seminary’s board of trustees was quoted as saying Klouda’s unanimous election by trustees five years earlier, under leadership of Patterson’s predecessor, was a “momentary lax of parameters.”
Located in Fort Worth, Texas, Southwestern isn’t the only Southern Baptist seminary encouraging ministers’ wives to serve in traditional roles. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., offers a 13-hour certificate of ministry studies through its Seminary Wives Institute that includes “essentials” like “God’s plan for marriage,” child-rearing and shopping on a budget.
“At Southern Seminary, we recognize the need for God-called ministers’ wives to be prepared for ministry,” says a program description. “We believe that a minister’s wife needs to be educated and equipped as she and her husband prepare for service in the churches and beyond.”
An accompanying Women’s Ministry Institute at Southern Seminary prepares women to minister to other women in the local church. Both programs are offered through Southern Seminary’s Boyce College and headed up by Mary Mohler, wife of Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler.
Mary Mohler and Dorothy Patterson were the only two women serving on a seven-member committee that drafted a family amendment added to the Baptist Faith & Message in 1998. That article proscribed the proper role for a wife as “to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband, even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.”
The family article made headlines nationwide. The New York Times quoted Robert Parham of the BaptistCenter for Ethics as commenting: ”They hope to make June Cleaver the biblical model for motherhood, despite numerous biblical references to women who worked outside the home.”
Two years later Southern Baptists updated the Baptist Faith & Message again to specify, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”
Southwestern Seminary’s online catalogue says the seminary introduces women “to the marketplace of ideas, including both complementarian and egalitarian positions” so they are “thoroughly equipped to give an articulate and well-reasoned evangelical response to the feministic ideology of the age.”
In addition to its programs for women, Southern Seminary in Louisville also houses The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. The Council exists to counter “feminist egalitarianism”–the view that men and women are equal in the church and home–with “the noble Biblical vision of sexual complementarity,” which holds that men and women are of equal worth, but God ordained for males to be the head of both the home and the church.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.