Is it “God’s will” for women to stay at home? Robert Parham and Paige Patterson took up the issue Monday morning on “FOX & Friends.”

“We should never claim for the Christian faith what the Bible does not claim for itself,” Parham stated (Watch is here). “The Bible offers many examples of women, who we would today call ‘professional women,’ who worked in professions—Deborah was a judge, Lydia was a merchant.”

“We should not impose on women a false biblical model,” Parham added.

Patterson was asked by anchor Alisyn Camerota if he thought that “the best way for society to really thrive” was for women to stay at home.

“I do believe that society would do better when the home is placed in a prominent position and role that it needs to be,” Patterson answered. “And I do believe that any society, societal order is in danger whenever the home is not given the importance that it has in its biblical context.”

During the 2007 SBC annual meeting, Patterson offered a stronger assessment of why he felt the new homemaker program was important for society.

“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,” Patterson declared. “If we do not do something to salvage the future of the home, both our denomination and our nation will be destroyed.”

The new Southwestern program, which will begin this fall, is a bachelor-of-arts in humanities degree, with a concentration in homemaking. The degree will be part of the seminary’s undergraduate college program and will only be offered for women. Coursework will include seven hours of nutrition and meal preparation, seven hours of clothing design and construction, and three hours on “the value of a child.”

During the FOX & Friends segment, Camerota mentioned Patterson’s teaching that “women should stay at home and take care of their husband and their children.” She then asked him, “What about women who hope to find fulfillment outside of the home?”

“Well of course, Alisyn, we don’t say that,” Patterson responded. “We believe that every person is free as Baptists to do anything they want to do, that they feel led to do. But we do believe that if a woman chooses to stay home and she chooses to devote her full energies to her husband, to her children, and to the development of her home, that that is noble, and not ignoble, and we feel that she ought to have the opportunity.”

Although Patterson claimed that he believes women should be able to choose if they work, previous comments by him have suggested otherwise. In 1997, Patterson remarked about women: “I think everybody should own at least one.”

In October of 2004, Patterson spoke in Southwestern’s chapel service on the role of women in the church and society and attempted to dispel the rumor that he would remove women from the theology school.

“What can a woman do in the church?” Patterson asked rhetorically. “Anything she wants to. Anything she wants to that is not expressly prohibited in Scripture.”

During the address, Patterson used a metaphor that made the husband like a police officer to correct the evil ways of his wife.

“However, he is above me,” Patterson said of the police officer. “God gave him an assignment that affects me and made him a minister of God to correct my evil ways. I am obligated to submit to him, not because he is a superior human being, but because his assignment from God is such that it is.”

Patterson also told women not to write “homemaker” in small letters on paperwork. Instead, he urged them, “Write it in bold letters with a big magic marker.”

Despite Patterson’s claim in 2004 that he would not remove women from the theology school, he has since been accused of taking such action. In March, former Old Testament languages professor Sheri Klouda sued Southwestern, claiming she was dismissed because she is a woman. She claims that Patterson believes that only men should teach men. Although Patterson’s wife, Dorothy, is a faculty member at Southwestern, she only teaches women.

Dorothy Patterson served on the committee that recommended the controversial 1998 amendment to the Baptist Faith & Message.

“A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ,” the statement read. “She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.”

Several media outlets have covered the new homemaker program during the past week after an Associated Press story, but was the first news source to report on this new degree back in June. Parham also addressed the degree in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution column in June.

Although the FOX & Friends segment dealt with larger issues about the role of women, the homemaker degree was the impetus for the story. According to the Nielsen ratings for the first quarter of 2007, FOX & Friends was the leading morning cable show with 769,000 viewers.

Brian Kaylor is communications specialist with the Baptist General Convention of Missouri.

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