Paige and Dorothy Patterson defended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s controversial new homemaker degree on “Jerry Johnson Live,” a Dallas-based radio program hosted by Criswell College President Jerry Johnson. During the Aug. 15 broadcast, the Pattersons explained the program and attacked its critics.

Southwestern President Paige Patterson, former president of Criswell, said that they “continue to be astonished that anybody has a problem” with the new degree that starts this fall.

“I have concluded that the only reason anybody has a problem with it is ideological,” Paige added.

Later in the program, however, Patterson argued that the opposition “is not about the homemaking program. It’s about some very bad attitudes that exist out there and it’s truly personal.”

Without naming names, Johnson claimed that news of the program caused bloggers to go “crazy.” He also stated, “I am a little surprised that Christians–even Baptists or some Southern Baptists–would be in the cynic’s corner on this.”

“It amazes me,” said Dorothy Patterson, mocking critics, “that some of our friends want to do away with the whole fashion industry. They don’t want to have any institutional cafeterias in the schools, they don’t want to have any kind of hospitality things with the hotels and restaurants and so forth.”

During the discussion, the Pattersons and Johnson accused critics of the program of ignoring similar programs at other schools. Paige Patterson noted that Baylor had a “family and consumer sciences” program and complained that “our attackers have not focused on Baylor at all but on our program.” Johnson later referred to the Baylor program as “an emphasis on homemaking.”

However, Baylor’s Department of Family and Consumer Sciences is not designed as a homemaker degree but instead provides several professional degrees. For instance, one degree is in interior design, which includes 59 hours just in the interior design area. Another degree, fashion design, includes 54 hours in fashion design. Even the child & family studies degree includes 48 hours in courses like individual and family financial management, professional perspectives, and planning and administration of preschool programs.

By comparison, Southwestern’s new concentration will only include 23 hours in the homemaking portion. Instead of Baylor’s 54 hours in fashion design, Southwestern’s women will only receive seven hours.

Although the Southwestern program does not offer the hours of Baylor’s professional degrees, Dorothy Patterson claimed it would help women who wanted to work in these professions. She added that it will help an individual student learn if she “enjoys these particular mundane tasks.” Later, however, she claimed that what was needed was to “teach [women] to be home-workers.”

At the start of the program, Johnson played the theme song to the 1950’s television show “Leave It to Beaver” and referenced its character June Cleaver. He rhetorically asked if she should be the role model for women today.

A Baptist ethicist who was among the first critics of the homemaker degree argued that June Cleaver is an appropriate model for the new degree.

“The Southern Baptist Convention made June Cleaver the biblical model for motherhood in their doctrinal statement 10 years ago,” stated Baptist Center for Ethics executive director Robert Parham. “Now Southern Baptist fundamentalists want to train wives of preachers to be like June Cleaver.”

Parham also noted that the biblical model for women included working in professions.

“Deborah was a judge (Judges 4-5),” Parham noted. “Lydia was a business woman (Acts 16:14), a seller of purple cloth. The ideal wife in Proverbs 31 makes fine linens and sells them; she has profitable merchandize. She is economically prosperous.”

On Aug. 14, Baptist Press reported on the FOX & Friends segment between Paige Patterson and Parham, which reported about on Aug. 13. (Watch the segment here.) Southwestern issued a press release on Aug. 13.

Southwestern’s press release, however, did not even mention that Parham was present, but instead portrayed the debate as an “interview” of Patterson. The press release also left out a phrase about Patterson believing women can do what they feel led to do.

During the segment Patterson stated, “We believe that every person is free as Baptists to do anything they want to do, that they feel led to do.” Southwestern’s press release left out the latter phrase. Such a phrase could be at odds with the SBC’s Baptist Faith & Message of 2000, which argues that “the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.” Patterson has also argued that women cannot be a pastor or teach men.

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

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