A pastor and influential blogger has accused Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and past president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), of gender discrimination in denying tenure to a female former faculty member at the Fort Worth, Texas, seminary.

The allegations were made on the personal blog of Wade Burleson, a pastor in Enid, Okla., who gained attention in Southern Baptist circles last year when he challenged the denomination's ban on missionaries who speak in tongues.

Burleson alleged that Patterson had promised Sherri Klouda, who taught Hebrew, that she would stay on faculty after he was appointed president in 2003, but later refused to grant her tenure.

Burleson alleged that Patterson dismissed Klouda because of his strict interpretation of key biblical passages — particularly that the Bible prohibits women from teaching men in the areas of theology and biblical studies.

T. Van McClain, chair of Southwestern's board of trustees, released a statement calling Burleson's blog entry "filled with inaccuracies" and denied that Klouda was dismissed. "Actually, she did not have tenure and, like hundreds of professors around the U.S. every year, was told that she would not be awarded tenure," he said.

McClain also denied that gender discrimination played a role in Klouda's dismissal: "The second issue involves the desire of (the seminary) to have only men teaching who are qualified to be pastors or who have been pastors in the disciplines of theology, biblical studies, homiletics, and pastoral ministry. This is in keeping, of course, with the statement of faith of the SBC that clearly says the pastorate is reserved for men."

McClain said the school was free to hire only men for these positions, saying, "It is a matter of freedom of religion in this country for a private institution to align itself with the majority views of its constituency."

McClain called Klouda's hiring a "momentary lax of the parameters" and said the school has now returned to "its traditional, confessional, and biblical position." He added that the seminary "agreed to continue [McClain's] support after her teaching responsibilities were over, so her family would have financial support. The seminary went far beyond anything that could be expressed as its duty or responsibility."

Klouda, who has since obtained a position at Taylor University in Indiana, did not return calls for comment, but told The Dallas Morning News, "I don't think it was right to hire me to do this job, to put me in the position where I, in good faith, assumed that I was working toward tenure, and then suddenly remove me without any cause other than gender."

With additional reporting from Baptist Press.

Related Elsewhere:

Burleson's blog has several posts on Klouda.

Christianity Today earlier reported on Burleson's online criticism of the International Mission Board's policy on tongues.

Other coverage of the Klouda dispute includes:

Baptists at odds over removal of female professor | Seminary case fuels debate on women's role in theology programs (The Dallas Morning News, Jan. 19)
Newspaper reports tenure refusal for Southwestern woman prof (Baptist Press, Jan. 22)

There are also some comments about the story at the Dallas Morning News's religion blog.