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Supporting the Surge

As I glanced over the last Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) alumni newsletter, my eye caught the announcement that the seminary had reached a significant milestone: 1,500 female alumni on their roster. As one of the first women to set foot on the DTS campus as a student, I admit my heart skipped a beat when I saw that number. The fact that DTS was celebrating this was even more satisfying.

Rock on DTS!

Here are more encouraging statistics: The latest Association of Theological Seminaries study (2007-08) reported 34% of seminary students are women. Interestingly enough, the same report indicates a significant rise in the numbers of women students between the ages of 40-64 - underscoring the happy notion that it's never too late to get started! Furthermore, women now comprise 23% of fulltime seminary faculty.

This growing trend is one of the biggest success stories of the modern church, and we should be making a lot of noise about it. I know there are still some who question (or flat out oppose) the decision to offer theological education to women and still some seminaries that refuse to admit them. Opinions divide over how far women can go with their theological training and whether or not seminaries are capitulating to the culture (and more specifically to feminist influence) by opening their doors to women. But there is strong biblical warrant for what is happening.

The subject matter alone is reason enough for women to be part of the seminary community at every level. After all, theology is the study of God and no one (not even women) can get too much of that! Hopefully, the presence of women in theological seminaries will correct the misperception that theology is for men only and women should just learn from them.

Let us not forget that Jesus defended Mary's desire to "sit at his feet" and learn along with His male disciples - a description that identifies her as a rabbinical student. As I noted in my book, When Life and Beliefs Collide, Mary was the first real NT theologian to grasp the meaning of His atonement and the hope of his resurrection. Even Mary's sister Martha began theologizing as she conversed with Jesus after the death of her brother Lazarus. Then there are His challenging interactions with the Samaritan and Syrophoenician women, as well as His choice of Mary Magdalene and the other women from Galilee to be the first witnesses and proclaimers of the resurrected Jesus. All this in a culture that rarely if ever offered formal education to women, where men avoided public conversation with women, and where a woman's testimony was inadmissible in a court of law.

I have hard time believing Jesus isn't rejoicing in the swelling numbers of women pursuing theological studies today.

It is indeed a good thing that more women are walking the hallowed halls of seminaries. What is more, there is a growing recognition that the seminary community needs women. My latest book, The Gospel of Ruth, reinforced this conviction, as I studied the conversations between Ruth and Boaz - discussions over Mosaic Law where Ruth's insights expanded Boaz's understanding and subsequent actions. Likewise today, the involvement of women in theological seminaries is changing things for the better. Suddenly a new pair of eyes falls upon the biblical text. A new perspective that has for centuries been missing is now enriching the discussion of God and His Word. And men - both fellow seminary students and professors - are the better for it.

And isn't this the way things are supposed to be? When God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone," what part of life did He exclude? Even in seminary - maybe especially in seminary - men and women need each other.

So, I'm celebrating the numbers! It is glorious to see them surging.

And now a word to women seminarians - students, alumni, and professors (yes, this is a commercial): If you're feeling isolated, alone, or unwelcome, if you've hit a wall in your job search, or you simply want to connect with other like-minded women who believe in you and want to see you flourish in your academic and ministry pursuits - Synergy2009 is for you!

Come join us MARCH 6-8, 2009, and let us cheer you on!

January27, 2009 at 6:48 AM

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