Why does a seminary accept Muslims but fire women?

Why does a seminary accept Muslims but fire women? May 20, 2014

Are you Muslim?

No problem. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary may be the school for you.

SWBTS Carroll BldingIt was recently reported that the man who led to “conservative resurgence” in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has now decided––contrary to admissions policies and without trustee approval––that SWBTS would enroll a Muslim student.

Wade Burleson, a former trustee for the SBC’s mission board, recently wrote a blog post exposing this not so conservative breach in policy.

Here is an excerpt:

“In a faculty meeting in 2012, Dr. Patterson warned anyone who questioned him about Muslims being admitted into Southwestern, or anyone who was disloyal to him and discussed this matter with others not associated with Southwestern would be terminated. Dr. Patterson went on to explain that “it is not necessary to be a Christian” to enroll in Southwestern’s Ph.D. program.

The campus is abuzz. Many faculty are upset. Yet, most are afraid to say anything because of ‘repercussions.’ I’ve been told by students, “I don’t want my transcripts blocked for speaking out” and many of the faculty are concerned for their jobs. All the while, Dr. Patterson acts as if there is nothing wrong with Southern Baptists, through the Cooperative Program, funding the theological education of practicing Muslims. He is intending to enroll a father/son Muslim team in the near future. Dr. Patterson is turning SWBTS is school without Christian distinctive. I find it ironic that he fired Dr. Sherry Klouda for teaching Hebrew because she ‘was a woman’, and argued before the courts that Southwestern was ‘a church’ and that the courts had no business ruling on gender roles within ecclesiastical institutions. Using Dr. Patterson’s same argument, I have a question for him: Would a Southern Baptist pastor allow a member into his church who refuses to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? “

For the full post, click here. I have two questions:

Students are supposed to have church recommendation letters attesting to an applicant’s Christian character (see below). So,….

  • Would this mean they accept a mosque recommendation letter from an imam commending the conviction of his Muslim faith?
  • If a Christian seminary, by definition, exists to train Christian leaders, would this decision by Patterson de facto mean that Southwestern no longer wants to be a Christian seminary?

Missiological Compromise?

Patterson’s has significant missiological implications. Burleson explains,

“At a prayer meeting this past fall, several International Mission Board missionaries and employees from foreign countries were invited to participate, along with students at Southwestern Theological Seminary. As introductions were being made, Ghassan introduced himself as “a Muslim” at Southwestern. Thinking that he had said “a minister to Muslims,” one of our IMB missionaries responded, “And where do you minister to Muslims?” Ghassan responded, “No, I AM a Muslim. I believe there is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.” Immediately, our IMB missionaries began removing their name tags. Some of those missionaries were in Security Three zones where their very identity is supposed to be protected. (Editor’s note: The previous anecdote is summary of what was told me by two people at the meeting).”

In response to criticism, Patterson said, “One of these young men from a Muslim background loved our people and asked to study with us. He accepted the necessity of abiding by our moral code of conduct. He is a man of peace, and we agreed to admit him into the archeology program.”

A Model of Leadership?

What is SWBTS modeling when it comes to leadership and Christian theological training?

  • Is this what a Christian seminaryis about? Simply abiding by a school’s moral code of conduct?
  • Should Christian leaders around the world model Patterson’s behavior described above?


Every year, students from around the world seek to go to seminary in America. This story raises an important and relevant questions. Perhaps, SWBTS is moving away from its prior conservativism. After all, Patterson in a Tweet last March seemed to affirmed some sort of modalism when he wrote, “The divine economy is limited to the presence of one member of the Trinity at a time.” 

Paige Patterson Tweet.tiffWould you recommend to people that they go to SWBTS?


For those of you who are curious, here are a few requirements listed under SWBTS’ Application Process.

  • Official Application for Admission form. It includes a non-refundable application fee, basic demographic information and a statement of call and commitment to Christian ministry. The written statement should document: 1) conversion experience; 2) family background; 3) spiritual development; 4) call to ministry; 5) vocational/ministry goals; and 6) educational goals.
  • Church Endorsement form. This form, completed by the church where the applicant is currently a member, gives evidence of the applicant’s sincere commitment to Christian ministry.

Under SWBTS’ Mission, Vision, and Values, one also reads, “We covenant to train spiritual leaders who will share the gospel of Jesus Christ with all the world.”



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  • J.M.

    Thanks for bringing this to light! Absolutely mind blowing how this could happen!