Women in the Seminary Classroom

Women in the Seminary Classroom October 28, 2019

As a professor at Southwestern Seminary in Ft Worth, Texas, Calvin Miller, in his autobiography, Life is Mostly Edges (#ad), describes a class session that is worth a good read:

I once had a church leadership class with eighty students in it, four of whom were women. I know they were determined to get their degrees, but among that many men—some of whom were strongly opposed to women in ministry—they always looked a little scared to me. Women are often quiet in large sections of male students. And after several class sessions in which they had remained silent, I asked all four of the women to take chairs on the raised platform at the front of the classroom. They did this very reluctantly, but they did it. Then I gave them the whole class period to tell all the men in the class why they believed they were properly following God in a ministry career.

It was a quiet session. One by one the women told of their experiences of faith and how they had come to trust in Christ, and later felt that God had called them to serve him full-time in the church. When they said they had been “called,” a few of the men grew agitated and stirred in their seats. But as the women continued, even the most agitated of men seemed to settle back and grow easy. Then some of the women began to be emotional about how they often felt thwarted in the church and felt like their ministries were unwelcome in many churches. They all believed God had called them, but also felt that many men would never allow them to serve in any prominent positions of ministry in the church.

At the end of the class, I suggested that Southern Baptists—and most of us in the class were that—could profit from widening their hermeneutic on women. I suggested several biblical heroes who actually were women and led both men and women in some encounter with God. I encouraged the students to look at the coming of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, when both men and women prophesied. We looked at Galatians 3:28, where it clearly says that in Christ there are no men and women, only one undivided church. We examined Romans 16:1-4, where Saint Paul commends more women than men in the church, and all the women were cited for doing heroic sorts of service in the church and none were praised for being good, quiet homemakers who kept still in the church and fried whatever their husbands hunted.

It was one of my favorite of all classes I ever led. I did nothing but let the women talk and let the men listen, and listen they did. Several of the men came up to me after class. A few were mad that I would let a woman “usurp” authority over the men in the class, but most said they had never realized that women could feel the same sense of urgency and calling that they themselves did.

Of course, there are always gender warriors who go too far. [SMcK: gender warriors on both sides, one needs to add.]


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