There was a big baptist brouhaha this week when seminary student, mother, and Army veteran, Erin Harding announced that she was graduating from South Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) with a BA in pastoral ministry.
Now one would naturally think that this would be a time for friends and well-wishers to pour praise on Erin for persevering in her divinity studies while being a mother and a wife. However, for reasons that most of us find inexplicable and baffling, a certain Dr. Scott Aniol took it upon himself to pour some cold water on the celebratory cake that Erin was enjoying at her graduation by alleging that Christian women like her should not in fact study for pastoral studies degrees.
Aniol teaches at the unaccredited Grace Bible Theological seminary with his colleague Owen Strachan (what are the odds?). We normally roll our eyes at such remarks as the hater has to hate, but American Baptist twitter was fluttering with views about whether women should do degrees in pastoral ministry. I submit that this is a conversation that should not be happening!
Thankfully, the vast majority of my SBC friends and my complementarian buddies are equally abhorred by such remarks, rooted as they are in ridiculous notions of patriarchy and also collapsing offices and functions. I have friends in every SBC seminary, I know in particular several great Christian men and women at SEBTS, I know that they value the contribution of women to SBC life and their ministries in the churches, on the mission field, in academia, and in para-church ministry.
In fact, SWBTS president, Adam Greenway, pointed out the historical roots of training women for ministry in SBC seminaries in a very on-topic tweet.
Let me be clear, we need women in pastoral ministry because churches have women in them. Believe it or not, but women have pastoral needs, things related to discipleship, mentoring, women’s health, mental health, marriage, domestic violence, and more. And, note this, women sometimes feel more comfortable and safer talking about personal and difficult topics with other women rather than exposing their soul and vulnerabilities to a sausage-fest of elders at their church.
So, whether you are complementarian or egalitarian, churches need women who minister to other women, and those women need to be trained in Bible, history, theology, communication, ethics, and pastoral care. So send your leading women to some great seminaries for training! At Ridley College, we believe in the ministry of women, ministries to women, or even in the wider church.
I am egalitarian, but you don’t need to be egalitarian to affirm this:
Women’s ministries matter.
Women’s theological and pastoral education for ministry matters.
Women should study pastoral ministry at seminary!
Full stop, no backsies, no right of reply!
"I submit that this is a conversation that should not be happening!"
I submit that nobody whose opinion is worth considering should be using Twitspace. That said, I'm pleased for Ms. Harding, and I hope she finds that her degree is useful to herself and others.