Former professor sues Southwestern

“A former Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professor has filed suit against the school and its president, Paige Patterson, claiming she lost her tenure-track position because of her gender. The suit by Dr. Sheri Klouda, filed late Thursday in federal court, accuses the Fort Worth seminary and Dr. Patterson of breach of contract, fraud and defamation. The suit asks unspecified damages.” –Sam Hodges, Dallas Morning News

1 When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud- even your own brothers!” –The Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 6:1-8


  • Brian W

    And how would you suggest Sherri Klouda go about this, Denny? What “church” would have jurisdiction here?

    And of course, I’m guessing that you say this to Klouda’s shame. But what about her “brothers” at Southwestern? Are we to naively think that her brothers treated her with respect and honor like her master, Jesus would? Is Klouda a vindicative person who has no warrant or case against Southwestern?

    Sad, indeed… in many respects.

  • Brad G

    The key here is when Paul says, “Why not rather be wronged and defrauded.”
    I don’t know the details of her departure from SWBTS and I don’t know that they are even the issue. Paul clearly says it is to the shame of the one who brings the lawsuit.
    Has the administration of SWBTS wronged and defrauded her? Possibly. Is that wrong being righted worthy of the harm that is done to the cause of Christ? Do those bringing the suit not have faith that God will judge and will provide for their needs?
    I don’t have the facts to stand in judgment of the administration (and neither do any of you). However, the lawsuit speaks plainly for itself.

  • Paul


    agreed, completely.

    Here are the problems as I see them…

    You can’t hire someone on based on one set of criteria and then let them go based on a different set of criteria. If they had a problem with her gender, they should have had that problem when they hired her.

    This woman had to turn her life around in order to find another job, even though she was doing just fine (I assume) in her current position, was qualified to handle the position, and Southwestern was in no need to lay off workers. Therefore, once she was hired, they had no reason to get rid of her, except for the fact that they “suddenly” came to the conclusion that she couldn’t exert authority over a man.

    And if that’s the case, Southwestern has NO business accepting female students into its seminary. If women cannot exert authority over a man, it is illogical for a seminary to put them on that very path.

  • Mark

    Is that wrong being righted worthy of the harm that is done to the cause of Christ?


    Does this sobering admonition fall equally on the shoulders of both parties?

    Is it not damage to the cause of Christ if SWBTS acted negligently?

  • Brad G

    In my opinion, if they have wronged her, then yes, it does. And my view of God is big enough to believe that God will deal with them if they have wronged her.
    However, it is not SWBTS, while they may or may not have acted wrongly to her, that brought this matter before the unrighteous instead of the saints.

  • Mark

    I agree that God has it all figured out, and is just in his judgments.

    Hopefully she will drop the lawsuit and SWBTS makes amends in a way that both sides bring glory to Christ.

  • Kris

    Brian W,

    I agree. Those who hold the view that SBC seminaries are extentions of the church and therefore Pauls words of a woman not teaching a man apply, are treading on hypocrisy emphazing parts of scripture while over looking the entire content and thought. Verse 5 of the quoted scripture Denny used is what I had in mind.

    Although I think Klouda shouldn’t have went to the civil pagan courts, I see the blindness of those who have supported the trustees and the president of SWBTS on their decision.

    Like you said where should Klouda go? Who, or what institution of the SBC can or has offered to help her resolve her problem with her brothers? Remember she was hired to begin with, so she does have a right to a judge based on:

    “5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers,”

    There is plenty of debate over wether a teacher of Hebrew is actually exercising authority and teaching a man spiritual things in a seminary much less in a class at an actual church. But that is a secondary issue compared to the authorities hiring and termination procedures used on Mrs. Klouda.

    I would guess that she would drop her lawsuit even now if the SBC offered to judge her case instead of the pagans. I think there is no question there needs to be a judgement in this case, its just a matter of SBC “men” in positions with the courage to do this for her and the SBC.

  • MIchael Duncan

    The article was a bit unclear, but if she didn’t have tenure the school is free to let her go. The only mistake I believe that they are guilty of was the promise to her of job security. I understand that she is upset but God quickly gave her another job in another school, it would seem this lawsuit is motivated by spite. Then the fact that 1Cor specifically addresses this issue is appalling!

    This is going to bring further shame on Christ in the world. It would seem that this is just another case meant to convince the world of the hypocrisy of the church.

  • BrianW

    Michael, you say, “This is going to bring further shame on Christ in the world.” I agree, but in what way? The world is telling Klouda “Sue!” What’s so offensive to them is that Klouda would get let go because of her gender, not that she’s standing up for herself in a court of law. Does not SWBTS have the calling to “be well thought of by outsiders.” Certainly this is a requirement for an overseer; not a seminary training overseers?

    Most definitely, the world’s methods employed by the Church is dishonoring, but it seems clear that in some way the seminaries conduct wasn’t above reproach either. Again, while the seminaries conduct is relatively unknown, it seems naive to think they have no culpability.

    So again, what’s bringing shame to Christ seems to be more than Klouda’s suit.

  • benarbour03

    Dr. Burk,

    I would like to hear more from you on this. Please interact with the comments left by others instead of merely quoting the passage. Please exegete the text as it relates to this matter – clearly SWBTS is not a local church.

  • Steve Grose

    1 Tim 3: An overseer, therefore, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher, 3 not addicted to wine, not a bully but gentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy—
    Sounds like some of these folk that are trying to pick a fight on your blog have disqualified themselves.

  • Mark


    your assertion has disqualified a good number of church fathers, apologists, and theologians.

    I certainly don’t think anyone is proving themselves pugnacious or trying to pick a fight, niether by tone or word.

    Blogs are supposed to be conversational, and Dr. Burk has shown very well that he most likely has an apt answer.

  • dennyrburk

    The main thrust of 1 Corinthians 6:1-9 is that it is better to be wronged (or “defrauded”) rather than to take a fellow believer to court. When brother takes brother to court, it is a loss as far as our gospel witness is concerned (1 Cor 6:7). It’s better to take the hit rather than bring a reproach on the cause of Christ.

  • Bryan L

    So then do you believe she was wronged or defrauded Denny?

    Since we know what options the wronged and defrauded have, what then is the responsibility of those who wrong and defraud their brothers and sisters?
    What is SWBTS responsibility in all of this and what could they have done so that she didn’t feel her only recourse for justice was to go before the secular courts?
    And what does that say about the witness of the church when those inside the church feel they can’t receive justice from the church but must instead go to the world to receive justice?

    Bryan L

  • dennyrburk


    Sorry for the confusion. No, I’m not saying that she was wronged.

    But she thinks that she was wronged, and that is why she is bringing the suit. Therefore, the text speaks directly to the situation as she perceives it.


  • Peter Head

    DRB: “the text speaks directly to the situation as she perceives it”.

    I have a number of questions/comments about this.

    1. Is it true that the American legal system is best described as “civil pagan courts”?

    2. Don’t you think it might be relevant that in Paul’s day part of the point of his argument was to restrain the rich and powerful from their patterns of abusive behaviour (for only the rich and powerful would take others to court)?

    3. In this context Paul’s purpose may well have been to protect the weak and powerless from oppression by the rich and powerful by recommending church-based trials which would not have been so influenced by the patronage and status of the contesting parties.

    4. If this sort of background is relevant then it is hardly fair to use this text to deny the right of the wronged party from bringing a plea for justice to a court of law. It is hardly Dr Klouda’s fault that Southern Baptist’s appear to have ignored this passage too (otherwise they would have an accessible church-based judicial and reconciliation system to which the weak and wronged could appeal).

    5. Simply using this text to say that all Christians wronged and abused by more powerful and influential persons and institutions who claim to be Christians should have no acceptable legal options open to them seems to run too far counter to Paul’s actual intention here.

  • Brian W

    So what do we care more about? Interpreting the text correctly (yet, no one has spoken to what that means for her since we have no local church here) or justice. It concerns me that there are some who seem so uninterested in what is right… in all respects. Quite frankly, 1 Cor. 6 is for Klouda to read and appropriate. I feel these lectures given to Klouda are akin to a husband demanding his wife to submit while he ignores what the Bible says for him.

  • dennyrburk

    Dear Peter (in #18),

    Yes, I am aware of the background, and I’m familiar with recent commentators who link this section with 11:17-34. I don’t, however, see how that background mitigates Paul’s point that going before secular law-courts belies the Corinthians’ status as the eschatological people of God who will judge the angels.

    To your points:
    1. Yes.

    2. Yes, it’s relevant, but see above.

    3. Are you suggesting that Paul intends to allow Christians to face-off in secular law-courts as long as the poor/weak Christians are the ones bringing the case? I am not convinced that that is Paul’s point at all.

    4. Southern Baptists do have a “church-based judicial and reconciliation system.” It’s called the Southern Baptist Convention. It’s composed of messengers sent from churches across the denomination, and they meet every summer.

    5. That’s not how I interpret the text.

    Thanks for the good conversation!

    Denny Burk

  • Steve Hayes

    OK, Denny, I just have to chime in here. I’m amazed that you think Sherri Klouda wasn’t at all wronged in this situation, but I’m even more amazed that you point to the SBC as a “church-based judicial and reconciliation system.” The SBC is primarily a network of like-minded churches who pool their resources for the purposes of missions. Thier annual meetings do address issues of policy, but I’ve never been aware of their annual meetings addressing issues of justice and reconciliation, per se.

    Do you really believe that the Sherri Klouda issue has been handled directly at the SBC annual meeting? If it has been brought up in reference to justice and reconciliation, I’m certainly not aware of it. Are you (and I’m not talking about some broad brush policy on women in ministry. I’m talking about the specifics of this situation).

    Denny, you know that I grew up Southern Baptist, and I appreciate my heritage, but this is another situation where the “Good Ole Boys Club” (of which Paige Patterson is the chief memeber) of the SBC has made a mistake. Now that this mistake is being made public they are all wanting to shift the blame to Klouda. So, I guess we’re all supposed to turn a blind eye to this woman’s situation because of her decision to take this thing to court, huh? Wow!! How do these guys live with themselves?

  • Steve Grose

    I guess no one reads passages like this anymore:

    Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.


    For what credit is there if you endure when you sin and are beaten? But when you do good and suffer, if you endure, it brings favor with God.
    For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example,so that you should follow in His steps.
    He did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth;
    when reviled, He did not revile in return; when suffering, He did not threaten,but committed Himself to the One who judges justly.

    I know they are old passages. I know they must be able to be stood on their head to mean the opposite to what they say… after all, you guys are smart, you can deprive a passage of its meaning with ease, can’t you?

    And I’ll give a quarter to any of you guys who know the references without looking them up!
    Clue: John Bunyan wrote a whole book on the first one! (It stopped me sueing the university I went through for failing me for a whole year for simply being a christian in the class of a man who wanted atheism promoted throughout the whole educational system in my country, even when most of the other lecturers were encouraging me to carry through a suit. I lived to see this man’s daughter come to know the Saviour, marry a pastor, and the arch- atheist himself come to know the Lord as his Saviour.)
    The principle has always been that when we use worldly methods for “godly” purposes (and until all are in possession of all facts, I must doubt that the cause IS “godly”, when such accusations are encouraged)we get the best man can do. When we use godly methods we see what God can do.
    May I encourage you to read Warriors of Ethiopia by Dick Mclellan, (an SBC misso once told me history will record him as great a man as David Livingstone in the cause of missions in Africa) who writes not about himself, but 20 Ethiopian evangelists martytred for their faith.
    I need to learn what it really is to suffer for the Lord.

  • dennyrburk

    Dear Steve (in #22),

    I meant to clear this up in #16, but I didn’t do a good job of it. I am not taking a position on who did or did not make promises to whom. I have no inside knowledge of what Klouda was told when the new president was hired at Southwestern. All I have heard is Klouda’s side of the story in news reports and in the lawsuit that she filed. I don’t know what the Seminary’s side of the story is. We would all do well to remember Proverbs 18:17 “The first to plead his case seems just, Until another comes and examines him.”
    So, all of that to say, I’m claiming ignorance on the allegations. My only point is that I think 1 Corinthians 6:1-9 applies to this situation even if all of Klouda’s allegations turn out to be true (but I’m not saying that they are or aren’t).

    Much luf,

  • Bryan L

    Sometimes I’m confused how some Christians can find just causes for war, yet think other individuals should just lay down accept all the wrong done to them (and not even turn to nonviolent methods for justice).
    How can some at one point justify using the secular military to invade, bomb and overthrow a nation (killing thousands of innocents in the process) and then condemn Christians who were wronged and defrauded for wanting justice and turning to the secular courts (a peaceful/nonviolent means) to receive it because they couldn’t from within the church?

    At what point (if any) is it ok for fellow brother or sister turn to the courts or law for justice?

    Is it wrong for those molested and abused in the church by clergy to seek justice from the secular courts against those who’ve hurt them (since often the church has been know to sweep things under the rug or just give a slap on the hand)?

    Is there never a good time for those in the church to seek this type of justice?

    Bryan L

  • Wade

    There will always be critics- “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.”

    This would be a good course of action for all parties-
    “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.29″Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. 30″Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back.31″Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.32″If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.33″If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.34″If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount.35″But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.

    36″Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

    That is Bro. Luke’s version.

    I would say that is some great advice, but it takes living in the Spirit and not the flesh for these to be ones actions. I know from experience. My church held a “private” meeting one week ago and fired me. The month before they had given me a 10% raise??? I must say that it is hard to live out what Jesus is calling us to. If Christ lives in me, it is in His strength that I will be able to forget what is behind me, counting all as dung, and striving forward for the upward call of God in Christ Jesus!!!

    To God be the Glory!
    Wade C

  • JM

    Do you think it is wrong for State conventions to go to court over institutions and their trustees changing charters to remove themselves from convention control? I’m thinking specifically of Missouri.

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