12 counter-cultural affirmations for women

As gender and marriage take center stage, SWBTS women's program releases list in timely fashion.

FORT WORTH—During a week of heated debate over the issues of gender and marriage, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary on March 27 released a “Biblical Womanhood Statement” covering 12 “counter-cultural” convictions concerning women ranging from an affirmation of a woman’s personal worth to her role in ministry.

Terri Stovall, SWBTS dean of women’s programs and associate professor of women’s ministry, said she believes the 12 values serve as timely reminders in light of recent cultural actions to redefine God’s prescriptions for gender and marriage.

Earlier in the week, leaders of the Christian relief ministry World Vision US removed restrictions against hiring people in homosexual marriages, only to reverse itself a day later after heavy criticism. World Vision is based in Washington state, where homosexual marriage is legal.

“We knew this would lead into some hotbed issues,” Stovall said in an interview with the TEXAN. “But we also knew that it was imperative to make a strong statement here. Society today is on a slippery slope for which it is becoming difficult to stop.

“In a day and age where people believe that a surgical procedure will alter one’s gender or that the ability to define what is male and female rests with the created rather than the Creator, we felt it was time to begin shouting louder than culture, society, or even individuals the truth that gender is God-given,” Stovall said.

In accordance with the Southern Baptist Convention and its five sister seminaries, Southwestern affirms the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood as well as the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 confessional statement.

According to biblicalwoman.com, the online home of Southwestern’s women’s programs, the “Biblical Woman Statement” stands as an additional “positive value statement” providing a biblical foundation for the issues referenced in the other statements. 

The 12 values affirmed in the statement include a woman’s personal worth as an image bearer of God; her distinct role in the church and family; the non-socially constructed nature of gender; the covenantal nature of marriage and a woman’s role in it; and the significance of the home. The statement also affirms women serving in various kingdom activities “within biblical guidelines” including the life of the church through women’s and children’s ministry.

Careful to sidestep “cookie-cutter” portraits of biblical womanhood, the statement does not affirm stay-at-home mothers over working mothers, Stovall said shortly after the statement’s release, but seeks to “remind every woman, whether single or married, mother or childless, [that] a woman is called to use her home as a place of ministry and service.”

“That can be providing a safe place for her family, a time to reach her neighbors through hospitality, and even in the message she conveys when people cross the threshold of her doorway.” Stovall said.

Candi Finch, one of the statement’s drafters and assistant professor of theology in women’s studies at SWBTS, said there are still misperceptions about Southwestern’s stance on women in ministry. In an article on bibilcalwoman.org, Finch wrote of a student who inquired about the content of the biblical theology of womanhood course she teaches.

“She understandably wanted to know what we would be studying for the whole semester as we worked from Genesis to Revelation because another student (who hadn’t taken the course) had discouraged her because she ‘heard’ we didn’t believe women should be involved in ministry,” Finch wrote, describing her frustration at being misrepresented.

To that end, the Biblical Womanhood Statement builds upon the seminary’s existing confessional statements affirming the significance of single women to kingdom work, and the biblical warrant for women to engage in theological education and preparation for service. As a call to action, the statement affirms the power of the female voice to “effect societal change and preserve moral values” through her influence at home, community and public policy.

Southwestern has the largest faculty dedicated to women’s programs of any evangelical seminary, offering degrees at the certificate, college, master and doctorate levels for women.

The full Biblical Womanhood Statement may be read here. Stovall told the TEXAN that the editorial team at biblicalwoman.com would elaborate on the 12 values over the course of the year.


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