FORT WORTH—Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary inaugurated the Dorothy Kelley Patterson Chair of Women’s Studies in the School of Theology during its chapel service, Sept. 16, and installed assistant professor Candi Finch into the position. The academic endowment was established to honor Dorothy Patterson, wife of Southwestern’s president, Paige Patterson, and professor of theology in women’s studies at the institution.
Southwestern Executive Vice President and Provost Craig Blaising described Dorothy Patterson’s most cherished roles as wife, mother and grandmother before explaining the contributions she has made toward recovering a biblical understanding of womanhood.
“As she was a supporting wife to Dr. Patterson and all he has done in theology, it became very apparent to her over the years that this issue of women’s studies, this issue of femininity and masculinity in our culture and society, is a critical issue in the churches and must be addressed. And the Lord put it upon her heart to do that,” Blaising said.
Dorothy Patterson earned her bachelor’s degree from Hardin Simmons University before pursuing a Master of Theology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and two doctorate degrees—a Doctor of Ministry from Luther Rice Seminary and a Doctor of Theology from the University of South Africa. She was a founding member of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and has authored and edited more than a dozen books, including the Old and New Testament volumes of the Women’s Evangelical Commentary, The Christian Homemaker’s Handbook and The Study Bible for Women.
Her husband, Paige Patterson, preached a sermon from 1 Corinthians 11 during the chapel service, explaining that the biblical model of womanhood is not demeaning to women, as some have suggested. Just as Jesus is one in essence with the Father yet has a different assignment within the Godhead, Patterson said, women are equal in essence with men yet have been given different roles.
“The Bible is the very first book ever written to openly and fully declare the full equality of women with men,” Patterson said. “Don’t you believe what the press says, that ‘You evangelical Christians believe that women are subordinate to men in essence and that they simply ought to sit still, be quiet and say nothing.’ … You read the history of evangelical Christianity, and wherever you find the gospel preached, you’ll find great women serving the Lord magnificently. On the other hand, the assignment is not the same.”
Patterson praised his wife for her desire to fulfill “the highest calling of wife and mother,” while also strengthening her academic skills to counter the impact of secular feminism on churches.
Janice Crouse, executive director of World Congress of Families and a friend of the Pattersons for nearly two decades, attended the inauguration.
“I’ve been so impressed with the way the vision for this women’s studies program has developed,” Crouse said, adding that she is thankful to link “arm-in-arm in this battle for women to have a clear vision of all the potential they have.”
Barbara O’Chester, who has led a retreat ministry for women for more than 45 years, was also in attendance.
“I’m so thankful for this chair and for what it’s going to mean for women’s ministry,” O’Chester said.
“I agree with (Dorothy) totally with regard to submission to authority and the whole nine yards—I’ve lived it; I’ve taught it—but I also know God uses women in a miraculous way. To have a place where women can come and learn the biblical principles and see how God can work those out in their lives and their ministries is very exciting.”
Funding for the endowed chair came from James and Dorothy Merritt of Easley, S.C., as well as from the estate of Charles and Doris Kelley, the parents of Dorothy Patterson. The Merritts also endowed a women’s studies scholarship.
Candi Finch studied under Dorothy Patterson during her time at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and then completed both her Master of Divinity and Ph.D. in Systematic Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. As assistant professor of theology in women’s studies at Southwestern, she teaches courses such as Biblical Theology of Womanhood, Feminist Theology, Intro to Women’s Studies, Communication for Women, Women in Church History, and Girls Ministry. She has also contributed to several books, including the Old and New Testament volumes of the Women’s Evangelical Commentary and Adoniram Judson: A Bicentennial Appreciation of the Pioneer American Missionary.
During a luncheon following the chapel service, Finch shared about her Ph.D. dissertation, which refuted the hermeneutic of feminist theologian Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza. She also expressed her excitement to serve alongside other women on faculty who “believe it’s important to equip women to have a biblical foundation for whatever sphere of ministry God has called them, to know how to not only handle the Bible correctly and apply it, but (also) help women to understand how to engage the culture for the things that we’re facing today.”