Fathom Mag

“I’m going to seminary in the wake of the SBC scandal.”

One Story from the New Crop of Seminary-Educated, Southern Baptist Women

Published on:
November 19, 2018
Read time:
3 min.
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I was lost in the wake of #ChurchToo. My boss had helped lead a group of complementarian women who were calling for the removal of seminary president Paige Patterson, and social media was making me aware of the countless Southern Baptist pastors falling because of sexual assault allegations, but I could not find my place. Women across my denomination were standing firm in their convictions about biblical gender roles and demanding that their churches properly value them, but I didn’t know what my convictions were and could therefore make no demands. I was lost. 

I’d only ever heard “seminary” connected with pastors, and since my Southern Baptist roots were planted in exclusively-male-pastor soil, I had assumed that women couldn’t go.

After a few months of perpetual lost-ness, I began to feel a tug—a roadmap, if you will. I began to feel compelled to go to seminary.

Perhaps it’s sacrilegious to argue with God, but I did. Most of my life, I didn’t know women were even allowed to go to seminary. I’d only ever heard “seminary” connected with pastors, and since my Southern Baptist roots were planted in exclusively-male-pastor soil, I had assumed that women couldn’t go. 

When I finally did discover that women could go to seminary, I felt no life-altering call. My gifts lay within reading and writing—and so I applied to become an English major in college. 

Being an English major was part of my identity. I worked for an English professor who’d published three books. My mentor was an English professor with two co-authored titles to her name. I was president of a writing community on campus. I had researched graduate schools with quality English degrees. I’d looked into teaching English abroad. Seminary didn’t fit within that English-centric identity. 

But when we argue with God, we seldom win. For months, the idea of seminary chipped away at my brain. I watched as the Southern Baptist Convention’s new president, J.D. Greear, vowed to better help women in the church while remaining true to the complementarianism that we Southern Baptists believe is most biblical. 

New articles decorated my social media pages as a variety of Christian publications celebrated a variety of Christian women, from old saints and martyrs to current theologians. I yearned to join this new, godly celebration of women. And even though I tried to deny it, I knew that the best way to biblically do that would be to study women in Scripture and other theological issues in order to edify more women and churches in the future. 

God made the seminary call known in other ways. He showed me that the love that I have for both people and places could be used help people and places heal. Higher education in his Word would only help that love grow.

Maybe, though, I was being called because I was unworthy and I knew it, like Gideon.

The divine orchestration didn’t stop in how my heart had been wired: the English professor I’d asked to mentor me was also in seminary. Her encouragement, enthusiasm, and prayers lead me to a more careful consideration of this potential call. I began to research seminaries, even the one that Paige Patterson had led, and consider different degrees. But I hadn’t said yes to the call yet.

Part of my continued resistance was that I didn’t feel worthy of seminary. The people who went to seminary did great things for the kingdom of God. My seminary-trained pastor was changing our church like no pastor ever had. My mentor was an editor at Christ and Pop Culture. Meanwhile, I had no post-seminary plan. Seminary wasn’t even technically part of my plan.

Maybe, though, I was being called because I was unworthy and I knew it, like Gideon. I knew humility was exactly what our churches needed. 

So I said yes. Yes to seminary and, to better prepare for seminary, yes to changing my major my first week of my senior year of college. 

My soul was restless those first few weeks with a new major and new future shakily stretching out before me in a road that ended in a place I could not see. But God thrives in mystery. 

Rebecca Olsen
Rebecca Olsen holds a BS in Interdisciplinary Studies with cognates in English and Religion. She currently works as a marketing copywriter and has been previously published by Fathom Magazine, Think Christian, and The Odyssey Online. You can follow her on Twitter @revealedgrace for various thoughts and ramblings.

Cover photo by Jonathan Simcoe.

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