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Biblical exposition for women is first-of-its-kind class at SBTS

Hershael York (foreground) is pictured with some of the students in a biblical exposition for women class at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) – Since Hershael York joined the faculty at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) in 1997, he has taught male-only classes. But that changed last month when he was tasked with teaching biblical exposition for women.

While noting that Southern continues wholeheartedly to follow the complementarian principle that the role of pastor is limited to men, York said the intent of the class is to teach women to be “doctrinally sound, exegetically precise and thoroughly prepared to teach in the roles that God has for them.”

“I usually teach preaching and pastoral ministry,” he said. “Only men can enroll in those classes, but we want the women who graduate from Southern to be thoroughly prepared to teach.” When York lamented that he never got to teach women, SBTS President Albert Mohler encouraged him to propose a class that met the need while remaining true to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

The class meets every other Tuesday night for four hours. In one session last month, 90 students attended in person and online. York noted that nine of those are from Frankfort’s Buck Run Baptist Church, where he is pastor. Some are attending for college or seminary credit while a few are auditing the class.

“One of our (SBTS) trustees and her daughter-in-law drive from Henderson – approximately 130 miles away – to attend the class,” said York, who is dean of theology at the seminary.

“I make the case that the proper way for anyone to teach the Scriptures is biblical exposition. Consequently, we work through a lot of Scripture and determine its meaning based on the author’s intent as revealed by markers in the text, like repetition, variation and word choice, which highlight significance and meaning.

“We focus on putting together a lesson in a format that engages listeners and makes the proper application for obedience and sanctification.

“The process of biblical exposition is the same no matter who is doing it, even when the offices or the audience are different. My wife’s preparation for her Sunday school class is not essentially different from my preparation for the pulpit. It is about locating the meaning and making appropriate application so listeners know how to understand and obey the Scriptures. We want the best equipped and most theologically robust women teachers to come from Southern Seminary.”

York said there was “an incredible excitement in the class. I am delighted that we have so many women who are theologically complementarian and are going to be among the best equipped teachers that the Lord will use throughout the world.”

Students delve into both the Old and New Testaments, each choosing a text they plan to teach somewhere.

Among those applauding the new class is Todd Gray, executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. His oldest daughter, Khera, is among the students in that class.

“I heard Jen Wilkin say in an interview with Dr. York, ‘We have done a good job of telling women in ministry what they can’t do, but we have not done a good job in telling them what they can do,’” Gray said. “I could not be more thrilled that SBTS is taking great strides in preparing women for Christian ministry. This class being taught by Dr. York is a huge statement on the value of this effort.”

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  • Chip Hutcheson/Kentucky Today