27 September 2021  |

Dear Aunt Sevvy,

Adventist Fundamental Belief 14 says that “distinctions of race, culture, learning, and nationality, and differences between high and low, rich and poor, male and female, must not be divisive among us.… we are to serve and be served without partiality or reservation.” 

So why do the General Conference leaders oppose equal treatment of female pastors for ordination? If Elder Wilson did not keep the fundamental belief of the Sabbath, would he not be thought unfit to remain in office? How is not keeping Fundamental Belief 14, which states our belief in equality in service, any different from not keeping Fundamental Belief 20?

Signed, Fundamentals Follower

Dear Follower

To answer simply: the anti-women voices in our church distinguish between leadership and salvation. They would say that Fundamental Belief 14, along with biblical teachings about gender equality like Galatians 3:28, apply only to God’s acceptance of us, not the church’s. Why God would accept us fully but the church would refuse some the opportunity to serve is an excellent question. It appears that by employing a bit of selective blindness, some have found it easy to ignore that the early Christian church had female workers, and that the Adventist church itself would probably never have come into being without a female prophetess. 

It is popular in top church leadership circles right now to embrace a pseudo-biblical idea called headship theology. Headship theology comes from a passage in Ephesians 5:23 that says that “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” Yet it is badly misinterpreted, as Kendra Haloviak points out in a paper on the topic: 

The language of headship is a cultural construct that we impose on the texts.… Most Christians today would not say that the husband is the savior of the woman’s body, even though the metaphor continues in just that way: “the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior.” To interpret the metaphor as denoting authority, power, or rulership would be to impose a personal perspective that ascribes to the Caesar model. 

If the Caesar model is actually being challenged in the New Testament, and Christ is the new model for the believing community, head then connotes humility, self-sacrifice, and being “obedient” to others (Philippians 2:8).

If there’s anything that you should take away from this, it is that organizations have a will to power, and men in these organizations who want to maintain their power will find in the Bible reasons to hold on to it. For centuries some did it with race—even making biblical arguments for slavery!—and some still do it with gender.

Sadly, their will to power is expressed not just in their excluding women, but in a desire to exercise a stern authoritarianism over everyone in the church—the same thing we Adventists have criticized the papacy for!

Little by little this grip of the authoritarians is being loosened—but will it end before it is too late?

Aunt Sevvy

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