A Letter to African Men
by Jack Hoehn
By Dr. Jack Hoehn, March 3, 2014
I have a message for you. I am speaking to Seventh-day Adventist African men about women. You have my permission to copy this letter and discuss it in your Sabbath Schools and Church Boards, and also with your mothers, your wives, and your daughters.
Figure 1 Adventist Girl in Mfuwe, Zambia
Your Divisions have taken a position that women are not to have positions of leadership in the Seventh-day Adventist church. They say women should not be allowed to preach in our churches. Some even claim that women should not even teach in our schools except to the youngest children. These same ones claim that men are always to have the leadership role and be the head. Women must always submit to men.
They claim that this is in the Bible, and it is. It is not only in the Bible, it is in history.
Egyptians mostly had male leaders (except Moses' foster mother, Hatshepsut, who was a female Pharaoh of course!). Romans had male leaders. Pagan Germans had male leaders. All great dictators were men—Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Idi Amin, Ian Smith, Shaka Zulu and Hendrick Verword.
Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, Ndebele, Tonga, Chewa, all had male leaders. (With a few exceptions, like South Africa’s Wild Cat People led by their fierce Queen Mantitisi).
Jesus only had male apostles. He only had white, Jewish, male, circumcised apostles.
The Popes are all male. Catholic Priests are all male.
And to the troublesome Ephesian church in AD 63, the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy about teachers of false doctrines in that church (teaching that Christians should not marry and have sex, supported by the teaching that since women are mothers and therefore are the “authors” or “originators” of men, they should rule over men).ii
Paul tells Timothy, “They do not know what they are talking about!” (1Timothy 1:7)
To bring back peace and quiet to the Ephesian church, in chapter 2 Paul gives Timothy rules to help restore order with those trouble makers, both male and female.
In 1 Timothy 2:8 he says the men need to stop being angry and arguing.
In 1 Timothy 2:12 he says the female false teachers (promoting what he later called, “godless myths and old wives tales”) should not be teaching that since women authored men they no longer had to be married to their husbands, and that they could rule over their husbands!
No, he says using their own arguments, even though all men come from women (our mothers), the first woman in fact came from a man. So sit down ladies and be quiet and listen to the true Gospel. Stop arguing who is first.
So there you have it! Men rule. Women are under us. That should settle it, shouldn’t it?
Should We Take African Adventism Back to the so called “Glorious Past”?
Really? Do you really want your daughters to be uneducated servants or slaves for some man, who can take your daughter in marriage even if he is old and already has 4 or 5 other wives? Do we want to go back to polygamy? Should we begin to mutilate our daughters again? Do you only want your sons to have education? Do you want your wives to be uneducated; do you want your daughters to not go to school?
Do you want your church to not let women preach? Oh, I thought you joined the Seventh-day Adventist church, and you didn’t need to listen to the rules the Pope sets. Or am I wrong? Are the Pope’s ideas about who can preach in our churches our guide now? Did you ever hear of the woman named Ellen G. White? Did Adventists let Ellen G. White preach? (Yes, of course, many times.) Did God select her and pour out His Spirit on her ministry, including leading men to forgotten Bible truths?
So why can your mother, your wife, your daughter not preach if God calls her to do so? Are we Roman Catholics or are we Seventh-day Adventists? Are we Muslims to ask Mohamed who can preach in our churches? Will we ask ask our women to wear veils next?
What Would Jesus Say about Equality?
What would Jesus say about the fact that all the pagan nations of the earth have always had males rule over them? (see Luke 22:24-27)
“Then they began to argue if men or women would be the greatest among them. Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, and they are called ‘Nkhosi or Nduna’ But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the men who sit at the table or the women who serve? Well in culture, the men who sit at the table, of course. But not here in my church! For I Jesus am among you as one who serves, just like the women do. So who do you think is the greatest?”
What would the Apostle Paul (who told the false teaching women in Ephesus to stop talking in church) say about the position of blacks and whites in the Adventist Church? What would the Apostle Paul say about having slaves in the Adventist Church? What would the Apostle Paul say about equality between men and women in the Adventist Church? You know what he would say.
“There is neither black nor white, slave nor slave owner, male nor female in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
All Men Like to be Boss
White men, red men, yellow men, and black men all take their headship seriously. For thousands of years, our fallen cultures have taken the results of Eve’s fall—where women were placed subservient to men—far too seriously.
At one time Jewish men felt non-Jews shouldn’t join the Christian church, after all circumcision was in the Bible and these Gentiles were not circumcised. God told the early Christian Jews to ignore the Bible circumcision rules and open the gates to the Gentiles. The Bible permitted slavery; it tried to improve slavery by releasing slaves after 7 years of service, but it didn’t forbid slavery. But Christianity became the enemy of slave owners, and finally Christ stopped slavery, no matter what the Bible had permitted before. No Christian can buy or sell another human being today.
Figure 2 Chief Mayuni of the Mafwe by permission of Josie Borain
I was born in North America, where in the south of the USA in my childhood there were signs that said “Whites Only,” not only on movie theaters and restaurants, but on churches. I was in Southern Africa during apartheid and could not take my African friends into South African Restaurants. I drove through Zimbabwe when it was still Rhodesia, where African men and women could not vote for their governments. Do any of you really want to go back to discrimination based on national origins, on tribe, or race in the church? Then why would we want to discriminate between our boys and our girls?
What do You Wish for Your Daughters?
So now we come to equality of males and females in the African Seventh-day Adventist churches. If God called a woman to form this church as our Adventist prophetess, and if God now calls other women to preach and be pastors, can we men continue to forbid God’s call to our daughters? Dare we stand in God’s way when our Bibles say, Acts 2:7, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall preach, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.?” If God pours out a preaching spirit on your daughter, shouldn’t the church recognize that in ordination, just like it would your son?
Are men to always be the greatest, and are all leadership positions in the church reserved for men? Do you want your daughters to be subservient to male power and pride? Do you want your wives and mothers and daughters to go to another male for counseling and spiritual guidance? Do you think that male teachers, male policemen, male politicians, and male pastors should always be superior to women? Do you want your daughters to bow down to them and to serve them if they demand it?
I am a man like you. I have sons. But I also had a mother who was my spiritual priest in my childhood, a wife who excels me in spirituality.
Figure 3 Adventist Father with his daughter.
If I had daughters, I would tell them to join a church that teaches and practices that in Christ there is no black or white, no rich or poor, no male or female; that we are all equal before God.
I hope that church would be an Adventist church, world history or not, colonialism or not, African culture or not.
You do know, don’t you, that everything the Bible says does not literally apply to us today?
Jesus used spit and mud to treat blindness. You are not permitted to do this now.
God permitted Moses to make a provision for easy divorce. Jesus does not permit us to do so now.
God permitted David to have 7 wives plus sexual consorts. Christen men are not permitted to do this now.
Paul told the slave Onesimus to go back to his Christian slave master. Christians are not permitted to be slave masters now.
The Bible does not forbid smoking. You may not smoke.
Truth is progressive. The Bible introduces truth, but the Bible does not end truth. The Bible doesn’t say ordain women to be pastors, but God is now calling women in many lands to be pastors, so should we not recognize that fact and accept God’s work by ordaining them just as we ordain men?
We need to move beyond what the Bible said to the trouble makers in the church at Ephesus or Corinth, to what God would say today to the churches all around the world, not just in Europe or America, but in Africa as well.
And no matter what we used to think, God’s message for today won’t be, “Men have to always stay in charge.” Women are capable and competent to be administrators, educators, doctors, politicians, and pastors, only custom and prejudice hold them back.
So tell your pastors and conference presidents, union officers, and university professors that you want them to study, pray, and think about it again. Just as Adventists have thrown off colonialism, nationalism, racialism in our church, we need to throw off gender discrimination in ministry.
And by the way, is the pastor, the conference president, the union president, the division president, the general conference president, the Head of the Church? We have One Head. All the rest of us—men and women—are merely servants of the Head. So to even speak of “male headship” is really strange language for anyone in the church that has Christ as our head. A female pastor would not be the head of the church any more than a male pastor is the head of a church. Christ remains the head of the church.
You do not have to wait for the Adventist church to vote, you can begin at home and in your local church to treat all the women in your own life with respect as equals. Help her with the household chores. Make financial decisions together. Let your sexual life be equally pleasing to both partners, and healthy for both. Educate your daughters, and let them know that they can be anything God calls them to be, just as your sons can.
“Rule” over your family as the sun “rules” over the day, and as the moon “rules” over the night,iii not with force and domination, but by warming, protecting, praising, and enabling all in your family to live happy, rewarding, peaceful lives. An Adventist man never ever beats a woman. An Adventist woman never has to submit to an unhealthy, unholy demand from a man. Of course she must submit in love to her husband, just as the husband in love must submit to his wife. Mutual submissioniv is God’s rule, but only in love, not in fear or by violence.
You and your brothers and sisters can decide in your local church that women and men will be equals in your church. Be sure young men and women are invited to church board meetings. Elect spiritually strong women elders. Men will not sit on the high seats in church while restricting women to the lower platform. That means that men can teach children in Sabbath Schools, and women can preach in the worship service. Men and women will never be the same, but they can be equals before God.
Thank you for listening to me.
Your Brother in Christ,
(Dr. John B. [Jack] Hoehn lives in the USA, but he was a child in Kenya, and a medical doctor in Lesotho and Zambia for 13 years. He has delivered over 500 African women of obstructed labors. He has worked with many fine African men, and many intelligent, hardworking, capable African women. He has been back to visit Africa 10 times in more recent years, and he maintains friendships with many African men and women. His sons were born or raised in Africa but taught to treat women as equals.)
i Abale = Brothers, Chewa.
ii Dr. Carl Cosserts key paper on what Paul’s letter to Timothy at the Ephesian church means is available on line as
iii Genesis 1:16 “And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night.”
iv Ephesians 5:21. “Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ.”
v “Thank you all very much,” in Sesotho/Chewa/Swahili.
vi “Good bye,” (Literally remain or stay well at your place, Sesotho/Chewa, and We will walk closely together, Swahili)