by Jack Hoehn

“Male Headship” is a newly prominent doctrine by some leaders in Seventh-day Adventism.  A lot of things happening in the world at large could be seen as giving them support.  (Unless you listen to Jimmy…)

By Jack Hoehn, June 30, 2014

photo © 2008 r e n a t a | more info

In a stunning series of recent events the doctrine that God intended for males to be in charge of this world in both religious1 and secular arenas has received serious support.  Not only did Seventh-day Adventist leaders in the Southern African-Indian Ocean Division want their church to eliminate all ordination of women to any office in the church or any teaching positions2; at least five other Seventh-day Adventist Divisions at least favored keeping women in ministry from full ordination.   Perhaps this somewhat surprising position in a church founded by a woman prophetess may now be increasingly supported by many in the wider world who agree that women need to be kept in their place as much as possible.

Mormon’s Male Leaders Agree

June 22, 2014 – “The Mormon church excommunicated the prominent founder of a Mormon women's group, Ordain Women announced Monday afternoon.  Kate Kelly's former church leaders in Virginia notified her of the decision after weighing the high-profile decision overnight…. She was shocked to find out earlier this month from her bishop that she is facing excommunication from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which she is a lifelong member. The leader of Ordain Women is accused of apostasy, defined as repeated and public advocacy of positions that oppose church teachings… Kelly's group drew rebukes from church leaders in April when they marched on church property in downtown Salt Lake City's Temple Square. The women asked to be allowed in a meeting reserved for members of the priesthood, which includes most males in the church who are 12 and older. Church leaders had previously told the group they wouldn't be let in and warned them not to disturb the faith's biannual general conference that weekend.”3

Catholic Church’s Male Leaders Hold the Line
There have been many reasons the male leaders of Catholicism have offered in the past for denying women ordination as priests.  In a 2011 talk, Dr. John Wijngaards listed some of them.

  • Women may not touch sacred objects.
  • It is not becoming for women to have the clerical tonsure.
  • Women are not created in the image of God.
  • Women are less intelligent than men and highly unreliable. (This last reason, incidentally, was still part of the Church's official Canon law until 1915.)

More recently, Biblical and other traditional reasons have replaced the above to bolster the Catholic hierarchy’s objections to women’s ordination:

  • Paul did not allow women to teach men (1 Timothy 2:11-15).
  • Women should be subject to men (1 Corinthians 11:2-16).
  • Only a man is a perfect human being and can thus properly represent Christ (Thomas Aquinas).
  • Christ was incarnated as a man; in fact, maleness is an essential ingredient of the Incarnation in God's plan of redemption. (Pope John Paul II)

And the last Papal pronouncement on the matter, forbidding ordination of women, focused on three less-Biblical and more-church-traditional reasons:

  • Jesus appointed only men as apostles.
  • In doing so, Jesus established masculinity in the ministry as a permanent norm that has to be followed by the Church.
  • This norm of having a male ministry has been confirmed by the constant and universal Teaching of the Church throughout Tradition.4

So even though the reasons change, the fact remains, men must rule in the Catholic Church.

Sunni Muslim Men Take Serious Action

Those of us who are not Muslim may not realize that the events in the news for the last few weeks are founded on a serious religious battle for supremacy, not only in Iraq with the ISIS rampage, but throughout the world, as serious religionists confirm their fundamentalist ideology, including the headship of men.
According to Time magazine, the following are all Sunni religious actions taken to hold the line against any modernism, including feminism.

“It’s the reason Boko Haram has kidnapped hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls, and why Taliban fighters sliced off the ink-stained fingers of elderly voters who had cast ballots in Afghanistan…” 

“Holy war inspires the al-Shabaab radicals who took credit for massacring at least 48 Kenyans in a coastal town on June 15, and explains why suspected al-Qaeda fighters in Yemen riddled a bus full of military hospital staff the same day.”  “The Sunni fighters of ISIS would cheerfully kill and die, if necessary, to erase (sacred Shi’ite shrines) blasphemous existence.  What army would rather raze a few shrines than seize a capital city?”  

“So begins another Iraqi civil war, this one wretchedly entangled with the sectarian conflict that has already claimed more than 160,000 lives in Syria.  Poised to join the fighting is Iran, whose nearly eight year war with Iraq in the 1980s cost more than a million lives.  To Americans weary of the Middle East, the urge is strong to close our eyes and, as Sarah Palin once put it so coarsely, ‘let Allah sort it out.’”  

“The civil war of Muslim against Muslim, brother against brother, plays out in the same region that gave us Cain against Abel.  George W. Bush spoke of the spirit of liberty, and Obama often invokes the spirit of cooperation.  Both speak to something powerful in the modern heart.  But neither man—nor America itself—fully appreciated until now the continuing reign of much older spirits:  hatred, greed and tribalism. Those spirits are loosed again…”5

With eyes closed or eyes open, we see religious men willing to fight for male domination to the death.  Keep those burkas in place at all cost.

Southern Baptists Toe the Line – Except for Jimmy

In the face of such forceful support of male headship, what is wrong with Jimmy Carter?  After all, the 39th president of the USA is often classed as the least-successful president of the 20th century.  (I recognize he has to fight Herbert Hoover or the Seventh-day Adventist mothered-and-brothered Warren G. Harding to gain that place.)  In his new book, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power, President Carter writes the following:

“In 2000, official action of the more conservative Southern Baptist Convention leaders soon made it clear that Southern Baptist women would no longer be serving as deacons, pastors, or chaplains in the armed forces, or even as professors in some Convention seminaries if there were male students in the classroom…”

“I had no doubt about the sincerity and good intentions of the participants, but my wife and I began to question whether our beliefs were compatible with those adopted and later mandated by the Convention.  The change that was most troubling to us was an emphasis on a few specific Bible verses about the status of women and how they would be applied in practical terms, including one that called for wives to be ‘submissive’ to their husbands…” 

“Rosalynn and I decided to end our affiliation with the denomination to which I had been loyal during the first seventy years of my life…”6

Worse than that, daring to challenge the unity of his church, Jimmy Carter writes a book disputing the Bible basis for “male headship theology” in Christianity; the genocide of girls in China; female rape in the USA and South Africa; female slavery and prostitution in India, Europe, and the USA; spouse abuse of women everywhere; child marriage and dowry deaths; and genital cuttings.  Think of it! He places church policy in such vile company as that!  What is wrong with this man, to link “male headship” with the obscene?

Perhaps he has been too heavily influenced by the likes of Dr. Alison Boden, dean of Religious Life, Princeton University, whom he approvingly quotes:

“The Gospel of Jesus Christ has at its center the ending of domination of every kind.  For some Christians to use the Gospel to compromise the human rights of women and others borders on the obscene.
Propagated with appeals to idealized heritage, immutable sacred history, and paternalistic care for the religiously ignorant, their rights-denying actions must be exposed for what they are—formal policies for the retention and augmenting of power by those men who already have it

The ethic of Jesus Christ proclaims the radical equality of human value.  The ending of the subordination of women—and of all who are dominated—is critical to the building of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven.”7

Really?  Now who are Seventh-day Adventists going to listen to; the Mormons, the Popes, the Muslims, and the Southern-Baptists? Or to that do-gooding, peace-making, homeless-sheltering, Bible-reading, peanut-eating Jimmy? 

Who indeed?

1Gerry Chudleigh. “A Short History of the Headship doctrine in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.” Spectrum, Volume 42, Issue 2, Spring 2014, pages 80-95.
2Southern African-Indian Ocean TOCS Position paper, page 3.
3CBS/AP June 23, 2014, 1:28 PM—Salt Lake City.
5Michael Crowley. “The end of Iraq.” Time, June 20, 2014.
6Carter, Jimmy, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power (Simon & Schuster, 2014), 21, 22.
7Dr. Alison Boden, quoted by Jimmy Carter, Ibid, page 24.