What About Headship Theology?

As I understand things, traditionally the opposition to women’s ordination within the Seventh-day Adventist Church came on two grounds, using simple terms. 1) The Bible doesn’t mandate the ordination of women. 2) We never did it that way before. These two arguments were sufficient to carry the day during the decades when the issue was not front row and center. But in recent years it became evident that these two arguments were no longer sufficient. Since Adventists have always been leery of “tradition,” an argument from current and historical practice will only take you so far. And the first argument also has its limits. The Bible doesn’t mandate the use of cars, cell phones, computers, Facebook or the internet. Yet people who take the Bible literally do all of the above in today’s world.

So with the traditional arguments against women’s ordination disintegrating, my old friend Sam Bacchiocchi vowed to take six months off and study the issue of ordination in order to write a book showing that the Bible is against it. Now however you may feel about his methodology (knowing before his study began what the outcome would be), Bacchiocchi was a very determined and capable scholar. If there was a biblical argument out there against women’s ordination, he would find it. And he did. It was called “headship theology” and he found it in the “neo-Calvinist” movement, which starting gaining steam among some evangelicals in the 1970s. Some key names promoting this theology were Wayne Grudem and Bill Gothard (I personally heard Gothard on more than one occasion in the 70s).

Headship theology is based essentially on two NT texts, 1 Corinthians 11 and Ephesians 5. While these texts had been noticed by Adventists and other Protestants before 1970, they were never used to teach what the neo-Calvinists now use them to teach, namely that there was a hierarchy within the Trinity from eternity (Christ in submission to the Father), that Eve was in submission to Adam before the Fall, that Eve’s sin was trying to escape her role in creation, and that Adam’s sin was not exercising his authority over Eve. Some Neo-Calvinists even think slavery was appropriate in light of such Scriptures. While these ideas were attractive to Bacchiocchi as a way to prevent the ordination of women in the Adventist Church, they were not known in Adventism before Bacchiocchi (1987), so their introduction into Adventism does seem to me like a desperate measure that we may one day regret. Can one pick a single apple from a tree that includes other apples like predestination, everlasting burning hell and Sunday sacredness? For a thorough study of how the new headship theology entered the Adventist Church see http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/433232.

A few years ago, before I ever thought of applying headship theology to the issue of women’s ordination in the Adventist Church, I wrote a paper on the NT language related to leadership and authority. I think it has implications for the theory of headship. One can draw implications from a text or two that are contrary to the whole trend of Scripture. Whatever doctrine we teach needs to be based on the whole Bible, not a couple of convenient texts. Here is what I had to say about the Greek word for headship (kephalē), for example:

“The root meaning of kephalē is with reference to a person’s physical head, the part of the body that contains the brain. By extension it is used metaphorically as a reference to the person of high status or superior rank in a hierarchy. In the Hebrew Old Testament, “head” (rosh) is frequently applied to human leaders, such as the patriarch of a family (Exod 6:14, 25), the leader of a tribe (Num 7:2; 2 Chr 52), or simply leaders in general (Exod 18:25; Num 25:4; Judg 11:11). These “heads” in the Old Testament were parts of a hierarchical leadership system (Exod 18:21) in which each “head” played a specific role under or above other heads.
“In the New Testament, kephalē is also used in the basic sense. But in the epistles of Paul, head and body are usually used as metaphors of Christ and the church and occasionally kephalē is applied to the husband’s role in the home (Eph 5:25-27). The church, however, chose not to apply this word to apostles, overseers, elders or deacons, it was applied solely to Jesus Christ. The church is more than an institution, it is a living organism and living organisms can successfully have only one head. Leadership functions in the church, therefore, are substantively different from other kinds of organizations. Kephalē does not point to a hierarchy, so much as a relationship. As “head” Christ is the one who sustains the body and provides for its growth.”

Notice how the New Testament uses headship language in a completely different way than the Old Testament. In the OT there is the language of hierarchy and status, because that is the way the ancient world was. But in light of the cross, the NT introduces a new form of leadership, leading through service and self-sacrifice. Thus Greek words that imply hierarchy and dominance are never used for offices in the church. Neither is headship language so used. Jesus did not come to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45). And if you have seen Jesus, you have seen what God is like (John 14:9). This is the larger context in which texts like 1 Corinthians 11 and Ephesians 5 need to be read.

When you “take the Bible as it reads” without any sense of the ancient setting or the larger biblical context, it is not hard to imagine that 1 Corinthians 11 and Ephesians 5 suggest some sort of hierarchy between men and women. And one could even suggest that such hierarchy is taught in the texts and intended to be an absolute principle for all time. But when you pay attention to the meaning of these texts in the larger ancient and biblical setting, you can see that Paul was using the language of the culture, but pointing people to the cross of Christ as the principle that would, in the end, undermine that culture. While the Bible does not mandate the ordination of women, it is not unbiblical to suggest the abolition of human rankings and distinctions in the service of a greater mission.

60 thoughts on “What About Headship Theology?

  1. Rafael

    I would like to say several things: 1. “Theology the Headship Theology” pers se is biblical, as you already found several OT, texts,to ground it.. 2. The headship in the NT, used in relation to the husband is still valid because is creational principle ( 1 Tim, 2: 12-13; 1 Cor. 11: 3)) Now this principle is enriched by the apostle giving a “santified meaning” but it does not mean that this term for the one who is performing this role is not of the lidership where others are under his direction. The analogy of Christ in Ephesian for the husband, as the head of church as lovely, caring and sacrified does not away with the truth that He is the one who the church must to submit. The same with wife.
    In relation that we do not find the term “Kephale” in relation to elders/bishops/pastor or apostle it does not mean that they were not, and the church should not submit to themi unless we give other measning to Hebrew 13: 17; and the analogy of ruling well the house with ruling the church (1 Tim 3: 4-5) is pretty eainteresting that in the context of this text we find some verses vers before ruling out women as “authoritative teaching” , because of the creational principle (1 Tim 2: 12-13) then we find chaprter 3, saying who is qualified for this kind of teaching, men but not any man. by other way, preaching the gospel every church member should do it and I do not think neither biblical that women became pastor to fufill the mission, just lets take at look in the NT, we do not find women as elders, bishops/pastor nonetheless they were part of the preaching, even Paul say that for him the gospel was preached in the world. So why must be different today?

      1. Jon Paulien Post author

        Kevin, I think some of these arguments are intriguing and deserve greater consideration. Perhaps you can construct an airtight case. But my point is that when the Bible writers do not pose the question itself, the outcome of systematic study will tend to fall short of exegetical certainty.

  2. busani moyo

    hi Jon. we all agree that the bible doesnt mandate the ordnation of women. you likend this to the use of cars, cellphones, computers etc. please not that these gadgets are a recent invention while women are not and therefore the comparison is both wrong and trying to justify this issue by human reasoning. the bible does not mandate it: 1 tim 3v2. if its voted for, bibles have to be re-written to support it. where it says husband of one wife: will be -wife to one husband. GOD FORBID. your statement -not unbiblical to ordnate them shows clearly that you or rather our brethren have no biblical support. why shld we cause a rift in the church on an issue that the bible does not mandate? it only shows us conforming to earthly patterns like we did with our schools and medical institutions in the 1920s.

    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      If we take the Bible that literally we would still stone people for picking up sticks on the Sabbath. Please read the ordination studies. Old arguments aren’t working anymore.

      1. Patricia Harvey

        What amazes me is what we forget. GOD IS THE ANCIENT OF DAYS, and modern worldly designations cannot move Him; cannot please Him; cannot change His order, set down in His Word. If we continue to kick against the urgings of His Holy Spirit, and seek to impose on His people our own follies, the implications of which we cannot know, then we will reap the whirlwind of His wrath. For we are taking the same position as Lucifer.
        Too many of us regard the church as a club with man-made club rules; we decide that this or that is outdated and is not relevant anymore. I hope we realise that to say that is to say that GOD no longer knows best and WE are the new gods. Rather stupid reasoning, isn’t it?
        Because something is new and pretty, that does not make it good, right, workable or useful. Think, above all, think! if we start discounting the Bible where God clearly shows us what to do, how are we going to get from this earth? Would we be able to trust His instructions on getting to Heaven, or would we be seeking out the latest technology and scientific finding that sounds good and follow that to the letter?
        This is what it is about, Brethren: simple, Holy Spirit-led, common sense….which is not common.

        1. Jon Paulien Post author

          The idea of an unchangeable God has a couple good proof texts in its favor, but the whole stream of God’s interaction with humanity in the Bible reflects immense adaptibility and accommodation. I was once where you are, but reading the Bible in context forced me to reconsider my view of the Bible.

    2. Patricia Harvey

      True! true! This is a mere red herring and a rotten one at that. The Bible never leaves us without an example – Queen Athalia, the usurper. She wanted power at all costs, SO SHE KILLED ALL HER OWN MALE GRANDCHILDREN, AFTER HER SON WAS SLAIN. Were it not for her daughter who saved her grand- son, the baby who was hidden among the dead, she would have killed all the seed royal. She took the throne and ruled for seven years, doing as she pleased, until the child – reared in the temple, was old enough to take the throne. She forcibly led Israel in apostasy, as she was Ahab’s sister, and also was a priestess of Baal.
      When the rightful heir was installed, she yelled out in the temple: “Treason! Treason!” and would have killed her grand-son, for she realised that she was losing the power she had craved and stolen. By tearing her clothes in indignation she signalled before the people the severing of her own hold over Israel. The high priest, who was the one who nurtured and trained the rightful ruler, ordered her execution, outside of the temple and outside the king’s house.
      The High Priest then led the king and the people in re-commitment to the worship of the one true God of Israel.
      There is a lesson her that we should not miss. The women’s challenge to the leadership of the church is false worship seeking to make a takeover bid on the true church of God; it involves every terrible thing, including the right of gays to also lead out in the church, as they were in the worship of Baal.
      However, the High priest must do HIS duty in preserving the life of the King – the Word of God. Note, when Jehosheba saved the life of her nephew, she brought him to her husband, the high priest who knew how to preserve him, and prepare him to take his rightful place on the throne. Women’s jobs in the church are those of bringing forth life and nurturing – men’s that of protecting and preserving.
      When the proper order is observed, then everything runs smoothly. There is so much work to be done, that it is stupid for those who have been assigned certain tasks by God, to leave those undone and go to war over what God has given to others. All it breeds is confusion. Such was the case in Judah and when the proper order was restored, the word of God could be proclaimed with power and ALL Judah made covenant with God once more.
      I hope we take counsel from the Word.

  3. Sandra Peterson

    What about Paul’s writings that a Bishop is of one wife and he uses the creation of Adam when using the order God ordained. Also when Eve sinned God called Adam and not Eve? PP states that Eve was made submission to her husband. Why does DA have a whole chapter on Christ ordaining the twelve and there are no woman? Christ had for knowledge that this would be an issue someday for the church and did not address the issue. I believe my Bible and do not need a PhD to understand it. I also do not except the 3rd option of the WO committee for God allowed king for Isreal and we know that was their down fall. This whole issue is a side bar of Satan to discredit the Bible. Let’s get on with the 3 angels messages so the Lord can come. We do not need any Korah’s in the camp when we are almost home! Woman can preach but they also like power. It’s a cultural issue since the 80’s.

      1. Jon Paulien Post author

        Steve, I respect your point of view, but I am still waiting for a serious biblical study against the ordination of women that is grounded in SDA theology and hermeneutics. The only proposal that came out of TOSC is grounded in Calvinistic principles which seem incompatible with the SDA cosmic conflict view of God.

        1. Steve Molina

          Pastor Paulien
          Some of the arguments used by our brethren who promote the woman ordination are the same one used by that the Woman’s rights/Spiritualists movement back in the 1800s to promote their agenda. In the book Radical Spirits: Spiritualism and Woman’s Rights in the Nineteenth- Century America by Anne Bruade, states that many Spiritualists attacked the institution of marriage and they openly condemned Christianity, “especially Calvinism,” as inherently oppressive to women. Yes I also disagree on the Calvinistic falls teaching of predestination, but when Spiritualists attacked Christians and Calvinists because of there stand on Gods divine order for men and women in the home and the church, I think we better step back and take a closer look at this woman ordination agenda. I keep seeing the Galatians 3:28 argument, “there is neither Jew or Greek, slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are alone in Christ.” And this is the reason why we should ordain women. ‘Equality’, ‘inclusion’ sais the argument. Elizabeth Cady Stanton a Spiritualist woman’s rights advocate also used this argument, “In the beginning,” proclaims the simultaneous creation of man and woman the eternity and equality of sex. Paul speaking of equality as the very soul and essence of Christianity said, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond or free, their is neither male or female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Mrs. Stanton didn’t like the patriarchal language of the Bible so she wrote the Woman’s Bible with a neutral language. She wrote, “When women understand that governments and religions are human inventions; that the Bible…are all emanations from the brain of man, they will no longer be oppressed by the injunctions that come to them with divine authority of “Thus sayeth the Lord.” “So long as ministers stand up and tell us Christ is the head of church, so is man the head of the woman, how are we to break the chains which have held women down through the ages?” “Woman have compelled there legislators in every state of the Union to modify their statues for women…Why not compel Bishops and Revising Committees to modify their creeds and dogmas?” I ask, are we listening to another spirit instead of “Thus sayeth the Lord.”
          May God have mercy on us all

          1. Jon Paulien Post author

            I think the Annual Council got it right. In the document they clearly agree that the Bible neither mandates nor forbids the ordination of women. If that is true, and it is the conclusion I have come to as well, then it puts the discussion at the level of mission, where I think it should be.

        2. Dr. Timo Flink

          I agree. I don’t think there will ever be a serious SDA study from opponents on this, because their arguments rest on foreign biblical hermeneutics. I find it very odd (and sad) that the opponents argue that the proponents (like me) are using a new hermeneutics to arrive in their conclusions, when in reality it is the other way around. It’s the opponents, who use non-SDA hermeneutics to arrive to their NO-position. My fear as a delegate is that if the NO-vote wins, our hermeneutics start to sift towards Neo-Calvinism.

          Although I value Bacchiocchi’s commitment, I have to say that we will regret his determination on this one. The most serious issue I take with those who propose this Headship theology is the fact that it requires an eternal submission of our Lord in a sense that robs Him his equality with the Father. As I indicated to Dr. Cindy Tutch, that nullifies justification by faith alone. I for one cannot accept that, ever. Hence, I have already decided to vote Yes, even though I actually agree with Dr. Darius Jankiewicz that we shouldn’t ordain anybody, since the whole practice is extra-biblical. Yet I think Dr. John Brunt is right when we says that if we didn’t, we would need something else anyways. So, for better or for worse, it’s a Yes from me.

          1. Kevin H

            Not only does headship theology nullify righteousness by faith, but it also nullifies the law of God. God’s law is self sacrificing love. No more and no less. Now we may ask “What does that mean?” and we have the two great principles of loving God with all our heart soul and mind and loving our neighbor as ourselves. How do we do this? we are given 10 commandments. The Exodus 20 version breaks into 3 nice thirds. The first third consists of 3 commandments on how to love God with all your heart soul and mind. The last third consists of 6 commandments on how to love your neighbor as yourself, and the middle third consists of one commandment that says how we tie the other two together is by resting in a relationship with God.

            As we study Mrs. White we see that she has 3 deceptions of Satan. The first is that God is not God and has no right to place a law over us. That God does not live by his law but imposes it upon us creatures to keep us in our place.

            The trinity keeps the law by self submitting to each other. If we have one on top who the others submit to while he does not submit, then we have one who is not keeping the law of God and who is guilty of the first deception of Satan.

            Thus headship theology does away with the law and since this is very basic to Mrs. White we have just made of no effect the spirit of prophecy.

          2. Jon Paulien Post author

            Good comments. I am coming to think that even if the vote is no it changes little, since unions are where ordination happens and they are not mentioned in the action to be voted. Unions have their own constituency and cannot be dictated from above. The system was set up by EW to encourage division of power rather than centralization.

        3. Denver

          If you demand an SDA-derived basis for argument, it becomes incumbent on you to demonstrate a biblical basis for SDA doctrine. What is our foundation, our authority of faith and practice?

          Why is the elder always the head? Of the family, the tribe, the nation?


          Why was Lucifer the archangel? The leader? The “head” of the angelic choir?

          What is the biblical principle founded in the character of God, and applicable to both Adam and Eve prior to their fall as well as to every man and woman who has lived since? To every creature on God’s creation?

          Until we can answer this question, there’s little chance of ever settling this argument EXCEPT by giving authority to some other source, replacing Adventist tradition with overtly worldly tradition. I could not care much less about how the argument ends, but I care a great deal about avoiding THAT particular faustian bargain.

          1. Jon Paulien Post author

            Headship theology is in tension with the picture given to SDAs in the Bible and Ellen White. That doesn’t guarantee that it is wrong, but people need to recognize that it is an interloper and be cautious as to where it might take us.

  4. David B

    Thanks a great reflection. I hope you continue to explore this. The entire debate is commonly framed by headship proponents as a matter of Biblical hermeneutics or Bible vs culture; however, it seems much more to hinge on the question “what is authority?” In reading The Desire of Ages I was recenty struck by the fact that Christ’s only reference to authority places it in opposition to the divine order–a rebuke to the disciples for arguing who was first and an admonition to serve, to be as children (who, in the Neo-Calvinist hierarchy, are pretty much at the bottom).

  5. Alice

    Makes sense to me. Kind of goes along with the idea of women covering their heads when they pray, women not teaching or speaking in church, and other cultural issues that Paul addresses.

  6. Johann Thorvaldsson

    From 1948 to 1958 I had some of the best, consecrated and conservative Bible teachers in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, finishhing with a MA at Potomac University. I never heard any of those teachers mention the Male Headship doctrine introduced later by Samuella Bacchiocchi.

  7. Leslie Coleman

    Thank you for your thoughtful commentary on what is considered a controversial subject. Reading NT Bible texts in regard to hierarchy in relationship can be confusing. Paul, bless his heart, did what he could to explain it all. I agree with you. In God’s eyes we are all the same. It takes a ‘whole’ body to do the work. If a man or woman feels called by God to pastor His sheep, who are we to question His Motive? I wonder if the church is afraid that it will be taken over by a feminist view if it opens it’s heart to female pastors? ~that somehow multitudes of women will come rushing to the pulpit like a wave and wash the church away? And, especially for the 7th Day Adventist church there is the paradox of Ellen White, who surely pastured countless numbers of people through her writings. There seems to be an archetypal fear of women that runs through this world. And it is true that the Enemy has used both men and women in its ugly scheme through the ages. But, if a godly man or woman is truly called to serve the body of The Lord Jesus, they must surely realize what a heavy burden and great responsibility for lost souls they are taking on. It is not a light thing. It is between them and God. Our only fear should be our response to God, not of other people. Thank you for this opportunity to respond., Leslie Coleman, Salt Lake City, UT.

  8. DeeDee BIndernagel

    Leslie, that is exactly how I feel. If someone, man or woman, feels called to a leadership position and a group is inclined to have them lead, if they are preaching the 3 angels messages, why ever should we do anything but encourage and support them?

  9. Ruben Mojica

    Thank you for this work in study and research Mr. Jon, the essay was clear and informative. I agree in that women should be able to be ordained. Many men who were called to be pastors have abandoned their post; I have seen many pastors not want to work, and just preach and collect paychecks. Other pastors simply see this calling more as a job. While others were never called, but think they should be pastors. God will not call every woman, let’s not get out of hand. But I believe he will, has, and is calling women into the ministry to be ordained. Especially since many, not all, male pastors have not been living up to their calling. When I tell people that God called Mrs. White, the argument they give us that she was a prophet, but what is a prophet? A prophet is one called by God to speak to his people; I would argue that this is exactly what a minister is and does. Are we afraid of women leading, but God made Mrs. White a leader of our church, and even today we read her inspired writings that guide us today. God has been trying to tell us that women can lead, but our culture is not ready. I heard someone say that in allowing women to preach is an influence from modern society, but in actuality it is the outside culture that affected Gods people into making a woman only have a “lesser important job”. These were the ways of the old ancient world. I have read several of the arguments from comments on your blog, but none satisfy support that women shouldn’t have roles. There are many things that the Bible doesn’t directly attack e.g. slavery, but anyone who reads the Bibles underlying teachings, can identify that the Bible is completely against slavery, even if Paul instructed that slave to return to his master, or even if the Old Testament gives instructions on how to keep a slave. The Bible is adamantly against slavery, but it doesn’t directly attack it, because the Bible was written by men that lived in a time that slavery was common. We need to not be afraid to use the great minds God has given us; there’s a reason why He gave us the ability to reason. And one last thing bothers and sisters, don’t get mad at me for taking a stand, and don’t refer yourself towards your brothers and sisters who believe women should be ordained in a despot manner. In church people with my position are referred to as “those people”, I’m deeply offended by the way some members in my church see me, but it is Gods church, not mine or yours. Let’s pray for Gods will, not mine, or yours. May Gods will be done in this matter.

  10. Kevin H

    1.) Because Numbers 15:38 tells all the children of Israel to wear tassels with blue threads. Archaeology has discovered that in the ancient world this was a symbol of being an ordained priest.

    2.) There are Psalms written in the feminine indicating that they were to have been lead by a female priest.

    3.) About 200 years before Jesus there was a push in Judaism to STOP having female priests and Rabbis. And that only Men should wear the tassel with the blue thread, thus the traditions of may were changing the law of God.

    4.) The topic of women’s ordination was a debated topic in Jesus’ day. Despite 200 years of trying to get rid of them there were still some women Rabbis with in Judaism.

    5.) The culture of Jesus’ day was that when a Rabbi sat to teach, his (and some cases her) ORDAINED disciples sat at his (and in some cases her) feet. About 12 who were the same sex as the Rabbi due to the 24 hour access and privileged to late night talks as they were going to sleep, then about 70. Among the conservative Rabbis in Jesus day the 70 tended to have both men and women. Among the liberal Rabbis of Jesus’ day the 70 would be all men. The lay members would stand. Again if it was a conservative Rabbi it would be both men and women standing. If it was a liberal Rabbi the lay men would stand. The women had to do hospitality tasks. We find in the Bible that Martha was doing what the liberal Rabbis said a woman should do and Protested that Mary was in the position not of a layman but as an ordained Rabbinical Student. She SAT at Jesus’ feet. A sign of being ordained. Jesus could have easily have said “Mary, while you don’t need to do these hospitality tasks, women really should not be ordained. You are welcome to stand with the Laymen.” Instead Jesus allowed her to be in the position of ordination and said that she choose good and it would not be taken away from her. Why should we say that Jesus is wrong and say that the Rabbis who opposed women’s ordination was right?

    6.) Besides Mary there is evidence that Jesus ordained other women among the 70. On the road to Emmaus Jesus met two disciples. One is named, indicating that it was a husband and wife. Mr. and Mrs. Cleopas. The fact that they were both disciples indicated that they were both ordained. In John 19:25 we read about Mary the wife of Clopas being at the cross. This was probably the same name as Cleopas, so the 2 disciples on the road to Emmaus were Cleopas and Mary, both ordained disciples. Not one disciple and his wife.

    7.) In teams in both the culture at the time and in the Bible the leader’s name would be mentioned first. If you were to read in your Bible about Aquilla and Priscilla; in all but one place when talking about them as man and wife it is Aquilla and Priscilla. However when talking about them as a ministerial team it is ALWAYS Priscilla and Aquilla. Thus the Bible says that Elder Priscilla was the head pastor with her husband Aquilla being her assistant.

    8.) The letter to the Romans: Paul had not yet been to Rome. Yet he was aware of a number of women, not because he enjoyed their contribution to the pot luck after church, but because of their ministry. The terms applied to Phoebe are the words from which we get our concept of ordination. Until around 1300 AD Junia was unquestioned female. It was Catholic Priests who did not like the idea of a female apostle who around 1300 AD invented arguments to try to make her a male.

    9.) The verses that we use against women’s ordination were written to specific churches with specific problems. They make sense in their context. It is not that Paul was against women being ordained or that Paul was a victim of his culture etc. Paul (as indicated in Acts and Romans) supported women’s ordination. But had some problems that he was addressing in Corinth and Ephesus that history has saved for us to know what he was talking about. To rip those texts out of the context and apply it to women’ ordination is being unfair to the Bible. Also, those who oppose women’s ordination are doing a tap-dance over the words. They say that the words don’t mean what they actually say. They say that women are allowed to do everything those verses command them not to do just as long as we don’t ordain them.

    10.) In the first decade of the 1900s the New York Conference and Atlantic Union wanted to start ordaining women. A. G. Daniels was on a visit at the time. He agreed with them that they should start ordaining women. However he asked them to hold off for just a little bit. He pointed out to the leaders that there were uneducated people in the church who thought that women should not be ordained The church leadership did not want to hurt their faith but wanted to educate the church first. Since here there were women ready for ordination he was going to ask Mrs. White to write some articles about women in ministry that was to try to educate those uneducated members so that the church could ordain women. Mrs. White here had the chance to nip the problem in the bud. She was not afraid to tell us when we were doing something wrong. Here was her chance to correct Elder Daniels, the NY Conference and Atlantic Union and lay the issue to rest once and for all. Instead she wrote those articles that Elder Daniels promised NY and the Atlantic Union that she would write. The opponents of women’s ordination need to act like lawyers looking for loopholes in these writings and explain them away as dealing with lay ministries and not ordained. However Mrs. White wrote them in a historical contexts of wanting to prepare the church to start to ordain women.

    11.) Dr. Brian Strayer a church historian at Andrews has found other documents of our pioneers supporting women’s ordination. The evidence looks like they felt like what Elder Daniels expressed to New York and the Atlantic Union that they felt that women’s ordination was Biblical but that there were uneducated people who did not think it was and that they needed to work with these people to educate them. That they did not want to offend weaker breathern. Now people want to turn this kindness into enforcing the ignorance.

    The law of God is self sacrificing love/ self renouncing love. No more and no less. We may ask what this means so we have the two great principles; to love God supremely and our neighbor as ourselves. How do we do this? we get the 10 commandments. In the Exodus 20 version breaks into 3 thirds: The first third is 3 commandments telling us how to love God supremely. The last third is 6 commandments telling us how to love our neighbor as ourselves. The middle third is one commandment that tells us that the only way we can love God supremely and our neighbor as ourselves is by resting in a relationship with God. (the three thirds also corresponds to the 3 aspects of the trinity).

    The foundation of Seventh-day Adventism is that the law is the reflection of God’s character. It is a reflection of his very nature. The foundation of sin is that God is a tyrant in imposing upon others a law that does not apply to himself. That the law is outside of him and that he is simply arbitrary that we all submit to him and to each other while he is alone at the top.

    God is the only self existent one and life only comes from him so we need to submit to him for life. However with in the trinity the law of self sacrificing love/self renouncing love is practiced. For the trinity their neighbors are the other members of the trinity. They all submit to each other and thus live in a righteousness by faith relationship with each other. Each relates to the other as the other is their head. God is NOT the papacy which is how Satan likes to picture the role of God and the rest of us.

    This new teaching “Headship Theology” is simply Roman Catholicism filtered through Calvinistic philosophy. Seventh-day Adventism is more Methodist, not Calvinistic. If headship theology is true then Mrs. White’s thought is not true. We have no reason for being Seventh-day Adventists. Satan wins the great controversy and the Sabbath becomes nothing more than an arbitrary imposition.

  11. Inge Anderson

    Thank you for this brief review, Dr Paulien.

    It seems to me that if we recognize that ‘kephale’ can also mean “source,” it clarifies a lot of things. Even in English, we refer to the “headwaters” of a river or the “head” of a spring, when we mean “source.”

    So let’s explore this a bit in the OT: The patriarchs were “heads” of their clans. This “headship” was not transferable, because they were heads of those whose “source” was from their own bodies. They were naturally “heads,” not appointed “heads.”

    Adam was also the “source/head” of Eve, insofar as she was formed from a rib from his side. The modern notion of interpreting headship in terms of power is not biblical, it seems to me.

    Even Christ is the source (head) of the church, because all Christians have their “source” in Him.

    It would be worth exploring whether there is any biblical “headship” that is transferable – i.e. headship that can be assigned. The patriarchs and tribal heads were, after all, not assigned, but were the “source/head” of all their offspring. If this is the normal usage of “head,” as I believe it is, then the only spiritual “headship” a pastor could possibly have would be over his spiritual children. But I believe that pastors are only servants of Christ and their job is to bring persons into the body of Christ which has Christ as its head. I further believe that the headship promotion is based on a false concept of the role of pastors. Christ taught this:

    42 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.
    43 But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
    As for 1 Cor 11, it seems to me that Paul puts forth a line of reasoning that may have been popular in his day. Then he says, “Nevertheless” (vs 11) and indicates a mutual interdependence between men and women, which is quite in harmony with the rest of his teaching as well as the teachings of Christ. (Mark 10:42-43)

    8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. (Matt 23:8)

    Thus, I believe that Christ affirmed the equality of all believers, and pastors perform a servant function in the church and their authority lies in the Word of God. That is, they have authority only insofar as they teach what Christ teaches, and each believer must test their authority by the Word of God, as affirmed by the Holy Spirit.

    The concept of spiritual authority over believers is foreign to Protestantism, because it puts a human being in the place that only Christ should occupy.

    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      It’s interesting that Greek words for leadership like “head” and “master” are applied to Christ, but never to human beings in the church. So in that sense headship is not transferible.

  12. Kevin Cossentine

    Jon. Have you watched the presentation by Amazing Facts aired Friday night (June 6, 2015) with Pastor Doug? It was a very good presentation with some overlapping of questions, with their different angles and all, they were clearly addressed and well done, in my opinion.
    Personally…just because some denominations are practicing a certain teaching, or promoting a tradition that is not clearly laid out in scripture is not a sensible, nor practical, reason for justifying its practice…even if it is within the SDA body of believers.
    Someone mentioned Sola Scriptura to which I wholeheartedly agree with. Scripture says that we are ALL minsters of grace, but it does not mention the ordination of women, nor (if it were done at all) to undermine the rightful position of male leadership in the church, or to supersede, male roles. God does not change, so in our generation with all our spiritual enlightenment or technological advancements, why are we so eager to do just that: change what He has established before even the reign of SIN in this world came about?!

    There may be, in some situations, where women’s ordination can be beneficial by being the spiritual leader to others in need, i.e. missionary work (in and abroad), women’s and/or children’s ministries, and Dorcas activities, where they can bring consolation and instruction to those coming for assistance or encouragement… where a male pastor is not available.

    There will always be some who desire to have female pastors. During the Amazing Facts presentation and live video feed, it was mentioned that there was a report done on a survey taken where it was said that in most cases, the ones who were in agreement, or promoting women’s ordination, were men with very few women backing up this movement. It makes one wonder who is really behind all of this. Is this an attempt by conferences to alleviate the strain of male ministers in their districts, or something else. I do not know the answer to that, however, I believe in what scripture says, or tends to leave out, about this sensitive topic.

  13. Luis

    Thanks, Dr. Paulien, for such a well done entry. On the word kephale, I undrstand you mean the context places it on the level of servant. How can we explain Ellen White’s use of head as leadership?

    1. Luis

      I mean that Ellen White seems to suggest that the husband holds the preeminence, even though she herself stated that Adam and Eve were created equal but sin had made necessary to submit Eve to Adam in order to preserve harmony (she also recognizes that the abuse of leadership has made it bitter for the wife).

  14. Claudia Thompson

    I have been trying to tell people something about this headship theology. While everyone has been debating over whether women should be ordained, the Conference has been using the Conservative Preachers like Stephen Bohr to hammer this Headship theology into everyone’s heads. And it is nothing more than the same ideas of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy. Spiritual Formation being now taught to the Laity. It has already been taught to our Ministers. The idea is to have everyone in submission to the Pope, at the end of the whole thing because the Conference is submitted to the Pope, the Ministers are submitted to the Conference by Spiritual Formation and the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola, and now the Laity are submitted to the Ministers who also use NLP Hypnosis on them.

    “Satan is constantly endeavoring to attract attention to man in the place of God. He leads the people to look to bishops, to pastors, to professors of theology, as their guides, instead of searching the Scriptures to learn their duty for themselves. Then, by controlling the minds of these leaders, he can influence the multitudes according to his will.”

    Notice what Ted Wilson’s Father said about the Roman Catholic HIERARCHY… he said the SDA Church is no longer against it.

    Neal C. Wilson, then vice-president of the General Conference, states in the Reply Brief for Defendants, p 4:
    “Although it is true that there was a period in the life of the Seventh-day Adventist Church when the denomination took a distinctly anti-Roman Catholic viewpoint, and the term ‘hierarchy’ was used in a pejorative sense to refer to the papal form of church governance, that attitude on the church’s part was nothing more than a manifestation of widespread anti-popery among conservative Protestant denominations in the early part of this century and the latter part of the last, and which has now been consigned to the historical trash heap so far as the Seventh-day Adventist Church is concerned.” EEOC vs PPPA and GC, Civil Case #74-2025 CBR (1975).

    This is what I see happening during this entire Women’s Ordination debate. Then drilling the Headship Theology into our heads in a sort of Spiritual Formation ‘Class’, without us realizing it is even taking place.

  15. Melissa

    Lindo e femenino =] mais e algo q so fica bem nas magrinhas e te falo isso pq quando eu estava asima do peso colokei o meu e fikei orlllllellllilvl kkkk serio foi um desastre e agora que ja baxei de peso colokei um domingo a noite e fikou super bem e elegante =][]Camila Coelho Respondeu:May 4th, 2011 em 7:42 pm, Ai que bom flor! Ja quero usar logoooo =) beijinhoss []

  16. Jennifer Jill Schwirzer

    Jon I appreciate you identifying the root of some of the anti-WO movement as being unbiblical headship theology. We tend to assume that the left is unbiblical, the right is biblical. The left has its deviations for sure, but so does the right. The idea that Adam and Eve were hierarchically unequal before the fall is borrowed from Babylon and contradicts Genesis 3:16- why would God order subjugation as a punishment if it was already in place? Also sister White says they were equal, and the context bears out she means hierarchically versus ontologically. It’s very toxic theology because it ends up with all women being subjugated to all men, which has been the bedrock of all kinds of fundamentalist abuse of women. I loved Chudleigh’s book. Not that this proves or disproves anything, but Gothard has stepped down due to abuse allegations.

    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      Sorry to have missed this when you wrote it, just found this. Thanks for your sensible (as always) thoughts. Hope all is well with you. Loved the music of Rev that you directed.

  17. Lothar Hoelzel

    I suspect that Headship Theology in some way is also connected to SDA understanding of sanctuary theology.
    Previous commentators sugested that God does not change. I totally agree with this except that this quality of a gracious God is misaplied, from my view.
    God acted always progressive in his interaction with mankind. He used familiar metaphors to communicate truths about himself that was understood clearly in that context. Unfortunately we use these timed metaphors today to create an entire theological discourse.
    I don’t mind the homeletic approach to scripture. New tesament writers used this approach often. It is the exclusive use of homeletics without contextual application that I object too. And I believe it is this approach that so often gets us into troubles. And may I be frank by sugesting that on occation it leaves this cutltish tinge in our wake especially in local congregations.
    When God instructed Israel to: …build me a sanctuary so that I may dwell among them..he did so to acomodate them. Their 400 year experience in Egypt left them bereft of their own prior spiritual experience. He needed to start with were they were at. And were was that? The Egyptian gods resided in a three dimentional structure.
    The omni dimentional God put himself into this limited dimentional structure for their sake.
    I like to propose that at that moment it was His intention to Get himself and them out of that structure.
    Unfortuately the Temple became their identity , as it is for us as SDA’s today. We want to keep suffing God and ourselfes into this Temple. In this temple there is no room for officiating women or for women worshippers for that matter.
    When John saw the new Jerusalem coming down he tried to describe its splendor to the point were he became almost speachles…… what no eye has seen nor any ear has heard….but the as Jew he looked for his identity, the Temple. As he looks for it he queries. …there is no Temple to be found here? And then he remembers Jesus’s lament over Jerusalem wen he said that this Temple will be destroyed and build again in three days, that Jesus identified himself with this temple. The light went on and he answerd his own question, Rev 21……..for Jesus Christ and God himself are the Temple.
    For as long as we keep God in this three dimensional space in Heaven instead of understanding that this earthly Temple was a meataphor to depict who He was as opposed to the pagan gods they had become familiar with, we will never allow Him to be this gracious, progressive Father that He always was.
    Sanctuary theology and headship theology go hand in hand. There is no room for women in the sanctuary.

  18. Skip

    Your old friend Sam Bacchiocci also is the same guy that told me if EGW had been alive at the same time as him, he could have straightened her out about a lot of things she got wrong, especially prophecy, since she wasn’t a scholar and he was.

    Kind of out of the same cloth as all you higher criticism folks, except it is not with prophets your are correcting, but God. I’m sure He appreciates your help.

  19. Robert Whiteman

    I find it interesting that this controversial subject is being agitated after being voted upon, now 3 times, with the same conclusion. Will God’s people be a unified body, or will differences of opinions keep us fragmented until God cleans house(Isa 4)?

    I believe it will happen just that way(Isa 4) and these persistent divisions are proof of this need aren’t they?
    It doesn’t matter which position one holds once the vote is taken and the results tallied. What we do next tells the truth of our faith or unbelief in Christ being our leader no matter how we hold our opinions compared to others.

    Why must the division continue in the wake of the church’s decision? This was not the work of a few men, but the world church. I wish that all could see, no matter their opinion on the issues, that they are at this time being proved as members of the Body of Christ or as rebels in the order of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Those not gathering with Christ’s Body are against it[Him]. The thoughts of many hearts are being revealed by our Living Head.

    It is that simple. Are we too “wise” to see it?

    God’s grace is sufficient.

    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      All other things being equal, I would totally agree with your comments. The challenge for me is that the issue in San Antonio was so poorly constructed that it would have divided the church either way. Has the yes vote won out would the no voters have rolled over and played dead? I don’t think so. The vote guaranteed division. On top of that, when a majority vote imposes something that harms mission in some parts of the world, it is not a helpful process to go by majority vote. Leadership should have sought the middle ground where all could have followed their conscience. That might be hard to achieve but is worth the discussion.

      1. Robert Whiteman

        I believe that the idea of “leadership” doing anything above the decision of the whole body is a concept after the order of the world that does not acknowledge God. Leadership must keep the power of decision where it belongs. Notice Jesus’ teaching of Matt 18:15-20. Notice how the final decision is left to the congregation, not the pastor, elders, church board or the local, union, division or general conferences. The local congregation must render the final decision. Do we see the principle involved here? Notice also that the judgment of the guilty/lost/impenitent will be rendered by Christ and all the redeemed. So it must be with this question of the church. Since many claim scripture is silent, it comes to a vote by the world church as it was organized to do. No “leaders” are then able to make a policy not supported by the general consensus. In the Church, there is no hierarchy. Leaders are only those who serve the body, as Jesus taught, leading others by a right example as Jesus demonstrated in His life, with examples such as washing feet and laying down His life. He has left the power of verdict in the hands of the body, not any subset of it.

        If we lose sight of God’s ways in governing, we will join the ungodly in violation of it.

        How is it that this 3rd rendering of the decision “harms mission in some parts of the world”? If all prayed “Thy will be done”, isn’t the decision to be taken as God’s will?

        God is marking the reaction and actions of all, and in this, every soul demonstrates either faith or unbelief. There are those who serve God, and those who serve Him not. This is based on the decision made and the manner in which all have responded. This remains the choice each must make for their self, answering to God for that choice.

        I would close with pointing to the counsel of the Holy Spirit through Paul found in Eph 4:2, 3.

        IF we believe God is leading, how do we demonstrate it?

        1. Jon Paulien Post author

          I actually agree with all you have said. But when some of the finest people you know report that the whole agenda is being driven by one man, using his unique persuasive ability combined with the power of the chair to overwhelm a general sense (80-90% of top leaders) that this is wrong, it is not as cut and dried as it might seem. Also Wilson is not “president of the Adventist Church” as he likes to say, he is president of the General Conference. This does not give him the right to override the needs of local mission in the structures set up in 1901 and 1903. He and I are friends, but I am concerned about what is happening behind the scenes.

          1. Robert Whiteman

            So, the thinking is that God is NOT guiding the outcome of the general conference in session? We are now a body controlled by one persuasive man? Would that be labeled as faith or unbelief in heaven? I just read in the Psalms this morning that God is on His throne(not on vacation, or distracted from anything) and always will be, never slumbering or sleeping. The persuasiveness of 1 or 10,000 men doesn’t bother me for a moment while the Revelation shows Jesus among the 7 candle sticks.

            Both sides of the question were urging all to pray for the outcome to be according to God’s will, yet one man made those prayers of no effect?
            I know that my prayer was “Thy will be done” since I have not the wisdom to know which outcome was God’s will(yes, I have a personal conviction, but it is irrelevant during and following the outcome of a vote isn’t it?). I wasn’t voting, but as in my daily choices, I prayed the same prayer since I cannot see tomorrow. I trust God hears and the evidence remains that He is still on His throne(of the entire creation, including this fallen world) and not slumbering or sleeping.

            I have taken personally the counsel of Paul to learn from the example of Israel which is set for those “upon whom the ends of the world are come[ing soon!]”, where we see the leading of God questioned many times, and for those exhibiting unbelief, no entrance into His Rest.

            Satan is far more persuasive than any one man, and has been allowed to keep many among us in agitation over a matter voted on 3 times. I feel our probation as a church is nearly up. I feel this deeply. “Portentous signs are thickening ’round”.

            To be honest, I have heard from both sides things I pray will be repented of so they will not meet them again in judgment. The issue itself is not as important as one’s manner of addressing it. Being on the “right” side will save no one who exhibits ungodliness or unbelief, since the judgment is about individual character, being determined by faith or unbelief.

          2. Jon Paulien Post author

            I resonate with your thoughts. But while God is guiding the church, if mere compliance with majority votes is the standard, Luther would have stayed Catholic. Unless we believe that the SDA institution CANNOT fail, we must retain a healthy skepticism with regard to its decision processes. Jer 18:7-10.

  20. Robert Whiteman

    Luther’s decision was not up for a vote, being a personal expression of faith in Christ and man’s propitiation for sin, because we are saved “by grace through faith”. Such a choice is never up for a vote.

    But when a body must render a decision for the church to follow where there is a division on an issue, every member will be tested whether they believe God is still on His throne or not. Is Christ still the Living Head of the church? Perhaps we need to consider Matthew 18:18-20 here?

    1. Robert Whiteman

      Should read “…faith in Christ AS man’s propitiation….”

      Also, is our faith in the institution, or in God’s ability to guide it to a proper decision when earnest prayer for this is made?

      1. Jon Paulien Post author

        The only concern is that there are too many instances in Scripture of God’s people or leaders making decisions that turn out to have negative consequences for the mission or even work against the mission. We cannot blindly accept the outcome of votes as necessarily “God’s will.” Had Ellen White not been there in 1888 Waggoner and Jones would have been rejected and possibly tossed out for going against what “everybody knew” was the Adventist message.

        1. Robert Whiteman

          Then I must ask: is General Conference in session is no longer God’s manner of settling matters in the church? Upon what then do we depend? Also, there is only ONE leader of the Church today, and He watches the lamps closely. There are no “leaders” of the church except as they follow Jesus pattern of life and lead by service. Position isn’t enough, if the character flawed. Jesus remains as the Head of His people.

          Again, this was a world-wide vote(3 times) which no man/small-group can control, since it wasn’t the same people involved all 3 times.

          Either God is on His throne, or He is not. By faith alone, I must believe His word and follow His instructions, though many others may not.

          Concerning Jones and Waggoner, is God unable to preserve His messengers? Ellen needed to be there because they had no other Helper? Should our faith be in Ellen(who is no longer with us)? Besides, haven’t God’s servants/messengers often been “tossed out” for giving the straight testimony? Jesus Himself was “tossed out” wasn’t He? What happened also to Stephen, James, Paul, Peter, to name only a few? God allows man to reveal the true thoughts of his heart.

          It seems to come down to whether we believe God is in control or not, and our response will tell us. We must not rely on outcomes or circumstances, but the promises of God are sure.

          Let me ask this, if the vote had gone the other way 3 times, would you feel it was how God was leading?

          1. Jon Paulien Post author

            Thanks, good and honest questions. The problem with San Antonio was that the vote was destined to disaster either way. If the vote had been yes, it would have divided the church also. The fact that the president ignored years of GC study to set up this kind of up or down was not helpful. This division was precipitated from above more than from below, it seems to me. The church voted that ordination is not some special, magical thing then treated it as if it were. There were other ways that unity could have been achieved but we didn’t go down those roads. So now we have a decision based on a very flawed biblical base and all are supposed to yield their conscience and go along. Not a good place. And that would have been true with a “yes” vote as well. Sad.

          2. Robert Whiteman

            So how does the church heal the division and be in “one accord”?
            Where to go from here?

          3. Jon Paulien Post author

            I fear it will require different leadership than we now have. A true pastor seeks to heal divisions and find common ground, not easy to do with volunteers. Current leadership is taking sides out of conviction, but leading to more division rather than less.

  21. Robert Whiteman

    Doesn’t this need for different leadership depend on whom each of us is following? I rest in the conviction that no human is to be perceived as “leader” of Christ’s body, or we have denied the Lord as the living Head of His church. Men are only to be serving their fellow man, not being leaders except when leading by example as they imitate Christ, who came not to be served, but to serve.

    The true authority in any body is the body, not it’s appointed servants. It may be that the body has lost its way? If this is the case, then the “leaders” have also failed in allowing this condition to exist, and/or by taking this “authority” upon themselves when it is not their’s to take. If God’s word isn’t our personal guide in all things, we have ceased following after Christ. This places the fault on any who trusts in any other man, “whose heart departs from the Lord” (Jer 17:5). This would also explain why our problem exists in the first place, after all these years.

    Anyone who is seeking to exert their own convictions upon others has usurped the authority that only Christ our Lord can posses, and all who allow it have denied Him as well.
    Is this unreasonable to say?

    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      History tells us that all human bodies eventually fail. The very last generation may be the exception, but to believe that a particular human entity would escape the collective liabilities of humanity is probably not realistic.

      1. Robert Whiteman

        The remnant WILL be the exception since they “follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth”(Rev 14:4), believing still that He is the head of the church, and is proving every soul that professes faith in Him.

        So how do we follow Him in this matter now that the body has voted(again)? This seems to be the question yet to find a practical answer in a great number of members.


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