I’ve been in mourning these last few weeks. Not over a person–but over a church. Specifically the church I grew up in. The church that has been a spiritual home at least in name to six generations of my family. Yet even though I say six generations of family, my childhood home was far different from my mother’s childhood home. The stability she took for granted was missing from mine. Some of the rules were passed down, but my parents diverged from the path of our Adventist pioneers by accepting the false concept of male headship when I was young.
How do I know this? Well they never used those terms, but my mother never worked outside the home. She never led in a family worship except to teach little children. She rarely disagreed with my father in front me. My father put down my Bible worker grandmother who was constantly giving Bible studies. He argued with her over theology. He yelled at her over doctrinal issues nearly every time we visited her.
And there were the quirky things he did while I was young. He scolded me when I was five for handing him a purple towel to dry my baby brother. I had to go back and find a blue one. He was upset when my mom took me school shopping and we came back with plaid dresses. He called them men’s clothes. He never let me or my sisters wear denim or jeans because they were men’s clothes. My parents didn’t want me to cut my hair because it was given to a woman for a covering. They also despised women who worked outside the home and “wore the pants in the family.”
Perhaps my father learned some of this from his father because his mother never learned how to drive a car. He meant well, he told me he wanted better for his daughters, but I’m not sure he knew what that could look like. My husband taught me to drive when I was twenty-three.
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My father’s background made him vulnerable when the false teaching of male headship began to enter the Adventist church in the seventies. This concept did not come from the Bible or even one of our church founders–it originally came from Bill Gothard who has now been embroiled in lawsuits against him for sexual abuse and harassment from multiple young women who worked for him. His teachings of male superiority have taught women they are less than and must obey a male and in turn they have falsely given men the idea they are more important than women.
As the scholars at Andrews University have refuted with the Bible and prophetic quotes, this false concept of male headship flies against the one and only true head of the church–Jesus Christ. And it has caused a lot of trouble recently because people who support male headship are directly opposed to male-female equality which was God’s design at creation, temporarily lost in Eden and restored by the life of Jesus.
In the current controversy of women’s ordination in the church, proponents of male headship have argued that a woman should not be a pastor and most definitely not an ordained one because that would give her authority to lord over a man, but they have missed two important facts:
- Being a pastor (male or female) should never be about lording power over anyone. A faithful pastor’s job is to serve as Jesus did when he washed the disciple’s feet.
- The Biblical meaning of ordination simply meant to be called and while the actual word appears in the KJV of the Bible, it’s not in the original language. The early church prayed and laid their hands on both men and women who were called by the Holy Spirit to give their lives in service to God. And it should be the same today.
When we realize these two important points, this controversy over women’s ordination is ridiculous. So why am I in mourning over such an insane controversy?
While I was growing up, I saw the disrespect my father gave my Grandmother who served God. I saw how my father had the last word and it was his way or the highway. I saw how my brother was not expected to do the chores while I was used as a family slave. And behind all this subjugation was the power of the belt. When I was seven my legs were beaten black and blue for whispering in church. I could go on and on, but the truth is the beast-like power-over of another human being–in any form of abuse creates a deep and terrifying fear of God–a literal fear that made me sick and kept me up at night for most of my life.
I was terrified of the judgment and of Jesus coming. Events like Mt. St. Helens and 911 carved this fear even deeper into my psyche. It wasn’t until I discovered Jesus and the Father are one and I began to read up on the life of Jesus that I lost this fear created by a false God concept. And male headship was a part of what I was able to throw away.
When I realized God was not the way my father had portrayed him, I finally felt safe in church because I realized how God uses his power. Not like an angry, belt wielding father, but like a humble servant even submitting to let his created beings kill him.
So in the last few months I’ve been sad to see this ridiculous controversy rage on in the church. For me, one of the final straws against the establishment is this vote taken a couple weeks ago to eventually punish those who ordain women. Can you see how this demonic power-over that I felt I had escaped from my childhood home is now leading the church I love? Can you see how unsafe this makes me feel? Can you see how nothing can cover up such abuse? There is no excuse for a world leader being allowed to act as the beast power in a church where we teach the mindset of Jesus and preach against using our power over another human being! Please don’t preach to me about Babylon and the apostate church when our own church is taking on the form of beast-like power.
People have asked me why I care so much about women’s ordination. I once felt called to be a pastor, I came by this through my Grandmother’s joy in giving Bible studies and my own love of people. But I realized my parents would never support me in this choice so I searched for other types of work. Today I have no regrets. I feel I am able to answer God’s callings in different settings most recently through my art and blog.
But here’s the thing–as a friend of Jesus, I owe it to him to honor his example of letting Mary sit at his feet as a rabbi in training. Remember Jesus said, “Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” So why should we allow men who have these two false beliefs of male headship and power over ordination keep women from serving God?
Apparently the General Conference President Ted Wilson disagrees with me. In Australia a few years ago, Wilson refused to lay hands on a woman pastor who was being commissioned. Unlike our world leader, the Adventist church both approves women pastors and uses a ceremony exactly like ordination–except they call it a commissioning. This month Wilson pushed a policy through to potentially punish those unions who have decided to go ahead and ordain women.
Wilson did this recently by asking the church to vote on a policy which seeks to punish outliers and those out of compliance. The first irony was the number of people who voted. There were nearly 300 people, but only nine were women. Talk about unfair representation!
The second irony is this document also aims to punish those who don’t subscribe to all twenty eight of the church’s fundamental beliefs, but get this–fundamental belief number fourteen states all are created equal and through Jesus restored to equality–including male and female. So by the GC’s own standards, this attempt to punish goes directly against fundamental belief fourteen. What a mind warp!
And how abusive is it to threaten punishment for a woman following the voice of God? What kind of false religion is this? It’s not the religion of my ancestors who treated women equally. It’s certainly not the religion my husband and I endorse.
I’ve had several conversations with women in my church. Several are leaving and not coming back. And I am left standing with very little to encourage them. Another conversation was with a woman elder who said, “I don’t care about women’s ordination.” It was sad to discover a woman who acts as an elder has no empathy for other woman who are called by God. As long as we have apathy like this, any woman who obeys that call will stand alone and be treated as less by the men in the church. I wondered if her opinion would change if her own daughter heard such a call.
Some people say “We don’t need to worry about what happens at the GC level–just deal with the local church.” Well that might sound nice, but when a vote has been taken to persecute women for accepting God’s call on their life and it aims to punish the faithful, God serving men who ordain them and support them, something is rotten at the top and the stench is trickling down to let all of us know that following conscience is no longer acceptable, we must now conform to the GC’s version of God. And right now, that God represents power over much like the kingdoms of this world.
Others say “Just focus on Jesus and don’t worry about this other stuff.” Really? You don’t think Jesus cares about women who are following his call and being persecuted? And if we are really following Jesus, then won’t we have an eye single to his glory for all?
So what can we do? For starters we need to stop allowing this corporate bullying. Women need to step up and stand up for other women. If nothing else, we need to maintain the golden rule. And the golden rule tells us to treat others as we wish to be treated. Male headship fails the golden rule. Punishing documents fail the golden rule. And sad to say it, but apathetic people fail the golden rule. Each of these mindsets are contributing to a crisis which is splitting the church.
Equality affirming male pastors need to step up. They can preach against this false doctrine of male headship. They can preach on our fundamental beliefs which state equality. They can preach about the godhead. Multiple sermons could cover the true headship of Jesus, the role of the Holy Spirit in calling people and the equality of the Godhead. They could preach on how Jesus treated women. They could also preach on how the true kingdom of God endorses freedom and does NOT use power over. They could preach on how true unity is not conformity, but can only come about by having a free conscience and being led by the Holy Spirit.
My husband and I listen to multiple podcasts every week. This keeps our marriage alive and we are never bored because it gives us lots of ideas to talk about. It also reminds me that I am part of a global movement to embrace Jesus and his freedom promoting lifestyle. It shows me I am not alone. That I don’t have to settle for sitting in church going over the same ol’ same ol’ where people keep their heads in the sand while this corporate abuse is being set up to destroy lives. I’ve heard sermons by very courageous pastors who are willing to stick their neck out for their female colleagues and their example has been refreshingly Christ-like!
I would embrace any local church who is preaching on the topics above. If you live in Southern Oregon and hear such a sermon please message me the podcast, I’d love to hear it! For now, I’m hanging on and glad to know George Knight still preaches occasionally at my local church because he, like Jesus, supports women leaders in the church whether these elders have empathy for other women or not. And if George should fail me, then I will cling to Jesus! I don’t need to allow abusive and apathetic people in the denomination to discourage me from following Jesus.
If you can go off script and think for yourself, if you like discussing ideas about God, if you are not so stuck in your beliefs that you can look outside the boxes, then I would be thrilled to call you friend. We need to find like-minded people because we are the church!
If you want to hear a great sermon on the current crisis in the church, check out this sermon from Alex Bryan. The choir is great, but if you are in a hurry the message starts about 35 minutes in.
George Knight on the Biblical Meaning of Ordination
Andrew University Unique Headship of Christ Statement
Five Myths of Male Headship
Women Sue Bill Gothard