Kelly Ladd Bishop

Exploring issues of faith, culture, and spirituality with a focus on women in the church and world

I’m Tired of Churches Teaching Male Headship

I’m tired of churches teaching male headship.

I’m tired of it because it is based on questionable Biblical scholarship, modern cultural understanding, and centuries of misogynistic attitudes. I’m tired of it because, at best it silences women and keeps their voices out of the pulpits and the classrooms. At worst it traps women and girls in abusive and damaging situations, and fuels a culture of male privilege and power.

I’m tired of hearing Christian men and women claim that male authority in the church and in the home is the healthiest and holiest structure. This structure is notoriously unhealthy, and is destructive world wide. Instances of acid attacks against women are growing rapidly in parts of the world. Revenge rapes and honor killings of women continue to occur in many countries. Young girls are being married off or sold into sexual slavery. Most of the world continues to be hostile to women and girls, as a result of cultural patriarchy and male headship. Even in the history of the developed world, patriarchal structures have silenced women and kept them at a subordinate disadvantage, refusing them the right to vote, or own property, or earn a living up until recent decades. There is nothing healthy or holy about a structure that renders half the population helpless or dependent.

I’m tired of being told that the simplest and most direct reading of the Biblical text teaches that men are in authority over women, and any other reading twists the text. If the simplest and most direct reading means reading a few cherry-picked passages in English, through a filter that has predetermined male authority, without any regard to the rest of scripture, or the original language and culture of the passage, then that is not a responsible reading at all. If we look, instead, at the entire message of scripture and everything it has to tell us about men and women, we see a much fuller and more beautiful picture of men and women in shared leadership, and equal roles. This is not a twisting of the text in any way, but a more complete look at the whole word of God.

I’m tired of being told that those who support the full ministry of women in the church, or the full equality of men and women in marriage are not Biblical Christians. I’m tired of being told they have a low view of scripture, or a worldly view of gender and sexuality. These are nothing more than baseless assumptions, and are most often completely false.

I’m tired of the ways the male headship culture damages men. It puts an enormous amount of pressure on men to live up to this false idea that they have to be the perfect servant-leaders of their families and churches. It robs them of the ability to depend on the wisdom of their wives in a healthy, reciprocal relationship. It diminishes the glory of a mutually submissive marriage, in which both the husband and wife recognize their brokenness and dependency on Christ, and on one another. It robs the church of the richness of leadership by the full imago dei, both male and female. It shames sensitive men, and feeds the self-destructive need for authority in power hungry men. It provides some with a platform by which to justify their controlling or authoritarian actions. It encourages gender confusion and undermines the creativity of our God, who designs men and women, and boys and girls, with many unique different talents, personalities, and callings.

I’m tired of the silencing of the voice of more than half the church, and the fueling of this never ending rivalry.

I’m tired of churches teaching male headship.

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