by Annick M. Brennen
If men derive their authority to rule in the home and the church by divine right, can any one explain to me why is it that the church membership (and I am speaking of Christendom in general) is composed mostly of women? Why are men in general not interested in spiritual matters and in God? Why are men naturally inclined to murder, aggression, and all kinds of evil deeds as the prison statistics tell us? The whole human history proves that MAN CANNOT wield authority justly and in the fear of God. He is prone to abuse authority and power.
And if men derive their authority based also on the model of the marriage relationship, does that mean that single women in the church (who have chosen to remain single because they reject male authority) should ask to have over them female authority since they are not married?
God intended men and women to complement each other. If we have a male-dominated clergy, wouldn't that be a door open to all kinds of abuse of power? My own experience gives me an emphatic yes to this question.
I have in front of me two confidential letters written by a psychiatrist and a medical doctor. The former was written to my husband in 1979 who was a young ministerial intern at the time and it reads: "As you know I have been treating your wife since October 1978. She has made in my opinion very good progress and has been able to adjust to the trauma of the death of the baby very well. I feel that it is imperative that she should continue to be formally employed--I consider this an essential factor in preventing a recurrence of her illness, and I hope that you will be able to make sure that she is steadily employed in the future."
Anybody reading this letter, can guess that I might have suffered for severe depression after the death of my first child. I not only suffered depression after the death of my first child, but during the pregnancy as well. Indeed, I received electro-chock treatment to get me out of depression during my pregnancy.
My husband presented this letter to the Conference administrators. To this day, the conference administrators never called me in and my husband to discuss my health. They totally ignored it, never answered it, and sent us on a family island where it was not possible for me to be employed and where medical help was not available. My mental health severely declined. Again, I became pregnant. This time, I delivered a healthy child, but again suffered from post-partum depression, was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, and chronic congestive sinusitis. I had irregular heartbeat, with my heart rate going to over 200 per minute. During my pregnancy, I remained without my husband for 6 months, with a small child because I had to come to Nassau for medical treatment. My husband was stationed on the family island of Exuma, while I stayed with my wonderful in-laws who looked after me. The Conference administrators saw nothing wrong with this arrangement. They demanded that my husband leave me and assume his duty in Exuma.
Again, the medical doctor who attended to me wrote to the president of the conference and said: "Mrs. Brennen was examined by me on 25th June, 1981, with the following findings:
1. Post-partum depression
3. Chronic congestive sinusitis.
In view of these problems, it would probably be in their own best interest if Mr. and Mrs. Brennen could be transferred to a center where medical help would be more readily available."
Again, the conference totally ignored our plea. When I was delivered of the child, we were sent back to the family island.
I became pregnant with our third child, and again the conference knowing my health assigned my husband to Crooked Island (another island of the Bahamas where medical help was not available). This time, we had to maintain two homes, one on Crooked Island where my husband was stationed, and one in Nassau where I had to be because of medical reasons. I remained the whole 9 months with my small daughter, but without my husband. Again I suffered from post-partum depression after our third child. When I delivered our last son, I joined my husband in Crooked Island where my mental health severely declined and I became obsessed with the thought of dying. I lived with the thought of dying for a few years. My psychiatrist referred me to a psychologist for further treatment. Now, I was going back and forth, leaving my small children with my husband to get help in Nassau.
Finally, out of desperation my husband and I went to speak to the Union president who had come to Nassau for year-end meetings. He was totally dumbfounded that something like this could have happened to us. And he resolved that this situation would not continue. He spoke to the conference administrators, and our family was finally moved to Nassau where I was able to find employment and receive regular medical help. Employment became my salvation and my mental health slowly but steadily improved. However, my nervous system is delicate and I have to be careful how much I exert myself. I still have chronic sinusitis, and hypothyroidism. For those reading this, I have a Baccalaureate de Technician from the French Government (I am French), and I also hold a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from West Indies College.
To this day, I firmly believe that had Godly women been on that conference committee, the outcome may have been different for my family. I have not even spoken of the financial hardship we endured because I could not be employed. Indeed, when my mother paid my way to come home, when she saw us she realized that we needed help and bought us clothing.
When only males are in position of authority, the balance of power is skewed on their sides. We need women in position of authority to balance out this power, so that women's concerns are not only heard but attended to. (I guess that's why The Women's Ministries Department was formed.) We would not have needed this department, had women been also in position of authority where our concerns could be heard. The history of the SDA Church shows that ordination was made a prerequisite for access to administrative positions in the church. This was a political move to exclude women from administrative positions. Indeed, at the last GC I saw a televised session where the ordination of women was discussed. In the interview, one pastor who did not favor the ordination of women said a woman could not possibly be a GC administrator.
As we all know, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts even more. If males have all authority, can we expect justice to be done for women? Human history proves this is a very difficult thing to obtain.
Recently, our conference implemented the "Simplified Giving Plan" in which it is recommended that 20% of our income be allocated to the world budget, 20% to United Development Fund, and 60% to Church Budget. This plan was presented to us on the basis that we no longer would have the headache to calculate and distribute our offering. All we have to do is to place the offering in the tithes envelope and we will distribute it for you. I called the conference to talk to the Church Ministries director or the president. They were not available and the secretary put me on to the treasurer. I asked him to clarify this matter for me. I asked him whether as a church member, I still had the right to distribute my offering as I saw fit and whether the conference would respect my distribution. He said that I could give to special church projects, but as far as the offering was concerned, the Conference would override any distribution that I may have done and would redistribute my funds based on the recommendation. I said to him this was not right, that as a church member I should have the choice to determine how my offering is distributed. I also said I would pay tithes, but withhold my offering until the Conference sees fit to give us a choice. He said I had a bad attitude and that he hoped that I would not go around giving my opinion to other church members. He also said, that I should be careful because my husband was a minister.
I call this abuse of power and corruption.
My mother was a victim of domestic violence. My father was a policeman who threatened my mother with his gun, who raped her in my presence when I was but 8 or 9 years old, and who also demanded his conjugal rights with the windows wide open and the neighbors saw everything that went on. When the police force took away his gun because he had threatened my mother, he went and bought a butcher's knife to kill her. When my mother went to the church elders for help, they came to our home and told to my mother (this made an impression on me) that it was her duty to submit to her husband because he was the head of the home. (This was an abuse of authority on the part of the elders.) My mother remained in that abusive relationship. When I grew up I told my father that if he beat my mother again, I would kill him myself. (It seems that men because of their bent to evil just don't know how to govern justly in the fear of God.) When my father died, my older brother who is a minister of the gospel said we have lost nothing.
I spent four years on the Andrews University campus where my husband got a master's degree in community counseling and another in religion. The Student Movement has a section in which they report weekly incidents. Domestic disputes are also reported in that section. I have been reliably informed that most of these disputes occur in seminary students' homes. Indeed, the biggest fight on campus when I was there happened a Sabbath day and was done by a seminary student who beat his wife because she challenged him on the sweetheart he was keeping.
Who decided that women should not have a right to education? Who decided that they should not own property? Who decided they should not have a bank account? Who decided they should not vote? Who is deciding NOW that they should not be ordained to the Gospel Ministry? MEN. Men full of themselves and full of the theory of male authority in the home, in the church, and in the society. Thank God, the former have been abolished because women decided they would not accept this situation. I would not be presumptuous to know FOR SURE whether God intends for women to be ordained, since the Bible is silent on this issue. But if it is HIS WILL THAT WOMEN BE ORDAINED TO THE GOSPEL MINISTRY, THERE IS NOTHING MEN LIKE PIPIM, BACCHIOCHI, FAGAL, ETC CAN DO TO STOP GOD. GOD'S WILL WILL PREVAIL IN THE END. HE WILL HAVE HIS WAY. NO AMOUNT OF DEBATE ON THE INTERNET WILL STOP IT.
No, Dr. Bacchiochi, I have long rejected male authority and abuse of power and the sole purpose of the rest of my existence is to challenge it wherever it might be found. I am 42 years old this February (if God in His mercy spares my life to see it), would be married 20 years in July, and I thank God I have a husband who cares about me and has no exalted notion of being my head and of controlling me. He earned my respect because he cares for me. He did not demand it. Indeed, if he had demanded it, he would not have it. We share all household duties and have raised our children to believe there is no such thing as woman's work and man's work. My son does the dishes and also maintains the lawn. My daughter washes dishes and also maintains the lawn. When I was learning to sew, my husband was my consultant. He helped me in many ways, such as how to cut straight, how to do curves, etc.
The Bible says Jesus would be a ruler who would be A SHEPHERD to his people. This is in sharp contrast to the belief of His days, when MEN believed in hoarding all authority and ruling with a fist of iron. That's why He did not want His people to have a king in the first place. Christ's also said his people should not aspire to be rulers. Indeed, He said it shall not be so among you. We should aspire to servanthood, not authority. A leader is a servant, not an authority figure. And if we have any authority, it should be because of our willingness to serve others and to sacrifice ourselves on their behalf. Christ, even though He was God, veiled His divinity and never demanded and clamored for authority while He was here on earth. He never wrote any books about His right to authority and dominion, even though He had all the rights to do so. A true leader does not clamor and insist on being a leader. Leadership is always by the consent of the majority. The Bible says, Love demands not her own, is not puffed up.
The Roman law demanded that Men be in charge of their homes, and it is in this context that Paul wrote and said: Okay, you want to be head of your homes, then be this kind of head: Love your wives as Christ Loves the Church and GAVE HIMSELF FOR HER. Which man on earth can boast of such love and devotion for his wife? The greatest requirement is not on the part of the wife to submit, but on the husband to love. One can always get submission either by force or by coercion. And this is easily done when women have already been brainwashed it is their Christian duty to submit to their husbands. One can submit out of fear of reprisal, but one cannot love sacrificially without God ruling the life.
In conclusion I paraphrase Victor Hugo who said: You can conquer an army, but you cannot conquer an idea whose time has come. The idea for the ordination of women has come. If it is God's will that women be ordained, it will happen in due course.