Sunday, October 1 2023 - 7:25 PM

Connecting you with resources, ideas, and people!


Headship Doctrine

This book provides a short history of the Headship doctrine, and it’s influence on Adventism today.

In the late 20th century many Seventh-day Adventists adopted the “headship principle.” This doctrine attempts to establish a biblical basis for excluding women from leadership positions in the home and the church. This book defines headship theology, explains why it was Calvinists who developed it, and outlines how and why it was adopted by some Adventists.

The SDA Church

The Seventh-day Adventist Church was organized in mid-19th century America and has grown to nearly 20 million members worldwide. The SDA Church has always emphasized personal relationships with God and the importance of following one’s own conscientious understanding of the Bible.

This commitment to individual study and individual conviction has often placed church teachings and practices in tension with established churches and with the values of the wider culture. It has also resulted in Adventist members and leaders differing sharply from each other on a variety of topics, from the nature of Christ to the sequence of end time events.

But on major beliefs there has been broad agreement among members. Christians who didn’t see the necessity of keeping the seventh-day Sabbath did not join a church that worshiped on Saturday. Also people who didn’t believe in the soon and literal return, or “advent,” of Jesus did not join an Adventist church.

Another Filter: The Headship Principle

And there was another powerful filter. Many Christians in the 19th century, citing Paul’s counsels that women were to be silent in church and not teach men, did not become Seventh-day Adventists. This was because the church accepted and valued the ministry of women in ways that were out of harmony with American culture and popular religion. This was especially evident in the preaching, teaching and general leadership role of Ellen White, co-founder of the church.

But over time the church’s openness to women in leadership positions waned. After Ellen White died in 1915, many viewed her as unique among Adventist women, rather than as a role model. In the first half of the 20th century, men replaced most women leaders and evangelists. Then, in the late 20th century, many conservative Adventists adopted a new male “headship principle” doctrine that was gaining a foothold among some evangelicals. This new headship principle would have prevented many earlier Adventists from joining the Seventh-day Adventist Church, but now its advocates saw it as essential to the correct interpretation of scripture.

This book provides a brief outline of who developed the headship principle among Calvinist churches, who imported it into the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and why some Adventists quickly accepted it. 


Where you can get the book!

Smashwords – Free eBook – Available now | Read it online

AdventSource – Price US$3.95 – Call 1-800-328-0525 | Item No. 419225

© 2017 - 2023 Church Support Services. All rights reserved. Click here for content usage information.

About Gerry Chudleigh and Rich DuBose

Gerry Chudleigh

served as communication director for the Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Thousand Oaks, CA, until his passing in 2015.

Rich DuBose

writes from Northern California

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.