The “headship principle,” which was discussed extensively in the Seventh-day Adventist Church during the 2012-2014 General Conference (GC) Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC), may be new truth or it may be new heresy, but it is definitely new.
Though I was born into a conservative Adventist family in 1943, attended Adventist schools from first grade through seminary, and have been employed by the church as a minister for 46 years, I had never heard the headship principle taught in the Adventist church until 2012 when two areas (unions) of the United States called special business sessions to consider ordaining women to ministry. When several Adventist ministers began talking about the “headship principle” I started asking lifetime Adventist friends if they had ever heard of the headship principle before 2012. John Brunt, pastor of the Azure Hills church and a member of the GC TOSC, gave the same answer as nearly everyone I asked:
One person gave a different answer: a lifetime Adventist, now retired after many years teaching at Walla Walla University, told me he had heard male headship preached by a lay member in a small country church in the 1980s.
It is not just church employees or trained theologians who have never heard headship theology taught by Adventists. David Read, on the independent Adventist website, Advindicate, blames a conspiracy for the headship principle never being mentioned in Adventist churches:
“I don’t know about you, but whenever I read the Bible and come across one of those many statements on male headship in the home and the church, it seems like my private secret, a secret that I’ve stumbled upon despite the very best efforts of my church to hide it from me. I always think, “Wow! I’ve never heard any Adventist pastor discuss this before.”
In this study we will see that “the headship principle” is, in fact, new to Seventh-day Adventists in all parts of the world. Today’s popular male headship theology was developed in North America by a few Calvinist Evangelical teachers and preachers in the 1970s and 1980s, imported into the Adventist church in the late 1980s by Andrews University professor Samuele Bacchiocchi (1938-2008), and championed among Adventists during the late 20th and early 21st centuries by a small but committed group of Adventist headship advocates, mostly based in Michigan.