The role of women in the church has sparked debates over the ages. The General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists acknowledges the issue and highlights the obstacles women face in fulfilling their God-given potential.¹ For this reason, the British Union Conference (BUC) Women’s Ministries department is developing resources to help women thrive.
One such resource is Dr Jude Jeanville’s "Justice For Women" book. With a powerful voice, Jeanville addresses the root causes of gender inequality and calls for action. In this exclusive interview with Sharon Platt-McDonald, BUC Women Ministry director, Dr Jeanville – pastor of the Tottenham Lighthouse, Barnet and Woodgreen churches – shares his motivation, scriptural foundations, and the themes from his ground-breaking research. Join us in exploring the resounding call for justice and gender equality within the church.
SPM: Dr Jeanville, you have extensively researched historical and current perspectives on issues about women and the church. I was intrigued by the title of your book – 'Justice for Women'. What led you to publish on this subject?
JJ – My discovery of the truth about women in the Bible and the writings of Ellen White, which have not been taught or practised, led me on this journey. Consequently, I developed a methodology to unlock the interpretation of the controversial sayings about women in the Bible that positively affect how women should be seen and treated. I want to empower millions of voices to join in the cry to end the pandemic of misogyny, patriarchal, gender-based discrimination against women, especially in religious institutions.
The title indicates that injustices exist in our perspectives, policies and practices regarding women, which place them at a disadvantage.
SPM – You mention scripture and the writings of Ellen White as a foundation for your book. Please share some examples of these.
JJ – In Genesis, gender was on God's agenda from the beginning. Hence God created man and woman, male and female, in their image. The image of God comprises love, oneness, and equality. Therefore, Genesis postulates a theology of woman that fosters equality and states that both Adam and Eve were given dominion over the earth, not domination over one another.
On the question of whether women should lead or exercise authority, Judges confirms that women do lead and exercise authority, as in the case of Deborah (who was both a prophetess and a Judge in Israel). She followed in the succession of the greatest leaders – Moses, Joshua, and then Deborah.
There are a number of prophetesses in the Bible. Who else had greater powers than the prophet or prophetess who would say to kings, “Thus saith the Lord”? Joel 2:28 expressly declares, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.” This shows no differentiation here regarding gender.
Ellen G. White said, “There are women who should labour in the gospel ministry. In many respects, they would do more good than the ministers who neglect to visit the flock of God.” Women who do such labour, especially full time, were to be paid fairly for their work from the tithe. “The tithe should go to those who labour in word and doctrine, be they men or women.” She added, “Seventh-day Adventists are not in any way to belittle woman’s work” (Manuscript Releases 5:325, 326, 492).
SPM – What are some of the themes in your book that arose from your previous research?
JJ – The findings from my doctoral research on gender inclusiveness in the church are incredibly stunning and irrefutable. Inequalities between men and women at home, at work, in society, and especially in religious organisations have been unsuccessfully challenged for over 2,000 years.
Daily, the media report gender-based crimes against women and girls, including sexual harassment, stalking, rape, domestic violence, emotional abuse, financial abuse, human trafficking, and other forms of discrimination in the home, workplace, religious organisations, and society, greatly influenced by a misinterpretation of the scriptures. My book gives readers the tools to refute traditionally held arguments used to substantiate misogyny, patriarchy, male privilege, violence, and systemic discrimination against women and free them from the scourge of inequalities they experience for being female.
SPM – I note the varied endorsers and their heartfelt messages on your publication. Can you share one of these with us, please?
JJ – Yes, I was particularly heartened by the endorsement from Dr Kern Tobias, President of the Caribbean Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. He states:
“For centuries, women have had to suffer the indignity of discrimination because of their gender. It appears that every generation has inherited patriarchy and hierarchy as a norm. As one who has advocated for gender equity and has been a constant defender of women’s rights, I resonate with the sentiments of this ground-breaking book which refutes the arguments upon which the limitation of women has been based. This work is a skilful and well-articulated call for the church and society to eliminate the societal sin of patriarchy and misogyny.”
SPM – What would be your appeal to those who will be reading your publication?
JJ – I would like to extend an invitation to the reader to join me and the millions of women and men who are taking a stand to end patriarchy and halt the rise of misogyny by giving women back their God-ordained Value, Visibility, Voice, and Vocational opportunities.
SPM – What closing message would you like to leave with our church leadership and members?
JJ – I call upon the Seventh-day Adventist church to be consistent and inclusive; women's gifts should equally make room for them as their male counterparts. The church does not have a theological base to limit women. Church policies should be in harmony with scripture and not culture.
SPM – Thank you so much, Dr Jeanville, for this enlightening interview. May God continue to bless your work and ministry.
For more information on the book or to pre-order, contact Dr Jude Jeanville at: firstname.lastname@example.org
¹”Seventh-day Adventists believe that all people, male and female, are created equal, in the image of a loving God. We believe that both men and women are called to fill a significant role in accomplishing the primary mission of the Adventist Church: working together for the benefit of humanity. Yet we are painfully aware that throughout the world, in developing and developed nations, adverse societal conditions often inhibit women from fulfilling their God-given potential.” Women’s Issues, an official statement of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
This interview was first published by the TED at tedNews.