International Women's Day Special: 'Inspire Inclusion', 8 March 2024

Being vulnerable on an important issue: A pastor's journey from patriarchy to equality

International Women's Day Special: 'Inspire Inclusion', 8 March 2024

Dr Jude Jeanville

We thrive best when the ground is level. When women succeed, families and nations win. I grew up in a patriarchal family, meaning, a family heavily influenced by the motif of male headship and entitlement. At home, church, and in the wider society there were clearly defined roles between the sexes.  

My father took his role as priest of the home seriously and I benefitted enormously from the strong values of living in a religious home. Frequently, my father laid claim to being the 'head of the home' and would often cite the Bible to justify this position. Like many women of their generation, my mother never contested, somehow, she knew that even if my father claimed to be the head, she was the neck! (smile). With what I call feminine intuition and wisdom, she would often use her neck to turn the 'head' in the needed direction.  

I never saw my father abuse my mother in any way, but this was not the case for many other women in my lived experience. I saw women abused, verbally, physically, emotionally, and financially. If you talk to five women, three of them would share horror stories of living in a female's body. Weekly, the media reports on discrimination and gender-based crimes against women and girls, not pleasant to mention.  

Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) is a term adopted from the United Nations 1993 declaration that includes "Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life." (World Health Organization,

One of the United Nations sustainable developmental goals is by 2030, to have equality for women. The statistics are out, women are discriminated against in key areas of life which affects their health, well-being, and prosperity. Women do not have equal access to education, health, vocational opportunities, decision-making, land ownership, and equal pay. Consequently, women work on average 2-10 times more than men. They work outside of the home and still perform many hours of work when they return, from homemaking, preparing meals, doing homework, and in some cases, caring for children and adult parents. It means the average woman would have much less leisure time. (  

From childhood to manhood, I heard the cries of women to be valued, respected, and treated fairly. I decided at an early age that I would never treat a woman in a disparaging way. Equally, I wanted to understand why men would treat women in such demeaning ways. I guess that having a loving, caring, and wise mother and four sisters who nurtured me, predisposed me to value women.  

My wife who had a different family structure and upbringing to me could not relate to the hierarchical/headship paradigm that I had learned. It was foreign to her, she never experienced it. I had to learn or unlearn very quickly. I consciously had to shift from headship to partnership and this was a steep learning curve: A divesting of self, and an unlearning of cultural expectations, privileges, and habits, to be more inclusive in my language by using masculine and feminine pronouns, I had to express my disapproval for jokes and references that in any way demean or limit women. I came to learn that we thrive best in interpersonal relationships when the ground is level. There we truly listen, respect and affirm one another. I realised that as men, we can be petrified when the subject of justice for women is discussed. One of the reasons is that we have inherited a demeaning way of seeing and treating women, largely because the Christian Church has not provided resources on a theology about women.  

My journey of discovery 

I remember my course advisor suggesting to me that I research women in the Bible to help my denomination and others, navigate the gender impasse in religious communities and society. I did feel a sense of trepidation, however, I seized the moment! Somehow, I had a hunch that the Bible was being used in some ways to justify women being treated less than equal, in some ways, some would argue, to mask misogyny. After much prayer and deliberation, I committed to researching women in the Bible. 

My research found that preaching the narratives about women in the Bible effectuated a change in the way women's roles were perceived by both males and females alike. I developed a methodology to interpret the controversial sayings of St Paul that seem to limit all women and harmonise those sayings with the rest of the Bible.  

Inequality is predicated on three commonly held ingrained assumptions or beliefs, namely:  

  • The superiority of males over females. That in Genesis 2:18, the creation account of a man being created first, and a woman second as a 'helpmeet', gives males an ontological advantage over females (ontological inequality). 
  • That the woman's seduction by the serpent in Genesis 3:6 and the ensuing consequence for her role in the entrance of sin into the world, relegated all women to a position of perpetual subordination, submission, and silence (functional inequality). 
  • That St Paul's instruction to Timothy for women to keep silent in the churches and not teach or exercise authority as found in 1 Timothy 2:11-14 are universal imperatives and binding for all times. 

As I explored the creation account in the book of Genesis, I was always curious to know what God meant when He said, "Let us make man in our image and likeness." The word for God here is 'Elohim', the plural name for God. This reminded me of the text in 1 John 5:7, "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." God's image consists of love, unity, and equality, no hierarchy. Both men and women who were created in God's image possess equality as a constitutional element of their being.  

When God created Eve as a 'helpmeet' for Adam. The Hebrew word 'ezer', translated as 'helpmeet' or 'helper' means one who is the same as the other and who surrounds, protects, aids, helps, and supports. ( The word is also used of God as our helper. My view changed on the nature of women from being an appendage to men, to someone who is strong and even likened to God.  

With 10 female prophets in the Old and New Testaments, Mary of Magdala, chosen to be the first witness of the resurrection, Phoebe and other female disciples (Luke 8:1-3, Romans 16:1-3), it is apparent that God called and gifted women both to speak, exercise authority, and carry out significant assignments that were unparalleled throughout biblical history. I concluded that God had poured out His spirit on all flesh equally, without regard to gender as referenced in Joel 2:27, 28.  

The prophetess Mrs E G White instructed, "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" Evangelism, p. 492. She further instructed, "It is the accompaniment of the Holy Spirit of God that prepares workers, both men and women, to become pastors to the flock of God" Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6. 

A journey of advocacy  

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is moving in the direction of at least recognising the equality of women. An official statement many have not seen, states, "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." (  

Unlike society, which is driving equality for socioeconomic and political reasons, the Christian perspective on equality for women is not simply a social justice issue but a theological one. Equality is a fundamental human right that belongs to men and women equally because we were created in the image of God: love, unity, and equality. When the body of Christ reflects the character of Christ – love, unity, and equality, then the entire world will take note that we are indeed Christ's disciples (John 8:31). Jesus prayed for equality in His church, "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" John 17:21. Inequality is injustice. 

Dr Jude Jeanville is the author of the recently published book Justice for Women: The Cry to End the Pandemic of Discrimination, Intimidation, Misogyny, Abuse, and Violence against Women in Society and Religious Communities, available on Amazon and LifeSource Christian Bookshop,  Stanborough Press. Jeanville's doctoral thesis is on gender inclusiveness in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, a theological rationale about women in the Bible that is unparalleled. He is the proud pastor of the Barnet church and Tottenham Lighthouse, and recent Ministerial Coordinator for London, Area 6A, South England Conference. He has served as a magistrate, director of the North England Conference, and vice president of the University of the Southern Caribbean.