Just days before the 2014 Annual Council, where women’s ordination will be a topic of discussion, Gerard Damsteegt, professor of Church History at the Adventist Seminary at Andrews University, has spearheaded an effort to persuade seminary members to significantly revise their statement on headship. The Seminary’s statement began “We, the faculty of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, affirm that Christ is the only Head of the Church (Eph 1:22; 5:23; Col 1:18). Therefore, while there exists legitimate leadership in the Church, no other human being may rightfully claim a headship role in the Church.” Damsteegt, who is a staunch supporter of male headship as the biblical model for the home and the church, led an effort by pastors and religion teachers to alter the seminary’s position.
In an email message shared with Spectrum, Damsteegt wrote,
The Seminary statement on Christ’s Unique Headship in the Church the faculty voted one month ago has not had the unifying impact on the church. Some seem to like it, others are very disturbed by it, and still others are confused. Several have been working on a group response that can be potentially very damaging to the Seminary. Instead of allowing this challenge to proceed, I and some others have suggested that the Seminary would be better served by an appeal to the Seminary administration and faculty to revisit certain controversial areas in the statement and make modifications or remove disputed sections so that the Seminary statement will receive widespread support in the church.
We all agree that Christ’s headship is unique, but several arguments used in the statement are highly problematic to many. This is creating an uneasiness about the reputation and direction of the Seminary that considers itself the theological Flagship of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The attached Appeal is from current and retired faculty, alumni, students and friends of the Seminary. There are other faculty and church officials who support this Appeal but due to their position they do not wish to have their names listed at this time because it could hurt their present influence. Our Appeal is a request to review the statement and make adjustments accordingly. Therefore, those who have attached their names to the Appeal humbly submit it to the Seminary faculty for further consideration. We are hopeful that we may arrive at an amicable solution that is acceptable, that unifies, and is not liable to controversy.
Thank you for taking a careful look at this Appeal.
Damsteegt’s wife, lecturer, writer and self-described “student of women’s ordination controversy” Laurel Damsteegt, participated in a Fresno, California Symposium supporting male headship. In her symposium lecture, Laurel Damsteegt contended that feminism and Women’s Rights movements have satanic origins.
The letter of appeal and its signatories can be viewed here