Heads of Household Meetings (Wives Not Welcome)

This post has generated a lot of discussion, with over 200 shares on Facebook and over 3,000 readers.
Follow the discussion on my Facebook post and my husband’s Facebook post.
Are Heads of Household Meetings biblical? Read this.

For 25 years, I lived in a pagan country where women are mistreated every day in countless ways. Growing up, I saw women holding doors open for men. When I started working in a Japanese office, I had to do the same. One of the weirdest adjustments I had to make when I started living here was not to hold the doors open for the men. Women served drinks to men at parties. If there was some kind of meeting, women set up the chairs and put them away. Every situation where men and women were together, women were made sure to be put in their place, down, down, down, down, down.

All through the week, throughout my childhood, I would see how pagan men treated their women. And then we would go to church and things were right, at least in the way women are treated. Not to say that the church didn’t have its fair share of problems, of course, just like any other church of sinners. But the women are treated well there.

Women vote. Women attend all the meetings. Women can even attend the married men’s Bible study if they want to (and some do) because a man is not a husband or a father without his wife, and it is good for both of them to hear what he is learning especially related to being a husband and a father.

Of course, me being me, I took all this for granted my whole life … until I moved to where I’m living now.

So.

Early this morning, super early, my husband left me at home with all the children and went to his HoH meeting where the men of the church talked about children’s catechism class and church membership … he was gone for FOUR HOURS. Women are not allowed to attend.

Apparently, women are “too emotional” and that is one thing that disqualifies them. Well, if women are too emotional, then men being too lustful disqualifies them, too. Not to mention that lust is a sin in the Bible but “being too emotional” is not.

There is nothing in the Bible that says “Thou shalt not be emotional.” In fact, modern Americans and Europeans, so tainted with rationalism, are really not emotional enough. They would look down on many of the righteous men of the Bible for being far too emotional and “womanly” and probably even simply insane. What kind of guy cries in public? For days on end? And tears his clothes while he cries out loud in the streets?

By the way, don’t “weep inwardly” and get a sore throat. If you must weep, weep: a good honest howl! I suspect we — and especially, my sex — don’t cry enough now-a-days. Aeneas and Hector and Beowulf, Roland and Lancelot blubbered like schoolgirls, so why shouldn’t we?

– C. S. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady

Apart from the whole emotional issue, if the husband is the head of the household, then what is the wife’s status? Is she one of the children?

The husband is not the sole ruler over his wife and children. The wife reigns under her husband. They are the head together. Or maybe she’s the neck!

The men may be the head of the house but the women are the neck and they can turn the head any way they want.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Either way, there is no biblical basis for her to be excluded and treated as a child or lesser citizen.

Logistical difficulties are a common “problem” that is brought up. “Women need to stay home with the children because it is too difficult to find that many babysitters.” Meetings can be held on Sunday afternoons and the older kids can watch the younger ones. Problem solved!

Since moving to the Land of the Free, I have enjoyed how well women are treated here. I can see that America really is a country with a Christian heritage even if it’s not a Christian nation anymore. But attending the church where my husband grew up, I have never felt so disenfranchised in my life. I have never felt so cut off from the covenant I was baptized into, from the rightful inheritance God has promised me.

(Part of it was because there was hardly ever any communion on Sundays and when there was then children were not allowed to take it. But that’s changed now! It’s weekly and it’s paedo!)

Women are considered lesser members of the Kingdom of Heaven at church while they are equals outside the church amongst the pagans. I understand this is a panicked reaction to feminism. But it still boggles my mind.

Hast thou not read?

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Galatians 3:28

In the Old Covenant, women were under their fathers and husbands, covenanted by male circumcision. In the New Covenant, women are baptised and are counted as sons and heirs in the kingdom of God, (Galatians 3:26-29; 4:4-7; 1 Peter 3:7), and kings under him (Revelation 1:6). Christian men and women are made kings and priests of this world under God.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26-29)

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. (Galatians 4:4-7)

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker vessel and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (1 Peter 3:7)

And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. (Revelation 1:5-6)

For more rational, less emotional, detailed, biblical arguments read Mark Horne’s article, Heads of Household Membership & Male-Only Voting in the Church. To read my personal study notes, read my post, The Head of Household in the Bible.

Epilogue
June 11, 2013

Writing this post got me in huge trouble with the pastor of the church who instated the HoH meetings. He showed up at our house the next night at 11:30 PM and stayed for over 3 hours, telling me to take this post down and giving me and my husband incredibly specific instructions on how to live our lives in all kinds of areas (what kind of food to eat, how many hours a day I should hold my children, what kind of diapers to use, etc.).

A few months later, he opened up the HoH meetings to boys, also, but still did not allow women or girls to attend. A friend started calling them “Penis Meetings” because that was the only thing you needed to have to attend the meetings and be a real member of the church.

This pastor, who is about my age, also went out of his way to rebuke my father, who is much older than he is and also a pastor, because this post is obviously proof that my father was a terrible dad.

A couple months later, we left that church and the CREC. In April, 2013, the church fired that pastor for his continual, unrelenting spiritual abuse. He is a graduate of the Greyfriars Hall pastoral training program in Moscow, Idaho.

17 Comments

  • Rachel

    06/25/2011 at 8:04 pm

    You rock. And I applaud you in your way-too-emotional honesty and bravery.

  • Rachael

    06/25/2011 at 8:08 pm

    Thank you for this! I used to attend a church where I was laughed at when I asked to attend these meetings, and similar reasons were given for why women were not allowed to attend. Also, ANY male was welcome to go to the meetings, whether he was the head of his household or not, regardless of age–but no females, ever. There were a lot of other very disturbing things associated with this place but this was certainly one of the most frustrating to me.

  • Elijah Tuuri

    06/25/2011 at 11:30 pm

    I don’t see any problem with have a “Men’s Meeting” occasionally where guys get together to chat about various subjects. I also don’t see any problem with a woman’s only meeting where gals can get together and talk. I can think of hundreds of reasons for a male only meeting or a woman only meeting. HOH meetings are kinda troubling in the reformed world because of the tendency for some churches to go over the top and embrace patriarchilism. But Emeth, you overstate your case against them and go too far when you decry any meeting or get together that is only for either male or female.

  • Rachael

    06/26/2011 at 5:02 am

    One of the problems I had with the Males Only meetings is that they were discussing church business, and would never include anyone other than males in these discussions–as though somehow church business isn’t relevant to the female members of the congregation. And this ranged from administrative issues to the doctrinal direction we were headed. As a woman who likes to think about theology and cares what her church confesses, I wanted to hear these things. I was told, “Well, your father can tell you what was said,” (or, later, when I was married, then my husband could). And sure, he could, but that’s beside the point (and anyway, all women know that guys leave out lots of important details ;)). The point is that if it’s a meeting related to the church–how it will do this or that, what direction it will go in, etc.–then no member of the church should be excluded from it (unless it’s a meeting for the leadership only–and in that case, many men would be excluded, too, since not all males are leaders of the church).

    And…what about female heads of household? We had a couple of divorced women there in my church at the time. But when they would call something “head of household”, what they usually meant was “males”. Female heads of household didn’t count.

  • Emeth Hesed

    06/26/2011 at 5:47 am

    Rachel: Thanks! I’m glad you liked it. It means a lot to me. I miss you.

    Rachael: Thank you for your comments. It must have been really hard for you. My understanding is that in the case of my church, female heads of household would be allowed to attend in theory but there aren’t any. With only a couple exceptions, the women in my church don’t care to attend. To be fair, this is because none of the husbands are overbearing patriarchal types at all and they trust them. The church guys are great! But for whatever reason (Tradition? Fear of feminism? Fear of emotions? Convenience? Most women’s lack of interest? I think the answer is probably all or some of the above), women aren’t allowed to attend church meetings.

    EJ: I very well may have written this terribly, but I do not believe I have overstated my case.

    I have no problem with men’s meetings or women’s meetings. Men and women are free to gather as they choose. The problem is when the local church does not allow women to participate in official church meetings. That is patriarchalism. And it’s patently unbiblical.

  • Rebekah

    06/26/2011 at 7:53 am

    Emeth, I loved this. And I hope I won’t be in the wrong spirit to say, since joining the Anglican church, the whole patriarchalism is something I do not miss in the least! It’s so freeing to be able to be, well, a first-class citizen in the church, not second-class. Of course, Anglican churches have their own issues and problems. Just saying this is one I do not miss. I pray the reactionary patriarchalism will not live long in the church. It’s possible to get rid of it and NOT swing all the way over into radical feminism, for goodness sakes.
    I also LOVED your point on being emotional. It’s not a sin, people!! We need emotions. Good grief, David wrote the Psalms and he talks about flooding his bed with tears, drenching his couch with weeping.

  • Deborah Fukuda

    06/26/2011 at 8:19 am

    Often the problem with men only gathering for business is that four ears are better than two. When becoming “one”, husband and wife share, discuss, involve each other in all areas of life and thought. The church is an important area in a families life and it makes it very difficult for discussion and having “one mind” when only one mind is involved in that discussion. How can I know what has gone on when I only hear second hand what was discussed? I, being my husband’s help meet, am at a disadvantage when I cannot advise and discuss “the church” with him. Same goes for single women. Singleness does not negate membership in the church.

  • Elijah Tuuri

    06/26/2011 at 8:49 am

    Emeth I agree that it is a problem when a church does not allow women to participate in official church meetings (Plural). But I also say you can not say that a church that calls an official men’s only meeting or an official women’s only meeting is acting in an unbiblical manner. That is a matter of wisdom and is determined by the type of meeting. For instance I think an official church meeting to discuss general church matters and decide a direction for a church where only men are allowed to participate is unwise and given most reformed contexts is probably wrong.

  • David Young

    06/26/2011 at 10:33 am

    Emeth,
    Your critique of Western men being far too rational is well-met. Old Testament prophets and kings had considerable stones. To include women or not at Heads of Household meetings came up at a wonderful, previous church Michelle and I attended. Michelle and I believe that both men and women should be welcome to this meeting.
    EJ, to say that women should be allowed their women-only meeting, and to not acknowledge that the real business would be accomplished in the men’s-only meeting is a bit naive. This is simply something else the reformed expression of the Gospel needs to work out.
    Thank you for this post.

  • Friend

    06/27/2011 at 1:44 pm

    Well, I do NOT understand why it was necessary to remove this post. It hardly even begins to touch on the problems with patriarchalism in the church. I loved every word you wrote! I, for one, have experienced first-hand the abuse that church leaders can hurt women with.

    Way back (about 20 years ago)when we were members of a pretty radical, reformed, male-dominated church, I was aware of the dangers that this could lead to. While having a church meal with a missionary, I asked him several questions about his ministry. Later, my husband was basically told to make me be quiet in the future. I was stepping outside my rights. WOW! I was only excited about his ministry and discussing it at the lunch table. YIKES! We weren’t in that church too much longer.

    For many years after that, we had a great experience in a PCA church, until a new pastor came.

    My husband and I had a terrible situation about 10 years ago this summer, wherein that pastor, along with his elders wanted to call stealing ok. My husband was very upset about the way people (outsiders) were being taken advantage of (and stolen from) by about 14 members of our church. He spent hours preparing his case to the elders and pastor. Every time my husband met with these leaders, he came home, emotionally and spiritually beaten and confused. He would then talk to me about what was said, and I would remind him of how strongly he had stated his case to me before the meeting. After we talked, he felt again ready to present evidence of how wrong this was. But every time, he came home, frustrated and beaten down.

    Finally, we decided I needed to come with him at the next meeting, to boost his confidence and morale. I was really shocked at how oppressed my husband acted at this meeting, and when I heard the pastor say that he and the elders would decide what was sin or not, I couldn’t believe my ears! Then, I spoke…… and told them we would have to obey God rather than men if they were going to condone stealing.

    At this point, the pastor shook his finger at me and said that I was the problem, and wasn’t submitting to my husband and was rebelling against him and the church.

    I was very emotional. I have never regretted saying what needed to be said- what my husband, for whatever reason, couldn’t bring himself to say at that meeting. They had browbeaten him so that he was fearful to say the truth. Anyway, it needed said, and I managed to have the boldness he had lost along the way. This was how HE felt, too! I was only stating the things he had told me in private, and I had agreed with.

    There is much more to this story, but I think these are sufficient examples to show that women are not only a help meet for their husbands, but they are also a necessity in many situations in church decision-making, etc.

    I am so sad that we lost many friends, and that even more problems arose at the next PCA church we went to. But I am glad to be out of those churches, and that mindset. I am very thankful for feeling like I am an equal with my husband in our spiritual standing before God. I love the church our family goes to now, and I haven’t become a feminist or anything radical. I just believe that women and men need each other. We work best when we work together! Thank you for saying the truth, Emeth!

    Alissa Eyre

  • Friend

    06/30/2011 at 1:30 pm

    Now, I tend to think that somewhere in the midst of all this is the loss of a proper mariology (n.b., do not read “mariolatry”), but perhaps that’s a bit off topic.

    I think you make many good points in your post, but I also understand why it wouldn’t be a good idea to post it publicly.

  • Aaron Burt+

    06/11/2013 at 3:27 pm

    These issues are dicey, and stirring the pot can cause things to spill and make a mess…. but so be it!

    I believe the Church has an obligation to grapple with difficult issues and to dialogue graciously about them. We do equal parts harm when, in the name of gentleness we fail to converse, and when, in the name of truth, we fail to be kind. I applaud your attempt to broach the topic, Emeth, and I hear your heart in the issue.

    As a priest–charged with representing Christ in the Chruch (a sobering responsibility!)–I am sorry that you have felt (and been) belittled in the Church. On behalf of Christ’s ministers, I’m sorry. I pray God’s mercy for the ways in which we fail as pastors.

    May God plant fruitful trees in the stinky fertilizer of that past experience.

    Aaron+

    (And three cheers for Rebekah heralding Anglicanism. I’m glad to have found an expression of the Church known for its “sweet reasonableness”!)

  • Rev Carl Wegner

    06/12/2013 at 1:31 pm

    I have meet a graduate of the Greyfriars Hall pastoral training program in Moscow, Idaho. I found him much like this pastor. But other’s I see who go into the CREC as Seminary Graduates are not like this guy. Sorry about your bad experience.

    Rev. Carl Wegner
    Reformed Episcopal Church

  • The Whole Cherry Tree | Bully's Blog

    06/13/2013 at 12:51 am

    […] Hesed blogged recently about “heads of households” […]

  • […] with some friends in July, 2011, because we were attending a church where the pastor instituted Heads of Household meetings which excluded women. The pastor of that church told me I was not allowed to write anything more on the topic on my blog […]

  • mary kathryn

    06/09/2014 at 1:58 pm

    Ahh — CREC. That’s really all you need to say!

  • […] blogs on Facebook. This isn’t the first time this has happened in the CREC — Emeth Hesed writes about how her pastor showed up at her house at 11:30 pm and stayed for three hours lecturing her because […]

Leave a Reply