Nervousness has been expressed in various quarters regarding a devout Pentecostal Christian leading multicultural and multi-faith Australia. This was not helped by videos of Pentecostal preachers warning of “darkness coming” if Australia does not re-elect Scott Morrison at the next election.
The new PM told the party faithful in Albury last Thursday that his policy program does indeed have “touchstones”. He intends on “laying these out in more direct presentations over the next few months”. Some we can see already from past words and actions. But is the belief that leadership should be excercised by men one of them?
This is one of several doctrines where Pentecostals differ from most Protestant denominations. It is held in common, however, with mainstream Roman Catholicism — which still sees the priesthood and other key roles as male only.
These views derive from a few New Testament passages taken out of context, including:
“I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” – 1 Corinthians 11:3
“Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” – 1 Timothy 2:11
Australia’s most prominent Pentecostal community, Hillsong, is ostensibly led by a man and a woman, Global Senior Pastor Brian Houston and Co-Senior Pastor Bobbie Houston. But the woman is the man’s husband and therefore, scripturally, subject to his headship.
Next in line in leadership are Lead Pastors Australia, also a husband and wife team.
Scott Morrison’s church in Sydney’s southern suburbs, Horizons, also has a husband and wife team as senior pastors. Thus appearances suggest equality.
Hillsong is now promoting its international conference in London next July. Four speakers have been announced. All men. “Each will bring their own distinctive anointing to what God has planned and prepared for us.”
Neither Hillsong nor Horizon declares their beliefs on the place of women on their websites. But the doctrine page of the United Pentecostal Church International, a parallel organisation in North America, states:
Women are not to imitate men but are to exercise their ministry in distinctively feminine fashion, for God has called them as women … The ministerial or pastoral style of a woman will be different from that of a typical male, but it can still be effective.
Through his career there have been indicators that Morrison ascribes to this view. In last Thursday’s speech he reminisced about family gatherings where “We get together and we tell our kids … stories about her [his grandmother].” “We”, referred to the men because simultaneously “the ladies were out there making the embroidery. There was a rug, a crochet rug they were putting together.”
Morrison’s religious views on women do matter when he makes decisions that impact his colleagues and, by extension, women elsewhere.
His allocation of ministries is instructive, particularly regarding those that require overt exercise of authority.
Seven ministerial roles stand out in Australia as requiring frequent decisions on policy and regular defence of the government’s progress — or regress, as the case may be. In other words, exercising authority in public. These are the prime minister, treasury, employment, community services, immigration, health and finance.
Through both Rudd administrations, three of those seven portfolios were given to women. There were three also in the first Gillard ministry, and four in her second.
In contrast, Tony Abbott handed all seven key public roles to men. Scott Morrison has just the one woman — Kelly O’Dwyer in employment.
Morrison’s 23 cabinet members include six women. The other five are in lower profile roles. There are no women in his outer ministry. Of his 12 assistant ministers, only five are women. That’s a total of 11 out of 42.
Not enough. Especially as last month’s events proved yet again that Coalition men are just too emotional for leadership.