Archive Ecclesiastical Polity Nota Bene Steven Wedgeworth

Head of Household Voting

Over at my personal blog, I’ve written something on what is probably very peculiar to most readers, the practice of head of household voting in the church. I try to give a general context to the question and some pastoral wisdom as to how to make the decision. Here’s part of the conclusion:

So am I really saying that head of household organization is the way they did it in the early church and therefore “the way to go”? Not exactly. But I am saying that’s there’s not any sort of biblical argument against it. Familial solidarity was the historical and civic norm for the time, and thus the early church was modelling its own organization after the normal, natural social organization of its people. That can and does change, and it depends upon the particular factors and motivations behind those changes to determine whether they are good or bad.

In fact, in most of the modern world, head of household voting works the opposite of the way it did in the early church. What I mean is that rather than reflecting the natural way that the people organize themselves, it is now the different and “weird” thing to do. Most churches in America and the West organize themselves more or less individualistically, and they do this because that is how their civil societies organize. So you could make an argument that for the church to simply organize itself the way society does, which is what the New Testament largely did, would be for it to not have head of household voting, but rather individual membership and individual voting. Following the “weaker brother” principle, churches should not give unnecessary cultural and civic offense, thus they shouldn’t try to do anything strange or weird with their polity. That would be a perfectly reasonable argument, one that I’ve made in the past.

The response to that, though, would be to question just how “normal” our current individual representation is, why we do it, and the prevailing philosophy which underlies it. If any of those are particularly problematic, and especially if they teach and encourage destructive patterns of thought and behavior, then it might be pastorally wise to challenge them inside the church, if that can be done in a non-extreme or revolutionary (in the strict sense) manner. I think this is where I’m starting to land now, honestly. In an age where family identity, human sexuality, respect for authority and tradition, and overall pious humility are very much in question, then a strong family representation within the church might be a very helpful and important witness to the world. After all, it doesn’t make much sense to have a strong emphasis on “family economics” in the secular world but not inside the church. Household organization within the church might be the “crunchy” way to go!

By Steven Wedgeworth

Steven Wedgeworth is the Rector of Christ Church Anglican in South Bend, Indiana. He writes about theology, history, and political theory, and he has taught Jr. High and High School. He is the founder and general editor of The Calvinist International, an online journal of Christian Humanism and political theology, and a founding member of the Davenant Institute.