The Headship of Men and the Abuse of Women – Review

Penny Mulvey

Kevin Giles Author

Penny Mulvey reviews his book

It is profoundly sad to even think there is a need for the book I have been asked to review. It is after all, 2020. And I am writing this for a Christian news service. How can it be that the Church in which I was baptised and confirmed, has to be told…no, not just told, but retold, again and again… that its teaching is leading to domestic violence?

Kevin Giles, ordained into the Anglican Diocese of Sydney many decades ago, has written another book on the issue of male headship in the Sydney Diocese and other conservative evangelical churches who teach ‘complementarianism’.

Giles’ The Headship of Men and the Abuse of Women (Cascade Books, 2020) is a highly accessible book – a mere 88 pages plus a number of detailed addendums – with a devastating message.

Giles quotes both scholarly research and personal narratives which make clear that Churches which continue to teach male patriarchy are enabling domestic violence. He says that while many complementarians resile from the word ‘patriarchy’, they continue to teach that God has appointed men to lead in the church and the home. He describes this as biblical patriarchy.

Giles’ anger about the harm that complementarian Churches – both in the developed and the developing worlds – are inflicting on women, is palpable in every word he writes.

There can be no confusion about Giles’ intent. As he expands on his concerns about the damage inflicted by both patriarchy and complementarianism, he writes in italics: “The problem with this is that virtually all the scholarly studies on domestic abuse and violence agree that the patriarchal premise, men should lead, making all the important decisions, and women should be submissive, is the most consistent predicator of violence against women.”

Giles’ passion brings to mind Jesus overturning the tables of the money changers in the temple.

At what point does a Church become so blinded by its theological convictions that its members actually debate whether a woman can divorce her husband because of domestic abuse?

While the book could benefit from a closer proofing, this does not detract from the clarity with which Giles presents his case. He defines the problem: the abuse of women in the world and the church. He unpacks the horrors of domestic abuse and violence. He gives a broader context, cataloguing many of the abuses women in the developing world experience at the hands of men. And he gives a fuller dimension to the ‘controversial’ verses in the Bible which are used to promote the complementarian view.

This is a book with a strong bias. Giles believes men and women were created equal; that the Apostle Paul was turning male headship ‘on its head’ when he instructed the husband to serve his wife to the point of giving up his life for her. And he wants there to be no misunderstanding. Churches who teach complementarianism must wake up and face the harm they are causing. There is no justification for male headship teaching.


Used with Permission


The Melbourne Anglican 3/8/2020