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Giving the Church a Bad Name

On September 12, 2012

On the 25th of August, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that, “BRIDES will be promising to submit to their husbands under a new marriage vow the Anglican diocese of Sydney is expected to approve at its synod in October.”

That this report, which features a video of a married couple from the Sydney Anglican Church, should make front page news is surprising. That this report should generate debate and insulting comments from the public who see equality as the social ideal—rather than male primacy and authority—is not surprising at all.

Has the cause of the gospel been furthered by this video and report with its message of wifely submission? I think the opposite is the case.

Then to have the Sydney Anglican Archbishop, Peter Jensen, carry on the controversial debate with an article on marriage vows, published on the 29th of August, and a television appearance on the 10th of September, where he defended his view, just seems unwise.

An observer could think that the Sydney Anglican Church’s desire to promote female submission is stronger than the desire to promote the gospel.

One of the main reasons why the Apostle Paul gave instructions for certain behaviors, such as wifely submission, was so that the New Testament Christians would behave in ways that were appropriate and acceptable for the culture of that time. By behaving in culturally appropriate ways, the church would not get a bad name in society. Our culture today is vastly different. I believe that the articles published this week have caused the Word of God to be maligned and Christianity to be ridiculed—the very things Paul wanted to avoid (1 Tim. 5:14; Titus 2:4-5).

Not all Sydney Anglicans subscribe to the specious doctrine of male authority and female subordination in marriage. Many of the members of the Sydney chapter of Christians for Biblical Equality are Sydney Anglicans. And Paul Perini, CBE Sydney’s coordinator, is a Sydney Anglican minister.

This is Paul Perini’s response:

Reflecting on the debate in the Sydney Morning Heraldconcerning the use of “submit” in a Sydney Diocesan devised marriage service, I have to say, that “submit” may work for a young couple who are emotionally intelligent and theologically informed, but for a young couple without knowledge of the nuances of Christian submission, and who may not have the ability to verbalise their emotions nor have an example from their families of origin as to how a marriage can work through hard times and change, give me “Mutual service” for both the bride and groom any time. Submission is too open for misinterpretation.

When we read the household codes of the New Testament I think we place too much emphasis on what is expected from the wife, as if that were new. It was part and parcel of the dominant patriarchy. The new is that which is expected from the husband, and as a new community in Christ it is that which deserves our attention. Research shows that relationships in which both husband and wife mutually serve and understand themselves as being in an egalitarian relationship are the most satisfying, even if they do not use egalitarian language. (See Beyond Rivalry by Alan Craddock.)

Dr Mimi Haddad, president of Christians for Biblical Equality, will be in Sydney to speak at the Sydney Chapter conference September 14-15. If you would like to meet Mimi, and hear her speak, please go to our Coming Events page for more information.

Mimi will also be speaking at the Melbourne Chapter conference September 21-22. Come join us if you can.  

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