From the very beginning of our ministry life together my wife (Liz) and I have had an egalitarian approach to both marriage and ministry. Way back then we were unaware of the extensive body of literature available that supports such a stance and so it was more of a preferred and personal way of doing things. Even though I am more naturally an expository preacher, I recall having great difficulty preaching with any conviction the apparent ‘male headship’ referred to in Ephesians 5:23, or offering an alternative, so I usually avoided going there. When our children were small Liz was more restricted to the home which left me to attend to church leadership matters but we always talked about issues at home and I valued immensely her wise and experienced input. We tried to teach and model a marriage based on mutuality but many of our new converts, even though previously unchurched, somehow picked up on this issue of male headship and were quite strident in their application of it. Lacking the tools to counter these developments we never tackled this issue head on. I can remember quite clearly one of the deacon’s wives stating to us after a home group meeting, (her husband had just returned from a men’s convention) “What do you think of my husband’s new theology?,” referring to him now being the ‘head’ and ‘priest’ of the family. At the time we both responded rather meekly. Something we lived to regret.
As the church grew and we, of necessity, had multiple leaders it was difficult to find people who were on exactly the same page. After one of the Elder’s meetings I did as I usually do, ran things by my wife when I got home. There wasn’t anything secretive but somehow it got back to an elder who was quite opposed to women in leadership, and he brought the matter up at the next meeting. He insisted that Elder’s meetings were private affairs and that our decisions were not up for discussion, even at home. Up to that time we were encouraging the leaders and wives to meet together socially so that the wives could feel included in their husband’s role within the life of the church. Anyway, here was one of those moments when I was momentarily persuaded to do things differently. I would not discuss church matters with my wife at all. Church business would be just that, business! Business that had nothing to do with my wife. I found myself behaving most unnaturally and very much against the way that we previously related. It was incredibly uncomfortable and hurtful for both of us. The experience lasted a week, but sadly I was ‘momentarily persuaded.’ I need to add here that we (LIz and I) are both gifted to lead so denying my wife an awareness of what was going on in a ministry that we both shared (at that time unofficially) was potentially disastrous for us as a couple.
Eventually that elder moved on and we were able to encourage the church to embrace both Liz and I as being involved in ministry together.
Another time when I was ‘momentarily persuaded’ was immediately during and after a combined church camp where the speaker addressed the issue of family life. He spoke very convincingly of the husband’s role as an initiator and the wife as a responder. Using illustrations from his perception of the creation order and, what I consider now to be rather crude expressions of sexual function, he insisted that this is how order within marriage should be established and maintained. It was many, many years ago but I came away from that camp thinking that perhaps I should put this concept of marriage and family into practice. Suffice to say that that experiment barely lasted the week, but I was, ‘momentarily persuaded,’ mostly because we didn’t have the tools to refute such strong, passionately presented and persistent arguments.
Thankfully now, through the ministry and materials of CBE, we are much more aware and equipped to stand up for what we know to be true and have been able to bring others on the journey. Perhaps others of you out there have had similar experiences in your own journey and have at times, like me, been momentarily persuaded to go with the flow of a convincing counter argument.