the vow to submit
A few years ago, I blogged about the “vow to obey” and other bloggers basically responded with “get over it, Suzanne” and implied that “nobody does that any more.” But as it happens, if the bishop of the diocese of Sydney, Peter Jensen, gets his way, women will be vowing to “submit.” As it happens, the diocese of Sydney exports clergy to my side of the planet. So I was under the ministry of clergy trained in the diocese of Sydney for many years. And I was also witness to criminal violence in the home.
The clergy preached the submission of wives … and they preached the tender loving kindness of husbands. But they did not once publicly offer practical help or shelter for victims of violence. I went to the minister’s wife and explained that I needed resources, at least books, for a friend of mine, etc. etc. – but no, she was certain that there were no cases of abuse in our congregation, and that was the end of the conversation. Is it possible to be that naive?
Here is an example of what you will hear from the Sydney clergy on marriage. Here is a part of a sermon by one of these men,
Marriage is like the trinity, The Father is in charge. Jesus ALWAYS submits to the father, he obeys, he says what his father has told him to say, Jesus sees the father in the trinity as the head, and he obeys him. It is never the other way around. Isn’t it interesting?
But in no way can we say that Jesus being subject to his father is demeaning. … In the godhead himself there is submission. To submit to any authority, you are being Godlike.
In Gen. 1 God said, Let us make mankind in our image. To be made in the likeness of God is to be made in relationship where, just as the son submits to the father, we have a couple, a head and a helper.
Wives, submit to the husband as the head – he is in charge. God solved the argument before it started, he said, I have to choose someone, okay, husbands, you are in charge. I hold you responsible.
Now what does it look like? If you are married to a good husband, who … you will find a very happy wife, … if however, you are a wife who is married to a lousy husband, just line up over here and we can discuss this in a therapy group afterward. [laughingly] Its not easy.
I want to point out something that is very important. In our culture we decide that if something doesn’t work we change it. But God designed humanity. God designed the world and gave it order. We submit to all authorities because God has put them there. Never in the Bible do you see God saying plan B is if it is not working, swap. You never hear, wives command your husbands, and husbands submit.
We do live in a culture where wives command husbands. … we reject all authority structures because we think we know better.
God does not say, I put you in charge now rule. He always tells authorities, I have put you in charge but what I want you to do is love. You are in charge husbands, I have decided this, too bad if you don’t want to be in charge, you are in charge, says God, like I am in charge of you, so I want you to love your wives, in the same way I love the church, so far that you are willing to die for her. Use my love for you as the minimum requirement for how you love your wife.
If there is any husband who raises his voice or strikes his wife the smell of hell is close to your marriage. How dare you … Love your wives sacrificially. It is so shameful when you go to other cultures where the gospel is not preached, women are sold. they are treated like objects.
But it is an irony. In a culture where Jesus has been proclaimed and women have been raised to equality, and have been treated in every way equal but different to men, that same culture, people jettison God and the women say they want to jettison the men, they say, we want to be in charge.
– Husbands ask your wives how you can be a better husband, and take notes.
– The biggest mistake Adam made and we men make is we are not willing to lead.
– It is difficult in any culture if you have a lousy husband. This culture has made it easy, you just divorce him. that is not necessarily, the solution love them as if they were the lord.
– A good divorce? Divorce is a natural consequence of living in a culture that denies the living God.
This man says many laudable things. He is probably a nice enough person. Actually he always appeared to be that way to me. But he laughed at women who could be suffering violence. And there was no practical help offered in reality.
In fact, a young woman stood up in the middle of this sermon and walked out. Was she offered therapy? No. I happen to know for a fact that this young woman is paying for her own therapy. No one from this church offered to pay for her therapy.
I know lots of people who thought I was just being crazy to worry about these ancient vows. But in October these vows will once again be a typical part of the wedding ceremony in Sydney.
I recently commented on a blog in Sydney, giving some of these facts, and I also emailed my former minister, also from Sydney, asking him to write to the bishop of Sydney and let him know that women have suffered criminal violence under this kind of ministry. Yes, women also suffer violence in other circumstances, but we don’t support these other circumstances either. That’s the point. Men also suffer violence. This is a fact. Violence is varied in circumstance and nature. But we ought not to support conditions that feed entitlement of one person over another for good reason.
I don’t know if I will ever fully recover from complementarianism. I would like to forget about it, but that is also difficult.