ON LOVE AND SUBMISSION
SPOILER: This is not a post about Fifty Shades of Grey. Sorry.
The Anglican church in Sydney is adding a new, controversial vow to its marriage services. In it, the bride will promise to ‘submit’ to her husband.
Submit – The act of submission. To accept or yield to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person.
Though the husband is not asked to make the same pledge, Sydney’s Anglican church says the vow to submit is not ‘sexist’.
Bishop Forsyth told the ABC, “We’re happy with this version, where the husband promised to serve his wife, to love his wife, and to protect her and she promises to love and serve and to submit,” he said. “The goal is we want men to give leadership in loving and protecting their wives…”
Though the man promises many things, and in the version above, husband and wife both promise to ‘serve’ each other in their marriage, it is never suggested that a husband obey his wife or submit to her will.
The man’s role is one of leadership and his right to authority is made evident by the fact that he is, well, male.
Notably, the new vows were written by the liturgical panel of the church’s Sydney diocese, the same one that supports all-male leadership doctrine and opposes the full ordination of women – something Anglican women have been fighting for years. It is one of few dioceses to refuse to adopt national church law allowing women priests.
One supporter of the full ordination of women, Reverend Chris Albany, of South Hurstville told SMH in 2006, “I believe the New Testament shows Jesus accepting the full and equal place of women within society… I believe a clear and informed reading of scripture… shows there is no obstacle to that full and equal role of women.”
Unfortunately, women’s submission to men is a loaded issue with a long and ugly history, within – but by no means limited to – marriage which was originally a contract of ownership between a groom and the patriarch of a household, hence the ‘handing over’ of a bride from father to groom during the traditional ceremony.
The idea of marriage has changed dramatically since biblical times, and it is now widely accepted that women can work, vote, take an equal place in society, and are perfectly capable of making their own decisions whether they are single or married.
This is especially true in places like Australia, where we have anti-discrimination laws, our first female Prime Minister, our first female Attorney-General and capable women on boards and in leadership positions across the country.
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