Have you seen Julia Baird’s article in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald? The article is aptly entitled “Submission is a fraught mixed message for the church”. I recommend it.
Baird quotes a few church leaders in her article, including Glenn Davies, the Archbishop of Sydney Anglican diocese. I am personally troubled by some of Davies’ words.
While he admits that “The statistics on domestic violence are ‘horrific’, he also says, “if a woman’s life is in danger she should leave, even though that would mean ‘disobeying her husband’.”
By adding the notion of disobedience Davies confuses the situation. If anyone – man, woman, or child – is in danger they should leave. Or better still, they should ask the police to remove the abuser.
The fact that Davies goes on to compare “male headship” with a knife, which he describes as a tool, is also troubling and insensitive, as a knife can also be used as a weapon.
At CBE-Sydney we are committed to promoting the equality and mutuality of men and women in Christian marriage. We are also involved in shining a spotlight on the incidence of domestic violence in marriages of church-members, and in providing resources to church leaders to better equip them to address this terrible issue.
Here is a link to Julia’s article.
Update 21.02.15: Claire Smith, an author and women’s Bible teacher, has written a response to Julia’s article here. Some of Claire’s points are valid; however, I personally know of several “Christian” marriages where the wife puts up with abuse because of an understanding that her husband is her “head”. Claire herself believes that “head” is to be understood as “leader” or “authority”. This, I believe, faulty interpretation of “head” in Ephesians 5:23, is still being taught in many churches.
Perhaps the majority of Christian leaders are not telling wives to stay with abusive husbands any more, but it seems that there is not enough education being done in churches which explains what domestic violence is and that it is completely unacceptable, while also giving useful advice and accessible support to the women who need it.
Update 27.02.15: Julia Baird has written a new article entitled, “Doctrine of headship a distortion of the gospel message of mutual love and respect” here. (As Dr Chris Forbes said at one of our meetings in 2012, one or two Bible verses does not constitute a (valid) biblical doctrine.)
Update 02.03.15: And this: a personal story of a woman who was terrorised by her “Christian” husband.
Update 04.03.15: Still more here. Today’s installment in this ongoing discussion is an article entitled, For Christians who missed the memo: the Bible abhors all domestic abuse. This article was written by Sandy Grant who makes several excellent points. Canon Sandy Grant is the senior Minister of St Michael’s Anglican Cathedral, Wollongong.
Update: 6.03.15: In this latest article on the SMH website, Sarah Colyer (who upholds “male headship”) states “I am a Christian woman who has been married for eight years. I have never restrained myself in any way to subordinate myself to my husband.”
This statement confuses me because I am an egalitarian, but I have restrained myself and deferred to my husband at times. Perhaps the difference is that my husband has also restrained himself and deferred to me on occasion, and neither of us do it because we are subordinate.
Update: 09.03.15 Dr Johanna Harris Tyler (a lecturer in early modern English literature and religious politics at University of Exeter, and who grew up in Sydney attending Anglican churches) has written this piece about the dangers of wifely submission.
Update 12.03.15 Dr Natasha Moore and Dr John Dickson write, “Conservative evangelical institutions should urgently consider commissioning a study into both the prevalence of domestic violence in our churches and clergy responses to it” in this article entitled, The Church Must Confront Domestic Abuse.
Here is the video of Julia Baird’s interview with John Dickson on today’s episode of The Drum.