The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the Anglican Diocese of Sydney will debate a new wedding liturgy at its forthcoming synod. In this rite the celebrant asks the bride “Will you honour and submit to him, as the church submits to Christ?” She then pledges “to love and submit” to her husband. This rite will be alongside other options.

[Breaking update: The couple in the video above appear not to be legally married. In the Australian Marriage Act, a religious ceremony must use a service authorised by the religion’s governing body. That appears to be General Synod. Even if Sydney Anglicans could make their own diocesan synod stick as being their religion’s governing body, that has not yet authorised this rite. Hence, Andrew and Stephanie are not Mr and Mrs Judd at all, and the Sydney Anglican diocese has at least one person accepted and undertaking ordination training who is publicly, openly “living in sin”. [See here and here following this comment. Conclusion disputed here.]

A question that springs immediately to mind is: does this mean there are at least two different types of marriage? (1) The wife-submitting-to-her-husband marriage; (2) the wife-not-submitting-to-her-husband marriage.

[This is a bigger question than merely for Sydney:
is “Christian marriage” different to “marriage”?
Roman Catholics do not regard a marriage “valid” if a Roman Catholic does not get married by an RC ordained person; they do not have this understanding for nonRCs.
Is sacramental marriage different to “secular” marriage?
etc…]

[In the video above, and in the article, it is clear that Andrew Judd, the theology student, and Stephanie, the submitting wife, have already used this rite. One question of interest would be: in Sydney can one use a rite that has not yet had synodical approval, or was its status already experimental? Experimental wife submission exercise in progress…]

The vows were written by the diocese’s liturgical panel, which has the imprimatur of the Archbishop, Peter Jensen. The panel chairman, the Bishop of South Sydney, Robert Forsyth, said “submit” was a deeply biblical word.

“The Bible never said women must obey their husbands but Paul and Peter did say submit, which I think is a much more responsive, nuanced word.”

The bishop said no one would be forced to use the new version, and an alternative would remain available to couples who did not want the woman to obey (which has been optional since 1928) or submit.

Rev. Dr Peter Carrell, who has written more than once about this liturgical development in Sydney, tells of the “downstream effects of “submit”” in the story “about a woman who sought counselling from John Piper because she couldn’t move from one room of the house to another without her husband’s permission. When he asked where on earth the husband got such ideas from, the woman said, From your preaching!”

Submissionists used to argue the wife’s submission to the husband applied in Christian marriage. Many (most?) also held that women cannot teach men in a Christian context [I wondered if, in the video above, Stephanie, the submitting wife, skirted dangerously close to teaching her husband – not to mention that men will watch this video!]. But, a line was drawn between church and “world” – in the “world” there was no fight with women holding positions of responsibility over men. No longer.

Priscilla & Aquila Centre, “a Centre established to encourage and promote further thinking about the practice of Christian ministry by women, in partnership with men” is an initiative of Moore College, the theological powerhouse of Sydney Anglicanism. In a paper on the Priscilla & Aquila Centre site by Caroline Spencer, Christian women and corporate leadership (pdf), Caroline argues that “for a particular Christian woman, considering a certain position [in the corporate workplace], the right decision could in fact be not to accept the position. This is because, while male headship might not be extended into the corporate workplace, it should still be respected. Male headship is part of God’s good ordering for all society – not just his church. Respecting male headship is a great witness to the society that God is re-creating.”

Don’t panic too much, however; on the final page of the study, Caroline Spencer concludes “if the building is burning down, a coercive leader will save human life”. The “coercive style… [is] much more authoritarian and directive in [its] approach, and generally perceived to be more masculine.” So in a burning building, even women are allowed to save human life.

*****

This evening in the NZ Parliament is the First Reading of the The Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill which if passed would bring about marriage equality in this country. It is a conscience vote. Most Kiwis I speak to have no idea how our parliamentary system works (nor how the system works in other countries). Many do not understand that we are rare in having only one House (we used to have an Upper House). Many do not understand that MPs do not have to be present any more for the yelling that is called “debate“. When a bill is passed they simply add up the number of members in parties as everything is just “voted on” by parties – it is fine if the numbers being counted are absent; certainly they have not been part of the yelling debate. If they disagree with their party – tough. There is no “crossing the floor” any more, because the voting doors are no longer used, because the MPs don’t have to be present… etc. A conscience vote is different. As far as I know, they have to actually be present. But I might be wrong.

*****

I am unimpressed by the scaremongering that “Church ministers with a moral objection to gay marriage would be criminalised by refusing to wed same-sex couples if a new bill becomes law”. By all means, let’s be open to differences of opinion, but surely Ian Bassett’s silliness can only be taken seriously if people can point to clergy being required by the state to marry divorcees, clergy being required by the state to marry those who are not baptised. Read the lips of the Human Rights Commission: religious ministers would still be allowed to refuse to marry anyone– including same-sex couples – if Wall’s bill passed. Wall herself has been clear, clergy “will retain all the rights that they currently have. They choose who they marry, they choose what definition of marriage they have and so my bill isn’t going to affect them in any way.” “We should have an open and honest debate. What I don’t like is scaremongering and the fact that ministers are saying that they will have to go to jail. That’s not right in our country and it won’t happen. I will protect the rights of our ministers to define marriage as they see fit.”

*****

Update: I am following the live debate in parliament of the first reading of the bill here. I must say I am (mostly) impressed by the quality of the speeches. It is being made explicitly, plainly clear that clergy and churches will continue to have the right to marry only whom they will. The speeches are constantly making reference to the churches, religion, and spirituality. [I did not know that in NZ a woman can adopt boys and girls; a man only boys – this bill, apparently, will alter this.]

Update: On first reading of the bill in the NZ parliament, the ayes are 78, the nos are 40, with no abstentions. Updating this update: parliament miscounted. It was 80 – 40. Only one MP didn’t vote.

Update: Those who have expressed particular concerns in the comments – here is how you now make submissions for the Bill’s second reading.

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