Submission can be abused, say Anglicans

Sydney, Australia - THE Bible's instruction that wives "submit" to their husbands in marriage had been misused to justify domestic abuse, leaders of the Sydney Anglican church have conceded.

The church's annual synod last night reaffirmed its support for the disputed doctrine that the "relationship of loving and sacrificial leadership of a husband and the intelligent voluntary submission of a wife was the biblical pattern of marriage".

However, some men in the church had twisted the teaching for their own ends, said Sydney Anglican, Lesley Ramsay, who has led opposition to the ordination of women priests and bishops.

"Men who use this justification have not understood the texts, do not understand God, do not understand the nature of Christ's love, do not understand headship. Their mistreatment of their wives flows out of their sinful inadequacies, not out of what God teaches in the Bible."

The Sydney Anglican diocese subscribes to a conservative interpretation of biblical theology that God created men and women to be "equal but different", and in marriage the husband lovingly leads his wife, and the wife willingly submits - in family and in the church.

The teaching has left the diocese open to criticism that use of the word "submission" could encourage domineering and even abusive behaviour.

The Reverend Philip Bradford supported the diocese's condemnation of domestic violence but strongly opposed its traditional understanding of male and female roles. His parents modelled a relationship where every decision was shared and prayed over without the imposition of authority, he said.

Professor Bernard Stewart said the Scriptures needed to be taken as a whole in a way that reflected marriage as a partnership of man and women created equally in God's image.

Leading condemnation of domestic violence, Mrs Ramsay said: "We need to teach this to our congregations … but we also need to recognise that in the hands of some, this pattern has been twisted beyond recognition … and we need to reject it."