Wifely submission

SO, Sydney’s Anglican women will be vowing to love and submit instead of love and obey when they marry from October, but we mustn’t read too much into that, apparently.

The word submit, says South Sydney’s bishop, Robert Forsyth, is a deeply biblical word, and he points out that the Bible does not say women should obey their husband. Peter and Paul, but apparently not Mary, used the word submit instead, a more responsive word, says Bishop Forsyth, who chairs the panel that has come up with the change expected to be approved by the Sydney Anglican Synod in October.

I don’t know what the good bishop means by responsive, but it prompts in me an image of wives prostrating themselves before their husband whenever he opens his mouth. Dreadful, and impractical too.

The likely change in vows was reported by this paper’s granny publication, The Sydney Morning Herald, at the weekend, and I should reassure this paper’s readers that the change in the commitment of brides is not likely to reach the Hunter soon. Or before the end of the year anyway.

While attitudes can change, and change fast, up here the Anglicans ordain women and in Sydney they don’t, and I suppose it’s a matter for the individual as to whether this reflects favourably on the Hunter’s Anglican women or unfavourably on its Anglican men. I can tell you, though, that I have met some doozies among this region’s Anglican ministers.

Under the new deal put up by the Anglican panel, the groom will be asked the usual stuff about loving, serving, honouring and protecting, and the bride will be asked: ‘‘Will you love and serve him, honour and submit to him, as the church submits to Christ and, forsaking all others, will you remain faithful ... so long as you both shall live?’’

In the Sydney report a young Anglican woman who vowed when she married in January to submit explained that the husband’s love was a sacrificial love, that to submit to that kind of love was a joy and freedom rather than being oppressive. Her husband, who’s studying to be an Anglican minister, pointed out that a Christian marriage is just like dancing in that the male always leads even if he’s not the best dancer.

I can’t help but wonder if this firming of the role of men and women in Christian marriage in Sydney is a response to the increasingly common sight in that city of Muslim women in outfits that suggest submission, but, regardless, the fact is that our attitudes are cyclical and seemingly more prone in Australia to extremes.

Men have given women property rights, the vote, the right to evict us from our home at will, a walk-up start for the best jobs, and so it may be that with the new requirement of submission the cycle has turned.

Given that we in the Hunter are a little behind our friends in Sydney it may be too early to go straight to submission, but we could start by drawing up our own wedding vows. And in keeping with the fashion for renewal we who are already married could line up for a rerun.

We could go for the usual love and honour, or love and cherish, the love and obey my wife denies was part of our ceremony, even the love, cherish and worship.

But we’d be better served by introducing a more practical element into her vows. Something along the lines of ‘‘love and retain a good sense of humour’’. Women have an accommodating sense of humour before marriage but it seldom survives the first anniversary.

Men, as husbands, remain largely unchanged, at least in ways that matter, whereas women as wives change dramatically, and even women will admit that. What you see is not likely to be what you’ll get.

So how about ‘‘love and continue to be nice to my friends’’? Or ‘‘love and stay the same shape’’?

But gratitude is all men ask, and we shouldn’t have to beg for it. Was she, I asked my wife a few days ago, still thrilled that I chose her?

I gather not.

What would you ask your wife or husband to vow if you could revisit that day?

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