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Submission vs Equality in a Marriage

Southern Baptists and Catholics Disagree on Submission Interpretation

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Southern Baptists' Declaration on Marriage

"A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ."
Source: Baptist2Baptist

In June, 1998, The Southern Baptist Convention which is the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., changed their declaration of beliefs regarding marriage to the above statement. They rejected a mutual-submission amendment.

This was the first time in 35 years that a change was made to The Baptist Faith and Message and it set off quite a bit of controversy as it defined marriage as only a heterosexual relationship and said that a woman should "submit herself graciously" to her husband.

Leaders of the church have said that the statement regarding marriage is a simple rewriting of a passage from the Bible. (Eph 5:22-23).

Critics have asked why the other parts of this biblical passage, primarily the one telling husbands to treat their wives well, weren't also mentioned in the new declaration.

Some view this statement on husbands and wives as a slap in the face to women and a way to limit the role of women in the church. Others see it as good advice for keeping a solid marriage.

An article from Infoseek by Sarah Tippett quotes several theologians who expressed surprise at the Southern Baptists' declaration. Robert Bock, pastor of First Christian Church of North Hollywood said it "disregards 2,000 years of evolution of faith and the roles people have grown into."Ms. Tibbet also raises the concern of increased domestic abuse.

Catholic Bishops Definition of Roles in Marriage

In 1994, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a pastoral letter that acknowledges differing marital roles but emphasized the importance of mutual submission and mutuality in a marriage.

"... mutual submission -- not dominance by either partner -- is the key to genuine joy."

"True equality, understood as mutuality, is not measuring out tasks (who prepares the meals, who supervises homework, and so forth) or maintaining an orderly schedule."

"Mutuality is really about sharing power and exercising responsibility for a purpose larger than ourselves. How household duties are distributed should follow from understanding what it takes to build a life together, as well as the individual skills and interests you bring to your common life."

"Our experience as pastors shows us that genuine marital intimacy and true friendship are unlikely without mutuality. One spouse alone is not the keeper of love's flame. Both of you are co-creators of your relationship."

"Agreeing that you are equal might be easier than changing your behavior or accepting joint responsibility for your relationship. It takes hard work to really understand another's feelings or to practice shared decision making on important matters."

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Archdiocese of Denver wrote, "Ironically, this Scripture is sometimes misrepresented as encouraging a type of 'serfdom,' particularly for the wife. But this is clearly not Paul's message. He is calling husbands and wives to the true freedom of serving one another in imitation of Christ."

From New American Bible

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