The following letter was passed on to me in good faith by a woman who was deeply concerned by the proposal of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney to re-introduce the word ‘submit’ into the marriage vows, such that the wife promises to ‘submit’ to her husband.
The Archbishop and others who support the amendment to the current marriage liturgy argue that they are simply reproducing the language of the old liturgy. That may be correct, but it fails to take into account the ways that such words can be used to justify abuse!
I do not live in Australia, but I attended an church under the ministry of clergy from Sydney for 15 years. I was already married when we began to attend a church with a minister from Sydney. When I was married I had vowed to obey my husband. He was violent and punished every infraction of mine if I was not totally submissive. He hit me and said as he was hitting me that it was my fault since I had vowed to obey. I lived with this violence for 20 years. After a neighbour called the police, he stopped hitting me but often restrained me in my room, threatening to hit me, and yelling at me for hours.
In all the time that we attended this church, the minister preached that wives must submit. There was no mention ever of domestic violence, and no mention of help for abused wives. I never did go to the minister for help, but once I asked the minister’s wife for a book for a “friend” who was in an abusive relationship. She did not offer any resources at all. She said that she didn’t have any books on that topic and didn’t need them because there were no abused wives in our congregation.
In one sermon the minister said that God had put the husband in charge and the wife must submit. Then he said that for women with a good husband this was good, and for women with lousy husbands, they could have therapy after the sermon. As he said this he laughed, and of course, it was just a joke, no therapy was actually offered. I felt that he was laughing at women who lived with abuse.
My ex husband would cite the minister in support of his demand that I be obedient. I am very upset that the diocese now wants to use a vow to submit in the marriage vows. I would like my story of criminal assault by my husband made public. I was assaulted in my complementarian marriage and clergy from Sydney had no training whatsoever to deal with this.
I have written to my former minister, no reply, and I have written to the professional standards office of the diocese of Sydney. Someone there wrote that he would get in touch with me. However, I want to share my story before the synod ratifies the vow to submit, since I was taunted with this vow for 30 years, and for 20 of those years, I was hit every two weeks routinely, in sessions lasting several hours, berating me for noncompliance with the vow to obey. Of course, I have to pay for my own therapy, as well as therapy for my children. The diocese of Sydney has not helped me in any way.
Thank you for listening to my story.