I am aware that the present disunity in the Anglican Communion worldwide is made up of many competing concerns, of race and geography, of male and female, of local autonomy vs unity and hierarchy. However, I have personally experienced the current trend as an effort to keep women out of the pulpit and make them submissive in the home.
While this is couched in terms of "obedience to the word," I would like to point out that slaves remaining submissive to their masters is also "obedience to the word," as well as colonies to empire, and subjects to the crown.
Back to my central concern. On April 14-15, 2008 Bruce Ware spoke at the Willingdon church to a group of pastors at the reFocus Canada conference. The goal of the conference was to "equip pastors to preach the full counsel of God." The focus was indeed on the authority of God over Christ, Christ over the church and leaders given authority over the church.
However, Bruce Ware is also a noted speaker on complementarianism, the teaching that men and women have distinct and complementary functions in the home and in church. Although he did not focus on gender relations at reFocus Canada, he did say,
- Marvel at the submission of the eternal Son to the eternal Father, carried out with absolute fidelity to His Father's will, and with nothing but joy and happiness and satisfaction. Note: this is true not merely of the incarnate Son, but of the eternal Son, to the eternal Father! And marvel at the Spirit's joyful willingness to be eternally in submission to the Father and to the Son. Take this to heart, and apply this principle broadly in ministry:
It is as God-like to submit joyfully and gladly to rightful authority as it is God-like to exercise wise and benevolent rightful authority. Is it any wonder that that when God created human beings in His image, that He made them equal in essence, but distinct in function? Relationships of authority and submission in human relationships, then, derive from and should be modelled after the relations of authority and submission in the Godhead.
Bottom line: The basis for authority is in the eternal Godhead. What is authority if there is nothing to submit? Does authority originate with creation? No. Authority and submission is eternal within the very Godhead. We as Christian people and Christian communities ought to be among those who are the most counter-cultural in the societies in which we live: rather than chafe at and despise submitting to authority, we ought to joyfully and gladly submit to God and do the will of the Father. Wives to husbands, church members to elders, employees to employers, citizens to the states. This is not some device simply to maintain control, but a reflection of the divine order.
John Neufeld also spoke on the issue of gender at this conference. He said about elders,
- And they are men. In the Old Testament, elders appear to have been male. Then see Paul's counsel in 1 Timothy 2:12, which is explained in verse 13 because Adam was formed first, then Eve. The explanation of the command is grounded in creation: there is an order in creation. The man, Adam, is given federal headship over the human race, just as Christ, the second Adam, is also given federal headship over the human race.
Male and Female Complementarity and the Image of God
[W]hile unified in our essential human equality and our common responsibility to do the will of God, the temporal priority of the image of God in the man, through whom the woman is formed as a human bearer of God's image, supports the principle of male-headship in functioning as the image of God persons both men and women are. This is precisely Paul's point in 1 Cor. 11.Summaries of the Egalitarian and Complementarian Positions on the Role of Women in the Home and in Christian Ministry
The reason he is concerned about head coverings is that he knows that God has designed women and men to function so that each respects the other's God-ordained roles. Women are to honor and men are to embrace the special responsibility that God has given men in the spiritual leadership in the home and believing community. Where male-headship is not acknowledged, our functioning as the image of God is hampered and diminished.
This puts Paul's instruction in Ephesians 5 in a new light. What we realize is that when wives submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ (5:22-24), and when husbands love their wives as Christ loves the church (5:25-27), they exhibit their God-ordained roles as bearers of the image of God. It is not only in their equality that they are image of God. They also bear and express God's image as they function in a manner that acknowledges the headship of the male in the bestowing of image of God (1 Cor. 11:7-9).
Male and female were created by God as equal in dignity, value, essence and human nature, but also distinct in role whereby the male was given the responsibility of loving authority over the female, and the female was to offer willing, glad-hearted and submissive assistance to the man. Gen. 1:26-27 makes clear that male and female are equally created as God's image, and so are, by God's created design, equally and fully human.These articles are from the website of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
But, as Gen. 2 bears out (as seen in its own context and as understood by Paul in 1 Cor. 11 and 1 Tim. 2), their humanity would find expression differently, in a relationship of complementarity, with the female functioning in a submissive role under the leadership and authority of the male.
Sermons by Bruce Ware,
Building Strong Families in Your Church
Identity is rooted in priority given to the male… Her identity as female is inextricably tied to and rooted in the identity of the male… Her created glory is a reflection of the man’s… has her glory through the man. Seth is the image of God because he was born through the fatherhood of Adam. Specifically Adam is mentioned and not Eve. As Seth is born in the likeness and image of Adam, so is he born in the likeness and image of God. Male headship is a part of the very constitution of woman.Complementarian Vision of Creation
The very wise and good plan of God, of male headship, is sought to be overturned as women now, as sinners, want instead to have their way, instead of submitting to their husbands, to do what they would like to do, and seek to work to have their husbands fulfill their will, rather than serving them;I apologize for this being a repeat of information for some.
and their husbands on their part, because they are sinners, now respond to that threat to their authority either by being abusive, which is, of course, one of the ways men can respond when their authority is challenged, or more commonly by becoming passive, acquiescing and simply not asserting the leadership they ought to as men in their homes and churches.
Update: Here is where Ware says that women demonstrate that they are Christians by embracing their role to bear children.