I would like to repeat my statement that I have loved the churches I’ve attended, and I have deeply respected all my pastors. They have, without exception, been seekers of the face of God, and they have, without exception, sought to teach the Word of God to His glory. I will be vague in this section to protect identities.
As I said in the first post of this series, Brian and I believe that roles in the church are filled based on gifting, rather than gender. We believe that marriage is to be lived out as all Christian relationships are – with each person seeking the good of the other and submitting to one another, each humbly seeking the role of servant, as Jesus lived on Earth, and not that of Ruler, as Jesus is in Heaven. We reject the idea that Christian men are supposed to submit to everyone around them except their wives.
We would have liked some counseling at one point in the past couple years as we went through an unbelievably difficult and stressful year. We were going through the very worst time in our marriage. But we knew we couldn’t go to our pastor, as it was extremely clear from our first weeks in our church that it is a very complementarian church. And sure enough, some dearly loved friends of our DID go to our pastor for counseling.
As soon as the pastor realized that this couple believes in equality in marriage (equality in submission as well as leadership), the pastor dropped the planned counseling session, refused to acknowledge or address the actual problems they were having, and spoke only to the woman of the couple, saying over and over that she must submit to the leadership of her husband. One example that he used was, “If you had a black belt in karate, and someone came into your home, should you go out to deal with him, or should he? Your husband! He is the man of the house and responsible for protecting you, no matter how much more qualified than him you are!” All that he cared about was putting the wife “in her place.”
How is this useful? How can we accept this? How can we benefit from someone who holds such a radically different view of women (and men, for that matter) than we have? Brian and I strongly believe that PEOPLE were created and given a job, that sin broke the world and the curse established the ruling of men over women, that that led to serious destruction, oppression, and tragedy in the world (and still does), and that Jesus came to redeem us and set us free from the curse. How can we benefit from counseling or marital teaching from someone who insists that we must live under the curse as if Jesus never freed us – and who will only talk about that until we say that we agree?
How can we let our sons be taught this?
And so we go through life attending complementarian churches, trying to live our marriage in mutual submission, as we believe the Bible teaches, with no known examples of such a marriage in our church, no instruction, and no access to truly Biblical marriage counseling beyond that which we can find in books and websites, written by people we do not know and cannot watch in daily life. (We do have friends who live this way, too, and older couples that we suspect, heh heh – but most of the younger couples feel constantly like they’re experimenting and finding their way too. So we can encourage one another – but we cannot really mentor or be examples to each other. And they are mostly in other countries, anyways.)
Thank God that He is all sufficient and that He meets our needs and binds our wounds – that He gives us freedom and love Every Day, and that He is not limited by the inevitable failings of our precious churches.
If marriage is the most important human relationship, are we really OK being in churches that do not offer support and encouragement to ours?
Do we want our sons growing up in churches where they might hear people (that they love and respect and see as role models) tell us that our marriage is “backwards” or “sinful” or that I am “alpha” or that Brian is “beta”? (We have been told every single one of these things already, by complementarian people who love us. It’s not at all out of the question that our children might hear these things.)
I know that many other couples face these same issues. Are we OK with this?