Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

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Here in Australia, we’ve been discussing the connection between “male headship” and domestic violence. This discussion has been spearheaded by journalist Julia Baird. There have been articles and blog posts on websites, as well as reports, panel discussions, and interviews on television. My favourite part of this discussion so far has been last night’s episode on ABC’s The Drum (episode 125/2017).  (The video can be viewed on Facebook here.)

During this episode, Kara Hartley (Anglican Archdeacon of Women in the Sydney Diocese) described what is to her a “beautiful picture” of male headship and wifely submission. Her words seem to indicate that she believes husbands have a greater responsibility for the care and protection of their wives than wives have towards their husbands, and that submission is only required from wives. But is this really the case? Is there a better picture that more fully conveys New Testament principles for men and women who are in Christ?

Wives also Care and Protect

The Bible gives us many examples of women who cared for and protected others, including wives who protected their husbands. Some wives even risked their lives for the sake of their husbands.

~ To save Abraham’s life, Sarah hid the fact that she was his wife. She continued the ruse and even became a “wife” of a foreign king, twice, for Abraham’s sake! (Gen. 12:10-20: 20:1-18).

~ Zipporah’s quick action saved her husband Moses when God wanted to kill him. In fact, the Bible records that six women rescued or protected Moses at various times in his life (Exod. 4:24-26).

~ Michal protected her husband David when her dangerously unstable father Saul was intent on killing him (1 Sam. 19:11ff).

~ Abigail protected the welfare of her entire household, including her husband, by taking matters into her own hands and making peace with an incensed David and four hundred men ready for revenge (2 Sam. 25:2ff).

There are many Bible stories that show that women protected and courageously helped others. They cared for and protected men and women, even cities and nations. Gender was not an issue.

Surely, we all have a responsibility for the welfare of others, especially those in our own families, according to needs and our abilities to meet those needs. The Bible simply never states that husbands, or men in general, have a greater responsibility for the care and protection of wives and women. Nevertheless, this is how many people have understood Paul’s instructions in Ephesians 5:22-33.

“Head” as “Source” in Ephesians 5

In Ephesians 5:25-33, husbands are urged to give up the privileged status and authority (which society offered many men in the first-century world) in how they relate to their wives. Instead of asserting their authority, they were asked to follow Jesus’ example and give themselves up for their wives and love them sacrificially.[1]

The word “head,” which occurs in Ephesians 5:23, has been traditionally interpreted as meaning “leader” or “authority.” Is leadership a valid context for Paul’s statement, “the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church, his body . . .”?

Many wives were dependent on their husbands for their livelihood and well-being in the ancient world. It could be that Paul used the Greek word for “head” in this context. Biblical scholar Cynthia Westfall writes, “The meaning of head as the source of life is consistent with the culture’s understanding of husband as the wife’s patron . . .”[2] Similarly, Christ is the source of life of the church, his body.

Westfall continues, “. . . but [head] is not a stock metaphor for authority in Greek.”[3] The word for “head” in ancient Greek (kephalē) does not have exactly the same range of meanings as the English word for “head.” Kephalē rarely, if ever, meant “authority” or “leader” in texts originally written in Greek before or during the first century.

Husbands are never told to lead, or have authority, of their wives in Ephesians 5 or in any other passage of scripture. Rather than leadership, Paul uses the word “love” six times when addressing husbands in Ephesians 5:25ff. Paul tells husbands to love their wives; he doesn’t tell them to lead them.

A “Head-Body” Metaphor in Ephesians 5

Another way of understanding “head” in Ephesians 5 is to recognise that it is part of a head-body metaphor signifying unity.[4] (This is my preferred interpretation.) Unity between husband and wife, between head and body, is a theme in Ephesians 5 (Eph. 5:28-31).[5] The wife submits (acquiesces and cooperates) to promote this unity, and the husband gives himself up and loves his wife as his own body to promote this unity.

Women, generally speaking, had less autonomy than men in the first-century Roman world, and their contribution sounds rather passive, but this doesn’t mean that wives need to be passive in promoting unity in their marriages today. Furthermore, there are enough biblical examples that serve as precedents and that demonstrate that no one, wives included, should submit to, or cooperate with, foolish or dangerous behaviour.

Importantly though, submission isn’t just for wives. The Ephesians passage about husbands and wives is prefaced with a call for mutual submission (Eph. 5:21). And Christ-like, sacrificial love isn’t just for husbands. Chapter five of Ephesians opens with a general exhortation for all Christians to follow Jesus’ example and to love like Jesus loved (Eph. 5:1-2). A submissive attitude and loving behaviour, where each person prefers and honours the other, should be character traits of all Christians, regardless of gender or marital status.

Submission Today

In western societies, such as in Australia—where both women and men have access to education and have similar employment opportunities—many women are no longer dependent on men for their livelihood in the same way ancient women were. A husband is no longer a wife’s only or primary source of support. Moreover, education, employment and increased freedoms have enabled women to participate more fully in society and contribute more to their families. But unity remains the goal for married couples.

Where husband and wife are both competent people, the paradigm that the husband is always the one with authority, and the wife is always the one who is submissive, simply isn’t effective. Instead, all of us, according to our gifts, abilities, resources and situation—rather than according to our sex—are to serve and care for each other. This mutual service and interdependence is the New Testament ideal and is a more beautiful picture of relationships in Christ (1 Cor. 11:11-12).

On yesterday’s The Drum, Philip Freier, the Primate of the Anglican Church in Australia, gave this off the cuff remark concerning male headship.

I don’t find that there is an essential reading of the Bible that teaches me that I must believe in the headship of men. I read the Bible and I see that it talks more about the mutuality of people and their love towards each other. And that God created men and women equally, and both men and women are created in the image and likeness of God. And that men and women can have equal participation in the leadership of the church.

When I read the Bible, I see the same things.


[1] These ideas sound like forms of submission, though the word for “submission’ is not used in instructions to husbands here.

[2] Cynthia Long Westfall, Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016), 165.

[3] Ibid.

[4] The metaphor of “source” is not mutually exclusive to the head-body metaphor. Both may apply in Ephesians 5.

[5] A man who loves his wife as himself, as per Ephesians 5:28, treats his wife as his equal partner (cf. Matt. 7:12; Luke 6:31). Equality is conducive to true unity.

Related Articles

A Suitable Helper (in Hebrew)
Do women have a special obligation to be helpers?
Responsibilities of husbands in Ephesians 5
Ephesians 5:22-33, in a Nutshell
Wives, Mothers, and Female Masters in the NT Household Codes
Kephalē and “male headship” in Paul’s Letters
Mutual Submission is not a Myth

21 thoughts on “A more beautiful picture than male headship and female submission

  1. It’s upsetting that the idea of male authority over women is still being taught and promoted today.
    I was wondering if you had heard of The Red Pill movie or anything about the Red Pill movement, because I heard that it was a growing problem in Australia. It’s becoming a big problem here in America. It’s basically the idea that men are actually the oppressed ones and that women should be put back under men’s control (the latter is what the more extremist think). I was asking because it seems that many Christen men are adopting this thinking and “swallowing the Red Pill” (it’s from The Matrix movie from 1999, the idea that when you swallow the red pill you see the world for what it really is).
    This doesn’t surprise me, sadly, because of what men are already being taught about women needing to submit to them and being under their authority. I’ve been to several of their websites, A Voice for Men, Men Going Their Own Way, Return of Kings, and I’ve seen several comments containing all the widely misunderstood and abused verses about women from the Bible.

    1. ” Similarly, Christ is the source of life of the church, his body. ..” Yes he is, but He is also the Authority over His church, to set in order function and discipline.

      But is Christ the source of God the father? or is God the Father source of Christ the Son?
      If the answer yes, then explain how , since they are ONE and were in the beginning at the same time.

      But if the answer is no, then logically, the meaning for head ( kephale ) is authority over… Christ admits and submits to the will of the Father. That is not Source, but authority. submission and authority goes hand in hand.
      Likewise ( 1 Peter 3) a wife is to admit and submit (in the same manner as Christ did) to her own husband.
      In these examples, Head ( kephale ) means authority over. God is NOT the source of Christ.

      1. Hi Elca,

        There is no shadow of a doubt that Jesus is Lord and is the Authority of the Church, as well as lots of other great things (e.g., saviour, mediator, high priest). But kephalē (“head”) was not a synonym “lord” or “authority” in ancient Greek until after the New Testament period.

        In 1 Corinthians 11:3 a meaning or “source” or “origin” is even clearer than in Ephesians 5:23, as origins is a theme of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 (cf. 1 Cor. 11:8, 12). Several early church fathers, who spoke Greek, were adamant that kephalē meant source/ origin/ beginning in 1 Corinthians 11:3. These men, including Chrysostom and Cyril of Alexandria, believed in the subordination of women and wives (as was the common view at that time), but they did not believe that kephalē (“head”) meant authority. I mention this in a footnote here: https://margmowczko.com/kephale-and-male-headship-in-pauls-letters/

        1 Peter 3 doesn’t connect wifely submission with Jesus. Rather, it connects wifely submission with unbelieving husbands, so “they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives” (1 Peter 3:1-2). Peter’s reason for wifely submission seems to be primarily evangelistic.

        1. Hi Marg,
          In Corinthians 11:3, if Head ( Kephale ) means source, then you are saying that God is the Source of Jesus the Son. This is theologically wrong. For NONE existed before the other and NONE came from the other.
          Therefore your exegesis of the verse is flawed and is a false reading and meaning of the verse.
          But if God is the Head meaning Authority, then we see Jesus willing submitting to do the Will of Him who is His Head and Authority over Him. This is more accurate of an interpretation of vs 3.

          Dr. Wayne Gurdem did an extensive research on Kephale and found it’s use more consistent with having authority over than Source of…also the Context determines the meaning of words with dual meaning.
          Please note that both male and female are given, Dominion rule ( headship / kephale ) over creation, with the female being in a supportive role to the man.
          The man was allowed to exercise Dominion Rule ( Headship / Kephale) over the woman by naming. This is God divine design for Order in the relationship between man and wife. And consistent through out…

          Your reference to the Church fathers seems to suggest that they have superseded the Authority of the Word of God and you and others are now going to set the record straight, by appealing to culture.
          But Paul appealed to the creation narrative to justify why a woman should not usurp the authority/headship of men NOT to culture, education or giftings. He is consistent with the Father.

          In 1 Peter 3 :1 it said quote,” Like wise you wives, be in subjection to your own husband…”.
          The word ” Like wise ” is a continuation of the discussion in v2.
          In Ch2 13 -Ch3 the discussion of submission to authority and ordinances/laws of men continues with slaves to masters, which flows to Ch3 to wives to be in subjection. This is a discussion of Headship and submission. Not Source and tributaries like a river system.

          To suggest that Christian wives don’t use many words is funny… but the heart of the instructions to wives is found in verse 6 where Wives ( Christian or not) are encouraged to be like Sarah and Holy women of old.
          Sarah had to endure similar kind of hardship just like Jesus did in Ch2, But Sarah trusted in God and was not using her tongue ( much words) to bring about change.

          This is the submissive Heart that Peter is instructing for ALL wives, by following the examples of Holy women of Old.
          Finally , are you suggesting that Christian Husbands are Perfect, always following the word?

          1. 1 Corinthians 11:3 uses the word “Christ/Messiah,” not “son” or “Jesus.” It’s important to stay with the wording of the text, otherwise we do get into theological difficulties. Did you read my article on kephalē?

            As well as writing on kephalē, Grudem has done a lot of writing and speaking about the so-called eternal subordination of the Son (ESS) but I completely disagree with him on this.

            As well as disagreeing with Grudem’s findings on ESS and kephalē (Leon Morris, Gordon D. Fee and other top scholars also disagree with his conclusions on kephalē), I completely disagree with his opinions on mutual submission.

            He admits that he didn’t even know the common Greek word adelphoi can refer to brother and sisters, and he admitted this after he had been debating the meaning of kephalē (“head”) for years. I find Grudem’s handling of both Greek and English poor. I critique some of his work here.

            I use the example of the Greek-speaking church fathers merely to show that many others have also believed that kephalē does not mean “a person in authority” in 1 Corinthians 11:3, and that “source/ origin/ beginning” is not a new interpretation. I do not set their words above the Bible. Far from it! Many early church fathers and later theologians have said deplorable things about women, things which are entirely absent in holy scripture.

            I totally agree that wives should have a submissive heart. I believe all Christians should have a submissive, deferential, and humble heart (Eph. 5:21; Phil 2:1ff; “likewise” in 1 Peter 3:7 is also a continuation of a discussion on submission). But I see no evidence whatsoever in the creation accounts that women have a supporting role in the rule of the earth. We are to love, serve, and support one another.

            I have no idea why you think I might be suggesting that husbands are perfect.

          2. Hi Marg, Thanks for your reply.

            quote,“1 Corinthians 11:3 uses the word “Christ/Messiah,” not “son” or “Jesus.” It’s important to stay with the wording of the text, otherwise we do get into theological difficulties.” Marg, [ Christ/Messiah/Jesus /Only begotten Son/ The Word] refers to the same person. yes?
            I appreciate that scholars do disagree with each other on various subjects, exegetically. It is a perspective and ideological issue. That is why i did say, the context determines the meaning.

            If source and beginning is used in Ch.11:3 , then that makes God as the source of and the beginning of Jesus Christ the Son. Marg, this is theologically wrong.
            In the beginning was the word = the Son, and the Word was with God and the word was God. (John Ch1)
            This contradicts your idea that God is the source and or the beginning of Christ /Messiah/Jesus/Son.

            I agree that 1Peter 3:7 is also a continuation of the discussion of Ch2 .
            However, where as Jesus submission to the Will of the Father,( His Head Authority over Him) , (even when Jesus didn’t feel good about the bitter cup and the task before Him) applies to the Wife, Jesus Suffering and patience and ability to forgive under harsh conditions applies to the Husband. This is consistent with Ephesians 5 instructions of Submission to the Wife and sacrificial Love and long suffering for the Husband.
            It’s a beautiful picture, each doing their individual, different, but equally important role as onto the Lord.

            quote,”I have no idea why you think I might be suggesting that husbands are perfect.” Well you did say , quote,” Rather, it connects wifely submission with unbelieving husbands, […]” This implies that wifely submission isn’t necessary for the Believers.
            But, this is not what Peter is saying. or else what about Sarah and Abraham? Was he a believing husband? Yet, he messed up, just like an Unbelieving husband.
            Marg, thanks for conversing. Have a great day.

          3. Hi Elca,

            ~ Yes all these words refer to the one person. But these words don’t all mean the same thing. “Messiah” refers to a specific role or aspect of Jesus’ ministry.

            ~ “Longsuffering” (i.e. patience) is not specifically mentioned in Ephesians 5, but it is mentioned in Galatians 5 as a fruit of the Spirit that should be evident in everyone who “walks by the Spirit” (Gal 5:15, 22ff). “Longsuffering” occurs once in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians where, as in Galatians, it is not tied to gender (Eph. 4:2-3).

            ~ Peter is especially addressing believing (Christian) wives with unbelieving (non-Christian) husbands in 1 Peter 3:1-2. It is unbelieving husbands who may be “won over” to the Christian faith by their wife’s behaviour. These Christian women are encouraged to follow Sarah’s example.

            No worries. You have a great day too.

  2. I forgot to include this link in my comment. I also forgot to warn you that if you decide to go looking at those website I mentioned, you might want to avoid the Men Going Their Own Way forums, it’s the most hateful environment of them all.

    1. Hi Anna,

      I think it is unfortunate that some Christians are hanging on to their idea of headship. Some claim that male authority administered with kindness, consideration and love doesn’t cause harm, but it does. I’ve been around Christian men who are kind and respectful towards me, but the fact remains that they believe they have an authority that I don’t have, simply because I am female. They see themselves as superior, even if they don’t use those words. And they act superior, even if ever so slightly, while I am made to feel inferior and excluded.

      But male authority isn’t always enacted with kindness and considerate. It can be used with control, oppression, terror, and physical violence. I’ve seen it. I think we may all have seen it.

      I have previously read Lee Grady’s article about the “red pill”. The whole idea is disturbing. I won’t be visiting those websites. They are even more disturbing. 🙁

      1. “They see themselves as superior, even if they don’t use those words.”
        I think you hit the nail on the head. I don’t see how you can teach a man that his wife is incapable of making decisions for herself and that she’s more gullible to demons or whatever and him NOT act superior and condescending.
        I wonder if it’s convenient, being able to ignore someone’s opinion based solely on their gender?
        I recently watched an Irish show that was based in the early 1900s, and in the show the father character dies and the “head of the household” is passed to his idiotic, drunken, thieving son. Even though this man’s mother and younger sister are far more responsible then he is, he gets to make all the important decisions because of his gender. It remind me of a monarchy, because of your gender and bloodline you are deemed fit to rule, whether you really are or not.

  3. Timely and important! I agree this is a more beautiful and fitting picture of male and female relations for 21st Century Christians. The exegesis is complete and easy to follow. So it’s a very satisfying viewpoint providing for a gender balanced church culture women will want to attend and participate in. Thanks for your work.

    1. Thanks, Annabel. I’m glad it was easy to follow.

  4. I love your website, Marg, but I just wanted to point out that even in modern Western societies like Australia, men and women do not have equal opportunities and access to resources as men do. Your assertion that we should read women as not needing protection, is a little bit dangerous in that it actually assumes total equality and ignores how long we have to go; preferring to glamourise how far we have come.

    Even in the OECD, women are far lesser represented in critical scientific, mathematical, political and medical fields where our voices are needed. Legislation as simple as that which adjudicates intimate partner violence, spousal rape, sexual and reproductive health rights are all still disproportionately determined by males. Women earn less than men regardless of the field they work in, and are directly and indirectly affected by covert and overt mechanisms which hinder promotion and progress in the workplace. As such, women who own homes tend to do so in less financially valuable areas, accumulate less wealth than COMPARATIVE male counterparts and experience a lower quality of life after retirement due to a) living longer than men, on average and b) earning less throughout their careers and then contributing less to their super annuation/retirement. Women also leave the workforce more often than men to care for children and forgo financial security. We are NOT beneficiaries of equal access; even in Australia. We DO need men to protect us, and this is more than physical protection.

    How this would play out in our 21st Century society, for example, is illustrated in the field of Human Trafficking. Women DO need men to protect us from sexual slavery, because the market forces that allow for the practice are funded and predominantly operated by males. Something as simple as jailing customers – not prostitutes – and investing in programs that actively reduce the factors that make sex work so lucrative is in the realm of what I believe Paul was instructing to husbands. Today, we DO need more men to be penalised for the pornographic industry. Female porn actresses must register as sex offenders so that they cannot work with children, but male pornstars do not have to. The profits and consumers of pornography are 80% male. Law enforcement and the judiciary are primarily male, as well and the “pull” factors are resultant from the absence of male protection: females are twice as likely as males to suffer from mental illnesses and four times more likely to have a significant depreciation of their quality of life due to this, females dropping out of school or not being able to attend school or not being able to return to work as a result draws them – through financial desperation – into this industry. Females from single-parent homes (of which more than 75% are Mom-led) are more susceptible to sexual abuse, early marriages and abusive ones as well as greater incidences of teenage pregnancy. There is also unequal maternity rights and honestly, the list goes on, but these are all simple examples of the kinds of systemic discrimination against females that leaves us vulnerable in the absence of male protection.

    Yes, certain females are privileged e.g. White females are privileged over Indigenous Australian, sub-Saharan African or Latina females; but very few women experience privilege on the same level that men do. To state that women are subsequently, in all circumstances – by sheer virtue of being in a developed country – equally eligible to access on the same level as the women you mentioned is dangerous. It inadvertently invalidates the important intersectionality you need to consider your examples AND the origins and practice of male headship doctrine, in light of.

    Yes, Abigail saved her entire household. Her husband was SO rich, she likely held a standing many other women – even today – do not hold.

    Sarah DID twice save her husband from death by lying on his behalf. She was also so incredibly wealthy that she was surrounded by slaves and servants. Again, her influence and social standing afforded her an autonomy that many other women simply could not have enjoyed in the same situation EVEN when considering her gender.

    The Pharaoh’s daughter who pulled Moses out of the Nile was a princess. Of the most powerful empire in the world, at the time. Again, her servants were a testament of how her protection i.e. from her father; enabled her to pull Moses out of the water after his real mother (a nobody) was no longer able to protect him from sanctioned death.

    Michal was the daughter of a king and wife of the Commander of the Israeli army. Zipporah was also the daughter of a community leader: the Chief Priest of Midian. Jochebed was wife of the Priest as well. What each of these examples show is that male protection is what created the platform from which these women COULD love and serve and save their communities.

    Queen Esther – again a saviour of her entire nation – was protected by the chief Eunich (a castrated male) upon arrival into; and Mordecai WELL before; she was involuntarily enrolled in a harem. She would have had NO POWER or influence were she not a Queen.

    Ruth was a widow who – together with Naomi who was also widowed and without her sons – was only saved from hard labour in a foreign country, by the protection of a male: Boaz. When she did eventually marry him, he was a community leader and thus Ruth enjoyed privilege due to her association with her male protector.

    Bathsheba was the mother of Solomon and orchestrated his kingship. She was FIRST the wife of a renowned army general; Uriah, and then one of several of the king’s wives.

    The archetypical woman from Proverbs 31 was a) a married woman and b) married to an Elder. He used to sit at the city gates.

    You did not note Rahab: a single, sex worker who hid spies in your example of women who save others. Being an unmarried woman in that society led HER to circumstances and social standing that necessitated her endangering herself and forcing the spies to promise to PROTECT her when her own kinsmen would not have blinked twice to kill her. She was used, and her body bought and sold; and so marginalised from meaningful opportunities in her culture that she KNEW to trust strange militants over her own people: the men AND WOMEN who ostracised her and would not protect her. The Israeli spies were allowed into her home on condition of GUARANTEEING PROTECTION.

    I agree with your disagreement with the doctrine of “headship” being interpreted in a strict and stringent way; however I have to disagree with the premise that we can do away with the admonition for men to protect and serve women because women are able to do this for ourselves now. We ARE not. Unless we have a very rich, influential husband (despite being in the Western Hemisphere); we do need protection – not necessarily – physical; from men because we live in a patriarchal society. Hagar, Rahab, the Levite’s concubine from Judges 19 are better examples of what unmarried women without power, influence and money can expect from our society. They affirm that we DO need male protection. It should be loving and kind.

    1. Hi Gloria,

      The context of my post is critiquing the understanding some Christians have of male “headship” in marriage, and my examples of Bible women were of wives protecting their husbands.

      I am thankful for the men and women who are actively working against the grievous crime of human trafficking. I know of women who are leaders in ministries that rescue trafficked people. But human trafficking, by and large, has little to do with male “headship” in Christian marriage

      I can’t see that any of my comments warrants the description of “glamourise.”

      1. Hi Marg,

        Thanks so much for approving my comment even though my view differs from yours, and also for taking the time to reply.

        With regards to glamourisation; nowhere did I state that you glamourised human trafficking. I said your comments glamourised the advances that Australian women, specifically, have made with regards to equality. I just thought to make that very clear, because that context is important.

        Then, I did provide extensive (likely unnecessary as it seems to have derailed your understanding of my point) examples of what patriarchy looks like in practice. The point of reference was provided as a backdrop to your stating that women do not need male protection in the Western Hemisphere, and that this is one of the (numerous) reasons that the complementarian interpretation of “headship” in marriage is not longer relevant; particularly in the developed world.

        By way of background, I am Black African and live in Europe, having lived in Australia for more than 7 years before. I was not yet married nor did I have family in either country when I arrived. I was once called a racial expletive and beaten unconscious coming back from my job in a call centre on a Connex Melbourne train, by a white man. No one else – male or female – interjected or called the police. It was 3 o’clock in the afternoon. It was also roughly 10 years ago. Taxi drivers would routinely drive past me and pick up White passengers when I tried to flag them down. At my church, I was asked to wear a headscarf to cover my head as a sign to the angels. My experience of a Western woman’s agency in the 21st century – and particularly the examples of women who protected their families – are as far away from how you describe them as Mars is from earth to me. And I have lived in The West for more than half of my life. But not entirely because of patriarchy/male headship doctrine, alone. Race and class (in my case, continent of origin) had plenty to do with it, as well.

        Each of the women you described were married, enjoyed higher social status and power and influence in order to do the things you provide as evidence of the supposed total egalitarianism of women in the Western hemisphere. I can’t make it more plain than what I said before; that whilst I agree that headship should not be interpreted as “men being superior, women inferior” neither should egalitarianism simply assume equality amongst women. There IS an intersectionality. This reality necessitates that we don’t dismiss the *still necessary* need of some women – even in the Western hemisphere – for protection. Protection from more than just patriarchy/male headship.

        It is not possible to separate “headship” in marriage from male leadership in church over unmarried women; because single women experience even greater discrimination and silencing of their spiritual gifts, regardless of whether they are egalitarian or complementarian. They still have to live in a patriarchal society; one I argue should NOT do away with protecting them. A married White Christian women who is an Elder’s wife could more easily experience privilege in an egalitarian setting than a lower-class, divorced, single mother or worse… a Black woman. Even the egalitarian church does not empower us. We would encounter significantly more obstacles to doing what Deborah did, were a direct equivalent to be provided (think Hilary Clinton or Julia Gillard). This is what perhaps I called “glamourisation”. Helen Clarke of New Zealand may have unlimited access to public platforms, but do Maori women really have the same? This then presents the comparison: women may be equal to men in egalitarianism, but not all women are equal in the Western hemisphere. And you said this as almost a given.

        The notion of “headship” justifies societal structures that impede women because of differences in gender, but egalitarianism also still differentiates through colourblind applications of women: like I said, “a single woman like the Levite’s concubine” would still – in today’s culture, even Western culture – NOT enjoy the privilege that Sarah, Abigail, Zipporah etc enjoyed in their day.

        Thus, in the context of an egalitarian approach to marriage and leadership; I was pointing out to you that doing away with men protecting all women because certain women (the privileged ones with husbands and lots of power and status) don’t need it; is not really any different from complementarians who teach to “ask your husband at home.” The same way unmarried women have no husband at home to ask; egalitarian women from lower social classes, ethnic minorities and any other non-cis demographic still need protection from patriarchy. Even if White, Australian women don’t.

        Universal egalitarianism void of intersectionality doesn’t do away with the original sin that causes the male headship doctrine to not reflect what you call a “beautiful picture”. It perpetuates it, because many women who are (not yet) married, children of broken marriages, poor marriages and ethnic minorities; would have no recourse. It would not be a “beautiful picture” for us. We would be even MORE vulnerable than we already are. Even in Australia,

        1. Hi Gloria,

          I don’t think our views differ. I think we are talking about different things.

          Also, I did not think your previous comment, where you used the word “glamourise,” was in reference to human trafficking. But I maintain that I have not glamourised anything. And I do not refer to “advances.” My brief comment about opportunities is a generalisation.

          I cannot speak for Maori women in New Zealand. My post is about Christian marriage in Australia. And while I appreciate that boys and girls in impoverished or remote communities of Australia can experience considerable obstacles, most children and young adults have similar access to whatever education and health services are available in their area, regardless of gender. Any discrimination between male and female comes from family or local communities, including churches, not the government.

          Importantly, nowhere do I say we should do away with anyone (male or female) protecting any other person (male or female). Caring and protecting one another is what we all should be doing.

          Also, I didn’t call “male headship” a beautiful picture. I think the traditional interpretation of “head” in Ephesians 5:23 is faulty and not at all beautiful, and it has the potential to produce weak, passive and dependent women.

          I truly appreciate your concern for disempowered women. Getting rid of patriarchy and false notions of “male headship” is a step towards giving these women (or their daughters) freedom from discrimination and oppression.

          1. Thanks

  5. Dear Marg, hello, I’ve only just been introduced to your blog through a link on facebook. Thankyou for sharing the results of your studies with us. I would like to say I’m quite happy with being a spine so long as they guys are OK with being a bride. Xx

    1. Hi Liz, Nice to meet you.

    Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. Ephesians 5:22
    Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Ephesians 5:24
    Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Colossians 3:18
    As a woman and, I suspect, in the company of many other women, I have often wished that these verses weren’t included in the scriptures. Wrongly I have perceived them to be biased in favour of the man in a relationship. But God has showed me a new picture of submission and in a loving relationship it ought not to be a heavy thing, but rather something joyful and natural.
    I am an ardent fan of a TV programme called ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ and love to watch the celebrities grow in confidence during the weeks spent learning and competing. Even in the relatively early days of the programme some of the amateur dancers stand out and by the final couple of weeks it becomes harder to predict who will win.
    As I was watching a recent episode of ‘Strictly’ I began to see that a good marriage should be like a dance partnership. The man leads, the woman follows his lead. She must trust him implicitly if the difficult lifts are to be successful. He twirls her away and she dances alone for a while but they are still in step, still dancing to the same music. He draws her back into a close hold and she rests in his arms in the beautiful rhythms of the dance. She reacts to his every move and he is completely aware of her.
    Whether the music is fast and joyful or slow and sensuous their partnership is beautiful. And the longer they dance together the more confident of her own ability the female partner becomes.
    To me this is a picture of how marriage should be. It is an equal partnership with each partner having their own role; their own set of steps if you like. The woman in a marriage should not lead her partner but follow him just as the female dancer follows the male lead. But equally the man should not control the woman, she must follow willingly.
    There will be circumstances when a woman will be ‘dancing’ separately from her husband, for example following a career or ministry, but their lives should continue to be lived in harmony and in step with one another.
    During hard times, as in the dance lifts, the wife needs to trust the husband. And there need to be times of closeness and intimacy for the partnership to remain strong.
    These dances are choreographed for a man and a woman and are so beautiful to watch when performed by experts. But the dance would not look so good if either was dancing alone; or if the man was pulling and pushing the woman around the ballroom; or if the woman was resisting and refusing to follow the man’s lead.
    This picture of marriage has really opened my eyes to how things should be and I hope it blesses those who read it.

    1. Hi Pat, you’ve partially quoted verses about wifely submission, but that’s only half the story. You haven’t commented on Paul’s words to husbands. Neither Jesus, Paul, or Peter ever tell husbands they are the authorities of their wives or that husbands are to lead their wives.

      Paul’s message to husbands in Ephesians 5:25ff and Colossians 3:19 is love, not leadership. Paul uses the word love 6 times when addressing husband in Ephesians 5:25ff. 6 times!

      Neither Peter or Paul directly uses the word “submit” in their instructions to husbands, but the behaviour they ask for is akin to some expressions of submission: sacrificial love, yielding, living with consideration, etc. And a couple of times, Paul says that husbands are to love their wives as they love their own bodies or as they love themselves (Eph. 5:28, 30). This sounds like Paul wants husbands to care for wives and consider them as their equal. Again, there is nothing in their comments to husbands that even hints at authority or leadership.

      As lovely as dancing is, it’s not the most productive mode of living in the real world with its various responsibilities and challenges. (Don’t they have any female choreographers on “Strictly”?)

      I have no problem with the submission verses. Submission, like humility and meekness, is (or should be) an attitude or trait for all followers of Jesus, male and female (Eph 5:21; 1 Pet. 5:5 NKJV). Submission is a Christian virtue.

      In case you’re interested, I’ve written about Ephesians 5:22-33 here: https://margmowczko.com/category/ephesians-5/
      I’ve written about 1 Peter 3:1-8 here: https://margmowczko.com/category/1-peter-31-7/

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