Not my mother’s submission

Mom and I two years ago.

My mother was a submissive wife. (I say was, because my father passed away 8 years ago.) When my parents were reviewed by their mission board before entering the mission field, the board told her she was “too” submissive.* And this was in the 50’s!  She believed Ephesians 5:22 was her role, and she obeyed. My parent’s marriage was successful, not because she learned to be submissive and my dad was a good leader, but because they both loved and served Jesus.

Today,  her attitude toward wifely submission would not be enough for some pastors. They declare submission defines what it means to be a woman. Leading is what defines a man. They believe that not only does God ask us to behave like His Son, He requires us to behave according to our gender. The modern Complementarianism of the Danver’s Statement places a woman’s place of submitting and the man’s place as leading as the functional hinge of the gospel. If the two places cross or get confused in any way; the Bible, families, churches and even the Good News of Jesus Christ will be warped, lost and ineffective. (Together for the Gospel panel on Complementarianism.)

That is not my mother’s submission.

How do I know, this new submission is not like my mother’s? We had a conversation about the recent trend in churches to focus on men. New ministries are started each day whose goal is to bring men back to church. I think this is fantastic! The gospel is reaching and changing lives through these ministries. Although, I get ruffled when the ministries lay the blame on women, or a feminization at work in the church.

So, I asked her why did she think men didn’t come to church?

She answered without thinking, “Because the Holy Spirit hasn’t led them there!”

You see, there is a subtle shift occurring in the modern wife-submit/men-lead movement. It is not enough to teach what it means for a Christian to love and serve each other, they must tack on gender expectations. What does it means to be a Christian woman? What does it mean to be a Christian man? These questions are tremendously important to a modern Complementarian because they believe the answer effects the gospel.

My  mother does not. Neither do I. I continue to submit. I continue to love. I continue to serve based on the Holy Spirit’s gifts. I leave the power and effectiveness of His Gospel to  the blood of Jesus.

*An explanation from mom: “The board didn’t say I was “too submissive” but that dad should make room for me, alongside of him. He was such an extrovert and strong leader that I tended to step back and not participate in ministry.”

6 thoughts on “Not my mother’s submission

  1. I think I got the difference. What we had in the fifties, as you said, was a status quo– and one that was gradually changing to be more freeing to women. What we have now is a backlash against that freedom, a search for a return to an earlier time when everyone knew their place and the world was not so confusing. What I was trying to say is that in many ways the earlier time the backlashing is seeking, is not the 50’s but Victorian times.


  2. Interesting. I know that the current “complementarian” trend values much of what was taught in Victorian times. But I can’t remember Jesus ever saying, “This is how to follow Me if you’re a man. This is the different way you follow Me if you’re a woman.” No. All He said was, “Follow Me.”


    1. Yep. But as I talk with older women, I do see a sublte shift outlined above. Those of my generation, that grew up in the eighties and nineties have been taught submission with a different emphasis. I don’t think I did a good job nailing the difference down. Its more a nuance of gender guilt versus “that’s just the way things are.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s