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Ephesians 5:20-33

(25 Posts)
smugaboo Wed 21-Sep-11 21:38:30

Oh I have to vent.

By way of background - I am a civil marriage celebrant. I am getting out the gig for a number of reasons but one of them is that I'm really just over it, not interested anymore. Anyway, although I do not conduct religious ceremony I have always struggled with the patriarchal elements of ceremonies. Not all of them are obvious. Yes, many brides still choose to be 'given away' by their fathers but even things like that the man always speaks first. Very few couples challenge these 'tradition's'.

I have about 5 more ceremonies to perform and now, after 6 years, the couple have asked me to read from Ephesians 5:20-33, which says, amongst other things

"For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands."

I am going to have to stand their on Saturday and grit my teeth whilst I read this shit out in public. What am I going to do? Ugh, I actually feel a bit sick.

AliceWyrld Wed 21-Sep-11 21:40:21

Do what I do when I'm reading kids book. Swop the genders round wink

I thought you weren't allowed anything religious at all at a civil ceremony?

Yes I thought that too Alice - I wasn't even allowed choral/religious music at my civil ceremony. However, my sympathies are with you smugaboo and I dare you to do what Alice said grin.

meditrina Wed 21-Sep-11 21:47:09

I thought you couldn't have religious items in a civil ceremony as well.

But if it is allowed in readings, then you have no choice but to comply with the couples expressed wishes. The celebrant's personal views do not come into it.

If your personal views come into conflict with the requirements of your job, then you should resign. You cannot cherry pick those for whom you are prepared to act.

eaglewings Wed 21-Sep-11 21:47:35

Ditto Alice's comment about religious readings?

meditrina Wed 21-Sep-11 21:49:02

Sorry - should have read your post more carefully - I've just spotted that you are indeed following your conscience and leaving the role. That does seem the right thing.

smugaboo Wed 21-Sep-11 21:50:53

Hi, I should explain. I am in Australia and we have a different system (we are all sole operators) so there are no rules about religious elements.
Meditrina, you are right about not being able to cherry pick and I have always complied with the couple's wishes. As I will on Saturday too. <sigh>

smugaboo Wed 21-Sep-11 21:52:37

Yes, I am leaving. That's not the only reason and its funny that's it not until now, right at the end, that my own values have been SO challenged. I have a job to do though and I have to be professional about it.

WoTmania Wed 21-Sep-11 21:54:02

You have my deepest sympathies. I mean seriously? In this day and age? Pfft!

whobuilttheark Wed 21-Sep-11 22:21:46

I took this vow when I got married (most of my family were shock and hmm). We chose to keep the traditional version because we are Christians and knew what the bible meant when it says 'submit'. 'Submitting' is about how the husband behaves towards his wife, not about the wife being a doormat or a downtrodden housewife.

If the husband cherishes his wife, cares for her and respects her then what is there to submit to? Love. In our marriage, my husband has to love me enough to give his life for me, that is the whole point of this bible passage.

I have no idea why anyone would have this bible passage read out unless they knew the message behind it, have you asked them if they have an understanding of it? What happens if you say you would rather not say it on behalf of them if they don't understand the implications for the husband?

smugaboo Wed 21-Sep-11 22:35:45

whobuilt - thanks for that perspective. I think they have considered the implications or a popularly perceived meaning. They are doing it as part of the 'Stefana Ceremony', which is the Greek tradition where crowns are exchanged. The bride simply said "Ephesians 5:20-33 is usually read." It almost seemed something they are doing to placate the groom's family (who are Greek).

I am due to email them tonight. Thanks, I may have a bit of chat to them about it.

AliceWyrld Wed 21-Sep-11 22:42:18

Just swopping the genders round a no go then? <disappointed>

TeiTetua Wed 21-Sep-11 22:57:16

Can you not tell these people that what they want you to say is against your conscience and you (politely) refuse to do it? I mean, suppose their wording was obscene by conventional standards--surely they couldn't demand that you say it? Presumably you could put them in touch with someone else who'd have a more traditional outlook, who'd do it the way they want without any eye-rolling or teeth-grinding, which would be likely to ruin the event anyway?

LittlePushka Wed 21-Sep-11 22:58:17

Are they requesting this for the irony/hilarity of it all,...perhpas the bride is the lord and master of the houshold and this passage will have the congregfation rolling in the aisles....

LRDTheFeministDragon Wed 21-Sep-11 23:35:48

Yeah, I had this at my wedding (Russian Orthodox, very similar to Greek). Fucking annoying. And yes, the priest did try very hard to tell me that it was actually all about respect. It's not. It's someone being sexist because in his day, it was ok to be sexist. I can cope with the idea that a person in history was simply expressing an idea as best he could in the language of his day, and I accept that there are elements of reciprocity (not equality) described in that passage, but it remains sexist. No getting round this IMO.

So, yes, I can see why you want to get out. I can also see why they're having it read - trying to argue with an Orthodox priest is, IME, utterly pointless. It's not like the CofE or even the Catholic Church, where there is wiggle room on what the ceremony is. If they've been told this is part of the crowning and they need you to read it, I bet there is someone telling them it's set in stone.

SybilBeddows Wed 21-Sep-11 23:41:07

You really can't say it, because it's not just 'Mary, will you promise to obey John?' which is up to them, but a generalisation: 'so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands."
You cannot say that.

I think TeiTetua's suggestion is good. You can tell them it is against your conscience and try to help them find someone else.

LRDTheFeministDragon Thu 22-Sep-11 00:03:08

That would work! Yes, could you say that? That it's not just about them but about all women.

smugaboo Thu 22-Sep-11 00:07:16

Sybil, God you're right but there is kind of no way to get another celebrant at short notice. I couldn't do that to them. They booked nearly 2 years ago. Shame they took so bloody long to tell me what they wanted in their ceremony.

But if they insist on this reading, I think I am going to put in some kind of subtle disclaimer, along the lines that traditionally this is required to be read. Absolving myself somehow. Not sure what I will say yet. I have a few days to think about it.

Or I just secretly cross my fingers?? <seriously contemplating that>

smugaboo Thu 22-Sep-11 00:07:56

Yes LRD, I am about to write to them. I really think I will mention that.

LRDTheFeministDragon Thu 22-Sep-11 00:18:59

TBH, there is no reason you should compromise your principles if they left it very late to let you know they wanted that reading. I bet you it's their priest/traditional family members being pushy. Good luck with it.

chrisrobin Thu 22-Sep-11 00:37:50

Could you try reading it from a different translation? The Good News generally has less harsh language than King James versions (though not always) the NIV is different again- although I don't know about this particular verse. When friends of mine got married they wanted a bible reading which didn't mention God so I spent ages pouring over different versions of the Bible to get what they wanted.

mummytime Thu 22-Sep-11 00:51:39

I have to say this particular reading is much harder for men, and is what Paul was actually talking about. Men having to love their wives as Jesus loved the Church (eg. dying for them), not as chattels etc. as would have been (is in a lot of cultures the norm). The Message is quite good for this passage btw if you can get away with it. (Although really radical would be the Street Bible version, which I think is now called something else: it starts: Repect each other, wives your No 1 is your man; husbands your No 1 is your woman.)

Whatever you do don't let the second half of the passage be glossed over. That was the shocking bit, and still is if it is taken on board.

Good luck!

smugaboo Thu 22-Sep-11 05:11:39

I looked at few versions but it seems to have more or less the same message. I have had a big think about this today (still day here in Oz!) and I decided that I cannot in good conscience, read it out.
I have just emailed her and told her that it goes against my own fundamental principles and I am not comfortable with it. I have asked her to her ask a member of her family to read it instead. That would be fine legally etc. Might even be better! Not sure what she will say tbh but i am going to stick to my guns or I will be a fraud.
Ha! All these years and I've never refused to read anything!

Tortoiseonthehalfshell Thu 22-Sep-11 06:31:22

I refused to read this at my sister-in-law's wedding. Mind you, I'm not a celebrant.

...Oh, no, I'm confused, I've just googled and the bit I refused to read was Genesis 2, about 'she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man'. funny, I could've sworn it was the help meet/submit to God bit.

And then she asked her brother, who refused on the grounds that he was a geologist who couldn't read the whole 'and God created the earth' bit because it's the bit the creationists use as 'evidence'. Poor girl, really, in retrospect.

Anyway, we're not celebrants, so this is entirely unhelpful. But for me, refusing wasn't just principle, it was not trusting myself not to get a bit of a sarcastic tone, I just didn't feel like I could read it respectfully.

TBH, I'm glad to hear you're getting out of it, though. I feel bad for this poor bride. I know that there are other options to her - family member, etc., but I also remember planning a wedding, and it's always a bit stressful. If my celebrant had refused one of my readings, in the light of day I can say 'better to know that we have a difference of opinion' but at the time it would have felt like a major blow. I do think that if you're a celebrant, and we're not talking about actual hate speech, you should probably read the reading.

LRDTheFeministDragon Thu 22-Sep-11 09:35:18

Hmm. I am biased, but I wish someone had refused to participate in our ceremony. I needed someone else to give me a reality check! So I think smug is doing the right thing - especially since it sounds as if this couple are being pushed about by family, rather than having very strong belief themselves (surely they'd have an Orthodox wedding if so?).

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