Reacting to a Southern Baptist statement saying wives must "submit graciously" to the leadership of their husbands, four Protestant ministers in Oxnard have written a letter of concern in response to what they view as religious extremism.
Jim Bain of First Presbyterian Church, Al Gorsline of St. Paul's United Methodist Church, Larry Tyler Wayman of the North Oxnard United Methodist Church and Anthony Guillen of All Saints' Episcopal Church signed the statement, later endorsed by Oxnard Rabbi John Sherwood.
Their letter reads, in part, "We have recently heard leaders of the religious right emphasizing male dominance in the home and predicting terrible storms for the Orlando, Fla., (Disney World) area because the Disney Corp. (like many other corporations) gives medical benefits to the partners of homosexual employees. Such statements fan the flames of hatred . . . What Christ has taught us is to see the worth of every person . . . "
The statement, which appeared as a letter to the editor in The Times' Ventura County Edition on June 21, was written in response to the Southern Baptist Convention statement of June 9 calling for wives to submit to their husbands as well as to a statement issued the same day by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson attacking Disney's benefits policy.
Methodist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian and Reform Judaism faiths hold that wives and husbands are equal partners in marriage, the pastors and rabbi said.
"My main concern is that with this literalist position taken about the Bible--such as wives submitting--people will read that and think this is what all churches are about," Gorsline said. "Other positions are valid."
Bain said he was writing his Sunday sermon "when it occurred to me that some of the statements made earlier this month by the Southern Baptist Convention about men dominating women were less than loving.
"So I called the other ministers and asked them to join me."
Bain thinks the recent statements by Baptist leaders "are a worldwide phenomenon--a response to change. People sometimes revert to the past."
In Judaism, too, marriages are partnerships, said Sherwood, who added that he thinks the Southern Baptist Convention statement on a wife's role is based wrongly on scripture.
Not so, said Pastor Rick Anderson of Oxnard's Faith Community Church, an independent Baptist church. Anderson said his church's stance is that "a woman should be subject to her husband in marriage--loving submission."
Anderson points to Ephesians 5:22-24 that reads: "Wives, be subject to your own husbands as to the Lord."
American Baptist Minister Virgil Nelson of Ventura said he also looks to Ephesians. "But don't stop with verses 22, 23 and 24," he said. "Read verses 25 through 33, too."
Nelson believes these verses demonstrate Paul's encouragement of "mutual submission."
"Paul's statement that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church was a radical statement at the time," Nelson said. "In that day and time, women were treated as property--bought and sold for a pittance. For him to say 'husbands, love your wives'--that was incredible."
Although Anderson does not believe women should be equal to men in marriage, he said submission does not mean, for example, submitting to abuse. "It also wouldn't include sinning for a husband," he said.
Nancy Treinen of Ventura's Grace Baptist Church, affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, agrees with the newly amended statement saying wives should graciously submit.
"Although I'm not a doormat, wives should submit insofar as it is not out of line with God's word or the Bible," Treinen said. "My first answer is to God."
Treinen added that she believes people "put the spin on that statement they want to."
Episcopal Rector Guillen, who helped write the letter, also feels people will put their own spin on the statement, "submit graciously." He worries that such statements "might be used by some to bring on more domestic violence."
Nelson also agrees that the message's meaning will depend on the recipient.
"One of the things that is critical to know about Baptists is that one Baptist does not deign to speak for another Baptist, historically," he said.
"There are American Baptists who wholeheartedly support a position of male dominance," he said. "The woman does what the man says.
"But I don't believe, as an individual and as a pastor, that that is an accurate interpretation of the intention of Paul. The critical issue is, what does it mean to submit? Some Baptists take this very literally. Many American Baptists would see this as Paul's encouragement of mutual submission."