Bruce Ware is the professor of Christian Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. At a church in Denton, Texas, he gave husbands an excuse for abusing their wives—that of being a sinner, as if sinners are not to be held accountable.
In June 2008, at a Bible church in Denton, Texas, Bruce Ware, a founding member of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, said, “And husbands on their parts, because they’re sinners, now respond to that threat to their authority either by being abusive, which is of course one of the ways men can respond when their authority is challenged—or, more commonly, to become passive, acquiescent, and simply not asserting the leadership they ought to as men in their homes and in churches.”
Ware says in effect that men can do one of two things when wives do not submit: they can become abusive, or they can become meek and passive. While this is shocking to us, it is more so when we realize that this is exactly the language of the Danvers Statement in their Affirmations. Affirmation #4 says “In the home, the husband’s loving, humble headship tends to be replaced by domination or passivity.”
When men in that congregation heard Ware say that men can choose to abuse their wives, every man in that congregation should have stood up and said “Not my daughter, he won’t!”
They did not. But you can. Stand up and say, “No man has the excuse to abuse my daughter for any reason, even if he thinks she is not submitting enough.”
This “headship” teaching causes suffering, because there is no way men, or women for that matter, can have the kind of god-like power that the Danvers Statement and the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 bestows without it having dangerous consequences as seen by Ware’s statement.
This is a teaching that directly impacts homes, subjecting whole families to whatever kinds of leadership husbands decide they are divinely entitled to. The BF&M 2000 Section on the Family says “A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband.”
When men are taught they have authority over women, this complementarian teaching that was born in churches and nurtured in Christian families, bleeds out into society. Both men and women who never go to church are influenced by it. Often it results in abuse of wives and girlfriends in both church and society.
Wives lose their status in marriage and come under the domination of the husband to whatever degree of submission he decides he wants. Girls are raped, sex trafficked, beaten, and murdered because females have been devalued. This devaluation produces long-term detrimental effects, and women and families suffer because of it.
Because complementarians push second-class citizenship for women in churches, when they advocate for abused women in shelters they come across as hypocrites. Church ministries spend time and money bandaging the wounds of those afflicted by male dominance, but they will not address the teaching that causes it. As Jesus said, “they will not lift a finger” to change it. In fact, they continue to perpetuate it.
They didn’t stand up for their daughters and they won’t do it now. But somebody has to. Will that be you?
Excerpt from my book “Dethroning Male Headship: Second Edition“