Homosexual marriage is an ongoing debate in the evangelical church. I experienced this issue at my alma mater, Trinity Western University (TWU), whose position on homosexuality, as stated in their “community covenant,” has garnered condemnation from certain institutions — such as the Canadian government, the BC teachers’ union, and most recently Law societies across Canada — which have all accused TWU of discriminating against homosexuals. By and large, opposition from these institutions outside the evangelical community has come in the form of unjust and discriminatory attacks. TWU’s defence against these attacks are heroic attempts to shore up religious freedom in the country.
TWU’s community covenant, a written agreement which all members of the community are required to sign, attempts in more or less broad strokes to outline the hopes and expectations of the educational community, defining rules and guidelines informed by an evangelical heritage, which encourage and support a safe learning environment. The covenant, however, stipulates marriage is only between a man and woman. Such a definition requires that married homosexuals refrain from being homosexuals while on campus. Is this discrimination? Certainly.
On March 14th I’ll be presenting a paper titled, “Ephesians and the Household Code: a Conversation with John H. Yoder” at TST’s Advanced Degree Students’ Association Theology Conference. I plan on posting a version of this paper here in four parts.
As a preface, in addition to the influence of Yoder, my treatment of both the household codes and the mystery found in Ephesians, is informed by a tension schematized by Derrida in many different ways throughout his work. In both Ephesians and Yoder’s treatment of household codes, this tension is revealed between the need for a determinate identity and the need to hold identities open to reevaluation and change. In Ephesians, Paul encourages a mode of negotiating or living in this tension that fosters health rather than death.
“For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” Ephesians 5.23-24
I have attended a number of weddings where couples include a reference to this verse in their vows, stressing that the woman shall submit to her husband. Ironically, more times than not, if my newly-wed friends were honest with each other, they would admit the inverse is true of the power dynamics in their relationship. Yet, I still find the inclusion of such a misogynistic sentiment a tad disturbing. These verses are associated with what biblical scholars call Haustafeln, that is, the New Testament (NT) household codes; and they have been an enduring conflict for biblical interpreters throughout the modern era. From abolitionism to women suffrage, household codes have garnered a variety of (sometimes contradictory) interpretations, having been read as oppressive and liberating. Since these verses continue to impact Christian communities, they require repeated readings that consider their past, present, and future relevance.