Our church council wrote and agreed on this statement in November 2023.
The page tells the Bible’s epic story of relationships between women and men, from the love, order and blessing of creation to the brokeness, chaos and curse which was resulted when Eve and Adam followed their own desires.
We trace that story of pain and disorder through the Old Testament to Jesus, who broke the curse of sin by bearing it on the cross and began to renew and reorder the whole of creation. Jesus first renews our human hearts then reorders our relationships, with God our creator, each other and even with creation.
The story finishes with an outline of the wonderful truths of human equality in Christ and His call on our functions as men and women in family life and the life of the church. We have highlighted some key sentences in bold if you want to skim read. We hope you enjoy reading the full story and that you will come to know Jesus and join his family.
Living as Women and Men
The Golden Age (Genesis chapter 2)
There has only been one golden age for men and women. In the beginning, life with God in the garden, in the cool of the day, was a blissful joy. Adam and Eve loved one another and their creator God, who loved his people with deep, eternal, infinite love. God gave Eve to Adam in the first marriage and Adam sang a love song to Eve and to God. As husband and wife they were naked, they had nothing to hide, no secrets or lies. They felt no shame. Life was very good. Then the serpent attacked God by attacking those God most loved.
The Fall and Curse (Genesis chapter 3)
The serpent deceived Eve. Her beloved husband stood by, passively following his wife’s lead. As soon as they had eaten the fruit of the forbidden tree, they were filled with fear and so hid from God. They tried but failed to cover their nakedness and shame. When God asked what they had done, Adam denied responsibility, pointing a cold, judgemental finger at both Eve and God. She admitted that the serpent deceived her. God was heartbroken but restrained his anger for breaking his law. He announced to the serpent, Eve then Adam, that they would experience a series of curses. One curse was the end of the blissful, joyful, intimate relationship which Adam and Eve enjoyed in the beginning. God told Eve that husbands would now dominate their wives. Her desire would be for her husband but he would rule over her. The serpent had done the damage he had intended. As we look around, we see and experience that painful, heartbreaking damage between men and women in many ways today. Jesus came to break the curse.
Patterns of the Fall in the Old Testament
The Bible records a catalogue of soul crushing, life destroying, relationship breaking, loveless confusion, pain, manipulation, domination, sexual abuse, domestic violence, aggression, greed, blame, murder and lies, as seen between;
Deborah and Barak (Judges chapter 4),
Samson and his first wife (Judges chapter 14) and then Delilah (Judges chapter 16),
David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel chapter 11),
Amnon and Tamar (2 Samuel chapter 13:1-22),
Ahab and Jezebel (1 Kings chapter 21:1-16), and others.
These true stories are painful to read and are sadly reflective of the way men and women can sinfully relate to each other. Men mostly dominate or, like Adam and Barak, abdicate. Women have had to constantly struggle under the curse. It ought to break our hearts that women need to take refuge from violent men who claim to love them. Feminist movements have fought for equality in education, politics, economic opportunity and freedom from sexual oppression and exploitation. These movements are a consequence of the curse and their work will not be complete as long as the curse continues. If Adam and Eve had not sinned against God, but had joyfully loved and obeyed their creator, just as God had ordered in creation, there would be no need for womens’ refuges, divorce or feminist movements because men and women would relate to one another sinlessly, as God intended.
Jesus breaks the curse
Jesus breaks the curse by treating women with the great and equal dignity they deserve as image bearers of God. Jesus affords women equal status to men as daughters of Abraham. He spoke compassionately and tenderly with women in public. He held women personally responsible for their own sin and repentance, rather than them being the responsibility of their father, husband or brother.
Jesus breaks the curse by challenging men, teaching and modelling what it means to live as men according to God’s intentions. He commands men to restrain lust and anger and instead to love with a self-giving, sacrificial love like Christ.
Jesus breaks the curse by dying under the law, bearing the penalty for sin on the cross. As men and women turn to Christ in sorrow for sin they receive God’s amazing grace through faith in Christ. The Holy Spirit and baptism unite all church members, men and women, as one in Christ.
All people in all places are called to turn to Jesus in repentance for sin and to respect the authority given to him. We are to humbly confess where we have lived a cursed life, learn from Jesus and apply his teaching and example, serving others in love as he loved and served us.
Living as Husbands and Wives (Ephesians chapter 5)
God has made known to us in his word and in creation that men and women are very different, biologically and functionally. Both have a vital part to play in bringing glory to Jesus. Whether married or single, we are to love one another, accept one another and submit to one another out of reverence for Jesus. For married couples, husbands are to live under the rule of Jesus, no longer dominating or abdicating, but sacrificially loving their wives, treating them as they would treat their own body, as Christ loves his body, the church. Wives are to give glory to Christ by relating to their husbands as if to Christ. Husbands and wives are to model the love of Christ and his bride, the church, to a world of cursed, strained and broken relationships.
Husbands lead with servant authority. They do not exercise any authority of their own, but are to be humble, living under Christ’s authority, gently insisting that their family members do likewise. Women have the full authority of Christ to offer a gentle challenge to men whose behaviour differs from Christ’s example and teaching, especially his gentleness, compassion and tenderness.
Living as Women and Men in the Church (from 1 Peter, 1 Timothy, Ephesians and Titus)
Holy Trinity is a living local church. We are a community of grace. When men and women live cursed lives, failure is met with grace. We give one another the time, space, support and teaching we need to change. If necessary, for their safety, husbands and wives should separate until both are ready to repent of sinful attitudes and behaviour and be willing and able to live in love.
The Bible uses family language to describe members of the local church. Older men are to be treated as fathers, older women as mothers, younger men and women are to treat one another as brothers and sisters. All are to treat one another with filial love and absolute purity, just as Jesus loves us. Women and men who are more mature in the faith and knowledge of Christ are to share responsibility for teaching the next generation to follow Christ as they do. Men and women who lead by example and teaching are called by different terms in the Bible. For simplicity we will call mature men ‘overseers’ and mature women ‘female elders’ though these terms are inadequate and need definition, which follows.
Overseers in the church family are to be worthy of respect, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, husband of one wife, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not lovers of money. Female elders are to have a peaceable spirit and be able to teach, not bullying or being manipulative. Overseers are to set an example and teach younger, less mature men and female elders are to do the same for younger, less mature women. A few recognised overseers are to order the affairs of the church and teach sound doctrine, avoiding division and heated conflict, with the goal of love. The female elders and overseers are to meet to discuss any issues in church family life, sharing perspective and wisdom. The overseers are then to shoulder responsibility for church order, bringing reconciliation and peace where sin has caused damage.
Women and men are essential to the healthy functioning of the church family. Women and men are to be encouraged, equipped and released into all kinds of ministry. Women and men are to be given positions of responsibility in accordance with their faith and gifting. Women and men are to be offered clear pathways to ministry, including training and theological education. Women and men are to receive equal financial reward in paid ministry for similar roles.
Living as Men and Women in the Church of England
The Church of England is an episcopal church, governed by synods and led by bishops. As a living local church, we hold that both men and women can have positions on councils and synods, as well as serving in all kinds of ministries. The role of bishop and vicar correspond to the role of overseer in the church family and, therefore, they should be mature men who serve the church family in sacrificial love, as set out above, shouldering responsibility for the lawful and pastoral oversight of church family life. Female elders are to relate to both the vicar and bishop as to overseers as set out above, with mutual love, openness and honesty. We believe that this pattern is woven into created order and, as the church is God’s means of grace for the restoration of the whole of the cosmos, the same pattern is to be modelled in the church. This is a matter of wisdom not ethics or morality.
We want an atmosphere where there is space for failure. Men will, sadly, sometimes dominate or abdicate. Women will sometimes try to take responsibility away from men where men should be stepping up. We are a community of grace, which meets failure with gentle challenge, accepting individual responsibility for sin, not blaming others but forgiving as the Lord forgives us and seeking transformation for the glory of God. We do all this in the context of a church that clearly teaches and applies the truth of God’s word. So, come to Jesus. Be confident as men and women, made in the image of God. Serve him in accordance with your faith. Be humble, open and honest before Jesus, your redeemer and Lord. Join his church family!
This page will be reviewed and updated as we continue to learn and grow in the knowledge and love of God.