Wedding2point0: Updating "Obey" in the Marriage Service Ceremony

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Updating "OBEY" in the Marriage Service Ceremony
Most modern services omit this outmoded interpretation. I started wondering when the change happened, and if it was just modernization of the concept of women as property, or how the idea of changing the actual vow happened.

I found it interesting that the Church of England (Anglican, the same as Episcopal) actually outlawed this part of the service in 2006. See link below. Since the English words we all know come from the Church of England in the Reformation (which Henry VIII created to get his divorce from Katherine), the Brits have been thinking about it this topic for a while, as they created it originally. So here is another Brit discussion about changing the Tudor era service that I found interesting: (source below)

"....The origins of the word obey can be traced back to the Latin dictionary and means "to listen deeply," while the Oxford dictionary defines it as to "do what one is told." But what does it really mean when included in the marriage vows? The Book of Common Prayer was approved by Henry VIII. Henry's approval must raise some doubt about the integrity of the marriage vows as more than anyone in history he is infamous for flouting his vows.

"...Biblical references to the implications of marriage vows are also ambiguous. Paul, in a letter to the church in Ephesus, directed that it was necessary for "wives to submit to their husbands as to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:22). But while this sounds very much like typical male domination he also instructed everyone, male and female to "submit to one another," which suggests a distinctly modern view of an equal partnership.

"....The problem is that today we equate obedience with power and domination. But in the Bible submission or obedience is more about outlooks than individual rights. It is a desire to be unselfish and not to demand our own way and does not infer that once married a woman becomes a second-class citizen who relinquishes all of her rights. Equally, it certainly does not give a husband the right to demand that whatever he says goes. Rather it suggests a desire to accept the other's wishes not out of subjection but willingly, because of love...."

Thus, the Brits have now officially omitted the word obey. And the Catholics, the original source of Henry's Latin ceremony, no longer use "obey". They say "to love and to cherish". And most modern churches never use this old form.

If we know that there is no real reason for this outmoded vow, because both original sources, the medieval Anglican and Catholic churches - have dumped it, there is no reason to include it. The usual thing is to just omit the word, or if you wish, change the language so that each person promises to "listen deeply".

If we all 'listened deeply', maybe we would solve our own problems, as well as the world's. As Helen Keller said: "I do not want the peace which passeth understanding, I want the understanding which bringeth peace".

See Modern Marriage vows, for some alternative wedding vows which emphasize equality and mutual respect.


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