Byline: David Wilkes
WITH Valentine's Day approaching, parishioners might have expected a more heartwarming message.
Instead, they got a sermon urging women to 'submit' to their husbands.
The apparent lack of obedience of 'modern women' was blamed for the high divorce rate.
In a sermon entitled 'Marriage and Women' last Sunday, curate Mark Oden, told the congregation at St Nicholas Church in Sevenoaks, Kent: 'We know marriage is not working.
'We only need to look at figures - one in four children have divorced parents. Wives, submit to your own husbands.' It is understood that some women parishioners - and even their husbands - have vowed never to attend the church again.
Its vicar is Angus MacLeay, 50, a married Scots father of two who is a leading member of the evangelical group Reform, which is opposed to the appointment of women clergy.
The group has produced a leaflet, called 'The Role of Women in the Local Church', which uses Biblical quotes to urge them to 'remain silent' and tells them that 'wives are to submit to their husbands in everything'.
One woman churchgoer said she was 'disgusted' by the sermon, adding: 'How can they talk that way in the 21st century?'
Another said: 'We're supposed to let our husbands talk for us and remain silent? What kind of medieval sermon is that?' Mr Oden, a married father of three, is reported to have said: 'I am passionate about helping people to have healthy marriages. I did not set out to unnecessarily offend people, but I stand by what God has said in His word, the Bible.' Yesterday, Mr MacLeay, who sometimes wears a kilt to church, said: 'There are times when the Bible challenges modern society. It recognises that women are fully equal to men, but it also recognises that in certain areas of life they may have different roles. Of course, in marriage, our main concern, it is the responsibility of husbands to show consideration and love for their wives. …