An Amish Couple Discuss the Role of Women (Audio)

“I believe God made us equal. But with that said, I believe there is a headship order also.”

In this brief audio interview (~3 min) Amish couple Ivan and Ruth Chupp of Burr Oak, Michigan discuss the roles of women and men in the Amish church.

Ivan starts by describing Amish beliefs on headship and the woman’s role in church, with Ruth adding some comments at the end.

“We also believe that Paul teaches that the women should be silent in church, and we take that literally,” says Ivan. “So she would not have…a teaching role in church.”

You don’t hear women’s and men’s roles described in these terms much in modern society. But the Amish are guided by a strict Scriptural reading as this interview illustrates.

Ivan reads from Ephesians 5 to discuss the idea of submission: Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of the Lord (v. 21). As Ivan explains it: “that means with respect. I’ll submit to hear, she’ll submit to me, it’s a mutual thing.”

Ivan then elaborates on the headship order and what “submitting” means here, before passing the baton to his wife (“Express yourself Ruth, I’m talking for you”).

Ruth shares how things look in practice: “There’s decisions to be made in the house or with children sometimes…none of us aim to make a huge decision without talking to each other.”

“Sometimes he’ll say well we’ll do it the way you thought this time, and then see if it works, or next time we’ll do it how he – sometimes you don’t know which way he should go, especially with children.”

“You kind of know what he would decide, by working together for 25 years already, you start to think the same.”

This short conversation gives an idea of how the dynamic between men and women in Amish society is supposed to work. Of course things can differ in practice with individual couples.

Ruth’s final line above, at least, doesn’t strike me as too different from how well-functioning “modern” couples work together.

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    1. Equal Stature, Different Roles

      All players on a football team are equal. All employees in a company are equal.

      However, there are different roles required. Different skills required.

      A marriage requires teamwork.

      Sure, I can cook; pretty well in fact. I can also do my own laundry and take care of myself in other ways. It’s because my mother taught me how to be self-sufficient at a young age.

      My wife can do many of the things I can do outside also. There are a few things that require extra strength and more experience along the lines of what I have. It’s tough for her to wield a 28″ chainsaw which also makes it a bit dangerous.

      At the same time, I don’t really have the patience for things like sewing or changing diapers or dealing with the bulk of our kids’ homeschooling needs.

      Overall, we are a team. We decide who will do what and, more importantly, help each other out wherever we can.

      Also, when we both disagree on something but a decision MUST be made, we have agreed that we will go with what I decide. Not because I am better or worse but because God is holding me accountable and responsible for the safety and welfare of this family.

      If I make the wrong decision, then I have to deal with those consequences, etc.

      It’s not a win-lose situation between spouses. It should be a win-win to the glory of God.

    2. Harriet

      Well said

      ‘Very well said, Daniel. I couldn’t agree with you more.

    3. Headship ORDER is a good way to describe it.

      I love the term Headship order. I as a woman need a man to protect me and my family. That is the way it is for me as a Catholic Family. I Truly cannot imagine my life without having this male protector around. There are so many times I need someone stronger and braver to do the things in life that I as a woman would find more difficult to do.

      1. Is true in the animal world

        Watch a flock of geese or chickens. The male is always watching the females and surroundings. He protects. She raises the offspring. Is true with humans (or should be). Possibly, if English families did without so much “stuff”, they too could live without so much stress from money & time.

    4. M.H.G.

      Amish Couple discuss the Role of Women

      The Headship order is a representation of God…
      IN the Bible there were Women who were used mighty by God…
      SICH as Deborah the Prophetess of the O.T. & Ruth & Naomi..
      IN the N.T. The Mother Mary (Acts) Day of Pentecost..
      Anna the Prophetess.. Phoebe & Martha and Lydia +
      Dorcas (Apostle Paul trusted her)etc…

    5. AJ

      What are these Amish in Fort Convington, NY?

      They look Swartzentruber, but the buggy doesn’t

    6. Judith

      A Big Turnoff

      It was nice to hear the idea of partnership, communication and decision-making together! They seem to be happy with the way things are and that is all that matters.

      However, I could not be in a marriage where the man always has the last word, nor where I always have the last word on any given issue. The idea that women must submit (and that word is used a lot) to their husbands – not only makes me uneasy of an imbalance in the relationship, it does seem it can have a ring of abuse to it. I wonder how many Amish men take that word very literally and lord over their wives. I remember that account of the Amish woman in the documentary The Amish (PBS) where her husband took that word “submit” to a horrible extreme and when she reported domestic abuse to the Ministers they replied “What did you do to make your husband treat you like that?”. It sickened her – and me too just hearing that.

      Lancaster Online did a 5 part series on the abuse some women endure in silence and without support of any kind (all because of that word – submit) and it is as heart wrenching as can be. There are no statistics on domestic abuse among the Amish/Mennonite women – but some say it’s the same, if not more than the general population, which is too much. After reading that – I think all this talk about submitting leads to a culture of silence, horrific suffering and shame and blame on the women in the relationships. I wonder if that word leads men to think they have carte blanche more often than in the non-Amish world.

      Using the word submit as a metaphor for Christ is one thing – but lording that word over women with abuse is another.

      The couple in the interview seem to be mostly in balance and happy, and that may be for the majority of Amish men and women. I hope so. But I hope that the ministers and bishops of the Amish now have found a different way to approach domestic abuse than to automatically blame the wife/victim of these crimes.

      What it comes down to is submitting to God and Christ by living a Christian life with their partner. And like the couple interviewed, with respect to each other, communication in decision making and with the Holy Spirit guiding both the husband and wife.

      Here is the first part of that series…

    7. AJ

      New Amish population study was released.