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The Doctrine of Male Headship — Why Everyone Should Have One

By John Richardson, The Ugley Vicar

“Paul assumes, as do most cultures, that there are significant differences between men and women, differences that go far beyond mere biological and reproductive function. Their relations and roles must therefore be mutually complementary, rather than identical. [...] And within marriage, the guideline is clear. The husband is to take the lead – though he is to do so fully minded of the self-sacrificial model which the Messiah has provided. As soon as ‘taking the lead’becomes bullying or arrogant, the whole thing collapses.”

So writes N T Wright in the section of Paul for Everyone dealing with the letter to the Ephesians.
The reason I quote this is because some of the comments on this blog recently seem to assume that the world divides into two sorts of Christian: those who believe in ‘male headship’ and who are opposed to the ordination of women, and those who support the ordination of women who do not believe in ‘male headship’. What Wright’s remarks about Ephesians show, however, is that this is too simplistic – that in fact there are Christians, like himself, who passionately believe in women’s ordination (and consecration) and who also have a doctrine of ‘male headship’ which has practical consequences in the ‘here and now’.
And this is surely as it should be. The language of ‘headship’, after all, is derived from the epistles — specifically from 1 Corinthians 11 and Ephesians 5. Properly speaking, then, every Christian should have a ‘doctrine’ related to these passages — which is to say a ‘doctrine of male headship’.
The question is not, therefore, whether one believes in male headship, but what one’s doctrine of male headship actually entails.
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