Headship theology

As an ordained Anglican, I am under so much headship that I feel top-heavy. I am married, so I am under my husband’s headship; I am ordained, so I am under my bishop’s headship; I am a Christian, so I am under Christ’s headship. I need the long hair and the cap just to steady the load!

Why am I willing to do this? It is the way Christ called us to follow, so I do it, even if the world doesn’t like it, thinks I’m crazy, and calls me oppressed. It is the way of humility, and we cannot reach God through pride, so it is the way I must go. It is a relief to be able to bow with grace in this, to know that I am loved and protected, to know that my efforts in family and Church are appreciated and useful.

Authority is natural; it derives from our relationship to God, and our right relationships to each other. Proper authority, granted by God and taught us in scripture, leads to right relationship. Right relationship is a relationship of mutual respect, mutual love, and mutual self-sacrifice. Authority is not abusive or manipulative. It is an attitude of openness that comes from respect and trust.

Abuse in the form of authority is always destructive. Its end does not justify its means. Our only goal is the love of God, and the hope of salvation, the on-going creation and the promise of redemption. Headship authority sometimes is used to hide sin; this is so perverted as to be satanic. There is no redemption, no salvation, no act of creation in abuse and pride.

One of the most puzzling aspects of headship theology is its hierarchy, until we acknowledge that Jesus is Lord; Caesar (the world) is not. (A phrase from Bishop N.T. Wright; see his Surprised by Hope.) We are all under His headship, husbands and bishops included, and if they act without Him, then they have violated His headship as well as their own. All action, all relationship, must be seen in the context of the gospel light of Christ.

Because the two become one flesh in marriage, my headship under my husband supersedes¬†that of my bishop. If my husband’s authority is reasonable and supportable in Christ, then his authority will prevail with me if it opposes the headship of the bishop. Has this happened? Yes, and to this day remains unresolved. The relationship is still not healed; my husband, too, is under the bishop’s authority as a priest, but again, Christ’s headship supersedes any earthly authority. Anglicans believe that only God is infallible; all men will fail in perfect knowledge. Bishops therefore may be disobeyed if their orders are not supported by tradition, reason and scripture. (This is reverse order of authority. Scripture comes first, reason next, and tradition last. Tradition can never take precedence over scripture, and we acknowledge that reason may be man’s wisdom but not God’s. Scripture is therefore of the greatest authority.) However, the disobedience may lead to discipline, and that is under due authority even if the bishop is wrong.

This is but a brief sketch for those looking for some basis to what I do. It could be a full book at some point, if I should ever have the time and anyone was interested.

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2 thoughts on “Headship theology

    • Thank you! It is a more complex issue than what I have outlined, and this is meant for people such as yourself who are already familiar with the scriptural references. I may be moved to expand this later.

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