... we do so, or should do so with due care and humility. Thus, for instance, our orders of ministry (bishop, priest, deacon) we understand to be consistent with Scripture but not required by Scripture (and thus we acknowledge the valid claims of, say, Presbyterians to assert that their ministry orders are also consistent with Scripture). We follow the practice of baptizing the infants of believers because we understand this to be consistent with Scripture, an ancient practice of the church, and a sacramental action justified by theological argument of the Reformers. But we are not so silly as to assert that we are commanded directly and unequivocably in Scripture to so baptize.
Thus when we examine the question of 'headship', taken up in some comments below on my post A Successful Model of Ministry, particularly as Anglicans, we might ask careful questions of Scripture as to whether the principle of male headship is a principle required by Scripture or simply consistent with Scripture.
Here are some Scriptural facts which the principle of male headship as an organising principle for church life seems to overlook:
(1) In 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 the argument Paul weaves with reflections on God/Christ, Christ/man, man/woman leads to this conclusion, "Judge not for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? (11:13-15, ESV). Nothing is said here about leadership in the church, nor about women not preaching/teaching to a mixed gender congregation (indeed, it is presupposed in 11:5 that women will be praying and prophesying in mixed gender congregations). Further, as a matter of experience, the specific practice Paul urges here, women having covered heads and long hair, is not followed in most Anglican churches today, including most Anglican churches asserting the principle of male headship.
(2) In 1 Timothy 2:1-15 nothing is said about male headship in church or in the home.
(3) In Ephesians 5:21-33 it is clearly stated that 'the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church' (v. 23 ESV), but nothing in this passage (or its near equivalent in Colossians 3:18-19) mentions male headship in congregational life. In both Ephesians 5:23 and Colossians 1:18 the clear, direct, unequivocal statement about the 'head' of the church is that Christ is the head of the church.
That the combination of texts cited in (1) - (3) above is consistent with the principle of male headship as an organising principle for congregational life is not in doubt. But it is simply not the case that this principle is required by Scripture in general, or these passages in particular. Let's state this another way: nowhere in Paul's letters, and certainly not in 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy or Titus, is there a sustained theological argument aimed towards the singular conclusion that human heads of congregations must be male.
Further, it is exceedingly strange that the one thing these passages push very close to requiring* in respect of church life, the covering of the heads of women and that their hair be long (and men's hair be short) in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, is not required in many of the churches of God these days. Actually I know no Anglican congregations where this is required. (*I say 'push very close to requiring' because Paul himself in 1 Corinthians 11:16 seems to hold back from saying 'this must happen'). On what basis is this clear outcome of the passage minimised and the unclear deduction of the principle of male headship maximised?
(As an aside, it is worth noting that in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 Paul mounts a powerful theological argument for a custom in respect of clothing and hair length, which most of us feel free to ignore in a time and place which is different to first century Corinth, but in 1 Timothy 2:12-15, when evangelicals raise the question whether the ruling drawn from this passage (Woman may not teach or rule men) applies beyond the particularities of ancient Ephesus, evangelicals adhering to the principle of male headship insist that Paul's supporting theological argument (i.e. 1 Timothy 2:13-14) means we cannot ignore the ruling!?)
Back to the principle of male headship as an organising principle for congregational life: it may be claimed as a principle which is consistent with Scripture; it may not be claimed as a principle required by Scripture.
Finally there is this consideration: as the principle of male headship is being applied in Anglican churches we are finding these developments in practice. (1) An absolute law that no woman may ever or in any circumstance teach or lead a mixed gender congregation. (That is, the application of the principle is not (say) 'Ideally congregations would be led and taught by men, but we acknowledge that in practice it is hard to achieve this in all congregations on all Sundays of all years'. No, it is an absolute prohibition.) (2) A response to our time in which women are being educated theologically and upskilled practically in the arts of teaching and leadership whereby women's conventions are being organised at which the best of women speakers speak to women. Ironically this means that there are women speakers emerging with well recognised gifts of teaching and leadership, including the ability not present in all teachers, of holding a large audience, yet whose gifts are not transferred into mixed gender congregations.
The simple question to ask of Scripture is this: if the principle of male headship is not required of Scripture, on what other basis may we understand 'I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man' to be an absolute ruling governing the life of the church in every time, place, circumstance and culture. Is it conceivable that Paul the affirmer of Phoebe, Prisca, Euodia, Syntyche and Junia, as well as the acknowledger of women praying and prophesying audibly in congregational worship, intended his ruling in 1 Timothy 2:12 to mean that an able female teacher of Scripture in the twenty-first century - so able, for instance, that she can speak profitably to hundreds of women at a convention or can write down her teaching clearly and convincingly in pamphlets or books accessible to men and women - could never, ever teach a mixed gender congregation?
I will only permit comments arguing against this post from members of churches where women have long hair covered when they worship :).