So, here is the next stage of my thinking out loud.
My gender isn’t something I can chop and change. Who I am in terms of role is firmly tied to who I am physically. I am male.
1. This means that in the home I will fulfill the function of husband. Equality doesn’ change that. It means my wife and I are equal but our roles are not interchangeable. I am always the husband, she is always the wife. However, as I argued in Marriage at Work, the husband is not hierarchically over his wife in a command and control position ordering her about, he is to sacrificially love her. Also, narrow stereotyped roles based on a limited period in history should not be confused with biblical and historical roles such as the wife in Proverbs who is business woman.
2. I have argued in Male and Female Leadership and Teaching roles that Biblically, eldership is a male role. Partly this is about roles in the church as the wider and public family/household being rooted in, reflecting and not undermining the roles in the family. This is important because the marriage roles in the family are designed to reflect and image Christ’s relationship to the church. If marriage roles are not interchangeable then I think this has implications for other wider “family” roles too. I appreciate that this will be controversial, in fact this is an example of where for some, an issue is not yet controversial, for others it is now a potentially contentious subject and for others still, the issue was contentious but is now long settled. Indeed, it also shows that we shouldn’t assume that when something becomes controversial that the correct solution is necessary a move away from the previous consensus. It also means that the important thing here is to keep seeking together to find out what Scripture says and to do this in a spirit of love and unity even if we don’t all agree on everything.
3. Leadership is not about hierarchy but a gift to serve the church. Elders fulfil the function not in isolation from the church and from other leaders but with them, just as husbands do not fulfil their role in isolation from their wives. As I note in the paper on leadership roles, there is a wider leadership in Gospel work including deacons which is both male and female.
4. This means that if elders are a gift to the church in order to serve it with God’s word so it is built up into unity so that they shouldn’t be imposing their own ideas top down but rather that the church is equippd and all gifts including insight and discernment from all members including male and female, old and young, rich and poor are employed and heard so the church will conform to God’s will and glorify Christ.
5. I think it is important to keep coming back to the point that the paradigm is family life here. As churches grow, then leadership and membership become institutionalised. It is said that leadership often takes on the feel of country club model. This is wrong but when change comes it is often towards an equally wrong paradigm of “Business” whee leaders are seen as senior management, elders as directors and pastors as CEOs. I am not sure we will get over al controversies and disagreements but it will certainly help to think more in terms of family than club or business.