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© Rosemary Bardsley 2017

Reduced to its practical implications and application in roles and functions in a local Church, the Christological model can be summarized as follows:


In terms of Christ modelling submission:

[1] There is a structure within the Trinity in which the Father is the head of the Son and the Son submits to the Father. Paul refers to this Father/Son role structure as analogous to the man/woman role structure [1Corinthians 11:3].

[2] This Christological analogy thus very strongly affirms male headship of the Church.

[3] The Son’s willing submission to the Father models the role and function of women in the Church. As such it glorifies ‘submission’. It robs it of all negative connotations.

[4] However, the Christological analogy, by the Father’s delegation of authority to the Son, also affirms the inclusion of women in all the roles and functions of the Church, excepting only the position(s) of the ‘head’.


In terms of Christ modelling headship:

[5] The New Testament presents Jesus Christ as the ‘head’ of the Church. [Paul uses the Christ/church relationship as an analogy of the man/woman (husband/wife) relationship in Ephesians 5:22ff].

[6] As the ‘head’ Christ demonstrates that headship includes the three synergistic and interdependent aspects of source, authority and representation.

[7] Not one of these exists or operates apart from the other, and each involved Christ in intense self-denial. This indicates a very heavy and sometimes painful burden on the (male) head of the local Church.


The obvious difficulties with the Christological model:

While it is relatively easy to understand the implications of Christ’s modelling of both submission and headship, there are difficulties in the practical application of this model to male/female roles and functions in a local Church.

[8] There is perfect trust between the Father and the Son. Men and women in the Church do not trust each other perfectly.

[9] Both Christ’s submission and his headship are perfect. Neither woman’s submission nor man’s headship is perfect.

[10] Both of the above mean that there will be failures and frustrations in any application of the Christological model to Church governance and practice.

The existence of these practical difficulties does not invalidate the Christological model. Paul used the Christological analogy knowing full well that the practical application of that analogy would fail to fully replicate the Christological model. The analogy instructs us; it models both submission and headship; it shows us what real submission looks like; it shows us what real headship looks like. It does not guarantee that our application of the model, our attempts to emulate Christ both in submission and in headship, will succeed.

But as the Church, corporately and individually, focuses on Christ, the Spirit who indwells both the Church corporately and the believer individually, will do his transformational work of changing us so that we, both in our individual lives and together in the Church, will increasingly look like Jesus [2Corinthians 3:18].

With this hope, with this assurance of the Spirit’s work, we can implement the Christological model of both submission and headship. One question ought to be quite clear: How can we humans be offended by a role structure when such a role structure is obviously embedded in the very nature of God? The offence ought not to be because of the existence of such a structure, but because of the way that structure is expressed by humans, including Christian humans. Our goal ought not to be to do away with male/female role distinctives but to emulate the way role distinctives [both perfect headship and perfect submission] are revealed and exemplified in Jesus Christ.