There is one practical matter that needs a little attention.
The New Testament lays out the qualifications of pastors. This is the moral and spiritual leader, the preacher and ceremonial guide we associate with priesthood. This is the “hired gun” of the congregation. The Bible staunchly requires it be a male, and it traces this back to Eden and the particular kind of mistakes made. Adam the male knew better, but Eve as female was genuinely confused about the moral implications. This is made clear in the New Testament; male and female are not interchangeable in God’s eyes.
There are qualifications laid out for deacons, as well, and here the New Testament plainly adds the term “deaconess” because women are qualified for that. It’s any number of responsible congregational “sergeants” who get things done.
Nowhere does the Scripture say much about New Testament elders. That’s because their position was long established under the ancient feudal traditions of king, chieftain and head of household. In a modern context, we believe the heart-led way suggests that an elder is anyone people will follow in the first place. It’s not a question of ambition, but someone who discovers an unquestionable drive to do what’s right coupled with a powerful sense of care and compassion for others. It’s inevitably someone older and experienced. It’s an organic function of human existence.
In that sense, both pastor and elder are divine callings, shepherds serving under Christ. But can a woman be an elder? Of course she can; if people naturally flock to her moral and practical leadership in keeping things together and moving forward, then she is an elder by definition. Given what we have seen in human history, it is admittedly unusual for a woman to serve as elder, but certainly not impossible and not forbidden.
And sometimes it’s just a smart move for a male elder to call upon a strong female figure in the congregation to complement his role. In the ANE world, every extended family household had at least one elder female to whom every other woman in the household could turn for leadership. And any wise female figure knows the value of strong male leadership, so there should be no significant conflict here. The issue is whom the people will respect and follow. There is no quintessential personality traits or other qualifications. The ancients had this all worked out by tradition, and it’s something we need to recover from the ruins, because the modern American approach is not working.
For the time being, this author serves in an apostolic role. It’s not a question of wearing the title; it’s the net effect of people choosing to follow my lead. I’m happy to offer guidance, but I’m am loath to assert authority. The most I can do right now is decide who gets to use the name for what we do. Given the current legal and political atmosphere in the US, I’m not willing to register this thing as an official Christian denomination with all the regulatory burdens that come with a tax-exempt status. This will remain an informal and private association. What God has called into being, He will prosper.
There is truly nothing we can do to prevent this thing going completely off the tracks. It’s always possible that the people will follow a charismatic fraud, so that an elder or pastor arises who will turn it into a cult. And given time across multiple generations, there is a high probability this religion will become just another institutionalized set of restrictions that make a god of something far lesser than Christ. What we can do is establish a body of precedent that points back to the heart-led way, in which every individual must voluntarily and consciously choose to be a part of something bigger than any one person. We choose today to set the precedent that our words are subject to revision by future generations of believers who need a different narrative to call their hearts. There has to be room for someone someday to rewrite this covenant, and we have to trust God to keep the heart-led way alive.
If it doesn’t work that way, we are all barking up the wrong tree in the first place.