Deaconesses in the PCA?

Posted by Bob Mattes

Seems I’m like the last to know almost anything. I found this overture while checking the latest docket for the upcoming 36th PCA General Assembly. I was a bit taken back. Upon further research, I found this post and thread over at BaylyBlog, to which this one has been added. That the Bayly’s would raise the alarm is no surprise as creeping feminism in the church is their main issue lately. However, some of the comments under the first post seem pretty defensive of the idea of women deacons. Ouch.

First, Garver took me to task for calling these people women deacons. He said:

The RPCES did not have “female deacons” – it had “deaconesses.” Deaconesses were the non-ordained counterpart and assistants to the male ordained deacons. Nonetheless, they were installed and commissioned using questions analogous to those asked of deacons and set apart by prayer.

Uh, that’s what I’d call a distinction without a difference. If it looks like, smells like, walks like, and is installed like a duck, it’s a duck, eh? But I have no problem calling them deaconesses as long as everyone understands that “deaconesses” and “women deacons” are equivalent in real-world language. More on why later.

I challenged the whole idea of women deacons in the comments on Baylyblog from the clearly written 1 Tim 3:8-13. In rebuttal (I suppose), pduggie quoted from the Tenth Presbyterian Church’s Qualifications of Deacons (pdf file). I encourage you to read the section about deaconesses starting on Page 6 before continuing here.

Now I have to say that I hold the late Dr. Jim Boice in the highest regard. Until today, I held his successor, Dr. Phil Ryken, in similar regard. Now my confidence in the latter stands shaken, as his name appears as the author of that document on deacons which takes a view of women deacons contrary to what I believe are the plain teachings of Scripture and the BCO. I want to make it clear that I’m not trying to start a war with Dr. Ryken or Philadelphia Presbytery, but simply wish to provide another look at Scripture and the PCA Book of Church Order in light of Overture 9.

What’s all the fuss about? Well, 1 Tim 3:8-12 (KJV) says:

8 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; 9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. 10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. 11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. 12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

Even the casual observer will see serious Biblical issues with women deacons even in the English translation. As you can see in verse 11, there are qualifications for their wives, and in verse 12 they must only have one wife. That would be a tough barrier for female deacons, doncha think? Let’s look at the Greek.

In verses 11, γυναικας is translated as “Wives,” as it is 92 other times in the KJV. It can also mean “women,” and the local meaning is taken from context. The context here is provided in verse 12 where the same word is used, which again parallels verse 2 for elders. Seems clear and straightforward. But not necessarily for Dr. Ryken:

The strongest reason for thinking that these women were deaconesses is the way they are introduced. Both verse 8 and verse 11 contain the word likewise (hosautos), which sounds like it introduces a new office.

First, ωσαυτως (hosautos) is used a number of times in the New Testament. Our Lord was rather fond of it. From Strong’s:

5615 ὡσαύτως [hosautos /ho·sow·toce/] adv. From 5613 and an adverb from 846; GK 6058; 17 occurrences; AV translates as “likewise” 13 times, “in like manner” twice, “even so” once, and “after the same manner” once. 1 in like manner, likewise.

From the Complete Word Study Dictionary, New Testament:

5615. ὡσαύτως hōsaútōs; adv. from hōs (5613), as, and aútōs (846), likewise, the same. In the same or like manner, likewise (Matt. 20:5; 21:30, 36; 25:17; Mark 12:21; 14:31; Luke 13:3; 20:31; 22:20; Rom. 8:26; 1 Cor. 11:25; 1 Tim. 2:9; 3:8, 11; 5:25; Titus 2:3, 6; Sept.: Deut. 12:22; Judg. 8:8).
Syn.: hoútō, before a consonant, or hoútōs (3779) before a vowel, thus, in this manner; hó̄sper (5618), exactly like; homoíōs (3668), in like manner; kaí (2532), and, even, also, likewise; paraplēsíōs (3898), similarly, in a similar manner.
Ant.: állōs (247), differently; hetérōs (2088), differently, otherwise, taking into account the difference between állos (243), another of the same kind, and héteros (2087), another of a different kind. (Zodhiates, S. (2000, c1992, c1993). The complete word study dictionary : New Testament (electronic ed.) (G5615). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.)

The word does not introduce new topics or ideas, but rather makes a point by referring back to and drawing a parallel with an antecedent phrase or point. Check out the Scripture references for yourself. A good example is Mt 21:36 (KJV):

35 And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise.

I think that you get the point. No new topic or office was introduced in Mt 21:36 or 1 Tim 3:11. Paul was simply saying that just as the men who would be deacons must be exemplary in their conduct, so must their wives. Just as in verse 8, Paul is simply saying the the qualifications for the office of deacon are similar to those for elder. With all due respect to Dr. Ryken, he’s stretching pretty far on this point.

We can even go back to the word used for ‘Deacons’ in verses 8, 10, and 12. The Greek in those verses, Διακονους, is plural masculine. The adjectives used to describe deacons are also in masculine form. Clearly only men are in view. That’s consistent with verse 11 and the reference to their wives. While the introduction of the idea that verse 11 refers to a new class of women deacons rather than deacons’ wives introduces a number of linguistic and theological problems and violates the flow of the passage, while using the plain meaning of the verse referring to deacons’ wives is perfectly consistent within the local and global contexts.

Given the clarity of 1 Tim 3:8-12’s clear teaching against women deacons, the rest of Dr. Ryken’s related points in his paper either fall apart or become irrelevant. His conclusion on this passage:

We are left with a puzzle. By itself, 1 Timothy 3:11 is not sufficient prove that women should serve as deaconesses.

With all due respect, there’s no puzzle. A straightforward reading of the Greek makes it clear that deacons are limited to men. Rather than not being “sufficient” in favor of women deacons, verse 11 definitively proves that women should NOT serve as deaconesses. Dr. Ryken concludes his section on women deacons:

The practice of the Presbyterian Church in America may come close to what the Bible teaches. Only men are ordained to the office of deacon. The elders are encouraged to “select and appoint godly men and women of the congregation to assist the deacons in caring for the sick, the widows, the orphans, the prisoners, and others who may be in any distress or need.” The church permits congregations to commission women to the ministry of deaconess. At places like Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, deaconesses carry out service identical to that of the deacons. Apart from ordination, the only difference between them is that some diaconal needs call for uniquely masculine or feminine ministry. [My bold]

Again with respect, I cannot find a single place in the BCO that backs up the bolded section above. Clearly Tenth Pres must, since they are using women deacons now. Wow.

The 10th Pres paper refers to Romans 16:1:

To summarize: New Testament women carried out diaconal ministry. One, at least, was called a “deaconess.”

So what about Romans 16:1?

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae,

The word for servant there, διακονον, is the feminine form of the word, and in context is best and correctly translated as ‘servant,’ as it is 8 times in the KJV, compared with deacon only 3 times and never “deaconess.” On this subject, the Complete Word Study Dictionary, New Testament, says:

The only possible reference to a woman as a deacon is Rom. 16:1, 2, although the word diákonon may just as well be translated “servant.” In this regard we must note that the story of the early church significantly begins with the inclusion of women in the apostolic meetings for prayer (Acts 1:14). Their presence and activity are clearly illustrated by the references to Tabitha (Acts 9:36), Mary the mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12), Lydia (Acts 16:14), Damaris (Acts 17:34), and Priscilla (Acts 18:2). The story of Sapphira (Acts 5:7f.) implies the comparatively independent membership and responsibility of women within the Christian community. Priscilla illustrates their active evangelism (Acts 18:26). Attention is expressly called to the “multitudes” of women converts added to the church (Acts 5:14). In Phil. 4:2, 3 Euodias and Syntyche (both women) are spoken of as fellow laborers of the Apostle Paul, and in 1 Cor. 1:11 Chloe is mentioned as having reported to Paul the condition of the church at Corinth. In Rom. 16:1–3, 6, 12, 13, 15 we have numerous salutations to women. Nevertheless, aside from the normal and expected involvement of women in a wide range of church activities and auxiliary ministries, they are never found to be holding ordained offices or engaging in the work of those positions. (Zodhiates, S. (2000, c1992, c1993). The Complete Word Study Dictionary : New Testament (electronic ed.) (G1249). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.)

That’s a pretty thorough survey and directly opposes Dr. Ryken’s point in his paper. So, although women were very active in the church, as they should be today, they neither held ordained offices or formally engaged in the work of those offices. This is perfectly consistent with BCO 9-3:

To the office of deacon, which is spiritual in nature, shall be chosen men of spiritual character, honest repute, exemplary lives, brotherly spirit, warm sympathies, and sound judgment. [my bold]

I’ll close this portion by observing that in Acts 6 where deacons are first appointed, only men are chosen for the office. Acts 6:3 (KJV) is quite explicit:

Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.

The tasking was to find “seven men,” not “seven people.” The underlying Greek is definitely masculine. Surely there were women fit to serve at that time, but they were excluded from the office. Seems to me that God was pretty clear on what He wanted. In writing BCO 9, the PCA was faithful to our Father’s explicit desires.

In light of all this, the Baylys have proposed a sort of “compromise.” They suggest:

If those pushing women deacons in the PCA were simply to call them “deaconesses” and make it clear that the implementation of the calling would be hedged about with clear lines of demarcation between deaconesses and deacons–all centered on the issue of reserving to men only the exercise of substantive authority over men–many of us would make common cause with them.

I think that separating the term “woman deacons” from “deaconesses” is a bad idea. First, it goes against common English word construction. Female lions are “lionesses,” female actors are “actresses,” eh? Such a break in English word construction simply sews confusion, which rarely serves the glory of God. Second, the PCA already has Women in the Church (WIC) which is all about actively involving women in service and the life of the church, and, amongst other things, fulfills the intent of BCO 9-7:

It is often expedient that the Session of a church should select and appoint godly men and women of the congregation to assist the deacons in caring for the sick, the widows, the orphans, the prisoners, and others who may be in any distress or need.

Note that the BCO says nothing in this paragraph about “commissioning” or ordaining or creating new parallel offices for anyone, again opposing Dr. Ryken’s assertion. That paragraph only says that all of us should be about the work of our Father. Indeed, I believe that WIC suffers from a lack of enthusiastic support from many Sessions and Presbyteries. Reviving support for WIC seems to be the orthodox approach to opening service opportunities for women in the PCA. That women should be active in service and the life of the church seems to be one of Dr. Ryken’s main concerns, and one with which I agree wholeheartedly. I simply believe that we already have mechanisms in harmony with the plain teaching of Scripture and the BCO to effect that end.

Evidence of the extent of the slide against Scripture and the BCO can be found at Liberti in Philadelphia Presbytery. From Steve Huber’s blog:

There is a lot going on with liberti with the leadership training, and being 2 months away from organizing as a church and ordaining our own elders, deacons, and deaconesses, home meetings going through different seasons, receiving people into covenant, gearing up with staff transitions and new office space, and generally gearing up for this coming year… Whew……… Please pray for your pastors, elders, staff and everyone in training. We are excited and also overwhelmed. [my bold]

That’s clear enough. And whatever other words they use, they did just that at their particularization service as the pictures here (images 12, 13, and 14) show. Of course, this was in full view and one must assume approval of the Presbytery commission overseeing the particularization. In doing so, I guess that they simply followed the lead of 10th Pres. Sometimes one has to wonder if the whole world has gone crazy.

To wrap up, I am absolutely in favor of women being active in service and the life of the church. As Dr. Zodhiates showed in his survey of the NT quoted earlier, women have been active since the beginning. On this Dr. Ryken and I agree. I further believe that WIC has been one underused means of encouraging women to be deeply involved in the life and work of the church. Unlike ordaining or “commissioning” women as deaconesses, which I have tried to show is in direct opposition to Scripture and the BCO, WIC glorifies God by honoring His Word.

Despite the length of this post and time taken to put it together, I don’t have any intention of diluting my work against the Federal Vision with this issue. Others have already taken up this battle. I simply wanted to review the applicable Scriptures and BCO sections, thereby encouraging the Overtures Committee and Committee on Constitutional Business to recommend an alternative motion to Overture 9, such motion to uphold the plain teaching of Scripture and the BCO, and that the 36th General Assembly approve such an alternative. May God grant us individually and collectively the wisdom and the strength.

Posted by Bob Mattes

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232 Comments

  1. February 23, 2008 at 1:59 am

    [...] in the PCA? I posted a piece on the subject topic over at GreenBagginses. Lane is on vacation so the mice are playing. The discussion should be [...]

  2. February 23, 2008 at 2:56 am

    I have a question for all you lurking church polity buffs: Is it not true that, in our historical practice as Reformed churches, deacons were not even considered an ordained office? I read that somewhere, but I don’t remember the source.

  3. February 23, 2008 at 2:59 am

    Jason,

    Hmmm. I never heard that before. I’ll look on the PCA Historical Site in the BCO commentaries. Might be something there.

  4. February 23, 2008 at 3:46 am

    Thanks, Bob. I’ll try to find the source as well.

  5. David Gray said,

    February 23, 2008 at 6:09 am

    Brother Mattes

    Good post. I wonder if it is too late for the PCA in this matter as people responsible for the denominational magazine “By Faith” have either promoted or winked at unsound teaching on these matters. It is not a good sign that they have penetrated the PCA bureaucracy in that fashion. I certainly hope it isn’t too late.

  6. J.R. Polk said,

    February 23, 2008 at 7:51 am

    I found this overture while checking the latest docket for the upcoming 36th PCA General Assembly. I was a bit taken back.

    I was a bit taken back as well when I saw what was on the agenda for presbytery a few weeks ago. I thought this particular topic would never come up again for the PCA. I was wrong and very surprised.

    When Dr. Ryken stood up to speak, and it was discovered by his own admission that 10th Pres. has commissioned deaconesses, you could cut the tension in the room with a knife. One TE stood up and wanted to know what makes 10th Pres. any different than liberty Church, which was the reason we were all there in the first place.

    We were told by the study committee that there are many presbyteries wrestling with this issue. I wouldn’t be surprised at this point if that were true. I figure if that is really the case, then something decisive and lasting needs to be done. WIth that in mind, I reluctantly voted to send the overature.

    I hope I’m not wrong, but I’m confident that a GA appointed study committee is not going to find in favor of ordaining deaconesses. “Commissioning,” IMO, is not an option either, which seems to be just an excuse to sneak women deacons through the back door, so to speak.

  7. Ron Henzel said,

    February 23, 2008 at 8:11 am

    Bob quotes Garver:

    The RPCES did not have “female deacons” – it had “deaconesses.”

    So then, the PCUSA does not have “female pastors”—it has “pastoresses?”

  8. David Gray said,

    February 23, 2008 at 8:17 am

    >So then, the PCUSA does not have “female pastors”—it has “pastoresses?”

    It has women posing as pastors.

  9. Andrew Duggan said,

    February 23, 2008 at 9:13 am

    Pardon the sarcasm, but maybe those who promote the idea of deaconesses are really just trying to make the following subtle point;

    In Acts 6:2, the apostles ordain deacons because it is not fit that they should leave the word to serve tables. Contemporary Presbyterian ordained deacons think women are better at the core function of being a deacon which is to serve tables. Since women can’t be ordained to a church office, they dedicate them to be deaconesses, and then send them to the kitchens as the official church scullery maids. Maybe it’s just a new way to get Presbyterian women to be happy with their correct place in the world, which is in kitchen and serving tables. That way the women can do all the work and the ordained men can take all the credit.

  10. Morgan Farmer said,

    February 23, 2008 at 9:30 am

    Andrew..I LIKE you. Funny funny on target post.

    Unfortunately for me (or my church (?) I am too busy to ‘serve tables’ or spend 3 meals a day in the kitchen!

  11. Mrs. T. said,

    February 23, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Thankfully, this won’t be a problem where I am (FPC Jackson), but then again, our WIC is held in extremely high regard and does several mountains’ worth of work daily. I’m fully content serving and doing my part on various committees, as I think most women here are. If women are given jobs that will match their natural gifts (teaching other women and children, prayer, helping the sick and new moms, taking care of bereaved families, taking care of the cosmetic upkeep of the church, etc.), then they won’t even have any reason to WANT to be official deacons.

    Unless they just want to stir the pot and rebel, that is.

  12. February 23, 2008 at 10:46 am

    Bob:
    The Southern Presbyterians had an extended debate on the diaconate, and I plan to start posting some of those articles soon on the PCA Historical Center’s web site. John L. Girardeau was a key player in that debate. I don’t know if the issue of deaconesses was part of that debate.

    Ron:

    On the Warfield List, David Reese, a TE in the RPCNA, provided the following list of possible options, which could explain why somebody might make the deacon/deaconesses distinction:

    “1. The one-office, two genders position. That is both men and woman can serve in the single office of “deacon”. This is the historic and current position of the RPCNA (we have never taken the supposedly “next” step…)”

    “2. The two-office position. That is men are deacons and women are deaconesses; two distinct offices (I think Warfield held this position…? Also the early Church’s position normally spoken of as the “office” or “order” of widows) Along with this there were guys like Thomas Goodwin who held that these offices were separate, but essentially the same.”

    “3. The two genders, two statuses position (Calvin’s). That is men serve in an ordained-office; women/widows serve in a non-ordained, ‘official’ position.”

    Note that it wasn’t Reese’s point here to include ALL the options on the office, and so he doesn’t include “4. Men only can hold the office of deacon.” He’s simply laying out differences on that side of the fence. Also, I can’t vouch for the accuracy of his claims for Calvin and Goodwin. Maybe someone else can clarify that.

  13. Tim Bayly said,

    February 23, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    “Creeping?” If so, then F-V hasn’t begun to crawl.

  14. February 23, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Jason, RE #3, 4,

    I couldn’t find anything in Wayne’s posting of the BCO’s historical development relative to your question. I’m not a church historian, so don’t really know where else to look. I must profess complete ignorance on that question. Wayne may have some ideas. His future posts from The Southern Presbyterians will perhaps shed some light on your question.

    I find myself going to Wayne’s work on the PCA Historical Center as an integral part of any research I do on the history of PCA issues. He continues to do an outstanding job in the service of our denomination. And he didn’t pay me to say that, either. :-)

  15. mary kathryn said,

    February 23, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    In addition to the RPCNA, the ARP also allows women as deacons in some fashion, I believe. Not many churches opt for it, but at some point it was allowed.

    While I agree that it would be nice if the men on the sessions supported the WIC more, and truly put their hearts into building up the work of the women in the church, they don’t. FPC Jackson is not typical, IMO (and I grew up there). Basically, the position of the PCA has been: “let’s allow the women to do all this work, but never give them any official designation or recognition for it.” IMO, the men of the church, if they want the designations of ordained office, need to be willing to do the work that goes with those offices. In church after church, I’ve found that they are not. They generally leave the work to the women, who for generations have done it well, without complaint, as unto the Lord. AND tolerated the “second-class-citizen” status. I think men in the church would take on a different tone, if they had to live for a while in the shoes of the women.

  16. February 23, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    Mary Kathryn,

    Welcome to GreenBagginses! Thank you for taking the time to comment.

    IMO, the men of the church, if they want the designations of ordained office, need to be willing to do the work that goes with those offices. In church after church, I’ve found that they are not.

    While this isn’t an issue in our church, I agree that it is a widespread issue in general. Leadership includes sacrifice in its very definition and execution. As part of our fallen nature, some like the title and trappings of authority, but eschew proper and diligent execution of its inherent responsibilities. I see this in the military all the time and know well that it’s a universal problem.

    I believe that the answer should be in mutual accountability within the Session and Diaconate, the Diaconate to the Session, and the Session to our Lord and Savior. While Presbyteries may be able to coordinate WIC activities across a region, it is in the individual churches where the rubber meets the road.

    Also, the women who are taking up the slack may be joyful that the Lord sees their work and will reward them in eternity for their faithful service.

  17. February 23, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    Does anyone know about the practice of deaconesses at Keller’s church in NYC? I’m assuming these are not ordained women deacons since that church is in the PCA, but they certainly seem to function as such as they are approved by the session and elected by the congregation.

  18. February 23, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    PS…on the website, they are listed right alongside the session and under the heading, “Elected Leaders.”

  19. February 23, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    A similar thing seems to be happening here as what we observe (and often condemn) in the Federal Vision.

    The proponents of women deacons, or deaconesses, or deaconettes (!), appear to be saying something like this, “We acknowledge the BCO’s definition of ‘deacon,’ and we’re not denying it, just expanding it.”

    Sounds like, “We acknowledge the WCF’s teaching on election, but we’re just expanding it.”

    Or to be more precise, both are effectually undoing the confessional definition by creating an alternate option (of election or of deaconess) that helps get around the specificity of the official definition.

    I often wonder if our responsibility to our confessions is merely to not deny them, or positively to affirm them. If the latter, then there seems to be dishonesty in both of these areas.

  20. R. F. White said,

    February 23, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    While I do not support the office of deaconness, I remember in my studies running across Warfield’s view, which he expressed here: B. B. Warfield, “Presbyterian-Deaconesses,” Presbyterian Review (May 26, 1890). Perhaps others of you have seen it too.

  21. February 23, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    JR, RE #6,

    Welcome to GreenBagginses! Sorry about the delay in your comment’s appearance here. It was caught in the moderation queue and I just found it.

    Thank you for the insight into Phila Presbytery’s discussion. I take it then that the Presbytery’s intent was to have the GA eventually rule against deaconesses? If so, I perhaps need to modify my post a bit.

  22. Steven Carr said,

    February 23, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    Mr. Mattes,

    J. Aspinwall Hodge has a good discussion on the historic views and practices of the Church in regards to the office of deacon here http://books.google.com/books?id=S8Y4AAAAMAAJ&pg=PA4&dq=intitle:What+intitle:is+intitle:Presbyterian+intitle:Law+intitle:as+intitle:Defined+intitle:by+intitle:the+intitle:Church+intitle:Courts&lr=lang_en&as_brr=0#PPA60,M1

  23. J.R. Polk said,

    February 23, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    I take it then that the Presbytery’s intent was to have the GA eventually rule against deaconesses?

    No. That was my own reasoning when I reluctantly voted “yes” to sending the overature on to the GA. As I mentioned previously, the study committee reported that to their knowledge quite a few presbyteries are currently wrestling with this issue. There were simply too few of us who were completely opposed to the idea of deaconesses, changing the BCO, or even the need to overature the GA at all, therefore I figured there’s only one way to proceed.

    I spoke to Dr. Ryken briefly before presbytery began, but we didn’t discuss anything on the docket so I was completely surprised when he mentioned that 10th commissions deaconesses. After presbytery I had to discuss an unrelated topic with one of the TE’s, so I don’t know what was being said about the vote as everyone was milling around.

    If this is truly a problem for other presbyteries as we were told, I’m hoping a GA study committee can nip it in the bud.

  24. February 23, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    JR,

    Thanks for the clarification. I agree with your conclusion, although I wonder if its as widespread as some of its backers claim. FVers made the same claim but could only come up with an insignificant handful of votes at GA.

  25. J.R. Polk said,

    February 23, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    . . . I wonder if its as widespread as some of its backers claim.

    Me too.

  26. February 23, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    Bob:

    I’ll take your kind words (and Lane’s absence) to stray off-topic a bit if I may, to make a public plea.

    As the archivist for the PCA, I can’t do this job by myself. I need people out in the field, so to speak, who will keep an eye out for materials that should be preserved. And that goes not just for those in the PCA. The Historical Center houses the records of six different conservative Presbyterian denominations, and the manuscript collections of a number of folks outside the PCA, including Allan A. MacRae, Gordon H. Clark, T.D. Witherspoon and Robert Dick Wilson.
    So we are in a position to help document the conservative Presbyterian movement of the 20th & 21st centuries. If you’d like to sign on as an “Associate”–someone who will keep an eye out and send things in from time to time, or help in other ways, then please contact me at
    wsparkman AT pcanet DOT org

    We recently were able to partner with Andrew Moody at Reformation Art to snag and preserve an early photo of B.B. Warfield at age 16. See Andrew’s site to order a copy. If you would like to sign on as a financial supporter of that preservation effort, which was costly, we’re looking for subscribers.

    With firm apologies for taking the opening and going off-topic.

  27. Jesse P. said,

    February 23, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Curious,

    Along some of these same lines, is it common for the more prominent PCA churches to have women do the Scripture reading for the worship service? I know of a few advocates of this who have some influence but I am wondering if this is common or not.

    Thanks.

  28. Scott Roper said,

    February 23, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    Our church commissions women deacons and makes no real distinction between men and women on the diaconate. I believe other churches in our presbytery do the same. Friends who have transfered from churches in other presbyteries in the PCA report the same practice.

    Women do lead responsive reading at our church, but I don’t believe they’ve done the scripture reading in some time. I understand that practice was found to be contrary to the BCO by the courts.

  29. February 23, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Jesse,

    Don’t know if its popular. I’ve not seen it in my travels. We don’t do it here for formal worship.

  30. February 23, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Jesse,

    I am pretty sure that Keller has women reading Scripture in the service, and I know of at least two churches in this presbytery (which are influenced by Redeemer) who do the same thing.

    Seems to violate that Q&A in the WLC about “Is the Word of God to be read by all?”

    Sigh.

  31. February 23, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Found it:

    Q. 156. Is the Word of God to be read by all?

    A. Although all are not to be permitted to read the Word publicly to the congregation, yet all sorts of people are bound to read it apart by themselves, and with their families: to which end, the holy scriptures are to be translated out of the original into vulgar languages.

    It seems almost unquestionable that women would have been included among those not permitted by the WLC to read the Word publically.

  32. David Gilleran said,

    February 23, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    RE: Women Reading the Scripture in the PCA: Several years ago when I was on the GA Committee to Review Presbytery Records we had a situation with a PCA presbytery who had a women read the Scripture at an installation service for a TE. Committee took it has an exception of substance. When the presbytery in question sent in their response it was show us where we are wrong. When the GA through the committee quoted WLC 156 it did not satisfy them. I am not sure what the final resolution of the situation was.

  33. February 23, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    To me, it seems like a no-brainer. The underlying problem is how irrelevant our doctrinal standards are seen to be by those chuches that are driven by pragmatics and the desire to be “incarnational.”

  34. February 23, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    In the comparison of this issue to FV (#19), there is more than one possibility. You can expand a confessional use of a term in a way that leaves the original use fully intact and functional, or you can do it in a way that dishonestly undermines the original use. If the latter is happening (as it often does in this fallen world), the defenders of the confessional use aren’t doing anybody any favors when they deny the obvious scriptural uses that are being used to advance the dishonest applications. The obvious scriptural uses are also used by honest exegetes who are not advancing the erroneous application.

    The problem in the PCA is feminism, not deaconnesses. Phoebe was a deaconness (Rom. 16:1), and this needs to be accounted for in the traditional view. If it is not, then the subversives will use that (and other passages) to advance, not the view of the early church and the Reformers, but their own pernicious egalitarianism. If we want people to handle the Scriptures honestly, we can’t ignore the passages they are misusing.

    So if you fight feminism (which you ought to do) by denouncing Schwertley as a clear feminist (which would be crazy), you have something close to what has happened to us in the FV. The confusions about language are strikingly similar. But Schwertley is not abusing language simply because he points out that the Bible and the Church have used the word deaconness to describe an office completely distinct from that office of deacon held by men only.

    But a simplistic attack on Schwertley would go this way — he believes that a biblical polity permits women to be deaconnesses (as do I). Feminists want women deaconnesses, alongside the men, on their way to women elders and pastors. Q.E.D. Yeah, but totally misleading. What do you mean by deaconness?

    One additional comment. Although I believe that a biblical polity permits women to hold the distinct office of widow/deaconness, I also believe that the pressing threat of feminism means that we should forbear exercising that option for the time being until we have defeated egalitarianism in the Church — much like how the Reformers granted that the laying on of hands was biblical, but because so much superstition had gotten attached to it, they skipped it for a while.

  35. Jesse P. said,

    February 23, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    JJS,

    There is reading with a “small r” and a “captial R”. Which type do you mean?

    (For the sarcastically challenged this is a play on the small “p” versus big “P” preaching distinction made by some advocates of women doing something from a pulpit with a Bible and exposition in the middle of a service that is still somehow not preaching.)

  36. February 23, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    Jesse,

    Sarcasm aside, I was thinking of the upper-case / lower-case distinction when I read Doug’s comment. Just as there are apostles and Apostles, or ministry and Ministry, are there not also female servants and female Deacons?

    So just because Phebe is called a “deaconess” doesn’t necessarily have to denote an office, does it? Just because the non-apostle believers from Jerusalem were scattered and “went everywhere preaching the Word” doesn’t mean they Preached the Word, right?

  37. February 23, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    Jason,

    …Phebe is called a “deaconess”…

    As I pointed out in my post, the root for the Greek διακονον in Romans 16:1 is only translated 3 times in the KJV as “deacon.” It is translated 8 times as servant as in Romans 16:1, and minister (small ‘m’) 20 times. Since 1 Tim 3:8-12 makes is clear that only men can hold the title/office, Rom 16:1 is rightly translated as the more common “servant” in the KJV, NKJV, NIV, ESV, NASB, ASV, Webster, and HNV. It is translated “minister” in the Darby, Young, and Vulgate. I respectfully offer that the weight of context as well as the translation history is against calling Phoebe a “deaconess.”

  38. mary kathryn said,

    February 23, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    Tell me I’m crazy: but I remember when 10th Pres came into the PCA (I believe it was independent before then?), and I think they were admitted at that time, with deaconesses, i.e. with a practice that was not in conformity with the PCA, but the church was allowed in anyway. Somebody more knowledgeable than I will need to verify that. Boice was there at the time, so Mr. Mattes, your assertion that Boice was to be more highly regarded in this matter than Ryken, may not be accurate. My husband and I both remember this odd event about 10th Pres. Does anybody know?

    BTW, regarding Wilson’s post — if someone really believes that Scripture allows for women to be deaconesses, and that God has both equipped and called some women to do such work, then I think he would be remiss to purposely deny those women the opportunity to perform the work God has given them to do, regardless of the noble ambition to protect the gospel. I believe the gospel can well defend itself. Such hesitations are cowardly, IMO.

  39. February 23, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    Bob,

    Yes, that is my point. Even if one prefers to transliterate (“deaconess”) rather than translate (“servant”), they still need to prove, in addition to this, that the title is official rather than general.

    If we distinguish between the general calling to minister and the specific office of Minister, then insisting on calling Phebe a deaconess proves nothing beyond what is also true of Monica and Rachel, as well as Chandler, Joey, and Ross.

    All God’s people are “deacons” in that general sense, but that has nothing to do with ordained offices in the church.

  40. February 23, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    Jason,

    I’m with you brother, 100%. Thank you for clarifying.

  41. Scott said,

    February 23, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Mr Polk,

    Thanks for your information about how this process started in Presbytery.

    I have limited time for blogs but sense this is an important matter. It seems like just as our denomination is getting a handle on Federal Vision errors, this springs to the surface.

    While I am a layman, I have attended deacon training classes under two different pastors. Based on those classes I have developed a profound respect for the role of deacons in Christ’s church.

    Based upon the training classes and my (limited) knowledge of Our Book of Church Order, I have these impressions and am interested in your thoughts, if you are at liberty to comment:

    It is unambiguous our Book of Church Order does not permit women to be ordained or elected as Deacons/Deaconesses.

    If someone disagrees and proposes change to the Book of Church Order, the Book of Church Order has an open process for overture. An overture needs to be separate from a request for clarification of permitted practices.

    It seems clear to me the Book of Church Order contemplates men Deacons who have some, albeit slight, church authority by virtue of their office. Women and men are invited to be organized in various capacities as a support to the Board of Deacons.

    Support activities for the Board of Deacons may include activities of Women in the Church, Comfort and Care ministers, Women’s auxiliary, and many other important mercy ministries in the church.

    While there is overlap between the job function of a Deacon and those supporting the Deacon’s activities, the support functions are clearly distinguished as a lesser and included part of the Deacon’s overall job functions. These support functions connote service, but not church office authority.

    It seems to me the overture is not asking all the right questions. Accepting that the Book of Church Order does not permit ordaining or electing women to church office, here are questions that might need official clarification-

    1) Does the Book of Church Order permit women to be designated as Deacons/Deaconesses by commissioning?

    2) If so, does the Book of Church Order permit churches to not ordain any men deacons when women are commissioned as Deacons/Deaconesses?

    3) If so, how is their ministry function to be differentiated from that of an ordained Deacon?

    4) If so, what questions may be used so as to not be confused with the constitutional questions asked of a Deacon for ordination?

    5) May Presbyteries license and ordain men who submit themselves to the Book of Church Order but who also believe that women should serve as ordained deacons?

    6) If so, may Presbyteries choose to not permit a man to so teach such belief?

    Somehow, I have a sense that if the right questions are not asked here we can get a divided result and we need clarity.

    Your insight is appreciated.

  42. J.R. Polk said,

    February 23, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    RE: #39

    Thanks for your information about how this process started in Presbytery.

    Hi Scott,

    You’re welcome.

    It seems to me the overture is not asking all the right questions.

    With the exception of question #1, which would be answered “no,” your questions are basically covered in our overature to the GA. I do appreciate your concern that this issue be handled properly and thoroughly. If I misunderstood what you are asking/saying, just let me know.

  43. Scott said,

    February 23, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    Mr Polk,

    Thank you for the response.

    Is it your sense that including the overture to ordain distracts from the other items that might need to be clarified?

    Do I understand correctly that you think all my listed questions are addressed in the overture except for #1 (regarding whether the term can be applied to those commissioned)?

    Does that mean there is no direct question about whether our Book of Church Order permits women to be termed deacons/deaconesses? (I’m not assuming it does or does not, only asking as a question).

    Also, is it your sense this could produce a divided result, say 5 to 2 and not actually clarify?

    Again, thanks for your faithful and careful service on all this.

  44. February 23, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    Mary Kathryn, cowardice is one possible explanation. There are others, pastoral concerns among them — a man who believes we cannot fight all battles at once is not the same as a man who would run from any battle.

  45. February 23, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    [...] in the PCA? That’s what they are talking about over at GreenBaggins.  Check it out! Published [...]

  46. J.R. Polk said,

    February 23, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    Is it your sense that including the overture to ordain distracts from the other items that might need to be clarified?

    I don’t think so. A committee’s findings with regard to overature item #1will determine whether some of the questions contained in item #2 need to be addressed or not. So, item #1 is the big question on which this whole issue is hinged. Here’s item #1:

    Now Therefore the Philadelphia Presbytery overtures the 36th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America to create an ad interim study committee whose members are representative of various positions within the PCA with respect to women’s involvement in Diaconal ministry, to study and report back to the 37th General Assembly, on the following:

    1) Scriptural teaching bearing on women’s eligibility for election and ordination to the office of deacon and recommending, if necessary, changes to the BCO in keeping with any findings proceeding from the study of Scripture;

    Do I understand correctly that you think all my listed questions are addressed in the overture except for #1 (regarding whether the term can be applied to those commissioned)?

    I would say basically yes. Your question #1 isn’t contained in the overature because the BCO as it now stands speaks only of “ordination” for officers. See BCO Form Of Government chapters 17 & 24.

    Here is item #2:

    2) Should no changes to the BCO be deemed necessary, clarifying an appropriate range of practices for the involvement of women in diaconal ministry and giving guidance regarding current differences in practice among PCA churches including but not limited to the following: (a) may churches choose not to ordain any male deacons? (b) may churches choose to commission but not to ordain male deacons? (c) may women be commissioned as deaconesses without ordaining them as deacons? (d) may the same constitutional questions, or similar questions, used to ordain deacons be used to commission deacons or deaconesses who are not ordained? (e) may Presbyteries license 2 and ordain men who submit themselves to the BCO but who also believe that women should serve as ordained deacons? (f) may churches elect ordained men and commissioned women to serve together in the diaconate? and (g) may churches use the title Deaconess for an elected position of ministry in the church or selected to
    serve according to BCO 9-7?

    Does that mean there is no direct question about whether our Book of Church Order permits women to be termed deacons/deaconesses? (I’m not assuming it does or does not, only asking as a question).

    No, we haven’t included a direct question in this regard. The BCO, as it now stands, never uses the term “deaconess.” This makes perfect sense when you remember that BCO, chapter 7, declares that the offices of Elder and Deacon “are open to men only.”

    Also, is it your sense this could produce a divided result, say 5 to 2 and not actually clarify?

    Not necessarily. It’s really difficult to determine at this point in any case.

  47. mary kathryn said,

    February 23, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    Doug – I think it’s unfortunate that a person with such convictions would view the situation as a battle. [And a person may be a coward in one situation and not in another.] The opportunity to offer expanded service to a fellow-believer is a wonderful thing. I think, frankly, that we have women in the PCA who have been deprived of service for so many generations that they are now incapable of assuming such a role, even if it were offered them. A man who embraced such an opportunity would be noble indeed. Although I remain undecided on a woman’s role as a deacon/ess, I do think that Christian men in general may have a sharp comeuppance at the judgment, when they discover the things they have denied to their sisters, all out of fear.

  48. Andrew Webb said,

    February 23, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    First, I’d like it to be known that I don’t consider my main calling in life to disagree with Doug Wilson, it just turns out that way. ;-)

    Above after Rev. Wilson once again tells us what’s wrong with the PCA (feminism)* he makes the bold assertion

    Phoebe was a deaconness (Rom. 16:1), and this needs to be accounted for in the traditional view.

    This is begging the question. I know that Jim Jordan and many of the FV men believe that Phoebe was a deaconess, but I don’t happen to believe that the best exegesis supports the conclusion that she was an ordained or “commissioned” deacon or deaconess in the church.

    Personally I think that basing making “deaconess” an ordained or commissioned office exactly equivalent to the male deacon and basing the decision on one word in the greetings portion of a letter from Paul is highly problematic, regarding this verse, I’d tend to agree with William Hendriksen’s exegesis and conclusion, quoted below:

    “If that technical sense pertains to the word as used here in Rom. 16:1, then Paul is calling Phoebe a deaconess. Now it must be granted that in a later century the ecclesiastical office of deaconess was not unknown.423 The question, however, is Does the New Testament either here (Rom. 16:1) or anywhere else, refer to such an ecclesiastical office, namely, that of deaconess? On this subject there is a division of opinion. For details see footnote 424.

    The absence of any mention of deaconesses in the rest of the New Testament is a fact. For I Tim. 3:11 see N.T.C. on Timothy, pp. 133, 134; and for Titus 2:35 see N.T.C. on Titus, pp. 364366.

    In order to discover what kind of specific function Paul has in mind when he calls Phoebe a diakonos of the church at Cenchrea, we should pay close attention to what he says; namely, Extend to her a welcome in the Lord that is worthy of the saints, meaning, such a welcome as would be fitting for saints to give. He adds, Give her any help she may need for she has been a helper425 to many people and to me personally:

    This may well be the key to the solution of the problem we are discussing. In light of the facts reported in 16:1, 2, what kind of help would Phoebe need when she arrived in Rome, which was clearly not the place of her residence? Would it not be protection and especially hospitality? And what kind of help did those travelers need who were passing through, and stopping over at, the seaport Cenchrea, Phoebes home-town, proceeding from west to east or from east to west? Is it not a fact that even today such very busy junctions make strangers feel somewhat uneasy? Was not what they needed a cordial word of greeting, good advice, protection against danger, and frequently even a friendly home in which to pass the night, or even the days and nights until the next ship would leave harbor on the way to their destination?
    In a word it was hospitality that was needed at very busy Cenchrea. And it was hospitality Phoebe knew how to offer. Is it not probable that, like Lydia (Acts 16:1115, 40), Phoebe was a well-to-do Christian lady, blessed with an alert mind and with a heart overflowing with the spirit of kindness and helpfulness? Perhaps, also like Lydia, Phoebe was a businesswoman.

    We can well understand that Paul must have referred many a case to Phoebe. For that reason, and probably also for other reasons, Paul is able to say, For she has been a great help to many people and to me personally.

    For a list of worthy women, including Phoebe, mentioned in Scripture, see N.T.C. on I Timothy, pp. 133, 134. The lesson is clear. Two extremes should be avoided: (a) that of ordaining women to an ecclesiastical office when there is no warrant for doing so in Scripture; and (b) that of ignoring the very important and valuable services devout and alert women are able to render to the church of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    Regarding the likely outcome of the vote, I’m not sure there are enough votes in the PCA to remove the “commissioned” deaconesses of the old RPCES churches at this point, but I think that the core of commissioners at the GA is conservative enough that we’ll manage to prevent an ordained office of deaconess being created. Anyway, I’m going to try to write something tackling the issue from an OSP perspective for the Building Old School Churches blog.

    – Andy

    *I never fail to be amazed at how much insight Doug Wilson has about the problems of the PCA without ever having been a member. Considering his own ability to analyze and correct from afar, I am amazed he’d have trouble with people not in the CREC offering their opinion on the many problems of that particular confederation, especially those who HAVE been members.

  49. Andrew Webb said,

    February 23, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    WHOOPS, line above should read

    “but I DON’T happen to believe that the best exegesis supports the conclusion that she was an ordained or “commissioned” deacon or deaconess in the church.”

    Sorry.

  50. February 23, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    By the way if one wants a good defense of Deaconesses I would point you to look at the paper on Women and Ministry on the ARP’s website under position statements.

    Here is the PDF:

    http://www.arpsynod.org/pdf/WomenInTheChurch.pdf

  51. February 23, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    Andy, RE #47,

    I fixed it for you.

  52. magma2 said,

    February 23, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    Good post Bob and Andy nice follow up. 2-cents. Given that the office of deacon is an extension of the office of elder and was created to relieve the burden placed on elders for the material care of Christians, if women can be deacons then why not elders? I would think parity of reasoning would logically apply to the one as well as the other.

  53. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 23, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    Possibly but not necessarily. Eve was created, among other things (Gen. 1.27), to relieve the burden on Adam.

  54. pduggie said,

    February 23, 2008 at 11:37 pm

    “Personally I think that basing making “deaconess” an ordained”

    Tenth doesn’t do this

    “or commissioned”

    but does this. It also commissions short term missionaries (teens) and sunday school teachers

    “office”

    Which aren’t offices

    “exactly equivalent to the male deacon”

    Which also isn’t the case. some diaconal needs call for uniquely masculine or feminine ministry

    “and basing the decision on one word in the greetings portion of a letter from Paul is highly problematic,”

    Ryken doesn’t do that.

    Boice was a tiny bit more egalitarian that you may suppose.

    http://www.tenth.org/fileadmin/files_for_download/New_Member_Articles/opportunitiesforwomen.pdf

    “The Session of Tenth Presbyterian Church reaffirms that all positions of leadership and service at Tenth Presbyterian Church are open to women, except for the authoritative teaching and disciplinary role that the Bible, in 1 Timothy 2:12-14, reserves for men. In a Presbyterian system of government, that role is embodied solely in the Session, composed of ruling and teaching elders. Aside from that function, women are encouraged to seek out all avenues of leadership and service, including Bible teaching, leading small groups, serving on the various church boards and committees, assisting in
    diaconal work and by any other means fully exercising their gifts for the greater benefit of the body of Christ Jesus.”

    It was under Boice (pre 1992) that Tenth had Becky Pippert as primary speaker of the evening stated service. That’s never happened again though.

    As far as I can tell, Tenth came into the RPCES with ordained female deacons (hands laid) since Tenth was in the PCUSA with them. The RPCES has deaconesses (no hands laid) and tenth conformed to that. Then the RPCES was received by the PCA, and Tenth continued to designate deaconesses. Some of the original hand-laid women continue to serve, but they serve in a lay-ministry fashion, not an ordained ministry fashion.

  55. pduggie said,

    February 23, 2008 at 11:44 pm

    I’ll worry about lay readers in the PCA when the rest of the PCA worries about intinction, communion in only one kind (bread with no wine), the meaing of “space of six days” and dichotomizing “complex liturgies” (FV BAD) from “complex instrumental music” (URBAN GOOD)

  56. February 23, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    pduggie,

    Thanks for the additional background on the Tenth’s history and practices. I’ll read Dr. Boice’s article tomorrow afternoon and reserve further comment until then.

  57. pduggie said,

    February 23, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    I’ve always been bemused by this factor in the historical study of deaconesses

    “In Aime Georges Martimort’s historical study on Deaconesses, he cites the Didascalia and The Apostolic Constitutions – both early 3rd Century clergy manuals – on the use of deaconesses to assist the clergy in the baptism of women, since “baptism required total nudity” (Deaconesses, Ignatius Press, 1986 p. 43).”

  58. pduggie said,

    February 23, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    Thanks. I suppose I should be more fair and say that the evening service at that time was not a “stated service” will all that that implies. It was just the regular evening service.

  59. February 24, 2008 at 12:07 am

    pduggie, RE #53,

    Well, except that leaders set the tone for any organization which they serve. If the leaders are illegitimate, then it bodes poorly for the organization that they serve. Isaiah said of Israel in 9:16: “For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.” There’s an even better verse than that one, but I have to teach in the AM and don’t have time to look for it.

  60. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 24, 2008 at 12:09 am

    communion in only one kind (bread with no wine)

    Really? Do you mean “bread with no grape fluids of any kind” or “unleaded communion”? I didn’t know the BCO allowed the former…

  61. pduggie said,

    February 24, 2008 at 12:19 am

    That’s my special terminology for the latter one. :)

  62. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 24, 2008 at 12:45 am

    “or commissioned” … but does this. It also commissions short term missionaries (teens) and sunday school teachers …Which aren’t offices “exactly equivalent to the male deacon” … Which also isn’t the case. some diaconal needs call for uniquely masculine or feminine ministry

    I agree with your principle. We clearly need, for example, women involved in pastoral investigations of alleged spousal abuse, or women who can assist nursing moms, or etc.

    However, the term “commissioned non-officer deaconess” is on the surface a seeming attempt to dance around something. Why not have a new, completely different term?

    I’ll worry about lay readers in the PCA when the rest of the PCA worries about … dichotomizing “complex liturgies” (FV BAD) from “complex instrumental music” (URBAN GOOD)

    You overlooked the “complex instrumental liturgies” option. URBAN FV is IN DA HOUSE!

    Jeff Cagle

  63. mary kathryn said,

    February 24, 2008 at 8:58 am

    Mr. Glaser – Thanks for the link to the ARP document. As an ARP member, I found it an interesting read.

  64. February 24, 2008 at 9:01 am

    Scott, RE #27,

    Welcome to GreenBagginses! What Presbytery are you in?

  65. February 24, 2008 at 9:23 am

    Andy, my point was not that Phoebe was ordained or commissioned. My point is that she is called a deaconness, and that everything depends upon how we define that word — not upon whether we use it.

  66. February 24, 2008 at 9:26 am

    Andy, my point was not that Phoebe was ordained or commissioned. My point is that she is called a deaconness, and that everything depends upon how we define that word — not upon whether we use it.

  67. David Weiner said,

    February 24, 2008 at 10:12 am

    Pastor Wilson, re: #65,

    My point is that she is called a deaconness, and that everything depends upon how we define that word — not upon whether we use it.

    May I humbly differ. Phoebe was not called a deaconness. She was called a διακονον. Now what English meaning one attached to that Greek word makes all the difference in the world.

  68. David Weiner said,

    February 24, 2008 at 10:14 am

    Sorry, technical difficulties in 66. Should have been the Greek word diakonon.

  69. Bennett B. Wethered said,

    February 24, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    I am posting below the comments that I have already posted at the Bayly brothers blog. It seems boastful or prideful to re-post them here, but I think they draw attention to a ‘forgotten verse’ in the discussion.

    I want to commend Bob Mattes for his wonderful essay! – I only want to add the thought that, while we must (in the OPC and PCA, among other places) follow and enforce the terms of the BOCO (to which we’ve all agreed, until and only if any changes are made), our primary arguments must be to what Scripture allows, forbids, and commands.

    “Our Lord Jesus said, “the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10.35). In addition to highlighting the truthfulness and eternality of God’s Word, this also, I think, points to what we know as the ‘analogy of Scripture.’ There can be no expendable or ‘orphaned’ verses. We can ignore none.

    I say this, because I am continually amazed, in the discussion/debate over whether Scripture allows for women to serve as Deacons, at the general absence of reference to 1 Timothy 3.12. It is as though the verse isn’t there, or has been, somehow, discounted, or “explained away.”

    Brian Schwertley, in his essay on this general topic, writes that “the Bible explicitly teaches that only men are to be ordained as deacons (cf. Acts 6:3; 1 Tim. 3:12)” and “Those who believe that women should be ordained deacons in the same office as men deacons have always had difficulty dealing with Acts 6:3 and 1 Timothy 3:12.” You might say that it (along with 3:2) is ‘an inconvenient verse.’

    Look at the verse (which mirrors v. 2, which there refers to Elders in a local church). It reads: “Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households” (NASB). There’s no confusion over the subject, diakonoi (masculine nom. pl.), meaning “Deacons.” They are to be the ‘WHAT’ of one ‘WHAT’? They “must be” andres “of one” gunaikos. Literally, the verse reads that ‘Deacons must be men of one woman.’

    This speaks first to the moral and sexual purity of the man, which adds to his being “beyond reproach” (3.2, 10). But, the very way it is phrased also presupposes that the person (the ‘Deacon”) in question is a MAN. The Greek words andres and gunaikos are gender-specific, not translatable as the opposite sex or as ‘person.’

    Now, using the analogy of Scripture, the teaching of this verse can inform the exegete and other readers as they come to other verses, which refer to Deacons/servants. The translator has guidance for translation, and other readers have more accurate understandings of other verses.

    What to do with 1 Tim. 3:11? George Knight (no slouch in his understanding of the Greek) argues for “Deacon’s wives” as a translation of gunaikas, and reads this as a prescription for their behavior. What to do with 1 Tim. 5:3-16? Well, these widowed women over 60 years old, with no available supporting family, may have designated roles as servants in the church (5:9-10), but, while we may see their role as servants, we know that we can’t call them ‘deacons’ (or ‘deaconesses,’ I would argue, as they would normally be seen simply as the female version of Deacon), since God, in His Word, 1 Tim. 3:12, tells us that we CANNOT.

    We may have a task, in Christ’s church, in properly understanding what roles that God, in His Word, has set aside for women in His Body. We must seek to obey Him in this regard. However, we must be sure that we don’t, in such desire, go against what He clearly teaches.”

    To what I wrote above, I want to add an observation about Phoebe (Rom. 16:1). No, Pastor Wilson, you cannot make the flat statement “that she is called a deaconess.” Only a few (literally) of dozens of English translations translate diakonon in this verse as “deaconess.” That word, and its lemma, are normally translated as servant, and sometimes as minister, and, on five occasions (Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8, 10, 12, 13) as “deacons.” Using the analogy of Scripture, 1 Tim. 3:12 lets us know that Deacons must be men, thus guiding the translator in properly translating Rom. 16:1, as “servant.” The analogy of Scripture and a proper understanding of context (as a seminary professor liked to tell us, “A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text”) are indispensable guides for translation, exegesis, exposition, and practice.

  70. Bennett B. Wethered said,

    February 24, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    That last sentence (see #68 above) is incomplete. It should, at the end, read “indispensable guides for translation, exegesis, exposition, and practice.”

  71. Joel St. Clair said,

    February 24, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Mr. Mattes,

    Thank you for the thorough review of an important issue to be considered by the PCA General Assembly.

    Your response to Dr. Ryken’s paper, Qualifications for Deacons, speaks of clarity in the text of 1 Timothy 3. After re-reading the passage, I have doubts about the “clarity” from a “strightforward reading of the Greek.”

    You said: The word does not introduce new topics or ideas, but rather makes a point by referring back to and drawing a parallel with an antecedent phrase or point. Check out the Scripture references for yourself.

    One could debate the usefulness of a word study on ωσαυτως. Instead, I would point you to the use of the word within the phrases of the 1 Timothy passage.

    I do not believe Dr. Ryken’s case is made with the use of one word. Rather, it is in the construction of the passage. The main verb clause in v. 2 that introduces elders “δει ουν τον επισκοπον” is then followed in v. 8 by a switch in office introduced by the phrase, “διακονους ωσαυτως.” Then in v.11 we come to another anarthrous plural accusative + hosautos in “γυναικας ωσαυτως.”

    Given the construction up to this point – the question is how Paul intends γυναικας. While I am not convinced it is a new class of office, [insert preferred term(s) for women who are ordained or commissioned for a work of service] :) , I also am not convinced by the interpretive step of translating the term, “their wives.” Notice the insertion of an article in most English translations, something you assume throughout the post.

    In re-reading the passage, I missed the “clarity of 1 Tim 3:8-12’s clear teaching against women deacons” coming from a “straightforward reading of the Greek makes it clear that deacons are limited to men.” It seems to me that the passage is less clear than you have allowed in your post.

  72. February 24, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    #62, You are welcome Mary Kathryn. I myself am beginning the process of Ordination in the ARP.

  73. J.R. Polk said,

    February 24, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    What to do with 1 Tim. 3:11?

    This verse was used by the session of liberty Church in the initial stages of the Philadelphia Presbytery overture.

    Overture to the PCA from the session of liberti church regarding changes to BCO 9-3, to allow churches to ordain women as deacons..

    Whereas 1 Timothy 3:11 speaks of “their women” connected with the deacons (wives, as the NIV interprets), yet has no similar statement about wives of elders— much more significant role—this interpretive translation of the NIV is questionable, suggests that Paul meant for women to be included as deacons in our churches;

    I’m always amazed that this verse is put forth as proof that women are to be ordained deacons without one word about how the very next verse effects this understanding.

    1Ti 3:11 Women–in like manner grave, not false accusers, vigilant, faithful in all things. YLT

    1Ti 3:12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. ESV

    Whatever 1 Timothy 3:11 means, verse 12 seems preclude the idea that verse 11 is giving qualifications for female deacons. Notice how deacons are to be the HUSBAND of one WIFE without ever mentioning the reverse. IMHO, the use of verse 11 as a warrant to ordain women to the diaconate is proof-texting at its worst.

    In His Service,
    J.R. Polk

  74. J.R. Polk said,

    February 24, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    Sorry, I just noticed that I have been spelling “overture” incorrectly. Thank God for spell-check!

  75. February 24, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    #67, #69, and #72,

    I fixed your respective target comments as you all indicated. Thank you all for your excellent comments.

    Bennett – Welcome to GreenBagginses. No problem with commenting on multiple blogs on the same points. Not everyone frequents all possible blogs.

  76. mary kathryn said,

    February 24, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    The same domestic conditions are given for both elders an deacons: to have only one wife, and to manage their households well. Since polygamy (among other sexual perversions) was a problem in Greek culture at the time, this admonition makes sense for men. It would be bizarre, however, to think of a Greek woman having an assortment of husbands simultaneously. Thus, you cannot use the “have only one wife” as an argument against women as deacons. It was merely a stipulation that would apply to men, and would not to women.

    Respectfully, I also am amazed at those who try to use this passage as a proof that Paul is instructing the church to exclude women from the diaconate. This is not the goal of the passage. His object is to give character criteria for the office. What kind of unclear, couched language it would be for Paul to WANT to say, “don’t have women deacons,” but to phrase it, “deacons should have one wife.” If we are to do honorable service to God’s word, we should not twist it so.

    It is possible that, in this passage, Paul is assuming only men in the two offices. But he may have already known that Timothy’s church only HAD men serving as deacons, or that that church would prefer only men. I just think it is problematic to use the passage for a purpose for which it was not intended.

    I’d recommend to all the final portion of the ARP document, linked in #49 above. I found the 1st paragraph on p. 16, under “What May Women Do,” especially comforting. It is difficult for women, all their lives, to sit under preaching that tells them to “serve!!” and be consistently refused opportunities to do so by the very men instructing them. Except, of course, the kitchen :)

  77. Bennett B. Wethered said,

    February 24, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    In response to Mary Kathryn;’s comments:

    My earlier comments do not address the aspect of polygamy; I, with some commentators, do not see that as Paul’s main emphasis or target, so much as the general purity and faithfulness of the husband. And, yes, you are correct, his main point “is to give character criteria for the office.” But, even though I do not think the primary focus of this sentence is specifically to emphasis the male nature of the deaconate, it does that nonetheless.

    In the exegetical examination of any given sentence, we need to carefully look at what is actuially being said, given the choice of words, and their type, in a sentence. 1 Timothy 3:12 says that “Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households” (NASB).

    In this sentence, the word “Deacons” is the subject and “husbands” (as I said earlier, the Greek word andres means men; in this context, “husbands” is the appropriate translation) is the predicate nominative. A “predicate nominative is the noun following a linking verb that restates or stands for the subject.” In this case, it, “husbands,” equals “Deacons.” While Paul’s main point in writing this sentence or section may not have been to delimit the deaconate to men (actually, he and his readers likely assumed it, though Scripture makes it clear), his choice of words does that for us. Deacons (who either must be married to be Deacons…another discussion, or, when husbands, must be so to but one woman) must be…EQUALS…husbands (andres – men)…men. Someone may not like that that is what this verse says, but that is what this verse says.

    Please understand that, as I indicated in my original post (#68 – see reference to 3:11- Deacon’s wives, and 5:9-10- widows on the list), I desire to know what roles He has for women in service in the church. However, as I have argued, whatever roles women may have, I think that this passage clearly shows that it is not in one called Deacon/ess.

  78. David Gray said,

    February 24, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    >Thus, you cannot use the “have only one wife” as an argument against women as deacons. It was merely a stipulation that would apply to men, and would not to women.

    That strikes me as just about as willful a reading as could be made.

  79. David Bayly said,

    February 24, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    It’s striking to me that serving in the kitchen is demeaning to some women. It’s one of my wife’s great joys. Of course, she’s not sitting around reading on blogs about it. She’s busy doing it, and I praise her as a Sarah in the Church for her service.

    It’s further striking that we would praise Brother Lawrence for his service in the monastery kitchen and the fruit it led to in The Practice of the Presence, but call it demeaning to modern women.

    And, of course, imagine how demeaning it must have been for God to become Man.

    The person who truly denies women opportunities to serve is the one who demeans their service, and you, Mary Katherine, are the guilty one here.

    David Bayly

  80. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 24, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    Let me throw a question in here. This question is not an argument for deaconesses. I just want to be clear on the Scriptural basis for our polity. I guess my question is tracking along with Mary Kathryn’s points, although I’m less definite about it.

    Proverbs is unquestionably written to sons. Hence we have the multiple descriptions of the foolish women (Prov. 5, 6, 7, 9) contrasted with the descriptions of lady wisdom (8, 9) and the wife of noble character (31).

    But in a pastoral situation, I don’t think any one of us would hesitate to say that the wisdom of Proverbs 5 applies equally to a young lady who is interested in an adulterous man. I strongly doubt that anyone would support an exegesis that limits the teaching of Prov. 5 to adulterous *women* only on the grounds that the passage itself says nothing about adulterous men.

    Or would we permit a woman to look lustfully at a man on the grounds that Jesus only prohibits *men* from doing so?

    Certainly, we can appeal to other passages to support a dual-gender reading of Proverbs (e.g., 1 Thess 4). But my point is that the language of Prov 5 is not gender restrictive simply because it speaks of one gender rather than the other.

    Likewise, what is the ground for insisting that 1 Tim. 3.12 “Let deacons be the husband of one wife” is written in such a way that precludes women from the office? Would not a woman who is the wife of one husband and who manages her house well be fulfilling the requirements there?

    Again, this is not an argument for deaconesses. To my mind, an ordained office would possibly convey an authority forbidden in 1 Tim 2.

    I would just like to understand why it is so certain that 1 Tim 3.12 teaches that deacons must be men. It seems like it teaches that the men who are deacons must be loyal and stable in their family relationships.

    Thanks,
    Jeff Cagle

  81. pduggie said,

    February 24, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    I don’t have a ready example, but I’m pretty sure you could find laws in the OT where the case law was expressed in terms of males, but everyone would readily grant that (mutatis mutandis) the case law would apply equally to females in similar situations.

    The pharisaical jews were proud as men that they thought God gave them MORE laws to follow in the torah then the weak women had, but somehow I doubt that was valid exegetic ally.

  82. pduggie said,

    February 24, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    Jeff Cagel: you said what I was trying to say much better

  83. mary kathryn said,

    February 24, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    Bennett – Thank you for your kind words. I must respectfully disagree with your grammatical assessment. The predicate nominative to which you refer has an attached modifying prepositional phrase: “of only one wife.” Paul does not say, “Deacons must be husbands.” That sentence does not have the same meaning as, “Deacons must be husbands of only wife.” The modifying phrase does make a difference – it is an essential phrase. In other words, the purpose of the sentence in the first place is not to say that they must be male, but to designate how many wives they have. Paul could just as well have said, “Deacons, if they are husbands, must have only one wife.”

    I do think it is problematic to say that Paul and his readers assumed that women would never be deacons, considering all the NT evidence that women performed diaconal work – i.e. works of service and mercy. It’s interesting to me that people want to use this Timothy passage to restrict or define the Romans passage, but they are unwilling to do the reverse. I don’t know much Greek, but I think it is odd that many insist that the word diakonon should not (could not, in this case?) be translated ‘deacon.’ (And, yes, I do understand that the Greek word is translated in a variety of ways.)

    In so many PCA churches: women cannot greet, cannot pass out bulletins, cannot collect offering, cannot usher, cannot sing behind the podium, cannot be on the “stage,” and it’s understood in prayer services that they won’t pray. Why? These activities are not restricted to deacons and elders. Why can’t women do them? Because the tendency in the PCA has been to go beyond the Word of God, and restrict women’s activity more than Scripture prescribes. That’s really my only point. When the male leadership that has done this to its sisters, begins to interpret passages like the ones here, I am doubtful of the accuracy of their conclusions.

  84. J.R. Polk said,

    February 24, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    Re: #74

    Thus, you cannot use the “have only one wife” as an argument against women as deacons. It was merely a stipulation that would apply to men, and would not to women.

    Mary, with all due respect, if we apply your statement consistently, we must conclude that the same is true with regard to elders as well.

    1Ti 3:2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife . . .

  85. pduggie said,

    February 24, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    “women cannot greet, cannot pass out bulletins, cannot collect offering, cannot usher, cannot sing behind the podium, cannot be on the “stage,” and it’s understood in prayer services that they won’t pray.”

    Tenth allows all that, except singing behind the podium. Yuck.

  86. pduggie said,

    February 24, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    82; That may be true, but the difference is we have an explicit warning that only men may teach and exercise authority.

  87. mary kathryn said,

    February 24, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    I’ve never said that kitchen work was demeaning. I don’t think it is. I think it is important service. I’m sorry, Mr. Bayly, that you feel free to speak so unkindly to someone you don’t know. I am at my computer, as my husband naps, after having preached this morning. I cooked and fed a family of 6 (plus one visitor) and cleaned the kitchen before he came home.

    And I enjoyed it very much.

  88. David Gray said,

    February 24, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    >I am at my computer, as my husband naps, after having preached this morning.

    This is not surprising.

  89. February 24, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    What do you mean by that David?

  90. David Gray said,

    February 24, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    >What do you mean by that David?

    I’m not surprised that her husband is a teaching elder.

  91. David Weiner said,

    February 24, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    Mary Kathryn, re: #81,

    It is with great trepidation that I venture into this exchange. I hope I can provide a little bit of light. I find what Bennett said (#75) to ring true. I would add one thought. This whole section is about the qualifications or qualities that the deacons are to possess. Being married is not about quality (anybody can do it) it is about status. So, it seems to be a real question as to whether this phrase has anything to do with the number of wives anybody may have.

    The masculine plural in Greek does not specifically mean that men are in view. It can also refer to a group containing both genders. So, all of the time that diaconoi is used in this section of 1 Timothy it does not prove that deacons are to be men. However, as Bennett said, this phrase which is literally ‘of one woman a man’ nails it that deacons are to be men. I find it fascinating that this one phrase that has so many varied interpretations (e.g., a single man can’t be a deacon) is the one phrase that proves that a deacon has to be male. Again, without any articles in the Greek, it is quality that is in view here and not marital status. The deacon, a man, is to be trustworthy with regard to women. he is to be a one-woman type of man, whether married or not. Well, just another biased man’s view, for what it is worth.

  92. mary kathryn said,

    February 24, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    My husband is not a teaching elder. He is only recently a ruling elder. He was preaching as a supply at a local congregation.

  93. Scott said,

    February 24, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    Mary Kathryn,

    Thanks for your posts.

    Re#74:

    “It is difficult for women, all their lives, to sit under preaching that tells them to “serve!!” and be consistently refused opportunities to do so by the very men instructing them. Except, of course, the kitchen ”

    At our PCA Church, Women serve in the Comfort and Care Ministry, Women in the Church, as Stephen’s Minister’s. They teach children in Sunday School, lead women’s Bible studies and serve in many other capacities. Some of these are “commissioned” (e.g. Stephen’s Ministers) but none are ordained or involve ecclesiastical authority.

    The needs are overwhelming and there is absolutely no barrier for women to serve.

    Ordination involves authority. This morning we installed officers (elders and deacons). The congregation takes a vow to “encourage, honor and obey in the Lord” the ordained officers.

    It is contrary to Scripture to have men in the church submitting in ecclesiastical authority to women. This is the teaching of Scripture express, implicit and implied. That’s the issue.

    If someone advocates ordaining women the issue is really authority, not ability to serve.

    Scripture tells us as fallen human beings we all do not want to do what we are supposed to do- nobody wants to submit to anything (except themselves). That’s the fallen nature God has to give us grace to overcome in our process of sanctification.

    The fact that some women would not want to submit to this is not a suprise (just as a man not submitting in other ways).

    But the issue here is not women being denied opportunity to serve. The notion that God cannot be served unless one is a Church officer is a big misunderstanding.

    If it bothers a women that she cannot exercise ecclesiastical authority over a man, the problem is really with God.

    Arguing about the general shortcomings about men v women never gets anywhere because it is ultimately based on pride. Both are fallen, sinful, and in rebellion against their Creator. Both need God and men and women need each other and God made it that way.

    Nobody wants to do what they are supposed to do- husbands do not want to submit to being a suffering servant to their wife, wives do not want to submit to and respect their husbands. As a husband, I admit that sometimes applies to me. It doesn’t change the fact that God is right and that I must submit even if I don’t want to or don’t agree. In light of what Scripture declares that should not even suprise us. We are in a miserable state but God’s grace has intervened to change that. Glory be to God for that!

    That’s why this is so important to many us- it’s about trying by God’s grace to follow Him,
    even in the difficult ways.

    Also, it seems to me (I have limited experience with our PCA Book of Church Order) that it contemplates women and men be organized in various support roles to the Board of Deacons. Both men and women would assist in many of the same activities of the Deacons, but it was clear to everyone they were not officers exercising ecclesiastical authority but certainly serving.

    Thanks again for your posts.

  94. Roger Mann said,

    February 24, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    68: Bennett wrote,

    Now, using the analogy of Scripture, the teaching of this verse can inform the exegete and other readers as they come to other verses, which refer to Deacons/servants. The translator has guidance for translation, and other readers have more accurate understandings of other verses.

    Which is why “Systematic Theology” is so important! I too am “continually amazed” that 1 Timothy 3:12 is so readily “discounted” or “explained away” in this debate. Of course, “explained away” is the most accurate description, as this is what happens with most of the passages of Scripture that teach something we don’t happen to like! Not only is 1 Timothy 3:12 decisive in this debate, but so are the inspired words of Luke:

    “Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.” — Acts 6:3

    Thus, we have the following situation: In the only clear passage of Scripture on the qualifications of Deacons, it says that they must be the “husbands of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:12) or “men of one woman.” In the only clear historical example of the appointment of Deacons, it says to “seek out from among you seven men of good reputation” (Acts 6:3). If these two passages of Scripture are conveniently “explained away” in our interpretation of Romans 16:1, then I’m afraid the rules of good exegesis have been flushed down the toilet, and we can “interpret” Scripture to mean whatever we want it to say!

  95. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 24, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    David’s answer (#89) gets at the linguistic question best, I think. But still, it’s not a necessary inference IMO.

    Especially because the Greek is arranged to emphasize the monogamous status,

    διακονοι εστωσαν μιας γυναικος ανδρες τεκνων καλως προισταμενοι και των ιδιων οικων

    it could be argued that ανδρες here is specifying masculinity (as David), or specifying husbandry. Lane, do you have a linguistic opinion on this?

    How many of you would say that this verse requires deacons to be married?

    Jeff Cagle

  96. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 24, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    Roger (#92):

    I agree that we should not try to explain away Scripture. But now, consider the following common argument that we all recognize as faulty:

    “In every *clear* instance of baptism in Acts, infants are not baptized. The pattern was belief, then baptism. Therefore, the practice of the early church was credobaptist.”

    And of course, the logical flaw here is that the cb is arguing from silence, and improperly glossing over Acts 16 to boot. Any number of instances of adult baptism do not disprove an additional practice of infant baptism; and any possible instances of infant baptism (two in Acts 16) cast doubt on a positive claim for credobaptism.

    Likewise, the appointment of men in Acts 6 would not prohibit an additional practice of having deaconesses. Similarly, the requirement in 1 Tim 3 could be a requirement to be a man, or a requirement to be a husband.

    In my view, the argument would have to rest on the authority of a deacon in 1 Tim 2, or else a better, more water-tight argument from 1 Tim 3. Good and necessary inference and all that.

    Besides, some of the posts above could arguably be called explaining away Romans 16.1, no?

    It’s weird, I’m taking a side that I don’t actually believe in. But given Mary Kathryn’s very valid point that some churches have not fully allowed for women to function as members of the body in their works of service, it seems like we ought to have a crystal-clear argument for any prohibitions we lay down. That is, it ought to be God’s clear command and not merely our own preferences read into the Scriptures (not saying you’re doing that, Roger — I’m just laying a boundary-point).

    Women elders? Absolutely not. 1 Tim 2.11-15. Women deacons? IMO, that still falls under 1 Tim 2. But the argument from 1 Tim 3 utilizes a hermeneutical principle that we disallow in other areas.

    Jeff Cagle

  97. Andrew Webb said,

    February 25, 2008 at 12:04 am

    I was searching my archives last night for materials related to deaconesses and female ordination and stumbled on the following written during the time of the PCA’s last crisis over gender in the year 2000. Because of my almost total lack of common sense I’m “sharing it” with y’all.

    Here it is with the original disclaimer:

    This will probably only be intelligible to those of you raised far enough from the sub-culture to know who Robert Plant and Jimmy Page are. Please accept my sincere apologies in advance, I am obviously a very disturbed individual in need of serious help.

    Warning: The following is not intended for children or the terminally
    serious. If “Shine Jesus Shine” is your favorite song or Becky Pipert is
    your favorite theologian, I beg you to turn back now!
    ———–
    The Gender Inclusive Stairway to Heaven

    There’s a lady who’s sure all her sermons are gold
    And she’s describing the contours of heaven
    And when she gets there she knows if the pulpits are closed
    With an overture she can get what she came for

    Woe oh oh oh oh oh
    And she’s listing the contents of heaven

    There’s a statement somewhere from Paul but she wants to be sure
    And you know sometimes words have two meanings
    In the church by the creek there’s a songbird who sings
    “Sometimes all of our judgments are misgiven”

    Woe oh oh oh oh oh
    And she’s expositing the passages on heaven

    There’s a feeling I get when I look to the past
    And my session is crying for leaving
    At the GA I have seen rings of smoke and high fees
    And the voices of those who are whinging

    Woe oh oh oh oh oh
    And she’s teaching non-authoratatively on heaven

    And it’s whispered that soon, if the left calls the tune
    Then the pied piper will blind us to reason
    And a new day will dawn for those who stand long
    And the sanctuary will echo with laughter

    And it makes us blunder

    If there’s a tustle in your WIC group
    Don’t be alarmed now
    It’s just a spring clean for the “Talk Queen”

    Yes there are two paths we can go by
    but in the long run
    Let’s hope there’s time to change the road we’re on

    Your head is spinning and it won’t go because you don’t know
    If the OPCs calling you to join them
    Dear lady how did you know that we’re all blow
    Your walkway lies over guilty males

    And as we stumble on down the road
    Our standards smaller than a mole
    There talks a lady we all know
    Who uses overheads and wants to show
    How everything viewed eschatologically still turns to gold
    And if you listen very long
    The tune will overcome you at last
    How we’re all are one and confused was Paul
    Step off the rock and start to roll
    Woe oh oh oh oh oh
    And she’s telling amusing anecdotes about heaven

    There’s a lady who’s sure all her sermons are gold
    And she’s sharing from her heart about heaven
    And when she gets there she knows if the pulpits are closed
    With an overture she can get what she came for

    And she’s writing a ground breaking new book… about… heaven, duh duh
    duh.

  98. Roger Mann said,

    February 25, 2008 at 2:30 am

    94: Jeff C. wrote,

    And of course, the logical flaw here is that the cb is arguing from silence, and improperly glossing over Acts 16 to boot. Any number of instances of adult baptism do not disprove an additional practice of infant baptism; and any possible instances of infant baptism (two in Acts 16) cast doubt on a positive claim for credobaptism.

    Of course I agree with that 100%. Infant baptism cannot be “proved” or “disproved” based upon arguments from silence. And that’s why infant baptism is not based upon possible inferences from Acts 16 — it “proves” nothing either way. The practice of infant baptism is rather established by “good and necessary consequence” from other portions of Scripture (the unity of the covenant of grace, the sign of the covenant is to be applied to our children, the sign under the present administration is baptism, therefore our children are to be baptized, etc.).

    Likewise, the appointment of men in Acts 6 would not prohibit an additional practice of having deaconesses. Similarly, the requirement in 1 Tim 3 could be a requirement to be a man, or a requirement to be a husband.

    I agree about Acts 6. In and of itself it would not prohibit an additional practice of having deaconesses. But I’m not sure what you mean when you say that “1 Tim 3 could be a requirement to be a man, or a requirement to be a husband.” For that is precisely what 1 Tim 3:12 says: “Let deacons be the husbands of one wife” or “men of one woman.” Without a doubt this rules out women and polygamous men — and quite likely rules out unmarried men as well.

    In my view, the argument would have to rest on the authority of a deacon in 1 Tim 2, or else a better, more water-tight argument from 1 Tim 3. Good and necessary inference and all that.

    I agree. However, Acts 6:3, as the only historical example of the appointment of deacons, clearly adds supportive weight to our conclusions drawn from 1 Tim 2 and 3. Furthermore, the context of 1 Tim 2 & 3 seems decisive:

    “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence” — 1 Tim 2:12

    “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife…able to teach [a position of “authority” 2:12]; not given to wine…one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)…Moreover he must have a good testimony…” — 1 Tim 3:2-7

    “Likewise [or “in the same manner” as elders] deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine…But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless…Let deacons be the husbands of one wife [or “men of one woman”], ruling their children and their own houses well. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.” — 1 Tim 3:8-13

    The context seems quite clear throughout these passages of Scripture. Women are not to “teach” or “have authority” over a man, therefore bishops and deacons are to be men — “the husband of one wife…who rules his own house well, having his children in submission” and “the husbands of one wife [or “men of one woman”], ruling their children and their own houses well” respectively. Thus, to read into verse 11 the notion of “women” deacons seems quite a stretch to say the least. To be sure, the “burden of proof” is on those who want to read this novel idea into the text, not vice-versa.

    Besides, some of the posts above could arguably be called explaining away Romans 16.1, no?

    No, because Romans 16:1 is not teaching on the qualifications of a deacon like 1 Tim 3:8-13 is (and for which Phoebe would not qualify), and Paul simply uses the word diakonos of Phoebe in passing. Thus, 1 Tim 3:8-13, which explicitly spells out the qualifications of a deacon, must be given the priority in our understanding of Romans 16:1.

    But given Mary Kathryn’s very valid point that some churches have not fully allowed for women to function as members of the body in their works of service, it seems like we ought to have a crystal-clear argument for any prohibitions we lay down. That is, it ought to be God’s clear command and not merely our own preferences read into the Scriptures.

    Sorry, but you seem to have it backwards. Given the clear contextual considerations of 1 Tim 2 & 3 and Acts 6, those who want to reinterpret 1 Tim 3:11 and Romans 16:1 as teaching that women ought to be allowed to hold the office of deacon must have a “crystal-clear” argument. And they obviously do not have any such “crystal-clear” argument! If anyone is guilty of reading their own “preferences” into the Scriptures, it’s the feminists and their allies within the church who are hard-pressing for a change in the diaconate.

  99. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 25, 2008 at 8:40 am

    I think I’m better with those arguments as stated. Thanks.

    One last objection, and then I’ll shut up: if we are reading 1 Tim 3.12 prescriptively wrt manhood, should we not also read it prescriptively wrt husbandry and fatherhood? Again, the Greek is structured in such a way as to lay stress on his familty relations rather than his gender.

    Why then do we not bar single or childless men from office?

    Jeff Cagle

  100. David Weiner said,

    February 25, 2008 at 8:57 am

    Jeff, re: #97,

    I have to run to try to save the U.S. economy so I am responding from memory and that is much more than dangerous! Nevertheless, my recollection is that the pronoun ‘his’ in 3:12 only modifies ‘household’ and not ‘children.’ Everybody has a household; and barring adultery or adoption etc., only married people have children. So, I have never taken this phrase here about children to refer to only children that the deacon has fathered.

  101. J.R. Polk said,

    February 25, 2008 at 9:01 am

    Hi Jeff,

    Why then do we not bar single or childless men from office?

    Your argument here may in fact be valid, however it’s simply not sufficient to render the main point being made about 1 Tim 3:12 null and void. IMO, it rather ignores what is very plain. That is, verse 12 uses the masculine plural of the word “deacon”, which may include a mixed crowd, but goes on to make reference to “husbands of one wife.” The main point as I see it is that verse 12 equates “deacons” with “men,” the phrase “of one wife” notwithstanding.

    There is one other problem IMO. Why does Paul make reference to “women” in verse 11, instead of the feminine plural of “deacon?” Why doesn’t he say in verse 12, “Let “men” be husbands of one wife,” instead of saying “Let “deacons” be the husband of one wife?” After all, we know that Paul has no problem using the word “deaconess,” if you will, when speaking of Phoebe in Romans 16:1. Just a few thoughts.

    In His Service,
    J.R. Polk

  102. J.R. Polk said,

    February 25, 2008 at 9:03 am

    Jeff,

    I meant to post the following quote before the comments of my last post as this is basically what I’m responding to:

    Why then do we not bar single or childless men from office?

  103. pduggie said,

    February 25, 2008 at 9:35 am

    Any ideas on what the ecclesaistical AUTHORITY of the male deacon is?

    Do the Bayly’s have it down, or is there more/less to say?

    The BCO is explicit that the office of deacon is one of “service, not rule”

  104. Bennett B. Wethered said,

    February 25, 2008 at 9:58 am

    Re 92: Roger wrote (and I wish I knew how to indent a quote, or italicize, as I see him and others do) about my reference to the analogy of Scripture, connecting it to ‘Systematic Theology. Yes, the use the analogy of Scripture in exegesis and exposition is the working out of what is called ‘Systematic Theology.’ It is the primary tool, the acting out of ST. We look at given words, phrases, sentences, pericopes IN the CONTEXT of where they are in Scripture, in the flow of the historical, Biblical narrative (Biblical Theology done properly), but ALWAYS, simultaneously comparing words, topics, teachings against what is said about them from other references in the other 65 ‘chapters’ of the ONE Book (looking at the Bible as 1 book with 66 chapters :). – After doing that (and only after), we can more accurately understand the word, sentence, passage in question. Such is our necessary (not optional, if we have the time) task. I thank our Lord for the privilege (and weighty responsibility) of doing such a task.

  105. Todd Bordow said,

    February 25, 2008 at 11:23 am

    I don’t think it has been mentioned, but the OPC published a minority report in 1988 on the subject of women deacons (pro), written by Robert Strimple, that answers many of the questions raised here, and Strimple’s report seems compelling to me. Have a look: http://opc.org/GA/women_in_office.html#The%20Office%20of%20Deacon

    Blessings,

    Todd Bordow
    Fort Worth, TX

  106. pduggie said,

    February 25, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Here’s a crazy thought: What if Paul expected that Timothy would only appoint as deaconesses those who were married to deacons. This would also go towards explaining the “office” (Calvin’s term) of widow.

  107. February 25, 2008 at 11:44 am

    Thanks for that Todd. Gave me something to do this afternoon, not like I had other things ;)

  108. Bill Relish said,

    February 25, 2008 at 11:45 am

    “The word for servant there, διακονον, is the feminine form of the word, and in context is best and correctly translated as ’servant,’ as it is 8 times in the KJV,”

    I guess I don’t follow why it is the context correctly makes it “servant,” other than to say that the context is that women cannot be deaconesses. Someone on the other side would say “the context shows that “deacon” is the best translation.

    In other words, what is it about the context that begs “servant” instead of “deacon?”

  109. Roger Mann said,

    February 25, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    97: Jeff C. wrote,

    If we are reading 1 Tim 3.12 prescriptively wrt manhood, should we not also read it prescriptively wrt husbandry and fatherhood? Again, the Greek is structured in such a way as to lay stress on his familty relations rather than his gender. Why then do we not bar single or childless men from office?

    That’s a good question…which allows me to clarify something I wrote in my previous post:

    “Let deacons be the husbands of one wife” or “men of one woman.” Without a doubt this rules out women and polygamous men — and quite likely rules out unmarried men as well.

    I should have said “quite possibly rules out unmarried men as well,” as I believe this point is more debatable than its ruling out women and polygamous men. Questions such as whether this passage rules out unmarried men, legitimately divorced men, men remarried after a divorce or the death of a spouse, men without children, etc., seem much more open to various interpretations in my opinion. For example, not all the apostles were married or had children. Nevertheless, they were all men who were sovereignly called to that office by God. If that was the case with the greater office of apostleship, would it not likewise apply to the lesser offices of elder and deacon? Would unmarried, childless, or remarried men still qualify? Possibly. As Dr. Robert L. Reymond points out: “The most likely design of this qualification is the prohibition of a male polygamist from holding church office” (“A Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith” p. 899). But I would have to respect any church that restricts the offices of elder and deacon to married men with children, since that is what 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1 plainly state as qualifications.

  110. RBerman said,

    February 25, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    Great discussion! I am glad this is coming to the GA, because I know of several PCA churches (though not my own) which have forged ahead with deaconesses/female deacons. It seems clear to me that this was not the intent of the authors of BCO because:

    1) All the language in BCO about deacons is clear that deacon is an ordained office in the PCA, and that only men may hold the office of deacon; and

    2) The practice of the churches which wrote those words was that only men were deacons, and that there was no position (“ordained” or “commissioned” or otherwise) of “deaconess.”

    The fact that the letter of the BCO does not forbid unordained deacon (male or female) or deaconesses (or female “ministers of children’s activities”) should not be an acceptable reason to blaze a new trail in those directions, but to seek clarification before acting. I am in the middle of Schwertley’s article and am open to the idea that BCO should be revised. The doctrine of ordination is one of the dicier in Scripture, and Presbyterian practice across the centuries has been far from dogmatic on issues of 2 vs 2.5 vs 3 vs 4 office church government. When we add to that God’s usage of prophetesses in both the OT and the NT, and the clericalist bent of allowing only TEs to read Scripture during public worship, it seems to me that there’s a bit more exegetical work to be done in these areas.

    Nonetheless, I’m disappointed when I hear of PCA churches that have forged ahead themselves with deaconesses, or unordained female deacons. It doesn’t sound like mutual submission in the Lord. It sounds like the old “easier to get forgiveness than permission” attitude that has wreaked havoc in so many denominations. If you think the constitution of the PCA is wrong, work to change it. But in the meantime (and afterward, should your reform attempt fail), live within the rules, or if your conscience insists, join with a church body more agreeable to your understanding.

  111. pduggie said,

    February 25, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    Nobody at Tenth, for instance, is “forging ahead” with deaconesses. They’ve had them since before Tenth joined the PCA. The PCA brought in a whole denomination (RPCES) with Deaconesses (who are not children’s ministers, either.)

    Does the BCO have to speak to unordained teen short term missionaries before they can be commissioned by a congregation?

  112. mary kathryn said,

    February 25, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    Just a final note, especially to Scott (#91), whose words were very gracious. May I be clear — I do not advocate in any the ordination of women to the eldership. I am not a feminist. I do not presently advocate the ordination of women as deacons, even. I am merely, as many of you are, investigating the idea.

    It is false, and damaging to one’s own argument, to make strident assumptions about the person with whom one is debating. The immediate defensiveness of some respondents on this blog concerns me — it seems to indicate an inherent weakness below the surface of their argument. I am the first to admit that the traditional, male-only interpretation of the Timothy passage is a possible true interpretation. But I want the leadership to be certain – and not base their argument on tradition alone, or on assumptions — because their conclusion could remove opportunities for service from their sisters in Christ. It is a time for them to be cautious, not dogmatic.

    I’ve tried repeatedly to point out 2 things: first that the general attitude in some (NOT all) PCA churches is to assume removal of various duties from women, simply because they are women. I’m not talking about being deacons. Perhaps my view is too “open” (non-regulative) for some, but I think that the church should opt to allow women to do all things, unless Scripture specifically proscribes it.

    And the second thing: the kitchen. I’ve mentioned the ‘serving at tables.’ This is was the first function of the deacon in Acts. The serving of food to others, to the needy. Is this one of the duties of a deacon? If so, should men only do it? You see, the women in the church, practically speaking, are doing the deacons’ work. When did it become normative for men who are so diligent to protect the OFFICE of deacon, to allow the WORK of the deacon to be given to anyone?

    Bear in mind – I’m not speaking angrily, or sarcastically. This is an earnest question. The women, including myself, are joyful to perform such service. It falls naturally to our gifts. But it seems disingenuous for the church to simultaneously say to us, “please do the deacons work,” and “you are not a deacon.”

    These are just questions, guys. Just because I’m a woman, don’t get your hackles up :)

  113. RBerman said,

    February 25, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    #108:

    That’s the sort of thing that I’m talking about concerning the “dicey” nature of the doctrine of ordination. We turn Greek words into titles when we transliterate them (baptism, minister, deacon, presbyter) instead of translating them (washing, manager, servant, old man). I grant that sometimes Scripture appears to use those words in technical senses rather than common ones, but not always, so we have to be cautious that we’re not picking and choosing “common or technical?” based on the zillion other influences upon our judgment.

    We’re also dealing with terms of cultural-specific, debated practical vs symbolic vs supernatural significance (“laying on of hands”). We want our practice to conform to Scripture, but Scripture was not written by lawyers to cover every contingency explicitly. (May women take the Lord’s Supper? May children?) So we fall back on “good and necessary” inferences and then must debate about whether some particular inference is both good and necessary.

    So yes, I think we do need some guidance about what ordination is, and what it means to commission someone, so that we can understand why it’s OK to commission a short term missionary who does evangelism, and how that’s different from a Presbytery which commissions an ordained Teaching Elder as an Evangelist. Or whether it’s within Scripture’s intent to have a mixed board of ordained deacons and commissioned deaconesses, with a deaconess as the chairwoman. Or a “Minister of Music” who has a seminary degree or a “Director of Music Ministries” who does not, or vice versa.

    And it’s all complicated by the fact that Paul gives instructions about how to run a church in its infancy, not its third and fourth and 200th decades. I don’t know a lot about how cars work, but I know the sounds that it’s normal to make when my motor is starting are quite abnormal if I’ve already been driving a few minutes.

  114. February 25, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    Amen Mary Kathyrn.

  115. its.reed said,

    February 25, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    Ref. #109:

    To make an observation relevant to this quote from Mary Kathryn’s comment,

    “The serving of food to others, to the needy. Is this one of the duties of a deacon?”

    The implication here is that the essence of the deacon’s work is to “serve food”, to hand out the material gifts of the congregation to those in need. I.e., the implication is that the work of the deacon is one of merely a worker performing the duties assigned by someone else.

    Now, to be very clear, I am not saying that this is what Mary Kathryn (or anyone else) is necessarily implying (inferring, or otherwise). I am merely observing that it is very easy to aussme that the essence of diaconal work to be one without an authoritative quality to it.

    In point of fact, the exact opposite is the case. In Acts 6 there is embedded an essential analogy between the authoritative aspect of the elders’ work and the deacons’ work.

    Acts 6:3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.

    The requirement that these men be of good repute reflects back on the authoritative nature of the diaconate. This is reinforced in the Timothy/Titus passages, in which the deacon’s qualifications are offered in a parallel (non subservient or second class status) to the elder’s qualification (the word “likewise” emphasizes this parity).

    Men ordained to the diaconate excercise spiritual authority over the material resources of the Church. Thus they must be men of recognizable character – that their exercise of such authority not bring disrepute on the One Who gives them such authority.

    It is this authoritative aspect that makes the diaconate an office to which only men are to be ordained. In an analogous fashion to eldership, the diaconate is an exercise of Christ’s authority in the Church. Thus the same economic (creational ordinance) relevant limits on a woman exercising authority in the church apply ot the diaconate.

    I.O.W., in view in the diaconate is not simply the work of service, but the exercise of Christ’s authority in the decisions and direction of that service. All kinds of men, women and children are to be engaged in the actual carrying out of that work of service. Reflecting again his authority, Christ has ordained that only men hold the authoritative office of deacon.

  116. David Gray said,

    February 25, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    Pastor Depace,

    Excellent post.

  117. Joel St. Clair said,

    February 25, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    Re: #71

    Proponents of the view that 1 Tim 3:11 addresses deaconesses rely on the structure of the passage. This is what is being addressed, as I understand it, in both the Ryken article cited in the original post as well as by Liberti.

    After shortly addressing deaconesses, proponents see Paul coming back to address Deacons with a type of afterthought [see Gordon Fee, NIBC, Pastorals]. Interestingly enough — whether you regard 3:11 as addressing deacon’s wives or deaconesses — in both cases there is a switch back in subject [deacons again].

    The thread contains a lot of discussion around 1 Tim 3:12. Does anyone else have questions about the translation “their wives” in 1 Tim 3:11 and what Paul intended with a repeated parallel structure?

  118. Philip Ryken said,

    February 26, 2008 at 9:53 am

    One of my interns has noted that Tenth and the Philadelphia Presbytery have become a cause for comment on Green Baggins, with regard to women and the use of their gifts for mercy in the church.

    Although I do not have much interest in engaging in a point/counterpoint discussion over the Internet, I believe I may be able to clarify several questions that have been raised on the blog.

    The “Qualifications for Deacons” paper on the Tenth website was written some years ago. It has been revised a little, for publication in my commentary on 1 Timothy in the Reformed Expository Commentary series. Soon the revised version will also appear on Tenth’s website.

    I recommend George Knight’s commentary on 1 Timothy (NIGTC) as providing an excellent summary of the exegetical options for 1 Timothy 3:11.

    For the record, Tenth Presbyterian Church ordained women as deacons during its later years in the PCUS, in large part because Dr. James Boice was persuaded by the arguments in favor of this position. As part of our submission to the RPCES and then the PCA, we have sought to alter our practice to bring it in line with our denomination.

    With regard to deaconesses, our bylaws read, in part, “The Board of Deaconesses shall assist the Board of Deacons in carrying out its ministry, particularly in areas where it is more appropriate for women than men to serve, and shall be subject to oversight by the Board of Deacons.”

    I believe my own general view is clear from what I have written, provided that it is read in full. It is not clear to me that Bible permits the ordination of women as deacons, but it is clear that women should be actively involved in mercy ministry. I believe that Tenth’s practice of commissioning women as deaconesses is faithful to the Scriptures and does not violate the Book of Church Order.

    Philip Ryken
    Senior Minister
    Tenth Presbyterian Church

  119. Mark said,

    February 26, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    “The immediate defensiveness of some respondents on this blog concerns me — it seems to indicate an inherent weakness below the surface of their argument.”

    Wow. That’s an observation with wide applicability.

    But that’s not why I’m posting this comment. I’m posting this comment to point out that the “serving at tables” in Acts 6 I have understood to be money tables. This is about desk work administration.

    How do I know this? I don’t really remember. I picked up the idea from D. A. Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies and was persuaded at the time. I may be entirely wrong but someone who has the book on their shelf (I don’t) should check it out, just in case it is relevant. (Also, if Carson is wrong, it would be good for me to learn that.)

  120. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 26, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    How would that fit with the “distribution of food” in v. 1?

    Jeff

  121. Steven Carr said,

    February 26, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    I know the deaconess issue is interesting and all that, but I highly recommend going over to Wes White’s blog. He has posted Walaeus on the Invisible/Visible Church distinction.

  122. David Gray said,

    February 26, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    >How would that fit with the “distribution of food” in v. 1?

    Logistics.

  123. February 26, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    I just sprang 10 comments from the moderation queue. Most were on this thread. Folks may want to scan for new comments from yesterday through this comment as some interesting additions have been freed from moderation bondage. :-)

  124. its.reed said,

    February 26, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    Ref. #118:

    Rev. Dr. Ryken,

    FWIW, the conversation on deaconesses here has been one blessed with a greater irenic spirit than many other conversations at Green Bagginses. In particular, while there has been some dsicussion of the practices of your church, I don’t think anyone has pulled out the war drums :)

    Thanks for taking the time to post and offer some clarity. May God continue His blessings on the ministry of 10th Pres, and your ministry to that congregation and the rest of us in the broader reformed-evangelical world. We are grateful for his use of you.

  125. February 26, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    Dr. Ryken,

    Welcome to GreenBaggins and thank you for taking time to comment. The historical insight that you provided fills in more of the picture. I only offer two comments:

    It is not clear to me that Bible permits the ordination of women as deacons, but it is clear that women should be actively involved in mercy ministry.

    I think that almost all of here would offer a hearty “Amen” to that last phrase. As I said above, I think that WIC gets short shrift in some areas of the PCA. We leverage our women’s gifts here to the max legal extent IAW the letter of the BCO.

    I believe that Tenth’s practice of commissioning women as deaconesses is faithful to the Scriptures and does not violate the Book of Church Order.

    While I respect that you sincerely believe that it does, I (and many others) respectfully disagree. There’s nothing in the BCO about commissioning parallel or subordinate church officer positions, nor of deaconesses at all. The absence of mention doesn’t indicate that a practice is appropriate. I believe that we both could come up with examples where such an interpretation would be pure trouble.

    Thank you again for stopping by. This topic should make for another interesting GA this year.

  126. RBerman said,

    February 26, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    Re #115 its.reed:

    “Men ordained to the diaconate excercise spiritual authority over the material resources of the Church. Thus they must be men of recognizable character – that their exercise of such authority not bring disrepute on the One Who gives them such authority.”

    We could probably have an interesting discussion about what the phrase “spiritual authority over material resources” means. ISTM that in a broad sense all authority is spiritual authority, meaning authority which must be administered in a godly manner. That would include deacons over a mercy budget and a high school basketball team captain over his teammates and the Proverbs 31 woman over her house.

    But when I think of “spiritual authority” in a church context I think of the exposition of Scripture, the authority to say, “Thus saith the Lord.” And I don’t conceive of Deacons having that kind of authority over the material resources of the Church. They are the implementors, the operating officers, the master sergeants. Not the deciders, the executives, the generals.

  127. David Gray said,

    February 26, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    >They are the implementors, the operating officers, the master sergeants.

    Who thinks master sergeants don’t have authority?

  128. February 26, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    David.

    Who thinks master sergeants don’t have authority?

    I’m with you on this one. A commander that doesn’t know that doesn’t last long.

  129. Sam Steinmann said,

    February 26, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    Mr Mattes,

    Wouldn’t “deaconesses under the supervision of the Board of Deacons” fit clearly into the BCO category of assistants to the deacons (BCO 9.7)? Or is there a difference of actual role, as opposed to just one of semantics.

    (A category that’s a bit close to home for me, as I was an assistant to the deacons for a time and found the experience to be of great benefit.)

  130. February 26, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    Sam,

    If you said “(men and) women serving under the supervision of the Board of Deacons,” I’d be with you 100% on BCO 9.7, because that’s what it actually says. As I said in my post, the plain English of “deaconess” is just the feminine form of “deacon” and carries all the baggage therein. There is no mention of “deaconesses” in the BCO in 9.7, and it included both men and women. It also says nothing about “commissioning.” I don’t think that a straightforward. reading of 9.7 or 9 in general supports the “commissioning” of women to a special underoffice of “deaconess”.

    I am concerned that the discussion is centering on what folks (not necessarily you) can “squeak in between” the lines of what the BCO doesn’t say rather than actually complying with what the BCO plainly says. If people want to ordain women deacons or “commission” deaconesses, then they should put forth an overture to change the BCO. That seems to me to be a better approach.

  131. February 26, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    Bob,

    Your comment above echoes my complaint at the very beginning of this thread, ie., that there is a profound difference between affirming what our confessions affirm on the one hand, and merely not contradicting them on the other.

    I have a hard time with the idea that a PCA minister can invent new offices (or new versions of old soteriological loci for that matter) that effectively undo what our standards give us, and at the same time claim that he is being faithful to our confessional identity.

    To me, ordaining female deacons, but calling them something else, is to deny what our BCO teaches about what deacons are.

    A deaconess by any other name, and all that….

  132. its.reed said,

    February 27, 2008 at 7:07 am

    Ref. #126:

    Mr. Bermann, of course we would need to qualify the nature of the authority in view. My point is that it is an exercise of Christ’s authority over the Church whihc is delegated to deacons – by Christ.

    This is why there is the Christlike character requirements for these men. The parallel with the similar character requirements for elders emphasizes that the seminal issue in view is the exercise of Christ’s authority.

    The elders exercise such authority over the spiritual food of the congregation, the deacons over the material food of the congregation. Both categories of authority are only to be to given men who give evidence that Christ is indeed their Lord to whom they are loyal.

  133. J.R. Polk said,

    February 27, 2008 at 8:54 am

    Of course, this was in full view and one must assume approval of the Presbytery commission overseeing the particularization.

    I must have missed this the first time I read it. Well . . . you assume correctly. Review of Presbytery Minutes caught this little anomaly and requested an explanation which in turn prompted the study report, the called meeting, and overture.

  134. J.R. Polk said,

    February 27, 2008 at 8:56 am

    Sorry, make that “Review of Presbytery Records.” I need more coffee. :(

  135. RBerman said,

    February 27, 2008 at 10:12 am

    #127 David Gray: I grant that the sergeant analogy is imperfect. But surely you grasped what I was getting at: The distinction between those who bear policymaking authority, and those to whom they delegate implementation. I trust you can think of examples at your own church in which the Session authorized someone (man or woman) to do some task (and perhaps to corral others to help with the task) and did not micromanage every sub-step of that process.

    #132 its.reed: You are saying that when a responsibility is of great consequence, it becomes more important that those overseeing it are mature Christians, experienced in the matter at hand. I agree. That’s why an “excellent wife” is the one who “watches over the affairs of her household” and “considers a field and buys it.” Her deeds of service and mercy are under the authority of her family head, the husband. This seems similar to how the deacons work under the session.

  136. its.reed said,

    February 27, 2008 at 11:17 am

    Ref. #135:

    Just to clarify, whaty I’m saying is thsat Christ delagates authority according to the set biblical pattern.

    Your comment here is talking about the general underylying principle. Scripture goes beyond this to specific principles for officers in the church.

    I’m not arguing against your observation, I’m saying that it is an insufficient foundation for the principle in view.

    And you’ve missed a critical presbyterian principle of the parity of the offices. Deacons do not work for the elders. Deacons work with the elders. Both are offices of authority, delegated by Christ. The elders are not the “bosses” of the deacons. This may be how some churches practically work things out, but this is not consistent with the principle.

  137. Mark said,

    February 27, 2008 at 11:45 am

    #120, #121

    Let’s remember that the Jerusalem Church had thousands of members. Distributing food was not something done at a Wednesday supper. It was done daily to hundreds or thousands. It was a logistical and economic challenge. It wasn’t about rotating meals between families, it was about buying in bulk and distributing.

    So I think money tables makes a great deal of contextual sense. Though that doesn’t prove it is true.

  138. Sam Steinmann said,

    February 27, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    Reed says,

    Deacons do not work for the elders. Deacons work with the elders. Both are offices of authority, delegated by Christ. The elders are not the “bosses” of the deacons.

    The BCO says,

    In the discharge of their duties the Deacons are under the supervision and authority of the Session.

    That is why I view someone who works under the authority of the deacons as a distinct role from that of a deacon.

  139. its.reed said,

    February 27, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Ref. 138:

    Sam, fair enough. This is one area of BCO I take a quibble with, but only a minor one that practically is inconsequential.

    Deacons as with reference to the doctrinal authority of elders are under their authority, as is everyone else. Deacons, with reference to the discharge of their duties are accountable to Christ. Yet even this effort to distinguish needs a lot more qualification.

    Practically speaking, the coordination of the doctrinal emphasis vis-a-vis the diaconal program of the church requires the elders to set the direction, etc. Yet the elders do not determine the diaconal program of the church – that is the calling of the deacons.

    I see BCO talking here about authority not in a comprehensive manner, but rather in a conditioned manner; those conditions (as with all exercise of authority) being set by Scripture. The elders do not determine the duties of the diaconate, the Scripture does. The elders are called to served the deacons in making sure their plans are indeed consistent with the teaching of Scripture, and then supporting them in their calling so that they can perform those duties.

    The notion of the deacons being a sub-officer, fully accountable to the elders, to be sure is one with a long historical precedent. It is however, one in which I believe the pragmatics have in time over shadowed the principle, to the end that, says as with our Anglican brothers, the deacon is seen as a secondary office to the eldership.

    BTW, note that a sub or secondary office view of the diaconate supports the argument from female deacons to female elders, an example of the lesser to the greater. If one office is subordinate to the other, and the sub is open to women, then the greater should likewise.

  140. mary kathryn said,

    February 27, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    Reed – In Acts, the elders gave work to the deacons that had been their own, but which they could no longer do. The work was the responsibility of the elders — the whole church is the responsibility of the elders. That’s what oversight is. It would seem strange to me to say that the whole church was under the elders’ oversight, except the deacons, as if the diaconate were some loose cannon, operating independently. I’m not sure about PCA churches, but in our ARP church, the session, at every meeting, evaluates, and accepts or rejects, the work of the deacons. The elders have the final say.

  141. Tom Albrecht said,

    February 27, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    RE: #140

    “I’m not sure about PCA churches, but in our ARP church, the session, at every meeting, evaluates, and accepts or rejects, the work of the deacons. The elders have the final say.”

    It seems to me that if that is all that is intended by Scripture, then you could accomplish the same thing with a committee. There would be no need for a separate office of deacon.

  142. David R. McCrory said,

    February 27, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Does an “office” confer or imply authority? If so, then how does a women serving in an office of the church not go against Paul’s instruction for women not to have, or usurp authority over men?

  143. its.reed said,

    February 27, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    Ref. 140:

    Mary Kathryn, maybe a quibble, but I think you’re reading into what Acts says.

    Its not that the elders delegated work to the deacons that was their responsibility but could not get to. Rather, no one was doing the work (overseeing the fair distribution of material to the needy in the church).

    The elders, as the only office at the time, were handed the problem. They, seeking the Lord’s advice (a necessary inference as the passage is written in the infallible word and such is consistent with the exercise of their authority), under the direction of the Holy Spirit, gave the instructions to the congregation in terms of establishing the diaconate.

    (I recognize some do not see the diaconate established in Acts 6 – I just disagree).

    I.O.W., this was not a matter of delegation necessitated by over worked elders. If this were the case, I could where a case could be made for a “forensic” sense in which the elders rule over (have authority over) the deacons.

    This is just not what Acts 6 teaches.

    P.S., completely off topic, I just have to ask, is your background Irish &/or catholic? I read your name and I hear the voice of Ward Bond in a John Ford western calling for the lead femal character – fond and heartwarming memories :)

  144. mary kathryn said,

    February 28, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    Neither. I’m pure Anglo-Saxon. Got the name because it belonged to my parents’ flower girl in their wedding. Was in the PCA from 1973. Joined the ARP last year because there is no PCA congregation near us. Dad worked at RTS Jackson.

    This discussion has been interesting. I think we can probably all agree that offices which involve headship/oversight are not to be given to women, according to scripture. Then I look at the church. Women are directing all kinds of things, overseeing committees, directing VBS, Sunday school, DCEs direct huge amounts of the church’s work. Is this an issue to anyone here? I don’t know if it was Reed, or someone else, indicated that it didn’t matter if women did the work of the deacons, as long as they were supervised by the deacons. Is that the general view?

  145. RBerman said,

    February 28, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    #139 its.reed:

    “BTW, note that a sub or secondary office view of the diaconate supports the argument from female deacons to female elders, an example of the lesser to the greater. If one office is subordinate to the other, and the sub is open to women, then the greater should likewise.”

    I don’t see how that follows at all. One would expect the “superior” office (in terms of hierarchy, not in terms of worth before God) to have stricter requirements. Doctors go to school for much longer than nurses, for instance. US Presidents have stricter citizenship requirements than state governors.

    As to the rest, it does indeed seem that you have not just an inconsequential quibble but an honest exception to BCO on your hands. It’s not the end of the world (I have my own minor exceptions to BCO), but your attempt to reconcile your own view with what BCO says seems to me rather gymnastic.

  146. E. C. Hock said,

    February 28, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    IF people want to review one heavy weight in Reformed circles who affirms woman as deacons, along with men, read Edmund P. Clowney’s book, The Church (IVP). The argument ought to be taken and built up from the level of exegesis and the best understanding of the texts involved, namely Roman 16 and 1 Timothy 3. It is never enough to just argue tradition and historcial precedence, or make sweeping statements about slippery slopes, as if every doctrine or practice that changes form or meaning or emphasis must sooner or later become a future heresy.

  147. Bennett B. Wethered said,

    February 28, 2008 at 10:46 pm

    Re the last post (#146), I agree with you that “the argument ought to be taken and built up from the level of exegesis and the best understanding of the texts involved, namely Roman 16 and 1 Timothy 3.” That hits the nail on the head. To that end, I refer you to my earlier comments (#59, 77, 104); not to restate all of my points, but 1 Tim. 3:12 helps us understand the the proper translation of diakonon in Rom. 16 is servant, not ‘deacon/ess.’ You are so right, the issue is best and primarily understood as an exegetical one, not an argument of tradition or against a ‘slippery slope.’

    Also, I am surprised at the situation at Tenth Presbyterian. I formerly attended a PCA church, serving as a Deacon, and now serve as a Minister of the Word in the OPC. I have some knowledge of the Books of Church Order in both groups. The current BOCO in the PCA does not explicitly allow for ‘female deacons’ or ‘deaconesses.’ I understand that, at the time Tenth Pres. came into the PCA, in the 70s, I guess, that it came in with some female Deacons, those particular women (to mix a metaphor) being ‘grandfathered in.’ Wouldn’t that, however, only been the case for those women who were serving as ‘deacons’ at the time, and not been a ‘grandafthering’ that allowed Tenth to comntinue to commission or ‘ordain’ NEW women? I’d be a little surprised if the latter would have been what was in mind, but it sounds as though tat is what has happened. Shouldn’t Tenth (or liberti…What’s with the lower case, anyway? Is this e.e. cummings poetry or the old archy and mehitabel, who could only type lower case….) have, to do things ‘according to Hoyle’ or ‘kosher,’ have sought a BOCO change first, and then sought to continue setting women apart in this way? Just a question?……

  148. J.R. Polk said,

    February 29, 2008 at 5:50 am

    (or liberti…What’s with the lower case, anyway?

    I’ve wondered that as well. I’ll bet it’s just a ‘style thing.’ The next time I see one of the liberty TEs I’ll have to ask.

  149. its.reed said,

    February 29, 2008 at 8:25 am

    Ref. #144: nope, wasn’t a point I made. I’ve only offered comments concerning the nature of the authority of the office of deacon, and how that seems to me to be the pivotal reason for men only.

    Ref. #145: an argument from the lesser to the greater is common, both in Scripture and in secular rhetoric. I’ve not said that this was a necessary conclusion. Rather, that as the lesser to the greater is a common mode of argumentation, it lends itself to this use. I’d agree such use would be invalid, but given other reasons, not because a lesser to greater argument is itself invalid.

    Quibble: I looked up the word to support my usage hear and found out it is actually the wrong word to use. I in no means want to understood to be cavailing, to be offering an argument which rhetorically avoids the intended meaning.

    So, I’ll go with your word, “minor.” And as it is minor, I’ll not enter into whether or not I’m a gymnast :) Thanks for your interaction.

  150. February 29, 2008 at 9:24 am

    I am currently working my way through 1st Timothy on my blog. When I get to Chapter 3 I’ll give this thread a buzz.

  151. E. C. Hock said,

    February 29, 2008 at 11:02 am

    Ben

    You write, “I am surprised at the situation at Tenth Presbyterian Church”. Allow me to expand on this point. Given its cultural context, practical need and commitment to wider urban ministry, the wisdom of seriously recognizing spiritual gifts, its more open past as a fomer church of the PCUSA (re-structured), and Ryken’s commitment to exegetical and expository deliberations over texts (which allows, at least in principle, for fresh approaches to old practices), the matter of a woman being ‘commissioned’ as deaconesses, to highlight its function, not the office, is not so surprizing. The cummulative effect of these above items can explain how they interpret and apply BCO 9-7, which allows the session to “appoint godly men and women of the congregation to assist the deacons….” Perhaps then, given the current use of deacons/deaconesses (which may be a casuistic distinction without a difference), commissioning women as Tenth has done is to take the BCO option seriously so that congregations realize that they have indeed been set apart like a Phoebe, who was recognized by Paul as more than a visiting church member of WIC to Rome (Romans 16:2).

    Aside from this, the comments made earlier by Mary (I think), concerning the enlistment of women in the church as co-laborers with the men in diaconal practices, and often beyond the time and talents of the deaconal men, are not to be explained away. It is a valid question to raise. Given that so many PCA/OPC-type churches already rely heavily on active and mature women to do organizational work as well as practical service and ministry in the church, with accumulated wisdom, which men feel awkward or mystified to do, has the NT understood something that we have been slow to recognize? Is it not an outgrowth of the priesthood of all believers? If the church is already doing something in practice, namely using godly women as unique vessels of influence, but is reluctant to give official sanction because of arguments over status, have we not strayed from the more obvious goal and role of the church – to conform to Christ and be his compassionate life to a broken world, counting others better than ourselves (cf. Philippians 2:1-4)?

    To argue subtle matters of authority in the diaconate in a context like this (as if the men were pre-elders), rings a bit hollow. It’s a little like a man who keeps demanding more respect of his headship all the while missing the point of his absence of leadership, yet wonders why he lost his influence in the family. If Tenth PC, in its collective wisdom, has come to terms with the importance of its serving women and is avoiding inconsistency, then its move down this road of using its “godly women” this way is not a sliippery slope, but a matter of honesty and integrity with Christ’s servants within His Body.

    By this line of discussion, I am not necessarily arguing for the ordaining of women deacons, for that debate must be ironed out biblically and culturally at the larger levels of the PCA. But it does argue for a church that wants to serve more openly out of faith and not artificially out of fear of each other.

  152. E. C. Hock said,

    February 29, 2008 at 11:12 am

    Do forgive the typo and lack of sentence agreement in the first paragraph. Midway, it should read, “…the matter of a woman ‘commissioned’ as a deaconess, to highlight its function ….”

  153. Mike singenstreu said,

    February 29, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    I think the greater issue is in the term “ordination”. What is meant by it and what authority is conferred through it? Then we have to ask the historical question of where the term came from since it is not found in the Scriptures…the practice is but the term..still looking. Having said that I have always thought that the approach of FPC Jackson is what each church should be striving towards. Since we have in our tradition determined to define ordination the way we have then we are left with the question of “getting around” this definition or utilizing what is God given–cooperative ministries with the WIC or whatever you want to call them as a support for the elders on-going task of shepherding… for there are simply somethings that men elders shouldn’t do with women members and this is where a Titus 2 woman can be extremely helpful under the oversight of the elders or even deacons.

  154. mary kathryn said,

    February 29, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    # 153 – yes, but lots of the jobs that women are doing/called on to do in the church, are NOT things that men can’t do. They’re not gender specific, or even gender sensitive. They’re just jobs that some women do well, are happy to do, and the men have let them do it.

    #151 – Mr. Hock, I find your little phrase “avoiding inconsistency,” describing what 10th Pres is trying to do, a very telling phrase. Because inconsistent is (IMO) what so many churches are now. I must fundamentally disagree with the opinion that women may do all the work of the deacon, as long as they don’t have the title/office. This is the inconsistency which bothers me. If the leaders of the church feel strongly that women should not be in the diaconate, then they need to reserve the work of the deacon (specifically defined as well), for the deacons alone. At that point, I think everyone in the church would see how much work there was to be done, and how difficult it is when only a handful of men do it, and everyone else only watches.

    I dearly love FPC Jackson, and I do realize that #153 is describing how that church has used its WIC well. But… much of what I would call diaconal work at FPC Jackson is done by hired employees, whom the church pays to work on Sunday. No way around that. It’s a huge church, and lots of people have to work on the Lord’s Day there. But this presents another sticky issue in diaconal work. Is it okay for non-believers to be brought into the church, to do “serving at tables” (sorry to pull out that term again), as long as they have the oversight (albeit via other employees) of the deacons? It seems that debating the meaning of the text is one thing. But implementation is quite another. What kind of a diaconate would it take, to perform ALL the acts of service in a congregation of 3000?

  155. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 29, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    I must fundamentally disagree with the opinion that women may do all the work of the deacon, as long as they don’t have the title/office. This is the inconsistency which bothers me. If the leaders of the church feel strongly that women should not be in the diaconate, then they need to reserve the work of the deacon (specifically defined as well), for the deacons alone.

    This seems like a bridge too far to me. For example, my work as an elder includes training people to teach (as in Sunday School, for instance). The work is carried out by those teachers — but they aren’t ordained “to teach.”

    In a church that sees each body as a member who carries out some portion of the work of ministry, it sounds like your maxim would require them all to be ordained, no?

    That said, I’m supportive of your overall point that office carries responsibility, and that men should be criticized when they allow certain responsibilities to fall on the shoulders of women by default.

    Church history mavens: am I correct in believing that the push for women elders in mainline churches coincided with the dearth of available men for the work of ministry?

    Jeff Cagle

  156. Mike said,

    February 29, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    What kind of diaconate would it take, to perform all the acts of servcice in a congregation of 3000? It would seem by your posts that you already know the answer to that question. The church works best when the whole church works. Without that then the church will always be inconsistent in its work and its understanding since our understandings specifically of the Gospel are seen in our work.

    This question is, as I said before, best answered within the biblical context of how best to help the elders do their job. Recognizing that the elders have the ultimate responsibility and accountability for a congregation then as all members are discipled, the diaconate comes along side to aid them thus teaching others in the congregation to do the same. Everyone is in one sense called on to “serve tables” and “clear tables” for that matter…that is a basic view of shepherding. Getting dirting in the lives of our people is a prerequisite for one-anothering in the church. But it is incumbant upon the leadership to teach this principle so that most others are not simply looking on. The diaconate is obviously necessary to the church or it wouldn’t be in Scripture but it is there to train others for the works of service as well and if it is not doing that then it is not fulfilling its role.

  157. Andrew Duggan said,

    February 29, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Re: Mary Kathryn #153,

    Wow, if that is really the situation where some are hiring non-believers to work on the Lord’s day to service the church, but then worry about what is too much authority for women is, makes me think of straining at gnats and swallowing camels.

    But then I don’t have to worry about 3000+ people on a given Sunday.

  158. Lou G. said,

    March 1, 2008 at 10:13 am

    I would like to have seen Lane or Guy post a response on this topic. Speaking with quite a few leaders in my own presbytery since this post went up, I’ve found that almost every one of them thinks that women deaconesses is an appropriate position and they will support the PCA in such a decision. Our Presbytery’s TEs and REs agree more with the positions of both Phil Ryken and Tim Keller.

    We have all known fairly well the positions of the Baylys, Doug Wilson, David Gray, and now Bob Mattes, as their views have been well circulated.

    How about you, Lane? Or Guy? Where are you on this? I’m curious.

  159. J.R. Polk said,

    March 1, 2008 at 10:54 am

    Lou,

    I have to admit I’m not a bit surprised by your findings at this point. I heard this was an issue for other presbyteries at Philly’s called meeting in January. To which presbytery do you belong?

  160. greenbaggins said,

    March 1, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    I am not in favor of women deacons, mostly because I think the case for it is extremely shaky exegetically, and that therefore we ought to be guided by a sort of exegetical regulative principle. It is extremely dangerous to base a practice on something that is not certain in the text of Scripture. All the passages adduced to support female deacons are contested, and rightly so. Romans 16 simply does not say unequivocally that Phoebe was a deaconess. The word has a much wider semantic range than “office-holder.” She was a servant. That is what the word means. It could mean that she was a deaconess. But the text does not force us to that position. Similar things can be said of the other passages usually adduced.

  161. greenbaggins said,

    March 1, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    I am not in favor of women deacons, mostly because I think the case for it is extremely shaky exegetically, and that therefore we ought to be guided by a sort of exegetical regulative principle. It is extremely dangerous to base a practice on something that is not certain in the text of Scripture. All the passages adduced to support female deacons are contested, and rightly so. Romans 16 simply does not say unequivocally that Phoebe was a deaconess. The word has a much wider semantic range than “office-holder.” She was a servant. That is what the word means. It could mean that she was a deaconess. But the text does not force us to that position. Similar things can be said of the other passages usually adduced.

  162. David Gray said,

    March 1, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    >We have all known fairly well the positions of the Baylys, Doug Wilson, David Gray, and now Bob Mattes, as their views have been well circulated.

    I’m not sure I belong in that exalted company…

  163. mary kathryn said,

    March 1, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    #160- “It is extremely dangerous to base a practice on something that is not certain in the text of Scripture.” – Lane, some would say that restricting women from serving as deacons is also a “practice.” And as the debate shows, even the text in Timothy does not seem “certain” to many.

    Your use of the phrase “exegettical regulative principle” is right on the mark. I do think that this debate boils down to exactly that, for many. When looking at this issue (which the OPC document even called an exegetical stalemate, if I recall correctly), should the church allow service when there is doubt, or restrict service, when there is doubt. I do think each person’s response will come down to their view on regulative matters in general. Do you agree?

    I realize that it is not Biblical, nor practical, for all but ordained church members to sit on their hands, not serving others. I guess I’m trying to find what is the correct middle ground. How much may women encroach into a deacon’s work, before it is unbefitting? How much may a deacon merely supervise, not actually doing the work, and console himself that he is in the right? If, as was expressed in one post, deacons are only responsible to supervise the work, then women might do anything, correct? Is the only difference one of ordination?

    Perhaps that’s why some churches feel that women, unordained, may still do all the functions of a deacon, since they are already doing that much work anyway. The only difficulty at that point is, what to call them. And then, is has come only to a matter of semantics.

    You see, from some on this thread, I get the feeling that they don’t really care what work the women do, as long as we don’t call them deacons. So, is a deacon only a deacon because someone gave him that name?

  164. greenbaggins said,

    March 1, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    Mary Kathryn, I think you have put your finger on the nub of the issues, which are all difficult. I, for one, think that we need a study committee on this to seek clarity, if such can be obtained. I do think that we can distinguish between two issues here: one is what work women should be doing or not doing: secondly, what offices (if any) should women hold. I do think that, although related, these two issues are distinct. Given the nature of the regulative principle, I would think that the default is that nothing is allowed except what God explicitly permits. That is certainly the case with worship. I think it also applies to man’s work, not just to women’s work. There is plenty of work to be done by women (look at Proverbs 31 and Titus 2 for enough work there to occupy all the WIC’s in the PCA). I think that the deacon’s work is specific to the deacons. Look at the appointment of deacons in Acts. Therefore, I do not agree that women should either be deacons, or do the work of deacons. However, that does not mean that women are excluded from acts of mercy. Deacons are put in place to distribute the church’s resources to those in need, both inside and outside the church. That is an act of mercy. But not all acts of mercy are limited to this one act. I would argue that any acts of mercy that non-diaconate men can do, women can do also. But non-diaconate men should not be distributing the church’s resources either. I am still trying to think through these issues. Thanks for sharpening my thinking.

  165. March 1, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    Mary Kathryn,

    I have noticed in many of your comments the fact that your focus seems to be on the “work” rather than the “office” of a deacon. You write:

    “… lots of the jobs that women are doing/called on to do in the church, are NOT things that men can’t do. They’re not gender specific, or even gender sensitive. They’re just jobs that some women do well, are happy to do, and the men have let them do it.”

    And:

    “… should the church allow service when there is doubt, or restrict service, when there is doubt… I guess I’m trying to find what is the correct middle ground. How much may women encroach into a deacon’s work, before it is unbefitting?”

    I think the nature of the work is not the central issue, but rather, the submission that an ordained office demands of all church members.

    The fact that only men can be deacons has nothing to do with men alone being capable of handing out food to people, but with the deacon being an officer with a spiritual authority that the Bible reserves for men (a principle rooted in creation, according to Paul).

  166. mary kathryn said,

    March 1, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    re: #165 – Yes, that is because I am not at all convinced that women should have the OFFICE of deacon. However, it is plain in the PCA that many women are doing the WORK of a deacon. By that I mean that they are doing the jobs – they are performing the tasks. It is in the area of work, that I’m trying to find what is allowable and what is not.

  167. James Jordan said,

    March 1, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    No Jew coming to the NT writings from an OT background would have any doubts about deaconnesses. Deaconnesses are not lady deacons. Women served at the tabernacle in some kind of office. Jephthah’s daughter had that office. We find Anna serving in the Temple. We find wise women and elder women throughout the OT. We find Deborah. Now, NONE of these did priestly duty at the Lord’s Table. But they were there, and the women who served the Lord Jesus correspond to them, as do the deaconnesses in the Apostolic and Early Church. You can call them WIC or “Altar Guild” or something else, but the Bible and the early church called them deaconnesses. And, if you want to fight feminism, you need to start honoring women and stop treating the church as a boy’s club.

  168. J.R. Polk said,

    March 1, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    . . . but the Bible and the early church called them deaconnesses.

    Besides Romans 16:1, where exactly are all the references to “deaconesses” of which you speak Mr. Jordan?

  169. James Jordan said,

    March 1, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    Why need I more than one, given the confirmation by the Fathers?

  170. J.R. Polk said,

    March 1, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    Because the “one” Biblical reference is disputable and I don’t recall reading about deaconesses in the ANF’s. Care to provide a few examples?

  171. Todd Bordow said,

    March 2, 2008 at 12:18 am

    Lane,

    Prov 31 is not about wives, it is about Lady Wisdom, thus applicable equally to all God’s people who have found wisdom in Jesus Christ.

    Todd Bordow

  172. David Gray said,

    March 2, 2008 at 5:47 am

    >Prov 31 is not about wives, it is about Lady Wisdom, thus applicable equally to all God’s people who have found wisdom in Jesus Christ.

    Are you serious? Or is this one of those attempts at humour/satire that don’t travel well on the internet?

    An excellent wife who can find?
    She is far more precious than jewels.
    The heart of her husband trusts in her,
    and he will have no lack of gain.

  173. March 2, 2008 at 7:56 am

    Todd,

    Prov 31 is not about wives, it is about Lady Wisdom, thus applicable equally to all God’s people who have found wisdom in Jesus Christ.

    I’m with David Gray on this one. The text concerning wives could not be clearer in Prov 31.

  174. mary kathryn said,

    March 2, 2008 at 8:00 am

    #171 – If the Proverbs passage can apply to all believers, when it specifically says “wives,” then why can’t the Timothy passage apply to all believers as well?

  175. J.R. Polk said,

    March 2, 2008 at 10:03 am

    Prov 31 is not about wives, it is about Lady Wisdom, thus applicable equally to all God’s people who have found wisdom in Jesus Christ.

    I don’t see ‘lady wisdom’ here at all. The whole context screams out literal ‘wife’ as in ‘spouse.’

  176. James Jordan said,

    March 2, 2008 at 10:47 am

    Todd, absolutely right. No housewife could do what Prov. 31 describes. This is Lady Wisdom again, giving us the bookends of Proverbs. The passage screams that this is Israel, Yahweh’s bride, in ideal construction.

  177. March 2, 2008 at 11:05 am

    James writes: “No housewife could do what Prov. 31 describes.”

    I wish someone had told my wife that earlier. She’s off gathering wool and flax from afar for the field she considered, then bought.

  178. J.R. Polk said,

    March 2, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    I wish someone had told my wife that earlier. She’s off gathering wool and flax from afar for the field she considered, then bought.

    Yeah . . . and mine is making linen garments to sell, or . . . is this Israel or ‘lady wisdom?’

  179. greenbaggins said,

    March 2, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    It is not mutually exclusive to say that the Proverbs 31 woman is an instantiation of Lady Wisdom portrayed in Proverbs 8, just as Lady Folly in chapter 9 is instantianted in the woman of loose morals in chapters 5-7, on the one hand; and saying that Proverbs 31 is an ideal to which all women should aspire. Don’t forget that Proverbs is addressed to a young man with certain drives. He should pursue wisdom with all the alacrity with which he pursues a woman to marry. That is the point.

  180. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 2, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    JJ: Todd, absolutely right. No housewife could do what Prov. 31 describes.

    GB: It is not mutually exclusive to say that the Proverbs 31 woman is an instantiation of Lady Wisdom portrayed in Proverbs 8, just as Lady Folly in chapter 9 is instantianted in the woman of loose morals in chapters 5-7, on the one hand; and saying that Proverbs 31 is an ideal to which all women should aspire. Don’t forget that Proverbs is addressed to a young man with certain drives. He should pursue wisdom with all the alacrity with which he pursues a woman to marry. That is the point.

    Exactly so, IMO. When I teach this to my Ethics class, we talk about reading Prov. 31 in its context. It is not addressed to women, but to young men. Much of the burden of Proverbs is to reshape a young man’s desires away from the adulteress and foolish woman and towards the wise woman.

    And so Proverbs 31 holds up the wise wife *not* as an ideal for women to aspire to (it isn’t written to them!) but as an ideal to shape the desires of the young men who are being taught. She is an exaggeration, a woman on a pedestal who is deliberately the opposite of the foolish women who are so attractive to these young men.

    Much damage has been done, IMO, by well-intentioned folk writing study guides for women using Proverbs 31 as a template for how all women should be. They can’t be all that.

    (I had to pick up the pieces after my wife — who is an amazing household manager and extremely good mother — went through the LifeGuide study on “Women of the Bible.” She came out of the chapter on the Proverbs 31 woman feeling like a failure, not realizing that the woman there was not written as her role model).

    So yes, the Proverbs 31 woman is a wife, but she is an Ideal Wife. She is everything that Lady Wisdom represents in chap. 9. (Though I wouldn’t say that she is “wisdom” in itself, exactly. That was how I read your comment, Todd)

    Jeff Cagle

  181. Todd Bordow said,

    March 2, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    Okay – now I find myself in agreement with James Jordan. I think hell just froze over! Wisdom and Foolishness are calling out in Proverbs, back and forth throughout most of the book. From the beginning wisdom is portrayed as a woman who speaks and acts 1:20, 2:4, 3:14, 8:1, 9:1 (From 10:1 – 31:9 wisdom and foolishness are described in applications of both). The author did not completely change course and decide to add a description of wise wives at the end. No, he wanted to leave us with Lady Wisdom speaking one last time, so she brackets the book. Since in the new covenant there is no male or female in Christ, Prov 31 is an OT Israeli lifestyle picture of living wisdom, the excellent wife is the same lady wisdom the son is encouraged to seek earlier, that wisdom which is ours through Jesus Christ equally (Col 2:3). And Jeff, ditto on picking up the pieces of guilt-ridden wives instructed to attain to the images of Prov 31.

    Todd

  182. David Gray said,

    March 2, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    >Since in the new covenant there is no male or female in Christ

    Are you advocating women posing as elders?

  183. March 2, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    Without getting into the problems of preaching Pro 31 to wives as their mission statement, I must disagree with Pro 31 being a “bookend” to the early chapters of Proverbs on wisdom.

    First, Proverbs 31 wasn’t written by King Solomon, but by King Lemuel. It seems to me that were Proverbs to end with a bookend or parallel passage to the early chapters, it would have been written by Solomon. Lemuel’s writing could have been placed earlier in the book. This isn’t the case. Further, 31:1 clearly says that the chapter is based on Lemuel’s mother’s teaching.

    Pro 31:2-9 deals with wise advice for a king and doesn’t use any personification of wisdom as in the early chapters. Pro 31:10-31 is an acrostic poem in Hebrew. There’s no personification of wisdom as in the early chapters, but clearly stated as the description of an wife (31:10) with reference to the husband (31:11, 23, 28), household (31:15), and children (31:28). It doesn’t include philosophical gems but specific activities.

    In contrast, the early chapters explicitly personify wisdom. There doesn’t seem to be any doubt as to the philosophical character therein. I see a clear contrast between the philosophical nature of, say, 1:28: “Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me.” and the practical nature of 31:28: “Her children will rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her;”

    Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t wisdom to be found in Pro 31 for us in our day. It contains good leadership advice and speaks eloquently to virtues for women in marriage. However, given the difference in authorship, stated goals, and format from the rest of Proverbs, I don’t think that it presents some cosmic symmetry to the early chapters of Proverbs. JMHO.

  184. March 2, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    Todd,

    Okay – now I find myself in agreement with James Jordan. I think hell just froze over!

    You’re scaring me, dude!

  185. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 2, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    Bob, would you agree that the wife in Prov. 31 is idealized, as in “who can find her?” ?

    Jeff

  186. James Jordan said,

    March 2, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    But remember, the wife in Pr. 31 is the wife of a king. That’s the link back to ch. 1-9 in the mind of the person who organized the book. The king is to marry Lady Wisdom, which means practically to keep company with the Company of the Wise. Now consider the career of Rehoboam: He did exactly the opposite, and he lost the land, kingdom, linen, and everything. Once it is seen what the Big meaning of the passage is, we can apply it in a general way to wifes, to employees, to children, to anyone who is in a support position. And we can apply it to employers, elders, and anyone else who is in a position of looking for good wise helpers. But it’s the first order interpretation that holds everything else in place.

  187. Ron Henzel said,

    March 2, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    James wrote:

    But remember, the wife in Pr. 31 is the wife of a king.

    It’s hard to remember something we didn’t know in the first place. But I guess the Proverbs 31 husband must have abdicated his throne in verse 23, where we read:

    Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.

    From the royal throne to the city gate—wasn’t that, like, a demotion or something?

  188. Scott said,

    March 2, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    With all the sophisticated discussion of Proverbs going on here, I would like to state, for the record…

    I am, in fact, married to a Proverbs 31 woman and am thankful to God for it.

    Respectfully.

  189. March 2, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    Jeff C.

    Bob, would you agree that the wife in Prov. 31 is idealized, as in “who can find her?” ?

    Yes, but not made of unobtainium. I think that the general idea is one of thrift and industry. We have a somewhat different standard today in the Western world for industry (for everyone) than in ancient times. We also have grace.

  190. James Jordan said,

    March 3, 2008 at 10:34 am

    #187. Prov. 31:1-2.

  191. Tim Harris said,

    March 3, 2008 at 10:38 am

    A question for any of the many here that greatly exceed my knowledge of hellenistic vernacular: is it possible that “deaconess” meant simply, “wife of a deacon”? I’m thinkin, in Thomas Mann’s novel Buddenbrooks the wife of a Senator was called Senatorin, and wonder if this kind of usage was typical (or possible) in the hellenistic world as well?

  192. greenbaggins said,

    March 3, 2008 at 10:40 am

    That is certainly the interpretation that many have of 1 Timothy 3.

  193. March 3, 2008 at 10:50 am

    #190

    James how in the world does Prov. 31:1-2 imply that King Lemuel is speaking about the wife of a king? He nowhere states this. He is not speaking about his wife nor his mother, but a story his Mother taught him. For you interpretation to be correct his Mother has to have known no other wives but king’s wives. The verses make no mention of a particular wife at all but an “excellent wife”. Now if you are married I would hope that you would not believe that only the wives of King’s can be excellent.

  194. March 3, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    JJ, RE #190,

    Do you really think that a king’s wife did all that? Historically, they had people to do the routine daily tasks. 31:1-9 certainly refer to the king himself, but the latter verses wouldn’t be historically or logically consistent if referring to a king’s wife.

  195. Ron Henzel said,

    March 3, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    James,

    From your terse comment 190 you apparently think I did not check the context of Proverbs 31:10-31, but I did. The introductory section at the beginning of the chapter does not demonstrate that the woman in verses 10-31 was “the wife of a king” (words yours; emphasis mine). At most those verses describe the kind of woman King Lemuel’s mother taught that every man, including her son, should seek.

  196. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 3, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    We have a somewhat different standard today in the Western world for industry (for everyone) than in ancient times. We also have grace.

    Absolutely. And I would affirm that to an extent, it makes sense that the “women that men should seek” would actually pay attention to this passage as well.

    My point was simply that the primary addressee here is young men, not young women, and that it is probably a mistake for a woman to believe she must be *all* of these things. To say to men, “Be attracted to A, B, C, and D instead of X, Y, and Z” is different from saying to women, “Be all of A, B, C, and D.”

    I would describe my wife as a Prov. 31 woman, too. But still and all, she doesn’t plant vineyards (v. 16). And she hasn’t enabled me to sit on the city council (v. 23) *like I have time…*

    In the end, it sounds like you and I would give roughly the same reading advice to women: be under grace as you read this.

    I would just also add that we should be preferrably make this passage part of men’s studies rather than women’s.

    Jeff Cagle

  197. mary kathryn said,

    March 3, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    #196 – “I would just also add that we should be preferrably make this passage part of men’s studies rather than women’s.”

    Why in the world would you not want to encourage women to study a portion of God’s Word, especially when that portion gives wonderful advice about the kind of GOOD wife that a godly man would seek? That seems ludicrous to me. If a woman does not have intelligence enough to study the passage and know that she doesn’t have to be superwoman, but needs to develop wisdom, thrift, mercy and gentle authority — then she probably doesn’t stand much chance of benefitting from the passage anyway!

    RE: the Timothy passage & # 191 – I’ve wondered if the assumption here is that deacons would serve as husband/wife pairs. This would meet the needs of the congregation that required specifically feminine attention, would put those wives directly under the guidance of their husbands, and comply with the text. It would also explain why such specific criteria are not given for elders’ wives, since they would NOT serve in pairs.

    And the more I read the later passage in Timothy about the widows on the official list – it seems that these elderly, husbandless women were both recipients of the church’s help, and specifically designated in some position to serve the church. What equivalent would we have for them now? It seems that the NT church had a better system for organizing/designating its women, than we do.

  198. March 3, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    Jeff,

    In the end, it sounds like you and I would give roughly the same reading advice to women: be under grace as you read this.

    Absolutely.

    I would just also add that we should be preferrably make this passage part of men’s studies rather than women’s.

    I think it benefits both in their own way. It should encourage men to look deeper as they consider candidates for their sacred, lifetime partnership. It should encourage wives to be thrifty and industrious as they care for their families. But both must realize that we are all sinners who fall short of the glory of God and only stand before Him and each other under grace.

  199. E. C. Hock said,

    March 3, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    #176 – “No housewife could do what Prov. 31 describes. This is Lady Wisdom again, giving us the bookends of Proverbs. The passage screams that this is Israel, Yahweh’s bride, in ideal construction.”

    Surely to state this interpretation is to over-spirtualize the text, through granted it does present a idelaize portrait. That reminds me of old Puritan views (drawing from Augustine?) where the Song of Solomon is treated primarily as a comment about the church’s love relationship with God, and explained away are the metaphors of romance and sexuality that apply to courting and marraige in Hebraic euphamism. But then again, if Proverbs 31speaks of a mother’s oracle teaching her son (31:1), we would expect some idealizing of the wife for her son (King Lemuel). What son’s mother does not do this? How many girl friends may come and go from a son’s life before a distinct smile appears on mom on the “right” one? If the wife is Israel, who is the husband who trusts in her (31:11)? The secondary applications become strained to make it work on the national level. There is no indication that Proverbs 31reverts to a purely corporate reference under “Lady Wisdom” given the specified examples of both individual and family occasions preceeding. Structurally, the matter is left at best undecided. More like it is an application of Lady Wisdom to a portrait of an “excellent woman,” but idealized, who fears the Lord inside and outside the home.

    Well, now…come to think of it, maybe she is a proto-deaconess since she “considers a field and buys it”, and in the mercy ministry, “reaches out her hand to the needy.” Naaaw…say it ain’t so!

  200. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 4, 2008 at 12:07 am

    Mary Kathryn (#197):

    Why in the world would you not want to encourage women to study a portion of God’s Word, especially when that portion gives wonderful advice about the kind of GOOD wife that a godly man would seek? That seems ludicrous to me.

    Well, yes, that would be a ludicrous position. :)

    The situation as I’ve seen it is that Prov. 31 is routinely included in women’s studies and rarely included in men’s. I may be ignorant of the full range of data; it’s just my observation.

    My point was that this ought to be reversed. Prov. 31 should not, IMO, be read *primarily* as a guide for women, but as intended in context, a guide for men.

    That’s not to deny secondary uses of it. I’m just making a plea that we’ve abandoned the primary use and should reverse that.

    Better?
    Jeff Cagle

  201. Ron Henzel said,

    March 4, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    In comment 199 E.C. responded excellently to James, who in comment 176 wrote:

    The passage screams that this is Israel, Yahweh’s bride, in ideal construction.

    But I have a deeper concern: shouldn’t we worry about people who hear screams that nobody else does?

  202. greenbaggins said,

    March 14, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    Sure, it’s possible. But it is not conclusive, because of the semantic range of the word, which often means “servant.” The passage proves nothing.

  203. Scott said,

    April 29, 2008 at 9:57 am

    Rev. Keister,

    What are your thoughts on the procedure relating to a study committee on deaconesses?

    Specifically, Overture 9 asks for a committee with people from various viewpoints on this topic, whereas Overture 15 (Eastern Canada Presbytery) does not ask for that in the composition of a study committee.

    Also, Overture 9 asks for clarification regarding a few specific practices, good questions, but perhaps not everything that needs to be clarified. Overture 15 seems to be more general asking for general guidance on practice regarding Deacons and diaconal ministry.

    Is it common in our denomination to request and seek out different opinions up front to almost guarantee a divided report? Or is there an attempt to appoint mostly faithful and more or less “neutral ” people?

    Also, are the Overtures clear enough in that Scripture alone (not practical or other considerations) is to be assessed in determining if our Book of Church Order needs to be changed to reflect Scripture?

    Are there any specific practices or related questions that also should be included (or might be included the way Overture 15 is worded) to help preserve the peace, purity and unity of our denomination?

    Thanks for all you do.

  204. greenbaggins said,

    April 29, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    The composition of the study committe is up to the Moderator. He decides. Of course, if overture 9 passes, that gives some actual direction to the moderator. I haven’t worked these issues out in my own mind just yet. I think I am in favor of a study committee on this. We need to study it, especially given some of the controversial practices in which some churches have recently engaged. The more detailed the report can get about actual practice, the better. Overture 9 is certainly clear about the exegesis of Scripture being paramount. I also think that both overtures are clear that if any changes to the constitution are going to happen, they will only happen because of the exegesis. Personally, I think Overture 9 is much better thought out. I think, however, that they should leave the composition of the study committee in the hands of the moderator. A divided report is not necessarily a bad thing. Our history has shown that some study committees have all points of view (actually most, if not all, of them are like this), some do not (the FV committee, for instance).

  205. Marshall said,

    May 8, 2008 at 10:44 am

    Wayside Presbyterian Church has begun sponsoring a web page to track all the pertinent information about female deacons or deaconesses in the PCA. Any links you people can provide will be welcome.

    http://www.waysidechurch.org/femdeacs/femdeacs.htm

  206. greenbaggins said,

    May 8, 2008 at 10:48 am

    Thanks for this, Marshall. I will keep it in mind if I find more resources.

  207. docmarshall said,

    May 15, 2008 at 7:23 am

    Several new overtures about this have come in very recently. One wants to expand the scope of the study committee. Another wants to forego a study committee altogether. This is turning out to be a major issue in the PCA General Assembly in Dallas, 2008.

    http://www.waysidechurch.org/femdeacs/ovandoc.htm has links to the relevant overtures.

  208. Willa said,

    May 21, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    “deacons need to be the husband of one wife”

    so, if that’s the whole argument for not allowing women as deacons, do you allow single guys to be deacons?

    Aren’t there other words in Greek for ‘servant’? ‘Doulos’ for one… Why does Paul use the term ‘diakonon’ for Phoebe? Why in reference to this woman it all of a sudden means ‘servant’ while the same work in reference to men actually means the office of deacon?

    Btw, who are ‘Euodia’ and ‘Syntyche’ in Phil 4? Paul calls them ‘my fellow workers’ – their disagreement was apparently very public – would he mention them by name if they were just two female attenders among many others who had a private dispute?

    Anyone else who heard that in Phillipi, women actually held positions in the church?

    In the Dutch Reformed tradition, deacons are members of the session. In the PCA, they are separate from the session – so deacons don’t have authority as rulers over the church.

    So, what’s the problem????

    Let me say that as a single woman, I felt much more comfortable having my membership interview with an elder and a deaconess – two elders would have been uncomfortable, one man inappropriate. I can think of many issues that I would rather pray over with a female deaconess than with a deacon, and I think many women (so, like 70% of the church members???) would agree – think of issues like inappropriate behavior at work, struggles with singleness/chastity, debts because of excessive spending on clothes/make-up etc

    Society is different than 2000 years ago – as are female/male relationships – and there was arguably some variety among the churches themselves.

  209. Scott said,

    May 22, 2008 at 8:09 am

    Willa,

    You are to be commended for seeking out God’s truth in regard to these matters.

    Except for your last statement, I’m going to let others more theologically qualified to respond to these questions and some of the premises upon which you base them.

    Remember, an important rule is to allow Scripture to interpret Scripture and, as a Believer, allowing the Holy Spirit to illuminate your understanding. What is unclear in Scripture is ordinarily resolved by what is clear in Scripture because Scripture does not contract itself. God does not contradict Himself. We may not understand it or obey it, but God has written His Word so we can know His will- what please Him and what displeases Him.

    You may find helpful an overview of church history and biblical passages on this topic. It’s a long read but some of the questions you ask, put in context, are answered there. It was helpful to me in understanding this:

    http://www.all-of-grace.org/pub/schwertley/deacon.html

    You said,

    “Society is different than 2000 years ago- as are male/female relationships-“

    Not really. I suppose every generation has said that- my mother said that to her grandmother when she wanted to go against the will of her parents, my sister said that to her mother when she wanted to go against the will of her parents, and it will happen again soon in this generation.

    Yes, technology has changed much, cultures shift back and forth, but the same basic issues remain the same. For example, men still don’t want to be suffering servants toward their wives, wives do not want to submit to and respect their husbands. That was true 2,000 years ago and it is still true but God still commands us to do so, by His Grace, for His glory.

    As fallen creatures, we are very good at imaging all sorts of reasons for not wanting to obey God (same problem as Adam and Eve back in the Garden of Eden).

    What’s remarkable to me, Willa, is if you read for example, I Corinthians 11 – 14, you will see that the same problems that existed almost 2,000 years ago in churches exist today, right now.

    That’s because God’s Word is timeless.

    Blessings.

  210. HaigLaw said,

    June 14, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    I was surprised to find nothing on this thread since May 22, what with the PCA GA abuzz with this issue last week, and the PB having had hundreds of posts on it.

    Let me say that I respectfully disagree with Elder Mattes on the construction of Phoebe being addressed as a (female) deaconess in Romans 16:1, for I find both in the KJV and NASV the word diakonos, according to Strong’s, the same male word used in the verses on the qualifications for deacon.

    Also in those qualifications verses, where it says the woman or wife should be sober and not a gossip, it’s the Gk word “gune,” and it does not say “their wives,” referring to the prior verse qualifying male deacons, it just says women (or wives) should be sober and not gossips. Thus, the interpretation that this qualifies female deacons is just as reasonable as the interpretation that it applies to wives of deacon candidates.

    I must say, also, that I respectfully question Rev. Kiester’s positing of a regulative exegetical principle. There is a well-settled regulative principle in worship, but not in all exegesis. To say that we do nothing but what is expressly permitted in Scripture, in all things other than worship, might work fine in an Amish community still riding in horse & buggy forms of transportation; but not in our space age. If there were some Scripture saying “thou shalt ride only by horse and buggy” that would be one thing; but we don’t.

    This is why we have concepts like “necessary warrant of Scripture” in the reformed faith. We recognize that Scripture has not expressly spoken on many issues, and we are permitted to go beyond those with whatever Scriptural guidance we might have. So I think Lane’s principle not only is not well founded, but also actually contrary to the “necessary warrant” concept of approaching Scripture.

  211. David Gray said,

    June 14, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    The PCA will likely follow in the footsteps of the PCUSA in our lifetimes…

  212. HaigLaw said,

    June 14, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    Why is it presumed to be somehow God-honoring to try to be more “conservative” than Scripture itself?

  213. Bennett B. Wethered said,

    June 14, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    Brother HaigLaw,

    In your recent posting (#212), you refer to the Greek in Romans 16:1, you refer to it as “diakonos, according to Strong’s, the same male word used in the verses on the qualifications for deacon.” Actually, no, in the Greek the word is diakonon (in either the Textus Receptus or the Nestle-Aland), which is a ‘noun accusative feminine singular,’ whereas the first word in the Greek of 1 Timothy 3:8 is ‘Diakonous,’ a ‘noun accusative masculine plural.’ The first word of v. 12 is also masculine. While the term ‘diakonos’ is a noun, not an adjective, it does, grammatically, change gender, depending on context. Our understanding of how this term is used in Scripture, and what other Scripture passages say, must guide us in translating it properly.

    Again, as I’ve said elsewhere (#69; also #77, 104, 147), the analogy of Scripture (actually, the Holy Spirit) guides us here, as 1 Tim. 3:12 (among other verses) lets us know of the restriction of the call to this role to men. Thus, as most translators have done over the centuries, we understand Paul to be referring to Phoebe (Rom. 16:1) as “a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea,” for whose service we thank our Lord.

  214. RBerman said,

    June 14, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    Re: #212

    Let’s not impugn motives on either side. We should assume that people of both views are honestly trying to be true to what the Scripture actually teaches. At least one side is wrong about what Scripture actually teaches, but that doesn’t mean that the error stems from a desire to be more conservative or more liberal than the Bible is.

  215. HaigLaw said,

    June 15, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    I have been asking what the Bible actually says, and I’ve been getting a lot of political flack, implying I’m going liberal, or impugning others’ motives, and a lot of arguments that assume the result.

    I’ve compared diakonos in Romans 16:1 with 1 Tim. 3:8ff in 9 different translations, the GNT-Textus Receptus, CEV, ESV, Geneva, KJV, LitV, MKJV, NASB, and YLT — all translations being conservative — and I cannot get away from the obvious conclusion that the words for “deacon” are exactly the same.

    Moreover, the 1 Tim. 3:8 passage simply does not say deacons must be men. In only one of the 9 translations I’ve consulted, does it use the word “men” to translate the Gk “semnos,” which means “grave,” not “men.”

    Verses 8-10 of chapter 3 are entirely gender-neutral in giving qualifications for deacons. Then you have v. 11 applying to women, and v. 12 applying to men candidates for deacons.

    As to whether v. 11 refers to women candidates or wives of male candidates, the Gk-TR has the term “gune,” and 5 of these conservative translations render that “wives” and 3 of them “women.”

    Thus the implication or insinuation we often hear that “all conservative translations” say v. 11 applies to wives of deacon candidates is simply not true. The view that it can be women candidates is at least a responsible minority view — 3 out of 8 — of these conservative translations.

  216. HaigLaw said,

    June 17, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    Another thought — even the 5 of 8 conservative translations referred to above that render “gune” as “wives” in 1 Tim. 3:11, does that necessarily mean wives of male deacon candidates, or could it also simply mean wives (married women) who are candidates for deacon should be sober and not gossips?

  217. David Gray said,

    June 17, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    >I have been asking what the Bible actually says, and I’ve been getting a lot of political flack, implying I’m going liberal, or impugning others’ motives, and a lot of arguments that assume the result.

    You don’t approach the scriptures from a Sola Scriptura perspective, unlike the Reformation approach. You believe you can come up with an interpretation without acceptance in the previous history of the church. That can accurately be viewed as the approach of a liberal. Calvin and Luther would probably use harsher language.

  218. HaigLaw said,

    June 17, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    Well, perhaps Calvin and Luther gave more respect to the history of the church than they did to Scripture, as for example, in believing in the perpetual virginity of Jesus’ human mother Mary.

    I am not aware that Sola Scriptura includes “acceptance of the previous history of the church.”

    It was over 30 years ago that I was ordained an elder in the PCA and in that time have taken a lot of unpopular stands due to sola scriptura, as I understood it at the time. I would rather be Biblical than either liberal or conservative.

  219. David Gray said,

    June 17, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    >It was over 30 years ago that I was ordained an elder in the PCA and in that time have taken a lot of unpopular stands due to sola scriptura, as I understood it at the time.

    That may be but apparently your understanding is not that of the Reformation. And as such it is not Sola Scriptura.

    Do you have a reference for Calvin’s belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary?

  220. RBerman said,

    June 17, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    Calvin’s commentary on Matthew 1:25 seems agnostic on the issue of Mary’s perpetual virginity: “This passage afforded the pretext for great disturbances, which were introduced into the Church, at a former period, by Helvidius. The inference he drew from it was, that Mary remained a virgin no longer than till her first birth, and that afterwards she had other children by her husband. Jerome, on the other hand, earnestly and copiously defended Mary’s perpetual virginity. Let us rest satisfied with this, that no just and well-grounded inference can be drawn from these words of the Evangelist, as to what took place after the birth of Christ. He is called first-born; but it is for the sole purpose of informing us that he was born of a virgin. It is said that Joseph knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son: but this is limited to that very time. What took place afterwards, the historian does not inform us. Such is well known to have been the practice of the inspired writers. Certainly, no man will ever raise a question on this subject, except from curiosity; and no man will obstinately keep up the argument, except from an extreme fondness for disputation.”

  221. June 21, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    [...] overture opposing such a study. I wrote a blog post opposing the idea of deaconesses in the PCA on GreenBaggins back in February which continues to generate discussion. The GA’s Committee of Commissioners [...]

  222. June 22, 2008 at 12:52 am

    HaigLaw, RE #217,

    Thanks for your thoughts. I will be posting a word study on διακονον in the next few days. I’ve already done some preliminary work, and there’s nothing there that helps those who want to conform the church to the feminist culture in this issue. You can get a hint in my newest post on this blog.

    As to 1 Tim 3:8, try 1 Tim 3:12. There’s no doubt there. Clearly 3:8 and 3:12 refer to the same people. Also, the noun in 3:8 is masculine. To pull 3:11 out of the context and flow of the passage to create a new office that would violate Paul’s other writings like 1 Cor 11 and 1 Tim 2:12 makes no logical sense. Paul doesn’t to this anywhere in his writings as best I can tell.

    I have to wonder why people try to twist these passages in such an unnatural way.

  223. HaigLaw said,

    June 22, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    Re: #222: Thanks to brother Berman for the correction that Calvin apparently did not believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary, contrary to a thread recently on PB, which had been my only source, and I have not studied it myself from original sources.

  224. Joann Longton said,

    September 27, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    I am a woman, and have been a member of the PCA for 12 years. I have even held office on PresWIC council for the Southern New England Presbytery. I strongly believe that any woman who is a true Christian is not only able to be a helper to the deacons of the church, but will gladly do so WITHOUT the need of some kind of special title, which causes controversy among the brotherhood. It is God’s will for women to submit to the male leadership of the church. Period. We do not need to be ‘set apart’ from the rest of the women in the church, in some official manner, to do this work. EVERY member of Christ’s church is called upon to be an assistant in one form or another to the diaconate, that the Word of God be not hindered. NONE of us, male or female, is worthy of being given ANY role in Christ’s Church—therefore, ALL of us should be humbly happy simply to have gained access to grace, and not grasp at power in any way. What is meant to come to us, will come to us. It is a sin against Christ to demand more than what is given. As the daughter’s of EVE, who were used of Satan to throw the entire first creation into darkness by grasping for the forbidden fruit, how DARE ANY of the women of this new creation now reach out and grasp after that which has been strictly forbidden!!! Haven’t we learned ANYTHING from the Biblical narrative?? No, sisters, better far to gladly clean the toilets faithfully with joy simply for being forgiven and included, that to risk being used of the devil to stumble the Bride of Christ!!
    Sisters, humble yourselves, resist the devil and his temptations towards power and authority, and God will indeed exalt us to the place HE has for us–at His Son’s side–in due time. Brothers–stand firm in this battle, and guard Christ’s Bride who he bought with His own blood, from being molested by the enemy once again…..You will never regret it, on that day when He comes to posess her–pure, holy and without spot or wrinkle. Stand firm therefore in this battle, and don’t give in to the surrounding culture’s pressure to shape the Church after it’s fallen mold….
    Your Sister in Christ’s blood,
    Joann Longton

  225. September 27, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    Hi Joann,

    Welcome to GreenBaggins! Thank you for your wonderful note. I am humbled by your humility and service. You are providing a wonderful example of service for women in Christ.

    I took the liberty of removing your email address and phone number from your signature. It’s neither good nor safe to publish those in a public forum.

    There are several other posts here on this topic if you have the time. I think that if you search on the word “deaconess”, you should be able to find them all.

    And don’t worry. Many of us will not give up the good fight. We stood firm in this past General Assembly and will continue to do so. But, please, do pray for all involved in this controversy on both sides, as well as for the PCA at large.

    Thank you again for standing up and being counted.

    Your brother in Christ,
    Bob

  226. Stephen Welch said,

    September 29, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    In reference to # 205: Scott you said that Overture 15 was submitted by Eastern Canada Presbytery. This is incorrect. Eastern Canada Presbytery did not submit an Overture on deaconesses. It was Western Canada Presbytery that submitted the overture. Please note the correction. Thank you.

  227. September 29, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    Stephen,

    Thank you for the correction.

  228. Joann Longton said,

    January 18, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    You’re welcome #227, Bob…(aka, reformed musings) –and thanks for the brotherly protection you exherted for me–I appreciate the oversight.
    In regards to the Proverbs 31 woman discussion, —-how interesting that some of you think of this woman as merely a ‘model wife’. I guess that lets single women like myself off the hook if we haven’t quite met the standard, huh?–guess we don’t need to aspire to this kind of wisdom unless we get lucky enough for some man to desire us….(:>)
    On another more serious topic, however, I wanted to add that the reports contained herein of the practices of some of the churches that have joined the PCA over the years as intact congregations only lends credence to my belief that it is unbiblical for congregations to join the PCA –AS SUCH. Where is the Biblical precedent for accepting entire churches into membership–rather than each individual within those churches seeking communion? This practice may have allowed multitudes of those who honestly do not hold to the same standards to join the denomination (and have equal voting rights with those who do)–merely because the session of that church may have come into enough agreement to gain acceptance to communion. I believe this unbiblical practice is allowing the devil to water down the standards we say we hold to as a denomination. When have the members of those entire congregations that join us ever get examined by the PCA, or asked to swear a vow of faithfulness to the doctrinal standards of the church? We are sowing many tares in among the wheat this way, and may soon be overgrown by the weeds—which is what has happened in other denominations over time who are now fallen away to apostasy and liberalism. We need to not be so concerned with getting in the large numbers as we ought to be concerned that those individuals who join are true and faithful believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, and willing to stand firm on the ‘faith once and for all delivered to the church….’
    I’d like very much to hear other’s comments on this issue.
    Joann Longton–CT

  229. Lauren Kuo said,

    January 18, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    If the women of the church waited to get titles and recognition before doing any work, the church would have to close down. That’s good advice for both genders.

    Jesus laid aside all of His titles and made Himself of no reputation and picked up the towel. Just think how His kingdom would be advanced if we did the same in heart and deed.

  230. natrimony said,

    January 18, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    Joann,

    A standard REQUIRED membership vow would be a good place to start. Right now the PCA requires membership vows and provides a standard vow which CAN be used from the book of church of order. Although quite thorough it is not mandatory. I think that the ‘may’ of BCO 57-5 should be a ‘shall’. Because, some churches barely do anything at all, asking something like, “Do you believe in Jesus?” “Yes?” O.K. you’re a member. Read more here:

    http://blog.gajunkie.com/2008/03/27/upcoming-pca-general-assembly.aspx

  231. Joann Longton said,

    January 19, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    Yes, Thanks natrimony
    that is a good place to start—-but why have we ever in the first place allowed entire churches to join as congregations, and not had each member join seperately?
    Joann

  232. June 22, 2009 at 11:49 am

    [...] most concise analysis of the Greek and the scriptural and historical basis for deacons are these: Deaconesses in the PCA? Green Baggins (Bob Mattes at Greenbaggins) and Brian Schwertley's excellent historical and biblical summary: [...]


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