Tim Keller’s Response to the YouTube Video

Posted by Bob Mattes

I once participated in a discussion in which someone cast aspersions on a historic Reformed father over some things he supposedly said. I don’t know if the figure ever said those things or not. I simply replied that even if the individual had said those things, I hoped that someone didn’t write about my favorite sins 400 years from now. Worse yet, that someone would put them on YouTube for the world to see!

Having commanded several large units, I know all too well that a leader can’t possibly know everything that everyone does in his/her organization. A good leader sets their expectations, trusts their people to perform accordingly, and holds them accountable for their actions and performance. One key to good leadership is to correct mistakes in a just and appropriate manner when they happen and mentor those involved to do better in the future. I suspected that this might be the case with the ceremony in the video which sparked the discussion here. I wrote to TE Keller last night respectfully asking for clarification. I received his reply today and post it unedited and in its entirety here:

Dear Bob,

Thanks for your note about the video of our May, 2009, service in which a deaconess was being commissioned.  Having watched it myself, I can understand your concern! But I can also assure you that this is not our practice, and that it was only one of our newer ministers making a mistake.

We do not ordain our deaconesses nor do we ask our congregation to obey and submit to them. The minister in the video is newer on our staff and he accidentally read the deacons’ questions from the BCO and did not use the different questions we commonly use for deaconesses.  Others who go to Redeemer can attest that this is not our practice, and it will not be in the future. The minister in the video apologized when he realized what he had done.

The best way to understand what happened is to consider the case of another of our ministers who recently inadvertently baptized a number of infants without asking their parents any of the questions. In charity onlookers assumed this was a mistake, and no one assumed that either the minister or Redeemer was in violation of the Book of Church Order. I spoke to this minister yesterday and he was grateful that no one had put his mistake on You Tube!

I must say I was surprised that the person who filmed the service and the person who posted and re-posted the video clip did not first do the courteous and charitable thing, namely, to ask simply, “Is this what it looks like on the surface, or is there a good explanation?” If they had done so, as texts like Proverbs 17:9; 18:17; 25:8-10 urge, they would have saved you (and others) both time and concern.

I hope this response helps. By the way-you can share this letter with anyone else that expresses concern.

Tim Keller

I have had a number of interactions with TE Keller, sometimes holding opposing positions, and have always been impressed with Tim’s grace and integrity. The conduct of the ceremony in the video was a serious mistake which was taken seriously and corrected appropriately. The young TE involved could probably benefit from our prayers.

As most folks here know, I strongly disagree with the commissioning of women as deaconesses. I’ve actively and vigorously opposed it in the blogosphere and on the floor of the PCA General Assembly for the last several years. However, the appropriate place to make a stand is in the courts of the church – sessions, presbyteries, and the General Assembly – debating applicable overtures, not on YouTube.

Posted by Bob Mattes



  1. Scott said,

    November 23, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    I have the greatest amount of respect for the teaching ability God has given the esteemed Pastor.

    And I appreciate his acknowledgment this was a “mistake” and his assurance, “We do not ordain our deaconesses nor do we ask our congregation to obey and submit to them.”

    A question I would have is, it looked like there were several hundred people in that room- did not one other officer present or one other congregation member recognize this was a misrepresentation of ordination and our polity?

    The video also says 16 or 17 other officers were also being ordained (the teaching elder used the word ordained)- did none of them, including “Deb” in the video recognize this was a serious mistake of procedure in the case of this one person? Not one of them (until this came forward on You Tube)?

    Would it not actually be a case of appropriate church discipline for a church officer who misrepresents the BCO publicly in ceremony? I say that because words in the oath were changed to accommodate this invention- and this came directly from the BCO but the words were changed.

    Is it also appropriate to ask why the Director of the Diaconate at this church listed publicly on the web site and in the church bulletin is female?

  2. Stephen said,

    November 23, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    Bob, thank you for the clarification, but this still creates much confusion. First of all why is this issue just now being discussed on Green Baggins. This happened six months ago. Secondly, I have a little difficulty believing that a new minister would mistakingly read ordination questions for a woman being commissioned and go through an entire service that was clearly in the minds of many an ordination service. There is still the perception that our standards were clearly disregarded. There is still a question over Redeemer’s view that woman can do anything that non-ordained men can do. I do not think we can just excuse this by stating it was a simple mistake.

  3. November 23, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    I think it’s a little silly to expect someone attending a public service to have to double-check what was said to make sure what is said in public reflects the stance of a church, or if it’s a mistake. Having said that – I think we gotta take Keller at his word when he clarifies – if it was a mistake it should be excused. – I know some of us think we disagree with Redeemer. That of course, is fine – but now, find better source material.

  4. November 23, 2009 at 9:51 pm


    I’ve seen goofs that make this look equivalent to putting pink icing where the blue should go on a cake. That this particular TE on that occasion disregarded the BCO is without question, but that’s not the question I posed to TE Keller. Tim took ownership of this young man’s mistake and corrected it. That’s the mark of a good leader and good enough for me.

    As I said above, I strongly disagree with Tim’s views on deaconesses and commissioning them. However, the video in question adds nothing to the discussion. As Samuel said, better source material can be used – and there’s plenty out there. Next year’s GA will be most interesting.

  5. Reformed Sinner said,

    November 23, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    I am also in disagreement with Tim Keller on this issue, however, I do not know why some here still think there might be a conspiracy. Tim Keller clearly admitted that the new minister made a mistake, and Tim Keller has corrected him about it. Case closed.

    Now, if you want to debate whether Redeemer’s interpretation of Scripture is correct that’s a valid one. But I do not see why we are keep beating a dead horse here.

  6. November 23, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    I find the explanation weak.

    There was a whole group being ordained, not just a woman. One TE performs the service? No senior leadership present?

    Why are junior TE’s “making these mistakes?” There’s a leadership problem.

    Let that be explored, rather than this one incident.

  7. November 23, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    4–probably because it fits with a pattern. If this sort of thing had happened in isolation, I think folks would be quicker to grant the benefit of the doubt. Unfortuantely it seems to be more of the same. But I agree, we have to take Keller’s word. It’s just getting harder and harder to do.

  8. Scott said,

    November 24, 2009 at 4:54 am

    (Moderators, please feel free to use all or only a part of any of this)

    Charitably, we will accept the esteemed Pastor’s explanation that what we saw on the video was a “mistake” and his statement, “We do not ordain our deaconesses nor do we ask our congregation to obey and submit to them.”

    A little more information would be helpful in understanding this. There appears, in the video, to be several hundred people in the room at that ceremony.

    If this ceremony was mistakenly done, and none other has been done this way before (because the new minister made a mistake), were there not any church officers (past or present) there in the room to object to the misrepresentation of polity going on?

    Were there no members of the congregation who had seen ordination and installation ceremonies before at the church to object, knowing the seriousness of the mistake?

    Was “Deb,” the subject of the ordination (and the minister did use the word ordination) not aware of the nature of the ceremony, and the vows that she and the congregation would be taking?

    The video says there were 17 other men and women in ceremonies that day. Assuming that this one ceremony was done in isolation by this one minister making a mistake- were none of the other candidate officers aware of the huge difference in the ceremony of this one person? Did none of the 17 become aware, immediately, of the huge difference between their ordination and installation and that of this person in the video and bring that forward?

    Also, it would be helpful to understand the alteration of the words of the ordination charge taken from the PCA Book of Church Order vows. Did the new minister mistakenly use the oath of ordination in this case or is the mistake said to be that he changed the words of the oath were mistakenly changed by the new minister to accommodate the invention of ‘deaconess’ or both or is neither said to be a mistake?

  9. Tim Vaughan said,

    November 24, 2009 at 6:36 am

    “In charity onlookers assumed this was a mistake, and no one assumed that either the minister or Redeemer was in violation of the Book of Church Order.”

    Would I be uncharitable if I thought baptising kids without asking their parents the questions was in violation of the BCO?

    Yes or no, for anyone who would be gracious enough to help me with my confusion. Was it a violation of the BCO or not?

    Specifically (PLEASE!!! I’m tired of Bishop Wright type mega ambiguous double meanings!) Was what that minister did NOT a violation of the BCO just because Keller said it wasn’t?

  10. Scott said,

    November 24, 2009 at 6:45 am

    Accepting that this was a “mistake,” it would be helpful to also know how this was corrected.

    Since the ceremony on the video involved public taking of vows by both the candidate and the congregation, and those were taken in error, has the ceremony been voided and re-done (not sure of the procedural term for this).

    Did voiding of the ceremony (since it was not in accordance with the Book of Church Order) require involvement of the Presbytery or was the voiding done unilaterally by the session?

    Since holy vows are not mere idle words, has a corrective ceremony been performed? Has the person in the video had benefit of the correct ceremony now, or are they still awaiting that, or did that person immediately assume office?

    Has the congregation generally been made aware of the mistaken ceremony, the reasons that it was mistaken, and explanation of the correct ceremony- its meaning and purpose in the Book of Church Order?

    Further explanation of these points will help make more understandable the context of what happened, what was done to correct it, and the standard polity followed.

  11. Reed Here said,

    November 24, 2009 at 6:54 am

    I respect and appreciate Dr. Keller’s response. Leaving this particular incident aside, might someone who knows clarify for me:

    Does Redeemer have one diaconate board or two (ordained and ordained + non-ordained)?

    If two, how do they relate to insure the biblical intent of BCO is upheld (i.e., male diaconale authority)?

    If one, how do the ordained and non-ordained members function to insure the biblical intent of BCO is upheld?

    I ask these questions because of information that suggests there is one diaconate, with a female member serving as the chair. I very well may be wrong, so don’t assume I’m conspiracy building. I’m sincerely seeking info. to eliminate confusion.

    Follow up question, does the diaconate conduct membership interviews instead of the session or in addition to the session? Again, some info. I’ve read suggests that the diaconate does conduct membership interviews, but it is not clear as to whether or not: 1) these are the interviews which BCO assigns to the session, and 2) these are interviews conducted by a mixed (ordained+non-ordained) board (diaconate or secondary).

    No smoking gun, just clarification – Bob, if you know or can find out?

  12. GLW Johnson said,

    November 24, 2009 at 6:58 am

    Now listen Tim ,you have to understand that in our emerging culture we must extend to others the right to be amphibological. After all ,unless you are still chained to the Enlightenment ( perish the thought) delphic speech serves a very noble purpose. It allows one to let your ‘yes’ be ‘no’ and your ‘no’ to be ‘yes’. Why would you want to be pinned down with such things as precision? I mean, really, look at what that would have done to Bill Clinton if he could not have obnubiated ‘is’ ?

  13. Mason said,

    November 24, 2009 at 7:51 am

    Reed @ 8 –

    1. They have one diaconate board, with the ordained and unordained members of the diaconate serving on the same board.

    2&3. I’m not a deacon, so I can’t really answer your second question with any “inside” information. The Session, of course, oversees the entire diaconate. Within the diaconate itself, I’m not sure. For your third question, the ordination itself is the key distinguishing feature between ordained deacons and unordained deacons/deaconesses, which is really the only clear distinctive in the BCO.

    The director of the diaconate is a woman. Her primary role, as is clear even from public information such as the Redeemer website, is administrative oversight of ministires of mercy.

    As for interviews, I asked a RE on the Redeemer Session (a close friend of mine), and he claims elders perform all the membership interviews, with deacons sometimes present along side them.

    Hope that helps.

  14. Tom Albrecht said,

    November 24, 2009 at 10:13 am

    “The minister in the video is newer on our staff and he accidentally read the deacons’ questions from the BCO and did not use the different questions we commonly use for deaconesses.”

    I was under the impression that Keller/Redeemer did not ordain their deacons. So why would he be reading from BCO at all?

    Also, is it common practice at Redeemer to have one “commissionee” represent the entire group ala this video depicts? The TE indicates that she represents all the elders/deacons elected by the congregation, thus using words like “ordain” and “submission”. So, was this an ordination service or a “commissioning” service?

    The bottom line here seems to be that confusion reigns among the leadership and congregation precisely because Redeemer wishes to skate so close the edge of what is acceptable practice within a PCA congregation. If a TE can’t get it right, why do we think the congregation understands these hair-splitting distinctions?

  15. Tom Albrecht said,

    November 24, 2009 at 10:18 am

    From the Redeemer web site:

    Elected Leaders -> Diaconate -> The Diaconate, a group of men and women nominated, elected and appointed by the Redeemer members, exists to contribute to the building of a repentant and rejoicing community through loving, truth-telling relationships where practical, visible needs are being met while hearts are being changed through encounters with Jesus and one another. We express in practical ways Christ’s command to all believers to love our neighbor as ourselves.

    Nothing at all about ordination v. commissioning of deacons/deaconesses.

    Indeed, the web site is quite ambiguous about the “office of the diaconate” and any distinction between men and women. Don’t officer occupy an office?


  16. revkev1967 said,

    November 24, 2009 at 10:31 am

    @15: Tom, yes the diaconate is an office, an *ordained* office. Redeemer tries to have it both ways in their wording, which is why I opined that Keller’s explanation might not be viewed in the most positive light.

  17. greenbaggins said,

    November 24, 2009 at 10:43 am

    Personally, I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of Rev.. Keller’s response. Reading motives is something I would prefer not to do. I can accept Dr. Keller’s response. However, there are remaining questions. When it comes to ordination and commissioning, etc., great care must be taken that everything be done decently and in good order. As has been said, there is no provision of which I’m aware in the BCO for commissioning. There is also no provision for having one diaconate consisting of male and female members.

    I would like further discussion and clarification from Rev. Keller. He has shown a willingness to talk about what is happening there. It can’t hurt to clarify further.

  18. Tim Harris said,

    November 24, 2009 at 11:51 am

    In general, a man’s bare word is not necessarily enough. Public scandal must be remedied publicly. How restitution was done — preferably, before it became public beyond the local church — is the key. It would need to be public, and if done after the you-tube was known of, should have been videoed and uploaded as a response.

    I’m very glad to hear that you did not steal the $100 from my wallet. That the bill transferred from the wallet to your pocket by a bizarre sequence of catching on some gum, a wind gust, and static electricity is a great relief for me to hear. A great relief. But now… may I please have the $100 back?

  19. Tom Albrecht said,

    November 24, 2009 at 1:00 pm


    I don’t mean to parse too finely Rev. Keller’s words, however, I have real difficulty with his claim:

    “The minister in the video is newer on our staff and he accidentally read the deacons’ questions from the BCO and did not use the different questions we commonly use for deaconesses.”

    If you listen to the six questions, you’ll realize that the TE was not reading verbatim the ordination questions for deacons from the BCO. The words were clearly changed. See question 4, “Do you accept the position of deaconess ….” Additionally, the TE explicitly states that this candidate deaconess was already prepared with these questions. “And now I’m going to ask you the six questions which you have been preparing to answer up to this point.” (4:26) This does not appear accidental, but premeditated. And it is difficult to believe that the leadership of Redeemer allowed a novice TE to go off on his own and construct this ordination/commissioning service without clear guidance and oversight. Did he never witness one of these events before at Redeemer? Or was he actually doing what he had seen done on other occasions in the past?

  20. greenbaggins said,

    November 24, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Those are excellent points, Tom. Maybe we can prevail upon Bob Mattes to email Rev. Keller with these questions. Bob?

  21. Stephen said,

    November 24, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Tom, I have to agree with you on this point. Noone is trying to read into Tim Keller’s motive, but this was not simply a mishap or oversight on the part of the assistant minister. Tom, I went back and listened to the video again with the BCO open to the ordination questions. He clearly did read the ordination questions and changed them for the commissioning of a woman. I am not convinced this was the case of not using the right questions and that he was new.

  22. Reed Here said,

    November 24, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    Mason (no. 13): thank you for your answers here and on the previous thread.

    While acknowledging that your information is at best second hand (don’t want to unfairly weigh you), and therefore there might be some more details that would alter my concern, your responses confirm what I’ve read elsewhere. May I offer one observation, and then a follow up (series of) question(s – boils down to one)?

    It appears that functionally there is no distinction between the ordained men and the non-ordained men/women serving on Redeemer’s diaconate. That is, in the actual functions of their office(s), there exists no difference. Non-ordained members appear to deliberate, decide, declare in the same manner as ordained members. (Maybe when it comes to decision making, only the ordained members vote?)

    The lack of functional distinction then calls into question Redeemer’s understanding of the biblical nature of the office. Ordination, for all practical purposes, is no different than non-ordination (at least this how it appears).

    Admitting there could be more info. that would adjust this appearance, I’m wondering how the difference between ordained and non-ordained is explained to the congregation. What are you taught is the biblical reason for ordaining some men (only) and not other men/women, all of whom are called to the same functional service on the diaconate? If they all do the same thing, they why the ordination distinction? What is the biblical explanation?

  23. Scott said,

    November 24, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    The Presbyterian Church in America Book of Church Order says…

    7-2. The ordinary and perpetual classes of office in the Church are elders
    and deacons…. In accord with Scripture, these offices are open to men only.

    9-3. To the office of deacon, which is spiritual in nature, shall be chosen
    men of spiritual character, honest repute, exemplary…

    9-4. The deacons of a particular church shall be organized as a Board, of
    which the pastor shall be an advisory member. The Board shall elect a
    chairman and a secretary from their number and a treasurer to whom shall be entrusted the funds for the current expenses of the church. It shall meet
    separately at least once a quarter, and whenever requested by the Session.

    …It is desirable that the Session and the Board of Deacons meet in
    joint session once a quarter to confer on matters of common interest.

    Further it says that to claim authority or title not given is usurpation of power….

    7-3. No one who holds office in the Church ought to usurp authority
    therein, or receive any official titles of spiritual preeminence, except such as
    are employed in the Scriptures.

    Beyond reasonable doubt, the office of deacon is a governing office of the church, qualified for men as the above sections state. To claim that authority or title outside of that is a usurpation of power.

    This polity is received by vow of officers and enforced by sessions and presbyteries. That is their sworn duty, by oath before God.

    Since the Director of the deaconate is publicly listed as female, it would be helpful to know if the officers have assured compliance with their Book of Church Order with regard to:

    1) are the elders having joint (governing) meetings with the deaconesses
    2) are the deaconesses controlling funds of the church (which are entrusted to the deacons)
    3) are the deacons electing their chairman, secretary and treasurer (if so, who are those officers)

    Is it possible for leadership to assure us that, setting aside the mistaken ordination copycat service and installation on the video, that the polity of the deaconate is being upheld at the particular church under their care?

  24. Tom Albrecht said,

    November 24, 2009 at 3:58 pm


    Just to follow-up with Reed’s questions, you stated:

    “1. They have one diaconate board, with the ordained and unordained members of the diaconate serving on the same board.”

    Can you confirm that Redeemer Church has ordained men serving on that same diaconate board with non-ordained men and women?

    Can you confirm how Redeemer Church distinguishes between the ordination of a deacon and the “commissioning” of a male or female member of the diaconate?

    Can you confirm whether the members of Redeemer Church are regularly asked at these “commissioning services” to offer these non-ordained male and female members of the diaconate “obedience in the Lord according to which the Word of God and constitution of this church entitles them?”

    Can you confirm that non-ordained male and female members of the diaconate are ordinarily referred to as “officers” at Redeemer Church? (See the Officer Nominations page @ http://www.redeemer.com/about_us/leaders/officer_nominations.html)

  25. Scott said,

    November 24, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    It might be helpful if the esteemed Pastor could help us understand one statement…

    “The minister in the video is newer on our staff and he accidentally read the deacons’ questions from the BCO and did not use the different questions we commonly use for deaconesses.”

    The vows read were the vows for church officers (deacons and elders) from BCO 24-5 except they were changed in two respects:

    vow#4 was changed from “accept the office of ruling elder (or deacon as the case may be)” to

    vow#5 was changed from “subjection to your brethren” to

    The vow of the congregation (also 24-5) was changed from “Do you, the members of this church, acknowledge and receive this brother as a ruling elder (or deacon)… to

    Can Dr. Keller clarify for us:

    1) Who wrote these changed vows?
    2) Was ‘Deb,’ in her officer’s training, told to prepare for the vows given by mistake in the video or “the different questions commonly used for deaconesses.”?
    3) Were other deaconess sworn in that day with the same mistaken questions?

    If they were part of the same ceremony, all 17 sworn in at the same time- elders, deacons, deaconesses and ‘Deb,’ why did not any of the other officers at the ceremony recognize that these were mistaken vows for someone non-ordained?

    For example, would a ruling elder candidate being sworn in at this church be expected to know from officer’s training that the congregation does not vow to “yield him all that honor, encouragement and obedience in the Lord to which his office, according to the Word of God and the Constitution of this church, entitles him?” toward:

    1)un-ordained persons
    2)women officers

  26. squirrl90 said,

    November 24, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    This was sent out through a bunch of Redeemer channels from the young TE who was mistaken about how to follow the BCO properly.


    Thanks for the heads-up about people’s questions re: the You Tube video. I’m so sorry that my the commissioning with my use of the erroneous vows has caused so much confusion. It is very understandable why the confusion exists, because this commissioning was done in error, by me. Here are some brief thoughts of my own on the video, in the event that it might be helpful to you or others.

    This was an error that was entirely my doing and should not be construed as representing standard Redeemer practice. If the world were able to view video recordings of the other Deaconess commissionings performed at Redeemer since its inception, the world would see that Redeemer does not ordain Deaconesses, nor has it ever done so. The You Tube video is an aberration due to the unintentional mistake of a minister who was new to Redeemer, and just re-entering the PCA, at the time (yours truly).

    To the question of how someone in my position could make this kind of mistake (It’s a very legitimate question)…I only have a faint recollection of the installation ceremony myself. But when I saw the video last week, I too was very surprised to hear the words “ordination vow” and “yield obedience” (in the congregational vow) come out of my mouth as I led the Deaconess through her vows. My own response was, “Oh my goodness, how could I have missed that detail?” I am fully aware that we do not ordain Deaconesses in the PCA, and there is no desire or intent in me to subvert the BCO in my profession or in my practice. I take my own ordination vows to submit to the brethren, and also to PCA church polity, very seriously. The only explanation I can surmise as to how this mistake could happen is that this was my first Deaconess commissioning at Redeemer. It had been five years since I had attended a PCA General Assembly, as I had left the PCA to plant and pastor a church in the EPC, where we did ordain Deaconesses. So up to the time I commissioned the Redeemer Deaconess, for almost five years my own practice had been according to EPC polity, not PCA polity. This is the only thing I can think of that would cause me to commit such a gross oversight as the one seen in the You Tube video. Very unintentionally, I did not modify the vows as Redeemer pastors customarily do for a Deaconess commissioning. Suffice it to say that I will never make that mistake again.

    This explanation may or may not satisfy everyone who has concerns about the video. However, it is the only explanation I have. My main concern is that Redeemer not be assigned blame for this. Neither Tim nor Redeemer should be held accountable for my mistake. This was my error, and my error alone. I am so sorry for any confusion it may be causing among those who no doubt are asking you questions about it.

    On a related note, if anyone you talk to about this wishes to understand Redeemer’s actual practice with respect to Deacons and Deaconesses, please encourage them to read Tim’s article which is posted at the By Faith Online website.

    Lastly, you can feel free to forward this email on to anyone you think could benefit from it.

    Hope you are well. Grace to you, and Happy Thanksgiving.
    Scott Sauls
    @scottsauls on Twitter
    Redeemer Presbyterian Church of NYC
    212.808.4460 xt 1410

  27. November 24, 2009 at 11:01 pm


    I appreciate your trust in my mediation, but in God’s providence, time is not on my side here. I’m out for Thanksgiving tomorrow. When I return, I’m out again on business. It will be two weeks before I can reenter the discussion.

    May I humbly suggest that we move on from the video. I think that TE Keller’s response covers the bases on it. I’m a bit surprised that no one has challenged the posting of the video on YouTube. It’s clear from TE Keller’s note to me that the individual never approached him about the video.

    There are indeed many avenues for discussion on the deaconess issue and I’m looking forward to those in preparation for GA next year. I’m just hoping that this video will not remain part of that discussion. Though we should stand strongly for what we believe is right in this and all issues, I pray that our words will be seasoned with grace. I haven’t always been the best example of that, but the Lord is still working on and in me.

    I pray that you all have a blessed Thanksgiving!


  28. November 25, 2009 at 12:46 am

    I have to side with the posts above that express skepticism. Doesn’t Keller have control over his staff? Why was an alleged “newbie” put in charge of such a large commissioning/ordination (or whatever it was) service in the first place? And, add to this Keller’s admission that another minister fouled up a baptism service. Was Keller himself present at either of these services? Why didn’t another TE, once he realized what was happening, stop the “newbie” rather than let him continue.

    I just don’t think Keller’s explanation passes the smell test.

  29. Mason said,

    November 25, 2009 at 8:45 am

    Rev. Keister @ 17-

    I agree there is no specific endorsement of commissioning of any kind in the BCO. But many PCA churches commission members for all sorts of things. If commissioning is wrong, then Redeemer certainly isn’t alone in the practice. Also, and this is a serious question: can churches only engage in activities that are proscribed by the BCO? Or can they do anything that is within bounds of the BCO (assuming they are also in line with Scripture and WCF)?

    Reed @ 22 –

    First of all, commissioning deaconesses is a non-issue at Redeemer. It’s been done for 20 years, so it’s not a common topic of discussion. The vast majority of Redeemer members/attenders have no idea the practice is the least bit controversial in the PCA. So there is no formal “teaching” on the topic – at least not that I’ve heard. Tim Keller has made his view pretty clear, which is that functionally – in the BCO and Scripture – this is no practical difference between what ordained deacons and unordained deaconesses can do in the church.

    Tom Albrecht @ 23 –

    To answer your questions:

    1. Yes, there are ordained men and non-ordained deaconesses serving on the same diaconate board.

    2. I think this question pretty much answers itself. Ordained deacons are ordained into an office of the church, where as commissioned deaconesses are not. From a functional perspective, there is no real difference between the two – at least from my perspective outside the diaconate.

    3. No, members of the congregation are not asked to promise obedience to non-ordained deaconesses. It has not happened in past commissioning services I’ve attended.

    4. Yes, non-ordained deaconesses and ordained deacons are both referred to as officers. It’s a practice I don’t particularly like because it can confuse outsiders, as evidenced from this very thread. But it is clear deaconesses are not ordained officers, so when they say officers, they are referring to the formal role of diaconal work, not the ordained office. Can it be confusing? Yes, which is why I’d wish they would word it differently. Even so, it is not confusing for the congregation, since we are familiar with the practice.

    Richard Zuelch @ 25 –

    Since when are “newbie” TE’s not allowed to perform sacraments or commissioning/ordination services? An ordained TE is an ordained TE. Also, a single TE leads every worship service. There may or may not have been other TEs present at that particular service. The Sunday services at Redeemer overlap to a certain degree, so in many cases Tim Keller arrives at the service just before his time to preach. It is quite possible – actually probable – that he wasn’t at the service yet when this video was taken.

    And what’s the big deal about a TE “messing up” a part of the service? I’ve been in the PCA 30 years and have seen many mistakes in quite a few different churches – pastors forgetting to fence the table during the Lord’s Supper, forgetting the vows during baptism, etc. I’m not saying it’s not a problem, just that it happens to all manner of TEs. Not sure why this doesn’t pass your “smell test…”

  30. Mason said,

    November 25, 2009 at 9:04 am

    I posted my response before I saw Scott Sauls’ note @26. If that doesn’t alleviate all the concerns about this, I don’t know what will…

  31. November 25, 2009 at 10:07 am

    Since we have heard from both TEs Keller and Sauls on this, I believe that it’s time to end this thread. I know that many have more to say on the issue of deaconesses, myself included. However, this video has no part in that discussion.

    If we cannot believe our brother elders who have accepted full responsibility for the mistake and apologized fully, then our continued focus on the video says more about our hearts than theirs. I humbly ask each of us to examine our hearts and motives if we will not put this video to rest. How are we bringing glory to God if we do not move on?

  32. Tom Albrecht said,

    November 25, 2009 at 10:15 am

    “1. Yes, there are ordained men and non-ordained deaconesses serving on the same diaconate board.”


    Not to belabor the point, but do you have firsthand knowledge, or can you confirm from the leadership, that Redeemer actually ordains, rather than merely commissions, men to serve on the diaconate? It is my understanding that Redeemer refuses to ordain men to the office, and so both men and women are officially and functionally equivalent. This was stated in a byFaith article comments section from last year and was not challenged. This totally non-ordained diaconate is certainly consistent with all the information on the Redeemer web site.

    Either the information out there is incorrect, which it may be, or you are laboring user a false assumption as to Redeemer’s actual practice.

  33. Mason said,

    November 25, 2009 at 10:43 am


    Redeemer ordains its male deacons.

  34. greenbaggins said,

    November 25, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    I am agreeing with Bob Mattes about the video. I do not think that it should be part of the discussion anymore, and I will be taking down that post. I think that Rev. Keller and Rev. Sauls have adequately explained/apologized for this.

    I still do not agree with Redeemer’s position on female deacons. I will be supporting the new overture from Rocky Mountain Presbytery concerning this matter at the next General Assembly.

  35. Andrew Webb said,

    November 25, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    Dear Brothers,

    Here is the reply I made to the Tim Keller video on another forum:

    While I appreciate Pastor Keller’s gracious reply to our brother’s inquiry, and am glad to hear that the question that Pastor Sauls asked to the congregation isn’t normal*, to my mind this seems like a distinction without a difference. At the end of the day, regardless of the words that are used in the officer installation service, Deb is still a deaconess (or a “deek” as they are referred to at Redeemer), she serves on the diaconate with the men and fills the same office with them. As Redeemer put it in the nomination form they sent out to members of their congregation via email on November 2, 2009:

    “There are 49 men and women currently serving on the Diaconate and 20 men serving on the Session as ruling elders. These men and women have been elected by the congregation and have gone through theological and practical training to master the skills and the information necessary for these positions. … The primary work of the Diaconate is practical deeds of mercy. Deacons and deaconesses (deeks) minister to those in our church family who find themselves in distress, crisis or emergency situations caused by illness, job loss, long-term unemployment, or other immediate physical, material, spiritual or emotional needs. Deeks also assist elders with membership interviews, and deaconesses provide input and support to elders working on complicated shepherding situations. Acts 6:1-4 and 1 Timothy 3:8-13.”

    Redeemer’s online forms indicate that there is no difference in office and function between Deacons and Deaconesses:

    The point of our overture was not merely to prevent the word “ordination” being used or the BCO submission question being asked to the congregation, but to have the PCA definitively declare that BCO 9-7 could not be used in order to create female deacon officers in the PCA and to establish that we affirm and believe that both offices, that of Elder and Deacon, are open to men only**. The purpose was in essence to ask the PCA the question Elijah asked on Mt. Carmel so long ago, “How long will you falter between two opinions?” Many of us believe that our current compromised position is untenable. If God really does call women to the diaconate we must ordain them, if He does not, then we must not have female deacons.

    I personally cannot serve in a denomination that has female officers as I do not believe that such a polity would be biblical. I cannot affirm that the women who were elected, trained and installed as deacons at Redeemer are deacons any more than I can affirm that a woman elected and installed as an elder in another denomination really is an elder or pastor. As you know, deacons can be appointed to serve on committees of the Presbytery and GA and I (and many other PCA Pastors I know) could not serve on a committee with a female deacon. This creates a crisis of polity, because I do not have the right to individually choose to deny that the officers of another church in my denomination are officers any more than they can deny the authority of my own congregation’s officers.

    I firmly believe that this is an issue that cannot be dealt with by substituting one word for another or by omitting questions from the BCO that we are supposed to ask when we install deacons. It can only be finally resolved and the peace and purity of the church restored by a clear decision by the denomination one way or another.

    Your Servant in Christ,

    TE Andy Webb
    Providence, Fayetteville

    * I am disturbed that the members of the congregation did not say “NO” and that members of the session or staff did not correct him at the time. I can guarantee that both would have happened in our church had the same mistake been made.

    ** This overture is NOT ANTI-WOMEN nor do we believe that desiring them to be acknowledged as officers in the church is PRO-WOMEN. Women are not a constituency, an interest group, a minority, or a monolithic bloc, and we do them a great disservice when we treat them as though they are. We greatly err if we assume that all PCA women, or even the majority of PCA women, are in favor of female deacons. The women of many PCA congregations SUPPORT and are praying for the success of the CCPC overture.

    PS: The Best reply to Tim Keller’s response was presented by another brother in my Presbytery, Pastor Tom Hawkes, and is available online here:

  36. Eric Rasmusene said,

    November 25, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    “If we cannot believe our brother elders who have accepted full responsibility for the mistake and apologized fully, then our continued focus on the video says more about our hearts than theirs. I humbly ask each of us to examine our hearts and motives if we will not put this video to rest. How are we bringing glory to God if we do not move on?”

    As some commentors noted earlier, the letters of the Redeemer pastors are not accepting full responsibility and apologizing. That would involve repudiating the ordination and re-doing it properly. I find their responses more dismaying than the original act. In connection with Redeemer’s summarily firing a pastor (Mark Robinson) who opposed the ordination of women deacons, the excuse of “He’s been a PCA elder for over a decade but he just didn’t notice he used the wrong words when he went even further than Redeemer usually allows in this highly-criticized aspect of Redeemer practice,” is feeble.

  37. Tim Vaughan said,

    November 26, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    “As some commentors noted earlier, the letters of the Redeemer pastors are not accepting full responsibility and apologizing.”

    I’m glad I’m not the only one here who feels that way. “Since the minister was ignorant of Presbyterianism, he didn’t ask the parents of the kids he baptised the questions he was required to. Therefore it wasn’t a violation of the BCO that he violated the BCO”.

    Won’t someone in the PCA please grow a spine and deal with this rather than looking for the path of least resistance?

  38. Reed Here said,

    November 27, 2009 at 8:14 am

    Tim: all we can do in this setting is engage in second hand conversation that risks continual danger of gossip and slander.

    If you know someone who has first hand knowledge of the issue – go to them.

    I appreciate your concern (I’ve scars from my time dealing with such issues, and will have more before I’m done this side of eternity.)

    Guys (all of us), Lane (blog owner), and Bob (blog moderator) have both asked us to cease discussion of these, as further is mere speculation. Time for private prayer and action as the Spirit may lead.

  39. Tim Harris said,

    November 27, 2009 at 11:19 am

    In our modern times, in politics, business, society, and even the church, accepting full responsibility means emitting the words, “I accept full responsibility.”

  40. David Gray said,

    November 27, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    So goes the PCA.

  41. s.e. hoffmeister said,

    November 28, 2009 at 12:40 am

    He said, She said, They said. It seems that the writer of the blog wishes that the “YouTube video” was dealt with in the correct manner. So are all these posts dealing with the subject at hand in the correct manner? If there is a problem, then someone in that church needs to deal with it, in the right place. Then follow all the procedure to the proper end. If they do not like the verdict, they can stay and be quiet or leave and go somewhere else. The rest of us are peering in to a window after being told “look”, not knowing all the particulars. Save your words, and wait for due process. If you do not like the final verdict, you too can stay or go. When the Holy Catholic church at hand does its work you are bond by that verdict, or you may in good conscience leave.So why in this blog, guess, suggest,comment in ill form what needs to be dealt with ,if a wrong is performed, outside of the correct and given forms of government? What ever is public , can be dealt with in good manner, without all the pokes and jabs from the safety of your keyboard. So “Just do it’ or leave and say no more, in the end God will judge,”He will not be mocked”.

  42. Tim Vaughan said,

    November 28, 2009 at 7:08 am

    This post, as per the site owner’s request, is to address the following sentence rather than the DebDeek video
    “If there is a problem, then someone in that church needs to deal with it, in the right place.”
    That’s not true in Presbyterianism; it’s more of a baptist thing. For instance, if a church sees another church in the same presbytery in violation of the denomination’s constitution, that church is encouraged to get involved.

  43. Alcofribas Nasair said,

    November 29, 2009 at 7:13 am

    Don’t stifle dissent. The printing press was the internet of the 16th century. The issue of women speaking in church, asking questions, teaching in chuch, examining male deacons,etc. should be debated with vogour.

    I am not a member of the Roman church, and yet I feel free to comment on it, as I should. Thank goodness we have seperation of church and state here and 1st amendment freedoms.

    Maintaining secrecy is something Episcopalians and Roman Catholics do when transfering padophiles from parish to parish. Prsbyterians should know better and feel free to debate these issues openly and anonymously if they wish in the press and on the internet.

  44. Reed Here said,

    November 29, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    No one here is suggesting the stifling of debate on doctrinal questions.

  45. Reformed Sinner said,

    November 29, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    Dear Tim,

    Please feel free to formally file charges to the NY Presbytery, and go through the whole process of bringing Tim Keller and Redeemer up in charges.

    Otherwise, this is a blog, it’s here to talk and exchange of knowledge, and yes, make arguments. But this is not the place to put anybody on trial. Nobody here has the authority to make any declarations on whether Redeemer and Tim Keller has done or not done things properly according to the BCO. We can comment on them, but not formally make declarations on them. PCA has proper channels for that, and if you are indeed the great PCA churchman you said you are then you would follow PCA orders and procedures.

  46. Tim Vaughan said,

    November 29, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    I’m sure I’m not the Tim you’re talking to, since I’ve gone out of my way to say I’m no longer a member of the PCA. Can’t think of another Tim who’s lately said that he is a great PCA churchman, but I’m sure you have one in mind, since order and methodology is obviously important to you.

  47. Jonathan said,

    November 30, 2009 at 12:04 am

    “Prsbyterians should know better and feel free to debate these issues openly and anonymously if they wish in the press and on the internet.”

    Openly yes (for issues other than those that should be dealt with privately) but anonymously NEVER. You might be able to do it legally but not righteously.

  48. Reformed Sinner said,

    November 30, 2009 at 8:52 am

    Dear Tim Vaughan:

    Forgive me if I missed your post that you are no longer in the PCA. If that’s indeed the case then please refrain from telling PCA churchmen how to do their Christian duties. This is a blog for exchange of ideas and debates, not calling people out.

    If you’re only here to rant about Tim Keller and PCA church order while not being a PCA churchman yourself, of course I’m not the moderator of this blog, but I see little purpose here for you then. I agree with Reed, this thread is sounding more like gossip and slandering than debating a solid point: whether it’s Biblical at all to have women proclaimed as “deaconness” even without ordination.

  49. Tim Vaughan said,

    November 30, 2009 at 9:05 am

    “I agree with Reed, this thread is sounding more like gossip and slandering than debating a solid point: whether it’s Biblical at all to have women proclaimed as “deaconness” even without ordination.”

    Do you have a name, BTW? After the site administrators asked for no more comments on the video I switched my line of question to whether or not what happens in one PCA church is only the business of that PCA church. Due to your comment

    “If that’s indeed the case then please refrain from telling PCA churchmen how to do their Christian duties.”

    perhaps we can extend the question to whether or not NAPARC churches need to refrain from commenting on the behavior of others in our organisation.

  50. Reformed Sinner said,

    November 30, 2009 at 1:39 pm


    Thank you.

    And yes, I don’t think Tim Keller is right in trying to side-step the issue on woman ordination with his creative ways around them. Any pro-Keller folks like to advance the conversation by posting their views? Thanks.

  51. ray said,

    November 30, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    Judging from the responses here … girls might as well be running the PCA … you cannot even come up with a concrete and stern admonishment for this Keller. Accepting his apology as the truth is believing a women when she says “I hope your happy” :)

  52. Andrew Webb said,

    November 30, 2009 at 8:45 pm


    Haven’t you heard? There are actually THREE sexes: men, women, and pastors. ;-)

  53. ray said,

    November 30, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    Really :) … been reading your gender neutral translation have you? :)

  54. Scott said,

    December 1, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Mr. Sauls letter says,
    “Very unintentionally, I did not modify the vows as Redeemer pastors customarily do for a Deaconess commissioning.”

    The explanation given is that there is a separate set of vows given ‘deaconesses’ and this new minister accidentally did not use them.

    The question that needs to be answered so the context of the amends can be understood is…

    But the vows given were changed.

    They are right out of BCO 24-5, the ordination vows for elders and deacons, and the vows the congregation takes in response to installation of their officers except they were changed in three ways:

    vow#4 was changed from “accept the office of ruling elder (or deacon as the case may be)” to

    vow#5 was changed from “subjection to your brethren” to

    The vow of the congregation (also 24-5) was changed from “Do you, the members of this church, acknowledge and receive this brother as a ruling elder (or deacon)… to

    So, it was not really a mistake of not using the ‘deaconess’ vows but it was taking ordination vows and congregation vows and changing them for public ceremony.

    What must be explained here to understand the esteemed Pastor’s letter explanation and the new minister’s explanation letter is:

    1) Who changed the Book of Church Order vows to accommodate this invention? (Was it done unilaterally, on-the spot by the new minister, or were the mistaken vows used in officer’s training?)
    2) Were these changed vows used in the training of any other ‘deaconesses’?
    3) Did the person in the video herself, the officers or any church member report this misrepresentation of their polity and vows before this came out publicly on You Tube? (If not, why not?)
    4) Has the incorrect ceremony been voided and a correct amended one, with proper vows been performed?

    Since this has been put into the public arena, and the esteemed Pastor has taken time to respond and explain as part of this thread, can he be contacted for follow-up to answer these questions so we can understand better what happened from a first-hand source?

    This will help us defend the good name of our neighbor and calm the speculation that flows from the vacuum created without this information.

  55. masonymelissa said,

    December 1, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Ray @ 51 –

    No one has an admonishment because the bottom line is he hasn’t done anything wrong. Redeemer commissions deaconesses, a practice that is not prohibited and is tacitly condoned in BCO 9-7. Exactly what would you admonish Pastor Keller about re: deaconesses? What do you think is wrong in what Redeemer does with its female deacons? Here are some options:

    1. Deaconesses are commissioned. Fair enough, if the SJC or GA forbid the practice of commissioning deaconesses, Redeemer would comply and stop. But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t use deaconesses in exactly the same role they function now – commissioning is simply a way of formalizing their role within the church. Plus, it gets very tricky to forbid general commissioning because that is done in the vast majority of PCA churches across the country for everything from overseas missionaries to summer camp counselors.

    2. They use the term “deaconess.” The Central Carolina Presbytery has overtured the GA to amend the BCO to exclude use of the term “deaconess” referring to diaconal helpers. But that runs into major problems, as deaconess has been a term used throughout the history of the church, and has strong biblical precedent. Calvin utilized deaconesses (and referred to them as such), as have an array of noted Reformed theologians. Is the PCA going to abandon millennia of accepted church practice – not to mentioned its Reformed roots – simply to ban the use of a word?

    In compliance with the BCO, Redeemer ordains male deacons but does not ordain female deacons. Is it the commissioning you disagree with? I would guess 80% of the PCA churches commission someone in some capacity. The use of the term deaconess? Do you disagree with Calvin, Warfield, and others as well? So again Ray, I’m curious what you would admonish Tim Keller and Redeemer for doing…

  56. Mason said,

    December 1, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Oops, just realized I logged in with the e-mail address I share with my wife. Post #55 is by me…

  57. Robert Berman said,

    December 1, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    FWIW, I am the moderator of my presbytery this year, and at our most recent meeting, we received men under care but failed to ask them the questions stipulated in BCO 18-3. Not one member of presbytery rose to correct the omission, though the procedure should have been well-known to all since we receive men under care at most presbytery meetings. Now we will have to take action to correct the irregularity, of course. It will also be appropriate to educate the presbyters as to why we ask the BCO 18-3 questions in the first place, and perhaps that will help it to stick in our minds so that we don’t make a similar mistake in the future.

  58. Andrew Webb said,

    December 1, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Brothers, I find it difficult to believe that we really at the point where the average PCA member wouldn’t bat an eye at the accidental ordination of women and would willingly pledge their obedience to her. Our congregation would immediately have been in an uproar and I seriously doubt if any of the 100+ members would have pledged obedience.

    Obviously, the vital difference between congregations like ours and congregations like Redeemer NYC is not simply an occasional mistake in procedure but a real difference in what is being taught and modeled. Redeemer is teaching that women ARE called to the office of Deaconess and placing them in that office, while congregations like ours are explicitly teaching they they aren’t. This is a real difference in doctrinal instruction that is bound to have the practical effect of encouraging and laying the groundwork for female ordination. Clearly the fact that you *can* ordain a woman at Redeemer and get the congregation to assent to it, while you can’t do that at Providence, should prove that fact.

    Doxis leads to Praxis.

  59. Andrew Webb said,

    December 1, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    Regarding the underlying question, can I recommend this article from the Banner:

  60. Cal said,

    December 1, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    In today’s blog from Justin Taylor http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/ there is a link to an article from the Nov. 29 edition of New York Magazine profiling Tim Keller and Redeemer. Of note for this discussion is the following:
    “For Beth Cannon, 32, a graduate student at Columbia who is active in her fellowship group, it’s Redeemer’s stance on not ordaining women that is the biggest impediment to her pursuing full church membership. ‘It’s one of those things like, which conviction do I hold clearer?’ she says. ‘But I haven’t met many people at Redeemer unwilling to discuss it.'”

  61. Jonathan said,

    December 1, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    Now this is just me throwing random things out.

    The continuous arguments about the vows changing is really very easy to understand. The vows were changed in small (if major) ways that would be easy to make up on the spot. The TE realized there was a deaconess being commissioned, read the wrong vows but easily could have adjusted the vows he read to fit with the deaconess being present. I doubt the modifications were for a nefarious purpose. I think the discussion can go in a better direction than questioning why the vows were changed.

    Once again this is just me guessing and making things up based on my own thoughts.

  62. ray said,

    December 1, 2009 at 5:56 pm


    That’s what happens when men turn into girls and will not take and fill the officebearers positions in the churches. Then the women see their congregational men acting like girls and thus are led to believe they too can lead as officebearers.

    One fella put it well with respect to what has taken place in the CRC …
    “Why has this happened? (1) The CRC started ordaining men who did not believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. (2) The CRC started ordaining men who believed the atonement was universal and non-effacicious. (3) The CRC started ordaining women.

    This is the normal procedure. It has happened before and it will happen again.”

    Are you one of these girlie men? :)

  63. Mason said,

    December 1, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    Ray @ 62 –

    I’m not sure I follow your logic, but are you saying men aren’t filling the office-bearing positions at the church? Are you saying the men at Redeemer are “acting like girls?” If so, would you mind giving a few specific examples? I’m pretty involved in the church and haven’t seen many “girlie men” running around.

    Again I ask, what is your specific admonishment of Pastor Keller and Redeemer regarding the deaconess issue?

  64. Alcofribas Nasair said,

    December 1, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    “Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.

    “As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

    “Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored.” 1 Co. 14:27-38

    Is the above the inerrant Word of God? Could anybody (other than a seminary graduate) misunderstand its plain meaning? The passage has nothing to do with ordination, something that those of us who don’t put much stock in clergy-laity distinction care about. It does have to do with the distinction between the sexes in a church setting.

    If you are going to have women speaking out in church, chairing deacon boards, teaching adult Sunday school, leading corporate prayer, teaching via spiritual songs by leading the praise band, teaching men in growth groups, etc., why not go all the way (Ga. 5:12) and ordain them as well? — unless confusing the clergy-laity distinction counts more than confusing the roles of the sexes in church.

  65. ray said,

    December 1, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    Like a buddy stated:

    “Keller believes women should be allowed to do anything in the church that men do, including preach. For some odd reason (evidently the result of some really bad exegesis) the only exception seems to be that women are prohibited from disciplining those teaching errant doctrines.”

    Your too busy tripping over yourself trying to make excuses for Mr. Excuse (Keller) himself…which tells me your a bit of a girlie man yourself. Whoever made the video caught Redeemer NYC with their proverbial pants….or should I say …. dress down :)

    What part of 1 Corinth 14:35-36 d’ont you understand?

    Maybe the problem is there are too many girlie man husbands who when asked by their wife to explain what was said off the pulpit or at bible study … shrugs his shoulders and says I d’ont know … why d’ont you find out for us both… sugarcup, I’m busy watching Home and Garden right now. :)

  66. Tim Vaughan said,

    December 2, 2009 at 5:10 am

    ““In a nutshell, our position is this: whatever a non-ruling elder male can do in the church, a woman can do.”

    The different Presbyteries in the PCA are allowed to set the number of times a non ordained person can preach every year. Usually it’s once per month or so. So Keller and his wannabes think that a woman can preach.

  67. Mason said,

    December 2, 2009 at 9:06 am

    Alcofribas @ 64 –

    What do you do with I Corinthians 11:1-16, where women are clearly allowed to speak in worship, albeit under the headship of their husbands?

    Ray @ 65 –

    After 2 somewhat incoherent posts, you have still not answered my question about admonishing Redeemer and Keller for their practice of utilizing deaconesses. What specifically do they do that is anti-Scriptural, anti-Confessional, or anti-BCO? You can continue to use all the girlie-men references all you like, but in the end you have not stepped up to the plate to substantially support your own rhetoric.

    Tim @ 66 –

    I disagree with Dr. Keller if his statement about women doing everything an unordained man can do is intended to be universal. I agree with you that women should not preach, which an unordained man can do. However, his statement must be taken in context, which is a position paper on the role of women at his church. At Redeemer, unordained men never preach. So at his particular church, his statement is true and correct. And he explicitly says in the same paper that women cannot preach. So your last statement is incorrect on several levels.

  68. Tim Vaughan said,

    December 2, 2009 at 9:34 am

    “So your last statement is incorrect on several levels.”

    I disagree. The statement as it stands is used by many PCA churches as authoritative. Trinity Presbyterian of San Luis California puts it right in their purpose statement, and half the preaching is done by unordained people. As long as Keller is allowed to get away with what may be little things (no questions to the parents of kids being baptised is little?) then liberals are just going to say that if Keller does it they can too.

  69. Reformed Sinner said,

    December 2, 2009 at 9:54 am

    #65 Ray,

    As easy as it is to throw around 1st Corinthian 14:35-36 about the issue of women then someone can easily throw back verse 38 at you and wonder why the OPC/PCA doesn’t “earnestly desire to prophecy and speaking in tongues.”

    The issue of women needs to be carefully exegete throughout all relevant passages. And put together in a persuasive and reasonable matter that will settle the hearts of men and women alike. Answers like you’re a women so shut your mouth is never helpful in shepherding the flock.

  70. Reformed Sinner said,

    December 2, 2009 at 10:05 am

    Sometimes I think the problem is that the church has lost a sense of what being ordained really means. And when we start making exceptions for non-ordained men to do things that are normally reserved for ordained men, then confusion aroses. To me the Bible is clear: Preaching, Sacraments, and Disciples are all practices of authority in its core and should only be done in the office of ordination. Therefore, should only be reserved for ordained ruling and teaching elders.

    Second, I believe it’s time to take what the Scripture says about the role of “teachers” seriously and the Church should realize there are men called to be teachers in the Church with Spiritual gifts to teach the Scripture but not called to be full-time ministers/shepherds. And yes they should still be ordained as “teachers” or “teaching elder” if you will.

    Too often the church has recognize great teaching skills in men who have no desire to be elders or ministers, but their gifts are so recognizable that we allowed them to preach and teach and then we can’t explain it with Scriptural clarify on why that is so, and then we end up being in a slippery slope argument: if unordained men can do this, why not women?

    Again to me the Scripture is very clear: the ordained offices are ministers/elders/TEACHERS. And they are all burdens for men to bear.

    Finally, not to open another big can of worms. But it’s time for men to step up to the plate and teach children in the Church. Stop passing on our Scriptural burden as men to the women just because we don’t have desire/will/sense of accomplishment to do them. We passed on what is Biblically our duty (TEACHING) to women and then complaint when people make the logical slippery slope argument: if women can teach children, why not older people?

  71. Reformed Sinner said,

    December 2, 2009 at 10:06 am

    #71 should say Preaching, Sacrament and DISCIPLINES, not disciples.

  72. Alcofribas Nasair said,

    December 2, 2009 at 10:58 am


    In the interest of time I am going to over simplify a bit.

    In short I Co. 11 says women should have their head covered in the assembly.

    1 Co. 14 says that women should be silent in the assembly.

    Perhaps I’m a trog. My mind was not turned to mush in the seminary, so I have to go by plain meaning. If I wanted the priests to figure it out for me, I’d become a Roman Catholic.

    Calvin pretty much notes 1 Co. 11 refers to women not praying or prophecying without their head covered. And 1 Co. 14 then goes on to say women should keep silent (not prophecy in the assembly at all head covered or not). But unlike Keller, Calvin did not have the benefit of reading Salon.com and Thomistic influenced apologists like C.S. Lewis (see the New Yorker mag article linked to above).

    John Gill also didn’t have the benefit of being enlightened by the feminist revolution — and did not have the benefit of 20th century seminary either. But he did know his ancient languages and he is the only one I know of to single-handedly comment verse by verse on the entire Bible. His summary interpretation of 1 Co. 11 is:

    “…wherefore it is concluded, that if it is a shame for her to be shaved or shorn, she ought to be covered when attending the worship of God. The reason why a man should be uncovered at such a time is, because he is the image and glory of God; and the reason why the woman should be covered is, because she is the glory of the man, is made for his glory, and to be in subjection to him, of which the covering is a token, and that she is so, is argued from the order of the creation, man being not of the woman, but the woman of the man, and from the end of the creation, man being not for the woman, but the woman for the man. Another reason why the woman should be covered at the time of public worship is, because of the angels then present, but lest on this account the woman should be treated with contempt by the man, the apostle observes, that they are not, and cannot be without one another; and that they are from each other in different senses, and both from the Lord, and then proceeds to other arguments, showing that women should not appear uncovered in the house of God: one is taken from the uncomeliness of it, which must be so judged by everyone…”

    Call me a hypcritical trog, but I think it means what it says. Women should cover their heads in the assembly. I don’t enforce this on my own family (so I guess I am a hyporcrite).


    I am not a Presbyterian so I guess I don’t appreciate “what it means to be ordained”. But I confess some skepticism. One might think it means a huge chunk of the particular society budget goes to paying salaries, benefits and office space for the Ordained ones who can properly understand and interpret scripture to those of us who don’t care much about Nietzche, Salon.com and Tolkein. And that the distinction between the clergy and laity totally overwhelms that between man and woman. Maybe the RCs are correct and us laity just shouldn’t be allowed to read the Word in the vernacular. If not Milton was correct when he said “Presbyter is but Priest writ large” (or something to that effect).

    As for prophecy, it seems to me to be a supernatural gift that was discontinued by the end of the 2nd century when the Apostles were gone from this life and the whole cannon of scripture was made available to us.

  73. revkev1967 said,

    December 2, 2009 at 11:27 am

    @73: I think I speak for everyone when I say, “Dude! Take a deep breath and count to 10!”

    Not sure where are your anger is coming from, but your scorn for the God-ordained offices in the Church is curious given your zeal for the God-ordained structure in those offices.

  74. Tim Keller said,

    December 2, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Jonathan is right (#61)

    Cal’s post (#60) shows that it is well known that Redeemer does not ordain women, and many people over the years have refrained from joining or coming to the church because they know this. We have taken a lot of ‘hits’ for this over the years in NYC.

    No one in the congregation believes we ordain our deaconesses. There is never any imposition of hands. Anyone who heard the word ‘ordain’ go by quickly in that service would have simply either thought there was a mistake (which there was) or thought they heard wrong.

    By the way–this is the only post I’m going to make!


  75. Sam Steinmann said,

    December 2, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    It appears that functionally there is no distinction between the ordained men and the non-ordained men/women serving on Redeemer’s diaconate. That is, in the actual functions of their office(s), there exists no difference. Non-ordained members appear to deliberate, decide, declare in the same manner as ordained members. (Maybe when it comes to decision making, only the ordained members vote?)

    In a very delayed response, here is my experience. I was a deacon’s assistant at All Saints in Richmond, a PCA church. (All the deacons and assistants were men.) My experience was about as you propose–I could organize a workday, be responsible for a project or for organizing a response to a particular need, etc, pretty much the same as a deacon; I could participate in discussion among the deacon’s and assistants; I could NOT vote.

  76. Redeemer Member said,

    December 2, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    I am a Redeemeer member and have spoken with other Redeemer members regarding Redeemer’s diaconal practices. Those I have spoken with were not aware that there was any distinction between deacons and deaconesses at Redeemer. During installation services there is no attempt to show that deacons are ordained and deaconesses are not ordained. Whether people have refrained from joining Redeemer because Redeemer does not have female elders is not relevant to the question of whether Redeemer obscures the distinction between whether deaconesses are ordained. To my knowledge there is no imposition of hands in the ordination of deacons, so the fact that there is no imposition of hands on deaconesses is beside the point. Cal’s post (#60) is certainly a reference merely to the fact that there are no female pastors or elders. The Book of Church Order requires that only men hold the office of deacon. See BCO 9.3. Women (as well as men) may be appointed to *assist* the deacons. See BCO 9.7. This distinction has been completely avoided during the years in which I have been a member of the church.

  77. ray said,

    December 2, 2009 at 5:14 pm


    well the issued is settled regardless of what the sissy’s out there are trying to smoke screen … the Scripture texts and the exegesis from men like Calvin and Gill are clear. Doctrinal idiots care less about Scripture and the exegesis put forth on the issue. They cannot say that they have not been warned. They know better … yet the excuses keep coming.

    Acts 6 does not make mention of say … Mary or Martha being on the list … I wonder what exegisis could possibly be used to settle the hearts of men and women alike.

  78. Tim Bayly said,

    December 2, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    >>No one in the congregation believes we ordain our deaconesses. There is never any imposition of hands. Anyone who heard the word ‘ordain’ go by quickly in that service would have simply either thought there was a mistake (which there was) or thought they heard wrong.

    This says almost nothing since the same could be written about male deacons at Redeemer. In other words, if someone had done a video recording of the same service with a man instead of a woman being “ordained,” it would have been as much of a shocker to the members of the congregation as this video was. And Tim Keller would have responded in precisely the same way as his response above, except that he would have spoken of “deacons” instead of “deaconesses.”

    As in: “No one in the congregation believes we ordain our male deacons. There is no imposition of hands. Anyone who heard the word ‘ordain’ go by quickly in a service would simply think there was a mistake or they heard wrong.”

    So the situation we’re left with concerning ordination to the diaconate at Redeemer is that ordination has been so muddled that people are left thinking ordination is only for the pastorate (and maybe the eldership, if someones’ really tracking things). Hence the “New York” quote telling readers that a woman named Beth Cannon doesn’t join because of “Redeemer’s stance on not ordaining women.” And right above is this context for the quote, speaking of the ordination of pastors: “(Keller) believes things that enlightened urban Americans generally do not: that women should not be ordained as ministers (Kathy Keller opted out of becoming a pastor when she decided that female ministers were unbiblical)….”

    It’s true that unbelievers would be scandalized by any limitation on women–any at all. But what should we say about the man who summarizes Scripture’s teaching on the meaning and nature of sexuality as husbands sometimes having to cast a tie-breaking vote and women in the church being able to do anything an unordained man can do (understanding that only elders are to be ordained)?

    We can say that such a position concerning the most controverted issue of our time is perfectly tuned to the preferences of those looking for a happy medium between biblical and liberal, between the PCA and the PC(USA).

  79. Mason said,

    December 2, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    Redeemer Member @ 76 –

    I’m a member of Redeemer also. It’s pretty clear to me that Redeemer ordains its male deacons but doesn’t ordain the females. Why don’t we sit down sometime and discuss it – I live in the East Village. You can e-mail me anytime at mmandy ampersand chpnet dot org.

    Pastor Bayly @ 78 –

    You said: “We can say that such a position concerning the most controverted issue of our time is perfectly tuned to the preferences of those looking for a happy medium between biblical and liberal, between the PCA and the PC(USA).”

    You can say that, or we can say that such a position is based on careful reading of Scripture. Isn’t that the more charitable understanding? Why assume that Pastor Keller’s belief is some sort of compromise? Couldn’t we just as easily say that your refusal to commission female deacons is perfectly tuned to the preferences of a very conservative heartland congregation? I don’t believe that because I have no reason to believe you have based your views on anything other than careful Scriptural study. Why can’t you extend the same courtesy to Pastor Keller?

  80. Scott said,

    December 2, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    Tim Keller said,
    “Jonathan is right (#61)”

    Jonathan said,
    “…. The vows were changed in small (if major) ways that would be easy to make up on the spot. The TE realized there was a deaconess being commissioned, read the wrong vows but easily could have adjusted the vows he read to fit with the deaconess being present….”

    In the video the new minister (about :28) said,
    “candidates went through an extensive…would you say it was extensive…training process…yes…extensive…”

    There are many of us who do want to assume the best here and protect the good name of our neighbor. The following information is needed to help understand this:

    1) In the ‘extensive’ training, was this person taught the correct vows, “the different questions we commonly use for deaconesses?”
    2) Did anyone- the ‘candidate,’ the other officers, any member of the congregation formally complain to session before this got out to the public on You Tube that the congregation had just vowed to submit to an un-ordained woman? (If not, why not?)
    3) Since the ceremony was a mistake, was it voided and an amended ceremony performed?

    And one other clarification would be helpful,

    Tim Keller said,
    “No one in the congregation believes we ordain our deaconesses. There is never any imposition of hands.”

    4) Is Redeemer laying hands on deacons during their ordination?


  81. Tim Vaughan said,

    December 2, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    So does anyone have a video of real deacons being ordained? Seems like more than a bit of “in my experience” and “everyone here thinks” in these posts. ;-)

    So, who’s personally seen real deacons getting the laying on of hands treatment?

  82. Tim Bayly said,

    December 2, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    As I’ve said before, I’ve not found Mason an accurate source concerning the practice or doctrine at Redeemer. Typical is this above: “It’s pretty clear to me that Redeemer ordains its male deacons.”

    And yet, if by ordination you mean the laying on of hands and prayer Scripture records, then Redeemer doesn’t and hasn’t ordained her deacons for many years, now. Here’s a transcription of Tim Keller’s statement from this past GA:

    “Redeemer laid hands on our off[icers]……on our deacons for about half of our life. Several years ago, we stopped doing it. We thought…I thought that didn’t mean that we stopped ordaining them. Plenty of people think it does. …For a quite a long time, we laid hands on them..…uhhhh we haven’t and it’s largely partly because some of our deacons asked us not to…originally.”

    So no, Redeemer does not ordain her male or female deacons as everyone but Tim Keller understands ordination. Thus in congregational life and publications, Tim Keller uses the same word, “Deek,” for both male and female deacons. Every effort is made to communicate that Redeemer’s male and female officers are identical, and that is what is as plain as the nose on the end of their faces for every member of the church.

    Concerning Mason’s comment about the conservative heartland, I respond that my father grew up a Presbyterian in Queens and I’ve lived in San Diego, Wheaton, Madison, Boulder, Philadelphia, Bloomington, and Boston. Obeying Scripture is always hard, everywhere–particularly the Bible’s commands concerning sexuality. Let’s not fool ourselves that others have it any easier than we have it. There’s a reason the Lord warned us against being ashamed of Him or His Words. And that was way back in the Ancient World.


  83. revkev1967 said,

    December 2, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    If Redeemer is not laying on hands in ordainging deacons, then they are in violation of BCO 24-6:

    “The members of the church having answered this question in the
    affirmative, by holding up their right hands, the candidate shall then be set
    apart, with prayer by the minister or any other Session member and the
    laying on of the hands of the Session, to the office of ruling elder (or

  84. Alcofribas Nasair said,

    December 3, 2009 at 6:09 am

    The following is just my opinion.

    NYC is the greatest city in this hemisphere. Boston, Chicago, LA and a few others are pretty great also. TK is to be commended for his “urbanism”. America’s cities are crucial to the spread and defense of the gospel. Folks in western VA may not appreciate the depth and breadth of the extreme hostility to Christianity and Historic Reformed Christianity that is in Manhattan. The militancy of the feminist and gay sub-culture in Manhattan is nothing at all like in the rest of the country.

    For that reason when a Philly Tenth Pres, or a John MacArthur (near LA) or a Mark Deaver in DC (and their church members) boldy proclaim the doctines of grace in urban areas, I know all is not lost yet. Of course Christians know Christ will be victorius in the end. These urban curches remind me of Paul’s work in Ephesus and Corinth. He had apostolic extraordinary gifts to help him, but we have the Spirit also (and the complete Cannon, which he did not have).

    The recent New York and Christianity Today articles on Keller are instructive. So is Keller’s notes discussing his three divisions of PCA types (historicals, conservatives and evangelicals) on an EPC/Newark site.

    I have been a member of another denomination and so have not attended Redeemer NYC area churches more than 100 or so times over the past ten years. However, I do feel empty when I do attend. The emphasis on “excellence” in worship (slick musicians) seems effeminate to me. What happened to worshiping in Spirit and truth. When male and female NIgerian and Latin American immigrants (and some semi-retired middle class white guys) boldly proclaim the gospel in the subway stations between the Port Authority and Grand Central, one can pick up more biblical truth just walking by, than sometimes can be head at a Redeemer service with Bono, Michael Jackson and CS Lewis quotes in the bulletin.

    In one of the recent puff pieces (I think Christianity Today) Keller’s wife jokingly says her Atlanta friends thought NYC was the Whore of Babylon. Well it isn’t. The Roman Church is. The Roman Church became corrupted due to its syncretistic tendencies relative to Roman pagan religion. My opinion is that Redeemer is accomodating the liberal and Roman culture and runs the danger of being corrupted by that syncretism.

    It doesn’t help that Westminster seminary (which Keller attended) fell in with Kuyperian common grace mystical nonesense many decades ago.

    The PCA churches in the Galilean hinterlands would do well to buck up the NYC Redeemer congregation by applying offsetting Biblical pressure to the intense pressure that Redeemer gets from the NYC Roman and militantly liberal pop-culture.

  85. Mason said,

    December 3, 2009 at 11:23 am

    Pastor Bayly @ 81 –

    Your personal background isn’t the point. You are accusing Pastor Keller of developing his views on women in the church to satisfy his Manhattan congregation. You have no basis for such an accusation, any more than I have grounds to accuse you of developing your views to satisfy a more conservative Indiana congregation. You may disagree with his understanding of Scripture, but there’s no need to accuse him of compromising his views to pander to a secular place like New York.

    Referring to deaconesses and deacons as “deeks” has only started recently. I’m not sure why to be honest, but using the 1 syllable word “deeks” is much easier than the 7 syllable phrase “deacons and deaconesses.” Also, New Yorkers love nicknames. We often refer to the Yankees as “Yanks” and the Red Sox as the “Sox,” for example. That certainly isn’t done for gender neutrality…

  86. Todd said,

    December 3, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Actually, how New Yorkers refer to the Red Sox cannot be repeated on this blog.

  87. revkev1967 said,

    December 3, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    I would also add, that referring to these women as “deaconesses” is also a violation of the BCO. 9-7 says:

    “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.”

    The authorized categories are ordained deacons and those un-ordained, but appointed, men and women who assist the deacons. One cannot be a deacon AND an assistant and be faithful to the BCO.

    If these un-ordained women are deaconesses, then what are the un-ordained men who assist the deacons? Deacon Wannabes?

  88. rfwhite said,

    December 3, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Regarding BCO 9-7, it seems pertinent to highlight also that the appointment and selection of diaconal assistants is done by the Session, not the congregation.

  89. Scott said,

    December 3, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    rfwhite said,
    “Regarding BCO 9-7, it seems pertinent to highlight also that the appointment and selection of diaconal assistants is done by the Session, not the congregation.”

    That’s why additional information would be helpful in understanding the explanation of the mistakes here and amends made, and protecting truth and the good name of our neighbor.

    The polity received by every officer in the denomination, by holy vow, is to receive and uphold its polity, which reflects doctrine confessed by the church.

    That polity is governance by deacons and elders, qualified by I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 with un-ordained men AND women assisting them (appointed by session, not nominated, elected, and vowed submission by the congregation).

    Officers are qualified, examined and tested, nominated, elected, ordained (with laying on of hands), and installed in holy ceremony- an ordinance of public worship.

    It reflects our confessed understanding that God appoints those who would rule over us, confirmed and tested in many ways.

    To usurp that is sin, the Book of Church Order says so, and the holy vows to uphold it in the presence of many witnesses makes it more egregious to do so.

    The Constitution of the denomination is not ambiguous on our general polity. It is consistent throughout. Many secondary matters are left to local church governance, but not the general polity framework. Un-ordained men and women are vitally involved in many ways.

    My goodness, we are Presbyterians, after all, and we major in polity. We are clear in our polity!

    Men are called out to lead as deacons and elders, and each particular church’s session is responsible to make sure that is happening.

    It’s a marvelous thing seeing God work through this structure, men leading as deacons in taking care of the property, overseeing mercy ministry, and developing a spirit of liberality amongst the congregation. It’s an act of God’s mercy seeing generosity and selflessness spill over broadly into congregation.

    That’s what the extensive training process of officers is about- confirming the calling, equipping, doctrinal understanding and exemplary (not perfect) life- qualifying who is entrusted to receive, practice and defend it.

  90. Mason said,

    December 3, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    revkev @ 87 –

    Diakonos is used in the NT to refer to both the office of Deacon and to generic servants in the church, correct? So what’s wrong with using the same term to refer to the ordained office and unordained servants today? If you don’t believe females should be ordained as deacons can’t they at least be referred to as unordained deaconesses, as Phoebe is in Romans 16:1? Nothing in the BCO prohibits generic use of the term deaconess.

    rfwhite @ 88 –

    Can’t the Session select unordained deacons by congregational election? Nothing in the BCO precludes such a practice.

  91. Tim Vaughan said,

    December 3, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    Mason, are decons ordained with laying on of hands at Redeemer?

  92. Tim Harris said,

    December 3, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    Another quick question for Mason (or any other cognizant witness from Redeemer): the Diaconate at your church, if I understand correctly, consists of two classes (using the word in the logical, not sociological sense) of members: those that have been ordained, and those that have (merely) been installed. Does that class distinction play out in different duties, rights, or responsibilities? If so, what would be a couple examples? If not, then what possible semantic distinction is implied by “ordained’ vs “installed”?

  93. Reed Here said,

    December 3, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    Tim: Mason answered this back a while for me – no differences/distinctions at all. Both serve in an undifferentiated manner.

  94. Reed Here said,

    December 3, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    Mason: Dr. White’s point is that in calling for Sessional appointment, BCO preculdes congregational voting in this matter.

    BCO works in this regard in an either/or manner. If one process is prescribed, all other processes are denied.

  95. December 3, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    Redeemer Member, re #76,

    I believe that Mat 18 speaks against publicly airing issues without taking your issues to your church Session directly. Have you done so? When you joined that church, you vowed to submit to the government and discipline of the church. Have you expressed your concerns to the elders or the Session as a whole and allowed them the courtesy of responding?

    You may find wise counsel in consulting your elders. OTOH, you may disagree to the point of leaving a particular church, or to the point of filing charges IAW the BCO. Anyway it turns out, you should follow proper Scriptural procedures rather than airing your grievances against your church on public blogs.

  96. David Gray said,

    December 3, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    >I believe that Mat 18 speaks against publicly airing issues without taking your issues to your church Session directly. Have you done so? When you joined that church, you vowed to submit to the government and discipline of the church.

    I don’t see where he is failing to submit to the PCA. I do see where the Kellerites may have that sort of problem.

    Additionally that comment is ironic given some of the things which have previously been viewed with favor in these parts.

  97. revkev1967 said,

    December 3, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    @ 89–Mason, the issue to which I refer is one of adherence to the BCO. Bringing our language into conformity with our standards helps bring clarity. Failing to do so brings confusion and, in this case, suspicion.

  98. Mason said,

    December 4, 2009 at 7:52 am

    Tim Vaughn @ 90 –

    I’ve never seen deacons ordained with the laying on of hands at Redeemer. My understanding is that it was done in the past, but I have not seen it done since I’ve been at the church. Nevertheless, they are still considered ordained.

    David Gray @ 95 –

    Please name for us one example of Tim Keller or Redeemer “failing to submit to the PCA.” Throwing out unsubstantiated accusations is both gossip and slanderous. And Bob Mattes (#94) is 100% correct – if the Redeemer member at post #76 has a problem with church practice, that person should approach the Session about it before coming on a public forum. I’ve even offered to meet with them as a fellow member.

    revkev1967 @ 96 –

    The problem I have with your reasoning is that you consider the BCO to establish the normative use of the word “deacon” above and beyond Scripture. I’m not saying the BCO and Scripture are in opposition on this issue, but I am saying that just because the BCO does not use the term deacon or deaconess to refer to non-ordained workers does not mean that such a practice is prohibited, since it is clearly done in the Bible itself.

  99. Tim Vaughan said,

    December 4, 2009 at 8:13 am

    “Please name for us one example of Tim Keller or Redeemer “failing to submit to the PCA.”

    “I’ve never seen deacons ordained with the laying on of hands at Redeemer. My understanding is that it was done in the past, but I have not seen it done since I’ve been at the church. Nevertheless, they are still considered ordained”

  100. Reed Here said,

    December 4, 2009 at 8:53 am

    Mason, no. 97:

    Without speaking to anything else, you are quite wrong in your conclusion that the Bible uses “deacon” more broadly than does BCO. In particular, it is not at all agreed upon that Phoebe is called a deacon(ess). I’ll not re-hash the relevant debate here. Suffice to say that this is a debated topic.

    BCO follows the primary reformed understanding, to wit, that there is only one biblical deacon, that of the ordained male. Any other use of the Greek word (cognates) is expressly not a use of “deacon” in addition to the BCO’s usage.

    This is particularly the problem many of us have with this subject. All PCA office holders affirm only one office of deacon, biblically commanded upon called/qualified men. There is no “minority” opinion in this regard.

    There is no use in bringing up the RPCES background either. That denomination’s action was one of dissolving and then coming into the PCA under submission to the majority’a understanding of the office of deacon. The majority, in a proper act of brotherly compassion, agreed to not require anything of these congregations with regard to their existing irregular deacon(esse)s. They willingly did so in response to these congregations’ willingness to submit without reservation to the PCA’s position.

    It is this kind of, “no, we are not violating our vows, because we have a biblical alternative through which we are moving,” that is the source of great and grave danger for our denomination. The simple fact is that our vows to uphold our standards means that we accept that the BCO defintion (men only deacons) is in fact that biblical definition.

    By saying, “we are in agreement with BCO,” when in fact one’s practice is not is to make a mockery of the vows. They are pointless.

    I am not saying this is exactly what Redeemer is doing. It does appear to me that Redeemer is rightly to be questioned here. It sets up an alternative to the BCO standard, one that looks like, sounds like, functions like the BCO standard, an alternative that also happens to contradict the agreed upon biblical standard.

    To defend this on the basis of an arguable biblical interpretation, an interpretation we by vow have agreed to reject … I don’t like saying it but how can I conclude that this as well makes a mockery of our vows? They are meaningless if everytime we come across something that contradicts an express position of our standards we simply observe, “well the Bible speaks more fully than our standards, so I’;m going to ingore any appearance of contradiction and the accompanying confusion.”

    We in principle acknowledge that our standards can be wrong. We have a procedure consistent with biblical integrity to change the standards where they are found to be wrong. To use the “alternative (loophole) approach” and thereby circumvent this procedure lacks integrity. Such a practice left unchallenged will spread like leaven, and infect other more vital issues. It will end up fracturing the very reasons for the standards in the first place.

    Whether or not to have female deaconesses may be (relatively) innocuos, but the “alternative” approach is not. This is exactly the same argument the FV makes when it equivocates on the definition of cardinal doctrines. E.g., “the Bible speaks more broadly of election,” leads to formulations of the gospel that confuse justification and sanctification.

    Using the alternative approach opens the door for others to do the same. This is dangerous. Similar “alternative” arguments have been used to bring into other denominations a host of ills, ills we cannot allow in the PCA.

    Mason, I am willing to listen and discuss with anyone whether or not the Bible affirms the office of deacon to women. Your “alternative” argument is neither valid with reference to the PCA, nor a biblically sound means of handling this difference.

    I fully appreciate that you offer it without any of the motives or intentions underlying the warnings I am sounding out. I trust you are sincere in nto considering that there is anything amiss in the alternative approach. Please, however, think through my clumsly worded arguments here. I sincerely fear for our denomination if this approach is allowed to continue. Satan will find a way to use this against us.

  101. revkev1967 said,

    December 4, 2009 at 9:16 am

    @ 97: Mason, what Reed said in 99. There is nothing at all wrong about my reasoning. We are talking about different things: you are arguing theology, I am arguing polity.

    All officers vow to up hold our Constitution and Redeemers actions with regards to deaconesses call into serious question whether or not they are keeping those vows.

    I have said this my own blog. I will say it here. If Redeemer or anyone else wants to change the PCA’s stance on deaconesses, then man up (pun intended) and do it the constitutional way. Quit being contumacious and thumbing your noses at the brethren to whom you have pledged mutual submission.

  102. Mason said,

    December 4, 2009 at 9:42 am

    Pastor DePace @ 99 –

    I appreciate your comments, and I agree there is danger in following an “alternative” approach to our agreed-upon standards. However, I’m not arguing for an alternative approach to anything, and I don’t think Tim Keller is either.

    My point is to show out that the Bible refers to both unordained deacons (e.g. Romans 16:1, I Timothy 4:6) and ordained deacons (e.g. Philippians 1:1, I Timothy 3:8) using the exact same terminology. I agree that the BCO (and the Bible) establishes men as the only people who can hold the office of deacon. But it does not preclude referring to others (men and women) as deacons in an unordained context. And I also reject the idea that the Reformed notion of deacon is that of ordained office-holders only. Multiple Reformed theologians and churches – most notably John Calvin – utilized non-ordained deaconesses and referred to them as such. I agree that Calvin and others only accepted male deacons as ordained office-holders. But they still had unordained deaconesses and referred to them by that title.

    So I disagree with the underlying premise of your critique that Redeemer is somehow using a “loophole” or advocating an “alternative” practice to the BCO. The agreed upon standard is that men only should be ordained to the office of deacon – I think we all agree on that point. I think we also agree that the in the Bible and throughout church history “deacon” can be used to refer to ordained office-holders and to non-ordained church workers. The BCO does not preclude such a practice.

    Therefore, Redeemer is perfectly in accord with the agreed upon standards: they ordain male deacons and do not ordain female deacons. They use the term “deaconess” to refer to unordained diaconal workers, but once again, there is nothing in the PCA BCO that prohibits this terminology, and there is strong biblical and historic precedent for it.

    I respect your views and your desire to uphold the integrity of our standards, and I agree with you wholeheartedly in that regard. But I disagree that Redeemer is out of accord with those standards. This issue is different from the FV errors because FV proponents deviated from definitions set forth in WCF and traditional Reformed understanding. That is not the case here. In fact, I would argue that having non-ordained deaconesses is MORE aligned with Reformed precedent than not having them. Furthermore, Redeemer is not arguing against the BCO/WCF or promoting an alternative to it (unlike FV advocates), since their practice is perfectly aligned with its standards.

    Thank you for your dialog on this. It is refreshing to have a Scripturally based discussion without the inflammatory rhetoric found elsewhere.

  103. Andrew Webb said,

    December 4, 2009 at 9:47 am

    Hi Mason,

    A quick thought, if Redeemer affirms that it’s female “deeks” are not really deacons in the officer sense, but merely servants of the church, then they should have no problem affirming the overture to the next GA that makes it clear that 9-7 is only authorizing the session to appoint MALE and FEMALE “assistants to the deacons” and that these assistant are not elected, installed, or ordained, and are NOT officers in the church.


  104. rfwhite said,

    December 4, 2009 at 10:00 am

    89 Mason / 93 Reed: The point I sought to make is that the BCO’s assignment of specific duties to the church’s officers and members means that it is not a matter of indifference, and the officers of the church, in particular, ought not to treat it as such.

  105. Tom Albrecht said,

    December 4, 2009 at 10:55 am

    BCO 9-7 makes clear the procedure for using non-ordained persons to assist the lawfully ordained deacons. These persons can be both male and female. These persons are chosen and appointed by the Session of the congregation.

    It also makes clear the purpose and scope for the duties of these assistants, “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.” These duties are not a broad as those of ordained deacons.

    Redeemer appears to violate the terms of BCO 9-7 on several fronts:

    1) The Session is ultimately not responsible for these appointees. That decision is left to the determination of the congregation at large.

    2) Election and consent implies acknowledgement of authority and oversight. The direct election of these persons by the congregation calls into question the meaning of BCO 16-2 and the very nature of Presbyterian church government.

    3) The Redeemer process for selecting “deeks” is remarkably similar to the BCO procedure for election the officers of the Church (BCO 24-1). The Session seems to be willing fomenting confusion on the part of the congregation by the Redeemer process.

    4) Redeemer apparently has no way of identifying non-ordained MALE assistants to the deacons, other than by the somewhat offensive term “deek”.

    5) The duties of these “deeks” do not appear to be limited by the language of BCO 9-7, but, rather, fit with the Keller theme that females can do everything that non-ruling elder males can do.

  106. Reed Here said,

    December 4, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    Mason: 2 points –

    I do not agree with the biblical interpretation you’ve offered. I thought I made that clear. Hopefully you will see that. (Also, please provide to location for the Calvin quotes – I do not remember this in him.)

    BCO does indeed preclude the practice of installing non-ordained deeks (male/female) who functionally are not different in any manner from ordained male deacons. Your description of how these “assistants” to the Diaconate essentially makes the word “assistant” meaningless.

    In the end, you’ve not mitigated my concern at all. Redeemer’s practice appears to use the alternative approch. As you’ve argued, it is rooted in the idea that the Bible has two classes of deacons, that both do the same thing. (Such a practice has a meaningless understanding of ordination in this regard. Why ordain if they both are the same in their duties?)

    Such confusion is not good. Such confusion hurts the Church.

    I pray and hope for the eventually removal of the confusion.

    P.S., no need to use my title. We’re just discussing here as two brothers.

  107. Scott said,

    December 4, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Mason said,
    “My point is to show out that the Bible refers to both unordained deacons (e.g. Romans 16:1, I Timothy 4:6) and ordained deacons (e.g. Philippians 1:1, I Timothy 3:8) using the exact same terminology.”

    One of the most damaging aspects of the argumentation being used to support violation of the denomination constitution and polity regarding governance through deacons and elders is what is implied in this statement.

    It is demeaning of the high office of deacon- a perpetual, spiritual office.

    Deacon is not merely a substitute word for “‘helper.” Not any more than “elder” is merely a substitute for “one wiser.”

    Yes, a root form of the word is used to described one who serves in some contexts in the Bible. But, in other contexts, e.g. I Timothy 3, it is in context of qualifying biblical office. Elder and deacon are grouped together in I Timothy 3 in terms of very specific examined, qualifications for that office.

    The PCA constitution and polity recognizes this, and it is upheld by holy vow. Deacons and elders are responsible to see it is upheld.

    To say that unordained women (or men) can simply go in and take over those duties given in the Book of Church Order to deacons is usurpation.

    Usurpation is even explicitly stated in the constitution:

    7-3. No one who holds office in the Church ought to usurp authority
    therein, or receive any official titles of spiritual preeminence, except such as
    are employed in the Scriptures.

    We are simply not free to insert non-ordained persons in place of the officers of Christ’s church.

    Those specific duties given to deacons (not un-ordained anybody) include:

    9-2 They shall have the care of the property of the congregation, both real and personal, and shall keep in proper repair the church edifice and other buildings belonging to the congregation.


    9-4 The Board shall elect a chairman and a secretary from their number and a treasurer to whom shall be entrusted the funds for the current expenses of the church….

    It shall meet separately at least once a quarter, and whenever requested by the Session.

    Consider this, it would be like someone working at a hospital as an MRI technician with very specific authorization, training and policy. An EMT (though also sometimes referred to as a technician) is not allowed to just walk in and take over that function. It would be usurpation (and illegal).

    Now, the questions as to whether this particular church is having a group of unordained women perform these responsibilities given to deacons have not been publicly responded to yet. So we cannot charitably, in line with protecting the good name of our neighbor assume without having the facts.

    Were unordained women or men taking over those functions, then we have usurpation, beyond reasonable doubt.

  108. Mason said,

    December 4, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    Pastor Webb @ 102 –

    I personally don’t have a problem with the part of the overture you posted, but I don’t know what Dr. Keller and the Redeemer leadership think of it. I don’t believe the deaconesses at Redeemer (or any church) need to be formally commissioned to carry out their responsibilities. On the other hand, forbidding the commissioning of deaconesses alone is arbitrary. I would be happier with it if the BCO were amended to forbid all commissioning of any type, rather than cherry-picking unordained deacons/deaconesses. However, you left out the section of the overture that forbids the use of the terms deacon and deaconess in reference to diaconal assistants. I disagree with that part of it, as I explained above.

    Tom Albrecht @ 104 –

    Actually the Session does have ultimate oversight over the nominees. After the interview process the Session votes on whether or not to approve their nomination.

    Reed @ 105 –

    From the Institutes, Book 4, Chapter 13, Section 19:

    “Deaconesses were created not to appease God with songs or unintelligible mumbling, not to live the rest of the time in idleness, but to discharge the public ministry of the church toward the poor and to strive with all zeal, constancy, and diligence in the task of love.”

    Apparently Calvin only utilized elderly widows as deaconesses. Even so, he had unordained deaconesses at his church and called them deaconesses.

  109. Tom Albrecht said,

    December 4, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    “Actually the Session does have ultimate oversight over the nominees. After the interview process the Session votes on whether or not to approve their nomination.”


    Sorry. The congregation still holds the trump card. The BCO says “appointment by the Session” not nomination. The Session is apparently confused about the construction and intent of BCO 9-7.

  110. rfwhite said,

    December 4, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    We can all agree that due consideration should be given to Calvin’s doctrine and practice, at least as far as Calvin has been represented in this thread, in a broader discussion of the issues. The PCA eldership may yet reach a consensus that Calvin was right. As presently written, however, it seems clear that the BCO does not reflect Calvin’s doctrine and practice on this point.

    What options, then, are left for those who would hold Calvin’s position? A twofold approach might be this: 1) do not go beyond what is presently written in the BCO, that is, have the session select and appoint godly men and women of the congregation to assist the deacons, calling those who assist “deacons’ assistants”; and, 2) at the same time, work peacably through the church courts for language that would allow or adopt Calvin’s position.

    It seems that the concerns about Redeemer’s approach boil down to this: in its commendable desire to show forth the fullness of biblical teaching on male and female in Christ and His Church, Redeemer has gone beyond what is presently written in the BCO, creating confusing in our churches about the PCA doctrine of ordination.

  111. Andrew Webb said,

    December 4, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Hi Mason,

    Thank you for your reply. I’m curious though, if the important thing is serving the church and helping out the ordained officers, then why would these 9-7 men or women be dissatisfied with titles like “assistant to the deacons” or “diaconal assistant” or “diaconal helper”? Why do they have to have the same title as the ordained servants, especially when it is bound to create the kind of confusion we are seeing?

  112. Tim Harris said,

    December 4, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    Perhaps another way to explain Tom’s point about “appointment by the Session” vs congregational election, is that, as Thornwell taught, a judicatory does not have the power to delegate away its essential power.

    For example, a Presbytery cannot resolve itself into an episcopacy by passing a motion — even unanimously!

  113. December 4, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    I believe that the Central Carolina overture addresses the pertinent issues. I think that it simply clarifies what the PCA has believed that the BCO already says. At the same time, it is no broader than it needs to be. Contrary to Mason, the commissionings of missionaries, Sunday school teachers, etc., are not in view in this controversy, are not related to BCO 9-7, and no one would confuse these individual as parallel officers to an existing office in the BCO.

    My hat is off to TE Webb and Central Carolina for putting together this restrained and necessary overture. I look forward to supporting it at GA next year.

  114. Reed Here said,

    December 5, 2009 at 8:07 am


    Thanks for the Calvin reference.

    After I hit “submit” I wondered if you were referring to Calvin’s ref. to the Ealry Church’s :office” of widows (developed from 1Tim 5, esp. v. 9-10.)

    While I’ll agree that you are correct that “deaconess” is here used to refer to these women. I’ll admit that the Early Church developed this into an actual (non-ordained) “office”.

    This is not the same as what appears to be Redeemer’s practice. These widows were clearly understood as “assistants” to the ordained male deacons. Further, they had a list of specific responsibilities that were a subset of the deacon’s duties, and fitted to their particular circumstances.

    What is clear is that these widows did not share in all the other responsibilities of the ordained deacons. As you’ve noted, this is not the case for Redeemer. There the ordained and non-ordained have no functional differences.

    If Redeemer were to be using “deacons” (deeks) for non-ordained men/women who clearly functioned as assistants, then a lot of the concern for the confusion would be removed. It is that Redeemer appears to see no functional difference between ordained and non-ordained that is the heart of the problem.

    Frankly, if there is no difference, I don’t understand why Redeemer ordains one and commissions the other. There appears to be no meaningful difference.

  115. Alocfribas Nasair said,

    December 5, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Perhaps Redeemer NYC’s connection with Bill Bright’s Campus Crusade for Christ should be explored. I have noticed plenty of hand raising during Redeemer plant church worship songs — is this something that happens all over the PCA or just at Redeemer? The Christianity Today article notes the beginning of Redeemer was helped along by CCfC people. The Redeemer ministry role on its website includes a female counselor whose bio mentions CCfC. My understanding is the Bright was a PCUSA member for his whole life? The PCUSA, in my view, is an apostate women elder ordaining organization.

    CCfC has a theme of reaching the “influentials”. Sounds like Redeemer NYC to me. CCfC seems semi-charismatic and semi-feminist, so this may explain a bit.

  116. revkev1967 said,

    December 5, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    Mason, I am not sure whether (or how much, if you do) you know Greek, but the Greek word diakonos will really not carry the exegetical weight that most egalitarians try to hang on it.

    It occurs 29 times in the NT and of those only twice does it refer to the church office. That means in 93% of its occurrences, it does NOT refer to deacons or diaconal ministry. (The word is applied to slaves, government officials, pastors, false apostles, Jesus, and Paul himself.) Even if translating diakonos as “deacon” as it applies to Phoebe in Romans 16:1, it is not at all clear that she was an officer of her church.

  117. Reed Here said,

    December 5, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    Alcofribas, no. 115: the purpose of this thread is not to explore the range of potential errors at Redeemer. This in fact is rather an intramural discusion. We’re exploring only issue, that of the nature of Redeemer’s practice of using diaconal assistants. We’re seeking to do so with goodwill, with no intention of generating suspiciions or castting aspersions.

    Please consider that all churches are more or less pure, a mixture of truth and error (even the purest is such). This is not to excuse any error present. It is to say that this perspective should change how we think of one another.

    To be sure some have ceased to be a true church at all. We (the blog owner, and the moderators, as far as I know) do not believe this is true of Redeemer.

    Please stay on target with your comments. I appreciate your abiding by these concerns.

  118. Tim Harris said,

    December 5, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    Reed your earlier summary was stronger I thought. If there is no functional difference between the two “deacon” classes, then either ordination has been degraded to the level of mere appointment, or appointment has been elevated to equivalent to ordination. Either of which is a serious denial of Presbyterian polity, which we believe is Scriptural polity. The “diaconal assistants” issue doesn’t capture the nub as well IMHO. (BTW bounce me an email — I don’t seem to have your latest contact info.)

  119. Reed Here said,

    December 6, 2009 at 7:12 am

    Tim: yeah, I’m kind of flubbing around a bit here, trying to get me head around the real issue(s)/concern(s).

    Will do.

  120. Mason said,

    December 6, 2009 at 7:25 am

    Pastor Webb @ 111 –

    I could flip the question and ask why NOT call them deaconesses or deacons, since their work is diaconal in nature. Many churches in the PCA have “ministers” of various programs that are not ordained, and in some cases are women. Do you object to that as well? After all, the BCO refers to TEs almost exclusively as “minister.” Doesn’t that produce confusion also? I don’t think it does, but my point is that at Redeemer it is clear that deaconesses are not ordained. I know it may be confusing to you and others not involved in the church, but for those of us who attend Redeemer weekly and are very involved in the work of the church the distinction is clear. From 1,000 miles away I can see that it may be harder to see.

    revkev1967 @ 116 –

    I agree, context is king – of course not every use of the word diakonos refers to position in the church! But in light of I Timothy 3 and the rest of the epistle, as well as other references throughout the NT (such as Phoebe in Romans 16), there is solid evidence for an unordained female diaconate.

    Reed @ 114 and Tim Harris @ 118 –

    I think your summary is accurate in capturing the key point of the entire deaconess issue. The confusion seems to surround the function of female deacons at Redeemer: do they function as ordained officers or diaconal assistants. I would say the latter, but I will grant that the women in Redeemer’s diaconate are much more involved and play a much bigger role than women in other diaconal roles in the PCA. Do they exhibit headship authority in a way consistent with a perpetual office of the church? As a member of the church, I would testify that they do not. I can see why there is confusion on the part of outsiders, but the reality is much different from the misconceptions. They function exclusively in roles of service, ministries of mercy, etc, largely directed at other women. that is why I’m so adamant on coming on here (and other sites) to defend the practice of Redeemer, which I believe is in line with Scriptural, WCF, and BCO standards.

    Still, I am grateful for places like this where good discussion can take place. It has caused me to re-evaluate my views and understanding of the issues. Thanks to those of you who have made this a great dialog so far…

  121. Tim Vaughan said,

    December 6, 2009 at 8:38 am

    So is laying on of hands during ordination optional in the PCA or not?

  122. December 6, 2009 at 9:23 pm


    I presented a treatment of the Greek underlying this discussion in this post and this post. The “solid evidence” to which you refer is but a vapor easily dispersed. The overwhelming majority of Scripture translators and commentators through the history of the church do not support your position (at least before the rise of feminism).

  123. December 6, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    Tim, RE #121,

    From the BCO:

    17-2. Ordination is the authoritative admission of one duly called to an office in the Church of God, accompanied with prayer and the laying on of hands, to which it is proper to add the giving of the right hand of fellowship.

    Doesn’t look like it’s optional to me.

  124. Tim Vaughan said,

    December 6, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    If it’s not optional, does anyone care that they don’t do it?

  125. revkev1967 said,

    December 7, 2009 at 12:35 am

    @124: In the words of Luke Skywalker, “I care!”

  126. Robert Berman said,

    December 7, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    There are a few clashes going on here.

    1) Is there a “regulative principle of BCO” by which that which is not prescribed is forbidden? I don’t think so. ISTM that an awful lot goes on in the PCA which is without particular warrant in BCO. For instance, BCO appears to contemplate that formal teaching within the church is done by ordained officers. There are no provisions for vetting and installing Sunday School teachers (Sunday School being a novelty that postdates much of BCO), small group leaders (ditto), choir directors, authors of curricula for small groups, authors of hymns, etc. The only full-time evangelists recognized by BCO are Teaching Elders, not laypeople commissioned by churches or endorsed by MTW, etc. We may say we only have two offices (though I’d argue that BCO really describes 2.5 offices), but in practice it does not appear to pan out that way.

    2) How optional is BCO? I consider myself a pretty “by the book” guy, but I’ve spoken with prominent denominational leaders who felt substantially more comfortable to vary from the letter of the law in pursuit of what they saw as the spirit. This attitude is typified by Redeemer’s willingness to cease laying hands on deacons at the request of some particular deacon at some particular point in the past. But Redeemer is far from alone in choosing to violate some part or another of BCO which it deems inexpedient.

    3) Application issues, like the question of whether it violates “The Session chooses the diaconal assistants” for the Session to screen candidates and then let the congregation vote to endorse some or all of the panel of Session-approved candidates.

  127. Scott said,

    December 7, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    Robert Berman said,
    “1) Is there a “regulative principle of BCO” by which that which is not prescribed is forbidden?”

    Not a principle that prevents (all) things which are not mentioned in it to be done.

    But it does restrict that which it speaks, such as constituting the governing offices of the church.

    Those are clearly and specifically defined:

    The offices are biblically defined and constitutionally chartered, qualified as men according to I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 with some specific tasks.

    3-5. The Church, with its ordinances, officers and courts, is the agency
    which Christ has ordained for the edification and government of His people,
    for the propagation of the faith, and for the evangelization of the world.

    4-2. Its officers are its teaching and ruling elders and its deacons.

    5-10. If deacons are elected, follow the procedures of (1) through (5)
    above. If deacons are not elected, the duties of the office shall devolve upon
    the ruling elders.

    7-2. The ordinary and perpetual classes of office in the Church are elders
    and deacons….In accord with Scripture, these offices are open to men only.

    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.

    9-2. It is the duty of the deacons to minister to those who are in need…., to
    care of the property of the congregation, both real and personal, and shall
    keep in proper repair the church edifice and other buildings belonging to the
    congregation….In a church in which it is impossible for any reason to secure
    deacons, the duties of the office shall devolve upon the ruling elders.

    9-4….It is desirable that the Session and the Board of Deacons meet in
    joint session once a quarter to confer on matters of common interest.

    To replace these offices with unordained women is a wholesale, clear violation of both letter and spirit of the Book of Church Order.

  128. December 9, 2009 at 10:51 am


    Great to have you join the discussion.

    1) I’ve probably heard as many cuts on this as people offering their thoughts. I’m also pretty much by the book. My problem here is that there are lots of things not mentioned in the BCO, so where do we draw the line? If we can make up deaconess commissioning, why can’t we take some of our favorite TEs and commission them as bishops? Wherever we draw the line, making up ceremonies for pseudo officers shouldn’t be permitted. I think that’s where the Carolina overture can be helpful.

    2) For me, it the BCO says do something, I think one should do it. Laying on of hands falls in that category since the BCO explicitly says that’s how we ordain officers. If a particular office doesn’t want that, then they are telling me that they shouldn’t be an officer in the church. This is where the review of Session and Presbytery records can help keep everyone within the proper lanes, with the GA providing the big heading check. But, I’d rather see churches seek guidance on these issues than just interpret the BCO in their favor and wait for someone to object.

    3) Again returning to the BCO, the only elections mentioned are for officers. I go back to the bishop point. Can a congregation elect, the session and presbytery approve, and then commission a bishop? There’s nothing explicitly in the BCO that says they can’t. Does that mean they can?

    I think that you’d agree with most of what I just wrote. We could both probably come up with a number of such absurdities. Although I don’t think that any overture is a silver bullet, I do hope that the Carolina overture or something like it passes GA next year to provide at least some clarity.

  129. Robert Berman said,

    December 11, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    Bob, I agree that this is mainly a debate about where to draw the line on issues where BCO is silent. Most of us are OK with our denomination sending unordained missionaries (i.e. evangelists) going to foreign countries to teach the gospel. Most of us would probably not be OK with presbyteries appointing bishops. Some churches think rotating elders are OK, and some don’t. Some churches would allow laypeople to read Scripture or lead corporate prayer during a worship service, and some would not. Thankfully, the church courts offer us a venue to adjudicate these matters. Review of Sessional and Presbytery records are an important part of the process.

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