Women’s Issues in the PCA

This year’s General Assembly passed a recommendation from the Administration Committee (who got it in turn from the Cooperative Ministries Committee) to erect a study committee on women’s issues. Here is the text of the recommendation minus the RAO and BCO references:

That-
• The Assembly form a study committee on the issue of women serving in the ministry of the church. The Assembly authorizes the Moderator to appoint the study committee. The study committee should be made up of competent men and women representing the diversity of opinions within the PCA.
• The committee should give particular attention to the issues of:
(1) The biblical basis, theology, history, nature, and authority of ordination;
(2) The biblical nature and function of the office of deacons
(3) Clarification on the ordination or commissioning of deacons/deaconesses
(4) Should the findings of the study committee warrant BCO changes, the study committee will propose such changes for the General Assembly to consider.
• The committee will have a budget of $15,000 that is funded by designated donations to the AC from churches and individuals.
• A Pastoral Letter to be proposed by the ad interim study committee and approved by the General Assembly be sent to all churches, encouraging them to (1) promote the practice of women in ministry, (2) appoint women to serve alongside elders and deacons in the pastoral work of the church, and (3) hire women on church staff in appropriate ministries.

Grounds: The Cooperative Ministries Committee may not make recommendations directly to the General Assembly but must do so through an appropriate committee or agency. The CMC has had a subcommittee on the role of women and has sent several recommendations to the AC (including a proposal for a study committee on the issue of women serving in the church) and CDM to bring to the Assembly. End of recommendation.

We were told by many men of integrity on the floor of GA that women’s ordination was not on the table. By this, they probably meant ordination of women as elders, either ruling or teaching. However, by the recommendation’s own wording, ordination of women to the office of deacon is definitely on the table with this study committee. It is explicit in the recommendation in two places. The first is section 3, which says “Clarification on the ordination or commissioning of deacons/deaconesses.” How, precisely, could this be clearer that ordination of deaconesses is on the table with this study committee?

Actually, far more alarming to me now is the wording of the suggestion regarding the pastoral letter. The language of women serving alongside elders in the pastoral work of the church already suggests that the substance of what elders do is something that women can do. It is not a long step from that perspective to one of giving the ordination of elder to women because, after all, they are already doing that work anyway.

It should be acknowledged from the get go that there are two denominations that ordain women as deacons that have (so far) resisted egalitarian impulses to ordain women to the office of elder: the ARP and the RPCNA. However, as it seems to me, the impulse for this recommendation in the PCA comes from a different source, a more progressive source.

It was pointed out on the floor of GA that the CMC has no authority to initiate anything. This is true. The recommendation should have been ruled out of order as not properly before us.

Interestingly, the makeup of the committee has a majority of complementarians on it. My concern, however, is that a minority egalitarian report will be filed. If that happens, many people will rush to say that such a minority report legitimates egalitarian practice in the PCA, whether or not the minority report is adopted. Of course, this is not sound reasoning, but that hasn’t stopped the progressives in the past. This conclusion will, in turn, prompt the progressives to push the boundaries by having women preach (or other ways of pushing the boundaries), and thus, BCO changes will follow practice, instead of the way it should be, which is the BCO change first.

No doubt many will cry foul, claiming that I am misreading motives, reading in an overly suspicious manner, and impugning men of good character. The fact is, however, that I devoutly wish I was wrong, but am very much afraid that I am right. If the intent of this recommendation was merely to explore the ways in which non-ordained women can engage in ministry without violating the BCO, then this recommendation chose perhaps the most exceedingly poor way of communicating that idea. It communicated this so poorly, in fact, that there is a profound disconnect between what is said in this recommendation, and what was said on the floor of GA.

I am willing, of course, to wait and see, which is what I advise all conservatives who are alarmed at this development. A study committee, after all, does not actually effect changes. They can only recommend. I pray that people on this committee will study the peace and purity of the church, and not push the boundaries. Pushing the boundaries here will be an inherently divisive action, which will be a violation of vows taken before God.

45 Comments

  1. Steve Drake said,

    June 28, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    It seems to me that we have lost the true nature and meaning of Eve’s deception in the garden, the historical and theological implications of this deception, and why Paul grounds his commands in 1 Tim. 2:9-15 to this historical account.

    Whenever this issue comes up, it seems we need a refresher course on the what, when, how, where, and why this matters. As a husband, and father of adult daughters, it leaves me quite squeamish. I don’t like it, but I can’t get around Paul’s reasoning for it being the very word of God and His will and desire for how the Church should function and order itself. There is legitimate and logical reasoning for why God desires it to be this way.

    Since we are fighting and disagreeing over even the historicity of Adam and Eve, the Fall, the Curse, and the implications of this in time and space, it doesn’t surprise me that this issue continues to burn front and center.

    You men of God, however unpopular speaking about women’s issues in the Church will be, need to bring us back to the historical account in the garden, and flesh out completely the reason Eve’s deception resulted in Paul’s commands. The question then: “What is it about Eve’s deception that disqualifies all women today”?

  2. June 28, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    Steve – While it might be interesting to speculate on what the Holy Spirit’s motivations were in inspiring Paul in 1 Cor and 1 Tim, that would seem to violate Dt 29:29. That God commands something is enough. We don’t need to know why. If we did, He’d tell us.

  3. June 28, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    Lane – I agree with you. One commissioner commented to me on the way out after the vote that this is another step toward the PCA merging with the PC(USA). The only question is how long it will take.

    Perhaps with Lig Duncan and Harry Reader on the committee, the damage will be mitigated. However, the National Partnership will get a minority report out of the committee and make the same data-free, emotional arguments that worked for them this year. Since their pitch man was the moderator, their barriers were lowered to ensure a minority report.

    God is still sovereign and may yet put the PCA back on the right path.

  4. rfwhite said,

    June 28, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    Green Baggins: I was struck by the several different reactions I myself had during and after the floor debate about the study committee proposal.

    At one point during the debate I was struck by commissioners who seemed genuinely to want and need the study because they needed help sorting out the issues.

    At another point I was amazed by a commissioner’s hope that the study committee would help him provide answers to questions that, it seemed to me, can only be answered by good and necessary inferences from Scripture’s statements, if at all.

    At still another point it sounded like a speaker or two was anticipating that the study committee’s conclusions will prevent or permit a number of practices already implemented in our churches, practices on which our BCO offers too little or no direction or practices on which our sessions or presbyteries have yet to take a stand.

    Overall, since the conclusion of the debate and vote, I couldn’t escape the sense that the emergence of this study committee represents a systemic failure of us men to deal responsibly with this subject in our own families, in our own congregations, or in our own presbyteries. I say this in that I realized that this topic has been in the foreground of scholarly and ecclesial debate for at least three decades, which is to say almost as long as the PCA itself has been in existence.

    Given the content of the Scriptures and our BCO, it occurs to me to ask, is a letter of apology due from our elders, to women in particular and to the unordained in general of our denomination, for our failures in this area? For example, do we elders need to apologize for our failures to teach the Scriptural doctrines of the Spirit’s gifts, of general and special office in the church, of ordination, and of the full range of ministry opportunities available to the unordained? Do we need to apologize for failing to see to it that our brothers called to the gospel ministry have learned the Scripture’s doctrines of gifts, office, ordination, and the administration of sacraments summarized in our BCO? Do we need to apologize for failing to see to it that the churches in our presbyteries are adhering to our BCO, or for failing to tell our presbyteries if and when our views have changed?

    Repentance of failures, both of omission and of commission, like those mentioned above may be required so that the life of our churches might be found to be in good and decent order, to the glory of God and for the gathering and perfecting of the saints.

  5. Reed Here said,

    June 28, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    Dr. White, yes.

  6. Steve Drake said,

    June 28, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    Bob (Reformed Musings),
    While I agree that what God commands should be enough, where does that leave the preaching ministry? What should be said in the pulpit about anything in the Word of God? What is any father to teach his daughters and sons at home? “God said it, just believe it, no questions.” I think you would agree that that is rarely acceptable.

    My comment is in reference to expositing the word of God in the pulpit and for the father and mother at home. We don’t always know why and won’t ever until the Consummation, and even then will not fully come to the complete knowledge of an omniscient Creator, but questions of why will arise this side of death and we should be able to give logical and reasonable explanations. This issue should be one of them.

  7. Steve Drake said,

    June 28, 2016 at 4:24 pm

    Bob (ReformedMusings),

    To further elaborate this, rarely have I heard any teaching from the pulpit tying Paul’s command in 1 Tim 2;12 and his statement in 2 Cor. 11:3 to the historical event itself. Why is that?

    If we don’t tie the command to the historical event, the command just sits out there in thin air, and can be waived off as cultural norms of the times, or even that Paul had misogynistic tendencies, and thus the whole confusion in the Church today.

    However, its not a cultural issue and Paul had no misogynistic tendencies. The historical event happened, Eve was deceived, and Paul grounds his regulative command to that historical fact.

    Preach it from the pulpit, exposit the word of God surrounding that historical event, and let the naysayers then have to explain why they don’t believe it.

  8. Steve Drake said,

    June 28, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    Part of the problem here concerning this issue, is that the generational theologians and pastors and teachers that I grew up with at least, fed us the false mantra that Adam was with her while she was being deceived by the Serpent; as if he was standing right next to her while Satan was feeding her his lies; as if Adam was some passive little mousy kind of man that had trouble speaking up and let his wife do all the talking. As if he didn’t know how to defend his wife, or even counter the malarkey that Satan was putting out. Where is the dialog between Satan and Adam? Oh, that’s right, it’s not there, because he wasn’t there.

    This is where it all went off the rails to begin with. Eve was alone with Satan. The phrase with her in Gen. 3:6 is not spatial, but relational.

    So, failure from the pulpit to teach even this most basic theological point is part of the confusion.

  9. June 28, 2016 at 5:04 pm

    Steve – I believe that expositing the Word differs dramatically from speculating on why particular commands are given. We are commanded to do the former, but prohibited from doing the latter with authority (Dt 29:29). As for preaching those passages, most PCA do expository by book. We preach it when we preach those books. We rarely do topical sermons.

  10. Ken Christian, Jr. said,

    June 28, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    Allow me to add another ‘Amen’ to Dr. White’s comments.

  11. Steve Drake said,

    June 28, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    Bob,

    I believe that expositing the Word differs dramatically from speculating on why particular commands are given.

    And yet when a direct link is given as to the ‘why’ in Scripture you tell us this is ‘speculation’? You don’t follow that link to the source?

    I see how reclassifying something as speculation allows you to dismiss it outright, Well done, Bob!

    When an issue arises within the Church as to why women shouldn’t be ordained as elders and deacons, are you proposing that the whole book needs to be preached before you can give scriptural proofs for a position?

    Do PCA pastors not address in their sermons from time to time, and feel compulsion when crucial issues within the Church arise, only to stick to preaching through a whole book, and not to address topical issues? A sorta, avoid talking about it and hope it will go away technique? We’ll get to it when we get to it sorta thing?

  12. June 28, 2016 at 8:48 pm

    Steve – You totally lost me in post #11. I preach the text, the whole text, and what follows from it by good and necessary consequence. I try to avoid speculating on things that aren’t in the text or derived from it by good and necessary consequence. I hope that’s clear. I have no idea where you are going in #11.

  13. yhwhrohi said,

    June 29, 2016 at 11:41 am

    “do we elders need to apologize for our failures to teach the Scriptural doctrines of the Spirit’s gifts, of general and special office in the church, of ordination, and of the full range of ministry opportunities available to the unordained?”

    Yes. Yes, I think we do.

  14. June 29, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    I’ve noted this on FB when the ARP’s deaconnesses are mentioned and want to give some background as a way of information as to its practice in the ARP.

    The history is different in the ARP (and the RPCNA) than what is currently going on in the PCA.

    Deaconnesses in the ARP came about as a pressure-release valve in the 1960’s when we were dealing with women and men actively pushing for women’s ordination as elders and ministers. We gave them female deacons as a way lessen the power and try to stop the tide pushing for a total opening to all offices back when the ARP was very close to going full PC(USA) liberal.

    However, ever since then the ARP has trended away from that point in our history to where now we are becoming more and more confessional and deaconnesses are actually on their way out. It really is only a matter of time until they are extinct in practice, if not officially.

    I know in my presbytery there are no churches with deaconnesses.

  15. Steve Drake said,

    June 29, 2016 at 9:22 pm

    Bob,
    If I’ve lost you let me try and clarify with a question. You’ve used the word speculation in several of your posts. I take it that you are trying to counter my claims by saying some or part of my conclusions are speculation. Which part?

  16. June 29, 2016 at 9:39 pm

    Steve – not my intention. I was merely saying that trying to ferret out God’s reasons for commands when not given in the text is speculation and to be avoided. Sorry if I didn’t communicate that clearly.

  17. Steve Drake said,

    June 29, 2016 at 10:06 pm

    Bob.
    And yet Paul clearly gives a reason for the regulative command, “for it was not Adam who was deceived, but Eve clearly being deceived fell into trangression”(paraphrasing). Is this not a reason? Should this then not be a part of the discussion concerning women issues? Something to be explained, expounded, and rationally discussed?

  18. June 29, 2016 at 10:29 pm

    Reformation theology used to be characterized by questioning traditional authorities, reading the scriptures (the living word) differently, trusting God amidst a changing world. Now it means fixation, claims of final authority that cannot be questioned, fear tactics of slippery slope arguments, naive and flat biblicism etc. At least that’s what it appears from what many in the PCA are saying about the latest general assembly. This is truly unfortunate for a denomination I’ve taken part of on and off for almost a decade.

    The PCA has also not caught up to its own tradition. Everyone from Calvin, to Bavinck, to Hodge, to Warfield, and others in the Reformed strand openly affirmed women deacons precisely because it is biblical. It also goes without saying that some of the most conservative Calvinists today affirm women deacons, from Wayne Grudem to John Piper to John MacArthur to Robert Strimple (OPC), etc. – if one cares about these kinds of things.

    As many of you know, this was the topic of my master’s thesis for Reformed Theological Seminary, “A Case for Female Deacons,” the published version of which (see amazon) is, as far as I know, the definitive study on the topic. The book was also endorsed by two Reformed pastors/professors, one in the PCA and another who is Reformed Baptist.

    In a word, the PCA should be embarrassed by its position because it simply does not have a leg to stand on – *especially* in the Reformed tradition. It is a view that is by all means “fringe” – and for sound reasons. Forbidding women deacons today has as much exegetical and historical credibility as believing that Jesus and his disciples only drank grape juice and not wine.

  19. June 30, 2016 at 11:44 am

    Steve – No argument with #17. Maybe I missed something earlier.

  20. Grover Jones said,

    June 30, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    This post seems to imply that the committee has been appointed. Has it? Who is on it?

  21. June 30, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    Jamin – So yours is the definitive answer and no opposition is credible? How humble of you. Neither Drs. Tim Keller nor Phil Ryken have taken such a strident position. I discussed this with Dr. Keller several GA’s ago when we ended up changing BCO 9-7 to disallow ordination for women, so I have first-hand knowledge of his position and demeanor on the subject. He sincerely holds his position, but would not make a statement such as yours above.

    Perhaps we can have a discussion some time when you are less full of yourself. Your National Partnership buds should have trained you better.

  22. June 30, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    Jamin,

    In a word, the PCA should be embarrassed by its position because it simply does not have a leg to stand on – *especially* in the Reformed tradition. It is a view that is by all means “fringe” – and for sound reasons. Forbidding women deacons today has as much exegetical and historical credibility as believing that Jesus and his disciples only drank grape juice and not wine.

    I think the PCA’s position on the diaconate is inadequate (a favor deaconesses), but I think your language is highly exaggerated. Calvin, for example, believed in an order of widows (on, IMO torturous exegesis). He does not say that makes deacons and the order of widows equivalent. Moreover, there is no early Christian source that says deacons and female deaconesses shared the same “office.” There does appear to be an “office” of deaconess, but they almost exclusively were involved in ministry to women (baptism, catechesis, ministry to widows, etc).

    Moreover, not to be rude, but in briefly looking at your bibliography, you didn’t interact with John Collins, Diakonia: Interpreting the Ancient Sources. Consequently, there is absolutely no way your book could be the “definitive study on the topic.” The lack of engagement with Collins is apparent because Collins dismantles the distinction you desire to make in claiming the diaconate does not possess ‘authority’ (circumventing Paul’s prohibition on women’s role in leadership). If Collins’ conclusions are accurate (and BDAG updated its entry for diakonia because of his work), then the conservative argument for female deacons is refuted. That leaves two options: women’s ordination in ecclesiastical office *or* exclusion of women to ecclesiastical office. It’s an either or proposition. My concern is that there is widespread ignorance about developments in biblical scholarship and this ignorance is going to create long-term confusion and instability in the denomination concerning the diaconate. I do hope the study committee can help bring clarity to these complex issues.

  23. June 30, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    “Reformedmusings,”

    I never suggested that my position was the definitive one, only that my study is with regard to the reformed theology (esp. as the PCA more or less understands it) and women deacons. Given the tone of your reply, I doubt you’d have interest in reading it for learning purposes, but it might still be of interest nevertheless.

    Also, I don’t recall mentioning Timothy Keller in my post, so I’m not sure how your comments are relevant. (And I would hope that one currently living pastor does not serve for anyone some kind of standard for what is “acceptable” or “commendable” in any particular denomination; the PCA is a better denomination than most precisely because it avoids such fixation on particular authority figures).

    Brandon,

    I could be mistaken, but when Calvin refers to “deaconesses” in Institutes (iv.xiii.19) I think he’s referring to deaconesses (esp. nuns) and not simply widows. In any case, Calvin says such deaconesses are “to discharge the public ministry of the church toward the poor.” Collins, whom you cited, would disagree with Calvin, and say rather that, at least in the Apostolic usage, the diaconate refers to “the communication of the gospel rather than about service to the Lord or to the brethren” (206).

    In both proposals, the Reformed critic of women deacons would disagree: women deacons didn’t serve as an “office,” and even if they did it wasn’t “public,” and further, women deacons didn’t communicate the gospel, for their job is otherwise. Many of these rather superficial distinctions are (in my perspective anyway) an indication that one’s tradition is dominating the discourse.

    Calvin also says that the praise Paul gives Phoebe is “on account of her office, for she performed a most honorable and a most holy function in the Church” (Commentary on Romans). However one interprets “office,” I think this choice of words is noteworthy.

    (Of course, I don’t know why Calvin is continually referred to as an authoritative source for the PCA anyway, since his views on everything from why infants should be baptized to the Sabbath are very, very different than what the PCA/English Puritans have confidently declared eternal unchangeable, unquestionable truth.)

    Also, in the statement “there is no early Christian source that says deacons and female deaconesses shared the same “office.” There does appear to be an “office” of deaconess, but they almost exclusively were involved in ministry to women (baptism, catechesis, ministry to widows, etc),” this demonstrates some fundamental confusion about the nature of NT “offices” and what might qualify (a continually shifting term by critics of women deacons, according to what is theologically convenient, in my experience anyway). I briefly address this in my book as well.

    One thing to note on the term diakonissa (“deaconess,” not “deaconess” as a translation of diakonia) is that by the time this new term came into ordinary use, women deacons (and “subdeacons”) were largely subordinated to male deacons, so it is easy to associate subordination to deacons since diakonissa is often used in that way. One should be careful, then, about how we use the term “deaconess,” since both its source-term and translated meaning has changed several times throughout history.

    What is more ironic, of course, is that even though such women deacons were subordinate for service-related tasks (e.g. baptizing women), it was still often an ordained office!

    My work is not exhaustive (no one has claimed that, and no books really are anyway), though I think you’re right that I should have interacted with Collin’s work a little more (along with other writings!). However, my book is an integrative thesis on the legitimacy of women deacons from a reformed perspective, not on the ancient use of the term or concept. I don’t see how his work undermines my argument in anyway.

    In fact, Collins’ basic thesis is welcome; he concludes that “the carrying out of a commissioned task” is a better and more common sense of “diakonia” than the more traditional “humble service.” So what women deacons did exist should not be uncritically thought of as subordinates taking orders instead of mission-oriented “officers” (if that term is appropriate) that actually has at least some meaningful overlap with apostleship (another discussion entirely).

    Finally, it is evident you haven’t read my book since you’re already making criticisms about it that are untrue. I made a distinction between the authority of elders and the authority of deacons, not simply that deacons have no “authority.” There are no sound reasons to associate whatever is being talked about in 1 Tim 2:12 with the basic function of deacons. (On 1 Tim 2:12, please see “Revisiting αὐθεντέω in 1 Timothy 2:12: What Do the Extant Data Really Show?” The Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters 5:1 (Spring, 2015):41-70.)

    “My concern is that there is widespread ignorance…” Couldn’t agree more.

  24. June 30, 2016 at 8:52 pm

    Jamin,

    in #23, you wrote, “I never suggested that my position was the definitive one

    In #18, you wrote, “As many of you know, this was the topic of my master’s thesis for Reformed Theological Seminary, “A Case for Female Deacons,” the published version of which (see amazon) is, as far as I know, the definitive study on the topic”

    Questions?

    As to Tim Keller, my point was that he supports the ordination of deaconesses, but would never say that his case is “definitive” as you clearly did. I didn’t intend to say that he is an authority figure, which he would reject for himself, but did mean that he has far more experience and time in considering the issue both theologically and practically than you, but displays far more humility that I read in your post.

    Your thesis, while appreciated, is simply one of many analyses, not “the definitive study.”

  25. July 1, 2016 at 12:35 am

    “reformedmusings,”

    Please re-read what I wrote, as you appear to have misunderstood it. There is a difference between claiming to possess a definitive position and to possess a definitive study on a particular topic. I only claimed the latter.

    And what I meant by that is the non-grandiose claim of, “this work is the most up to date case for women deacon from a Reformed perspective.”
    If you believe this to be untrue, by all means send me the link to the one that is.

    Of course, all of this is neither here nor there. Whether something has a “definitive” status or not does not legitimatize or legitimize its content. I only mentioned it because, as pointed out by others, there is a tremendous degree of ignorance on the topic, and this ignorance is demonstrated every time a contemporary pastor or theologian in the reformed (or baptist) tradition asserts that their ban on women deacons is consistent with the historic reformed (or baptist) tradition, or reformed exegesis. It isn’t and it never will be – unless we can change the past.

  26. July 1, 2016 at 12:42 am

    Most “comprehensive up-to-date study” rather. (I meant to include “comprehensive”)

  27. Steve Drake said,

    July 1, 2016 at 9:13 am

    Bob @ #19.
    Thanks. Your use of the word ‘speculation’ raised a whole bunch of questions for me. I think we are in agreement. Seems you’ve got bigger fish to fry with the comments from Mr. Hubner.

    My point was simply that part of the problem is the loss of the teaching on the historical event itself: real space-time history, Eve alone with Satan in the deception, and the logical inferences from that historical event.

  28. rfwhite said,

    July 1, 2016 at 10:35 am

    18/23/25/26 Jamin Hübner: thanks for the heads-up on your book. As I suspect you can tell from the comments, what threw some of us off is the fact that you yourself touted your book as “the definitive study.” You may well be right, but, as you doubtless know, it is ordinarily left to reviewers to offer assessments of that sort. As a result, your initial comment was (evidently) received as rather arrogant. So thanks for your subsequent, more modest remarks. In any case, thanks again for alerting us to your book.

  29. July 1, 2016 at 11:14 am

    Jamin,

    Thanks for your comments. First, allow me to disambiguate my statement on ‘authority.’ I never meant to say that you believed the diaconate possessed no authority, rather, my use of the quotation was to indicate the Pauline prohibition against women possessing ‘authority’ over a man. I understand conservative advocates for female deacons desire to press a distinction, but Collin’s argument largely undermines this distinction (which is why I believe it is an either/or proposition).

    Here is Collin’s explanation,

    An early regulation, of course, was the exclusion of women from the ministry. On an authentic view of ministry, the exclusion was simply wrong and has become unjust. As I explained in Part I, many of those who support women’s inclusion in official ministry have insistently appealed to a theology of ministry as service, arguing that the serving role is characteristically feminine and that early Christian women were in fact preeminent in this role. The appeal collapses, of course, in the light of the present study…Schussler Fiorenza argues [this appeal] is…’disempowering to women.’ Instead of deepening their capacity for service, accordingly, women should, on this view, throw off the chains of servitude and join the other dispossessed forces in society in the struggle to achieve rights and equality even within the churches. (260-261)

    Any serious proposal by necessity must interact with Collins. That’s why the proposals of Keller, Strimple, Horton, and other solidly Reformed men is concerning to me. If Collins is right (and I think he is), these men (and yourself) are holding an untenable position that will eventually be forced to make a decision one way or the other.

  30. Ron Henzel said,

    July 1, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    Not to be overlooked is Brian Schwertley’s A Historical and Biblical Examination of Women Deacons, (Southfield, MI, USA: Reformed Witness, 1998). This 155-page book has now been made available by the author as an 82-page PDF through his web site.

  31. Mark B said,

    July 2, 2016 at 9:50 pm

    @Jamin

    Read your Book. A lot of things could be said, but here’s two cents worth. This has been alluded to above by Brandon (and I considered your replies), but to be blunt, listing all the Scriptural and historical references you can think of that include the word for “helper” or “deacon” in connection with women is unhelpful without considering more context. How progressives at Mobile would define the term deaconesses, what Calvin meant by it, what the Eastern Church meant by it 17+ centuries ago, and what Paul wrote about Phoebe are very different things that bear little correlation to each other. If you had considered how the word deacon or deaconesses was defined and/or being used in each of your examples it would have been more meaningful, (and have lead to a different conclusion). We most all agree that women are invaluable “helpers” in the Church, but not so much as to whether they should be ordained to the office of Deacon as defined in the PCA BCO.

  32. Bob S said,

    July 3, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    We most all agree that women are invaluable “helpers” in the Church, but not so much as to whether they should be ordained to the office of Deacon as defined in the PCA BCO Bible.”

    Ahem.

    In a nutshell what the current tantrum is all about by those who see a need for a “study” committee.

    It’s not rocket science.

    Even in the luke warm reformed PCA congregation I was a member of a long time ago in the ’80’s, this was understood. The older ladies were helpers of the deacons – or “deaconesses” if you prefer – but they never were ordained.

    I guess it’s called progress.
    O Happy Day for the PCA.

  33. July 4, 2016 at 12:02 am

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  34. July 4, 2016 at 6:24 am

    […] the Presbyterian Church in America and is pastor of Lebanon Presbyterian Church in Winnsboro, S.C. This article appeared on his blog and is used with […]

  35. Ron said,

    July 4, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    “The older ladies were helpers of the deacons – or ‘deaconesses’ if you prefer – but they never were ordained.”

    What should we call the older men who are helpers of the deacons? How come they don’t get a title and aren’t recognized in front of the congregation?

  36. Ron said,

    July 4, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    “Given the content of the Scriptures and our BCO, it occurs to me to ask, is a letter of apology due from our elders, to women in particular and to the unordained in general of our denomination, for our failures in this area?”

    Yes, Fowler. But no worries. If we fail to seek forgiveness for our sins, then our children’s children can repent of them for us. Or maybe by then they can offer a mass on our behalf.

  37. Reed Here said,

    July 4, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    ron, thhpptt.

  38. July 5, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    Ron,

    What should we call the older men who are helpers of the deacons? How come they don’t get a title and aren’t recognized in front of the congregation?

    IMO, this is where the PCA really made things difficult on themselves. Adding “men” to 9-7 of the BCO really undercut the compromise the PCA should have retained in the 1973 version of the BCO. The ‘office’ of deaconess could have fit into the original wording of 9-7 and there would have at least been some recourse for women’s recognized participation in the work of the diaconate, though distinct from a ordained capacity. The addition of “…men and…” however, allows proponents of female deacons to have a legitimate gripe with biblical and historical precedent. Reverting to the original BCO wording should be something proponents of a conciliar perspective ought to consider.

  39. Ron said,

    July 6, 2016 at 7:47 am

    Why should any version of polity recognize such an alleged gift? Should we recognize those given to hospitality or gifted in intercessory prayer? Our denominations get a bit too creative at times. This is also why the ordinary means of grace just don’t satisfy and Christian service has become distorted. Creativity. Autonomous ingenuity. Forget if a child is dishonorable in the home just as long as he’s faithful in youth group attendance and mission trips. (No, I didn’t just slam someone’s sacraments.)

    We’re now also struggling with how an ordering of roles pertains to equality. The antidote seems to be that we flatten out any role distinction lest we run the risk of heresy and dehumanizing half the population. Many who insist they’re not egalitarian have no root for their aberrant complimentarianism. The soil is at best some prescription that can easily be dismissed later on flimsy exegesis or inevitably deconstructed on the basis of passé context. Far be it for us to recognize the obvious nature of things – to see what is fitting and congruous and how the details of Scripture resonate with what we already know. The pagans instinctively know better than we.

    Our former ways are seen as arbitrary. Capriciously prescribed. Male headship has been reduced to foot washing. Nurture we must, but don’t one dare exercise authority in the home. Men are allowed to submit to their wives but never may they rule and overrule.

  40. Dave Sarafolean said,

    July 6, 2016 at 11:09 am

    FWIW – see the following role for women in this PCA church. HT Chortles Weakly:

    http://christpres.org/officers/

  41. Bob S said,

    July 11, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    This just in for those of us not in the PCA
    From the Greenville Pres. Sem. email newsletter:

    President Pipa Protests PCA Study Committee on Women in Ministry

    We, the undersigned, humbly protest the establishment of a committee to study the issue of woman serving in the ministry of the church based on the following grounds:

    1. The committee having women as well as men [is] contrary to 1 Tim. 2:12-13.
    2. The committee is to reflect the diversity of opinion in the denomination with no apparent respect to Scriptural or Confessional parameters.
    3. It appears, with the suggestion of a pastoral letter, that there is a goal already in mind prior to the study committee being formed.
    4. Hebrews 6:1-2 states that the laying on of hands (ordination) has been established and further study hinders the progress of the gospel.

    Ahem, further

    In an 11th-hour move after Dr. Pipa left the hall shortly before midnight during the closing session, progressives favoring the study lodged a strenuous objection to receiving the protest on grounds that it included “intemperate language.” Assembly rules allow protests against its actions as long as the protest does not include intemperate language. The objectors, led by World magazine founder and former G.A. moderator Joel Belz of Asheville, N.C., charged that Dr. Pipa’s claim that the study committee was being created “with no apparent respect to Scriptural or Confessional parameters” was intemperate. The Assembly overwhelmingly accepted the objection, while still registering the Pipa protest, the result being that both the protest and the objection to it were accepted by the Assembly.

    Hmmm.

  42. rfwhite said,

    July 11, 2016 at 10:37 pm

    I respect the opposition to the establishment of the study committee. I take it that, to join Dr. Pipa’s protest, one would have to endorse the included exegesis of Heb 6.1-2 in point 4 and the application of 1 Tim 2.12-13 in point 1.

  43. Ron said,

    July 11, 2016 at 11:06 pm

    Fowler,

    I’m not taking it that way though you might be right. I signed anyway.

  44. July 12, 2016 at 11:26 am

    […] Source: Women’s Issues in the PCA […]

  45. rfwhite said,

    July 15, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    Green Baggins: From the recommendation’s wording, it appeared (and still appears) to me that the recommendation presumes that our BCO does not address (adequately?) the topics to be addressed by the study committee. In your view, is that a fair reading of the recommendation?


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