Office of Deacon... Time for Reformation?

Status
Not open for further replies.

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Moderators, if this is more appropriate for the Presbyterian Polity forum, please feel free to move this to that.

Here are the 6 or so questions about the office of Deacon that are being presented to us in the PCA as not being clear. They are all answered in our Book of Church Order, and reflect our long held presbyterian biblical doctrine of polity: (constitutional answers in blue)
___________________________________________________________________________

(a) may churches choose not to ordain any male deacons?

No, unless it is impossible (e.g. a small start-up church) and then the duties fall back on the elders, because this authority requires the ordination of office

(b) may churches choose to commission but not to ordain male deacons?

No, we qualify officers by I Timothy 3 and Titus I, and elect, ordain and install officers with the congregation receiving them by vow as officers God has appointed for them.
In the PCA, we see in Scripture the congregation has a right to confirm the officers who would have authority over them.


(c) may women be commissioned as deaconesses without ordaining them as deacons?

The question assumes 'deaconess' to be the I Timothy 3 authoritative office through which the particular church is governed- that is incorrect, both biblically and in our polity.

(d) may the same constitutional questions, or similar questions, used to ordain deacons be used to commission deacons or deaconesses who are not ordained?

No, the oath of office is specific to the offices of deacon and elder, it is not to be usurped or misrepresented.

(e) may Presbyteries license and ordain men who submit themselves to the BCO but who also believe that women should serve as ordained deacons?

Yes. A Presbytery has right to ordain a person with such views as well as to decline a person with such views after due diligence in examining the deeper theological issues that such a belief might suggest.

For example if a man believed that a quorum ought to be two rather than three elders and the latter was specified by the BCO, he would not be free to conduct meetings with a quorum of two. (And when caught conducting meetings with a quorum of two, rather than the three required by his constitution and vows, he is not to call for a 'study' committee on quorums, composed of people representing a 'diversity' of views about quorums)

Similarly, if a man believed that women ought be commissioned as 'deaconess' he is not free to refuse to constitute the office of Deacon as basic governance of the church. That would be cause for church discipline, based on his vows.


(f) may churches elect ordained men and commissioned women to serve together in the diaconate?

No, diaconate means a plurality of (I Timothy 3) Deacons.

(g) may churches use the title Deaconess for an elected position of ministry in the church or selected to serve according to BCO 9-7?

No, there is no provision to elect non-officers as if they were officers.

__________________________________________________________________________

In the main, if I am understanding this correctly, what has caused the issue in our denomination is not so much the (vague, broad) topic 'role of women' but the above local church practices. Those practices violate the confession of the denomination, the polity of the denomination and the vows the officers took to uphold it (and implicitly to model and teach it).

There are honestly are some people who are confused about this- it's hard to believe that our basic confessed polity is not understood but there really is some confusion.

There probably are a very very few liberals who disbelief the authority of scripture but frankly, I have never met one in the PCA.

More than that, I have never heard one officer to call for the ordination of women for deacon (That likely would follow if our polity is disobeyed in the above 6 ways and not disciplined, though)

Like any denomination, we have to confront our own sin, pride, misrepresentation among ourselves- these are sins of human beings. That is why a true church, like the PCA has church discipline. Our polity is not "go it alone"- deacon is a high calling office with a specific and essential purpose in governing Christ's church.
 
Last edited:

Wayne

Tempus faciendi, Domine.
Reply to Scott:

It is also interesting to read Warfield's argument for deaconesses in 1889, which you can find among that list of links at PCA Historical Center: Resources - A Topical Guide to the Colllections and Holdings of the Center:

1. Very surprisingly, esp. for an exegete, Warfield admits he only has one shaky text to stand on. Then he proceeds to build his case instead from church history.
2. But of particular interest is the point at which he points to the PCUS (Southern) BCO on page 287 and says "Perhaps the nearest approach to the more formal and ecclesiastical revival of the office among us, in its proper Scriptural sense, has been made by the Southern Presbyterian Church, which sets forth in its Book of Church Order, adopted in 1879, that “ where it shall appear needful, the Church Session may select and appoint godly women for the care of the sick, of prisoners, of poor widows and orphans, and in general for the relief of distress.” Here we have the essential features of the office."

[The clairification that this Sessional appointment is to assist the deacons isn't in the PCUS BCO until 1925. The PCA built its BCO on the 1933 edition of the PCUS BCO.

But basically Warfield is saying of the 1879 PCUS BCO, "This would do quite nicely"

What the PCUS had at that time was nearly identical to what the PCA has had for BCO 9-7 since 1974. See Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order : Chapter 9, Paragraph 7 to compare the texts. Note too that the 1867 PCUS draft specifically had deaconesses incorporated, but that feature was deleted in the 1869 draft and did not return to the PCUS BCO until the 1960s.
 
Last edited:

kceaster

Puritan Board Junior
Mason....

That makes me ask, what exactly is a deaconess and why is that being argued for?

Deaconess is a title derived from deacon. Deaconess is the feminine form of deacon, is it not?

In Christ,

KC

P.S. Perhaps this is continuing the trend of useless titles that we see completely covering the world business community. Instead of saying the person in charge of coordinating meals for benevolence, we turn that into a title: Benevolence Meal Coordinator. Once a title, there is importance. Once importance, there is desire for a new title.
 

TimV

Puritanboard Botanist
Standardization of definitions might have come from the PCA study committee on the role of women on the church.

Mason, after all these years of discussion on this board I still don't see where there's any ambiguity in the PCA BCO. You just can't read it with any amount of concentration and come away confused. You might as well argue for unordained Elderesses and claim lack of clarity in the BCO.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Reply to Scott:

It is also interesting to read Warfield's argument for deaconesses in 1889, which you can find among that list of links at PCA Historical Center: Resources - A Topical Guide to the Colllections and Holdings of the Center:

1. Very surprisingly, esp. for an exegete, Warfield admits he only has one shaky text to stand on. Then he proceeds to build his case instead from church history.
2. But of particular interest is the point at which he points to the PCUS (Southern) BCO and says in effect "That's what I'm talking about!"
What the PCUS had at that time was nearly identical to what the PCA has had for BCO 9-7 since 1974. See Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order : Chapter 9, Paragraph 7 to compare the texts. Note too that the 1867 PCUS draft specifically had deaconesses incorporated, but that feature was deleted in the 1869 draft and did not return to the PCUS BCO until the 1960s.

Thanks very much Wayne for that great, helpful information!
 

ColdSilverMoon

Puritan Board Senior
That makes me ask, what exactly is a deaconess and why is that being argued for?

Deaconess is a title derived from deacon. Deaconess is the feminine form of deacon, is it not?

In Christ,

KC

P.S. Perhaps this is continuing the trend of useless titles that we see completely covering the world business community. Instead of saying the person in charge of coordinating meals for benevolence, we turn that into a title: Benevolence Meal Coordinator. Once a title, there is importance. Once importance, there is desire for a new title.

Deaconess is a Scriptural and historical Reformed term for females performing diaconal (service, mercy ministries, etc) work within the church. Phoebe is referred to as a deaconess in Romans 16, and in I Timothy 3:11 Paul interjects instructions to "women" when describing the qualifications of deacons. Some argue this is referring to the deacons' and elders' wives, but it is unclear. John Calvin used unordained deaconesses in his church and referred to them as such in the Institutes.

Standardization of definitions might have come from the PCA study committee on the role of women on the church.

Mason, after all these years of discussion on this board I still don't see where there's any ambiguity in the PCA BCO. You just can't read it with any amount of concentration and come away confused. You might as well argue for unordained Elderesses and claim lack of clarity in the BCO.

There's no ambiguity with regard to women being forbidden from holding an office - on that count the BCO is clear and there's no disagreement. But what about women as administrators? Treasurers? Coordinators? Or what about leading prayer and songs in worship? These are not addressed in the BCO and are thus unclear. The study committee wasn't intended to address the role of women holding office, which everyone knows is wrong - it was proposed to address these other roles.
 

TimV

Puritanboard Botanist
There's no ambiguity with regard to women being forbidden from holding an office - on that count the BCO is clear and there's no disagreement. But what about women as administrators? Treasurers? Coordinators? Or what about leading prayer and songs in worship? These are not addressed in the BCO and are thus unclear. The study committee wasn't intended to address the role of women holding office, which everyone knows is wrong - it was proposed to address these other roles.

Or women passing out the bulletin when you walk in the door, etc... but that's not what we're dealing with. What we're dealing with is you guys calling women Deacons and not ordaining men as Deacons, and there's no ambiguity in the BCO about that.
 

ColdSilverMoon

Puritan Board Senior
There's no ambiguity with regard to women being forbidden from holding an office - on that count the BCO is clear and there's no disagreement. But what about women as administrators? Treasurers? Coordinators? Or what about leading prayer and songs in worship? These are not addressed in the BCO and are thus unclear. The study committee wasn't intended to address the role of women holding office, which everyone knows is wrong - it was proposed to address these other roles.

Or women passing out the bulletin when you walk in the door, etc... but that's not what we're dealing with. What we're dealing with is you guys calling women Deacons and not ordaining men as Deacons, and there's no ambiguity in the BCO about that.

I disagree, but that's not what the study committee would have addressed anyway.
 

lynnie

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally Posted by Pergamum
I think a big issue here is whether deacon is a role of authority or a role of service. If it is a role of authority, then no questions, it must be male. If it is a role of service, then there might be women in the deaconate while still having male ecclesiastical authority, according to some. How a church defines the role of its deacons will impact whether deacons must be male.


I think you hit the nail on the head perfectly.

I'm on the side that says the diaconate is ordained and authoritative. But in all the churches I know with deaconesses they are strictly feminine servants like Mom in the home. Not like elders. And so it is not seen as any transgression against scripture and male leadership.
 

OPC'n

Puritan Board Doctor
Maybe we need some definitions. There's nothing wrong with women helping the church in this manner but they still don't hold the office of a deacon. I'm willing to learn a better definition of deacon than what I have in my head but I believe the deacon would have control over these activities and delegate work out along with himself doing these duties.:2cents:

Just to be clear, I've never heard anyone in the PCA argue for ordaining women to an office, including the office of deacon.

Before I found the OPC, I was in the PCA and we had deaconesses.
 

ColdSilverMoon

Puritan Board Senior
Maybe we need some definitions. There's nothing wrong with women helping the church in this manner but they still don't hold the office of a deacon. I'm willing to learn a better definition of deacon than what I have in my head but I believe the deacon would have control over these activities and delegate work out along with himself doing these duties.:2cents:

Just to be clear, I've never heard anyone in the PCA argue for ordaining women to an office, including the office of deacon.

Before I found the OPC, I was in the PCA and we had deaconesses.

That may be, but were they ordained to the office of Deacon?
 

Wayne

Tempus faciendi, Domine.
How about a different approach to the question, as per my post above, namely that the offices of elder and deacon are derivative of "the dual nature of the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, as He preached the Gospel and went about doing good."

Would that necessarily mandate either
1. male only offices
and/or
2. the [spiritual] authority of both offices?

I'm scouting around for commentary that might reflect on this or further unpack the idea.

:bueller:
 

OPC'n

Puritan Board Doctor
Just to be clear, I've never heard anyone in the PCA argue for ordaining women to an office, including the office of deacon.

Before I found the OPC, I was in the PCA and we had deaconesses.

That may be, but were they ordained to the office of Deacon?


I would assume so if they had that title, otherwise, they would be called the hospitality team like we call ourselves in our church.
 

Wannabee

Obi Wan Kenobi
How about a different approach to the question, as per my post above, namely that the offices of elder and deacon are derivative of "the dual nature of the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, as He preached the Gospel and went about doing good."

Would that necessarily mandate either
1. male only offices
and/or
2. the [spiritual] authority of both offices?

I'm scouting around for commentary that might reflect on this or further unpack the idea.

:bueller:

I provided in link in post number 26. This is apparently a denominational issue though, which carries its own particulars. But for some thoughtful commentary on this, the booklet linked is excellent and provides for the role of male and female decons, recognizing it as purely a role of service, with no inherent authority. I'll not argue the point here though, because of the nature of this thread and my lack of involvement in the denom. May God grant those who lead these churches great clarity, wisdom and humility in their pursuit of truth for the glory of God.
 

he beholds

Puritan Board Doctor
I still cannot believe that there is even one PCA church with even one woman called a Deaconess. What is that? The first time I heard that, probably here, I thought it was a lie or rumor. Honestly. The stuff about not ordaining them, but giving them the title, is clearly against our church's rules. There are so many other words that can describe the work of a woman that it makes no sense to me to call them Deaconess. Even simply for the respect of the denomination.

Again, I am not personally convinced for or against Deaconesses. I know there are Reformed people who are for it, and I think they aren't simply liberals. I just think that we should try hard to follow the authority above us, and the authority above churches is the GA, or the BCO. I cannot see why it is hard to follow that. I am one who agrees that if there is a rule that you are breaking, and feel that to do so is to follow your conscience, then you should find another church who agrees, if for you to remain there causes you to feel as if you are sinning.

And the point about Calvin having unordained Deaconesses, perhaps that was not against the rules of his denomination...


Wannabee, I am definitely checking out your link!

Also, just a note about the OP, in some of my church experiences, Deacons were blue collar and Elders, white. That was a pet peeve of ours.
But at our church now, the mix is greater.

Also, I do not know if I understand scripture or our church's roles properly, but I have never thought of a deacon having any authority over me whatsoever, unless it is regarding the specific project that he is leading. (And even if someone did not have a title, but was in charge of a project, I would assume that person had authority over me regarding that project.)
 

kceaster

Puritan Board Junior
Deaconess is a Scriptural and historical Reformed term for females performing diaconal (service, mercy ministries, etc) work within the church. Phoebe is referred to as a deaconess in Romans 16, and in I Timothy 3:11 Paul interjects instructions to "women" when describing the qualifications of deacons. Some argue this is referring to the deacons' and elders' wives, but it is unclear. John Calvin used unordained deaconesses in his church and referred to them as such in the Institutes.

The same usage is given of Christ in the chapter before. Does this mean Christ is a deaconess? We can't simply apply an english term to a greek word just because we know Phoebe is a woman. Further, we can't assume that Paul is saying that Phoebe was ordained as a deacon, nor does this passage make 1 Timothy 3:11 point to Phoebe as an ordained female deacon. Was Paul a deacon? According to Rom 15:25 and 2 Cor. 3:6, he would have been. Timothy and Erastus, as well in Acts 19. Jesus calls both himself and his disciples deacons in Luke 22. Peter is talking to the office of believer when he exhorts us to serve (deacon) one another in 1 Peter 4.

The root assumption is that Phoebe was a deaconess, when Paul could have just been referring to her service in the magnitude of it. He did not refer to her like he referred to himself using doulos. He referred to Epaphras and Timothy as the same. Mary was a handmaiden. In another place, Peter, quoting the prophecy of Joel, uses handmaidens. But in this place, he referred to her type of service, In my humble opinion.

After a fashion, all of us are deacons. And for Calvin to use the term deaconess in his Church, he is not speaking of ordained women, but only as women who serve the Church, as obviously serving=deaconing.

In Christ,

KC
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Wannabee

I provided in link in post number 26. This is apparently a denominational issue though, which carries its own particulars. But for some thoughtful commentary on this, the booklet linked is excellent and provides for the role of male and female decons, recognizing it as purely a role of service, with no inherent authority. I'll not argue the point here though, because of the nature of this thread and my lack of involvement in the denom. May God grant those who lead these churches great clarity, wisdom and humility in their pursuit of truth for the glory of God.
__________________

I realize you are not arguing the point and are only linking to Mr. MacArthur's article about the office of Deacon.

Mr. MacArthur is right about many things, and has a zealousness for the Word which is refreshing. He's "five points' calvinist, a self-described "leaky" dispensationalist, and without a binding confession. Because there is not an external accountability mechanism for his church, like many independents, he can pretty well determine how to run his church.

Not to make light of it, but to illustrate the point, if he said tomorrow he wanted no elder more than 60 years old, that's what would happen at his church.

He's not quite reformed (though heading that way) and certainly not presbyterian.

But his analysis and reasoning here (deacon not really an office, never really was in Acts 6, that it only means "service", etc.) are quirky and do not comport with the historical witness of the church at all.

One of the most concise analysis of the Greek and the scriptural and historical basis for deacons are these:

Deaconesses in the PCA? Green Baggins (Bob Mattes at Greenbaggins)

and Brian Schwertley's excellent historical and biblical summary:http://www.all-of-grace.org/pub/schwertley/deacon.html

Basically, and this can cause confusion- there never has been any witness for I Timothy 3 women deacons in the Christian church before the modernism/liberalism around 1960.

There was, from time-to-time in church history I Timothy 5 "servant widows" that were called 'deaconess.' Those were 60 year old widows, "put on the list" who vowed to remain unmarried, were under the authority of the church (deacons and elders). The church historically disobeyed the scriptural qualifications from time-to-time (e.g. lowered to age 40) and got into trouble and abandoned the practice.

Today's debate is almost entirely about something that never was, women in an authoritative ecclesiastic position something like "equal partner with men in diaconal ministry." Such unbiblical nonsense is of recent invention.
 

SRoper

Puritan Board Graduate
Just to be clear, I've never heard anyone in the PCA argue for ordaining women to an office, including the office of deacon.

Well I have heard calls for ordaining women to deacon in the PCA. And while I haven't personally heard PCA officers arguing for ordaining women as elders, it does happen according to several REs and a TE I know.
 

Wayne

Tempus faciendi, Domine.
Jessi:

You said:

"Also, I do not know if I understand scripture or our church's roles properly, but I have never thought of a deacon having any authority over me"

I think this is a big part of the problem--a failure to fully understand the nature of the office of deacon. I will readily admit I'm in need of a refresher course myself.

Does the office of deacon involve a spiritual authority? I think that is what I was getting at in pointing to the 1977 overture from Western Carolina which pointed out that the offices in the church derive from the dual nature of Christ's earthly ministry--preaching the Gospel and ministering to the physical needs of His people. If the office of deacon is not merely a part of the structure of the Church, but actually should be seen as an outworking of Christ's earthly ministry (& doesn't that sum up all that the Church is to be about?), then doesn't the office of deacon necessarily involve a spiritual authority? I think so, but am digging deeper for greater light (there's a mixed metaphor!).

One bit of my reading for this week will be G.D. Henderson's The Scottish Ruling Elder (London: Clarke & Co., 1935), which includes a chapter titled "The Elder at the Plate" And no, that's not about baseball, but rather an interesting title descriptive of the office of deacon [i.e., the offertory plate, and by inference, the administration of funds and benevolences]. By contrast, Henderson's title for the chapter dealing specifically with elders is titled "The Elder at Communion". Should make for some interesting reading.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Originally Posted by Pergamum
I think a big issue here is whether deacon is a role of authority or a role of service. If it is a role of authority, then no questions, it must be male. If it is a role of service, then there might be women in the deaconate while still having male ecclesiastical authority, according to some. How a church defines the role of its deacons will impact whether deacons must be male.


I think you hit the nail on the head perfectly.

I'm on the side that says the diaconate is ordained and authoritative. But in all the churches I know with deaconesses they are strictly feminine servants like Mom in the home. Not like elders. And so it is not seen as any transgression against scripture and male leadership.

A deacon would be a position of some authority since Paul gives qualifications for it,and these qualifications are for males

(the Greenbagggins blog post is the BEST short summary of this I have ever found..THANKS!)

Although there does also seem to be a description of one who is a female servant, although this seems to be a description rather than a title.

BUT,

I am sometimes confused because the NT has many such descriptive words and calls people using terms such as "steward," Paul's "co-workers" (the sunergoi), the "fellow slaves" (sundouloi), fellow soldiers, fellow prisoners, and the women among Paul's co-workers, each of which seemed to share a part of the ministry and yet often this sharing of the role most assuredly in some cases was due to Paul's appointment and Paul's authority as they shared a role as part of Paul's apostolic ministry team.

Many women, such as Mary and Tryphena and Tryphosa, and "beloved Persis" all "worked hard in the Lord" and this in the Pauline vocabulary seemed to indicate that they were invovled in the evangelistic labors in some way. And yet, qhen it comes to "bishops" and "deacons" in Paul's pastoral epistles, the qualifications appear to be male.

So, I still hold the view that elders and deacons are titles of authority and these must be male, and yet women may be assigned underneath this male headship for specific tasks and thus "co-labour" in the Gospel.
 
Last edited:

lynnie

Puritan Board Graduate
Jessi-

( anybody else, feel free to correct me if you think I am wrong)

when you talk about the authority above us in the PCA, there is a bit of a difference between the WCF and the BCO. The WCF is seen as a basic systematic theology of what scripture teaches. To change it can happen, but a change would only happen after great, intense, deliberation (for example, it used to say the Pope was THE antichrist in 1646, but in 1903 that was removed).

The BCO on the other hand is a mix of scriptural understanding and the rules of the house (how many people on a committee sort of thing). When my church particularized ( went from mission status to a full fledged PCA) it was a real awakening to some of us how much rigamarole the BCO had come up with for certain things. They were the traditions of men, and nowhere to be found in scripture ( so much time for this, so many meetings for that). Not that any of it was wrong per se, but it wasn't scripture the way the WCF represents scripture. It was just PCA rules that they thought were the best way to guard the flock ( and generally probably are)

My pastor showed me the BCO amendments section when I asked about the rules....a thick stack of orange pages of amendments over the years. It has been highly amended. It just cannot be classed in the same category with the WCF for doctrine.

Now, I happen to think the BCO on deacons IS scriptural. But you have to understand that elders who make vows to upheld it, at the same time can easily press to amend it. It isn't like pressing to amend the WCF here. If you can change a committee for nominating something from 8 people to five people, well hey, let's change the BCO on deacons. The BCO is far more amendable.

That is the impression I have in my area (I am in Keller's presbytery and have friends at New Life and 10th Pres where there are deaconesses). My church will not have them, but we do NOT look at elders appealing the BCO on this in the same way we look at changing the WCF ( on let's say the Federal Vision and justification). Changing the WCF goes to the heart of orthodoxy, but challenging the BCO is not seen the same way.

Would PCA elders here agree? This is my impression. I wish they would not challenge it on this, and save any challenges for made up rules of man, but I don't think we see it like challenging the WCF.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
The office of Deacon does carry a degree of Spiritual authority. And this it the main reason why the church has a duty to find and train the right MEN for this office. Paul's list of Deacon qualifications simply underscores this point.

If we understand where the office came from, it should be easy to see that in Christ's church, there may and ought to be active women doing vital important things all over, BUT the office of Deacon is a male-position. Prominent women are all over the pages of the Gospels (just one more unique excellence regarding Jesus' kingdom), but they are not numbered among his Disciples.

When did the Deacons appear? When the DUTIES of deaconing needed to be separated from the REST of the Elder's duties (Acts 6:1-7). Where there are no Deacons, those duties belong back in the Elder's laps. Not in the laps of a suitable woman, where no suitable men can be found.

So, the office of Deacon belongs to the office of Elder. Just as the office of Elder belongs to the office of Minister, and the office of Minister to the office of Apostle, and the office of Apostle to the office of Christ.

For this reason, any attempt to ordain women to Deacon is only a stepping stone to the introduction of women to the teaching office. There is no logical stopping point.

In Christ's church, there is no allowance for female officers. MEN didn't make this rule up! Anyone who has a problem with this stance needs to take it up with the King and Head of the church.
 

Wayne

Tempus faciendi, Domine.
Bruce:

Particular appreciation for this point:

"When did the Deacons appear? When the DUTIES of deaconing needed to be separated from the REST of the Elder's duties (Acts 6:1-7). Where there are no Deacons, those duties belong back in the Elder's laps."
 

lynnie

Puritan Board Graduate
When did the Deacons appear? When the DUTIES of deaconing needed to be separated from the REST of the Elder's duties (Acts 6:1-7). Where there are no Deacons, those duties belong back in the Elder's laps. Not in the laps of a suitable woman, where no suitable men can be found.

Wow. Believe it or not that is the first time I have heard that line anywhere. I feel like a dope that my mind never articulated it to myself, as when I read it, it is so scripturally obvious. Thank you.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Acknowledging some differences in function between denomination, the spiritual charge for the office of Deacon in the PCA is (not necessarily in any order of priority):

1) overseeing mercy ministry
2) overseeing property stewardship
3) developing a spirit of liberality amongst the congregation

These are all visible leadership roles and ones the training for this office makes clear.

Deacons are examined for "exceptions" to doctrine as are the other officers of the church (elders). That's because there is qualification by scripture, an exemplary (not perfect) life testimony, calling and spiritual gifting. These go with an office, they are not required over every member.:)

-----Added 6/22/2009 at 03:35:35 EST-----

When did the Deacons appear? When the DUTIES of deaconing needed to be separated from the REST of the Elder's duties (Acts 6:1-7). Where there are no Deacons, those duties belong back in the Elder's laps. Not in the laps of a suitable woman, where no suitable men can be found.

Wow. Believe it or not that is the first time I have heard that line anywhere. I feel like a dope that my mind never articulated it to myself, as when I read it, it is so scripturally obvious. Thank you.

And from this, precisely we get our doctrine reflected in our Book of Church Order:

BCO 9-2
Presbyterian Church in America

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

ColdSilverMoon

Puritan Board Senior
Deaconess is a Scriptural and historical Reformed term for females performing diaconal (service, mercy ministries, etc) work within the church. Phoebe is referred to as a deaconess in Romans 16, and in I Timothy 3:11 Paul interjects instructions to "women" when describing the qualifications of deacons. Some argue this is referring to the deacons' and elders' wives, but it is unclear. John Calvin used unordained deaconesses in his church and referred to them as such in the Institutes.

The same usage is given of Christ in the chapter before. Does this mean Christ is a deaconess? We can't simply apply an english term to a greek word just because we know Phoebe is a woman. Further, we can't assume that Paul is saying that Phoebe was ordained as a deacon, nor does this passage make 1 Timothy 3:11 point to Phoebe as an ordained female deacon. Was Paul a deacon? According to Rom 15:25 and 2 Cor. 3:6, he would have been. Timothy and Erastus, as well in Acts 19. Jesus calls both himself and his disciples deacons in Luke 22. Peter is talking to the office of believer when he exhorts us to serve (deacon) one another in 1 Peter 4.

The root assumption is that Phoebe was a deaconess, when Paul could have just been referring to her service in the magnitude of it. He did not refer to her like he referred to himself using doulos. He referred to Epaphras and Timothy as the same. Mary was a handmaiden. In another place, Peter, quoting the prophecy of Joel, uses handmaidens. But in this place, he referred to her type of service, In my humble opinion.

After a fashion, all of us are deacons. And for Calvin to use the term deaconess in his Church, he is not speaking of ordained women, but only as women who serve the Church, as obviously serving=deaconing.

In Christ,

KC

I'm not saying the Scriptural references to "deaconess" indicate ordination - not at all. But a case can be made for women serving in a formal role as deaconesses of the church. I'm not saying they hold an office - in fact I would argue they do not. Calvin had a formal cadre of deaconesses that were unordained women performing diaconal work. To me this fits the biblical model correctly.
 

BJClark

Puritan Board Doctor
kceaster;


I fear that many times people look at deacons as property managers and facilities maintenance personnel.

My husband is not a deacon, but he does those things..many of the deacons and elders only go out about once a month to help out on a Saturday, and even then..there are just as many if not more women out there working along side them.
 

Wannabee

Obi Wan Kenobi
Dear Scott,

I had not intended to pursue this here, but since you've offered "proof" of a certain position I will make some brief comment.

I have looked through Schwertley's work and am grateful for both the link and his hard work. It provides some weight to the idea that women shouldn't be deacons, but is inconclusive in its historical observation. It also admits that women have been deacons in various locations throughout the history of the church, though he does not admit that they were in the same capacity as men, nor to much extent prior to the latter 4th century. His statement, "Because there is not a shred of biblical or historical evidence to support the contention that women served in the same office as men deacons" is quite audacious. If true, then his argument carries even greater weight. But how "provable" is it? His idea that "women deacons," if they exist, were subordinate to male deacons, especially in light of 1 Tim 5:9ff, bears careful consideration. However, the classification of an "order of widows" has problems of its own, namely that Scripture does not clearly set such a position apart. His treatment of "taken into the number" is taken my many to simply refer to church membership. This fits both contextually and theologically. I cannot say much in regard to the exegesis though. Deacons, on the other hand, are clearly set apart.

Clark, in his quotation under 1 Tim 3, makes too many assumptions and presents personal bias as fact. He has a point to make, but botches it with his authoritative statement that fails to stand up on its own weight. The absence of the possessive pronoun is indeed problematic. He states that translating gunaikas as "their wives" is not mutilation at all, but that translating it as "women" is. Such a statement isn't even reasonable in light of the grammar. His further assertion that the conduct of wives must be in view here is unnecessary as one of the requirements is that the elders' and deacons' homes are in order. This is a pragmatic imposition rather than a valid interpretation, as his quote of Hendriksen clarifies. His assertion (and Hendriksen's) that the interpretation "women" in light of the placement of hosautos (likewise) really may have some validity and bears careful consideration for all who study this issue. There are other statements in this section that are problematic, but I won't belabor the issue here.

I also read most of the first link you provided. He has some good observations, but I find the exegesis to be flawed for many of the same reasons. I have done the the work myself on this and, though I admit that I probably do not have the same ability with Greek, came away convinced that women could be deacons. Obviously I'm in good company. For clarity, it's not a hill I'd die on, because the language can allow for either "women" or "wives." However, grammar in conjunction with context would favor "women" in 1 Timothy 3. Perhaps, if there is a desire to debate the validity we could move that discussion to a new thread. If so, I'd be happy to deal with some of the issues I perceive in how Acts 6:1-7 has been handled in this thread as well.

For now, as I stated earlier, I don't think it would be proper for me to continue to debate that here, as I am not affiliated with this denomination in any way. And, it is highly doubtful that any powers within it really are concerned with what I think - not that I blame them.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top