Women deacons as church officers

Discussion in 'Church Office' started by Jeri Tanner, Apr 6, 2018.

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  1. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    You cited the post which clearly says:

    "The offices are parallel with differing specialties"
  2. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    I hesitate to say "yes" because the deacon is a church office given by Christ for the care of his people. Rutherford denies that the deacon is not a spiritual office, although it deals with the care of temporal things. The deacon being in charge of the temporal goods of the church and their distribution means they are acting with leadership and authority.

    However, I think I know what you are trying to ask. To clarify before I answer, in a Presbyterian church, our church officers who govern the church are elders and pastors (pastors are also elders, but we often refer to elders that are not ordained to preach as just "elders"). As individuals, the elders and pastors are responsible by their office to take care of the general spiritual oversight of the congregation, including teaching, rebuking, exhorting, and ministering to their spiritual needs. They are the "spiritual leadership/authority" in the church. They meet together in a court--the church Session--and in that court Session they make decisions about the spiritual government of the church, e.g., questions put forward by members, handling cases of discipline, determining how the worship should be governed and so forth. They rule and govern the church. This is something that deacons do not do: deacons rule and govern the church funds and temporal things, not the church. They do not meet with the Session so as to make decisions concerning the government of the church with a vote. The deacons instead meet in their own court to determine how to handle the temporal needs of the church.

    Is handling the temporal needs an act of "spiritual leadership?" In the sense that they are exercising spiritual gifts (e.g., showing mercy) in an official capacity and are the ones in charge of such things, yes, they are exercising spiritual leadership and authority. In doing such things, they also set an example for the rest of the congregation to follow; is that not a spiritual leadership/authority? As church officers, they are also representatives of Christ, hence the need for character and holding the mysteries of the faith in good conscience.

    Elders and pastors rule and govern the church. The deacons rule and govern the church funds and temporal things. Different functions, but both require leadership and authority. And in some sense, the deacons exercise a spiritual leadership and authority, although they do not govern the souls of the congregation or handle the government of the church.

    However, if the above is confusing, then I guess I'll just say "yes:" they do not exercise a "spiritual leadership/authority."
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2018
  3. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    Rutherford writes in his Peacable and Temperate Plea concerning the order of widows,

    "Q. 9. How is it that you have taken away widowes, which was an office established by the Apostles? Rom. 12. 8. For some say they should be gone, because they were tem∣porary, and the heate of the Easterne Countries which cau∣sed sicknesse, required them, but they are not needfull now. So saith Cartwright. Others make them perpetuall, as Fen∣ner,* some make them to be women, as Cartwright, some men,* as Travors, some neither men nor women onely, as Beza and Junius.*

    Answ.* The perpetuall use of that office we thinke continueth, that is, that there be some to shew mercy on the poore, which are captives, exiled, strangers, dis∣eased, distracted, and that there be Hospitals for that effect, and Chirurgians, Physicians, aged men and wo∣men, but that widowes were officers in the Church, as Elders and Deacons are, we thinke no; but that that service may be performed by men or women, as the Church shall thinke good. Cartwright thinketh no other then what I say. Fenner thinketh well that the sicke should alwayes be cared for, neither by men only, nor by women onely, as Beza and Junius thinke, but by both as need requireth."

    Concerning Deacons and ruling, Rutherford writes (Due Right p. 149),

    "Object. 3. By those who rule well, are understood Deacons, who take care of the poore.
    Answ. Didoclavius observeth, that Deacons are never called Rulers, but distinguished from them, Rom. 12. 8. Secondly, the well ruling here taketh up the halfe of the Pastors Office, and all that belongeth thereunto, except labouring in the word and doctrine; as to receive accusations against an Elder, to judge and governe with the Pastor, to visit the sicke, to exhort and rebuse in a judiciall way; but to serve Tables, and to take care of the poore onely, is the least and most inferiour part of well-govern∣ing of Gods house, and is but a care for their bodies: VVhereas to rule well, is an Ecclesiasticall Magistracy, to goe in and out before Gods people, to watch for their soules, as those which must give an accompt, Hebr. 13. 17. 1 Thess. 5. 12. The Deacon careth for the body onely, and the Deacon, that Bilson and others would have with him, is neither in this place, nor in all Gods Word, as we shall heare."

    I post some exercepts from the Free Church Practice concerning Deacons, which shows an example of how this office necessarily acts with authority.

    "The New Testament warrants a distinction between the office of Elder on the one hand, and Deacon on the other. Whereas Elders are charged with the general and spiritual oversight of congregations, and in the case of those we designate "ministers", labour in word and doctrine, the Deacons’ specific function relates to the temporal concerns of the Church. Though it is allowed that deacons may discharge their functions without having elders present at their meetings there are two considerations which underlie the accepted practice of minister and elders being in membership of the Deacons’ Court.

    These are:
    (1) The securing of maximum consultation between elders and deacons for
    the better total management of the congregation.

    (2) Many congregations cannot supply from their own membership a sufficient number of Deacons to function separately from the eldership. Act VII, 1846, therefore states "that it be competent for elders to be employed as deacons when a sufficient number of deacons cannot be had".

    Though a degree of spiritual maturity is requisite for either office, the difference in function between elder and deacon implies that a man having the gifts needed for the diaconate may not thereby qualify to be an elder. Nor does fitness for the eldership require previous experience as a deacon.

    The meeting of deacons is referred to as the Deacons’ Court but this does not imply that this court is part of the legislative structure of the Church. In the Presbyterian system that structure comprises Kirk Sessions, Presbyteries, Synods, and General Assembly. The Deacons’ Court is essentially a Board of Management and administration having the bounds of its authority prescribed by Church law. So long therefore as the Deacons’ Court acts within its mandate its decisions are regarded as final, and no dissent and complaint is competent. A simple dissent is, however, competent."

    "2. The functions of the Deacons’ Court may be more particularly outlined as

    2.1 No Power of Discipline: Being essentially a board of management the Deacons’ Court does not exercise disciplinary functions even over its own members, this being within the competence of the Kirk Session by whose authority members are admitted, suspended, or deposed and to whom resignations should be addressed. It is the duty of the Kirk Session to inform the Deacons’ Court of any changes in its membership and the extracts of minutes giving this information must be engrossed in the minutes of the Deacons’ Court and its Roll revised accordingly.

    2.2 Congregational Property: Though responsible for the management, repair and maintenance of all congregational properties and charged to raise funds for these purposes, the Deacons’ Court are not entitled to grant the use of buildings for any purpose, without the consent of the Minister. Nor can it withhold the use of buildings for meetings of a strictly religious, ecclesiastical or charitable nature sanctioned by the minister. It is, however, within their competence to make such charge for these uses as will defray costs falling on the congregation. The minister’s sanction notwithstanding, the Deacons’ Court’s approval must be given before buildings can be used for any purpose which is not of a strictly religious, ecclesiastical or charitable nature.

    2.3 Church Officer and Fee to Precentor: If it is deemed necessary or desirable to employ a Beadle or Church Officer for the week to week management, cleaning and good upkeep of properties, it is the duty of the Deacons’ Court to do this and to determine terms of employment and payment. If a fee is paid to the precentor, this is fixed by the Deacons’ Court but the court does not appoint the precentor, this being a function of the minister after due consultation with the Kirk Session."
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2018
  4. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior


    If you disagree with my point, please let me know why so that we can have a conversation. Otherwise, we're just sharing opinions. This won't help us understand objective truth.

    Thanks in advance!
  5. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    The confusion to me is that the Baptists also do see the clear distinction between Pastors/Elders and Deacons, as we would view the pastors/Elders as function in about the same basis and why as you outlined here, while the deacons are those charged with just the practical needs for the church. Those areas include love/trust funds, maintenance, handling the office concerns for bill payments, payroll accounting. for examples.
    In my church, there are Senior Pastor, who is also Elder, pastor, and Youth pastor. There are Elders, and those such as maintenance directors/office managers falll loosely under Deacons.
    Only the pastors and Elders though handle the teaching, ordinances, and discipline within the church.
    Seems to boil down to just how we see the deacon functioning, in what role within the local church.
  6. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Except that I am not familiar with Deacons handling the same responsibilities as Pastors/Elders do.
  7. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    I was not in disagreement your post, was just seeking to clarify if you would see that deacons are not charged in the scriptures to do the same as Elders, and so a female deacon would not fall under the prohibition as a Pastor/Elder.
  8. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    Of course deacons and elders have different roles. My argument was that both roles are governing roles. If a woman is given a governing role, she necessarily has authority over men in church. Paul expressly forbids this.
  9. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Would doing those items that a Deacon does in my church though qualify as being under a governing role?
  10. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    Brother David,
    The post said that they have 'differing specialties'

    ""The offices are parallel with differing specialties""

    Hence, they do not have 'the same responsibilities'.
  11. JimmyH

    JimmyH Puritan Board Junior

    Had a maintenance workday at my church today. Myself, another deacon, and a trustee. The trustee is a young man of 25 or so, but grew up in this church from a toddler and is very knowledgeable regarding doctrine and practice. I told him about this thread and how I had the impression that an elder is an office of greater authority and importance than that of a deacon.
    He said that all of the congregation, including the pastor, elders, deacons are one body. None is more important than the other and they have been given particular gifts and responsibilities based on those God given gifts. He opined that when you start viewing one office/individual as more important than another you are getting dangerously close to Romanist theology.
  12. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    I'm not sure it would get used, but we need am Emily Litella 'nevermind' smilie.
  13. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    I addressed this in post #52. Do you disagree with my argument? We know that physical needs affect our spiritual state (James 2:16). It seems to me that if we argue that spiritual matters need authority but physical do not, then a) we separate soul from body, b) we make the work of an elder superior to the work of a deacon and c) we disregard the reason deacons need to have basically the same qualifications as elders in the first place.

    Consider 1 Tim. 3:12:

    "Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well."

    Why does it matter if deacons rule their own house well if their position is not one of authority?
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2018
  14. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    Another very helpful point, thanks.
  15. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Of course having more authority does not mean one is more important to Christ. The simple matter of fact in that there are gradations of authority, and this is not a road to Rome.
  16. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    Well, the Scriptures state the role of deacon is to be filled by "men full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom" (Acts 6:3); being "the husband of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well" (1 Timothy 3:12); and these men are as well to be "grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience" (1 Timothy 3:8,9).

    Phoebe being called a servant, which is another English word often used to translate diakonos, in no way makes her a deacon that meets the requirements of Acts 6 and 1Timothy 3, and there's nothing in the passage about her that suggests that. She was obviously a revered, trusted, and appreciated servant of the church, as were many others who held no office.
  17. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    I suppose one should be willing to entertain the idea, so long as the woman is a husband of one wife.
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  18. JimmyH

    JimmyH Puritan Board Junior

    Nowadays there are some who would say that could be a reality ! (but I'm not one of them) ;)
  19. Southern Presbyterian

    Southern Presbyterian Moderator Staff Member

    I was about to make the same point. GMTA
  20. SolaScriptura

    SolaScriptura Puritan Board Doctor

    Most words have multiple uses or reference points. It has been pointed out that the word "apostle" means "sent one" and as such the Bible uses it (generically) to refer to, well, anyone sent by another. But it is also used to refer to those who hold a specific office. Likewise, the word "elder" (can) mean simply an old man, but it also happens to be the title given to a specific office. Deacon means "servant" and can therefore be applied to anyone who serves. Of course, it, like both elder and apostle, is also used to designate a specific office. It takes maturity to recognize how the words are being used in a given context.

    But, regards to the ordination of women as deacons... given all that the NT says about the role and place of women in the church, I'll accept that Paul nonetheless approves of women being ordained to church office as soon as proponents of deaconesses grant that Paul is likewise suggesting that we should recognize civil rulers as church officers because the word "deacon" is applied to them in Rom 13:4.
  21. malvaradosr

    malvaradosr Puritan Board Freshman

    I am opposed to the ordination of women to the office of deacon. At the same time and with equal vigor, I believe that the church needs to highlight the many ways that our women can use their spiritual gifts in the appropriate context.

    I believe that we can see authority exercised in the church as a session meets to discuss the spiritual needs and government of the church. Decisions will be made that will affect the entire congregation by the elders who were installed into this capacity.

    In the same way we meet as a diaconal board to discuss the welfare of the flock and of those on the outside. Decisions are made that will affect the direction of church resources by the deacons who were installed into this capacity.

    What I have thus described is not congregational polity, decisions are made in behalf of the congregation by others. This I believe is the essence of what authority is. And here is where 1 Timothy 2:12 comes into play.

    If it is objected that Phoebe is referred to as a deaconess (diakonon) in Romans, my reply is first that we should praise the Lord for women like Phoebe. And Lydia, and Mary, and Kathryn (our wonderful church administrative assistant). There are many ways that our women can exercise their heart of a servant (diakonon). However is it is a wise principle that the explicit declarations in Scripture must provide the light to those whose meaning is in dispute.

    To answer the second part of your question, I could not conscientiously continue to attend a church who would ordain women deacons.
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2018
  22. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    The scriptures themselves though do seem to indicate that God sees the offices of the Pastor and Elders as being higher in the sense that they have been charged to overseer the flock, to maintain correct teaching of doctrines and the church discipline.
    Your friend would be correct that we are all equal in a saved sense by God, and all of us have gifts and callings that while different, are all used by God in and for the Body, but there still seems to be that distinction for the pastor/Elder in the local church.
  23. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    I understand your position, but the offices of the pastor and Elder seem to have spiritual authority beyond/above that of the Deacon, as they have the ultimate roles of overseers of the local flock of Christ.
  24. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Good point you made here, as that title is only mentioned for a women one time in the NT, as the deaconess.
  25. beloved7

    beloved7 Puritan Board Freshman

    I'm not exactly sure what a Deacon is. Pastors and Elders have to be male to be biblical, but I'm not sure what you mean by Deacon/ church officer. Women can lead a particular ministry within the church, be a trustee etc
  26. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior


    I think you're making my point. Elders watch over the souls (Heb. 13:17). This is "spiritual" as you call it. Deacons watch over our bodies, if you will. Does the body affect the spiritual? Does the spiritual affect the body? Your dichotomy, I believe, separates body and spirit without seeing the connection. Why would Paul spend so much energy talking about our bodies being the temple of God? Again, the body needs to be governed.
  27. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Deacons could be offices within the local church, but do not see them as being on same par as the pastors/Elders.
  28. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    There's no doubt that Phebe is distinguished and honored by Paul and Scripture. She's the only woman in Scripture specifically referred to as diakonos, so that is notable. But it's clear from the teaching passages that the title (role, office) of deacon is for qualified men.
  29. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    Can you make an argument from the Scriptures as to why?
  30. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    The terminonoly might be different between Baptists and presbartarianon this issue of roles with thin the church, as we see the Bible allow for Pastors/Elders/Deacons, based upon Paul giving to us the requirements for Deacons, and that God had the Apostles separate unto themselves deacons to carry on the day to day operations of the church assembly.
    I now would see Deacons as being a position in the local church that would be not on the same levels of the pastor/Elder, and that men only would qualify under that technical term.
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