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Thread: Should women be deacons?

  1. #1

    Should women be deacons?

    Is this the slippery road that leads to having women as pastors and elders? Someone told me yesterday that the PCA is heading down this path, that they are beginning to ordain women as deacons.

    Would you mind if I made a poll out this question? My pastor and I have discussed this and we're on the opposite side of the fence. It should be a good discussion.

    There was a very good discussion started on this recently.

    I would like to see the discussion continued.

    Make it a poll if you like

    It's not a slippery slope to women as pastors, I know that. The ARP has had women deacons for, well, I have no idea how long, but there's absolutely no talk of female pastors in the works, and I have no reason to believe there ever will be.

    I am inclinded to say they shouldn't be, but don't expect a learned answer backing that up. I havn't studied up on it a ton, or even a lot.

    Brian Schwertley, A Historical and Biblical Examination of Women Deacons:

    The contention that ordaining women to the diaconate was more a product of the sprit of the times rather than an outgrowth of careful exegetical considerations is supported by an eyewitness and participant at the R.P. Synod of 1888, the Rev. D. S. Faris. In an article entitled "The Female Deacon and the Sentimental Overflow of Synod" Faris documents that what occurred at the Synod of 1888 was a rush to judgment based on sentimentality and an "overflow of enthusiasm."

    ...I wish to state those facts which, to my mind, prove that Synod reached its conclusions, not by means of deliberate and sober examination of the whole subject in all its bearings, but by "sentimental overflow." This word "overflow" was used by Dr. Kennedy himself to designate Synod's method of dealing with the subject. The Synod was borne along by the wave of popular sentiment, and did not act like a deliberative and judicial body. The only scholarly and effective argument in the case was that of Dr. Stevenson. The argument consisted, first, of a construction of certain passages of the New Testament, and second, of an argument based on allusions to the matter in the early fathers. No one was prepared to answer the patristic argument, on the spur of the moment; yet as Dr. Kennedy admitted, this line of argument is worthless, unless a foundation can be found for it in the word of God. The Doctor went about establishing the Scriptural foundation, evidently not with the deliberation and research of a scholar and a theologian, but as one borne along by the tide of sentimentalism. His first statement was that the direct Scriptural proof was wanting; but there are important things that are and must be taken for granted. He said that there is no direct proof that women were baptized or admitted to the Lord's table. This has always been taken for granted, and women's rights to these privileges have never been questioned. So, he said, women have been found doing work belonging to the deacon's office, and therefore we ought to presume that they were ordained. The Doctor in the rush of the overwhelming tide forgot the account of the baptism of Lydia and her household, recorded in Act 16:15. He would not have made such a mistake, if he had been following the matter in a cool, deliberate desire to obtain the truth. He knew better as soon as he had time to think, but he made his argument under the influence of what he himself called an "overflow," and not as a person searching and expounding the word of God deliberately....

    Prof. Willson gave us no argument, but intimated, that from a thorough examination of the matter as a theologian, he had views that corresponded to the sentiment of Synod. He was surprised at the unanimous report of the committee, and equally surprised at the mind of the large part of Synod. The Professor should have given us the benefit of his theological researches, but contented himself by saying that he had heard no argument on the other side. Thus he brushed away what had been brought from the word of God, which seemed to demand some answer; and under the influence of the overflow, the Synod was willing to take for granted that the Professor was right, without hearing his reasons or exercising their own private judgment in the case. A few of us were not ready to vote for a measure which, to Presbyterians generally, will seem to be an innovation, at least without time to make up our minds prayerfully and carefully.

    Another evidence of the overflow of enthusiasm, was the form in which the committee presented the matter at first, substantially as follows: "That we find nothing in nature nor in the word of God, to prevent a woman from holding the deacon's office." The second member of the committee was Dr. Kennedy, a well-known scholar and theologian, and would have known better than to have agreed to such a report, if at all sober and in his right mind. But being carried away by the enthusiasm in the committee, he agreed to it, and after the prelatical form of it had been objected to by myself, tardily found objections to the negative form of the report of his own committee. The Synod then changed it into the positive form, substantially as follows: "That we find it is agreeable to nature and the word of God that a woman should be ordained to the office of deacon."

    Another fact showing the undeliberative character of the proceeding, was the statement by some of the advocates of the measure, in reply to the ground taken by Dr. George, that no authority is conferred in ordination to the office of deacon, but there would be in ordination to that of elder or preacher, and that authority on the part of woman is usurpation, that they were willing for woman to have her equal place with man in all offices, both in church and state. Thus no provision was made against the pressing of the matter further, in future, and the tide rushed onward overflowing the more cautious ground occupied by a few. Doubtless this flood-tide, if it be not checked, will carry women into all places of authority in church and state. Again, I would mention an argument of some one on the majority side, that it was necessary for us to take this step now, so as to continue to lead the churches in reform as heretofore. Reflection ought to convince such enthusiasts that leadership is not desirable unless in a Scriptural progress, and this ought to be first determined in a deliberate and constitutional manner. [86]

    Faris's comments reveal a number of troubling things regarding the debate at Synod to ordain women as deacons. Faris reveals that there were members of Synod that wanted to open all church offices to women. This indicates that the feminist rhetoric of the preceding thirty years was having an effect on some members of Synod. (We can reach no other conclusion, considering the overwhelming and very clear scriptural evidence against women being pastors or elders in the church.) Other members of Synod argued that women should be ordained as deacons so the R.P. Church could lead other churches in the cause of reform. This supports the view that the popularity of putting women into the ordained diaconate was not based on a new, clearer, more objective understanding of Scripture, but was a direct result of the nineteenth century reform movements, especially the new Christian feminism. The fact that the R.P. committee which recommended women deacons to Synod originally rejected the regulative principle in favor of a "prelatical" argument further indicates that the motivating factor for ordaining women as deacons was not in the first place Scripture but was the cultural environment. These men had good intentions and believed they were doing a good thing for society and the church but in reality they were just following the latest "evangelical" [87] fad.

    Faris's warning that "this floodtide, if not checked, will carry women into all places of authority in church and state" has to a large extent already taken place. The sentiments of R.P. pastors such as Thomas Wylie who wanted to open all church offices to women apparently was held by a number of R.P. pastors. Even as late as 1938-39 there was a concerted effort to ordain women as ruling elders.

    The Synod of 1938 appointed a Committee on Ordination of Women Elders, which reported to Synod the following year. The committee report recommended the ordination of women to the ruling eldership. Philip W. Martin and Johannes G. Vos responded with a paper entitled "Are Women Elders Scriptural?" etc. [88]

    J. G. Vos, who was an excellent scholar and highly respected within the denomination, was largely responsible for stopping the effort to ordain women to the eldership at that time. The present movement within the RPCNA to open all church offices to women is led by Faith Martin. This movement is a product of the feminism of the nineteen sixties and seventies.
    Let me pose a question at this point. Does the office of Deacon (Servant) possess any authority that would be construed as a position over others in the congregation? If not, then why is it a position? If so, then how does the authoritative position render power over others?

    If women are not to be in positions of authority over men, is this authoritative position defined differently so that it in no way renders a female in authority over men?

    Just so I can lay my cards on the table for the benefit of everyone..... I'm against it. No deaconesses in the church as it pertains to an ordained office in the Church. This is not to say I don't believe women aren't considered servants of the church as Lydia was.
    Last edited by Herald; 03-05-2008 at 08:57 AM. Reason: started poll
    Bill Brown
    Member Grace Baptist Church of Odenton
    Attending Faith Baptist Church of Orlando, FL

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