Complaint filed against PCA Metro NY Presbytery (Deaconesses)

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by Romans922, Apr 24, 2009.

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  1. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    It's covered in 7-3, and says the office is not one of ruling but of service. You can see the PCA BCO here

    Presbyterian Church in America:  Stated Clerk / Administrative Committee
  2. ColdSilverMoon

    ColdSilverMoon Puritan Board Senior

    Deacons as an office in the church, yes. Deacons in the generic sense of servant, no.
  3. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    Then what reason other than trickiness does your church website use the word interchangeably?

    The BCO specifically says that a category of people can be appointed by the church to help the Deacons. The BCO doesn't use the word Deacon for those people since they aren't Deacons.

    It's not semantic, it's trickiness.
  4. brianeschen

    brianeschen Puritan Board Junior

    According to quotes from some who hold to the practice of women deacons, the only thing that will make them change is for a judicial action. That would be either a complaint against the action of a presbytery such as what some in New York Metro and Northern California have done or charges to be brought out on individual elders who practice contrary to the BCO. A law without sanctions is impotent. There will be no conformity to the law without sanctions. God's ways are best.
  5. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    PART I
    The Doctrine of Church Government.

    1-4. The officers of the Church, by whom all its powers are administered,
    are, according to the Scriptures, teaching and ruling elders and deacons.

    The Particular Church

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

    CHAPTER 24
    Election, Ordination and Installation of Ruling Elders and Deacons

    25-7. If a particular church is incorporated, the provisions of its charter and
    bylaws must always be in accord with the Constitution of the Presbyterian
    Church in America. All the communing members on the roll of that church
    shall be members of the corporation. The officers of the corporation,
    whether they be given the title trustee or some other title, shall be elected
    from among the members of the corporation in a regularly constituted
    congregational meeting. The powers and duties of such officers must not
    infringe upon the powers and duties of the Session or the Board of Deacons.

    There are more that explicitly and implicitly recognize governing authority to Deacons in post# 80.

    Consider also the vows the congregation receiving their elders and deacons take:

    BCO 24-6 (6) The ruling elder or deacon elect having answered in the affirmative,
    the minister shall address to the members of the church the following

    Do you, the members of this church, acknowledge and
    receive this brother as a ruling elder (or deacon), and do you
    promise to yield him all that honor, encouragement and
    obedience in the Lord to which his office,
    according to the Word
    of God and the Constitution of this Church, entitles him?[/quote]
  6. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate


    I think this is gonna be one big PCA mess :p
  7. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    Not if God's people pray for humility, subjection to their brethren and charity all around.:)

    (Also, remember 99% of all PCA churches have been in good faith following the BCO on this all along- at least one changed its practice recently to bring it into accord)
  8. WarrenInSC

    WarrenInSC Puritan Board Freshman

    Not If Metro NY, et al.....

    ....reconsider, reverse, and come back into clear compliance with the BCO.

    It's not hard knowing what to do - it's the doing.

    Maybe the internal Presbytery complaint will give Metro NY a chance to gracefully reconsider it's course - it's up to them to end the cause of division. What can we do about it? Pray that those in Metro NY who have promised by vow to rule in certain way's will see fit to keep their vows. They CAN clean up the mess - if they want to.
  9. ColdSilverMoon

    ColdSilverMoon Puritan Board Senior

    The use of deacon to describe female servants in mercy ministries of the church is a traditional and biblical term. It's not trickiness, just a respect for the most accurate way the Bible and Reformed theologians have described the role of women in the church in the capacity of providing mercy and service ministries.

    At Redeemer, that's the way it is used. It does not imply a church office or position of authority - that would be clearly contra-Scripture.
  10. ChariotsofFire

    ChariotsofFire Puritan Board Sophomore

    1 Tim. 3:12
    12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well
  11. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    Mason, this issue has basically nothing to do with how you interpret the Bible. To prevent chaos, every denomination, every country, every state has a constitution. These constitutions define themselves as accurate, because they have to; it's always been that way, and it always will.

    The PCA BCO defines itself as accurate. It has to. It doesn't claim infallibility, but it does say that for practical purposes the constitution is to be considered accurate.

    This is a really, really basic legal principle, and any court case will take this as a given, because any court has to.
  12. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    They are free to make their own definitions. The only precondition is that they should first peacefully withdraw from the PCA.
  13. ColdSilverMoon

    ColdSilverMoon Puritan Board Senior

    I agree with you, Tim. I don't think anyone is calling the BCO inaccurate in its terminology. People are accusing those who have female deacons as playing word games to skirt the BCO, but I don't think this is necessarily true. In the BCO Deacon refers to the church office where only ordained men can serve, but Scripture also refers to females as deacons in their role of ministry and service. Just because the BCO uses it one intended way doesn't mean churches can't also use the word in its other intended way.

    As an analogy, in the U.S. Constitution "state" refers to one of the U.S. states, such as California or New York. But in legal and political terminology, state can also refer to a foreign nation, such as the concept of a "failed state." Just because the Constitution uses state one way does not mean the U.S. government can't also use it to refer to foreign nations as well. It doesn't mean they are being tricky or sneaky; rather, it shows that there can be two uses for the same word, just like "deacon" in the BCO.

    Having said all that, you may be right and the courts at some level may uphold the complaint filed against the Metro NY Presbytery. I just hope the right thing is done, regardless of how they rule. If it's against my church and presbytery, so be it. We all want the good and proper thing done here - no one, to my knowledge, is being sneaky of subversive.
  14. Craig

    Craig Puritan Board Senior

    your point rests on equivocation.

    Your analogy is even worse. Perhaps the state of Ohio ought to view itself as a foreign nation since "state" is used in more than one sense? Preposterous.

    I think, given your reasoning, this would completey legit:
    The BCO is a governing document for the "PCA" (which means "Presbyterian Church in America"). We all know Presbyterian is a word describing church government. Further, "America" can refer to a country, or even a continent. Perhaps Redeemer is confused as to whether the BCO is intended for the entire continent, or just the country...then there's the whole problem of which Presbyterian church...I mean, the EPC is also a Presbyterian church, located within "America"...don't forget the PCUSA.

    Even after all of this, who knows if the BCO is a governing document for Redeeemer...I mean, that church is located in the state of New York...and we all know "state" can refer to a foreign nation.

    Hopefully PCA refers to the American continent...that would help elucidate things...but continent being used as a noun or an adjective? If an adjective, it refers to exercising restraint, or moderation on appetite and/or behavior.

    Man, looks like this issue is even deeper than anyone had thought!
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2009
  15. ColdSilverMoon

    ColdSilverMoon Puritan Board Senior

    Craig, I think you're missing my point. This is not equivocation at all - does the Bible not refer to women (and men, for that matter) as deacons in the sense of service to the church? How is it wrong then for a church to use that very term to describe those very actions of its members? Simply because the BCO uses it in one context does not mean that churches cannot use it in a different appropriate context.

    The analogy to the Constitution is perfectly valid - are we to assume Afghanistan is now a part of the US because the Bush administration referred to it as a "failed state" in 2002? Of course not! Just because the Constitution uses the word state in one way does not preclude all other uses of the word. The exact same applies to the word deacon: the BCO uses it one way (as a church office), but that does not imply it is the exclusive use of the word.

    I think your post illustrates how much terminology and semantics factors into this debate. The anti-deaconess group sees the actions of Redeemer and other churches as contrary to the Constitution because they only accept the use of the term deacon as used in the BCO. The counter-argument is that using the term deacon does not always imply an office or position of authority as defined in the BCO. Again, this is not a new usage of the term deacon (or deaconess), which has been used in church history from the Bible to the present to describe unordained servants working in the church. So the word can be used to describe ordained officers (men only, of course), or lay workers in ministries of mercy and service.
  16. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritanboard Amanuensis

    The Scriptures also refer to both women and men being "elders" in the sense that they are more chronologically advanced than others. Does this mean women should be allowed to serve as Elders in the Church?
  17. ColdSilverMoon

    ColdSilverMoon Puritan Board Senior

    Of course not, Ben. And no one is saying deaconesses should be ordained to the office of Deacon either...
  18. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Physically being Ordained or not would you not say women at Redeemer and other places in the PCA are acting like Ordained Deacons and are being put in positions normally reserved for Ordained Deacons?
  19. ColdSilverMoon

    ColdSilverMoon Puritan Board Senior

    At Redeemer, the answer is no, they are not acting like ordained deacons.
  20. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member


    I think you need to look at the use of words a bit differently, especially within the context of a Church.

    The word deacon is not a commonly used term in the English language. In fact, it only connotes for us religious office. In contrast, the word servant does not necessarily do so. Translation in Scripture is more than a bare use of terms. Did Scripture, in its bare mention of the word, intend to communicate Tabitha was an ordained Deacon or was she a servant to the poor?

    You may say, with your local Church, that the Scriptures you are reading call her a deacon. The real question is whether or not several hundred more women and men who are not Deacons in the Church are, in fact, deacons by what Scripture might have been communicating in Acts concerning Tabitha. Are we not all deacons in one sense of the term?

    Is everybody a deacon and nobody a Deacon or are some people Deacons and others are not? That's the question. In my estimation this is the kind of game we would not tolerate with our own children if we asked them a plain question.

    Let me use another example: the word apostle. The Scriptures do not monolithlicly apply this simply to the Apostles but, in fact, it is used, as its name connotes, for messengers in portions of the Scripture. Are there apostles at your Church that the Church openly recognizes as apostles? If not, why not if the Scriptures use that term to refer to activities that some of your members are engaged in? Why doesn't your Church have the same zeal to recognize "unordained apostles" as she does deacons?
  21. Scottish Lass

    Scottish Lass Puritan Board Doctor

    What is the visible difference between how ordained deacons function and how the non-ordained group functions?
  22. Craig

    Craig Puritan Board Senior

    At Redeemer, NO deacons are ordained. Rich asks a pertinent question of the e-gal's position on deacons quite nicely:

  23. ColdSilverMoon

    ColdSilverMoon Puritan Board Senior

    You make some very good points, Rich, and I believe they are very fair concerns. To answer your last question, the reason is probably because Redeemer believes that women should have a formal role as deacons beyond generic way that we are all to be "deacons," but that they should not be ordained to church office. I'm not a spokesman for Redeemer or Tim Keller, so I don't want my comments to be taken as such. However, since I am very involved in the church, I think it's fair to say that their official position is something like this: "Specially called women should have a formally recognized role in the mercy and service ministries of the church, and these women are called deaconesses. They do not hold church office and are not in a position of authority."

    I understand the concerns that you and others have expressed here - I see how it can come across as equivocating or playing word games like children often do. The official resolution passed by the Metro NY Presbytery even acknowledges that while they believe their practice is not forbidden in the BCO, neither is it explicitly allowed. So I think the concerns raised are valid, and that's why I'm in favor of this complaint if for no other reason than to settle the issue for good.

    However, I don't think it's the intent of Redeemer or Tim Keller to play word games or jump through legal loopholes. They believe women should have a formal role in the diaconate, which is probably the minority position in the PCA. But when they call women "deaconesses" they are not implying an ordained office as described in the BCO. Instead, they are describing what they believe is a biblical role for women in service and mercy ministries in the church.
  24. Scottish Lass

    Scottish Lass Puritan Board Doctor

    Yes, I understand that from the above posts. Let me rephrase for clarity:

    Mason, What is the visible difference between how ordained deacons function in most PCA churches and how the non-ordained group at Redeemer functions?
  25. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate

    However, I don't think it's the intent of Redeemer or Tim Keller to play word games or jump through legal loopholes.

    I think we should be very careful not to accuse motivations and intentions. I might happen to disagree with certain actions myself, but to question the leadership's hearts and intentions is wrong. In their efforts to see that all the sheep are cared for they might be making decisions that the GA will find unwise or unbiblical or unpresbyterian, but it doesn't mean their intention is to play "word games." That terminology is generally used for deceit and evasion, and I think we should not imply that.
  26. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I appreciate your candor, Mason, and I recognize you're not a spokesman for Redeemer any more than I'm a spokesman for the PCA.

    What I find problematic is that, from my perception (and many others), this is so much "I don't like the PCA decision so my minority position becomes de-facto position at Redeemer...."

    There is a reason for Presbyterian government and it sometimes requires that men put their personal opinions aside and submit for the unity of the faith. I'm a grown man who has lived under authority for my entire adult life and it gives me a certain perspective about what is prudent and what is foolish when it comes to authority. There are things that I know I could get away with in a court of law but these are the same things I would never do because it would violate the spirit of demonstrating that I am a professional who is committed to honoring those in authority over me.

    My three year old will pick up a toy during devotions in the kids' room at night. I'll tell her to put it down but she will subtlely stick out her hand and touch the toy. Would I be able to convict her in a court of law for disobedience? It doesn't matter because we instinctively know when a child or an adult is reaching out and getting their way to try to skirt the policy of the higher court.

    The way to demonstrate respect to the form of government we have in the PCA is Godly appeal. The way to demonstrate that we believe in the Providence of God is to wait on His timing. Reaching out and "touching the toy" when the higher court has ruled demonstrates an Independent and not a Presbyterian spirit. What the local Church believes they gain in one issue tears the Church apart with their unwillingness to submit to the Church out of love and respect.
  27. ColdSilverMoon

    ColdSilverMoon Puritan Board Senior


    From my experience in different PCA churches, visibly there is no difference between what ordained deacons do at other churches and what unordained deacons/deaconesses do at Redeemer. I'm not an elder or deacon, so I don't know what goes on at meetings at any of these churches. But in terms of outward appearance, there is no obvious difference in terms of the actual, physical work.

    This will probably be my last post in this thread. I think my position is known, and hopefully I've accurately articulated the position of Redeemer. This is a great discussion, in my opinion - this issue shows the health of the PCA, not its unhealth. That Godly men like Tim Keller and Ligon Duncan can write thoughtful, civil, Scripture-based articles from opposite ends of this issue speaks volumes about the caliber of the leadership in this denomination. Furthermore, it seems as though everything in debating/discussing this has been done appropriately within the court system of the denomination, and I expect everyone will submit when decisions are made in order to maintain unity. All of that points to a thriving presbyterian system that we should be thankful for. We all want the right thing to be done based on Scriptural principles. If that means my church will rebuked and compelled to change its current practice, so be it; if not, I will be equally thankful.
  28. Romans922

    Romans922 Puritan Board Professor


    Therein lies the problem. If there is no visible difference from one who is ordained and one who is not ordained, then there is definitely a misunderstanding of what ordination is and what it means (and the authority that comes with it).
  29. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    If the decision is in favor of deaconesses, I am quite sure that there will be a split.

    If the decision is to uphold the BCO, history has shown that departure rather than submission should not be a surprise when it comes to the role of women.

    And is grudging submission by those whose heart has not been changed a healthy thing for the body?
  30. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist

    I think Mason is right in what Redeemer and others will do if faced with a negative verdict in this instance... they will continue to do exactly what they're now doing, but will actually ordain men among the diaconate, but they and the women will have exactly the same roles. In other words, they will not change their practice in any concrete sense. I'm not sure which situation is worse - that one, or the current, neither of which are in line with the BCO.
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