Office of Deacon... Time for Reformation?

Discussion in 'Church Office' started by kceaster, Jun 21, 2009.

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  1. kceaster

    kceaster Puritan Board Junior

    I've been wondering if the whole question of whether or not to allow women to hold this office stems from a very low view of the office?

    It seems like men are quite content to be elders, but less content to be deacons, as if that office is lower? The office exists because of the work of Christ on behalf of His bride. Deacons, therefore, do the work of Christ in the Church as well as the elders, just a difference of role and responsibility. But their's is an important work, nonetheless.

    Could it be that women are seeking this office because it seems to them like men do not want it?

    Any thoughts?

    In Christ,

  2. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    In some cases, that could be true. Too often, the office of deacon is seen as a steppingstone to the office of elder. But, as you say, being a deacon is a separate and legitimate office in its own right - just as biblical as being an elder. In fact, reading Acts, it's possible that the deaconate predates the office of elder.

    To me, if a man thinks he's too good to be a deacon, he doesn't deserve to be an elder, given the biblical legimitacy of both offices.
  3. OPC'n

    OPC'n Puritan Board Doctor

    No woman in my church would ever think of seeking this office. We don't consider it a "lesser" position. It might have less responsibilities than an elder.....
  4. Southern Presbyterian

    Southern Presbyterian Moderator Staff Member

    The root of this is found in Genesis 3. Whenever a man refuses to take up his God given responsibilities there will be a woman waiting to step in and fill his shoes. This being a condemnation upon both, but very much more so for the man. :2cents:
  5. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    As an FYI, we had a providential replacement article for the 2009 issue of The Confessional Presbyterian journal (forthcoming in the Fall) in place of another that wasn't coming together in time for deadline. It is on the divine right of the office of deacon and its utility. Author is C. N. (Nick) Willborn (Greenville Seminary).
  6. kceaster

    kceaster Puritan Board Junior

    Sarah, I really hope that the OPC doesn't have to deal with this any time soon. But, if we don't learn from what's going on in the PCA right now, we may have to.

    Our Church because it is a mission work does not have deacons. I hope when we elect them the congregation will fully understand their role and give weight to the office. I fear that many times people look at deacons as property managers and facilities maintenance personnel. It is so much more than that. And I hope that Church members in both the PCA and the OPC will regain a sense of the office and how important it is in the life of the Church.

    In Christ,

  7. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    We don't have any Deacons, since the otherwise qualified guys are baptist, FV, etc..I've been trying to convince them they are robbing the rest of us by not just conforming to some pretty basic rules. Hopefully they'll start to listen. The Elders are really overworked.
  8. kceaster

    kceaster Puritan Board Junior

    I know Dr. Willborn's passion for this. Do you know whether or not he is planning a larger work, Chris? I encouraged him to revise Lorimer's treatise and publish it, but I don't know if he has actually done any work on it.

    In Christ,

  9. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Some men are deacons, and they know it. And they love it.

    They have no "ambitions" for a "higher" office. I've had the privilege to know several of them, I'm even related distantly to one. If there were even a dozen more like them in a single church or denomination, we could scarcely handle the blessing.

    They remind me of nothing so much as David's Mighty Men.
  10. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Kevin, Nick didn't say and I didn't know to ask; he intimated it was a good length article which has not been published before and he is refining it to run in CPJ 5. The article we had planned was not coming together like he wanted and he offered this in its stead.

  11. OPC'n

    OPC'n Puritan Board Doctor

    Our church is a plant church too and we just voted for elders and deacons. My pastor "reminded" us that both were men only position. I hope we don't ever have to deal with wrong theology in the OPC! I left the PCA because of these sort of things among other things......
  12. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    The way presbyterians understand it, the church is governed by deacons and elders (ministers) by plurality. Lots of unordained women and men assist in many ways.

    There's no possible way the officers can do it all, yet their distinctive role and authority is appointed by God and received by their congregation. (This is one reason it is so damaging a very few churches apparently have not been teaching or modeling their confessed and vowed doctrines on this point- ordination, installation).

    Something that can be overlooked is that the wives of elders and deacons need to be qualified (e.g I Timothy 3:11) as they both sacrifice and are involved in a support capacity to their husband's office. This role seems to get overlooked.

    From what I have seen, there are big differences between congregations. It's something like today reading Scripture Acts 17 how the reactions to the Apostle Paul preaching the Gospel and teaching was so different in Thessalonica from Berea- though they were pretty close geographically to one another. Why were the congregations so different? The people behaved and reacted so very differently.

    Most organizations tend to fall into the 80/20 rule- 80% of the work done by 20% of the people. This is true both outside and inside the truth though I have been blessed to see in the PCA a much, much better distribution.

    It comes from teaching an all of life discipleship of Scripture. The more the elders and deacons teach that and lead that by example, the more things fall into place, it seems.

    I wonder when hearing some of the discussion about "involving women" in the church what is going on. Does the church not have a constant need of unordained women and men to do mercy ministry, help with property stewardship, hospitality, lead small groups, serve on committees? Or is this primarily a complaint about 'title' a resentment of authority, what. Are the church leaders encouraging this kind of culture?

    The biblical role is one of suffering servant.

    People who don't seek ways to serve and give rather than control or be recognized will not be happy people- it's a life lesson with biblical import.

    The moment the shift goes off of God to self, all sorts of faction occurs and everybody tends to seek out their own happiness rather than being consumed with serving God for the spiritual rewards He gives. Scripture gives us indications people who quietly do things, ordinary things for Him well, with a right heart will be rewarded. For many, but not all women, that will include being a good wife and mother, but it is not limited only to that.

    Church leaders, in the ordinary course of things ought pray that their flock will develope a focus on the honor and glory of God, not self, and that as a reflection of that every Christian, will seek out serving others, not being preoccupied with their transient happiness.

    I really see that as a matter of growth- and a matter of prayer not only for church leaders, but for church members. That God would see fit to use them for His Honor and His Glory and that they would be consumed seeking after that in this life.
  13. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate

    Could it be that women are seeking this office because it seems to them like men do not want it?

    No.....they are nice hardworking women with servants hearts and the church wants to honor them. Let us not question motives. ( I do not believe in deaconesses btw)

    I was in a church with deaconesses and they did the meals after funerals, the fellowship dinners, a pile of stuff for sick people, and every manner of service. They were worked to death. I have a sweet friend now who is a PCA deaconess and they put so much work on this gal at her church that I think they are taking advantage of her.

    Instead of calling them deaconesses I think they ought to get paid. 20 bucks an hour would not be too little. But all the churches are broke, so they get a title of honor instead. Maybe I am cynical, but something is wrong somewhere, and it isn't just calling a woman servant a deaconess.
  14. OPC'n

    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. Wouldn't this office be more about the authority over the activities than the activities themselves? As far as the woman you speak of not being appreciated by her church, she has taken on an office she shouldn't have so she needs to give it up. She can help the deacon do things for others and if she feels overwhelmed then it's her responsibility to say she cannot take on anymore. We don't need martyrs where none is needed....I hope that doesn't sound cold it isn't meant to sound that way. I often have to tell my mother that very thing. :2cents:
  15. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    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.
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2009
  16. JBaldwin

    JBaldwin Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I think this is partly true in some churches and very true in other churches. I've been in one church where the men do use the office as deacon as a stepping stone to becoming and elder. In other cases, the office simply is not well-defined and the work is not getting done, so the women do it. After they've been doing the work for awhile, then they figure they deserve the title that goes along with the office.

    If the men who are gifted to be deacons step forward and do the work the way it should be done, they will find that the women will get behind them and take their lead.
  17. Mushroom

    Mushroom Puritan Board Doctor

    As a divorced man I am not qualified to hold the office of Elder or Deacon. I would not want to expose the Bride of Christ to unnecessary notoriety. There are plenty of qualified men to fill those offices. But I cringe at the thought of saying I will not serve in my Church unless I receive some type or title of recognition. Where would that attitude arise from but the flesh?

    If the motivation to grant women the title of Deacon is based on their resentment of not having it, or that leaders are sorry about that 'plight', then it is a rejection of scripture in accomodation to the world's mores and has no place in the Church. The Lord rewards His own, and those who serve Him in secret are rewarded openly, or don't we believe that?
  18. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    divorce does not necessarily disqualify one from office.
  19. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    As Pergamum said, a divorce does not necessarily disqualify a man from holding office. It depends on the circumstances surrounding your divorce. If it was for a biblical reason, I see no reason why you can't hold office.
  20. Wayne

    Wayne Tempus faciendi, Domine.

    In 1978 the PCA adopted a study on diaconal ministry:
    PCA Position Papers: Report of the Sub-Committee on Diaconal Ministries (1978)

    But I'm reading tonight that it was a 1977 overture from Western Carolina Presbytery that prompted that study. The wording of the overture is interesting, especially in the second "Whereas", which now has me looking for further commentary on this idea that the offices of elder and deacon are derivative of and mirror the two aspects of Christ's ministry. I think this speaks to the OP's points.

    Whereas, being sufficiently encouraged by the testimony of Scripture in Acts 6:1-6; I Timothy 3:8, 10, 12, etc., that the office and work of the Christian Deacon serves to enhance the ministry of mercy in the public and private ministries and activities of the visible church of Christ;
    Whereas, having been impressed with the dual nature of the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, as He preached the Gospel and went about doing good; [emphasis added]
    Whereas, being aware that due to the unwillingness of the flesh, the torpor of the spirit, our own doing good to our neighbor needs constant replenishment in grace, and that our denominational office of Deacon is, for the most part, in a low ebb of fruitfulness for our Lord.
    Therefore, we do hereby petition this Fifth General Assembly to erect a Committee on Deacons and Their Ministries, as follows:
    1. To make a renewed study of the Biblical office of the Deacon.
    2. To exhort more prayerful and careful diligence in the election and ordination of qualified deacons by the congregations, and
    3. To provide for the denomination-wide education and fellowship of our deacons, and
    4. To initiate a series of regional meetings on an annual basis, in order to provide the deacons and pastors who attend with a review of the charge held by our deacons, and the opportunities in the church, the community, and the world, for the extending of the compassion of Christ through His Church, her deacons, and the ministries of those, His deacons.
    5. This committee on Deacons and their Ministries shall report to the next General Assembly, togeteher with any recommendations that may seem appropriate.
    -----end of overture 6, Minutes of the 5th PCA GA, p. 31-32.----

    As I said above, the report was then brought in 1978 and that report is online at
    PCA Position Papers: Report of the Sub-Committee on Diaconal Ministries (1978)

    A range of other articles on the office of deacon can be found listed at
    PCA Historical Center: Resources - A Topical Guide to the Colllections and Holdings of the Center
  21. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    One could make a case for you having to take an exception to the WCF for holding that belief to be ordained, and in your case, that would make an interesting paradox...:lol:
  22. Mushroom

    Mushroom Puritan Board Doctor

    All off-topic, but to put my brothers at ease who are concerned that I may be denying myself the opportunity to serve in an official capacity, my divorce was not biblical, and I was the offending party. Long in the past, but still and always a fact. So we can dispense with this rabbit trail. Thank you, though, for your well-meant encouragements.
  23. jogri17

    jogri17 Puritan Board Junior

    Some persons would make the distinction between the office of deacon and unordained women who are called by local churches to serve in special manners giving her gifts. As long as it is clear that the leadership of the local church (elders and deacons) are men only I do not see why having a special un-ordanined office of woman's minister that specializes in the commitment of women-women discipleship cannot be established at the will of the council. I could be wrong and I am willing to listen to those who disagree.
  24. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Didn't Spurgeon use "Bible Women"?
  25. The Mexican Puritan

    The Mexican Puritan Puritan Board Freshman

    I believe the office of deacon is a most godly and noble one. The deacons at First OPC, Sunnyvale, CA, have helped my family and I when no one else could or would. Anyone who thinks being a deacon is beneath him hasn't a place as a pastor or elder either since he fails to see that he doesn't choose an office. God calls him to that office and if he is abiding in Christ, he obeys without question.
  26. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    Agreed! In fact, he doesn't deserve to be a deacon either.

    We have deaconesses in our church, as well as deacons. They didn't before I came, but did after I taught on the church.

    Answering the Key Questions About Deacons
  27. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    Thanks, Wayne.

    Helpful insight and history.

    I take it the 1977 Overture was adopted and resulted in the 1978 study paper.

    So, more than 30 years ago, it was said that the office of Deacon was not being sufficiently used. And we already have a study committee that studied this. Wow. That may be part of the problem here, one with spiritual (and polity) roots!
  28. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    Sure, and the PCA book of church order provides for unordained men and women to assist the ordained deacons.

    The wrongdoing comes from one or both of two approaches. First, some are refusing to ordain men to the diaconate, having only the unordained helpers. Second, some are calling the unordained helpers deacons (or in some cases deaconesses.)

    The problems can easily be addressed by 1) having an ordained male diaconate, and 2) properly labeling those who would assist them.

    That these simple solutions aren't being used suggests a more sinister agenda at work in the denomination.
  29. kceaster

    kceaster Puritan Board Junior

    I just can't get past the fact that God has constructed the Church in such a way so that it is inescapably tied to the offices of Christ. Christ as prophet is the office of the teaching elder, Christ as priest is in both the offices of deacon and believer, and Christ as King in the office of ruling elder. These three all depend upon each other to form the complete identity of the Church. If one is more prevalent than the other, if one flourishes, but the other languishes, there will be imbalance that will lead to an identity crisis, which will eventually lead to error.

    In my humble opinion, the office of deacon and believer is not sufficiently honored and respected. Some men do not necessarily want to be deacons because they do not look at the office in the proper light. If that is the case, it could be that they were never called to that office. But I agree with what was said before, if a man does not want to be a deacon, then there is really no way he is qualified for the office of ruling elder or teaching elder, as both encompass some of the same qualifications and functions. One could really question whether or not he is fulfilling the office of believer, because all believers are called to service in some way. The Church should definitely call men who seem to possess the gifts and qualifications, and there really should be no refusal on the part of the one called.

    But as for women, I never desire to have a Church devoid of women. I'm sure there are some men who would wish for that. But we men are so thick headed when it comes to practical "mercies" that we need women in the office of believer to fulfill that role. I question the motives of any woman who wants to have an official title other than believer. If a woman desires the office of deacon or elder, she understands neither of those offices, nor does she grasp the scriptural understanding in order to be qualified. Now, I'm quite sure that there are men who do not have a good understanding of what the Bible says about the offices. But the absence of qualified men does not make women qualified.

    It really boils down to Christ and His service. He made Himself lower than any in the Church. There is no office lower in the eyes of man, than what He performed as the sacrifice, once for all, to satisfy divine justice and make peace with God on our behalf. If there is anyone in the Church who desires a title, they completely miss biblical reasons for the offices. It is not exaltation. It is ultimately fellowship in the sufferings of Christ.

    In Christ,

  30. ColdSilverMoon

    ColdSilverMoon Puritan Board Senior

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

    I agree 100%, Pergy. Standardization of definitions might have come from the PCA study committee on the role of women on the church. Yet another reason I believe it should have passed.
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