PCA Overture #5

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ColdSilverMoon

Puritan Board Senior
Mason,

I appreciate your desire to be precise and to uphold the good name of your church.

I would say to you (as someone who also does appreciate Tim Keller and Redeemer's ministry) that the only observable difference (to the outside (and PCA) world) between deacons and deaconesses at Redeemer is the actual physical laying on of hands during the service. Every other effort (it appears) as here seems to indicate a similarity/identity.
I think that's probably an accurate statement.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Another concern that has become clear to me in the last year in considering the reasoning being given for having a study committee, is a very important one.

It seems we are devaluing the high calling of the office of Deacon by using it as if it is only a substitute word for "helper."

The office of Deacon is a high office with great reward, great use, and great need.

In the process of arguing this way, we are devaluing our theology of "ordination" and even our presbyterian form of church government. Above all else, reformed presbyterians would not leave church government to "local option."

These are important principles in a confessional church and cannot be left to self-determination. They need to be addressed, examined and defended with fear and trembling before the Word of God.
 

brianeschen

Puritan Board Junior
First of all, I don't think anyone in the PCA is pushing for female elders, teaching or ruling. This is a crucial and important point, and I'm glad the PCA is sticking to its guns on this.
In my experience, I have seen pushing female deacons joined with the goal to have female elders. Thankfully the PCA is strongly against it.
 

WarrenInSC

Puritan Board Freshman
Mason,

I would say to you (as someone who also does appreciate Tim Keller and Redeemer's ministry) that the only observable difference (to the outside (and PCA) world) between deacons and deaconesses at Redeemer is the actual physical laying on of hands during the service. Every other effort (it appears) as here seems to indicate a similarity/identity.
Given the clear lack of conformity to the BCO that RPC in Manhattan exhibits, how does the deliberate flaunting of the standards that unity us as a demonination get challenged, if not taken by up by it's own Presbytery? This deliberate act of non-conformity strikes at the heart of our unity as a church. If various factions of the PCA believe they can just ignore different parts of the BCO while calling for the rest of the denomination to 'study the matter', we lose our basis for unity. To call for 'study committees' while continuing to ignore conformance to the BCO in the matter seems cynical to me. I could at least accept the requests for 'study committees' as being made in good faith if current practice was brought into conformity with BCO first. but.........:butbutbut:
 

Archlute

Puritan Board Senior
A quick question for one such as myself who is a little confused on one point: I can see why they might want to commission deaconesses, but what is the purpose of not continuing to ordain male deacons? That really turns the issue on it's head for me.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
A quick question for one such as myself who is a little confused on one point: I can see why they might want to commission deaconesses, but what is the purpose of not continuing to ordain male deacons? That really turns the issue on it's head for me.
Keep in mind most of the few churches that have deaconesses, especially those that came from the RPCES do ordain Deacons in accordance with the BCO and have their "deaconesses" under the authority of the [Board of] Deacons.

Where these churches are out of accord with our BCO, is that, in some cases they are:

1) electing the "deaconesses"
2) "commissioning" them with the same or similar vows as ordination
3) not appointing men to also serve like this (as assistants to the deacons) per BCO 9-7.

In addition, there is no BCO warrant for the office "deaconess."

The (very) few churches that are much farther out of accord are, in addition:

4) refusing to constitute a BCO Diaconate to govern in the church

Because they cannot ordain women (no presbytery would allow that) and have no mechanism to set the un-ordained group of mostly women in authority, they are de facto placing them as tactical governors of the church below the Elders (session). This, of course, is blatantly unconstitutional (BCO) and unbiblical.

Meanwhile, it seems the very few churches in the second category are mainly advancing generally "role of women" and "deacon is really only another name for servant" arguments, not BCO ambiguity. Churches in the first category of non-compliance do not seem to be making these two arguments.

Remember, the doctrinal understanding of the PCA, required by in the Book of Church Order, is that Deacons are part of the basic governing structure of each church.

Deacons are qualified by I Timothy 3 with un-ordained women and men assisting them in ministering mercy, liberality and property stewardship to each congregation of believers. This tends to result in Deacons leading in and overseeing mercy and all sorts of tactical operations of the church but involving a high level of lay people (both men and women) in the process. In my opinion, this is close to the biblical model and is a very good thing because it spreads out involvement for our Lord's work in these key areas, while clearly calling out the men God has equipped and called for the high office of Deacon.
 
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Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
Anyone see a trend here:

[FONT=&quot]The RPCES considered the issue of deaconesses through three means 1974-1978; first, via a Study Committee on the Role of Women, second, via Study Committee on The Functions of Deacons, third via a response to an overture in 1978 to reconsider the issue.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]From the Minutes of the General Synod (GS) of the RPCES there is the following chronology of events relating to the deaconess issue.[/FONT]
·[FONT=&quot] [/FONT][FONT=&quot]1974, 152nd GS – Appointed a Study Committee on the Role of Women in the Church, (M152GS, p. 141] to report to the 153rd General Synod.[/FONT]
·[FONT=&quot] [/FONT][FONT=&quot]1975, 153rd GS – [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]o[FONT=&quot] [/FONT][/FONT][FONT=&quot]Appointed a study committee at the 153rd General Synod [M153GS, p. 28] to study The Functions of Deacons to report back to the 154th General Synod. [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]o[FONT=&quot] [/FONT][/FONT][FONT=&quot]The Study Committee on the Role of Women made its first report and recommended that women be ordained and installed as deacons [M153 GS, pp. 250-251]. The action of the Synod was that the committee be reconstituted and report to the 154th General Synod with exegetical support for its conclusions. [/FONT]
·[FONT=&quot] [/FONT][FONT=&quot]1976, 154th GS – [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]o[FONT=&quot] [/FONT][/FONT][FONT=&quot]The report to the 154th GS on the Functions of Deacon dealt mostly with the role of deacons and their relationship to trustees but included the proposal (never enacted) that “Women, as well as men, may be ordained to the office of deacon” [M154thGS, p. 63-64, emphasis added. Full report pp. 59-65] a brief reference to that proposal was included at the 155th General Synod (1977) and the 156th General Synod (1978). [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]o[FONT=&quot] [/FONT][/FONT][FONT=&quot]The Study Committee on the Role of Women made its second report [M154thGS, pp. 65-112]. The committee recommended that women be ordained as deacons [M154thGS, p. 110]. The Synod did not approve that recommendation. The Synod continued and enlarged the committee, to have divergent viewpoints, and directed that a minority report be prepared. The committee’s recommendation that women serve as members of synod agency boards failed by a vote of 65-67 [M154thGS, p.112]. [/FONT]
·[FONT=&quot] [/FONT][FONT=&quot]1977, 155th GS – [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]o[FONT=&quot] [/FONT][/FONT][FONT=&quot]The Synod, in response to an overture, advised Presbyteries to correct churches that had ordained women as deacons or have elected women as trustees [M155GS, pp.120-121][/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]o[FONT=&quot] [/FONT][/FONT][FONT=&quot]The Committee on the Role of Women made its third report [M155GS, 73-111] with a majority report and two minority reports. The majority report recommended the ordination of women as deacons [M155GS, p. 110]. Minority report #1 recommended that women not be deacons, but may be appointed (ordained) deaconesses in the sense of helpers to the deacons [M155GS, p. 91]. Minority report #2 dealt more extensively with the nature of ordination.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]o[FONT=&quot] [/FONT][/FONT][FONT=&quot]Synod adopted the following affirmation as a final action on the committee report, “[/FONT]We affirm in the absence of any compelling biblical evidence to support the ordination of women to the special office of deacon, that this office be limited to qualified men. At the same time acknowledging that the Scriptures contain many examples of women who serve, we affirm the right of a local church to have a separate body of unordained women who may be called deaconesses” [M155GS, p. 111, bold face type in original]. Two negative votes were recorded.[FONT=&quot][/FONT]
·[FONT=&quot] [/FONT][FONT=&quot]1978, 156th GS – The last action of the RPCES General Synod on the matter was in response to an overture to reconsider the issue of women deacons and “to affirm the prerogative of each particular church within the denomination to determine whether its diaconate shall include women as well as men, and whether they shall be ordained or unordained, and whether they shall be called ‘deacons’ or deaconesses’” [M156GS, p. 134]. The synod answered the overture by adopting the following resolution:[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Resolved: that in the light of the action of the 155th General Synod, we do not recommend allowing each particular church within the denomination to determine whether its diaconate shall include men as well as women, nor that they be allowed to ordain a woman as a deacon. We also remind churches that they are free to elect Spirit filled women as deaconesses and to set them apart by prayer (156th General Synod Minutes of the RPCES, 1978, pp. 133-134).[/FONT]
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Yes, Andrew,

a careful reading of the RPCES materials shows:

1) they never ordained women to the office of Deacon
2) they recognized the biblical office of Deacon as a basic part of the governance of Christ's Church
3) they understood "deaconesses" were under the authority of the Board of Deacons

It also seems pretty clear that as this faithful biblical denomination worked through this, in the end, they understood and respected that the I Timothy 3 office of Deacon is not interchangeable with "deaconesses."

Unfortunately, that key biblical principle (that Deacons are part of the basic governance of Christ's church, and un-ordained people, both men and women, are to assist them) is getting lost in some of the argumentation being used in a favor of a "study" committee.

Rather, the RPCES understood the latter to be an un-ordained group of women, assisting a properly consitituted Board of Deacons, and clearly under their oversight. Most of the few churches in the PCA that have deaconesses are coming out of this perspective.

Granted, there is some unclear understanding with regard to electing them, the use of ordination vows, and recognizing parity of un-ordained men in these capacities, but I really don't sense they are at all arguing to jointly put women in the I Timothy 3 office of Deacon.

What is disturbing is that a very few churches and people are arguing that way- that the (I Timothy 3) office of Deacon can be either men or women- despite the overwhelming biblical case against that. In the process they are using argumentation that:

4) the high office of Deacon really only means "helper"
5) "ordination" really only means "praying for" (hence, "commission" with similar vows)
6) since Deacon only means helper, they really do not have a spiritual calling as part of the basic governance of the church

This reflects a great misunderstanding our our doctrines of vocation, ordination, and even our system of church government.

To be clear, and to be charitable, I don't sense the few former RPCES churches that have deaconesses (again, most do not have them in the PCA) are arguing the above 4-6. The large majority of them had then the same position the PCA had then and has now with regard to practice and biblical doctrine behind the practice.

But a much smaller grouping of opinion spurring on the push for a "study" committee IS making those arguments, either explicitly or implicitly.
 
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