Should women be deacons?

Discussion in 'Church Office' started by Herald, Mar 5, 2008.

  1. Yes, it is scriptural.

  2. No, it is not scriptural.

  3. Yes, but scripture is vauge.

  4. No, but scripture is vauge.

  5. Unsure.

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  1. Herald

    Herald Moderator Staff Member

    Originally posted by Shackleton:

    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.
    Erick Bohndorf
    Newly Reformed
    Member PCA Kansas
    Simul iustus et Peccator Simultaneously righteous and sinner
    Martin Luther
  2. Herald

    Herald Moderator Staff Member

    Forgive me all. I tried to move the posts from the original thread to this poll thread. I messed it up big time. I will try to recover them if I can. Rookie error.
  3. Herald

    Herald Moderator Staff Member

    Right now I say "no" but I need to research it further.
  4. raekwon

    raekwon Puritan Board Junior

    Same here, but I don't know that I believe that female deacons will necessarily lead to having female elders. Case-in-point, Mars Hill Church in Seattle. They have female deacons, but hold probably the strongest complimentarian position I've ever seen in regards to male-only eldership in the church and male headship in the home. There's no way they'll ever have female elders, even after Driscoll's dead.

    I do think, though, that if you're convinced that opening the diaconal office to women is biblical, that you'll need to guard very strongly and consistently against the those who come in and try to extend that opening to the office of elder.
  5. JBaldwin

    JBaldwin Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I vote, no, it is not scriptural, but I need to clarify.

    Scripture clearly defines the office of deacon in I Timothy 3:8-13, therefore it is an authoritative office, as is the office of elder. The fact that I Timothy points out that a deacon is to be the husband of one wife is an indication to me that the office is for men.

    However, we do see examples of women in the New Testament who were exercising spiritual gifts along side the apostles and in the case of Priscilla along side her husband. This is an indication to me that God gifted some women with the same spiritual gifts as many of the men, and that the apostles recognized these women and encouraged them to use their gifts, but always under the authority of the men.

    Based on that, I do believe that if elders and deacons desire to do so, they can recognize gifted women by appointing them to be deaconnesses, but without the authoritative office, and under the leadership of the men.
  6. Dr Mike Kear

    Dr Mike Kear Puritan Board Freshman

    I'm fairly close to the consensus so far. I voted "yes, but scripture is vauge." Being raised in the Baptist tradition we always had a few women deacons, but never a woman pastor. I was also raised in a church that practiced foot washing (I know this is a strange concept to those who are unfamiliar with old fashioned baptist practices). The women deacons were responsible for overseeing the women's foot washing (the men and women were always separated for this ordinance). I never remember the women deacons helping with communion. That was always done by the men. As far as eldership, women knew very clearly that the diaconate was the only office they could hold and that their duties were only to the other women. There was never, ever, any idea of the women becoming pastors.
  7. Kevin

    Kevin Puritan Board Doctor

    I voted yes. However I see that JBaldwin who voted no has almost the same view as I do!

    I would have been more comfortable voting yes if "deaconess" had been the option. I think that as far as the use of authority and the office are concerned only a man may be a deacon. However, there is no doubt in my mind the the scripture teaches that some women (widows, deaconesses, older women, whatever name is used) have a role in the administration of mercy that is qalitativly different then the role of every believer.
  8. travis

    travis Puritan Board Freshman

    I think I am in this boat right now. I cannot ignore the scriptures and what they say about women in the early church and I also cannot ignore what it says about male leadership. Deaconesses that are not ordained, but 'recognized' or 'comissioned' would be fine by me.
  9. Stephen

    Stephen Puritan Board Junior

    There is already a thread on this topic. This is starting to sound redundent.
  10. raekwon

    raekwon Puritan Board Junior

    See, I think that the difference between "ordination" and "commissioning" (or whatever term churches use in order to say "they're not ordained") is just a matter of semantics. I maybe stepping on some toes here, but while I understand the doctrine of ordination, what I don't understand is the propensity for reformed folks like us to treat the word "ordained" as if it contains some sort of supernatural power.
  11. Romans922

    Romans922 Puritan Board Professor

    "Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery." - 1 Timothy 4:14

    "For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands." - 2 Timothy 1:6

    Seems supernatural to me.
  12. Gryphonette

    Gryphonette Moderator

    Is there a set, firm definition of "deacon" as it's being used here?

    My general, knee-jerk reaction is "certainly not!" but some "deaconess" positions appear to be so service-oriented, with no authority over men (barring the "hey, please don't track mud through here!" sort), I don't see a problem with it.

    Considering how humanity never seems to fail to slip rapidly down any slippery slope in a ten-mile vicinity, however, it's probably safest to refrain from providing even the slightest downward slope.
  13. JBaldwin

    JBaldwin Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    As I see it, it is about authority and recognition of gifts. The scripture is quite plain about recognizing and giving authority to those whom He has gifted. Ordination recognizes those gifts and hands authority over to those who have the gifts.

    Again this is why I bring out the fact that women who are gifted should be recognized and used by leadership. They just don't have the authority to lead.
  14. Herald

    Herald Moderator Staff Member

    Folks, Shackelton started this thread and I asked him if I could make a poll out it because I thought it would a worthwhile discussion. I tried to move the posts in that thread to this one but I merged them instead and made a mess out of it. I apologize. Even mods can mess up! Hard to believe but true. Forgive me.
  15. JBaldwin

    JBaldwin Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    The deacons are the ones set aside in Acts 6 to do the work of ministering to physical needs of the church so that elders can focus on preaching the Word of God.
  16. JBaldwin

    JBaldwin Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    As long as you forgive us the next time we mess up! :lol:
  17. Stephen

    Stephen Puritan Board Junior

    Brother, you have been misinformed. The PCA has never ordained woman and restricts the office to qualified men only. There is an overture that the Philadelphia Presbytery sent to the General Assembly, but it has been not decided by the committee to bring it before the higher court. The committee can still decide to not bring it before the Assembly. There are some congregations (and it is a minority) that have deaconessess but they are appointed to specific tasks and have not been ordained. The WIC ministry functions in this capacity by fulfilling Titus 2.
  18. Eoghan

    Eoghan Puritan Board Junior

    The biggest problem is that there is no clear distinction in some denominations. Thurso Baptist Church has only deacons. I have always wondered if the reference to deaconess is to the wife of a deacon?
  19. N. Eshelman

    N. Eshelman Puritan Board Senior

    I do not think that it is a slippery slope to female ministers and elders.

    Example: Both the ARP and the RPCNA have had female deacons since the end of the 19th century. Neither of them have ever ordained female elders.
  20. Stephen

    Stephen Puritan Board Junior

    We forgive you, brother. I did not realize what you were trying to do, so I understand. I am new to posting threads, so I would certainly mess it up if I were doing it. :)
  21. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    I'll try posting this again:

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

  22. raekwon

    raekwon Puritan Board Junior

    That's fine, but my point was more about the word "ordination" (vs the word "commissioning" or whatever other word people want to use), not the laying on of hands and prayer.
  23. Coram Deo

    Coram Deo Puritan Board Junior

    Now that I have my newer keyboard.... Couldn't barely post earlier.. :(

    Andrew, you beat me to it with Brian Schwertley, A Historical and Biblical Examination of Women Deacons... :lol:

    But I would like to Post some other quotes from him on that article that I would like to spur discussion on....

    The Order of Widows

    Those interpreters, such as Calvin and Rutherford, who argue that Phoebe was in the order of widows do justice to the immediate as well as to the broader context. They are not forced into embarrassing exegetical gymnastics to circumvent the clear teaching of Acts 6:1-6 and 1 Timothy 3:12.

    Those who argue that Phoebe was a deacon in the same office as the male diaconate make much of her official sounding introduction by Paul. But if Phoebe was in the order of widows her official sounding introduction makes perfect sense. There is excellent evidence within the text to indicate that Phoebe was a competent, rich widow. The trip from Cenchrea (a port near Corinth) to Rome was a long one. A married woman in Greek society would not have made such a trip without her husband. Phoebe was rich and independent. It is very unlikely that a young Greek woman would have had such wealth. And it is virtually certain that a young Christian single woman would not have made such a trip. The fact that Phoebe was a wealthy widow, and the fact that she was a patron or helper of many in the church, fits perfectly with the description of Paul's order of widows in 1 Timothy 5:9ff. This is the only interpretation that does justice both to Paul's introduction of Phoebe, her official sounding activities and the very clear teaching regarding male deacons (Ac. 6:3; 1 Tim. 3:12). It also explains why female servants called deaconesses were required to fulfill the qualifications of Paul's order of widows (1 Tim. 5:9ff.) throughout church history (as noted in the historical section of this book). The deaconesses in the post-apostolic church should be defined by their qualifications (widows over sixty) and their duties (ministering to women's needs) and not be defined solely by their name.

    Should the church have women in the church who serve in a sort of official capacity such as Phoebe? Yes, absolutely. But their office and activities should be patterned after the order of widows and not the male diaconate. To put women in the same office as the male diaconate does violence to the male diaconate and the biblical order of widows. It was the perversion of the female order of widows which led to its demise.

    Summary of Interpretations of Romans 16:1-2

    I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant [diakonon] of the church in Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also (NKJV).

    Order of Widows

    Phoebe belonged to the order of widows and served in an official capacity, yet was not an ordained deacon in the same office with the male diaconate.

    Advantages: This interpretation does justice to Phoebe's introduction by Paul and Phoebe's extensive activities on behalf of the church. It does not contradict the teaching in the N.T. regarding the male diaconate (e.g., Ac. 6:1-6). This interpretation does justice to indicators within the text: Phoebe was a wealthy widow engaged in an independent activity that would have been forbidden to younger single women and married women. Her office or order is explicitly described by Paul in 1 Tim. 5:9ff. She meets Paul's qualifications. This interpretation fits in perfectly with church history: godly widows over sixty served the church in an official capacity throughout the Roman empire, especially in the east.

    Disadvantages: None.

    The interpretation that 1 Timothy 5:9 is speaking of a distinct group of women set apart in the church for service was common among early Presbyterians. It was held by John Calvin, George Gillespie and Samuel Rutherford. Samuel Rutherford argued that the college of widows spoken of in 1 Timothy 5:9 definitely refers to a group of women set apart to serve in the church. He even argues that Phoebe of Romans 16:1 probably "was such a widow."

    But some may object, if these widows had a charge [i.e., a defined duty], and did any work or service to the Church, (as it is clear from the text, v. 9 they did) in overseeing the poor, and the sick, were not wages due to them, for their work? For the laborer is worthy of his hire...[therefore it is] as a debt, not as an alms. I answer, the reason is not alike of the preaching elder, and of the widow; for the pastor's service requiring the whole man was of that nature...but a widow of sixty years being weak and infirm, cannot acquit herself, in such a painful office as does merit poor wages, and therefore the reward of her labour was both wages and alms.

    Again, that this widow had some charge or service in the church, (I mean not any ministerial office, for she was not ordained as the deacon, Acts 6 with imposition of hands) I prove from the text. 1. Because this widow was not to be chosen to the number of college of widows, except she had been 60 years [of age], this is a positive qualification of a positive service, as if it were an office; for else what more reason in 60 years than in 61 or 62 or in 58 or 59 if she was a mere eleemosynary [i.e., someone who is dependent or supported by alms] and an indigent woman, for can godliness permit us to think that Paul would exclude a widow of 50 or 54 or 56 years, from the college of widows, who were desolate and poor? Nor, 2. Would Paul rebuke the widow taken into the society of these widows, because she married a husband, except she had entered into this service, and had vowed chastity, nor is marrying the second time which is lawful (Rom. 7:1-2), a waxing wanton against Christ and a casting off of the first faith; as the marrying of these widows is called (vs. 11-12), therefore this widow had some charge and service in the church. 3. The word katalegestho—let a widow be chosen of such an age, and not younger, and with such moral qualifications, as is required in the deacon, does also evidence that it was an election to some service of charge, as if she be of good report, if she has brought up her children; if she has lodged strangers; if she has washed the saints' feet; which qualifications not being in a widow [who is] poor and destitute, which cannot exclude her from the [church's] alms, and expose her to famishing for want: (this also does [argue] Ambrose, Augustine).... It is not unprobable to me that Phoebe, called a deacon, or servant of the church of Cenchrea, was such a widow, seeing she is (Rom. 16:1) expressly so called: how she came to Rome, if she was a poor widow and now 60 years old, I dispute not, seeing God's Spirit called her so. We can easily yield that widows of sixty years entering to this service did vow not to marry again; .... The last canon of the council of Nice denies that widows are church-officers, because they were not ordained with imposition of hands....

    If the order of widows spoken of in 1 Timothy 5:9ff. is a biblical office or service within God's church, would it not be better for Reformed churches to reintroduce this biblical order with its specific qualifications than to seek to ordain women to the male diaconate which has no scriptural warrant, and which cannot be found in the church until the nineteenth century? There are no passages in the New Testament that indicate that the college of widows was a temporary institution. The servant-widows were not connected in any way to special revelations (e.g., prophets) and miracles which ceased with the close of the canon and the death of the apostles. They were not bound up with the ministrations of the apostles in a special way, as were the first evangelists. Do we have the scriptural right to ignore or set aside a ministry to and for women which is founded upon inspired revelation?

    End of Quote..

    So What does everyone think of the Order of Widows? Is this another church Office? I was unfamiliar with this understand but I find it quite compelling and leaning that way.....
  24. Stephen

    Stephen Puritan Board Junior

    Some of those who voted that deaconesses were not scriptural come from traditions that have only an office for deacons and not elders. They believe that a deacon is one who has ecclesiastical authority to govern and rule the church, but this is not scriptural. Deacons are not rulers, authoritative teachers, or governors but servants who are given the function of ministering to the needs of others.
  25. Coram Deo

    Coram Deo Puritan Board Junior

    Early Church Father Quotes on the Order of Widows...

    "Teach the widows to be discreet as respects the faith of the Lord, praying continually for all, being far from all slandering, evil-speaking, false-witnessing, love of money, and every kind of evil; knowing that they are the altars of God," (Polycarp, Epistle to the Philippians, CHAPTER IV)

    "Innumerable commands such as these are written in the holy Bible appertaining to chosen persons, some to presbyters, some to bishops, some to deacons, others to widows, of whom we shall have another opportunity of speaking." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book III, Chap. XII)

    "I know plainly, that in a certain place a virgin of less than twenty years of age has been placed in the order of widows!" (Tertullian, On the Veiling of Virgins, Chap. IX)

    Sounds like a Biblical and Apostolical Order or Office to me....
  26. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

    I voted Yes. When I left the PC(USA) one of the first things I did when discerning where God was leading me to go was really dig deep into the questions surrounding Office.(As a little background one of the largest impetus's for my leaving the PC(USA) was due to a PCA Pastor in South Dakota sending me "Women in the Church" ed. Kostenberger)

    I found in my research that it was biblical for women to be deacons. I highly recommend the ARP's Position paper on this subject.
  27. JBaldwin

    JBaldwin Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    As usual, Schwertley has an interesting twist. I have always been under the impression from my study and from the preaching I have sat under that this passage was talking about supporting widows financially, and had nothing to do with an office.

    The idea of an 'office of widow' does not seem to square with Paul's other discussion of women serving in the church in I Corinthians 7

    32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 33 But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. 35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.

    To have an office strictly for widows would exclude women who are single, celebate, unmarried or even betrothed from being concerned with serving the Lord. There are other women mentioned in Scripture who were not widows who served along side Paul and the apostles in a similar capacity. There are and have been women down through the history of the church who have chosen to remain celebate so they can serve the Lord. God has gifted many of these women to serve Him in the church.

    To exclude the service of women in the church to widows doesn't square with the other examples of women in Scripture.
  28. Coram Deo

    Coram Deo Puritan Board Junior


  29. Coram Deo

    Coram Deo Puritan Board Junior

    The Idea is that the younger woman marry or if widowed remarry and raise a family and serve the lord... especially since the young burn with passion..

    But the aged widows need to be cared for by the church and can serve with even more responsibilities since they are no longer married nor have responsibilities toward husband or children since their children are all grown up.........
  30. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritan Board Doctor


    I'm sure glad to learn that we middle-agers don't need to worry about burning with passion. That will make my life a lot easier.:lol:
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