Women deacons as church officers

Discussion in 'Church Office' started by Jeri Tanner, Apr 6, 2018.

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  1. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    it struck me the other day that women ordained to the office of deacon are then “church officers.” How can a church officer, even though female, not be someone invested with authority?

    I’d like to know how strongly members of the board who are opposed to the ordination of women as deacons feel about this. Would it be a matter requiring separation if your church ordained a woman to the office of deacon?
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2018
  2. Jake

    Jake Puritan Board Junior

    Deacons are servants of the church, and not in authority like elders are. In fact, deacon means servant. Just like ordinary members, they are subject to the elders, but they are also appointed to specific tasks in the church. I think if we understand rightly the distinction between designated servants in the church and those who are in authority in the church, there is less confusion.

    I'm not sure the ARP and RPCNA approach deaconesses the right way, but I also think we shouldn't be afraid of calling a woman a deacon in the way that Paul or Calvin does.

    Calvin is not afraid of calling a woman as a deacon as one in a public office, because of the roles he ascribes to the deacons (from Institutes VI:IV:4):

    I see more room for concern when deacons are treated as those who rule. In the church I grew up in, there were higher standards for the deacons than the "ministers" of the church, because it was the deacons who actually ruled. However, in proper Presbyterian church government, I don't think this should be a problem.

    To answer your other question: "Would it be a matter requiring separation if your church ordained a woman to the office of deacon?" – I would be concerned if it were done in an underhanded way in a denomination or church which did not allow for deaconesses, such as is happening in some corners of the PCA.
     
  3. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I know some "reformed" churches install lady deacons by having the congregation and elders pray over them, but the elders insist they are not having them ordained, even though they are installed much like official deacons, and function practically as male deacons. Is this enough to separate? It could be a straw that broke a camels back, or a straw that leads to the broken back. I doubt this would not be the only serious problem (yes serious in my opinion) for churches that practice such.
     
  4. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    The officers of the church are just that-officers. The office of deacon is not a lesser office, but another office with different scopes of practice. Does the deacon submit to the elder? Yes. Does the elder, submit to the deacon when it comes to their specialty and scope of their practice? Yes. Both are submitting according to their office practice.

    In regard to the office of deacon and woman; The PCA seems to be redefing things a bit when it comes to woman, though it is not actively law in the PCA yet, it seems as if it is inevitable; Ordination vs installation. If they allow woman to serve, it will be via 'installation' and not actual ordination like the men. This distinction is problematic and eventually may rear it's ugly head.
     
  5. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    Jake, Christ is also referred to by the same Greek word as do the apostles (at least Paul) refer to themselves.

    I’m not sure Calvin’s references to women serving as deacons had to do with ordination and installation in the church; rather, they were recognized by the church, perhaps, as being of great usefulness?
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2018
  6. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    This is what I’m trying to get at; what does this imply? When did the idea arise in Presbyterian circles that ordination to office doesn’t imply authority?

    I can see that.
     
  7. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    Deacons operate with a delegated authority, as seen in Acts 6. My husband represents the church when he visits a rough section of town to go to the apartment of a wheel-chair bound man. Same thing when he counsels a member who can"t pay his bills. Last month when he was duty deacon, there were a few tasks I did when he couldn't be there on time, but I made none of the decisions about what/where/when and was never before the congregation during worship. (That would just be weird!)
     
  8. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    For Scott and Earl- would actual ordination of a woman to the office be tolerable to you in your church? Or denomination?
     
  9. JimmyH

    JimmyH Puritan Board Junior

    I personally would have a hard time staying with a church that ordained, or installed, a women as a deacon. OTOH, in speaking with an SBC pastor some years ago he told me that the reason women seem to be taking a larger role in church affairs is that fewer men are stepping up to the plate. Somebody has to get the work done.
     
  10. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    I’m against it, Ordination or installation.
     
  11. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Ordination yes. (edit......in that ordination would be intolerable for me if they ordained a lady and I was a member) The "instillation" of lady deacons was one of the last straws (among many) that broke the camel back for me, and is why I am transferring out of the PCA.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2018
  12. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    I would not avoid a church because it has women deacons, but it would trigger a much closer look at how that congregation views the infallibility and authority of scripture. Acts 6, Titus and Timothy are pretty clear.

    And I don't buy the idea that women have to fill in the gaps. If a church has no deacons, their duties involving any authority devolves to the elders, and if there aren't enough elders, the presbytery steps in.
     
  13. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    So I take it you couldn’t in good conscience remain in a situation where this happened?
     
  14. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    Jean, you probably would avoid a church with women elders? But if Scott’s view of church office is accurate, wouldn’t women deacons be just as bad?

    And Jean you said, “I don't buy the idea that women have to fill in the gaps. If a church has no deacons, their duties involving any authority devolves to the elders, and if there aren't enough elders, the presbytery steps in.” Great point, thanks.
     
  15. Cedarbay

    Cedarbay Puritan Board Freshman

    Are women required to have the same training as males for the Diaconate? Is this considered an office one is called to?
     
  16. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    I'm not fond of slippery slope arguments, but it sure seems that when the office of elder is infringed upon, a church is long gone. The scriptures become a reminiscent tradition at best, like a saying on a Hallmark card.

    The passage of authority is discussed in the books of church order with some differences between denominations, though the principle is generally the same.
     
  17. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    Just to flesh out the issue further for me, some denominations have a different view of what ‘office’ means. So those holding to one view of office would see women being ordained (and perhaps also installed) to office as unbiblical, while those holding to another view of office wouldn’t. It’s the second view of church office I can’t wrap my head around- I can’t find the biblical argument for how this view was ever arrived at in Presbyterianism.
     
  18. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    If a) women are not to teach in church and b) a deacon is required to be able to teach, then the office necessarily bears authority.
     
  19. Gforce9

    Gforce9 Puritan Board Junior

    I hadn't thought of this, Tim.....thanks.
     
  20. iainduguid

    iainduguid Puritan Board Sophomore

    But of course, unlike elders, deacons are not required to be "apt to teach"...
     
  21. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    There are no other churches here in S. Fl. I will approach this inconsistency in mercy towards my brothers and submit it to prayer, just like I am doing over the need for Psalm singing and wine in the supper.
     
  22. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    How is the idea of women being 'installed' to the deaconate (not ordained), an infringement on the office of elder?
     
  23. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    Consider the distinction the PCA is placing on the idea. It would leave room for your issue. A women installed (that is not ordained), is not a (D)eacon, but a (d)eacon. The way I see this, is a infrastructure for the actual office holders.

    *I do not agree with this definition, mind you; I am only saying what I believe the PCA is thinking.
     
  24. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    A previous reply had specifically asked me about elders.
     
  25. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    How does this move, the installation of a woman, infringe on the elder, given my understanding (as I stated above)?
     
  26. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    I don't agree with your distinction. While we all submit to one another in love, the authority of a deacon is devolved from the elders, per BOCO and as exemplified in Acts 6. (The apostles appointed deacons to take care of one of their tasks, caring for widows.) And PCA churches already install deacons, using the same language as ordination. Or at least one that I've seen.
     
  27. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    The above is true; however, there is a recent move where they are now using language that I have noted. Hence, the infrastructure that they are now endorsing, would not have any affect on the distinctions of the offices, per se, as the office holders MUST be ordained and these woman would not hold an official office as they are not ordained.
     
  28. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Was there not a deaconess mentioned by Paul though as being set up in one of his local churches?
    As long as they were not involved in the spiritual authority leadership of the church, nor in pulpit teaching, there would seem to be no scripture objections.
     
  29. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    By the same logic, couldn't we install women (e)lders then?
     
  30. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    Tim,
    I would assume; do we see any indication or ambiguity in the word in relation to the office of elder (as we see in the office of deacon)?
     
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