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Posts Tagged ‘deaconnesses’


While I was in a Presbytery meeting our denomination “dropped” the study report on Women Serving in the Ministry of the Church that is going to be presented at General Assembly this June. I’ve seen some very critical statements about this report. I wonder if we are reading the same report. I am not done reading it, but so far I’ve found it to be edifying. In light of that, let’s look at the first chapter which serves as an introduction.

The report begins by laying out their commitments and affirmations that form the presuppositions of our denomination and this study report.  This includes:

  • Confessional commitment to the complementarity of men and women.
  • The full dignity of men AND women as created in God’s image.
  • The Scriptures teach that eldership is comprised of qualified men (they embrace this “humbly and happily”).
  • Marriage should display mutually-edifying complementarity.
  • Male headship is to be expressed in sacrificial love to his wife.
  • It is expressed when a wife “welcomes her husband’s headship with respect”.

This means they are laying out the boundaries, biblical and confessional, that exist for our denomination and this study. The purpose is not to examine things outside of the boundary markers, or to change the boundary markers. The purpose is to examine questions that lie within these boundaries. Within these boundaries there are some differences of opinions. Another way of saying this (as I’ve said before) is that complementarianism is not a monolithic movement. There are a continuum of views that exist within the bounds of biblical and confessional complementarianism. These are the differences in view. The goal was not to ordain women elders as some have asserted (and have intentionally or unintentionally stirred up fear).

At least half of the adult membership of the church are women. How they can serve, and how we can empower them, are important questions to ask if we actually want to see them serve God to the fullest as God permits.

They note that in BCO 9-7, both men and women may be appointed by the Session to assist the diaconate in their work. There are elders in the PCA who think that the PCA should permit women to be deacons. Some others favor an office of deaconness which supports the diaconate particularly in its ministry to women. Some see this as a position, not a church office. Others have an unordained diaconate so women may be deacons. So, recognizing these big differences in opinion we ought to consider the question more carefully.

“The committee is not recommending any Book of Church Order changes.” page 2, line 44

Historically they note that the PCA was formed during a time in which the women’s rights movement was popular, and many denominations, including the PC (US), were beginning to ordain women to the office of elder (including teaching elders). The PCA affirmed complementarianism then and still does now. However, “members and ministers are asking how to equip, encourage, and utilize women in the church’s ministry in ways that are consistent with our confessional and theological commitments to complementarianism.” This, I think, is a worthwhile project.

I recently saw some of the Overtures that have been made to the upcoming General Assembly. One is Overture 3 from Westminster Presbytery which calls for the dismissal of the study committee. The report responds to this overture recommending that GA answer it in the negative. It deals point by point with the objections (except that it has reported disturbed the peace in Westminster Presbytery which was vague- are they fighting among themselves or just in existential agony because we’re considering how women may serve within the boundaries of our biblical and confessional commitments?).

One idea put forth by the Overture is that it is improper for women to serve on voting committees since this might involve “having authority over men.” I’m confused. Don’t women vote in congregational meetings? While we don’t recognize it as a court, congregational meetings function like a court and decisions are made by vote, like whether or not to call a particular man as teaching elder. Additionally, as the Study Report notes, committees made recommendations that must be voted on by the Assembly. It has no authority, the authority lies with the Assembly to approve or deny the report  and its recommendations.

To summarize: this report is addressing questions within our denominational boundaries, and not trying to make us PC(USA)-lite. This study committee was properly called, and women may serve on such a committee.

May God use this process to further the purity, peace and prosperity of the Church (and churches) through this process.

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Having been in the ARP since 1998, this was my first General Assembly as a member of the PCA.  I had heard many things, but it was good to see things first hand.  That means the good and the bad.  Inevitably, my mind compares and contrasts everything to my experiences in the ARP.

Some of the differences come from the fact that the PCA is much larger than the ARP.  I was not used to holding up a half sheet of card stock to vote (unless the votes needed to be counted).  We would merely use voice unless the vote was close.  There were differences in terminology:  Memorials => overtures, delegates => commissioners.  No big deal there.  But the sheer size of the documents was so much greater.  There is, comparatively, so much more going on.

One of the additions was a review of all the minutes from all the Presbyteries.  We had to vote on some matters relating to them.  That was interesting.  I was also shocked at the length of the report from the Standing Judicial Commission.  I can count on one hand the number of issues that came up in a decade that went to the ARP Synod’s version.  There were pages of appeals and other judicial issues sent up.  It is a very different culture than the ARP.

I miss going to Bonclarken.  I knew my way around.  I knew were to have a good meal (especially a good Tex-Mex with my friends from Presbytery), and where to enjoy a beer and cigar.  Each year the PCA General Assembly moves.  This year it was Nashville.  I had never been to Nashville.  I did not know my hotel was 3 miles from the convention center until the night before I left.  There was a shuttle to and from the airport, but no mention of one to the convention center.  The hotel desk said there wasn’t one.  So, I had already walked the 3 miles once before I discovered the PCA had provided regular shuttles to my hotel.

I was surprised to find that all of the hotels and the convention center charged for internet access.  Now that we’re “hooked” they want $10/day to access the web.  I needed to get my sermon notes back to Tucson.  Thankfully there was a Panera nearby, and I enjoyed a chai latte and bagel while uploading my document and checking out some sports news.

I found the worship far more accessible and edifying than in the ARP.  Part of that is the fact I did not grow up ARP and our church didn’t use Bible Songs (a holdover from the days before the ARP permitted the use of hymns).  Often the worship is filled with songs I do not know.  Since we were in Nashville, we used numerous hymns by Indelible Grace and similar musicians.  I liked that and found it much easier to engage with the worship.  I did not feel like a fish out of water.

I found how the PCA does business to be similar in many ways.  For instance, both bodies have guys who seemingly speak to EVERY recommendation.  There is also an underlying aura of fear at work in both bodies.  The “slippery slope” and “big brother” seem to never leave some people’s horizons.  I was reminded often of the Swirling Eddies’ song “Knee Jerk“.  People in both denominations have been wounded from experiences with the mainline denomination.  Sadly, those wounds are infected and need to be healed.  Instead, the people nurse and rehearse, therefore look upon many items with unnecessary suspicion.  This is sad, because it doesn’t have to be this way.

Both assemblies are, obviously, filled with sinners.  How we go about our business is tainted by our sin.  And how we listen to the business is as well.  I suppose I should view this as a sanctifying process and seek to grow in patience and diminish in sarcasm.  The constant phrases “point of order” and “motion to recommit” wore me down (as did the lack of sleep).   That is just as much about me as it is about others.

The ARP often has a Pre-Synod Conference.  They bring in a speaker or two to address a pressing issue for the denomination or church at large.  The PCA has seminars in the morning.  It was good to be able to choose what topics I want to address.  They reflected the needs and/or goals of my ministry.  So, I went to:

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