Thursday, August 28, 2008


I just saw where Ligon Duncan and Tim Keller both have articles in By Faith magazine (a publication of the Presbyterian Church in America) on the issue of deaconesses. This is a significant debate in the PCA. Keller's paper does a good job of clarifying his position on non-ordained deaconnesses and its historical roots, showing that it is not cowering to feminism or an abandonment of complementarianism (as some have claimed). I think there has been a lot of misunderstanding of his position. Duncan's paper does a good job of outlining why the PCA's position on this issue should remain the same.

While we are on the topic, Phil Ryken also has a paper on the issue. It is included in his paper on Qualifications for Deacons. I don't think anyone would accuse Ryken (or his predecessor, Jim Boice) of being a feminist and I am pretty sure the feminist would not claim him. The church I pastor, Village Seven Presbyterian Church, used to have deaconesses in the early days and I am certain none of the founders of Village Seven were feminists. Somewhere along the line, Village Seven renamed their deaconesses to Sisters in Serving.

I am not pushing for deaconesses. The papers above are the only things I have read on the topic. So, I remain undecided, which leaves me with my default position of remaining the same. However, I am pushing for a reasonable debate on the issue. At the last General Assembly of the PCA, I was bothered by three things:

1) The debate by some on both sides seemed to focus on the role of women in our society rather than on the real issue, which is, what does the Bible say. We should not follow the culture either on the left or the right. Rather, we should always seek to be in submission to Scripture.

2) There are some who seem to be looking for ways to circumvent the PCA or their presbytery's stance on this issue. In doing this, they are showing a complete disregard for the authority of their presbyteries and the denomination, and thereby abandoning their vow of submission to the brethren in the Lord. All PCA ministers and elders have taken vows to submit to one another. If we only submit when we agree, then we aren't really submitting. It makes our vows meaningless.

3) On the other side, there are those who refuse even to debate the issue, claiming that, even to debate it, is to give in to feminism. Even though they know the issue is divisive, even though they know there are godly men who hold a different position, they are refusing even to discuss the biblical merits of the topic. I think this is injurious to the peace and purity of the church.

All this to say, I am thankful to have these thoughtful articles by Dr. Keller and Dr. Duncan. In my mind, this is the type of debate that we should be having. I only wish it had official status at the General Assembly level.

1 comment:

Matthaeus Flexibilis said...

Good stuff. Regardless of whether women are "commissioned" as deaconesses or not, the local diaconate can and should find ways to incorporate women into its work. I have seen women and their gifts put to excellent use in this way.

PS, You misspelled "Boice". :-)