A friend writes requesting "feedback regarding the following statement:"
The New Testament is clear that an elder is not to run a one-man show in a local church setting. There is to be a plurality of elders present (numbers will vary with the size of a church), who exercise their God-given authority in a group capacity, not an individual one (emphasis in original). Therefore, when we speak of submitting to church leaders, what we have in mind is submission to the authority that elders possess in their group capacity.
Does an elder have any authority as an individual apart from the session?
Usually discussions of this sort come out of a particular context, and context is everything when it comes to power struggles. So I think asking others their opinion concerning this statement is not likely to be helpful without particular knowledge of the situation this question arises from.
However, one elder (whether teaching or ruling) does have the authority of his office and that authority is not simply where the other elders agree beforehand with the particularities of his exercise of his authority. Similarly, the elders have authority as a smaller group even when the full congregation doesn't vote on their actions beforehand, to confirm them. (In some aspects of church discipline, for instance, the elders are acting as representatives of the full church [Matt. 18 "Tell it to the church...."], but that doesn't make them unable to act as a smaller group because those they represent haven't spoken to them prior to their action about the specific case before them.)
Insecure and/or egotistical elders would consider any pastor faithfully exercising his duties to be "running a one-man show" when in fact he may simply be exercising the natural authority that accrues to the feeding (teaching) elder because of the affection in which the congregation holds him.
For this reason I do not hold to a two-office view, and think those who do almost always have an axe to grind...
by David and Tim Bayly on April 28, 2005 - 10:11am
(Note from Tim Bayly: Often I get calls from pastors and elders asking if I can give them help working through the issue of what work is and is not appropriate for men and women in their congregation. Five years ago Church of the Good Shepherd adopted such a statement drafted for us by one of our pastors at the time, Rev. David Wegener (a fellow member of Ohio Valley Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America).
Such a call came again this morning from a fellow teaching elder of the PCA, so I'm taking this opportunity to post the statement here for the good of the church at large. If our good readers know of another church statement that would be useful, also, and that honors the unequivocal teaching of Scripture that is patriarchy, please feel free to post that statement, or a link to it, in the comments below. Thank you.)
Church of the Good Shepherd's Understanding of the Biblical Roles of Men and Woman in Congregational Life Adopted by the Session (Board of Elders) of Church of the Good Shepherd November, 1999
1. All men and women are equally created in the image of God and therefore are equally worthy of our honor and respect...
by David and Tim Bayly on February 9, 2006 - 8:20am
In our church we've had a discussion, recently, concerning the nature of the office of deacon. Granted, we're a presbyterian church, meaning we have a church government structure that emphasizes the plurality of the eldership ('presbuteron' being Greek for 'elder').
And to some degree, what I've written below reflects what is, arguably, a rather typical Presbyterian Church in America polity, in which some distinction is made between what the Westminster divines refer to as "ministers of the Word" and "other church governors." (For more on the historical argument within the reformed world over the nature and number of church offices, I highly recommend Iain Murray's essay, "The Problem of the Eldership and Its Wider Implications." My own convictions closely follow Murray's on this, as on almost everything.)
But to return to the office of deacon, the question we found ourselves dealing with was whether or not it is proper to speak of the deacons as having "pastoral" responsibilities. And to the end of providing some perspective on that question, I wrote the following which I trust may benefit other men outside our own congregation.
Deacons and Pastoral Care
First, what's the meaning and origin of the word 'pastor'? Interestingly, from the etymology that follows, it could well be argued that the deacons have more of a pastoral duty than other officers since their work has so directly to do with food, or 'pasture' from which 'pastor' originates:
1242, "shepherd," also "spiritual guide, shepherd of souls" (1377), from O.Fr. pastur "herdsman, shepherd" (12c.), from L. pastorem (nom. pastor) "shepherd," from pastus, pp. of pascere "to lead to pasture, graze," from PIE base *pa- "to tend, keep, pasture, feed, guard" (see food). The spiritual sense was in Church L. (cf. Gregory's Cura Pastoralis).
But of course, there is food that perishes and food that doesn't perish. And whereas pastors feed the food that doesn't perish in their preaching and teaching duties, deacons are to keep to the distribution of food that perishes, and that's it, right?
Well, it's obvious deacons almost never do that today so we must be dealing with something a little more complicated here...
by David and Tim Bayly on January 23, 2007 - 9:53am
In her article cited in an earlier post, Anne Graham Lotz is pandering to some of the more ungodly prejudices of our culture by attacking the church for not being biblical on the meaning and purpose of sexuality. What she really means, though, is not that the Church isn't biblical, but that it's not enlightened or progressive--it's not, as they say, "evolved."
Before the watching world, Ms. Lotz argues that those who maintain distinctions between the sexes (other than those irrepressible biological and physiological ones) are bound for extinction as her new age of feminist gender equity finally dawns among the slowpoke people of God.
One looks in vain for any recognition on Ms. Lotz's part that she's thrown the entire history of the Christian Church's doctrine of sexuality in the dumpster. Likely she'd deny this, pointing to her strong stand against sodomy or divorce as proof that, where the rubber meets the road, she's rock solid on sexuality.
Yet the order of God's creation prior to the Fall is as clear concerning the sinfulness of women exercising authority over men as it is concerning the sinfulness of men having sex with men, or as it is concerning divorce. The authoritative primacy of man over woman, the heterosexual limits of physical intimacy, and the evil of divorce are each equally and undeniably established by our Creator in the Garden of Eden, and the rest of Scripture only reinforces God's Edenic order.
Asked whether divorce is right or wrong, Jesus responded by going back to Eden, prior to the Fall, making it clear that God's order from the beginning was heterosexual, monogamous, and lifelong:
(Jesus) answered and said, "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." (Matthew 19:4-6)
Asked whether it was proper for women to exercise authority over men, the Apostle Paul responded by going back to Eden, prior to the Fall, making it clear that God's order from the beginning was neither matriarchal nor egalitarian, but patriarchal:
But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. (1 Timothy 2:12, 13)
Do Ms. Lotz and other evangelical feminists really think they can pick and choose between the details of the sexual order God established in Eden which is reinforced repeatedly in the sacred words of Scripture?
"Let's see, I'll have some heterosexuality and monogamy, please. But no patriarchy today, thank you."
Well, any simpleton can see what's happened, and therefore what's coming.
What's happened? Well, for many years, now, evangelicals have lived in an increasingly egalitarian and feminist culture, and that culture has won us over--all that's left is the mop-up operation. Few of us would be willing to preach or listen to the sermons of past centuries our fathers in the faith preached concerning male authority or female deference and submission. And structurally, our practice bears no resemblance to the church's historical practice.
Denominationally, some of us are still forced to toe the line: we don't yet ordain women to the pastorate or eldership, but we've taken every other step we can. We have women leading our corporate worship, administering the Lord's Supper, preaching in our pulpits, teaching mixed-sex adult Sunday school classes, leading mixed-sex small groups, serving as commissioned deacons, serving on our national theological study committees, preaching at our conferences, serving as regional directors in our parachurch and mission organizations... Need I go on?
Yes, we have our Pharisaical righteousness in each place we're fiddling around the edge. Women preaching in our pulpits are the exception--not the rule--and they do so under the authority and review of the elders board. Our women deacons are not ordained--they're only commissioned. We've limited the Sunday school classes led by women to one quarter of our offerings each term. Women lead our call to worship and prayer of confession, but never our pastoral prayer. Women administer the Lord's Supper, but our senior pastor is a man and he's the one who hands the trays to the women before they go out into the congregation. The woman on the study committee has special expertise in the subject under review, and she's not a full voting member. Our conference isn't a church meeting, our speakers aren't really preaching, and we don't have any authority over those who attend. Our organization is parachurch--not church--so we have no need to submit to Scripture's prohibition of women exercising authority over men.
At this point, some readers are likely hung up on one or more of the particulars I've cited and are asking themselves, "Is it really wrong to have women deacons?" "Why shouldn't women lead in prayer during corporate worship?" "If women shouldn't be regional directors of mission agencies, should they be running for president?" Or, "If it's wrong for women to preach in morning worship, is it also wrong for them to serve as professors in Christian colleges and seminaries?"
Although these are important questions, such examples are only meant to be representative of the sea-change the evangelical church has embraced. We will differ over which of the above practices are within the proper boundaries of Scripture, but we must not differ in acknowledging that, taken as a whole, these practices are not a reformation returning us to the doctrine of Scripture, but rather a revolution leading us away from Scripture...
by David and Tim Bayly on January 29, 2007 - 12:30pm
We all know what it is to play warfare in mock battle, that it means to imitate everything just as it is in war. The troops are drawn up, they march into the field, seriousness is evident in every eye, but also courage and enthusiasm, the orderlies rush back and forth intrepidly, the commander's voice is heard, the signals, the battle cry, the volley of musketry, the thunder of cannon--everything exactly as it is in war, lacking only one thing...the danger.
So also it is with playing Christianity, that is, imitating Christian preaching in such a way that everything, absolutely everything is included in as deceptive a form as possible--only one thing is lacking...the danger
-Soren Kierkegaard, Attack Upon "Christendom" 1854-1855, translated with an introduction by Walter Lowrie, (Boston: The Beacon Press, 1956) p. 258.
Addendum: Wednesday evening, March 8, Bryan Chapell and I met together to discuss this recent series of posts. After our discussion, here are several clarifications and corrections that I believe need to be made. I have made them here, at the top of the post, because it would be difficult to weave them into the post itself in a way that would call attention to them sufficiently as corrections.
First, it is unclear that the paragraph beginning, "The whole things is a tempest in a teacup" is not my judgment, but rather a hypothetical construct of what the average member of the PCA might have thought to himself.
Second, I refer to "the Covenant/Redeemer/Reformed mantra, "A woman may do anything a non-ordained man may do." Bryan told me that this is not his position and that he speaks against this position as an adequate representation of the Biblical perspective. This is an encouragement to me.
Third, Bryan rehearsed his actions in response to the chapel time in which Diane Langberg spoke, and clearly my own summary of those actions is not accurate. Here is an accurate record of what happened:
When General Assembly convened that summer and the time on the agenda arrived when President Chapell was asked to give an answer for what had happened on his watch, President Chapell told the assembly:
That Diane Langberg had been told ahead of time what the standards were for her speaking during the chapel time;
That after she spoke at Covenant Seminary, Diane Langberg received a letter reminding her of the standards, and expressing concern that those standards had not been followed; and
That the administration of Covenant Seminary met with students to explain the situation and to assure the seminary community that what had happened was not according to the standards they were committed to upholding.
Since I implied Covenant Seminary was not upholding the PCA position in its response to Diane Langberg's chapel time, I regret this inaccuracy and now believe Covenant's response was good.
Some wonder how I could accuse prominent teaching elders of the Presbyterian Church in America and the institutions they lead of sympathizing with the egalitarian, feminist cause? Don't I know the PCA's reason to exist is tied at the heart to opposing these ideologies? When a group of mainline PC(USA) churches left their own denomination for a more conservative one back in 1983, wasn't it necessary for them to found the new denomination, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, precisely because the PCA wasn't willing to compromise on women in office? And isn't the same reason behind our present failure to bring into the PCA many churches currently departing the PC(USA) train wreck: that these churches and their pastors are determined to enter a denomination that allows their women to serve as pastors, elders, and deacons?
So, as a denomination we've paid our dues. We've seen the cost of our convictions, and haven't wavered. What on earth am I thinking, then, to accuse our seminary and its president of being allies of the egalitarian, feminist ideology?
It's a fair question, although I have no confidence I'll be able to answer it to the satisfaction of more than a few because the heart of the answer is tied up, not with specific arguments about Scripture's teaching about sexuality, but rather its teaching concerning the nature of pastoral ministry.
Several years ago, Covenant Theological Seminary had a woman preach in chapel. When it was reported within our denomination, it scandalized a number of presbyters across the country...
This comment was just added to the "What Is Feminism" post. I promote it here to the main page because it is a perfect example of the average evangelical's understanding of the Bible's teaching on sexuality as I've heard it through the years.
Assuming the sincerity of the writer, how would you respond in such a way as to lead her back to the doctrine of Scripture given us by the Holy Spirit?
My favorite definition of a feminist, derived from a book, is someone who believes women are people. Genesis 1:26 tells us that when God made male and female in His image, He gave them dominion over all the earth and the fowls of the air, but not over another human being. That is why slavery is so repugnant, despite being thousands of years old. Jesus came to set the spiritual captives free. The Curse is just that-a curse. God blessed the woman in Genesis 1:27. Jesus sent women to tell His male disciples of His resurrection. Yes, the 12 disciples were all men, but He was still ministering under the old covenant. At His death, the veil of the Temple that separated men and women from God was rent in two so that now male and female could enter boldly into His presence. Some think it was destroyed. On Resurrection Day, it was Out With The Old and In With The New. Jesus defeated Satan and took the keys of death and hell away from him. Paul commended Phoebe, a deacon (original), and Junia, an apostle. The women of I Corinthians 11 were instructed as to their dress and deportment when teaching men. The restrictions of ITimothy 2 are different and much less restrictive than is described in this blog. Deborah, Huldah, Priscilla, and the four daughters of Philip were blessed and honored by God for stepping out of the narrowly-defined "roles" given to them by their cultures in that day. There were men whom Paul wished would remain silent too. The apostles believed that we are to serve God by the spiritual gifts that are within us (ITimothy 4:14, IITimothy 1:6). Happy Easter everyone!
The Diaconate, a group of men and women nominated and elected into the office by the Redeemer members, exists to express in practical ways Christ's command to all believers to love our neighbor as ourselves. We offer help to those in crisis or challenging situations by assessing their needs and working together to find solutions.
(Here's Pastor Downing's original document as a PDF.)
But first, a few words of explanation....
When TE David Kniseley of Rocky Mountain Presbytery discovered in mid-January 2007 that City Presbyterian Church of Denver had hired and appointed (not ordained and installed) a woman to be Minister of Congregational Care he called City Presbyterian senior pastor and fellow presbyter, Sam Downing, and requested that City Presbyterian forego the title “Minister” for a woman staff member. TE Downing declined the request.
Pastor Kniseley then overtured Rocky Mountain Presbytery to instruct City Presbyterian Church to conform to the Presbyterian Church in America’s Book of Church Order in this matter by no longer using the title “Minister” for any non-ordained staff member.
Because Pastor Kniseley’s overture was submitted too late for normal inclusion on the January 2007 docket, the Standing Rules of Rocky Mountain Presbytery required a two-thirds vote for new business to be added. The vote failed. Pastor Kniseley’s overture was thus added to the April 2007 docket of Rocky Mountain Presbytery.
In February, 2007, Pastor Downing wrote the paper we critique below titled “The PCA and Gospel Ministry in an Urban, Egalitarian Environment: Toward a Theologically Accurate, Culturally Appropriate Apologetic,” circulating his paper as an explanation and defense of his church’s practice with regard to women in ministry. In March, 2007, Village Seven Presbyterian Church (Colorado Springs) sent an additional overture to Rocky Mountain Presbytery asking for it to be passed on to General Assembly. Their overture sought to amend the Book of Church Order so it would explicitly state the word ‘minister’ always refers to a teaching elder.
Both overtures (from Pastor Kniseley and Village Seven Presbyterian Church) were slated to come before Rocky Mountain Presbytery for action in April’s meeting. TE Dominic Aquila, the 2006 Moderator of General Assembly, took both overtures and recast them into two motions—a main and a substitute motion.
Main motion: "That the Presbytery acknowledge that the title 'minister' as used in the Book of Church Order of the Presbyterian Church in America is synonymous with 'pastor' and 'teaching elder,' and as such none of these titles may be used to refer to any but ordained teaching elders."
Substitute Motion: "That the Presbytery acknowledge that the title 'minister' as used in the Book of Church Order of the Presbyterian Church in America is synonymous with 'pastor' and 'teaching elder,' however, that it also acknowledge that the title 'minister' has been used in a general or generic manner and in this general way can be used for unordained church staff members."
The Main Motion, if approved, would have required City Presbyterian Church (and other churches in Rocky Mountain Presbytery who have used this term for staff people) to remove that title, replacing it with some other word such as 'Director.' The Substitute Motion, if approved, would have permitted City Presbyterian Church to allow its female staff member to retain her title, "Minister of Congregational Care."
The substitute motion (agreeing with the logic of the following paper) was adopted by Rocky Mountain Presbytery on a 32 to 26 vote.
Now, with that background, click below to read Rev. Downing's paper with our critique interspersed within it...
He also who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys.
In connection with pastoral ministry, I've been thinking a lot this past year about pastors who choose not to guard the good deposit, rather spending their time focusing on evangelism and church growth techniques. Question them about their silence in the pulpit concerning sodomy, sacramentalism, Rome, abortion, divorce, or the love of money and they'll come out with some high-sounding platitudinous statement like, "I've determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I want to be all things to all people. We must not allow our pulpit to become a divisive presence in our church, alienating seekers and young believers."
A couple months ago, I spoke to a young professional who attends a flagship PCA congregation on the Eastern Seaboard...
For a number of years, I've thought we need a book for preachers called The Feminization of Discourse. The book would show how the feminine priorities that have taken over the Western world have turned the preaching of God's Word from authority to mutual exploration and discovery. One friend lamented the preaching he'd sat under for a number of years saying, "Along with the indicative, can't we please have the imperative?" Read anything about the differences between male and female conversation and it's no mystery why the worship and preaching of our--yes, PCA--churches feel like a tea party. Having a reformed form of godliness, we deny the power thereof.
Our preaching is so graceful--more graceful than the preaching of Jesus or the Apostles. Anyone read the book of Acts, recently? Notice how often those listening to the sermon are confronted with the statement, "You killed Jesus!" No wonder repentance was the entry point to faith and baptism back then. But today? We're compassionate Christians, kinder and gentler elders, and sensitive graceful preachers who want to be liked. Above all. Yes, insofar as we can be liked and still be obedient, that's fine. But a choice between the two is no contest; being liked wins.
Now of course, right here the feminization of discourse kicks in and many are ready to condemn me for being dogmatic, making generalizations, or demonstrating a harsh and judgmental spirit, right?
Well, meet my friend Cesar Millan and see if we preachers have anything to learn from him about our exercise of the authority God has delegated to us, particularly in the pulpit...
The pastor of University Presbyterian Church (UPC) in Orlando Florida, Mark Bates, has been invited to candidate for the pastoral position at Village Seven Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Yesterday he announced his departure from UPC. Not knowing Pastor Bates myself, I downloaded a sermon, read some web stuff including his blog, Certain Hope, and checked out UPC’s web site.
Pastor Bates is cut from the Pastor Tim Keller stripe, particularly in the matter of the nature and meaning of sexuality which today is the best predictor of how a man will stand in the gaps where Satan is focusing his attack on God’s Word. His Board of Elders at UPC adopted the paper titled “Women and Ministry” written by the Rev. Dr. Tim Keller and his wife, Kathy, as their own position statement on the matter. UPC’s elders make one differentiation, though, in the preface to the Kellers’ paper they’ve placed on their UPC web site :
(T)he Session adopted (Tim and Kathy Keller’s) paper as its position on the role of women in ministry, with the following exception: The paper says that women may not be elders but that women may serve in any capacity within the local church that any non-elder male might serve. The Session of UPC would add to this that we believe this same limitation would also forbid women from shepherding men.
This short statement improves the Kellers’ position somewhat, but it’s also notable that two months ago UPC hosted Ms. Carolyn Custis James to teach Scripture on the subject of sexuality. Quite predictably, this led to what Pastor Bates on his blog referred to as some misunderstanding of UPC’s position within his flock...
…I disagree with the post’s saying that discipling, shepherding, and counselling requires authority. To guide someone along the right path requires only care by the guide and willingness by the straying person to listen and try to stay on the path. One Christian can do that for another without any authority. He can do that without any title, in fact, which goes back to the question of why the guides should be called Deacons instead of, say Guides, or Helpers.…
Yes, “one Christian can do (these things) for another without any authority.” But we must consider the context of the Kellers’ use of these words ‘discipling’, ‘shepherding’, and ‘counselling.’
The context for the Kellers’ paper and their congregation’s actions is twofold: first, the Manhattan cultural context in which feminism long has ceased being argued, and is simply understood—think Columbia University, Manhattan, Woody Allen, the New York Times, etc.; and second, a denomination whose identity and confession is inseparable from its polity which, among other things, is defined by authoritative church officers (yes, deacons exercise authority) who, submitting to the Word of God, are men only.
So yes, in another institution, place, or denomination we might talk about “guides” who come alongside fellow travelers and make astute observations (or even recommendations) that their companions are free to take or leave.
This is the typical understanding of church office in evangelical churches and denominations today, and is not an uncommon understanding of church office even within the Presbyterian Church in America. Yet Scripture and PCA constitutional documents make clear...
by David and Tim Bayly on August 15, 2007 - 8:59am
(by Tim) Deep in the comments under my brother David’s post, “Sincere Questions…,” a dear brother made a glancing reference to the departure from the PCA last year of City Church in San Francisco. Pastor Fred Harrell and his session petitioned Northern California Presbytery to allow them to transfer into the Reformed Church of America so they could be free to have women deacons, elders, and pastors. The deed was done and Mr. Harrell and his flock are now happily ensconced in the RCA.
Which all led Pastor Ron Gleason, one of the pastors most concerned and active in opposing feminism’s encroachments in our own denomination, to write: “What Fred Harrell did in San Fran was really honorable. He wanted to ordain women Elders; he understood that within the confines of the PCA that was impossible; therefore, he withdrew his congregation—relatively quietly—and went to the EPC.”
No, not “honorable;” and certainly not “really honorable.” In the Church, we can’t speak of a man’s tactics apart from his cause...
by David and Tim Bayly on October 6, 2007 - 1:05pm
Why, look at us! Check it out! We have women deacons. Unordained, of
course, but women they are and they do everything our male deacons
do--disciple, teach, cast vision. Look at us! Check it out! We have
women serving the elements at the Lord's Table. Women, mind you! Aren't
we forward-looking and progressive? Can't you iPod joggers settle into
this comfy chair? We've made it just for you. No fuddy-duddy patriarchs
holding us down or setting us back. We've captured the center of the
city because we're the only ones that can do it without making asses of
ourselves. Look at us! Check us out! We do art. We write music. We
have important people who are rich in our congregation. And they
respect us because they know we can be trusted to think through the
implications of Scripture for our time and culture without falling into
the many errors of past centuries. You know, errors like fuddy-duddy thinking
about women in leadership.
(Tim) For most of the first ten years of pastoral ministry, I served in a denomination whose polity required each church to elect female elders in proportion to the number of females in the congregation. Also, every pastoral search committee was required to sign an EEO-type contract promising they would give equal consideration to women for their pastoral position. So I’ve had experience working with women elders within the local congregation, as well as female pastors and elders at the presbytery (regional) and general assembly (national) levels. There were some wise and godly women elders within our congregations (I had a yoked parish of two churches), and still today my wife and I are close to several of these sisters in Christ.
And yet, wise and godly women placed in the position of elder are tenaciously focused on the protection of relationships within their congregation. It is both their strength and weakness that they want to deny or postpone any threat to relationships, even when the good of the larger household of faith would be put at risk by inaction or the postponement of discipline...
by David and Tim Bayly on October 22, 2007 - 12:07pm
(Jesus said) I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. (John 10:11-13)
(Tim) Tonight I'm leading a discussion of Herbert Workman's Persecution in the Early Church (Oxford Paperbacks) with our first year Pastors College men. If you haven't read this book, you simply must. Nothing has helped me understand our present pressures and how best to prepare our children for the coming persecution as well as this little treasure.
Anyhow, I was reminded of Workman's book while reading this excerpt from an account published in the Times of the recent persecution of Buddhist monks in Burma:
A teacher talked about the pain of seeing Buddhism desecrated and the fear of the military that spread among the monks.
I know dozens of monks. One monk is very old. He is 78. It never occurred to him that in his lifetime he would have to hide. The day after the shootings started, I went to this monastery and the faces that I saw on those monks was something I had never seen. It is not fear. It was a sadness so unbelievable.
Now the young monks that I talked to--who weren't rounded up--they want to disrobe...
by David and Tim Bayly on January 10, 2008 - 8:58am
The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But
we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be
unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we
understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the
New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act
accordingly. ‘My God,’ you will say, ‘if I do that my whole life will
be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world?' Herein lies the real
place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church's
prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that
we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too
close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you?
Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is
even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament. -Soren Kierkegaard (with thanks to Stephen Baker)
One commenter writes: "Taken to its logical conclusion, [God's creation order] would effectively end property
and business ownership for women, since property management and
business activity require authority over others, including men. If that
were the case, we get into a hairy mess of inheritance rights..."
Tim responds: Men, let's make this absolutely clear.
God created Adam first, and then Eve. Anyone want to argue with that? Well then, let’s move on.
The Holy Spirit said the significance of this order of creation is that women are not to teach or exercise authority over men. Everyone still on board? Next.
All through the New Testament we see the application the Holy Spirit made of this creation order to the Church as it was founded. Also to the home. What we don't see is Him applying this creation order to the Roman Empire. But then, Scripture doesn’t tell us how to do much of anything when it comes to the civil authority, except to submit to his authority.
So today, the world is full of men who take this absence of New Testament application of the creation order to the secular world as license to cast off the creation order in any place other than those explicitly addressed by the Holy Spirit.
But what on earth happened to the creation order?
Well, here’s what happened. Christians became sullen children, resentful of their Heavenly Father’s plan and the demands it makes of us in our post-feminist world...
by David and Tim Bayly on February 20, 2008 - 12:17pm
(David) Let's think for a moment about the meaning of presbyterial life.
If the essence of presbyterianism is elders willingly subjecting themselves to their brethren...
And if ordained elders should never willfully violate the PCA's standards without first submitting their teaching or course-of-action to presbytery for approval...
And if those who come to possess beliefs substantially opposed to settled portions of PCA standards should leave the PCA for a denomination sympathetic to their new convictions rather than mar PCA harmony by staying and fighting...
Then what, pray tell, are we to make of PCA churches actually laying hands upon women (and men) in services of "commissioning" to the diaconal office?
And what are we to make of this overture to the PCA's 2008 General Assembly from the Philadelphia Presbytery asking General Assembly to sanction retroactively the ordination of women to an office clearly forbidden them by PCA standards?
And finally, why has no one sought to discipline these churches and this presbytery?
by David and Tim Bayly on February 22, 2008 - 8:16am
(Tim) In the discussion of the common practice of women serving alongside men as deacons within the PCA, one man comments, “I’m trying to figure out under what circumstances I’d need to think about submitting to a deacon.”
This is the nub of the issue and the fact that it’s so rarely discussed indicates either ignorance concerning the teaching of Scripture about the order of creation of man and woman, or a deliberate clouding of the issue by those opposed to that order. No doubt both are present across our denomination.
Authority isn’t the heart of the office as it is with elders, but to say the office of deacon is not one of authority, but service, is not to say the sex of the one being promised submission is immaterial to congregational vows.
If those pushing women deacons in the PCA were simply to call them “deaconesses” and make it clear that the implementation of the calling would be hedged about with clear lines of demarcation between deaconesses and deacons--all centered on the issue of reserving to men only the exercise of substantive authority over men--many of us would make common cause with them. The fact that this is precisely not what’s being practiced or argued for is most telling. Is this clear?
(Tim)Here's an interview with the Rev. Dr. Tim Keller, the senior minister of Manhattan's Redeemer Presbyterian Church which is likely the most influential congregation of our own denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America. The occasion of the interview was the arrival of Dr. Keller's book at No. 18 on the New York Times bestseller list. The interview was done by Anthony Sacramone, editor of Richard John Neuhaus' First Things to which I'm a charter subscriber. I note this because I'm hopeful it will discourage readers from coming to the wrong conclusion as to why I say the following...
Although many of the pastors I love and respect look to Dr. Keller as the model preacher for our age, I do not. And of course, my purpose in saying this is to warn shepherds of the consequences of accepting Dr. Keller's preaching paradigm so clearly presented in this interview...
(David) I happened across this post by Internet Monk (Michael Spencer) and found him ably hitting a theme Tim and I strongly agree with: contextualization is not only not wrong, it is essential in the work of the Gospel. We must not ignore context. To go to the uncircumcised without approaching as one uncircumcised, to go to those without the law without approaching as one who is lawless, to go to the weak without approaching as one who is weak is not only non-Pauline, it is unChristlike.
I suspect that my brother Tim does not mean to be critical of Redeemer Church and Tim Keller for seeking to accommodate, in general terms, the culture of NYC and Manhattan any more than he wishes the rest of us to criticize him and his church for, for example, worshipping to rock and roll in the specific context of a Big Ten-university village. But Paul adds this caveat to his statement that for those outside the law he became as one outside the law, "not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ," and it's this boundary on contextualization that seems increasingly at issue in these debates.
(Tim: This article was originally published in Ligonier's Table Talk in 1998.)
Winds of the sexual revolution sweeping our land have carried debris into many areas of our lives. Perhaps the most significant area where we as Christians need to be on guard against the sexual turmoil of our age is in our understanding of Scripture.
One of the most negative effects of the sexual revolution on the church is the way that it has caused Scripture to appear cloudy where once it was viewed by all as speaking clearly and accurately. Much that previous generations took for granted from Scripture today is rejected, passages in the Word our forefathers and mothers viewed as perspicuous men and women today find opaque...
(Tim) Here's a response to this comment left by a reader: "It seems that many in the complementarian community spend almost all their energy on the negative side of the equation."
Feminism is toxic and its relentless attack on Scripture and the Church doesn't give faithful shepherds a lot of opportunity to take their preaching and teaching somewhere else, avoiding this breach. We must focus our defensive work where the good deposit is under attack. In response to people complaining of the frequency of his preaching against fornication, Spurgeon said once that he'd stop preaching against it when people stopped doing it.
Pastors today aren't preaching or teaching against this heresy. And when we do, we do it half-heartedly making it clear to our flock and other shepherds that we wish the need for battle would go away because we're men of peace and love and grace, and we really don't enjoy beating up on women.
Now I may not have captured our critic's sentiments, personally, but from many years experience I know I've hit the mainstream. So think where we'd be if Calvin or Luther or Knox of any of hundreds of other shepherds had tried the positive approach in the darkness of Rome's shadow across the Middle Ages? What if Calvin had written his Institutes without the central thrust of opposing and exposing Rome? Would anyone read them?
The real issue isn't that many within the complementarian camp spend almost all our energy on the negative side of this equation, but that we live in an evil day much like the day of the Apostle Paul and Athanasius and Peter Waldo and John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards and John Newton and J. Gresham Machen and Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Francis Schaeffer, and that our work must follow theirs in being faithful with God's "yes" and His "no." And if our only "no" is said in opposing those who don't say "yes" often enough to suit our tastes, we're not really saying "no," are we?
(Tim) Within the church today, why are we so reticent to recognize sexual distinctions that go beyond God's command or certain "roles" the result of His command? Pastors and elders can bring ourselves to swallow the very specific biblical prohibitions against women serving as elders, and the equally specific commands for wives to submit to their husbands--even going so far as to defend those prohibitions with some small talk of the nature of sexuality (although we always call it "gender" rather than "sex" because gender is a social construct while sex is a hard biological reality); but still, despite this supposed submission to the biblical command, we show a complete absence of any biblical theology of sexuality.
Why? Why are we so chip-on-the-shoulderish when it comes to a discussion of the nature of man and woman beyond the obvious body parts (which are undeniable and very useful for advertising), and certain small aspects of authority in the church and home? Why do we read sexuality in such a mind-bogglingly narrow way? We claim to love diversity, right? So why such a penurious, such a tight-waddish reading of this one so basic to our lives?
A central part of understanding our culture is seeing the hatred for distinctions at its core, and few distinctions are more despised than this one present in the womb from our earliest days--male and female.
Typical believers in Jesus Christ will think we've seen the goodness of sex when we've decided to marry a woman rather than a man...
NOTE: (Tim) The documents promised yesterday have now been added: One by Alan Foster of East Lanier PCA outside Atlanta, another by Sam Downing of City Church plant PCA in Denver (not yet changed to RCA), and the third by Tim Keller of Redeemer PCA (New York). Links to each document may be found near the end of this post's second page.
Some Personal History: Fifteen years ago now, when our session was choosing a denomination to present to the congregation for its approval and affiliation as we left the Presbyterian Church (USA), we had narrowed the selection to three choices: the Christian Reformed Church, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, and the Presbyterian Church in America. The women of the church had served as elders for decades, but recently had come to understand it was contrary to the order of creation and command of Scripture, and were now committed to not holding office again. Thus it was that the Evangelical Presbyterian Church was eventually ruled out of consideration. It seemed apparent that their constitutional ambivalence on women exercising authority over men, particularly as church officers, was incompatible with our repentance in this matter. We had come to see father-rule to be foundational for the spiritual and theological integrity of the church.
That left us with the CRC and the PCA. We had a number of Dutch families and some in our congregation had grown up in the CRC. Since our town adjoined the town of Friesland, we had fellowship with many friends and relatives from CRC churches and many of us had been watching their theological battles for years. One night, the elders decided the CRC was out. I distinctly remember one elder summarizing what all of us were thinking: "The CRC will be exactly where the PC(USA) is now in twenty years. Then where will we be?" We all nodded in agreement and moved on to the PCA.
So the choice of the PCA was as much a rejection of the feminist commitments of the EPC and CRC as it was trust in the PCA's submission to Scripture in the matter. Still, the PCA wasn't discussing women officers then, so we felt somewhat secure.
by David and Tim Bayly on April 23, 2008 - 12:05pm
(Tim) A year ago, we published a critique of a paper by then-PCA pastor Sam Downing of City Church (Denver) defending his decision to call a woman with an M.Div. from Covenant Theological Seminary to serve on his staff as Minister of Church Life. (Pastor Downing's congregation recently voted to affiliate with the Reformed Church in America and Rocky Mountain Presbytery will act on the matter at their April 24/25 meeting.)
As a defense of most things feminist and the necessity of urban PCA church plants following his lead in this direction, Pastor Downing's paper left the men of Rocky Mountain Presbtytery little choice but to initiate discipline aimed at bringing Pastor Downing and his mission church back within the fold of biblical orthodoxy on sexuality. What wasn't so clear was the best tack to take.
Those with a biblical commitment to church discipline know how often disciplinary cases are decided on technical and procedural matters that seem, in the final analysis, to have little to do with the point at issue. So it has been with this case...
(Tim) For the record, I'm disappointed Rocky Mountain Presbytery's City Church in Denver was allowed to take the PCA's ball and go home without being disciplined for her rejection of biblical sexuality and polity. A plant of the Presbyterian Church in America, she (and particularly her pastor) should have heard a clear "No" from her presbytery, somewhere or sometime. Instead, she saw her presbytery enmeshed in a bunch of split votes that demonstrated tepid leadership, at best; and trendy postmodern commitments to biblical sexuality, at worst.
What would a pastor or session have to do in order to receive a clear disciplinary "No" from a presbytery of the PCA today in this matter of sexuality?
I can hear some responding, "No one's ordained a woman elder or pastor, yet."
If we think it's possible to avoid declaring the boundaries of biblical sexuality at every point leading up to the eldership, but then to hold firm there, our problems are much deeper than the biblical doctrine of sexuality...
(Tim) Recently, this Overture 19 from Central Georgia Presbytery arrived at our PCA General Assembly office. It's one more in the salvo of overtures related to the rebellion against our church Constitution long practiced by a certain type of urban northern church that refuses to use women in supportive capacities to their male deacons, but instead elects both men and women to the office.
In this controversy, Central Georgia Presbytery has chosen an interesting tack of overturing General Assembly against appointing a study committee.
No question, those who want to move the PCA in a feminist and egalitarian direction--and there are many who do, although they'd vociferously deny it--have chosen an excellent hill for their next stand. This issue of deaconess is complex and that complexity, both biblically and historically, will provide good cover for those among us who would prefer expanding, to protecting and repairing the breach in the wall.
If we're to have a study committee, it still seems best to focus its work on sexuality and authority in the church, generally, rather than limiting the work to women deacons...
(Tim) Several years ago, I asked a stated clerk if there were any papers circulating within our denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, justifying the widespread practice of electing and installing woman deacons. He sent me this paper titled, "Women in Ministry at East Lanier Community Church: An Explanation and Defense of the Position of the Session Regarding the Role of Women in Ministry at East Lanier Community Church." It was the only thing he'd come across.
So then, in a recent post "Sexuality and the PCA...," I linked East Lanier's paper to similar ones written by Pastor Tim Keller of New York City and Pastor Sam Downing of Denver--both PCA pastors at the time. (Sam Downing since left the PCA for the RCA, taking City
Church Denver with him. Rocky Mountain Presbytery blessed his
departure at their last meeting. Here's a critique of Pastor Downing's paper done at the request of a member of Rocky Mountain Presbytery.)
These pastors and their papers are representative of a widespread movement in the PCA that practices women leading and exercising authority over men in the church in every position except ruling elder and pastor. Most of these churches have female deacons serving alongside male deacons, without distinction, and they commonly characterize the teaching of Scripture on sexuality in the church as "A woman may do anything a non-ordained man may do." In my own Ohio Valley Presbytery, the best representative of this position is Redeemer Presbyterian Church of Indianapolis which was recently found to be out of accord with the Book of Church Order in her practice of women deacons, and is currently in dialog with presbytery concerning how best to bring her practice into conformity with our PCA Constitution.
(Tim) Most readers are aware of the categories we assign each post, listed together on the left margin down the page a ways. This to announce we just added one, "Women deacons."
This is a critical issue in reformed churches and it seemed good to collect the posts dealing with this issue in one place for ease of access. Some of them are only tangentially related to this issue, but most directly.
Women have already organized their own work in the church; and with a zeal and success which shame the prevailing apathy of Christian men, women have worked out for themselves a whole series of institutions which, while the church sleeps, may perchance grow fatally to overshadow its official and authorized agencies. To shut our eyes to the dangers inherent in these gigantic voluntary associations would be as silly as it might prove to be suicidal. Nor is it an adequate annulment of these dangers to plead that the loving loyalty of our women to our church system has shown itself to be as great as their loving zeal for God’s work. This is true, and deserves highest praise. But we must bear in mind... (that the) essential principle of every organization comes out sooner or later in its working; and independent and voluntary agencies show sooner or later that they have both independence and will of their own.
-B. B. Warfield in his essay reproduced below, "Presbyterian Deaconesses."
(Tim) Here's an essay by B. B. Warfield on the biblical warrant and historical practice of deaconesses serving the church. Taken from an 1889 issue of The Presbyterian Review, it's a long but essential read for those wanting to debate and vote carefully on the overtures related to this issue coming to our PCA General Assembly next week in Dallas.
Two things to note: First, whatever approach to this question Warfield has taken, it bears little resemblance to the unconstitutional practice of egalitarian feminist churches in the PCA who, for years now, have been promoting women to the office of deacon without ordaining them--women indistinct in title, work, or authority from the male deacons they serve beside (who also are elected but not ordained).
This leads to the second point: Read the last couple of paragraphs of Warfield's essay carefully. There he warns against adopting a policy or practice on this issue that is "bare right (but) does not vindicate wisdom." Warfield goes on to ask, "How may woman’s work be organized so as to make it part of the church work and not extra-ecclesiastical?" He concludes with the statement that whatever is done must not "transgress the limits placed by God himself in his word upon the proper functions of woman in a Christian society," but rather must be "shown to be a further application of principles involved in the institutions appointed by God for the church."
So what are the "limits placed by God Himself in His Word upon the proper function of woman in a Christian society?" And note well: Not a Christian home or Christian church, but "a Christian society."
These "limits" are that woman is barred from the exercise of authority over man...
"It is the settled doctrine of our church that women are excluded from
licensure and ordination by the plain teaching of the Scriptures, and,
therefore, cannot be admitted to our pulpits as authorized preachers of
the Word; and, also, that they are prohibited from speaking by way of
exhortation, or leading in prayer, or discussing any question publicly
in the meetings of the church or congregation as a mixed assembly. This
is according to the mind of the Spirit as expressed by Paul in 1 Cor.
xiv. 34, 35, and I Tim. ii. II, 12."
* * * (Tim, w/thanks to Wayne) Here are excerpts from the PCUS Digest of Assembly Actions, showing the course of relevant actions in the Southern Presbyterian Church from 1861-1944.
Note how change comes to the church. Deform takes the guise of reform and begins its assault. Year after year it returns, knocking at the door of successive general assemblies. It says the church should "not make laws or bind consciences where Scripture is silent." Past generations believed Scripture speaks to the issue clearly, but things obvious to past generations are invisible to moderns. Eventually, men working to guard the good deposit grow weary of the task and begin to make concessions. After all, every concession appears reasonable and harmless.
I'm reminded of a scrap off Kierkegaard's table:
Imagine a fortress, absolutely impregnable, provisioned for an
There comes a new commandant. He conceives that it might be a good idea
to build bridges over the moats--so as to be able to attack the
besiegers. Charmant! He transforms the fortress into a countryseat, and
naturally the enemy takes it.
So it is with Christianity. They changed the method--and naturally the world conquered.
-Soren Kierkegaard, Attack Upon "Christendom," (Princeton University Press, 1944), p. 138.
(NOTE: About fifty deep in the comments under this post is one made by "PCA friend" that readers will find helpful in clarifying what happened at the assembly, as well as the actions' larger context in the intricacies of PCA polity. PCA friend also makes the valid point others also made; namely, that some supported the minority report--and thus a study committee--not out of a desire for change, but because they believed this would be the wisest course to take in supporting our church's present constitutional requirements.)
(Tim) Just now, I received a report on what is likely the most significant decision facing this year's General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America. Several overtures to the assembly--most notably, one from Philadelphia Presbytery that came to the presbytery by recommendation of a presbytery committee including Tenth Presbyterian Church's senior minister, Rev. Dr. Philip Ryken--asked the assembly to appoint an ad interim study committee on women deacons. Others within the PCA (including Central Georgia Presbytery) opposed such a study committee, seeing it as a Trojan Horse for northern city churches moving the denomination in an egalitarian feminist direction.
Overtures to the assembly pass through the Bills and Overtures Committee which meets prior to the assembly and brings recommendations on each overture to the assembly floor. This year's Bills and Overtures Committee was chaired by Rev. Fred Greco who brought the committee's recommendation (its Majority Report) to the assembly floor. This Majority Report called for the overture requesting the appointment of a study committee on women deacons to be answered in the negative, in which case no such committee would be constituted.
The president of Covenant Seminary, Bryan Chapell...
(Tim) Pushing for Philadelphia Presbytery's overture to study woman deacons, Bryan Chapell presented the Bills and Overture Committee's Minority Report, arguing “We have to listen to one another. We have to be willing to talk about difficult things without fear of demoralizing the church. We must get people together in the same room to talk about (these things) in an atmosphere that’s not highly charged.”
Our denominational magazine, Byfaith, reported that Chapell's minority proposal "recommended that a committee comprised of theologians on both sides of the issue—including Tim Keller, Phil Ryken, Ligon Duncan, and Jimmy Agan—meet together over the coming year to come to a Scriptural understanding of deaconesses." The remaining three members of the study committee were to be appointed by the moderator, but somewhere Chapell was quoted as saying he hoped the majority would be in favor of the status quo--namely, woman deacons forbidden by our Book of Church Order.
So let's do the numbers.
The churches Tim Keller and Phil Ryken serve have woman deacons. And reading what they've written on the subject, we could expect them to support amending the Book of Church Order. Jimmy Agan is a junior faculty member under Bryan Chapell at Covenant Seminary, so he's likely to stand where Bryan stands.
Where is that? I'm guessing some sort of compromise that keeps large churches happy both north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line...
(Tim) A reader asks: "(D)id I understand your
introduction to say that you agreed with Warfield's approach inasmuch
as 'deaconess' could be a valid office in the church as long as it did
not entail the exercise of authority over men, and thus was not
conflated with the male diaconate?"
I respond: Yes, but I think such an action on the part of the PCA right now
would be unwise in the extreme, given the conflation of the biblical
office of deacon and these various helps women performed at times in
church history. Furthermore, as Warfield points out quite clearly,
Scripture itself cannot be said to provide a biblical basis for woman
deacons. Warfield's exactly right.
What we find is that at various times the church did precisely what
our Book of Church Order (BCO) allows: namely, to create ad hoc or ancillary groups of
women for service to the church--including helping those officers
called "deacons." Those women might be called "deaconesses," but across
church history they were never exercising authority over men.
And this is where the practice of so many churches of the uber-hip
metro-sophisticate variety leave us in a position that we must oppose
(Tim) One news source worth checking out because it isn't dependent on denominational money and the approval of denominational leaders for its existence is Dominic Aquila's eponymous Aquila Report. And concerning the PCA and woman deacons, here's a good article from Aquila Report summarizing this past assembly's actions on the matter.
Also from Aquila Report, here's an article reporting on the actions taken by my own Ohio Valley Presbytery concerning Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis in the matter of their practice of woman deacons. Here is most of the text of the recommendations made by a committee that had been appointed by presbytery to deal with this matter. These recommendations were adopted by Ohio Valley Presbytery...
(Tim: Given the importance of this correction, we'll leave this post at the top for a few days. Please check below for more recent posts. Thanks.)
Speaking of Bryan Chapell putting forward Phil Ryken for service on a study committee on woman deacons, I held off correcting some significant errors in Phil's commentary on 1Timothy 3:8-13 until I'd been able to notify him of those errors, giving him a chance to correct the text of the PDF available for download. A week and a half after we exchanged e-mails (Phil was quite cordial, by the way), it appears the text hasn't yet been corrected. The errors appear in Phil's commentary issued as part of P&R's Reformed Expository Commentary Series, and specifically his comments on 1Timothy 3:8-13 where the Apostle Paul enumerates qualifications for the office of deacon. In this text, Phil misquotes B. B. Warfield...
(Tim) Within a number of reformed denominations holding to the Westminster Standards, we have men who seem not to have a heart for opposing the heresy of feminism. To work to reform this reality, we would do well to ask several questions on the floor of presbytery of candidates for ordination. Here are a couple that might serve the purpose.
First, we might ask, "Do you believe it's a faithful summary of the Biblical doctrine of sexuality to say, as many have said publicly in our denomination, that 'a woman may do anything a non-ordained man may do?'"
If the man responds, "Yes" or "Maybe," it's clear he's either woefully uninformed or opposed to the Biblical doctrine of sexuality and has no heart for opposing this heresy even though he likely knows he can't advocate women elders or senior pastors. Certainly no prior father of the Church would recognize this as a faithful summary of Scripture's teaching. They would be left scratching their heads.
If he says "No, I don't think that's a good summary of Scripture's doctrine" we ought to be encouraged, but still, we're not yet finished.
The first follow-up question could be: "Will you require the bride to repeat, as part of her marriage vow, the historic Biblical promise to "obey" her husband in those marriage ceremonies at which you officiate?"
If he says "No," our work is cut out for us. If he says "Yes," we're still not finished...
(Tim) Speaking of those championing a change in the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America to allow for woman deacons, one commenter on this blog defended them, writing "No one who is asking us to look into this says we should ignore the scriptures."
Respectfully, I must disagree. If we look at PCA teaching elders who are championing woman deacons, it must be said that some of them fail to affirm, while others oppose the plain teaching of Scripture on sexuality: That since Adam was created first, and then Eve; and since Eve was the one deceived; woman is forbidden to teach or exercise authority over man.
They occasionally come up with scholars (usually modern) they can cite in support of woman deacons, but these scholars have not done any heavy lifting on this issue. Rather, their work amounts to the sort of incidental treatments of a subject that ought never to displace the witness of the Church across history. Thus, it can't be said often enough that the present practice of non-compliant churches within the PCA bears no resemblance to the practice of the Church of the past two thousand years.
For example, some have cited Drs. Doug Moo, Tom Schreiner, and Andreas Köstenberger, as well as the late Dr. Ed Clowney, in support of woman deacons. Several of these men I know and respect. Yet there are others who have given themselves to this subject on a systematic basis who are far better sources in this debate.
Take, for instance, the French historian, Aime Georges Martimort, author of Deaconesses: An Historical Study. (To purchase, click on the title.) Despite the title, Martimort's examination treats both Scripture and church history. Others have commented on Martimort’s work:
This book can be considered the last word on the subject of deaconesses. It deserves a wide readership since there is so much interest in the ordination of women. (Homiletic & Pastoral Review)
Martimort uses his refined skills to give us what should be the definitive work on the subject. (The Diaconate)
So Martimort is foundational to the debate over woman deacons in the PCA and other reformed denominations today. Knowing some will not have the time or inclination to read his work, here are some excerpts...
by David and Tim Bayly on September 17, 2008 - 2:08pm
(Tim) Several years ago, I was talking with one of the patriarchs of the PCA about a series of pieces we'd published here exposing the promotion of false doctrine within one of our largest denominational institutions. Although we've worked together in other battles outside the denomination, any thought of discipline or conflict inside these hallowed grounds of the PCA was beyond the pale to this church father. He expressed his disapproval of what I'd written with the simple statement, "Tim, I'm a loyalist when it comes to (that institution) and the PCA."
What is loyalty?
Was Hezekiah loyal when, informed by Isaiah of the coming Babylonian captivity his people and his own sons would suffer, he responded, "'The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good.' For he thought, 'There will be peace and security in my lifetime?" Was the Apostle Peter loyal when he left the Gentiles and went over to the Jews at church potlucks? Were those giving preferential treatment to rich men within the church loyal in seeking to provide for the church's financial well-being? Was Eli loyal when he allowed his sons to continue to profane the holy things as they held sacred office?--family first, you know.
From loyalty, Monday we called attention to the fact that friends from CBMW days seem to have no problem with a woman, Dr. Diane Langberg, publicly teaching men doctrine at a theology conference their professional association, the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, is co-sponsoring. There they all are--John, Al, C.J., Lig, Phil, John--and they're promoting the ministry of a woman teaching men. In fact, beyond promoting, a couple of them (Don and Al) are sharing the pulpit with her.
From loyalty, yesterday we ran a piece on the apparent lack of discipline of faculty members at our denomination's Covenant College, pointing out that one third of them support Barack Obama's presidential bid and half of them decline to acknowledge abortion to be "Very important" in their choice. To put this in perspective, imagine a PCA college in Germany during the Third Reich, keeping in mind that the number of little babies slaughtered now by abortion absolutely dwarfs the number of Christians and Jews Hitler's men slaughtered during the Nazi regime.
Once again, from loyalty to this faith community known as the PCA, we turn to the Rev. Dr. Tim Keller...
by David and Tim Bayly on September 19, 2008 - 12:33pm
NOTE FROM TIM: I've just taken the liberty of changing a couple sentences and adding some quotes to clarify this piece. So if you already read this post in its first day on the blog, please read it again. Having two writers contributing to this piece allowed a couple things through we'd normally have caught. They've now been corrected.
(David and Tim, w/thanks to Dave) Search for "Langberg" on the Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) web site and fifty-seven links are returned offering products produced by Westminster Theological Seminary adjunct professor Diane Langberg. (Here and here are sample pages.)
Check out CBE's directory for a recommended counselor in Pennsylvania and you will find Calvary Presbyterian Church (PCA) member Diane Langberg.
Several years ago, controversy erupted within the Presbyterian Church in America over whether or not a certain woman actually preached at Covenant Theological Seminary. The controversy came to a head at the 29th General Assembly when Covenant's president, Dr. Bryan Chapell, explained the chapel address had mostly not been preaching although some parts strayed into "sermonic (and) some applicatory material." Bryan Chapell explained to the Assembly:
That Diane Langberg had been told ahead of time what the standards were for her speaking during the chapel time;
That after she spoke at Covenant Seminary, Diane Langberg received a letter reminding her of the standards, and expressing concern that those standards had not been followed; and
That the administration of Covenant Seminary met with students to explain the situation and to assure the seminary community that what had happened was not according to the standards they were committed to upholding.
Note that the chapel message at the root of the controversy was given by Dr. Diane Langberg. Yet, despite her being at the center of this controversy...
Two years ago, the Christian education arm of the Presbyterian Church in America, Christian Education and Publications (CE&P), held its 2006 International Women in the Church Conference in Atlanta. The three women employed to teach the 4,000 assembled women of the PCA? Joni Eareckson Tada, Paige Benton Brown, and Dr. Diane Langberg.
Again, at Women in the Church's (WIC) 2007 Leadership Training Conference Dr. Diane Langberg was a plenary speaker.
Diane Langberg was principal speaker at Tenth Presbyterian (PCA) Church's 2008 TenthWomen Conference.
And this same Diane Langberg is featured speaker at the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals' Princeton Regional Conference on Reformed Theology--together with Al Mohler and Don Carson.
by David and Tim Bayly on October 20, 2008 - 7:54pm
(Tim) Back on June 15, I wrote Phil Ryken, pastor of Philadelphia's historic Tenth Presbyterian Church, to point out two significant errors in a sermon he gave at Tenth later published as a commentary on 1Timothy by P&R as a volume in their Reformed Expository Commentary series. Then I followed up our private correspondence with a public post warning the church at large of these errors.
After the post, Phil and I exchanged several private e-mails in which I asked Phil to correct his errors by amending the PDF offered on his church's web site and inserting an errata sheet in any future copies of his commentary shipped by P&R.
It's now four months later.
A week ago at our Ohio Valley Presbytery meeting we received a document justifying woman officers in the PCA. Phil's commentary was cited with errors intact and prominently featured in the document's arguments. One of Tim Keller's Redeemer churches distributed the document as justification for the statement to us by their session that "It remains the conviction of Redeemer's session (Indianapolis) that there is no scriptural basis to differentiate between men and women serving as Deacons under the authority of the Session." (Emphasis in the original. Here's an article giving some of the past history of Ohio Valley Presbytery's work with Redeemer in Indianapolis.)
Seeing these errors continue to be cited by churches not in conformity with our Book of Church Order, I wondered whether the PDF on Tenth's web site had been corrected? On the way home, I pulled up the PDF from Tenth's web site and found...
What's interesting is not so much what Tim wrote, but what his readers commenting beneath his piece said and didn't say. Or what they considered and what they didn't consider in weighing his claims and arguments.
Tim Keller's article must be interpreted in the larger context of his ministry at Redeemer. Only then will it be understood properly. The operative rule at Redeemer with regard to all things sexual is, "A woman may do anything a non-ordained man may do." So the working out of Redeemer's theology of sexuality is that women at Redeemer are allowed to teach and exercise authority over men everywhere and always except from the pulpit Lord's Day morning and in any way reserved for the elders as they exercise something they call "teaching authority." But whatever this "teaching authority" is, it's not when women teach Scripture to men because that precise thing they explicitly allow.
When Tim Keller claims to hold firmly to Scripture's Creation Order of sexuality, those weighing his claim should know that the actual implementation of that Order in his church would be unrecognizable to any previous generation of Christians...
by David and Tim Bayly on October 22, 2008 - 1:32pm
(Tim) Recently, the PCA's institutional public relations voice, byFaith magazine, ran a point/counterpoint on woman deacons. This is the second in a series of posts I'll be doing critiquing Tim Keller's article promoting woman deacons. (Here are installments one, two, three, four, five, and six.) Tim Keller argued the point, Lig Duncan the counterpoint. This only to say I found the pictures of Tim and Lig that ran above their respective articles quite humorous. Here's Tim. Here's Lig. Yes yes, I'm sure it's no invidious plot.
Lig's scowl reminds me of some of the wording in the paper distributed to members of Ohio Valley Presbtery in our October stated meeting by Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis. The twenty-one page untitled paper addressed the presbytery as follows...
by David and Tim Bayly on October 22, 2008 - 4:10pm
(Tim) Pastor Tim Keller recently did a piece promoting woman deacons. It ran in the Presbyterian Church in America's byFaith e-monthly. Section by section, from time to time, I'm critiquing parts of Pastor Keller's article. This is the third installment. (Here are installments one, two, three, four, five, and six.) Readers will note I've not cut any of Pastor Keller's text. His words are indented, mine are not.
The Case for Commissioning (Not Ordaining) Deaconesses
by Tim Keller, published in byFaith, Issue Number 21, August 2008
Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City has since its inception commissioned (but not ordained) deaconesses working alongside male deacons in diaconal work. Why do we do this?
The first note struck is misleading. Reading Pastor Keller's words, we're led to believe that Redeemer is living well within the bounds of PCA polity, making a clear distinction between the men and women who serve in diaconal ministry. This is, of course, the one thing necessary in order to submit to Scripture's doctrine of sexuality--that male and female be clearly delineated in anything approximating authoritative function or office. So, according to Pastor Keller's words, here, he's led his congregation to make a distinction between the men and women serving as deacons. The women are commissioned, the men ordained, right?
That's what I thought when I first read the above. Yet in the back of my mind, a little bell was ringing, causing me to wonder if there wasn't some confusion, here...
by David and Tim Bayly on October 30, 2008 - 6:15pm
(Tim) On this blog, there's a growing series of posts critiquing an article in byFaith magazine by Tim Keller promoting woman deacons. This is the fourth in that series. (Here are installments one, two, three, four, five, and six.)
by David and Tim Bayly on November 6, 2008 - 1:18pm
(Tim) Jake Mentzel bought Mark Driscoll's new booklet and reports Tim Keller has waved his magic wand and Mark's now walking around in a trance repeating Tim's mantra: "A woman can do anything an unordained man can do." I'm disappointed.
But really, it shouldn't be too much of a surprise. When they hang out with each other, either Mark's going to rub off on Tim or Tim's going to rub off on Mark. And ninety-nine out of a hundred times, I'd have my money on Tim.
by David and Tim Bayly on November 13, 2008 - 4:41pm
(Tim) The Presbyterian Church in America's magazine, byFaith, recently published an article by Tim Keller arguing that we should change our Book of Church Order to allow woman deacons. We have had a series of posts critiquing Tim Keller's article and this is the fifth in that series. (Here are installments one, two, three, four, five, and six.)
First, this excerpt from Keller's article which we'll see is in need of correction:
A Personal History In 1982 the Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod (RPCES) joined with the PCA shortly after its 154th Synod had narrowly defeated a motion to ordain women as deacons. But the 156th Synod added, “We also remind churches that they are free to elect Spirit-filled women as deaconesses and set them apart by prayer... We affirm the right of a local church to have a separate body of unordained women who may be called deaconesses.” The 1982 PCA General Assembly did not consider the actions of the RPCES Synods to be binding on us, but rather “valuable and significant material which will be used in the perfecting of the Church,” and therefore to be granted respect.
In this first paragraph of his "Personal History," Tim Keller tells us the 154th (1976) RPCES Synod "narrowly defeated a motion to ordain women as deacons."
In fact, the request made by the Study Committee on Role of Women in the Church, that the Synod change its polity to "ordain woman as deacons," received the following response...
Researching this matter, I've spoken to one of the RPCES fathers added
to the Committee and he's confirmed the record of the Minutes, saying
he remembers no vote on women deacons at the 154th Synod, let alone a
motion approving women deacons being "narrowly defeated." The matter
It was the motion to add women to denominational boards and
committees that was "narrowly defeated."
This is additional corroboration of my contention that, in addition to Phil Ryken, Tim Keller also has been in error in his handling of the historical record as he gives himself to advocacy of woman deacons within the PCA...
by David and Tim Bayly on November 20, 2008 - 1:33pm
(Tim) Adding to the historical record, here's another article on deaconesses by Princeton theologian, B. B. Warfield. As an explanation for the way we label such things, please note that not all who argue for deaconesses agree with the thrust of Tim Keller and his followers who are seeking to have the PCA change her polity to allow men and women to serve indiscriminately together in the diaconate.
B. B. Warfield here describes the work of deaconesses. And the one thing we can say about deaconesses is that they are not deacons. When Warfield asks "What is a deaconess?" he doesn't respond, "A deaconess is a deacon."
Unordained men and women serving in the same diaconate, on the same deacon board of a church with no distinction in their duties or authority, are what is being sought today by men like Pastor Keller. This is precisely what is contrary to the historic practice of the Church.
For this reason, when we refer to the change in polity sought by Keller and his followers, we call it "woman deacons." Woman deacons are not deaconesses.
If you finish this article more confused than ever, you'll understand the title of this post. Warfield seems to have slipped into an uncharacteristic obtuseness...
by David and Tim Bayly on December 2, 2008 - 4:48am
(Tim) The past couple of weeks, I've spent a great deal of time tracking down the historical record concerning the actions of the 154th (1976) Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod (RPCES) related to woman deacons.
Tim Keller wrote an article, recently, for the PCA's byFaith magazine arguing that the PCA should allow woman deacons because, just before joining with the PCA in 1982, the 154th (1976) Synod of the RPCES, "narrowly defeated a motion to ordain women as deacons."
Keller suggests the trajectory of the RPCES immediately prior to her union with the PCA was towards lifting her own restrictions against woman deacons, and therefore this same trajectory should lead the PCA now, thirty years later, to change our polity. Here's how Keller puts it:
A Personal History: In 1982 the Reformed
Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod (RPCES) joined with the PCA
shortly after its 154th Synod had narrowly defeated a motion to ordain
women as deacons. ...The
1982 PCA General Assembly did not consider the actions of the RPCES
Synods to be binding on us, but rather “valuable and significant
material which will be used in the perfecting of the Church,” and
therefore to be granted respect.
For Keller's argument to work, though, his version of history has to be right.
The RPCES did not vote whether to have woman deacons at its 154th (1976) Synod. And when the vote was taken, woman deacons were not "narrowly defeated." The vote was decisive...