Other PCA standards in peril...

A friend called my attention to Redeemer Presbyterian Church's (NYC) new "Diaconate Director," Jenny Chang... Jenny follows Andrea Mungo who served as Redeemer's Diaconate Director nearly a decade.

Redeemer defines its diaconate thus:

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.

Unlike elders, who are responsible for teaching the Gospel, administering healing prayer, and overseeing the church, the officers of the Diaconate (deacons and deaconesses) focus on extending mercy and compassion. Our purpose is to show God's love to those in difficult circumstances by working together with them to resolve their struggles. We aim to be facilitators of the work God is doing in their lives.

The BCO states of the diaconate,

The ordinary and perpetual classes of office in the Church are elders and deacons.  Within the class of elder are the two orders of teaching elders and ruling elders.  The elders jointly have the government and spiritual oversight of the Church, including teaching.  Only those elders who are specially gifted, called and trained by God to preach may serve as teaching elders.  The office of deacon is not one of rule, but rather of service both to the physical and spiritual needs of the people.  In accord with Scripture, these offices are open to men only.

This may not be as glamorous a section of the PCA standards as the portions of the Westminster Confession dealing with church or sacraments, yet it is a standard of the church and it is being knowingly violated, even flouted....

Has anyone suggested an ad interim study committee at any time in the last ten years? I suspect not. Redeemer evidently feels so secure in this deviation from PCA standards that it boldly proclaims it. 

Let's be honest: when an elected office of the church goes this direction all the quibbling on earth about that office being distinct from the eldership amounts to a hill of beans and male eldership hangs by a thread. The slightest hint of acquiescence to female eldership by this church's leadership will cause that standard too to fall--with nary a soul to mourn its passing.

P.S. For those wondering why this is an issue when the New Testament clearly refers to women as deaconesses, the short answer is that the New Testament office is distinct from the New Testament service. Not every one who presides is a president. Yet the terms and function are closely related. So too, a New Testament deacon or deaconess is a servant. That's the meaning of the word. But some who serve are also given the office Servant of the Church, and that office has historically been understood--from the book of Acts onward--to be an official position carrying real power and authority. For more on this see this article by my brother Tim.


The irony is that this is a much more cut and dried violation of church order than FV. But apparently it doesn't violate the sensibilities of those pulling the strings at the center of the PCA. Another indicator that the PCA is on the well trod PCUSA road. We may still hope that it turns about but conducting purges of people who are arguably within the Westminster standards probably won't advance that cause.

I'm curious, what exactly is the scriptural basis for not allowing deaconesses? Are deacons leaders of any sort, or just servants?

I'm curious as well. I'd assume the language regarding deacons in 1 Tim 3 ("Their wives...", "Husbands of one wife...") excludes women from the office, as this is the clear definition of what a deacon must look like. But what then of Rom 16:1, etc?

Looks like Tim already wrote about this one:


The OPC did a report on the whole topic years ago, too...


The chapter on Deacons in the PCA BCO allows deacons to find godly men and women to assist them in the work of the diaconate. So the issue is ordination not service.

This issue seems overdue for a study committee, one way or the other. If the deaconessing churches in the PCA (and there are more than a few) are correct, then BCO should be modified. If they are wrong, then their practice, or their affiliation, should change. Who will bell the cat? Brothers Bayly, what has prevented a resolution for such a study committee from coming from any presbyteries to GA over the years? What if such a resolution came from multiple presbyteries to next year's GA? How can we make it happen? (I'm an RE in Tennessee Valley Presbytery.)

This has been an issue in the PCA since the Joining and Receiving back in 1982. There was a movement in the RPCES to open the office of deacon to women. When the J&R took place it fell on the back burner

but now it has picked up steam again mostly from Redeemer NYC.

So, based upon Mr. Pipe's links, it seems that a deacon is not just a servant but also a leader for the other servants in the congregation, right?

Dear Keith,

Basically, that's right. I added a P.S. to the post to make this clearer to those who may wonder.

Yours in Christ,


This is why I fear for my church. There are 149 posts dealing with a subject while important does not rise at this point to breaking the standards of the PCA. On the other hand we have a church and a presbytery which is willfully breaking the standards of their church and their ordination vows but there is but nine posts.

I say this tentatively, because it's an observation based on a small sample size, but the PCA seems schizophrenic to me. You have traditional churches (which isn't just about hymns, but taking the elements of worship and the means of grace more seriously instead of giving the audience what they want), and you have contemporary churches that have their praise music and other novelties that I can't fit into the RPW. Broad generalization, but I'd be shocked if any of the former are the ones playing in traffic with deaconesses (which doesn't mean that all of the latter are). I've wondered for awhile if there's a connection...

Jack's Pipe, you might be surprised to learn some of the traditional churches, otherwise bastions of orthodoxy, that have deaconnesses!

And, the shocking thing to me is that arguably the most Reformed denomination in the US, the RPCNA,has had deaconnesses since the late 1800's.

Bayly brothers: I love you guys to death, but I think there is a reasoning flaw here (not about complementarianism, which I embrace). Your argument seems to be that worrying about the Vandals at the front gate means we aren't paying attention to the Visigoths at the back gate. I would venture to bet that those who are most worried about the Huns are also most vigilant about the Goths --those most alarmed about the FV, are also those who are fighting the egalitarian advance.

"Jack's Pipe, you might be surprised to learn some of the traditional churches, otherwise bastions of orthodoxy, that have deaconnesses!"

Hm, ya learn something new every day.

>-those most alarmed about the FV, are also those who are fighting the egalitarian advance

Hadn't noticed that to be the case. Indeed some of the FV are in the forefront of advancing a scriptural understanding of how the sexes should relate.

Go to the CBMW website. Who is the head? Who are some of the scholars there listed?

>Go to the CBMW website. Who is the head? Who are some of the scholars there listed?

What does that have to do with the price of tea in China?

I'm glad I'm not the only one who didn't catch it, David. ;^)

J. Ligon Duncan III would be recognized by most as at the forefront of anti-FV convictions in the PCA.

You will also find much on there by D. A. Carson, George Knight, and other critics of the FV/NPP.

He also happens to be the chairman of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

I would beware of thinking that says that the FV is somehow out on the forefront of classical Biblical thinking on God-given gender roles. That is, quite simply, false. I don't think anyone is saying it is wrong to profit from Doug Wilson on matters such as home and family.

But, it does not follow that to be opposed to the FV on matters related to soteriology and ecclesiology means to be mistaken on Biblical teaching on male and female gender roles, marriage and family. Certain FV authors can be wrong about certain things, and right about others.

>But, it does not follow that to be opposed to the FV on matters related to soteriology and ecclesiology means to be mistaken on Biblical teaching on male and female gender roles, marriage and family.

I don't remember anyone claiming that. Do you?

1-If these men, who are in the PCA, are taking the lead in defending biblical roles, then why haven't they filed a memorial about the ordination of deaconess by these churches with GA/SJC as they did with FV?

2-If these churches who are electing and ordaining women as deaconess believe are standards are wrong then why haven't they sought to amend the standards to reflect are more biblical pattern of church government?


The reason for #1 is that those particular men know that the FV advocates are a very small minority, forcibly excising whom will be an easy and relatively painless action. The removal will happen soon enough, beginning at this summer's GA with the acceptance of the clone report of the very flawed MVP report a few years ago. (One wonders whether Dr. Duncan--the mover and shaker on the committee--read anything else beyond what he already read in the MVP report.) So, to be quite blunt, the FV is a small foe for those opposed to it, and as easily defeated as it is to misrepresent, whereas to oppose those who advocate women in church offices would be taking on a much larger segment of the PCA--one not easily defeated, and one with most of the money.

The answer to #2, though, is politics. They know that those who are opposed to it would go to the mat over the issue, and, to be quite honest, they are more pragmatic about doing things in the Church than they are concerned about the standards.

The topic is "Other PCA standards in peril." David and Tim wrote in another post:

7. Finally, there is some question in our minds whether the PCA could be ignoring more fundamental battles by engaging FV theology. There are other equally pressing threats within our midst. Over the long haul, the prevalence within PCA churches and presbyteries of egalitarian views is as great a danger as FV theology to our spiritual well-being. When PCA churches are setting apart women to the diaconate in what seems to us to be clear defiance of our Book of Church Order; when any number of congregations are using women to administer the Lord's Supper; and when churches begin to call women holding the M.Div. from Covenant Seminary to serve in staff positions bearing the title of "minister" of this and that, we find ourselves wondering whether the almost-exclusive emphasis on FV theology by PCA conservatives isn't willful obscurantism. But of course, taking on the titans of egalitarian ideology in our denomination would be much more difficult than dealing with the more heterodox of the FV men among us, wouldn't it?

My point is simply this: many of us are concerned about both trends. Concern about one does not preclude concern about another. And, there is nothing political about it, that I can see. Perhaps others in our denomination can write overtures addressing these concerns, and we'll see if our courts have enough teeth to tackle them.

The office of deaconess is Biblical and within the standards of PCA Book of Church Order.

"It is often expedient that the Session of a church should select and appoint godly men and women of the congregation to assist the deacons in caring for the sick, the widows, the orphans, the prisoners, and others who may be in any distress or need." BCO 9-7

In my humble opinion, this is where the PCA Book of Church Order recognizes the office of deaconess. BUT, they are to be selected and appointed by the Session and the Session only as is clearly stated, not nominated and elected by the congregation as with the office of deacon. And then come under the loving direction and care of the Diaconate.

Redeemer NYC's heart is on the right track here, but their methodology is wrong.

As for a female Diaconate Director...I haven't seen the job description for this staff position, but if they are handling the logistical and administrative needs of their Diaconate mercy ministry, which is a large discintive of NYC Redeemer (God bless them), I see no trouble here. But, if a woman is providing spiritual direction to the Diaconate, that's no good and out of line of scripture.

Steve-You posted a fuller section from the PCA BCO than I did on my first comment. I have to believe the leadership at Redeemer knows about this provision in the BCO and decided to ignore it so they could elect both men and women to the office of deacon. There is no mention of ordination in the statement which the Pastors Baylys quote from Redeemer so I do not know if they followed the BCO by having the Session lay on hands for ordination.

Steve writes: "Redeemer NYC's heart is on the right track here, but their methodology is wrong."

No, Redeemer NYC's heart is not on the right track. As just one example, here's an excerpt from a statement written and released by Tim and Kathy Keller as part of a larger position statement by the two of them on the biblical doctrine of sexuality:

"The Christian church is far ahead of Judaism and pagan religions... Women were full members of the covenant community (Acts 1:14). They were deaconesses (I Tim.3:11; Romans 16:2); this meant they were ministry leaders, initiating and supervising ministries. It is wrong, therefore, to say that women cannot be area directors in para-church ministries, or to say that women cannot lead evangelistic, discipling, educational, or teaching ministries. Tabitha (Acts 9:30) was a leader of mercy ministry to the poor, while Euodia and Syntyche (Phil.4:2,3) were Paul's evangelistic associates. Priscilla discipled and instructed Apollos (Acts 18:26) and led a house church (Rom.16:4,5). As in the Old Testament (Exodus 15), women were prophets and did prophesy. They spoke and prayed in public worship (I Cor.11:5). It appears from this that there are no ministry gifts or ministries that are forbidden to women. (Except) Paul draws some limits. The office of elder is forbidden to women...."

Make no mistake about it. This list above claims the norm within the church is women teaching and exercising authority over men. Only women exercising authority over men as a function of the office of elder is a step too far. Other than that, "there are no ministry gifts or ministries that are forbidden to women."

It's one indication of the influence Pastor Keller and his Redeemer franchise wields within the PCA that this statement and others like it, written in 1989, continue to be used in Redeemer's ministry with neither apology nor rebuke.

To this day, monkeys see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.


Where can I find the source for this quote? Thanks!

Michael, the citation is "Women and Ministry: Redeemer Presbyterian Church" by Tim and Kathy Keller; November, 1989.

BCO 9-7 specifies that men and women can function *under* the deacons. Well, sure. That's what makes deacon a position of ordained authority: they direct the work of the church, carried out under them by the people of the church, men and women. (And children!) But if those "women under deacons" should be called deaconesses, should the "men under deacons" be called deacons? It's just not a tenable position. And in those churches that have a position called "deaconess", do those women serve under the authority of the ordained deacons as described in BCO 9-7, or do they exercise equal authority?

So, Pastor Tim, what is your response to the Scriptures included in the Keller's statement?

David McCalman's eldest daughter, Sarah

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