Woman Deacons: East Lanier Community Church (PCA) steps back...

(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.

Then, this past week, the Session of East Lanier Community Church released a letter...

dated May 21, 2008 announcing the elders' decision to change East Lanier's practice of women deacons in order to avoid dissension. I quote:

The problem was that our denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), does not allow women to hold the ordained office of deacon. In order to do what we felt the Bible allowed, we simply did not ordain any of our deacons. Instead we commissioned them. This is the practice of many other churches that also have women deacons.

At the May 19 meeting of the elders, however, we decided that it was best to fall more in line with the spirit of PCA's Book of Church Order (BCO) and begin to ordain men to the office of deacon. ...Our priority here is the peace of the church.

Praise God. May we all be led to the unity of God's Word on this issue.

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NOTE: We've added a new category on the blog titled "Woman Deacons."


You characterize progressives in the church as committed to the argument that "a woman may do anything a non-ordained man may do," as if that is their flawed starting point. That is an unnecessary concession, it seems to me, and I don't understand why traditionalists refuse to employ that logic themselves. Of course it needs to be wedded to a high view of office, which is largely absent in both sides of the debate on the role of women in the church. Genuine progress in this debate demands a reconsideration of the sanctity of office. After all, egalitarianism in the church extends far beyond gender issues.

Similarly, I remember a pastor once remarking that he agreed with "a woman may do anything a non-ordained man may do" but did not agree with "a woman *should* do anything a non-ordained man may do" that he would be very interested in seeing what would happen if the proposal were made at presbytery that "we need to seriously restrict what non-ordained men may do".

I think the question of "what may a non-ordained man do" is quite important to this whole morass. On the other hand, that alone would not deal with the issue of women in authority over their husbands or other men in non-church settings.

Tsk, I forgot to say the more important thing: praise God for blessing East Lanier Community Church's with humility and submission to the denomination and standards they have joined themselves to. Submitting to the standards is honorable, and realizing that one cannot submit and leaving is honorable (or at least can be). Seeking to remain by evasion of the clear meaning of the standards is the real problem, and I am glad that this congregation has not chosen that road.

>Of course it needs to be wedded to a high view of office, which is largely absent in both sides of the debate on the role of women in the church.

Well, John, I don't know what you mean by "largely absent," but it's certainly not absent in the two churches represented by the writers of this blog.

>egalitarianism in the church extends far beyond gender issues.

Quite true. As I said in the sermon this past Lord's Day, it permeates the Western world, which is exporting it everywhere else.

The offices that are undervalued are not the ordained offices--that's why they're being fought over. The most undervalued offices in the church are the unordained offices of "man" and "woman."

Every individual is called by God to fill one or the other without mixing, mingling or confusion. A woman may do anything a non-ordained man may do? Shouldn't this statement be absurd at face value? Can a woman be the head of her home when her husband is alive and well? Won't this necessarily be played out in the church? Or are they to become an unmarried couple with no relational ties once they enter the sanctuary? A man is a man all the time--inside the church and out. It the calling of a man to be a man and a woman to be a woman. God has ordained them thus. Let us exalt these offices.

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