PCA and woman deacons: unity requires submission...
(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...
And speaking of large churches south of the Mason-Dixon Line, Lig Duncan is the perfect foil to Tim Keller and Phil Ryken, being a former moderator and serving a church in Jackson, Mississippi that is large, wealthy, and has no woman deacons. So we have downtown New York City, Philadelphia, and Jackson, plus a denominational seminary professor--all four possessing the terminal degree.
So far I'm counting two pro-woman deacons, one con, and one for compromise. What about the other three to be appointed by the moderator? Well, given that the Minority Report failed, Moderator Kooistra didn't go on record with his names. But I think it's instructive to follow this thing out and take a stab at what we would have had if Bryan Chapell had been successful. Feminism has cultural legs and has infiltrated the church, so anyone who thinks we're done dealing with this issue is lost in sweet dreams.
On then with prognostication. What I know of Moderator Kooistra, I believe we could expect him to have made three appointments that would be perceived to be fair--that is, two on one and one on the other side. And if I had to guess which side would get two, I'd say the pro-ammendment/compromise side.
You see where I'm headed? I think we would have had a majority of the committee in favor of amending the Book of Church Order. Certainly Tim Keller and Phil Ryken, and certainly one of Paul Kooistra's three appointments. But more likely two of his appointments, and that makes a majority. Absolute best-case scenario is that Kooistra appoints two men opposed to amendment and one in favor, which leaves us with three opposed, three in favor, and (maybe, just maybe) Jimmy Agan standing in the middle ready to break the tie.
I can imagine some protesting, "But this is a study committee! The whole purpose is to study the issue--not to come into the committee ready for battle! How can you be so cynical about the process, expecting these men to come in with conclusions rather than questions?"
Well, of course I expect them to come with questions; and it would be done with the greatest care exercised to demonstrate equanimity in deliberation and dialog. But at the heart, I take it as axiomatic that men come into study committees with prior convictions that rarely change during the political process.
"Political process? There you go again. This isn't intended to be a political process. It's intended to be a study committee in which men study the issue, seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit as they pursue biblical truth. Why would you call it a 'political process'?"
Note this study committee was proposed to resolve a constitutional crisis arising from acts of disobedience on the part of pastors and large, influential churches. This is a ticklish job. Look at the names chosen and brought to the floor as part of the proposal and ask yourself if the process is political? If you need further convincing, watch Lig Duncan turn on his southern charm.
The approach to feminism recommended this year was quite divergent to the approach we took to the Federal Vision several years ago. Starting with the appointments, the Federal Vision study committee was aimed as straight as an arrow whereas this study committee proposal was aimed at a political compromise.
So it's imperative we note again what we've already noted so often: Egalitarian feminism is a heresy and it's alive and well within the PCA. Some would claim not, putting forward the fact that every church and elder has agreed not to have woman elders or senior pastors. But this proves nothing.
The biblical doctrine of sexuality is only professed when men defend male elders and senior pastors--not confessed. We confess Christ and His Word when we find the gaps in the wall and choose to stand precisely there--not one yard to the left or right. And men who sum up Scripture's teaching on sexuality with the statement, "A woman can do anything an unordained man can do," are nowhere near the gap, nor are they wielding the sword of the Spirit.
When we've arrived at the point of a constitutional crisis and the great heresy of our day is at the center of that crisis, study committees are no solution.
Rather, every man willing to confess Christ and His Word needs to go back to his presbytery and seek to speak privately with those churches and pastors in open defiance of our Book of Church Order. The most tender solicitations to obedience and the unity of submission should be employed, along with sweet fellowship and prevailing prayer. A month or two should be allowed for those out of conformity with our constitution to return to their session and congregation, seeking change privately, outside the public eye.
Failing such brotherly love, the matter should be brought to the floor of presbytery with the clear understanding across presbytery that mutual submission to the Word of God and the constitution of the church is the only possible basis of Christian unity and peace.
If such a process were followed in presbyteries across the country in the coming months, it's likely most of the churches presently out of conformity with the Word of God and our Book of Church Order would repent and turn.
Regardless, our denomination ought not to pander to men out of conformity with our Book of Church Order by delegating to them the work of studying the issue at the heart of their divergence.
And may I say one more thing, gently? If you'd already thought everything I've written here, but would never say it publicly because you fear the repercussions it would have on your career, my dear brother, you are what's wrong with the PCA. Walk by faith and guard the good deposit the Holy Spirit has entrusted to you.