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.

Comments

After seeing what Pastor Duncan had to say re FV I had no idea he could be such a shmoozer...

I guess it depends on how serious a matter he believes an issue to be.

It doesn't seem profitable to speculate into the mind of Paul Kooistra, supposing whom he would have nominated if something had happened that didn't in fact happen.

We should remember that the FV Committee was criticized by many on both sides of the FV debate itself because it didn't contain a single prominent representative from the FV side. I'd be surprised if that wasn't on the minds of those who crafted a study committee proposal which included specific names guaranteed to avoid that criticism this time around.

That said, it's certainly possible to go overboard in the other direction with committee composition. And you're right that when you staff a study committee with known strong proponents of both sides of a debate, you're ensuring that the final document will say, "We disagree on this issue." Such a report, if adopted, could have one of two outcomes.

(1) It is treated as precedent. Presbyteries would look at it and say, "Well, the PCA is divided on this topic, so we have no grounds to refuse anyone who holds either view." This seems to be what happened with the Creation report, for instance. In essence, the side favoring women deacons would accomplish their goal of making their stance officially acceptable. Was it Machen who said that when something forbidden becomes allowable, it eventually becomes mandatory? That's what happened with female officers in the PCUSA.

(2) It is treated as a resource. That is, the presbyteries take the arguments pro and con and decide what to do with them, without assuming that they are now bound to allow both views. This might result in GA Overtures to tighten BCO language about use of "Deacon" for anything other than an ordained man, and the use of "Deaconess" for anything. And/Or there might be resolutions loosening BCO. Or presbyteries might become patchwork, keeping the current language and applying it differently from one presbytery to the next.

Regardless of whether there's a study committee on the matter, it wouldn't be surprising that those who most vigorously (but winsomely) promote their case to their peers are likely to win converts and strengthen the resolve of allies. If a godly view of sexuality is to prevail, by God's grace, it will do so through those who held it took the time and spent the energy and made the sacrifices to make it happen.

I don't think that is a very charitable estimate of Dr. Duncan's comments. You are looking at him from a Northerner's perspective, judging a Southerner. I have this hunch that there just might be a miscommunication going on there. Dr. Duncan never said that he agreed with Bryan Chapell. He said that Bryan's speech was eloquent. Dr. Duncan is solidly complementarian. Furthermore, I believe Dr. Agan is, too. Bryan certainly portrayed him as one who would be critical of women deacons. Furthermore, I have it from an independent source that Dr. Agan is against feminism, and against women deacons, although he is certainly for charitable dialog.

Tim,

I dont' want to sidetrack the issue at hand - but I will just note that this is precisely the matter our religious feminist friends would dispute - the unity can *ever* come about through unilateral submission.

Kamilla

>that unity can *ever* come about through unilateral submission.

I'm fine with bilateral submission, then, with both sides submitting to the Word and Spirit of God.

Dr. Agan was my NT professor in seminary (when he was at Erskine). He is a very godly man and one who would be great for such a committee should the need arise. His Ph.D. dissertation, if I remember correctly, was on the use and meaning of deacon in the NT. And from my experience, he comes out of the "conservative" end of the issue.

We do need a charitable assessment of our brothers, including their motives. We are discussing some of the finest Christian men in our denomination (I include the moderator).

I do not share your estimation of the outcome, even among the four men proferred.

I do, however, share your concern about the "pre-planned" result of the study committee. That was why, at the last minute, I changed my mind and was against creating a study committee. It did not seem the best way forward to bring clarity and preserve the peace and purity of our church, especially in light of the other mechanisms available.

The practices that clearly violate our constitution are being dealt with internally- pray that this will continue, and that all of us will have a clearer understanding of what the issues are and what is at stake:

1)the office of Deacon

2)the value of ordination

3)our form of church government

4)male ecclesiastical authority

5)women being fully involved in diaconal ministry

6)men being fully involved in diaconal ministry.

7)all of us being able to reflect reconciled relationships between men and women in the church, for God's Honor and Glory.

Peace.

Lane,

Actually, as a Southerner, I take mild offense to Tim being so generous as to call this tripe "southern charm." Southern charm is NOT naked flattery while trying to lead in the opposite direction, and that is most certainly what the most honorable, reverend, esteemed, etc Duncan is doing.

This isn't going to stop here, at all. More and more churches are going to go against the Book of Order (and Scripture) and hope for studies on whatever wrong they are doing, and eventually those will be allowed, and then before you know it, POOF. The PCA is the PCUSA.

I think it is impossible to accurately discern motives of our brothers. I'm tempted to do it, too, but it's not taking the high road.

>I think it is impossible to accurately discern motives of our brothers.

Discerning their behviour is considerably easier...

Before today I never heard the terms complementarianism or egalitarianism. And I thank Baylyblog for assisting me in taking note of these term.

With that said, please check out: http://www.spepc.org/assets/PDF/FAQ-women-web.pdf

I would love to here some comment about this FAQ

> Egalitarian feminism is a heresy and it's alive and well within the PCA.

And egalitarianism is just one symptom of our anti-authoritarian age. That is the root of feminism. Rules are out. This is one way feminism wins, because non-feminists don't like being bound by rules either, so they will gradually bend out of sympathy, or be replaced by a more open-minded generation. An anti-authoritarian, individualistic, "...whatever -- makes sense to me..." mindset pervades our churches, which I think makes the actual situation being discussed much worse than just dealing with some deaconness wannabees here and there. We're not seeing the big picture.

> 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.

Meanwhile, we think the PCA conservative for sticking its finger in the dike, voting not to have a study committee. No, we'd be conservative if it wasn't an issue in the first place.

> The biblical doctrine of sexuality is only professed when men defend male elders and senior pastors--not confessed.

It is easier to profess the bare minimum letter of the law while ignoring the spirit of the law. This is where we get such oddities as no women pastors, but they can lead men into battle.

> 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.

Right. We become functioning egalitarians while hollowly confessing to be complementarians, with the "no ordained women" line in the sand.

One thing gradually leads to another. We complementarians historically used to believe the Bible taught that men and women were required to come before God differently -- men uncovered, women covered. No wonder we're in the mess we are now! We don't even realize what has already been surrendered. Or if we give it a fleeting thought, we consider it progress.

Our youth groups are androgynous, so how are we expecting this differentiation to be propagated from generation to generation? (The world is screaming its message to them.) There is no hope of putting to rest this deacon issue (and the next thing later), as we aren't adequately training up our children in the way they should go on this topic.

Our churches are already sexless, yet we try to make a valiant Last Stand on this last little hill of official leadership. Too little too late. We were already surrounded before we got here.

--Michael

Good admonition regarding the defense of the good deposit! Were you guys this zealous in speaking out against the heretical doctrines of the FV? (not a flame or rhetoric, just honestly curious)

Dear Michael,

Which ones? Not to be intentionally obtuse, but some FV teaching we've opposed, some we've actually embraced. I voted for the FV study committee report at GA 2007 and commented on my vote here. Yet I don't believe that report indicts all or perhaps even a majority of FV proponents.

I'd like to think that those who oppose FV understand both what FV correctly reacts against in contemporary Evangelical/Reformed theology and what it actually gets right, but I'm afraid I haven't seen much evidence of this.

David Bayly

I'd like to think that those who oppose FV understand both what FV correctly reacts against in contemporary Evangelical/Reformed theology and what it actually gets right, but I'm afraid I haven't seen much evidence of this.

Bingo!! Opponents ought to be headed out that field with a hoe and some pruning shears instead of tank filled with agent orange.

The behavior of anti-FV folks in dealing with the FV has left a bad taste in my mouth. There are some exceptions, including the Bayly brothers, and I am grateful to have reasonable voices of caution so I don't wind up agreeing with the FVers by default.

Feminism seems like a good target for the ol' agent orange, but it looks like the hoe and pruning shears are being employed.

Blessings,

Keith

Feminism seems like a good target for the ol' agent orange, but it looks like the hoe and pruning shears are being employed.

And unfortunately they're too often being used to weed out and cut away at the historic roots.

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