Semper reformanda: the next step...

(Tim: This from Rev. Andrew Webb) After two meetings of debate, yesterday (Oct. 27, 2009) Central Carolina Presbytery passed the following overture to the 38th General Assembly by a twenty-eight vote margin:

Overture to the 38th Presbyterian Church in America General Assembly
Amend Book of Church Order 9-7

1. Whereas the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) is grateful to God for the outstanding and selfless work done by the women of PCA congregations and freely acknowledges that the ability of the church to minister to a lost and dying world depends in large part on the self-sacrificing volunteer spirit of our female members; and

2. Whereas the PCA also believes that, the officers of the Church, by whom all its powers are administered, are, according to the Scriptures, teaching and ruling elders and deacons (Book of Church Order 1-5) and that in accord with Scripture, these offices are open to men only (BCO 7-2); and

3. Whereas the PCA believes that scripture teaches that the officers of the church are to be ordained not commissioned. (BCO 17,12-5, 8-6); and...

4. Whereas while some Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod (RPCES) congregations had women on their diaconates, the RPCES resolved as part of the joining and receiving agreement with the PCA to "Amend the existing doctrinal standards and Form of Government of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, by substituting for them the doctrinal standards and Book of Church Order of the Presbyterian Church in America" * ; and

5. Whereas several churches in the PCA currently elect and commission women to the office of deacon and call them by the title deacon or deaconess and allow them to serve on the diaconate; and

6. Whereas BCO 9-7, which states that women may be selected and appointed by the session of a church to serve as assistants to the deacons, is often cited as pretext for this practice of electing and commissioning female deacons; and

Therefore, Central Carolina Presbytery hereby overtures the 38th General Assembly to amend BCO Chapter 9-7 by adding the words

"These assistants to the deacons shall not be referred to as deacons or deaconesses, nor are they to be elected by the congregation nor formally commissioned, ordained, or installed as though they were office bearers in the church."

So that the revised version would read:

9-7. 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. These assistants to the deacons shall not be referred to as deacons or deaconesses, nor are they to be elected by the congregation nor formally commissioned, ordained, or installed as though they were office bearers in the church.

* Documents of Synod: Study Papers and Actions of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod--1965 to 1982, pp.476-477

* * *

(Pastor Andrew Webb continues)

As you are all probably well aware, BCO 9-7 is currently being used as a loophole by churches to create their own office of deaconess. These "deaconesses" are in most cases indistinguishable from deacons and often serve as the "Chief Deacons" or heads of the diaconate. In several churches the majority of deacons are now women and in a few, like Redeemer NYC, they are doing things most of us would feel uncomfortable having ordained male deacons do (such as membership interviews, being the people who speak with inquirers after the service, etc.)

Rather than becoming less common, the practice is spreading, and as Bryan Chapell hinted in his recent article in byFaith the next generation of ministers tend to be very sympathetic to this practice. In the vote on this overture in Central Carolina Presbytery, yesterday, this was starkly illustrated by the fact that the overwhelming majority of ministers under fifty spoke in favor of commissioned deaconesses and voted against the overture. Without older TE's (pastors) and RE's (elders) being present, it would have failed.

I'd also encourage you to read this web page from The City's Gate Presbyterian Church's website (City's Gate is a congregation of the PCA located in Harrisburg, PA) were they openly discuss their deaconesses as well as their belief that what they refer to as this "more biblical" practice is going to spread.

Either we stop the practice soon, or in my opinion we won't have the support necessary to do so in the future. In a few years, the frog will have been thoroughly boiled. All we have to do in order to end up with female ordination is nothing at all.

What we need now is for several other Presbyteries to send the same, or a similar overture to the 38th GA, because without a significant number of "co-sponsors" I seriously doubt this overture will make it out of the Overtures Committee alive. It is going to get a huge amount of resistance from the administration as it is. We sent this overture forward early specifically because we wanted as many other presbyteries as possible to get on board.

Thanks for your consideration.

Your Servant in Christ,

Teaching Elder Andy Webb

Comments

For the success of this and similar ovetures, prayers ascending like incense during the week.

And, with incense during the Prayers of the People in our Sunday worship.

"These assistants to the deacons shall not be referred to as deacons or deaconesses..."

Better amend that to include "...deeks, and any other possible variant of deacon, such as sub-deacon, mini-deacon, deacon-in-training, deacon-wanna-be, etc.," to avoid the sneaks.

"Better amend that to include "...deeks, and any other possible variant of deacon, such as sub-deacon, mini-deacon, deacon-in-training, deacon-wanna-be, etc.," to avoid the sneaks."

Subdeacon was the highest of the unordained minor orders in the Eastern and Western Church, his function (he was always a man) to assist the bishop or priest during the eucharist.

The office was abolished in the English church at the Reformation. It was abolished in the Catholic church by Paul VI's _Ministeria quædam_ of 15 August 1972. It is still a minor order in Orthodoxy.

Wouldn't it be ironic if Redeemeresque groups actually named their commissioned-not-ordained assistants subdeacons (!!), thereby reviving an abolished minor order of the Western Church and extending it to women to boot!

Hoot! Hoot!

I suggest a different strategy, since the push is being done in the name of being "more biblical." Allow women to become deaconesses, but require them to be sixty-years-old and take a vow of celibacy. And call them widows. All of a sudden being "more biblical" will have lost its allure.

"...require them to be sixty-years-old and take a vow of celibacy. And call them widows."

And wouldn't they need to wash feet, too?

Seven RESPONSES to arguments against the overture to amend BCO 9-7:

1) The only group this overture applies to are "These assistants to the deacons" not Sunday School Teachers, Short Term Missionaries, etc. There is nothing ambiguous about the scope of the overture.

2) The overture doesn't add anything new to the BCO, it merely makes clear what the BCO actually teaches. Neither is anything the BCO actually allows being forbidden.

3) Women can still be appointed Assistants to the Deacons and be called "Assistant to the Deacons" under this overture. This overture merely makes it clear that they are not to be elected, commissioned, and installed as deacons or deaconesses. No opportunities for women to serve in the church that are currently allowed in the BCO are being taken away.

4) The RPCNA is often pointed to as an example of a Presbyterian denomination that did not ordain women to the office of Elder after deciding to ordain women to the office of Deacon. What is often overlooked is the fact that the RPCNA decided to ordain women to the office of deacon at time when it was moving in a theologically liberal direction and that subsequently the RPCNA Synod DID vote to ordain women to the office of elder. This change to their book of church narrowly failed to receive the required ratifying 2/3rds vote of their sessions. So to say that this proves that having women deacons does not necessarily lead to having women elders is rather like saying that because you know of someone who just barely survived, you've concluded that crossing the highway at rush hour isn't dangerous.

5) While some former RPCES congregations had deaconesses, the RPCES joined and was received into the PCA, not vice-versa. The RPCES agreed to be governed by and comply with our book of church order when they joined the PCA. Also, many of the churches that now have women deaconnesses have no relationship to the former RPCES. Several are churches that started long after J&R.

6) A critical piece of evidence that this section of the BCO is being abused is the fact that while it states "that the Session of a church should select and appoint godly men and women of the congregation to assist the deacons" we never hear of these male assistants going through this same process of election, commissioning, or having a title formally bestowed upon them.

7) This overture is NOT ANTI-WOMEN nor do we believe that desiring them to be acknowledged as officers in the church is PRO-WOMEN. Women are not a constituency, an interest group, a minority, or a monolithic bloc, and we do them a great disservice when we speak of them as though they are, in the courts of the church. We greatly err if we assume that all PCA women, or even the majority of PCA women, are in favor of female deacons. The women of many PCA congregations SUPPORT and are praying for the success of this overture.

> This overture is NOT ANTI-WOMEN nor do we believe that desiring them to be acknowledged as officers in the church is PRO-WOMEN.

Thank you for all your work on this, sir.

Andy and Bayly's

Say what you will, we know you are just a bunch of backward, misogynistic nastys.

If only you would learn how to balance compassion with doctrine.

>>I suggest a different strategy, since the push is being done in the name of being "more biblical." Allow women to become deaconesses, but require them to be sixty-years-old and take a vow of celibacy. And call them widows. All of a sudden being "more biblical" will have lost its allure.

Howling, I am.

To the inestimable pastors, Wilson and Bayly,

Oh, what I wouldn't give to be a little fly on the wall when the two of you sit down to break bread together!

Kamilla

I think they'd be happy to have you sit there as at least Wilson opens his liquid bread, Kamilla, and I bet they'd share.

And a delightful riposte, Brother Wilson. My (decidedly less humorous) thought is that when anyone, man or woman, thinks that they've got to have some kind of position of authority to minister to others, they've lost the battle already.

Women's ordination is a killer in virtually every denomination in which it has been tried. The generation that ordains women sees its succeeding generation lost.

The PCA, as it currently exists, has about five more years. The coma has set in and life-support is on. Who will be courageous enough to pull the plug?

What will they call the next one? PC…?

> The PCA, as it currently exists, has about five more years.

How long does America, as it currently exists, have?

> What will they call the next one? PC…?

Probably shouldn't name it after a place, the way things are going. Unless someone leaves the Union.

How about The Retro Presbyterian Church, or The Presbyterian Church, Classic Edition? These would help distinguish it from The Presbyterian Church, Lite, and The New and Improved Presbyterian Church.

>>we know you are just a bunch of backward, misogynistic nastys...

Hey, Ken, wouldn't it be nasties?

Love,

Kepha: "Women's ordination is a killer in virtually every denomination in which it has been tried."

Virtually is a good qualifier. The pentecostals have been ordaining women for a long time and they've been growing. The Nazarenes have been ordaining women a long time too, and I'm not sure how their denomination is doing. And, of course, there is the Willow Creek association of churches. They've practiced WO from the get-go and they've grown too.

Add new comment