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