PCA advocates of woman officers get their facts wrong. Once again...

When a paper is submitted for publication at a refereed journal in the scholarly world, reviewers first go over the paper and if it's bad scholarship it doesn't get published. What is bad scholarship?

Well, any number of things including bad citations and misrepresentation of history. In fact a scholar known to do such things would find himself barred from further submissions and his position would be jeopardized, even if he were tenured. Scholars take accuracy seriously.

Sadly, zeal to root out bad scholarship isn't prominent among PCA presbyters. Thus Pastor Sam Wheatly's paper promoting woman officers within the Presbyteryian Church in America is widely distributed across the PCA despite a key quote being misattributed to...

Princeton theologian B. B. Warfield; and also despite the misrepresentation of key facts concerning the history of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod.

In his paper Wheatly writes: "I am persuaded from Christian history that the practice of women serving in the office of deacon is well-documented. It is well-represented in the Reformed tradition by expositors who seek to be faithful to Scripture and in line with the historic churchʼs practice."

Then, in support of this dogmatic contention concerning "the Reformed tradition," Pastor Wheatly cites Warfield as follows:

If the people of a particular church would simply elect women as well as men to the office of deacon, making one board or two separate boards, at their pleasure, of course ordained with the same vows and responsible to the same authority . . . the order is restored.

Fact is, Warfield never wrote the above. It was written by Alexander McGill, and taking just a second or two to check the primary source would have kept Pastor Wheatly from such an embarrassing mistake.

It's child's play to find the mistake. Try it yourself. Type "church would simply elect women as well as men to the office of deacon, making one board" (with the quote marks) into Google and you'll end up here where it's clear the quote properly belongs to McGill--not Warfield.

So now Pastor Wheatly has disseminated his error across the PCA. He's seeking to lobby the denomination on the most controverted issue of the day and he attributes a slam-dunk quote to Warfield that Warfield never wrote or said!

Wheatly provides this footnote for the above quote: "Quoted in Ronald G. Lutjens, “B.B. Warfield on Woman Deacons,” Presbyterian Journal, May 15, 1985, 8." Had Pastor Wheatly checked even his secondary source, he would have seen that the quote belonged to McGill--not Warfield.

Then too, Pastor Wheatly claims the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelcial Synod (RPCES) in support of his own lobbying of the PCA in favor of woman officers. Pastor Wheatly writes:

In 1982, the RPCES came into the PCA in what was known as the “Joining and Receiving”. This resulted in the addition of Covenant Theological Seminary and churches like Faith Presbyterian Church in Tacoma and Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia.

The RPCES studied the issue of women on the Diaconate quite extensively. Interestingly, three study committees in a row (1975, 1976, 1977) recommended that women be ordained with men as deacons. In response to the first two study committees, the General Synod reconstituted the Study Committees. In response to the third study committee, the General Synod allowed for women to be elected and commissioned to serve as deaconesses. To quote their documents: [RPCES churches] "are free to elect Spirit filled women as deaconesses and to set them apart by prayer."

Readers of Pastor Wheatly's summary of RPCES history would be led to the conclusion that the RPCES had approved of the woman officers Pastor Wheatly is advocating now within the PCA. In fact multiple synods of the RPCES repudiated woman officers. And the freedom "to elect Spirit filled women as deaconesses" that Pastor Wheatly claims in support of his own lobbying efforts is a mirror image of the freedom already granted by the PCA's Book of Church Order in it's declaration of 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.

Although elected by the congregation instead of selected and appointed by the Session, neither the women assisting the deacons of the RPCES nor the women assisting the deacons of the PCA are ordained. Nor are they officers. Yet reading Pastor Wheatly's summary of the RPCES history would lead one to conclude that the practice of the RPCES was radically contrary to PCA practice and thus provides strong support for changing the PCA's Book of Church Order to the end that woman officers are permitted.

Again, in the most controverted matter within the PCA today, Pastor Wheatly misleads his readers. So now, with his paper being broadly disseminated across the PCA, Pastor Wheatly will be responsible for many holding two convictions that are wrong.

B. B. Warfield didn't say it.

The practice of the RPCES was not much different from what the PCA's Book of Church Order already commends to PCA churches.

This abuse of RPCES history goes back to Tim Keller's article in support of woman officers published in the PCA's house organ, byFaith. It was embarrassing then, and is even more so now.


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Lutjen's piece from the Presbyterian Journal received upon request from the PCA Historical Center, St. Louis, MO. PCA Archivist Wayne Sparkman has assembled this most helpful collection of historical documents related to this controversy. 


I wonder if Jesus would want to subjugate women as much as you do?

I think you are clutching a tiny (tiny!) bit of power, and you just don't want to share it. Though it looks like you'll have to, eventually.

Interesting post!

It's called peer review...which is what you're doing. Thus, Rev. Wheatley can edit his paper, revise it, improve it. Hope you contacted him to let him know!

How wonderful that those who make reply first do so in the meanest spirit without addressing the actual substance of what is said (gleeful along with the man who made the error, and having no interest in that he has forwarded a deception, I might add), and the other misunderstands peer-review entirely: which comes before a paper is published and disseminated, not after: love the "hope you contacted him to let him know"--can not one just hear the "before you sinned by calling him out publicly without going to him privately left off", after the manner of Jews who cited the first part of a scripture or saying and left the rest for the hearers to fill-in? (Actually, in Israel they still do this): although the wrested scriptures used to counter-accuse those who correctly publicly rebuke published public error are on errors private, not teachings publicly made that are in error; else the sheep mislead by harmful wolves would have to wait to hear the warning and correction. Would that the spirits, and those spirit-filled with them, of your first two commentators, be snuffed out and publicly rebuked and silenced, respectively, like all other odious winds.

er, correction:"...him privately" left off.

Thank you, Pastor Tim, for continuing to educate us on important issues facing the Church today. It seems that a clear picture of reality is slowly (I'm a slow learner) forming in my mind, replacing the blurry, confused, distorted one that has been there. This is due in large part to the faithful work of my own dear pastors, Joseph Bayly and David Abu-Sara (and their wives!).

[NOTE FROM TIM BAYLY: the rest of this comment has been removed at Malorie Kennedy's request.]

Malorie, You're off-topic, but what you're saying is important enough that I, for one, don't mind. I'll pray for you tonight. It is good for you to confess, and some (not all) of your anger is a good sign, because it shows you care and want to obey God. I need more of that passion myself.

In another place, the PCA's archivist, Wayne Sparkman, responded to this post saying, among other things: "Bayly's point that the supposed Warfield quote was actually from McGill probably won't hold much water with many."

"Won't hold much water with many?"

There's no need for this point to hold any water at all.

Pastor Wheatley says Warfield said it.

Pastor Wheatley is wrong.

Warfield didn't say it.

Pastor Wheatley needs to rethink his approach to primary and secondary sources.

There you have it and no water was spilled. A linchpin quote that's misattributed is a howler.

>>Bayly would do well to show why it makes any difference for the quote to come from McGill rather than Warfield.

I'm beginning to wonder if this is a Religious Studies class at Indiana University?

But seriously, if our favorite archivist would search the Baylyblog archive, he'd find a lengthy treatment explaining how this quote placed over Warfield's name as a simple endorsement of the promotion of woman officers in the PCA today is much more than bad scholarship. The treatment has been on Baylyblog for several years, now. In time, I suppose it would have worked its way over to the dusty confines of the PCA archive and Goodman Sparkman would have noted it with approval.

Responding to his challenge now, though, here is the link:



With affection,

PS: Just read your comment, Malorie, and I will pray for you, as I trust others here will also. God bless you, dear sister.

Kennethos is right--- this blog post is what peer review is all about--- finding the mistakes in papers. This is an in-between case because it's not yet published in a journal, so it's like a scholar's working paper, but maybe it's never intended to be published in a journal and is instead being circulated as a finished paper--- in which case it's like a published paper that never had peer review. Either way, it would be appropriate for Pastor Wheatley to prominently admit his mistakes and try to undo any misleading he has done. Everybody makes mistakes,and everybody sins--- what I look for most is how people try to fix things up afterwards (Are you listening Pastor MacArthur?).

"Bayly's point that the supposed Warfield quote was actually from McGill probably won't hold much water with many"

LOL! I never thought I'd see anyone admit it, but he just declared a victory for woman officers will be rooted in the ignorance of the listener.

The greatest strength for those advocating woman officers is the weakness of the sheep...and those advocates can also be thanked for fostering that weakness and institutionalizing it via Covenant Semynary.

Don't give up, Miss Kennedy! Our loving Father must bring us low before He raises us up. He is fitting us for an eternal inheritance but we must humiliated and laid low, and then we will have our inheritance AND the glory will all go to Him. Take courage and have faith, be humbled but don't give up.

And I'll take one comment like Miss Kennedy's over 100 masculine women on byfaithonline demanding that God's Word be bent to their angry desires. Faith is beautiful.

Thank God for godly sorrow that leads to repentance without regret.

Since you've drug me into this, please let me clarify. My point was that some (perhaps "many"--I did say "many", didn't I?) will look at the Warfield article and reply that Warfield was quoting McGill, so what's the difference? "Why the big deal about who said what?"

And again to clarify, that is not my position, but it is the attitude I fear one will meet with in response. So I was feebly trying to suggest that more needs to be said at that point in the discourse.

Thank you for your patience, and I will work to be clearer in the future.

Dear Wayne,

Never doubted your thoughts, dear brother. Fact is you're right--mostly. I say "mostly" only because the real issue isn't that men think Warfield quoting McGill is Warfield approving of McGill. Had they taken the time to read the originals I provided links to in the post, they'd quickly have found the differences between the two men. But the links won't be used.

Church men are sloppy with what is or isn't true in such debates. What matters is the names associated with the position--not the truth of it or the accuracy of the one making the argument.

As you know, I've been working on correcting these errors for years, now. And like Whack-a-Mole, the misattribution of Warfield and revisionist history of the RPCES just keep popping up. Famous men feel no need to correct the spread of their errors.

The problem with the PCA is not the liberals like Tim Keller and Sam Wheatly and Jack Collins. Those guys are ho-hum. The liberals we'll always have with us.

Our real problem is so-called conservatives who are so precious they can't bring themselves to discipline the liberals. We are respecters of persons and can't bring ourselves to file charges for lying and rebellion and violation of ordination vows.

And so the liberals corrupt the flock with nothing but fraternal debates for roadblocks. And really, the roadblocks are more like speed bumps liberals take at fifty-five miles per hour.

But back to the main issue. These errors show character. Sloppy sloppy sloppy at the least, but it's my conviction that a failure of truthfulness is the heart of the matter. Men who abuse the plain meaning of Scripture aren't going to show much care in how they attribute quotes or revise history.

I'll leave PCA men with this challenge. If you think the truth about the RPCES and Warfield matter, why not take this work off my shoulders and do it yourselves?

But of course, the only man who might take up my challenge would have to be willing to get dirty and deal with shoddy scholarship and character rather than money and personalities and influence.

So they'd turn away, saying "Sorry, charlie; it's just not my style."

Anyhow, always thankful for you, dear brother.

With love,

After looking over the cited documents for the first time (I customarily follow these things wtihin the PCA at some remove), I agree with Sparkman's assessment.

True, Warfield did not pen the words credited to him. On the other hand, Lutjen's article argues (without challenge from this blog, I note) that Warfield agreed with the man who did, in fact, pen the words mistakenly credited to Warfield.

The rhetorical weight of Wheatly's article is vested in his appeal to a Presbyterian luminary such as Warfield in support of Wheatly's contention that women ought to be ordained to the office of deaconess. Because that is the point Wheatly would press, it does little, if anything, to challenge Wheatly to note that Wheatly was mistaken in his attribution of specific words to Warfield, when Warfield's view -- on any reading of Warfield himself -- is the same as those words mistakenly attributed to him!

Now, if Warfield had rejected out of hand any idea of ordaining women to an office named "deaconess," you'd have a wholly devastating refutation of Wheatly! But, as it is, those who are swayed by Wheatly's appeal to Warfield are not going to be fazed by Wheatly's mistaken citation of Warfield as the author of words expressing an idea which Warfield in other places affirms.

My comment above was being composed a short lag behind Pr. Tim's. Evidently, he's reading Lutjen's handling of Warfield differently than I supposed? Certainly differently than I did when reading Lutjen!

On the other matter regarding the RPCES, it is, indeed, telling that "multiple synods of the RPCES repudiated woman officers" while Wheatly reorts RPCES history as supporting the adoption of "deaconess" as an office in the PCA. The Warfield/McGill/Lutjen matter may be accounted for as sloppy or careless scholarship. Misrepresenting an entire debate and its outcome in the RPCES is disturbing evidence of a failure of truthfulness that goes straight to character.

This failure of character is one of the long-evident features of egalitarian apologists over the past 30 years or longer. It capitalizes on (1) the pew-sitter's disposition to be swayed by "scholarship," and (2) that same pew-sitter's unwillingness (or inability) to fact-check the walls of footnotes at the bottom of pages, printed in teensie type and riddled with the scholar's jargon and endless acronyms.

And these liabilities in the pew-sitter have been exploited by "authorities" such as Catherin Kroeger or egalitarian activists such as Pat Gundry to propogate flatly false and outrageous claims about historical evidence or the statements of people in the past. For religious feminists, the convenient lie is a favorite weapon in their arsenal.

Dear Bill,

Warfield himself must be read--not Lutjens's report of what Warfield said. Of course those who don't read him will judge the misattribution as much ado over nothing.

But the men who bother to go to the primary sources of McGill and various pieces by Warfield will find that McGill is clear and Warfield is obtuse, sometimes scatterbrained, and as he ages, a moving target on this issue. THIS IS THE REASON THESE MEN QUOTE MCGILL!

Attributing McGill's clarity to Warfield matters very much.

This is so obvious. Even the secondary source of Lutjens shows it--that is, if a man has read the primary sources and understands what Lutjens is and is not saying. Here's the pertinent section from Lutgens:


But when Warfield uses the term "deaconess," does he refer to a separate office for women, or simply to female deacons? Warfield says that what we know of deaconesses in the New Testament era and the first few centuries after it, is that "they constituted a female diaconate similar to and of like standing with the board of deacons which, in the New Testament, we find in every church" (p. 286). Hence deaconesses are the same as deacons, only with a difference: there is one office, but two parts to it--a male part and a female part, each organized separateIy, so Warfield seems to suggest. But he quotes Alexander McGill's 1880 article which said: "If the people of a particular church would simply elect women as well as men to the office of deacon, making one board or two separate boards, at their pleasure, of course ordained with the same vows and responsible to the same authority [as male deacons) ... the order is restored" (Warfield, p. 287).

This parallels Warfield's statement we have just quoted, although it makes it explicit (a) that there is only one office, (b) that it is a matter of expedience whether male and female deacons are organized separately, and (c) that the right of ordination belongs also to women deacons.


Notice where the quote marks begin and end. Notice how careful Lutjens is to qualify his summary of Warfied with "so Warfield seems to suggest." Notice at the end how Lutjens acknowledges that, if Warfield does indeed suggest what he seems to be suggesting, then McGill makes clear what Warfield has not made clear. Thus "(McGill's quote) makes it explicit."

But even with Lutjens's cautions about how he summarizes Warfield, men today think it's nothing that McGill's quote is misattributed to Warfield. What it proves is that men haven't read much B. B. Warfield--particularly on this matter.

The reason Lutjens is cautious summarizing Warfield and the reason I've cried "Foul!" at Phil Ryken and the Atlanta men and now Sam Wheatly attributing a slam-dunk quote to Warfield is that Warfield doesn't say anything this clear.

As I said before, there's a reason these men cherry pick this quote. This quote is perspicuous. Clear. Explicit. This quote is a slam-dunk. This quote is the kind of silver bullet destroyers love to trot out to shake the confidence of the timid. "Well, if august B. B. Warfield made such a clear declaration, why am I squeamish about 'deeks?' I must be wrong."

Depending on secondary sources is always dangerous because one is trusting someone else to give one the authority himself, and in a pre-masticated form.

When it's said that a tertiary source misquoting a secondary source's quotation of a primary source doesn't matter, I simply give up.

But hey, you men are right. Who cares what B. B. Warfield did and didn't say. Which reminds me...

Did you know B. B. Warfield ghost-wrote Jack Collins's new book arguing against the historicity of Adam? The Witch of Seminaries Past channelled him.


To whet readers' appetites, here is the beginning of one of Warfield's treatments of the subject and it makes clear why Wheatly's misattribution is so very bad. Warfield's nuances are entirely lost in the McGill quote.

The point is not that Warfield can't be quoted in support of deaconesses. The point is that any Warfield quote in support of deaconesses lacking this context and brought into the conflict of our day where Tim Keller has a woman officer as "Director" of his deacons is entirely, and I would say intentionally, misleading.

* * *

AFTER, many years of agitation, the Presbyterian churches have at last been brought fairly to face the problem of “the revival” of the office of deaconess. As long ago as 1861 the late Dr. W. Fleming Stevenson, in two interesting papers in Good Words, commended the institutions of Kaiserswerth to the Presbyterian public as worthy of all imitation. And the late Dr. Alexander T. McGill recommended the revival of the office, in a somewhat different sense, to many successive classes in Princeton Seminary, publishing his strong appeal at length to the church in the first volume of this REVIEW (1880). The Presbyterians have by no means been the first of Protestants to move in this effort to revive a primitive office or to organize the work of woman for Christ; but they may prove, in accordance with their genius, to be the first to organize this work under general church authority and in complete ecclesiastical control, and perhaps they may be the first to revive the office of deaconess in a truly Scriptural form.

For it need not be denied that the office of deaconess is a Scriptural office, although it must be confessed that the Biblical warrant for it is of the slenderest. We cannot bring ourselves to believe that the Apostle means to speak of deaconesses, in the midst of the requisites for the deacon, in 1 Tim. iii. 11, since this would require us to assume in that passage a double sudden transition from one subject to another, of the harshest and most incredible kind. And we have pointed out in an earlier number of this REVIEW what seem to us insurmountable objections to looking upon the “widows” of 1 Tim. v. 9 sq., who must be over sixty years old, must stay at home, and who were supported by the alms of the church, as an ecclesiastical order rather than as an order of specially honored pensionaries. We are glad to see that the latest Presbyterian student of ecclesiastical polity, Dr. Thomas Witherow, of Londonderry, although only a few years ago (1886) he was inclined to see deaconesses in the “ women” of 1 Tim. iii. 11, now accords with us in finding indication of the existence of women-deacons in the New Testament only in Romans xvi. r : “I commend unto you Phebe our sister, who is a deaconess of the church in Cenchreæ.”

This is no doubt a narrow, not to say a precarious foundation on which to build much of an ecclesiastical structure. The term here employed (diakonos) is of very broad connotation; and Phebe might conceivably have been only an humble “ servant” of the Cenchrean church, or indeed, for all that the term itself declares, only a Christian belonging to that church (cf. John xii. 26). Nor is there any compelling reason apparent in the context, shutting us op (sic) to the technical sense of “deaconess.” Nevertheless this seems the more likely meaning of the phrase; and this interpretation receives confirmation from a clear indication, coming to us from the earliest post-apostolic times, that “deaconesses” were then already an established order in the church.

This one fact, however, is nearly all the safe guidance on the subject with which the first patristic age supplies us. He who tries to thread his way among the conflicting notices of “virgins” and “widows” and “deaconesses” which the earliest fathers have preserved for us, will find himself much among the thorns. Dr. Charteris truly says, “The study of that history does not remove the obscurity of Scripture.” In his famous letter to Trajan, written about A.D. 112, the younger Pliny speaks of seeking information about the Christians by torturing duæ ancillæ quæ ministræ dicebantur—from which, it is clear that ministræ (doubtless, as Dr. Lightfoot points out, Pliny‟s own translation of diakonoi) was already a terminus technicus, designating a wellknown office. But this is pretty nearly the only very early reference we have to that office. Even earlier than Pliny, indeed, Ignatius (about A.D. 107), speaks of “virgins who are called widows”—from which we learn that the term “widows” also was in technical use at this time, an inference placed above all doubt by Lucian‟s scoffing remark about “old women—they call them widows.” It is clear, however, that “deaconesses” and “widows” were different classes. And although this settled usage of the words in technical senses, at the opening of the second century, surely implies that the classes which they designate were of apostolic age, yet it is a different matter how far we are justified in assuming that these offices existed as offices in the apostolic age. The churches were already half a century old, and during that period many changes had taken place in the simplicity of the Gospel.

(Taken from the first two pages of the full article, "The Presbyterian Review," 10.38 (1889): 283-293.)

I see what you mean about the McGill quote making Warfield look razor-sharp on the issue, when he was all qualification and holding the historical obscurity of the issue in view. The McGill-quoted-by-Warfield sound bite does not at all summarize Warfield's position, it's way different.


The McGill quote is just that: McGill. To attribute it to Warfield is bad in a number of ways. First, it shows a less-than-accurate, perhaps even less-than-honest, approach to sourcing. Second, it reveals the thoroughly tendentious nature of the paper. Third, worst of all, it reveals a lack of discernment in the author that renders any claim to understanding Warfield's view deeply suspect.

In fact, as Tim has demonstrated, Warfield was inclined toward some kind of deaconess. What kind, we don't know. It could even be the kind of deaconess board that Tim and I already enjoy under other names in the workings of our churches. Honestly, if anyone thinks that we oppose deaconesses in toto, they've simply not been paying attention here.

The issue isn't whether deaconess is a potentially biblical position. The question is what kind of position deaconesses should occupy and whether that position is identical with the formal office of deacon identified in 1 Timothy. Neither Calvin nor Warfield nor we believe that to be the case.

Mr. Wheatley's work is a scrim. Behind it lie vastly different thoughts and desires for the work of female deacons than Calvin or Warfield ever considered.

David Bayly

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