Report of PCA Study Committee on Women in the Church (3): texts left on the scrap heap...

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(This is the third in a series of ten posts critiquing the Report of the Presbyterian Church in America's Study Committee on Women Serving in the Ministry of the Church: first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventheighthninth, and tenth.)

The Committee's Report comes in at 63 pages and 32,000 words. Before they're done, the Committee has tipped their hat to many of the exegetical inventions and talking points used by feminists these past fifty years to justify their rebellion. Bad as it is to read the Committee paying their respects to feminist revisionist arguments about this and that passage of Scripture, it's even worse to note the Scripture texts the Committee excludes from our consideration.

This, for instance...

[M]an the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake. (1Corinthians 11:7-9)

One could argue that this is the single text that explains the universal application of God's Creation Order with the greatest clarity and authority in all of Scripture. But somehow, 63 pages and 32,000 words weren't enough for the text to make the cut. Still, in its context, this text directly addresses the subject the Committee was assigned to study—"women serving in the ministry of the church." The passage addresses women's participation in the church's corporate worship, but the Committee dispenses with the passage in eight words: "Paul cited Genesis to explain male-female roles."

Another Scripture that didn't make the cut is 1Peter 3:1-7. If the Committee is studying "male-female roles," why do they not mention Sara calling Abraham "lord," the "gentle and quiet spirit" in woman that is "precious in the sight of God," and woman being the "weaker" vessel?

Some might point out that the Committee wasn't asked to examine women's roles in society or the home, but only women's roles in the church. Yet the Committee does, in fact, deal with women's roles in the home. They assure the Assembly that Scripture's doctrine of the sexes they refer to as "complementarity" merely applies to "the authoritative teaching and ruling of the church" and "marriage." These are the limits of "our common and principled commitment to complementarianism as defined by our confessional standards and polity." 1

Since they do address marriage, how do Committee members summarize Scripture's commands to wives to obey and submit to their husbands? The Committee says the wife is to "welcome her husband's headship with respect" so long as ("when") he "expresses his responsibility of headship in sacrificial love to [her]". 2

And in the church?

The Committee admits women are not to be ordained as elders or to preach in an "authoritative" way, 3 but once they've stated and circumscribed these two limitations, they take away with their right hand what they granted with their left. Having spent nearly four pages discussing 1Timothy 2:11, 12, (But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet"), they bring their discussion to an end:

There are differences of opinion in the PCA on the proper definition and exercise of “authoritative teaching.” The committee urges presbyteries and sessions to study this matter diligently and to practice their convictions (Rom. 14:1-8).

This text they end with—Romans 14:1-8—is the Apostle Paul's command that we not pass judgment on others' "opinions." Thus the Apostle Paul's application of the Creation Order by forbidding women to teach and exercise authority over men is relegated by the Committee to the realm of "opinion."

Chapter 1 contains an introduction to the Committee's work with a lengthy section in which Committee members justify their committee's existence in the face of a Constitutional challenge brought by the PCA's Westminster Presbytery. Among other things, Westminster Presbytery objected to the Committee on the grounds "that placing women on a General Assembly ad interim committee is a violation of 1 Timothy 2:12."

Were the Committee inclined to see the work assigned them by General Assembly as "authoritative instruction in doctrine," they might have agreed with Westminster Presbytery's formal complaint and requested the Moderator of the Assembly move the Committee's two female members from "Voting" to "Advisory" membership. The Committee made no such request.

Maybe the Committee considered their work adjudicating the conflict over God's Creation Order rending apart the Presbyterian Church in America as non-authoritative?

Maybe the Committee simply decided that anyone who thought their adjudication of this conflict was authoritative didn't matter because his conviction was a mere "opinion" that Christian charity demanded he abandon for the sake of unity?

We'll never know.

  • 1. P. 2401:11-22;
  • 2. P. 2401:17-19.
  • 3. P. 2401:15;  2419:7, 12;
Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

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