Report of PCA Study Committee on Women in the Church (4): read Warfield for yourself...

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(This is the fourth 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.)

At the end of the nineteenth century, Princeton's Benjamin Warfield argued for deaconesses, writing that the office of deaconess would help bring women's leadership in the church into direct accountability to the church's male officers.

The study committee's Report cites Warfield several times in their attempt to get the PCA finally to normalize the Kellerites' practice of woman officers. What they don't explain...

is that Warfield felt the need because of the "zeal and success" of women's leadership in the church in the face of the "prevailing apathy of Christian men." Thus creating the office of deaconess would serve as a protection against female independence from male church authority.

From Warfield's essay:

Women have already organized their own work in the church; and with a zeal and success which shame the prevailing apathy of Christian men, women have worked out for themselves a whole series of institutions which, while the church sleeps, may perchance grow fatally to overshadow its official and authorized agencies. To shut our eyes to the dangers inherent in these gigantic voluntary associations would be as silly as it might prove to be suicidal. Nor is it an adequate annulment of these dangers to plead that the loving loyalty of our women to our church system has shown itself to be as great as their loving zeal for God’s work. This is true, and deserves highest praise. But we must bear in mind... (that the) essential principle of every organization comes out sooner or later in its working; and independent and voluntary agencies show sooner or later that they have both independence and will of their own.

Tim Bayly

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

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