Report of PCA Study Committee on Women in the Church (10): what the Committee should have said...

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(This is the tenth and final post in a series 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, seventheighth, ninth, and tenth.)

For this purpose (God) has set elders over His church, to force the re­fractory to order; and they are not to allow sin to be freely indulged in and to rage with impunity. ...there is no reason why they should allow the church to fall in ruins because of their sloth; there is no cause why they should sit back and connive at the wicked­ness of those who try to turn everything upside down. - John Calvin 1

It's time to bring this series to an end, but one last job remains on my to-do list.

Criticism is only as good as the vision that inspires it, so let me tell you my vision. Of course, it’s not my vision. It’s the vision shared among Biblically Reformed men who have read Scripture and church history and want to die having, by God’s grace, added to the capital our faithful fathers in the faith bequeathed to us. We want to die leaving the church better than we found it. Only by God’s grace, I am zealous to add.

We want to be faithful to fight the battles of today, pushing back against the heterodoxies, heresies, and wickedness we have discovered in our own hearts placed there by the Spirit of our Age. We refuse to spend our lives carving monuments to dead men and erecting museums filled with...

perfectly preserved specimens of their bugles, banners, shields, and swords.

We recognize our day is evil, too, so we too must stand and fight wielding the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. We know our ordination was to the ministry of dying in defense of the sheep, so wherever you hear yelping, barking, howling, baying, and growling, check it out; you may meet one of us fighting the wolves off until they leave our sheep alone or kill us. one can handle the teaching of godliness properly, unless the fear of God rules, and holds first place, in him. - John Calvin 2

That said, let’s fill out our vision by asking what this Study Committee on the Role of Women in the Church should have presented to General Assembly next week? What would have been a good and faithful use of their time and the time of next week's assembly?

Just as the church in Corinth needed to have Corinth's sins cleansed from her life together, so the church in America needs to have America's sins cleansed from her life together. The church in Corinth was proud while all sorts of sins including incest and female rebellion paraded themselves through the congregation, so the Apostle Paul pointed the sins out, specifically, and commanded the Corinthians to repent. 

This is how simple the Committee's work might have been had they been led by even one man of faith. Whether that man led the Committee to follow him, or succeeded in convincing only one other member to join him in a minority report, the assembly would have had a report to adopt that would have reformed the female rebellion rife across her congregations.

Next week, the Committee might have brought to the assembly a report modeled after the book of First Corinthians. Their report would name the PCA’s specific sins related to “women in the church.” Then having specified and condemned those sins, the Committee might have commanded the Presbyterian Church in America to clean out the old leaven, reminding the assembly that bad company corrupts good morals.

At this point the Committee would get specific and, not wanting to waste their parries and thrusts on generalities, they would name the rebellions of Tim and Kathy Keller and their Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. The Committee would address the schismatic rebellion of the Kellers and their church, calling the assembly to discipline them, and thus to begin dealing with the same schismatic rebellion the Kellerite leaven has spread across the denomination.

God does not think men worthy of titles of honor in order that they may obscure His own glory. ...For anyone who goes beyond his function, because he sets himself against God, must be stripped of the title of his office, in case he may strike a pose and deceive. The office of a pastor is honorable, the authority of the Church great, but yet not so as to detract from the power of God and the headship of Christ. - John Calvin 3

Taking their lead from the letters in the New Testament, the Committee's report to the assembly would get specific, calling the assembly to the following:

The assembly should rebuke Redeemer for promoting women into leadership positions in all the ministries and boards of the church.

The assembly should use their communications with the Kellers and Redeemer to point out to Redeemerites' the inconsistency of their not allowing women the one last step of preaching Sunday mornings.

The assembly should ask the Kellers and Redeemer why they stopped just short of Sunday morning preaching if their project was female emancipation from the bondage of woman being the glory of man?

The assembly should rebuke the women serving on Redeemer’s elders board who attend and speak in session meetings.

The assembly should reserve their strongest rebuke for the pastors and elders who put those women on the elders board. (Women serving with Redeemer’s elders in elders meetings was instituted a decade ago.)

The assembly should explain to Redeemer that women serving on the session is a contradiction of God’s Creation Order of Adam first, then Eve.

The assembly should point out to Redeemer’s ordained elders that the purpose of elders meetings is the making of authoritative doctrinal and ethical judgments—and that this is exactly the exercise of authority over men that God has forbidden women.

The assembly should explain to Redeemer this prohibition is not just because of the Creation Order, but also because the women in their session meetings are daughters of Eve who was the one deceived. 

The assembly should tell Redeemer's elders to remove the women from their session meetings, and not allow them to return. If Redeemer’s pastors and elders respond by saying they want women present on their elders board to give a “woman’s perspective,” the assembly should tell Redeemer's elders to get their wives’ perspectives by asking them at home.

Moving from elders to deacons…

The assembly should rebuke Redeemer for calling women “deacons” and “officers,” granting them voice and authority indistinguishable from the male deacons in deacons meetings.

The assembly should also rebuke Redeemer for granting their female deacons voice and authority indistinguishable from both the male deacons and the male elders in joint elder/deacon meetings.

The assembly should point out to Redeemer that the first deacons ordained to preside over the squabbling among the widows in the church in Jerusalem were all men.

The assembly should inquire of Redeemer’s pastors, elders, and male deacons what Biblical precedent they had to mash male and female deacons together, treating men and women alike as if they share the same office and authority?

The assembly should ask Redeemer’s pastors and elders what Biblical warrant they had for robbing their deacons of ordination while continuing to ordain their pastors and elders? 

The assembly should ask Redeemer’s pastors and elders how they had been able to justify requiring their male deacons to submit to a woman as their head deacon for two decades, now?

The assembly should ask Redeemer’s pastors and elders how they could have taken vows to submit to their church’s polity, then directly rebel against it year after year, decade after decade by (for instance) calling women “officers,” “deacons” and “deeks?”

The assembly should ask Redeemer’s pastors and elders why their presbytery had not disciplined them for their schismatic and rebellious behaviors?

The assembly should ask Redeemer’s presbytery why they have not disciplined Redeemer’s pastors and elders for their schismatic and rebellious behaviors?

[W]hile the priests are out to net their profits, and the people are truly delighted to be confirmed in their errors, Satan has such freedom to deceive. - John Calvin 4

The assembly should require Redeemer’s pastors and elders to remove the women officers from their office.

The assembly should require Redeemer’s pastors and elders to proceed forthwith to ordain every last male deacon they had refused to ordain when the men took office.

The assembly should require Redeemer’s pastors and elders to remove the woman they have serving as head deacon over their male deacons, replacing her with a man.

The assembly should require Redeemer's pastors and elders to announce to the church their repentance for this rebellion against God’s Order of Creation and the polity of their church.

Finally, the assembly should recommend that Redeemer’s pastors and elders consider moving the women who had been serving as “officers,” “deacons,” and “deeks” over into service on a board of deaconesses, announcing to their congregation that it would be the duty of the deaconessses to serve as assistants to the male deacons as allowed by Scripture, church history, and the polity of the PCA.

The assembly should recommend that Redeemer’s pastors and elders consider naming the women removed from the deacons board “deaconesses,” placing them under the authority of both the elders and deacons.

The assembly should recommend that Redeemer’s pastors and elders consider announcing to the congregation two things: that the deaconesses of the church are now under the authority of the male elders and deacons; and that on those occasions when it becomes necessary that diaconal authority be exercised over a man in the church, it will never be done by a deaconess, but always a deacon.

Now I could go on and address many more sins in the polity and practice of Redeemer and its daughter churches, but why bother? What I’ve written is clear and presents a trajectory that could easily be followed by the PCA if they had the faith. Sadly, I doubt anything like the plan outlined here will be done short of David showing up with food for his brothers and getting disgusted over the Kellerites mocking the Creation Order while the TR’s hide in their tents.

Readers may be tempted to think I haven’t presented a positive trajectory to complete this entirely negative agenda of discipline of the PCA’s feminist rebels.

Two responses.

First, disciplining schismatic rebels only seems negative to the fearful. Those with faith know it is the most positive step that can be taken; but also, that any attempt to put forward a positive agenda will only be coopted by the schismatic rebels until they’re removed and the peace, unity, and purity of the church is restored. We discipline from faith, knowing the pain of discipline always produces the harvest of righteousness.

'Peace' is certainly a pleasing word; but cursed is the peace that is obtained at so great a cost that there is lost to us the doctrine of Christ, by which alone we grow together into a godly and holy unity. - John Calvin 5

Faithless men refuse to discipline because their only concern is peace in their time. What they really care about is feathering their own nests. Living seven more years, then leaving their sons to suffer God’s judgment of the wickedness. Faithless men have no love for the church. They only love themselves. They are hirelings.

So no, discipline is not negative. It is unbelievably positive. Hopeful. Graceful. Loving. Discipline always restores the peace of the church. Only discipline restores the peace of the church. God has appointed discipline to restore the peace of the church. God calls his shepherds to discipline the church for the sake of her unity, purity, and peace.

When we see that the first church was in an uproar, and that all the best ministers of Christ were busily engaged in quarrels, if the same thing happens to us today, let us not be alarmed, as if we were involved in something new and unexpected; but seeking from God a solution like the one He gave on that occasion, let us carry on through stormy disturbances with the same tenor of faith. - John Calvin 6

Second, if and when the Presbyterian Church in America has the faith restored to her to again rise up and guard the good deposit our fathers and mothers have passed on to us; when the PCA has the faith to live out the Reformers’ motto, "the church reformed, always reforming”; there will be time enough to move on to consider how we may restore to our congregations the ministry of the order of widows of 1Timothy 5:11 and the order of older women of Titus 2:3-5:

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women

  • to love their husbands
  • to love their children
  • to be sensible
  • to be pure
  • to be workers at home
  • to be kind
  • to be subject to their own husbands


  • so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

This is the role of women in the church that is on life support and must be revived. Doing so would truly reform the church.

* * *
[My wife, Mary Lee, suggests I add the statement that nothing I've written above is anything other than the necessary application of the Book of Church Order we all vowed to obey, the Westminster Standards we all vowed to affirm and uphold, and the explicit words of God in His Word we all vowed to preach, in season and out, with great patience. So if you are temtped to think I'm a wild-eyed mad man because I have demanded the PCA discipline Tim and Kathy Keller and their elders, think again. This is simple Biblical Reformed polity and faith.]

  • 1. Commentary on Acts 5:35.
  • 2. Commentary on Acts 23:2.
  • 3. Commentary on Acts 5:29.
  • 4. Commentary on Acts 14:13.
  • 5. Commentary on Acts 14:2.
  • 6. Commentary on Acts 15:2.
Tim Bayly

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

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!