Friday, June 25, 2010

Reformed Presbyterian Church's Position on Current Debate Concerning "Commissioning (Not Ordaining) Deaconesses"

In addition to meeting to discuss the "PCA Strategic Plan," the Session of Reformed Presbyterian Church of Lookout Mountain also met to discuss the current debate in the PCA concerning commissioning (not ordaining) deaconesses, since there are several overtures being presented at General Assembly next week that have to do with this controversy.

In discussing the overtures and the ongoing debate as it has continued since last year's GA debate between Tim Keller and Ligon Duncan, the Session determined that the heart of the current debate in the PCA on deaconesses is that there are some in the PCA who want local congregations to have the freedom to commission women to an unordained office of deaconess (for more details on the issue and recent developments with some of the overtures, see this post).  Although some are framing the debate in terms of the gender issue, we believed it best to address the issue by looking at it ecclessiologically instead, and have sought to address the idea of commissioning men or women to an unordained office, regardless what you call those men and women.  The issue is not about whether or not women can be referred to as deaconesses, but whether or not it is possible or necessary to commission anyone to an unordained office.

So, the position that the Session of Reformed Presbyterian Church of Lookout Mountain is adopting is:
Whereas, we affirm that as a member congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America we are subject to the Church’s Constitution, consisting of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, the Westminster Standards and the Book of Church Order, and that the Church’s Constitution sufficiently addresses the various roles for men and women in the church (BCO 26-1); and
Whereas, we affirm that as elders we are to exemplify and lead the Church to be subject to our brothers in the Lord and are to strive for the purity, peace, unity and edification of the Church(BCO 8-3, 21-5, 24-6); and
Whereas, we affirm that both male and female are created in God’s image and have equal redemptive standing before God (Gen. 1:27; Gal. 3:28), and that all believers are gifted and called to participate in certain aspects of the ministry of the church (1 Cor 12, 1 Pt 4.11-12); and
Whereas, we affirm that the Bible and our Church’s constitution provides a structure for how this shared ministry should be carried out, which consists of office holders, “rulers,” and the laity, “those ruled,” which the two working together constitute it a “spiritual commonwealth” (BCO 3-1); and
Whereas, we affirm that the New Testament offices of the Church consist of teaching and ruling elders and deacons (1 Tim 3, Acts 6; BCO 1-4, 4-2, 7-2); and
Whereas, we affirm that the nature of an office as it is a special charge representing Christ to his body entails that one holding an office has been inducted to it by ordination, which is the authoritative admission of one duly called to an office in the Church of God, and that apart from ordination, one cannot hold office in the Church, and therefore that there can be no such thing asan unordained office or officer (Acts 6.6, 13.3; 1 Tim 4.14; BCO 17, 21); and
Whereas, we affirm that the New Testament does not teach or support by way of direct command or example the concept of “commissioning” that is not tied to “ordination” and the Church’s Constitution does not refer to, provide for, or define “commissioning;” and
Whereas, we affirm that by God’s design only men are called to hold office in the Church since only men are to be ordained according to Scripture (1 Tim. 3:1, Tit. 1:6; Acts 6; BCO 7-2, 9-3, 4-4, 12-5, 16-2, 24-1); and
Whereas, we affirm that since the only offices of the Church are teaching elders, ruling elders and deacons, and to hold one of these offices one must be ordained, to speak of an office other than teaching elder, ruling elder or deacon, or to speak of an office or officer that is not ordained, regardless of one’s gender, is contrary to the nature of an office, and is not in accord with the Scripture or the Church’s Constitution; and
Whereas, we affirm that there is already a sufficient provision for lay persons, both men and women, to help in the diaconal work of the Church in BCO 9-7, which reads:
It is often expedient that the Session of a church should select and appoint godly men andwomen 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.
Therefore, the Session of The Reformed Presbyterian Church is resolved to reaffirm to our congregation, the Church and the watching world that (1) until or unless there are constitutional amendments to change our BCO with regards to the role of men and women in ordained or unordained office, we are to be faithful to uphold the constitutional views of the Church; and (2)it would be sinful for the Church to amend her Constitution with regards to establishing an unordained office of deaconess or in establishing a provision for “commissioning” women as unordained deaconesses since that is not in accord with what the Scripture and the Church’sConstitution teaches concerning the structure of the church and the nature of a biblical office; and (3) that it is unnecessary for the Church to amend her Constitution with regards to establishing an unordained office of deaconess since there is already a sufficient provision for unordained persons of both genders to participate in such service.
Let us all strive to fulfill our vows to be subject to our brothers in the Lord (#4) and to zealously maintain the purity, peace and unity of the church (#6).  And may we do so graciously, humbly and speaking the truth in love.

1 comment:

  1. Well said. Indeed, the distinction between "commissioning" and "ordaining" is a splitting of hairs. I would especially emphasize that last part which states that women are in no wise barred from participating in diaconal work, only that the Word prescribes that the officers set apart by God to lead the local church in such efforts are to be men.

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