The Authority of the Deacon

I heard yesterday that our presbytery might be debating whether we should send an overture to General Assembly that seeks to remove the phrase “and obedience” from the question posed to the congregation at the ordination of deacons. The reason given was that if this language is in our BCO and the PCA moves to allow women to be ordained as deaconesses, then it will give the appearance that women are in a position of authority. What seems more likely to me is that folks want to remove this language so that they can then move for women to be ordained as deaconesses. That may be imputing bad motives, but I’ve heard enough of the debate around this question that the stated reason strikes me as very disingenuous.

The main debate will occur over whether there is an authority inherent in the offices in the church, whether elder or deacon. If the office of deacon is one of authoritative service, then the stipulation of I Timothy 2:12 pertains. I would argue, yes, there is an authority inherent in each office in the church. Elders and deacons have been given an authority by the King and Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, the deacons’ authority is under the oversight and authority of the elders, but this fact does not negate the fact that the people of God owe to deacons “honor, encouragement, and obedience.” Imagine if the first deacons in Acts 6 had gone to the Jewish believers and said, “Okay guys, here is how we are going to do things now, so that the Grecian widows don’t get overlooked in the serving of food,” and the Jewish believers had said, “Says who? We don’t have to obey you – you have no authority, or it’s only a delegated authority.” The apostles took the seven and “put [them] in charge of this task” (Acts 6:3). The Greek word is kathistemi, which is defined in BDAG as “to assign someone a position of authority, appoint, put in charge.” That’s authority.

If the PCA changes the question asked to deacons, it will be a loss for the office of deacon and for deacons across our denomination. More on this topic will be forthcoming, I imagine.



5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Katy and Daniel on January 27, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Interesting thoughts…


  2. Posted by larrywalkeriii on January 27, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    Is this really going to happen? I mean, isn’t this a recurring discussion within the PCA, as with the Ligon Duncan/Tim Keller discussion that took place recently? I thought both made some good points, but I just can’t see it happening in the PCA with so many that lean to the conservative side such as Duncan. I am curious though: Doesn’t Keller already ordain women in his church, and isn’t he part of the PCA? How would that change the PCA in any way? It is an interesting discussion, and I would like to hear more from both sides, because Tim Keller didn’t present his argument, and I thought it didn’t appear because it was out of a lack of one, but out of respect for his denomination, at least that is what he said. I don’t feel comfortable second guessing his motives.


  3. This exact overture came last month to the TN Valley Presbytery. I think there must be some plotting going on behind the scenes.

    The TVP answere the overture in the negative by a respectable margin. The overture came from the St. Elmo church, Cal Burroughs, Pastor. The point of their overture is that the language in the Book of C.O. was confusing. The TVP didn’t think so. I think you are right in your analysis of the true “why.”


  4. Posted by BradleyT on January 29, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    So let me get this straight-if our denomination decides to do something unbiblical, we need to be ready to make it look ok?

    As far as second guessing Tim Keller’s motives, watch the video of the installation of a deaconess at his church.



  5. Posted by Larry Walker on January 30, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Hey Brad!
    Where is the video of the “installation” of a deaconess? I have been to Youtube and Redeemer’s website and can’t find it. Let me know where you saw it.


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