Report of The PCA Committee On Women Serving In The Ministry Of The Church

The Report on Women Serving In The Ministry Of The Church will be considered at the 45th PCA General Assembly, meeting in Greensboro, N.C., June 12-16, 2017.

 

When the PCA began, North American society was in flux on the issue of women’s roles. Today, the society is settled on the full inclusion of women in every sphere. This presents us with a challenge and opportunity. In this moment, we need positively and persuasively to make the case for biblical complementarity in the home and church, showing that it is true, good, and beautiful. At the same time, we want actively and unhesitatingly to pursue and equip the women of the church for every biblical role of service open to them. This then is the aspiration of the report we offer.

 

Report Of The Ad Interim Committee On Women Serving In The Ministry Of The Church
To The Forty-Fifth General Assembly
Of The Presbyterian Church In America

CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION

The Presbyterian Church in America is joyfully and confessionally committed to the Bible’s teaching on the complementarity of men and women. As a denomination, we believe that this teaching is true, good, and beautiful. We affirm the full dignity of men and women as created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28). We also humbly and happily embrace Scripture’s clear teaching that the eldership is to be composed of qualified men (1 Tim. 2:12; 3:1-7; 5:17), who are entrusted by Christ with the ministry of the authoritative teaching and ruling of the church for the building up of the whole body (Eph. 4:11-13). In marriage, this mutually-edifying complementarity is displayed when a Christian husband expresses his responsibility of headship in sacrificial love to his wife (Eph. 5:23-31) and when a Christian wife welcomes her husband’s headship with respect (Eph. 5:22-24, 33).

Within this framework of our common and principled commitment to complementarianism as defined by our confessional standards and polity, the 44th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America approved the formation of a study committee on the issue of women serving in the church’s ministry in ways that are consistent with those standards. The General Assembly directed the moderator to appoint a committee of competent men and women who represent the diversity of opinions within the PCA. This diversity of opinions refers not to the inclusion of views out of accord with our confessional position but regards a number of subsidiary matters such as the role of women in diaconal ministry; the best way to promote the use of women’s gifts and ministry in the church; in what settings is it appropriate for women to teach; whether deacons ought to be ordained; what the nature of the diaconal office is; whether women may serve on denominational boards and agencies, and the like.

For instance, consider the question of women’s role in diaconal ministry. All sides are agreed that there is biblical warrant for the involvement of women in the church’s diaconal work. Our Book of Church Order already allows for and encourages that (BCO 9-7). Indeed, women have been involved in the diaconal ministry of the church with apostolic benediction and encouragement from the beginning (1 Tim. 5:10). The question is, how? And, is there an appropriate title for this work? That is one place where there is a diversity of opinions in the PCA. Our BCO says: “To the office of deacon, which is spiritual in nature, shall be chosen men of spiritual character, honest repute, exemplary lives, brotherly spirit, warm sympathies, and sound judgment.” Many embrace this view as their personal conviction. Some in our denomination believe that the office of deacon should be open to women, and thus that women should be ordained as deacons (and this would require a Book of Church Order change). Others favor a distinctive ordained office of deaconess (which would also require a BCO change), while some simply view deaconess as the title for a qualified, unordained woman who assists the officers of the church in their work. Still, others have installed an unordained diaconate made up of men and women (a disputed practice in our denomination).

Into these diverse opinions and out of a desire to promote the peace, purity, unity, and progress of the church, the 44th General Assembly directed this committee to give particular attention to the issues of:

  1. The biblical basis, theology, history, nature, and authority of ordination,
  2. The biblical nature and function of the office of deacon,
  3. Clarification on the ordination or commissioning of deacons/deaconesses, and
  4. Should the findings of the study committee warrant BCO changes, the study committee will propose such changes for the GA to consider.
  5. Compose a Pastoral Letter to be approved by the General Assembly and to be sent to all churches, encouraging them [within the parameters of our doctrinal standards] to:

(1) promote the practice of women in ministry,
(2) appoint women to serve alongside elders and deacons in the pastoral work of the church, and
(3) hire women on church staff in appropriate ministries.

In fulfilling the assignment given to the committee, our unanimous aim is not to undermine or alter our confessional commitments, but rather to foster a robust complementarian position and practice that creates a culture which welcomes and encourages the ministry of women in the PCA in ways that are consistent with the Bible’s teaching, as expressed in our confession and polity. The moderator appointed seven voting members and six advisory members (five of whom were able to serve) to our committee. All members unreservedly embrace our denominational standards’ affirmation of complementarianism in the home and church.

Committee members met numerous times during the year, face-to-face and electronically, supplemented by a continuous correspondence on matters of discussion and dispute, as well as about the content of our report. We debated all the matters put to us by the General Assembly and were, by the grace of God, able to arrive at an overwhelming consensus.

We present our report to you in five chapters:

  1. Introduction (including our response to Overture 3)
  2. A Biblical Foundation for the Roles of Women in the Church
  3. Ordination – A Definition, with Special Reference to the Office of the Diaconate
  4. Encouraging a Robust and Gracious Complementarian Practice
  5. Pastoral Letter and Recommendations

The committee is not recommending any Book of Church Order changes. We do offer some prudential recommendations to sessions and presbyteries, and we suggest an overture that could be made by a presbytery, if one so desired. We have sought to make recommendations that accord with the clear teaching of Scripture and our denomination’s doctrinal standards, and that serve the interests of the church’s unity.

We believe that the matters the General Assembly asked us to study are timely and needed. Along with our confessional complementarian convictions, we want to champion the dignity, ability, and service of women in the church. It is important that we do both.

When the PCA was formed, objection to the ordination of women as pastors and elders was an animating issue. We agreed upon it and rallied around it (all of us, men and women), because we rightly saw that it was an issue of biblical authority. Today, that commitment remains dominantly embraced in the membership of the PCA, but both members and ministers are asking how to equip, encourage, and utilize women in the church’s ministry in ways that are consistent with our confessional and theological commitments to complementarianism.

When the PCA began, North American society was in flux on the issue of women’s roles. Today, the society is settled on the full inclusion of women in every sphere. This presents us with a challenge and opportunity. In this moment, we need positively and persuasively to make the case for biblical complementarity in the home and church, showing that it is true, good, and beautiful. At the same time, we want actively and unhesitatingly to pursue and equip the women of the church for every biblical role of service open to them. This then is the aspiration of the report we offer.

Study Committee on the Role of Women in the Ministry of the Church:

TE Leon Brown (Advisory Member)
TE William Castro (Advisory Member)
TE Jeffrey Choi (Voting Member)
TE Dan Doriani (Advisory Member)
TE Ligon Duncan (Voting Member)
TE Irwyn Ince (Voting Member)
Mrs. Lani Jones (Advisory Member)
Mrs. Kathy Keller (Voting Member)
Mrs. Mary Beth McGreevy (Voting Member)
TE Bruce O’Neil (Voting Member)
TE Harry Reeder (Voting Member)
TE Roy Taylor (Advisory Member)

Read the whole Report.

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