Five years ago, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America took issue with an action of Northern California Presbytery and Philadelphia Presbytery in a matter related to deaconesses. The result was two years of debate about whether or not we should study the issue, and the PCA said that it did not want to do so.
The Committee on Constitutional Business, the Standing Judicial Commission, theReview of Presbytery Records, and several General Assemblies made it clear that the lines were not to be blurred but that a male only diaconate was to be preserved. One presbytery that was involved in several of these actions was Northern California Presbytery. This year, however, Northern California admitted its errors and promised submission to the General Assembly.
In 2007, the General Assembly took the following exceptions to the minutes of Northern California:
Exception: March 3-4, 2006: Diaconate of new church includes 2
Deaconesses commissioned contrary to BCO 9-3.
Exception: March 3-4, 2006: Deacons are commissioned as part of organizing a particular church without record of election, ordination, and installation. BCO 5-9, 10.
In 2008, Northern California responded, but their response was found unsatisfactory by the 36th General Assembly. In 2009, GA sent the response to the Committee on Constitutional Business for advice. They responded to the 2010 GA:
. . . it failed to address the issues raised by the exceptions—namely, that a diaconate (synonymous with the expression “Board of Deacons” [see BCO 19-15 and 24-10]) may only include men who are elected, ordained, and installed; and that the practice in question denies qualified men their constitutional and biblical right to be considered for this office. (M38GA, 270)
In 2012, Northern California responded admitting to error in this matter and promising to submit saying, “The Presbytery agrees with the 38th GA.” The Presbytery also provided the following explanation:
The church involved has clarified that the body is not called the diaconate and that the members serving in mercy ministry are not ordained or commissioned, the members of that committee are not officers, they are not directly elected by the congregation but are appointed by the Session, at no time were women ordained contrary to BCO 9-3, and at no time were qualified men denied their right to ordination as deacons in that church. Presbytery is thankful for the patience of RPR during the lengthy review of this matter and apologizes for any undue delay. We are thankful for the clarifying work of RPR, CCB, Overtures, and SJC during the 38th GA to clarify issues surrounding BCO chapter 9 and we will seek to be more careful in the future.
The Review of Presbytery Records is recommending that this explanation be found satisfactory.
Wes White is a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America. He is currently serving as the Pastor of New Covenant Spearfish Presbyterian Church, Spearfish, South Dakota. This article originally appeared on his blog and is used with permission.
[Editor’s note: the original URL (link) referenced in this article is no longer valid, so the link has been removed.]