The Last Man (As It Were) Standing?

It’s 2024 and NAPARC denominations stand almost alone on male-only pastors/preachers and lay leaders (elders). The SBC is far from solid on this issue (https://sbcamendment.org/) and most evangelicals are giving way by degrees. Decisive action from the SBC would help, but many evangelicals and megachurchers have already given in. The presence of female deacons in a few NAPARC denominations doesn’t help but has not yet led to formal female elders. Made-up quasi-office titles for females in the PCA are being addressed by an amendment that seems likely to pass the presbyteries, but unordained unisex “diaconates” still undermine the doctrine of ordination and are worrying, to say the least.
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Presbycast | “Confessional P&R denominations stand almost alone on male-only pastors and elders” | January 5th, 2024


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13 comments

  1. A strange thing happened yesterday at the PCA church we attend. A lady came and sat next to me and said “yes, I’m giving the reading today.” It sounded a bit apologetic, which was strange to me, but up she got at the right time and read from Isaiah followed by the corporate prayer.
    On the way home I mentioned to the wife the brief conversation and we talked a bit about the BCO”s position and the examples in scripture about women’s roles in the corporate gathering of the Church. She disagrees with me but that’s another story.
    It concerns me at several levels that this is a practice in this PCA church. I love it when the RE’s read and pray for us, and I believe that is the correct procedure for a healthy, obedient worship service. I looked for the woman after service but I couldn’t find her, which might have been a good thing seeing that time was short.
    I don’t believe I’m alone in this, but it’s difficult finding like minded people in the pews around me. Some helpful thoughts from others who see this as I do (or not) would be appreciated.

  2. Nick’s observation of PCA practice may have been strange to him but I think it is becoming the norm particularly in urban and more hipster oriented PCA congregations. I’ve seen it done very regularly in a congregation I have visited.

    You also see it creeping in where you would not expect like the ARPC. It is far from the norm in that denomination but it does exist. See the video below of an ARPC congregation where a female leads the congregational prayer. It’s the January 7th service at the 28th minute. There is a link to the bulletin under the video so you can see the order of service.

    https://www.hopechapelgreensboro.org/live/

  3. Do you have some suggested resources on the ordination to the diaconate, and specifically the question of Phoebe in the epistle to the Romans?

    • Hi Sam,

      Among my favorites:

      McKee, Elsie Anne. John Calvin on the Diaconate and Liturgical Almsgiving. Travaux D’humanisme Et Renaissance, No. 197. Genève: Libr. Droz, 1984.

      McKee, Elsie Anne. Diakonia in the Classical Reformed Tradition and Today. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1989.

      Heyns, W. Handbook for Elders and Deacons: The Nature and the Duties of the Offices According to the Principles of Reformed Church Polity. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1928.

      I would probably look at this:

      Van Dam, Cornelis. The Deacon: Biblical Foundations for Today’s Ministry of Mercy. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Reformation Heritage Books, 2016.

      Berghoef, Gerard, and Lester DeKoster. The Deacons Handbook: A Manual of Stewardship. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Christian’s Library Press, 1980.

  4. I would say that the requirements in 1 Timothy and Titus for elders and deacons are pretty clear. The denominations that abandon these requirements have for the most part slid from female officers to homosexual officers, and I’m sure the transgender ones and whatever other odd idea comes next are not far behind.

    But we also see God’s judgment on these denominations. They are shrinking and dying off. Most men don’t like female leadership (ask those of us in the secular world who have had female bosses), and the dirty little secret is that most women (not all) don’t like it, either. People can tell the ersatz imitation from the real thing and act accordingly, i.e., vote with their feet.

    • Tom, with all due respect are you implying its sinful for women to hold authority in a workplace? That is not scriptural. I, friends, and family, have had many female bosses over the years, and have benefitted greatly from their direction. To argue that one women boss is difficult is of course true, there are likewise millions of male bosses who are horrific! Thankfully both men and women can be bosses scripturally in the workplace.

      I would not say all these churches are sliding. Many churches believe firmly, very firmly as they should that female elders and pastors are clearly unbiblical. Yet those same churches still hold to female deacons, deaconess, or whatever they might call it. Some of These denominations/groups have even held this position for decades, and they are not abdicating and sliding into “transgender officers” (ARP etc)

  5. Dr. Clark,
    This author reports decline in the PCA https://theaquilareport.com/you-reap-what-you-sow-the-pcas-internal-difficulties-and-membership-losses/. And if we speak of NC churches, the (erstwhile) “conservative” SBC may not have enough full opposite rudder to come out of its current spin https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/sbc-membership-declining/.

    But I spoke too broadly earlier–obviously the troubles above are not representative of all. I would be interested to see aggregated statistics on growth among confessional Protestants if someone has a link.

  6. I can’t figure out how to reply to the comments on my original post, but I’ll just say this in reply to Stephen: (If the moderator of the site can put this in as a comment, I’ll be grateful)

    My entire career was in the secular world, and they have very different standards than the church does. I am not saying that female bosses in the secular world are sinful. But I am saying that they are suboptimal. Every survey ever taken, before they were discontinued in the early 2000s, showed that men and women both preferred male bosses. Since these studies and polls gave the “wrong” result, there was never an attempt to explain why this might be. But those of us who have had female bosses and femal co-workers know why. Perhaps I’ll just give one example. While working on a merger for my employer, a task with involved very long hours and stress, one female employee wanted to leave at 4:00 on Friday rather than work until around midnight, which was our custom on this merger. When her boss told her that there was work to be done and that she had to stay, she responded by saying she would lodge accusations of sexual harassment agains the (male) boss if he did not allow her to leave at 4:00. Needless to say, she left at 4, and the rest of up picked up the slack.

    • Thanks for the reply. Usually you can hit a reply button right under a comment to respond to it as well.

      I think using personal experiences won’t get us too far. My whole career was in the secular as well, and I certainly did not see my female bosses/coworkers as suboptimal. In fact recent surveys have found that it’s evenly split between liking male and female bosses. Again gender shouldn’t matter. If a man or woman has the experience, education, and personality required, they should get the job. I was blessed through many female bosses through the years.

      On an anecdotal level, plenty of my bosses and coworkers who were women received constant verbal, physical, and sexual harassment, by men who thought they were less. Of course women throughout the secular (and Christian!!) Sphere have sinned in how they have acted in their vacations, so have men. But we are all sinners, all. There is many men who still believe women should not be allowed to work, and if they do work, only in certain fields, and if they do work in those fields, well they can be my secretary. It’s not flippant for me to say that either, I know many Christian and unbelieving men who profess and act in that manner. Perhaps female bosses deal therefore with an upward battle (in some cases) to earn respect more quickly given to a man, at no fault of the woman.

      There are great bosses, okay bosses, and horrible bosses. But gender does not change that. I would gladly have the man or women best suited for leading.

      Now the church? That is a separate matter where God has set apart men to lead as elders. But in the secular sphere we can and should encourage women to flourish, and we will reap the benefits

  7. “…7-3. No one who holds office in the Church ought to usurp authority therein, or receive official titles of spiritual preeminence, except such as are employed in the Scripture. Furthermore, unordained people should not be referred to as, or given the titles connected to, the ecclesial offices of pastor, elder, or deacon…”

    Interesting, particularly so because I’m aware of a large independent “evangelical” (former Congregationalist) congregation that installed a new music director a number of years ago with the title, “Pastor of Music.” During the congregational meeting where that candidate was to be approved by election to that specifically named position, a member (female, BTW) asked whether it was appropriate for an unordained person for an “un-called” position to be named “pastor” (during which time the candidate himself was nodding his head in agreement with the protestor’s question). The response from the elders was that they had made the decision to use that label some 10-15 years previously and that’s what they plan to call it going forward. No apology from scripture or any other explanation. ‘Course, this same congregation has a number of un-ordained assistant and associate pastors as well, so go figure. What I kept wondering was what they would’ve done if that candidate for music director had been female. BTW, that same congregation has a number of female members in its diaconate. What may lie ahead for officers in the future could be anyone’s guess…

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