Position Paper on Women Serving As Deacons Approved by the Elders and Ministers of Coon Rapids Christian Church Introduction

This paper serves as a summary of what the present leadership of Coon Rapids Christian Church believes to be the biblical basis for women serving as deacons in the church. It is understood that this is an emotional subject with many biases on both sides of the issue. In fact, every man on this leadership team has had to be willing to break with the tradition they were brought up in based on their study of Scripture. We do not wish to impose our biases upon anyone else or to let those biases color our understanding of the biblical record. Our intention is to view the relevant biblical texts, the role of church history, possible objections, and what this means for us today. Being a Christian Church of the Restoration Movement, we have always been willing to "Speak where the Bible Speaks, and to be Silent where the Bible is Silent". In other words, we will not impose our personal opinions and/or culture upon the biblical text, nor will we refuse to perform up to the plain biblical standard. It is our belief that the Bible is hardly silent on the issue at hand and that it needs to be addressed. THE BIBLICAL TEXTS THAT REFER TO WOMEN DEACONS Two biblical texts stand out in support of women deacons - Romans 16:1ff, 1 Timothy 3:11 *The footnotes are included in the translation and are enclosed in brackets [ ]. Romans 16:1 (New Revised Standard Version) “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae,” Romans 16:1 (New Century Version) “I recommend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a helper [a helper Literally, “deaconess.” This might mean the same as one of the special women helpers in 1 Timothy 3:11.] in the church in Cenchrea.” Romans 16:1 (New Living Translation) “Our sister Phoebe, a deacon in the church in Cenchrea, will be coming to see you soon.” Romans 16:1 (New International Version) “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant [ Or deaconess] of the church in Cenchrea.” 1 Timothy 3:11 – In the NIV and NLT the translation is “deacon’s wives”. In the NRSV and NCV the translation is “women”. It is interesting to note that the word “deacon” is not in the original at all but was added by the translators of the NIV and NLT. The word for “wives” and “women” is the same in Greek – this will be dealt with in more detail later.


Paul refers to Phoebe as, "a deaconess of the church of Cenchreae . . . she has been a helper of many and of myself as well" (Rom 16:1-2). The word "deaconess" is a translation of the Greek diakonos, a masculine noun which was used both for men and women with two distinct meanings. In the vast majority of its occurrences in the New Testament, the term diakonos simply means "servant" or "one who ministers" to another. Paul, for example, speaks of himself and of his co-workers as diakonoi (servants, ministers) of Christ, of the Gospel and of the new covenant (1 Cor 3:5; 2 Cor 3:6; Eph 3:7; 1 Thess 3:2). He also speaks of his apostolic work as a diakonia (Rom 11:13) In a few cases the term diakonos is used to describe the church office of "deacons" (Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 3:8-13). Usually the context gives the clue to whether diakonos is used in the general sense of ministering or in the restricted sense of an established diaconate. The question then is to determine whether Paul is commending Phoebe as a member of the church at Cenchreae who has served others, or as a deacon in that church. From our study we have concluded that diakonos is used by Paul in a technical sense to describe the official deaconess role of Phoebe in the church. The main reasons are three. 1) First, the use of the participle "being" (ousan) in Greek and the connection with the church--"Phoebe, being a deacon of the church in Cenchreae"--reads like an official title. Paul may have chosen to introduce Phoebe to the Romans by her official role in her home church, especially if she was the carrier of his letter, as is generally believed. 2) Second, the characterization of Phoebe as a "helper of many" (Rom 16:2), suggests that she played a vital role in the Cenchreaean church by offering assistance to many, including Paul himself. Such a service was associated especially with the office of the deacon. 3) Third, in 1 Timothy 3:11 Paul describes the qualifications of a group of women serving in the church--qualifications which are point for point parallel to that of the deacons given immediately before (1 Tim 3:8-10). The parallel lists of qualifications strongly suggests that the function of these women was parallel to that of the deacons. The reason why Paul does not call these women deaconesses (diako-nissa) is simply because such a term did not yet exist. The term first appears in the Syriac Didascalia (ch. 16), a document written in the early part of the third century. The masculine form of "deacon--diakonos" was used for both men and women as in the case of Phoebe (Rom 16:1). In 1 Timothy 3:11 Paul uses the word "women--gynaikas" instead of "deacons-diakonoi" presumably to avoid confusion, since he had already used diakonos to introduce the men in 1 Timothy 3:8. Thus, it would seem best to understand the "women" of 1 Timothy 3 as a group of persons who served the church in a similar capacity to that of the deacons. The example of Phoebe, identified as diakonos, lends positive support to this conclusion.


Female deacons were needed in the early centuries when the sexes could not mingle freely. According to the Didascalia they performed a great variety of services in the care of women, including assistance at the baptism and burial of women, the catechizing of women and caring for sick women at home. They never functioned, however, as heads of the community, but served in a role auxiliary to that of the pastors, elders and bishops. Women distinguished themselves in the apostolic church not only at the level of local churches but also in the wider missionary outreach of the church. Much of the missionary activity reported in the New Testament focuses on Paul and his co-workers, many of whom were women. In Romans 16 Paul greets several women whose missionary endeavors contributed significantly to the life and growth of the church. Outstanding among them is Prisca (a diminutive of Priscilla) and her husband, Aquila. Of them Paul says: "Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I but also all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks; greet also the church in their house" (Rom 16:3-5). This couple lived in Rome until about A.D. 49 when they were forced to move to Corinth after Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome (Acts 18:1-3). From Corinth they moved their tentmaking business first to Ephesus (Acts 18:18-26; 1 Cor 16:19) and then back to Rome. It is noteworthy that both Paul and Luke mention Prisca almost always before her husband, Aquila, presumably because she was the more prominent in missionary endeavors. In Acts she is engaged with her husband, Aquila, in teaching the great orator Apollos (Acts 18:26). Prisca, therefore, must have been well-grounded in the Christian faith and a most capable instructor. Paul refers to this couple as "fellow-workers." The term was often used by Paul to characterize those persons who worked with him, including Titus and Timothy (Rom 16:9, 21; 1 Cor 3:9; 2 Cor 1:24; 8:23; Phil 2:25; 4:3; Col 4:11; 1 Thess 3:2). Other women greeted by Paul are: Mary, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, and Persis, all of whom "worked hard" in the Lord (vv. 6, 12). The term Paul uses here is descriptive of the toil in proclaiming the Gospel (cf. 1 Cor 4:12; 15:10; Phil 2:16; 1 Tim 4:10). In Philippians 4:2, 3 Paul mentions two other women, Euodia and Syntyche, as persons who "have labored side by side with me in the Gospel."

THE PERSPECTIVE OF CHURCH HISTORY As a conservative, Bible based church, we believe that we should look to early church history to see how our "church fathers" regarded women in ministry. Many people might be surprised to learn that there exists a rich, apostolic tradition of ordained females that endured until the Middle Ages. The women to whom we are referring were deacons. They served as part of the church's ecclesiastical community for almost half of our 2,000 year history. The New Testament and the patristic writings of the early church clearly


demonstrate that the order of deacon was not an ordained ministry restricted to men in the early church. There is little doubt women were ordained deacons in early Christianity. The Apostolic Constitutions provide a detailed rite of ordination for deaconess, referring to Old Testament women and the Theotokos (Mary, the mother of Jesus). Byzantine writings evidence the ordination of women well into the Middle Ages, with some deaconesses serving in monasteries as late as the 11th century. In the early church document Didascalia Apostolorum, a deaconess' duties appeared commensurate with those of a deacon. However, in another early church document, the Apostolic Constitutions, the duties of a woman deacon were equated to that of a male subdeacon, although they officially ranked as deacons. Both documents included the deaconess as clergy, not laity. Due to the socio-gender restrictions of society, deaconesses most likely provided pastoral care to other women. There was a dichotomy of functions where deaconesses ministered to women and deacons to men. Male and female deacons had many of the same responsibilities, but they were not interchangeable. A deaconess was sent to minister in situations where existing cultural customs prohibited men, such as those requiring touching or laying on of hands. The order of deaconess was more readily accepted in the Eastern churches than in the West, with Orthodox and Byzantine Rite churches celebrating the feast days of many women deacons including Phoebe, Macrina, Nonn, Melania, Thesebia, Goronia, Olympias and Apollonia. The authority and acceptance of women deacons slowly diminished as the church became more hierarchical and patriarchal. Furthermore, when the church began baptizing infants, there was no longer a need for female deacons to accompany adult women baptismal candidates. Despite their innumerable contributions to the church, the order of deaconess eventually disappeared by the Middle Ages. Women deacons served the early church in the true spirit of diaconal service, and the order of deaconess was an ecclesiastical office of importance that was widely accepted for many centuries. There are no scriptural, theological or historical barriers that obstruct the ordination of women as deacons. Ordained women disappeared not because of any actions by Christ or the apostles but because of changes in society that subordinated women. STATEMENTS FROM CONSERVATIVE REFERENCE WORKS •Alexander Campbell on the Deacon’s Office (Alexander Campbell was the founder, along with several others, of the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ – This was written in 1826) Amongst the Greeks who paid so much regard to differences of sex, female deacons, or deaconesses, were appointed to visit and wait upon the sisters. Of this sort was Phebe of Cenchrea, and other persons mentioned in the New Testament, who labored in the gospel.


•B.W. Johnson, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, The People’s New Testament (1891). Johnson was another conservative and influential leader in the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ. 1, 2. I commend unto you Phoebe. Evidently the bearer of the letter, a sister in Christ. In this list of persons greeted, a number are women, and the greetings show how highly Paul esteemed woman's work in the church. A servant. The word is deacon in the Greek. The word also means "servant," as rendered, but we know that there were deaconesses in the church of the first century, and Paul, in giving her a recommendation, no doubt mentions her office. To say that she was a servant of the church, would convey no special distinction. In the East, where women were so much secluded, deaconesses would be a necessity. Paul evidently refers to them. 1 Tim. 5:9, 10, evidently refers to them; Ignatius, a companion of the apostles, mentions them in one of his epistles, and Pliny does also, in his famous letter to Trajan, early in the second century. Which is at Cenchreæ. Paul wrote this letter at Corinth; Cenchreæ was its seaport, on the Ægean Sea, about nine miles from the city. A small town with the old name still marks its site. 2. That ye receive her in the Lord. Give her a Christian welcome. And that ye assist her. The term used in the Greek is a legal one; hence it is supposed that some kind of legal business called her to Rome. She hath been a succorer of many. This would result from her office as a deaconess. Among those ministered to was the apostle himself. •Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897 DEACONESS Romans 16:1, 3, 12; Phil. 4:2-3; 1 Tim. 3:11; 1 Tim. 5:9-10; Titus 2:3-4). In these passages it is evident that females were then engaged in various Christian ministrations. Pliny makes mention of them also in his letter to Trajan (A.D. 110). •Holman Bible Dictionary DEACON, DEACONESS The term “deacon” is derived from the Greek word diakonos, which is usually translated “servant” or “minister.” Only a few times in the New Testament (Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8; 1 Tim. 3:12, and, in some translations, Romans 16:1) is it translated “deacon” and used to denote one holding a church office. The noun form comes from a verb which means “to serve,” probably originally in the sense of waiting on tables. It came to be used to signify a broad range of types of service. In the New Testament, the noun is used to refer to ministers of the gospel (Col. 1:23), ministers of Christ (1 Tim. 4:6), servants of God (2 Cor. 6:4), those who follow Jesus (John 12:26), and in many other similar ways. Although Phil. 1:1 and 1 Tim. 3 clearly indicate that the office of deacon existed in New Testament times, no explicit Bible reference describes the duties of deacons or refers to the origin of the office. In Phil. 1:1 and in numerous references in early Christian literature outside the New Testament, bishops and/or elders and deacons are mentioned together, with deacons mentioned last. Because of this order, and because of the natural connotations of the word diakonos, most interpreters believe that deacons, from the beginning, served as assistants of the church leaders. Certainly, that was clearly the role of deacons by the second century. Deacons continued to fill an important role in the ministry of the early church, serving the needs of the poor, assisting in baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and performing other practical ministerial tasks.


The nature of the qualifications of deacons outlined in 1 Tim. 3: 8-13 perhaps indicates the function of deacons in the New Testament period. In most respects, the qualifications of deacons mirror those of the “bishops,” the leaders of the churches. The high standards of morality and character expected of both demonstrates the church’s serious regard for the offices and the importance of their functions. The requirements that deacons must have a clear understanding of the faith (1 Tim. 3:9) and that their faithfulness already be proven (1 Tim. 3:10) indicate that their duties consisted of more than menial chores. The exclusion of those who are “doubletongued” (1 Tim. 3:8) may be evidence that the work of the deacons brought them into close contact with the everyday lives of the church members, as would occur in visiting the sick and ministering to the other physical needs of fellow Christians. Such service would both give them greater knowledge of items for gossip and allow them greater opportunity to spread such gossip, thus making it crucial that they should not be prone to talebearing. The requirement that deacons not be greedy may indicate that they were responsible for collecting and distributing church funds. Whether the deacons’ functions extended to leading in worship is not clear. Gifts for teaching, a requirement for “bishops,” are not mentioned in the qualifications for deacons. The connotations of table service in the word diakonos and the centrality of the Lord’s Supper in the worship of the early church strongly imply that distributing the elements and, in the early years, serving the agape meal were important functions of deacons. Many interpreters believe that the account of the choosing of the seven in Acts 6 describes the selection of the first deacons, although the term diakonos is not used in the passage and the term diakonia (“service” or “ministry”) is used only for the work of the twelve. The tasks that the seven performed, however, later seem to be principal functions of deacons. On the other hand, two of the seven, Stephen and Philip, are known to us as prominent preachers and evangelists, roles which may not have been common for deacons. The seven were set apart for their task in a ceremony in which the apostles “laid their hands on them” (Acts 6:6). This ceremony may reflect the origin of later ordination practice. Other than this passage, which may or may not represent usual practice, the New Testament does not mention ordination of deacons. The list of qualifications in 1 Tim. 3:11 requires that “women” must “likewise” (NAS) be similar in character to the men. Although this remark may refer to the wives of male deacons (KJV, NIV) it probably should be interpreted as a parenthetical reference to female deacons, or deaconesses (NIV footnote; NAS footnote; NRSV footnote). Romans 16:1 refers to Phebe as a diakonos of the church at Cenchrea. Williams New Testament translates this as deaconess. The NRSV uses “deacon.” Other translations use “servant.” In this verse, Phebe’s role as “helper” and Paul’s obvious regard for her work seem to support the conclusion that she functioned as a deacon in her church. Deaconesses are mentioned prominently in Christian writings of the first several centuries. They cared for needy fellow believers, visited the sick, and were especially charged with assisting in the baptism of women converts. —Fred A. Grissom •Bible Knowledge Commentary, Romans 16:1 Phoebe (which means “bright, radiant”) was Paul’s emissary to deliver this letter, so he wrote officially, I commend to you our sister Phoebe. The relationship mentioned is


spiritual, not familial. Phoebe was a servant of the church in Cenchrea, a seaport a few miles east of Corinth (cf. Acts 18:18; and see the map between Acts and Rom.). The word , “servant,” is used for the office of deacon (Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8, 10, 12) as well as used generally (Rom. 15:8; 1 Cor. 3:5). Use of the word with the phrase “of the church” strongly suggests some recognized position, a fact appropriate for a person serving as Paul’s emissary. Paul not only officially commended her (cf. 2 Cor. 3:1), but also asked the Roman Christians to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help (lit., “and to stand by her in whatsoever matter”) she may need from you. Paul explained, for she has been a great help (, “a protectress, succorer”) to many people, including me. So they should help her since she had helped others. •Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament, Romans 16:1 I commend (συνιστεµι). The regular word for letters of commendation as in 2 Cor. 3:1 (συστατικον επιστολον). See also Romans 3:5. So here Romans 16:1-2 constitute Paul’s recommendation of Phoebe, the bearer of the Epistle. Nothing else is known of her, though her name (Πηοιβε) means bright or radiant. Sister (αδελπηεν). In Christ, not in the flesh. Who is a servant of the church (ουσαν διακονον τεσ εκκλεσιασ). The etymology of διακονοσ we have had repeatedly. The only question here is whether it is used in a general sense or in a technical sense as in Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8-13. In favour of the technical sense of “deacon” or “deaconess” is the addition of “τεσ εκκλεσιασ” (of the church). In some sense Phoebe was a servant or minister of the church in Cenchreae. Besides, right in the midst of the discussion in 1 Tim. 3:8-13 Paul has a discussion of γυναικασ (Romans 16:11) either as women as deaconesses or as the wives of deacons (less likely though possible). The Apostolic Constitutions has numerous allusions to deaconesses. The strict separation of the sexes made something like deaconesses necessary for baptism, visiting the women, etc. Cenchreae, as the eastern port of Corinth, called for much service of this kind. Whether the deaconesses were a separate organization on a par with the deacons we do not know nor whether they were the widows alluded to in 1 Tim. 5:9-10. •John MacArthur Jr. (Grace Community Church - Grace to You), Questions and Answers

Question From Audience:
I have been reading in 1 Timothy 3, about the qualifications for elders and deacons, and I find nowhere from verses 8 to 13 where it says that a deacon can be a woman, because it says, "Let deacons be the husband of one wife."

Answer from John MacArthur Jr.:
Let me tell you what that means--all right? So you are wondering why there are women deacons? Verse 11 is a key verse. I just wrote a book on deacons and rather than try to 7

cover everything (it will be available this week, so could you pick one up on Sunday maybe or next weekend)--I go through all the whole process of discussing it. If you will look at verse 11, he's talking about elders and then he sort of shifts gears and talks about deacons, verse 9, and the qualifications basically are the same. In fact, what I found in my study was that the difference, the only difference that I could find between and elder and a deacon basically was skill in teaching the Word of God, and refuting those who taught error. In other words the primary distinction between an elder and a deacon textually, is that unique ability to handle the Word of God that is a God-given gift. The spiritual qualifications really aren't any different: it takes just a godly and virtuous a person. We might also conclude that deacons don't have to be leaders like elders, but that's wrong, because they have to have demonstrated, in verse 12, that they can rule their children and their own house. So I don't see a difference in leadership capability between an elder and a deacon; all I see is a difference in the skill in which they can articulate the Word of God. But verse 11, in the midst of the discussion here says, "Even so," and it uses the word "women," rather than wives--wives would be an arbitrary translation, "are to be serious, not slanderers, soberminded, faithful in all things." And it is my conviction that the reference there is directly to those women who serve in a deacon role. The word "deacon," by the way, is a very general term in the Bible--it simply means "servant." "Phoebe" in Romans 16:1 is called a deacon, and she was a woman obviously. "There are other women who served with me in the gospel," Paul says, he uses the verb form of the same word. So, I think that the women are mentioned there in verse 11; and there are some reasons in the Greek text why it seems to me that that is a separate group isolated out from the rest, so that he talks about elders, he talks about deacons, and then he talks about the women who serve as deacons also. So I think there is room for that. Early church history corroborates that in that they recognized deacons calling them, I guess in English we call them, deaconesses.

BIBLICAL OBJECTIONS ANSWERED •Objections Taken from 1 Timothy 3 Those who would want to restrict all church offices to males only, using 1 Timothy 3 as a basis, use the following arguments: 1) the entire chapter (except 3:11) refers to "men" and uses the term "him", indicating that males are in mind; 2) 3:12 (and 3:2) states that a deacon must be the "husband of but one wife"; 3) 3:11 is a specific instruction regarding the wives of the deacons, thus indicating that deacons must be men. We would like to answer these each in turn.


1) 1 Timothy 3 (except verse 11) refers to "men" and uses the term "him", indicating that males are in mind Those who would argue that the use of the gender-specific title of "men" in chapter 3 (e.g. 3:4, 8) is a reason to exclude women from the role of deacon need to consider how they would interpret other such gender-specific passages in 1 Timothy. For example, 1 Tim. 2:4, 4:9 (are only males going to be saved?), 2:5 (does Jesus mediate for males only?), 2:6 (did Jesus die for males only?), 2:8 (does God only want males to pray?), 4:6 (should women not be taught about spiritual things?), 5:24 (are female's sins not obvious, as male's are?), 6:11 (should only males pursue righteousness?). We trust that this will indicate that the use of the terms "men" and "him" are used in the general way that we might use the term "mankind" or even "man" in the sense of all "men" (meaning "everyone"). The Greek words for "man" allow this implication. 2) 1 Timothy 3:2 and 3:12 state that an elder and deacon must be the "husband of but one wife" The phrase "husband of one wife" is literally "one woman man" (compare to 1 Tim. 5:9, where it is "one man woman"). The only exegetical options of interpretation available for the phrase "husband of (but) one wife" (3:2, 12) are, that a church officer is required to: (a) be married; (b) have only one wife his entire life; (c) be monogamous; or (d) be faithful in the marital and sexual realm (cf. Knight Commentary on the Greek Text of The Pastoral Epistles, 1992). In response to each option, Knight says the following: (a) "is exceedingly doubtful" that this verse and 3:4 and 3:12 (children plural), restrict the offices to married men with two or more children. (b) "it would be strange if the apostle of liberty, who considered widows and widowers 'free to be married. . . , only in the Lord' (1 Cor. 7:39) and who used this principle of freedom to illustrate his teaching on the law (Rom. 7:1 - 3), to deny this freedom to a potential church officer whose spouse had died", or when the potential officer was the "innocent party" in a divorce, or when an unbelieving spouse has abandoned a believing spouse. Considerations surrounding remarriage and divorce must always be applied, obviously, but this interpretation does not do justice to the sense of 1 Tim. 3:2, and therefore "having one wife all his life" cannot be what is meant by this verse. (c) Polygamy is certainly ruled out by the sense of the verse. But the construction of the Greek is not usual, and indicates more than just one husband having one wife. Although it covers polygamy, this qualification must extend beyond simply restricting polygamy. It would therefore seem to refer to sexual fidelity within marriage, by husband and wife. Many commentators have argued that because no woman was allowed to take more than one husband, there was no need to express these commands in any other way than a man taking more than one woman for a wife. In relation to this phrase, it has also been argued that these verses can be understood to refer to having only one wife at a time (so called, "serial monogamy") - the verse is not clear on this point, and therefore, again, we are pointed to the correct emphasis, i.e. general sexual fidelity (and therefore not necessarily a masculine marital command).


(d) Knight (a very conservative scholar) argues strongly for this interpretation of the original Greek phrase - i.e. pointing to marital and sexual fidelity, on the basis of the arguments in (c) above, and the fact that this phrase is analogous to "You shall not commit adultery". This sixth commandment is also phrased in marital terms, although it is clearly taken to encompass all sexual sins (not only "adultery" - i.e. marital unfaithfulness) (cf. Ex. 20:14; Matt. 5:27 - 32). Similarly, the correct emphasis of this phrase in 1 Tim. 3:2, 12, is to ensure that the prospective church officers have been sexually faithful and moral since their conversion. Paul has simply used the most common situation of a marriage relationship, with a husband and wife, to state his point about sexual fidelity. This is borne out by the fact that we know that single people were church leaders. It cannot, therefore, in any way, be used to restrict women from serving as church officers. Again, we must look elsewhere for gender restrictions on service. 3) 1 Timothy 3:11 is a specific instruction regarding the wives of the deacons, thus indicating that deacons must be men. 3:11 says, "in the same way, their wives are to be women. . ." (NIV). It will be useful to understand the etymology (linguistic development) of the terms that we translate "man" and "woman" in the NIV New Testament. Greek is like English (or, more correctly, English is like Greek) in that the term "man" can be used generically for "mankind", thus including both male and female. In addition, the Greek word for "woman" and for "wife" are exactly the same, and similarly, Greek only has one word for "man" and "husband". The correct translated term is discovered only on investigation of the context. So, any time The New Testament NIV has "woman", it could also mean "wife" (especially when it says, "his woman" or "the man and woman and their child"). Thus this verse could equally be translated "their women must likewise be..." . However, in the original Greek, the word "their" is not there. Thus the NASB translates it "Women must be...". There are many possible interpretations of this phrase (3:11), the most common being that the women concerned are: (a) all the (adult) female members of the church; (b) the wives of the deacons; (c) a third class of church officer (i.e. there are elders, deacons and female deacons); (d) the deacon's (female) assistants; or, (e) female deacons. These options are assessed below: (a) This option is obviously not permissible in the context of the passage, due to the restricted nature of the offices of overseer and deacon, whom the women are to be like (i.e. not *all* men can be elders). (b) This is not an option, based on the context. The use of the word "likewise" would be strange if this were referring to deacon's wives, as it would be a break in the flow of the passage, rather than a development in it. In the Greek, there is no possessive pronoun or definite article connecting the women to the deacons. There is also no reference to the wives of the overseers. It seems strange that the wives of deacons are specifically


instructed, but not the wives of the overseers. (c) The use of the word "likewise" to introduce these women is the same word used in 3:8 to introduce the deacons. This Greek preposition refers the women to the deacons in 3:11, just as it refers the deacons to the elders in 3:8. Thus, it is possible that this is a separate class of church officer. It is argued that Rom. 16:1 seems to indicate some evidence of this. However, in Rom. 16:1, Phoebe is referred to as a "deacon", in the masculine (technical) sense. It would also seem that in 3:12, Paul goes back to talking about deacons - thus indicating that 3:11 is not separate, but included in the office of deacons (see (e) below). In Phil. 1:1, where Paul refers to the officers of the church, he mentions only overseers and deacons. (d) There is no reference in 3:11 to assistance or service to the deacons by these women. It would be strange that the deacons would have assistants, and the elders not. Why is there no reference to those who assist the elders? Therefore, the women are to be like the deacons in that they serve the church. This is not a reference to deacon's assistants, but rather a reference to a class of women, analogous to deacons. (e) John MacArthur (Different by Design) and other conservatives argue convincingly for this interpretation. They are not "deaconesses" as there is no Greek word for that position, and therefore the only way Paul could make specific comments about women deacons (as opposed to male deacons) was to refer to them as "women". The qualifications of these women exactly parallel those of the male deacons. Thus, Paul introduces a new category of deacons (i.e. women), who are distinct from male deacons only because of their gender. They are thus equal in their status, function and authority. If Paul had intended these women to be distinguished, would he not have specifically stated this fact at this point in his instructions regarding qualifications for service? Thus, 3:11 is clearly concerned with female deacons. The function of the deacons was to serve the congregation. It seems unlikely that males would be the best people to serve in every situation, for instance, caring for widows (bathing them, clothing them, etc.), or preparing female candidates for baptism (these are Guthrie's examples, in his commentary on the Pastoral Epistles). The deacons were to serve in very practical ways, and it only makes sense that Paul would specifically address the women who were involved in serving in this way in the church. 1 Timothy was written in Rome, where Phoebe was known as a deacon (Rom. 16:1). It would be inconceivable for Paul to prohibit something he has already commended. •Objections Taken from 1 Corinthians 14:34 (1 Cor 14:34 - NIV) "women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says." We are not dealing with the issue of silence when we are speaking of female deacons. This is not directly applicable to the subject at hand. Furthermore, the context of this verse is specifically related to the abuse of the prophetic role and the gift of speaking in tongues as can seen by a study of the immediate context. •Objections Taken from 1 Timothy 2:12


(1 Timothy 2:12 - NIV) "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent." Again, this issue is not specifically relevant to the role of women as deacons, but instead deals with the role of teacher in the church. A woman (or man for that matter) can serve as deacon and never teach at all. In addition, since the epistle to Timothy was written sometime after the first Corinthian epistle, there is doubtless some evidence that Paul was dealing with a particular problem, as in the Corinthian congregation (1 Cor. 14:34), in which the women had usurped the leadership role and were "lording it over" the men. However, a careful study of the Scriptures as a whole indicates further significance to this very straightforward statement. The apostle Paul shows an unequaled esteem for and appreciation of the home. Throughout his epistles Paul is careful to present a thorough and consistent pattern for relationships within the home. In forbidding women to hold teaching/ruling positions, Paul is further protecting God-assigned lines of authority within the home. The Greek word andros, translated "man," may also be translated "husband." A wife, then, is not to instruct or rule over her husband. This does not rule out a teaching ministry for women, but, rather, in the case of married women, that ministry comes under the protection and direction of their respective husbands (Acts 18:26). In other words, a woman should give careful consideration to her husband's leadership in the teaching responsibilities she assumes within the church, not because of essential inferiority or inadequate intellectual faculties for reasoning and decision making but as a means of avoiding confusion and maintaining orderliness (cf. 1 Cor. 14:40). The Greek term hesuchia, translated "silence," may also be rendered "quiet," giving the picture of one who patiently accepts Godassigned authority and leadership and seeks to make herself valuable to God (1 Pet. 3:4). Concerning the role of women in the church, the N.T. clearly shows that women played a prominent role in the development of the church in the first century. This obviously included prophecy and prayer (1 Cor. 11:5), teaching (Titus 2:4, 5), personal instruction (Acts 18:26), testimony (John 4:28, 29), and hospitality (Acts 12:12). However, the divinely assigned leadership in the home does not end on the doorstep of the church. When a woman chooses to marry, she accepts the responsibility of voluntarily "lining up under" (hupotasso, Greek) her own husband (cf. Eph. 5:22, 23; Col. 3:18; Titus 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:1), not because the husband is superior intellectually, physically, or spiritually but because he is given by God the assignment for headship (cf. Gen. 2:15-17; 3:16; 1 Cor. 11:3). This is the same way every believer is to submit himself to Jesus Christ, "lining up under" His lordship, even as Jesus subjected Himself to the Father (cf. 1 Cor. 11:3; Phil. 2:7, 8). •Objections Taken from Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:1 (Ephesians 5:22 - NIV) "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord." (Colossians 3:18 - NIV) "Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord."


(1 Peter 3:1 - NIV) "Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives." All three of these passages deal with the role of wives and husbands in the context of their homes. Women are to be submissive to their "husbands" not to all men in a general sense. OBJECTIONS DEALING WITH CHURCH POLITY • Won't we be falling down a "slippery slope"? Are women elders next? We do not see any biblical justification for women to serve in the role of elder. Our stand is completely based on the biblical record. If the biblical data argued for women as elders we would be for it, but since it does not, we are not. • Does this mean women can serve communion and offering? The serving of offering and communion are not connected in anyway to a person serving in the role of deacon in the church. There is not presently, nor have there ever been, any instructions concerning this in the church by-laws, and more importantly, in the Bible. We do not have a problem with women serving in these capacities, but at the same time, serving as a deacon does not obligate someone to serve during the church services. • Will the women "take over" the church? No. First of all, we have many women that are presently serving in the biblical role of deacon, even though they do not presently have the title. We have women serve as Sunday School superintendents, Board secretaries, Wednesday Night Coordinators, and so on. The fact is, women make up a large part of the servant ministry of the church in our present structure. Women are vitally important to this ministry and will continue to be. • Do we have to have a certain number of women serving as deacons? No. We do not have any mandatory number of men or women deacons. If no women are nominated, or if no women choose to serve in this capacity once they are nominated, then we would have no female deacons. In addition, when the new by-laws pass the congregational vote, all deacons will have to receive a minimum %75 approval before they can serve. • Isn't this "watering down" the Scriptures? Actually, we believe if we did not take this stance we would be watering down the Scriptures. As Christian conservatives, we believe that we must go where the Word of God takes us, even if it takes us out of our comfort zone and away from our traditions.


We stand upon the Bible and the Bible alone. If our forefathers were mistaken in some areas, then we must not be forced to live by their mistakes. In areas where we are mistaken, we hope that those who come after us will see our error and be willing to change. Conclusion Obviously not everyone will agree with these conclusions that have been drawn. We just ask that we all maintain a spirit of unity in Christian love. It is possible for us to read the same Biblical text and to come to a different understanding. This is not an issue that is dealing with salvation or something that we would choose to divide over. It is simply what we believe the Bible teaches. To do anything short of what we believe the Bible teaches would be compromising the Word of God. If you have any questions concerning this paper please feel free to contact the elders or ministers of the church. Elders: Earl Blevins - Del Howe - Bob Massengill Ministers: Barry Davis - Jeremy Allard


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