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The PCA and the ordination of women...

Presbyterian_Church_in_America_logo.jpeg-200x288.jpegAt her 44th General Assembly in Mobile, AL, the pastors and elders of the Presbyterian Church in America debated whether to form a study committee "made up of competent men and women representing the diversity of opinions within the PCA" whose task would be to study "the issue of women serving in the ministry of the church." The proposal did not come through the normal channel of a presbytery overture, but rather by recommendation of the Administrative Committee via their recently-formed Cooperative Ministries Committee (CMC).

Here is the language of their proposal focussing their study committee's work on whether Christ's Church should have women officers:

• That the Assembly form a study committee on the issue of women serving in the ministry of the church (RAO 9-1; 9-3). The Assembly authorizes the Moderator to appoint the study committee. The study committee should be made up of competent men and women representing the diversity of opinions within the PCA (RAO 9-1; Robert’s Rules of Order [11th edition], §13, pp. 174-175, §50, pp.495- 496, §50, pp. 497-498 §56, p. 579]).

• That the committee should 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;

(4) Should the findings of the study committee warrant BCO changes, the study committee will propose such changes for the General Assembly to consider.

• The committee will have a budget of $15,000 that is funded by designated donations to the AC from churches and individuals (RAO 9-2).

• A Pastoral Letter to be proposed by the ad interim study committee and approved by the General Assembly be sent to all churches, encouraging them 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.

The proposal that a pastoral letter encouraging the promotion, appointment, and hiring of women in the ministries of the church be sent out to the whole denomination even before the study committee is formed or begins deliberation shows the conclusions denominational leaders expect their hand-picked study committee members to bring back to the assembly at the conclusion of their work. The results of the committee's work, whatever it may conclude about the proper subjects of ordination, must make a move toward the expansion of women's work in the church. Forged after decades of functional egalitarianism in the PCA, the Cooperative Ministries Committee's proposal was about as groundbreaking and exciting as the leaves of Autumn falling and rotting.

Note the difference between the arguments of those for and those against the formation of the committee...

Crossway's ESV now written in stone...

Shows are meant to be consumed in front of the curtain—not behind it. Behind are the things you don't want the audience to see or know because it would ruin the performance.

Bible translations are hammered out behind the curtain, and for good reason. It wouldn't give people confidence in the trustworthiness of the English Bible they read to watch the arguments and votes over how to translate this or that Hebrew or Greek word or phrase. Other parts of the Bible publishing business may be even more disconcerting, but let's focus here on the academics' work.

Although the scholars who produce Bible text for their Bible publisher are paid for that work, most of their income is from tuition paid by seminaries whose curricula require those students to spend years studying Hebrew and Greek. So these scholars have two priorities at odds with each other.

First, in order for their publishers' investment in their translating work to realize a profit, scholars must not stop assuring church people that every last word of the text of their version is precisely what God Himself inspired. Nothing has been changed...

The seduction of big-tent compromises...

The Building of Big-tent Complementarianism

CircusTent02.jpgBack in 1987, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) issued the Danvers Statement. And as far as it goes, the statement is good, so many signed on. As we approach the Statement's thirtieth anniversary, though, its weaknesses are growing more apparent. Its strength is what it says about sexuality in the home and church. Its weakness is what it doesn't say about manhood and womanhood in the "rest of life." 

In places, the Statement uses generic language that could be taken to include the civil sphere. Still, the plainest reading leaves the impression that the entire document is intentionally limited in its application to the private spheres of home and church. At several key points it is impossible to understand it any other way. There is a discussion of the effects of the fall and redemption on the relationship between the sexes with sub-points for both the church and home, but then only silence on life outside those two spheres.

This is the only statement on biblical sexuality embraced by the conservative church today, so why is it silent concerning what it means to be a man or woman in the public sphere, which is to say in the majority of life?

The good father: money vs. motherhood...

Until late in the afternoon the day my wife gave birth to our first child, Mary Lee and I worked together. We painted houses, cleaned carpet, and were the custodians of a church. Being together twenty-four hours a day was sweet. After Heather was born, though, things changed.

A dear friend of ours had been a grad student in astronomy when she met another grad student in astronomy, and they married. Both Rita and her husband, Jimmy, had serious intellectual firepower. You’ll see the humor, then, of what Jimmy said to Rita when they got home from the hospital with their first child. Laying their little baby boy down in his crib, Jimmy turned to Rita and said, "Rita, this little tike is completely helpless. He can't do anything for himself—we'll have to do everything for him."

Jimmy had completed eighteen or so years of education, yet no one had ever taught him that newborns are helpless and need their mother.

What this meant for Mary Lee and me was... 

Contending for Nicene Trinitarianism in an egalitarian age...

[Editors note: Prof. Steven D. Boyer's article below, first published back in 2009, clarifies the present debate over the nature and meaning of the Fatherhood of God and the Sonship of our Lord Jesus within the Trinity. Here, Dr. Boyer (Professor of Theology at Eastern University) demonstrates that the church's orthodox confession of the Trinity has, from the time of the Arian heresy, explicitly declared the order within the Trinity. Further, that this declared order (or hierarchy) is not merely analogical, nor is it limited to the Son's mediatorial work. Rather, the order must be (in some sense) ontological—and therefore eternal.

Dr. Boyer warns that the orthodox confession of the Trinity has fallen on hard times due to the egalitarian spirit of our age. He discusses the pros and cons of terminology used to discuss Trinitarian order today such as "roles," "command and obedience," and "subordination." He explains the confusion surrounding the word "ontological," pointing out that the denial of ontological order is a doctrinal error equivalent to the denial of ontological equality. Finally, Boyer makes some recommendations for word usage that may protect the order of the Trinity in this age when order and authority are despised.]

Articulating Order: Trinitarian Discourse in an Egalitarian Age1 

by Steven D. Boyer

Throughout its history, Christian orthodoxy has affirmed an understanding of the triune nature of God that includes, despite certain logical tensions, both order and equality among the divine Persons. Since most of that history played out in a social context that took hierarchy for granted and that therefore required a sturdy articulation and defense of the equality of the Persons, it sometimes appears that the tradition emphasized equality alone, and not order. But this conclusion is easily upset by a closer look at the evidence. To speak of order within the Godhead has been a commonplace ever since the patristic era, and it is often embodied especially in affirmations about the unique position of the Father in the Godhead. The Father is the “beginning of the whole divinity,” says Augustine; “the source” of Son and Spirit, says Gregory Nazianzen; the “cause of the Son”, says John of Damascus; “the principle of the Son,” says Thomas Aquinas; the “origin” of Son and Spirit, says Calvin; the “fountain of deity,” says Richard Hooker; “first in order,” says Jonathan Edwards.[1] Ordered relationships within the Trinity are as strongly affirmed by the orthodox tradition as equality is.

Yet the last two centuries have seen dramatic changes in the social context of the Western world, and many Christian theologians today work in a culture in which equality is the dominant principle. Hence, the equality of the divine Persons is easily granted in contemporary discussion, whereas the notion of order in the Trinity is often addressed with less conviction, and sometimes even with suspicion...