PCA advocates of woman officers get their facts wrong. Once again...

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When a paper is submitted for publication at a refereed journal in the scholarly world, reviewers first go over the paper and if it's bad scholarship it doesn't get published. What is bad scholarship?

Well, any number of things including bad citations and misrepresentation of history. In fact a scholar known to do such things would find himself barred from further submissions and his position would be jeopardized, even if he were tenured. Scholars take accuracy seriously.

Sadly, zeal to root out bad scholarship isn't prominent among PCA presbyters. Thus Pastor Sam Wheatly's paper promoting woman officers within the Presbyteryian Church in America is widely distributed across the PCA despite a key quote being misattributed to...

Princeton theologian B. B. Warfield; and also despite the misrepresentation of key facts concerning the history of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod.

In his paper Wheatly writes: "I am persuaded from Christian history that the practice of women serving in the office of deacon is well-documented. It is well-represented in the Reformed tradition by expositors who seek to be faithful to Scripture and in line with the historic churchʼs practice."

Then, in support of this dogmatic contention concerning "the Reformed tradition," Pastor Wheatly cites Warfield as follows:

If the people of a particular church would simply elect women as well as men to the office of deacon, making one board or two separate boards, at their pleasure, of course ordained with the same vows and responsible to the same authority . . . the order is restored.

Fact is, Warfield never wrote the above. It was written by Alexander McGill, and taking just a second or two to check the primary source would have kept Pastor Wheatly from such an embarrassing mistake.

It's child's play to find the mistake. Try it yourself. Type "church would simply elect women as well as men to the office of deacon, making one board" (with the quote marks) into Google and you'll end up here where it's clear the quote properly belongs to McGill--not Warfield.

So now Pastor Wheatly has disseminated his error across the PCA. He's seeking to lobby the denomination on the most controverted issue of the day and he attributes a slam-dunk quote to Warfield that Warfield never wrote or said!

Wheatly provides this footnote for the above quote: "Quoted in Ronald G. Lutjens, “B.B. Warfield on Woman Deacons,” Presbyterian Journal, May 15, 1985, 8." Had Pastor Wheatly checked even his secondary source, he would have seen that the quote belonged to McGill--not Warfield.

Then too, Pastor Wheatly claims the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelcial Synod (RPCES) in support of his own lobbying of the PCA in favor of woman officers. Pastor Wheatly writes:

In 1982, the RPCES came into the PCA in what was known as the “Joining and Receiving”. This resulted in the addition of Covenant Theological Seminary and churches like Faith Presbyterian Church in Tacoma and Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia.

The RPCES studied the issue of women on the Diaconate quite extensively. Interestingly, three study committees in a row (1975, 1976, 1977) recommended that women be ordained with men as deacons. In response to the first two study committees, the General Synod reconstituted the Study Committees. In response to the third study committee, the General Synod allowed for women to be elected and commissioned to serve as deaconesses. To quote their documents: [RPCES churches] "are free to elect Spirit filled women as deaconesses and to set them apart by prayer."

Readers of Pastor Wheatly's summary of RPCES history would be led to the conclusion that the RPCES had approved of the woman officers Pastor Wheatly is advocating now within the PCA. In fact multiple synods of the RPCES repudiated woman officers. And the freedom "to elect Spirit filled women as deaconesses" that Pastor Wheatly claims in support of his own lobbying efforts is a mirror image of the freedom already granted by the PCA's Book of Church Order in it's declaration of 9-7:

It is often expedient that the Session of a church should select and appoint godly men and women of the congregation to assist the deacons in caring for the sick, the widows, the orphans, the prisoners, and others who may be in any distress or need.

Although elected by the congregation instead of selected and appointed by the Session, neither the women assisting the deacons of the RPCES nor the women assisting the deacons of the PCA are ordained. Nor are they officers. Yet reading Pastor Wheatly's summary of the RPCES history would lead one to conclude that the practice of the RPCES was radically contrary to PCA practice and thus provides strong support for changing the PCA's Book of Church Order to the end that woman officers are permitted.

Again, in the most controverted matter within the PCA today, Pastor Wheatly misleads his readers. So now, with his paper being broadly disseminated across the PCA, Pastor Wheatly will be responsible for many holding two convictions that are wrong.

B. B. Warfield didn't say it.

The practice of the RPCES was not much different from what the PCA's Book of Church Order already commends to PCA churches.

This abuse of RPCES history goes back to Tim Keller's article in support of woman officers published in the PCA's house organ, byFaith. It was embarrassing then, and is even more so now.


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Lutjen's piece from the Presbyterian Journal received upon request from the PCA Historical Center, St. Louis, MO. PCA Archivist Wayne Sparkman has assembled this most helpful collection of historical documents related to this controversy.