Thomas Schreiner, “Does the Bible Support Female Deacons? Yes.”

By Adam Brown –

Evangelical scholar and faculty member at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Thomas Schreiner, ably and succinctly summarizes a biblical defense for women deacons in an article published by The Gospel Coalition. Here is an excerpt:

Continue reading “Thomas Schreiner, “Does the Bible Support Female Deacons? Yes.””

Who is Shepherding Your Women’s Ministry?

By Angie Brown –

This post originally appeared on The Gospel Coalition Canada.

In many churches, the women’s ministry can seem to run like a well-managed resort. Special events feature a warm welcome, excellent cuisine, choice of activities, and even a small gift to take home!

There are very capable and creative women in leadership hosting Bible studies, mom’s groups, and retreats. Yet there is a troubling trend that has emerged in many local churches. Very often women’s ministries exist on their own islands, detached from the involvement of the shepherds of the church.

While taking an island vacation with your women’s ministry may sound fun at first, a commitment to living on that island can eventually be problematic.

Decisions are made in isolation for the island while not considering implications to the mainland. The people with the most charisma, not necessarily the most qualifications, rise to positions of influence. Existing as an independent island community can limit the available resources, skills, and protection from predators.

Is your women’s ministry operating like an independent island community?

In the evangelical church today, there seems to be an unfortunate disconnect between pastor / elder teams and the intentional discipleship of women. How did women’s ministry become its own entity?

Could it be that women’s ministries have become comfortable operating independently from church leadership?

Could it be that the shepherds of the church have rarely been invited to offer oversight, share wisdom, or provide theological knowledge?

By practically operating outside of pastor/elder involvement, women’s ministries may be limiting themselves and missing out on the richness of Christ’s plan for His church.

One way to begin building bridges is to prayerfully invite church leadership to invest in the older women in the congregation. Here are four benefits of inviting shepherds to oversee the discipleship of women by identifying and equipping older women.

Benefit #1: Scripture is Applied

The book of Titus is written to the leadership of the church to oversee the discipleship of its members. Titus was left in Crete to “set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city” (Titus 1:5). Women’s ministries can be encouraged that the pastors and elders of a local church are ultimately responsible for the discipleship of their entire congregation.

One of the clearest explanations in Scripture on ministry to women is for the older to disciple the younger. Paul exhorts Titus to oversee that older women are “teaching what is good so that they may encourage the young women” (Titus 2:3b-4a).

The first benefit of shepherds investing in older women is that Scripture would be faithfully applied. It is a biblical mandate for pastors and elders to identify and equip older women for the crucial task of teaching younger women. Women’s ministries can prayerfully seek ways to invite their shepherds to fulfill this mandate together.

Benefit #2: Sound Doctrine is Upheld

A second benefit of elders equipping older women to make disciples is that sound doctrine would be upheld. According to Titus 2:1, it is the responsibility of elders to oversee that the Bible is the standard for all that is accomplished in ministry to women.

Women must learn and embrace sound theology so that it permeates everything they do. It is imperative that women’s ministries continually invite pastors and elders to help older women understand the Bible and sound doctrine, so they will be better equipped to teach the next generation.

Benefit #3: Ministry is Multiplied

A third benefit of shepherds equipping older women is that the effectiveness of the entire church body would be multiplied. Ministry and discipleship efforts could be greatly enhanced if elders equipped older women to train and encourage younger women.

In addition, many women have personal and delicate situations that could best be addressed by a spiritually mature woman with more life experience. There are numerous scenarios of younger women in various degrees of crisis in which a trained older woman could support and assist.

Benefit #4: Christ is Glorified

The fourth and most important benefit of implementing principles of women’s discipleship from Titus 2 is that Jesus Christ would be exalted. Ultimately, Titus 2 is given so that the church would know how to grow in godliness to bring Christ glory and display His gospel to the world.

The instructions for discipleship in Titus are given, “that the word of God may not be reviled” and to “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour” (Titus 2:5b10b). When the Bible is embraced and applied, it can be a powerful witness to the world.

Is your women’s ministry operating outside of the involvement of the church leadership God has appointed? It is never too late to start building bridges that will connect the island of women’s discipleship to the main land of the local church.

Please prayerfully consider the rich benefits of embracing Christ’s design for His church and invite your pastors and elders to invest in the older women. In doing so, Scripture will be applied, sound doctrine will be upheld, ministry will be multiplied, and Christ will be glorified.

Why Have Women Deacons?

h

This article was originally published at For the Gospel (jamedders.com). Reproduced here with the written permission of the author.

By J. A. Medders –

Deacons are vital servants in the life of any biblical, gospel-centered, missional church. They aren’t grunt workers; they are mobilizers and servants in the advancement of the gospel ministry, like we see in the prototype of Acts 6.

And at Redeemer Church, we see a valid interpretation for the diaconate ministry to be open to women who meet the qualifications given by Paul in 1 Timothy 3:8–11.

8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9 They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
(1 Timothy 3:8–11 ESV)

A SURVEY OF THE QUALIFICATIONS

Let’s begin with the qualifications that Paul lists in verses 8–10, as he address the men.

Dignified – They are worthy of respect. People respect them, and would respect them as a leader. They are worthy of being imitated.

Not Double-tongued – This means they are not a gossip or slanderer. More pointedly, they don’t talk like Satan—they do’t have a snake-like tongue. They aren’t two-faced and insincere.

Not addicted to much wine – Paul is basically saying, “They have control with alcohol.” Greek literally, “They pay attention to their wine.” Not drunkards.

Not greedy for dishonest gain – They aren’t always looking for a quick buck, not looking for cash no matter the cost. And they aren’t involved in get-rich quick silliness. This is especially important for deacons who serve with the church’s finances and benevolence ministry.

Hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience – They hold to the pure gospel. They aren’t required to be able to teach, like the elders (v.2), but they must clearly hold to the gospel, and walk in accordance with that gospel of grace. They are still doctrinal people.

Tested – Observed, assessed, and trained by the elders—and then approved for installation. This means that there’s an actual process to becoming a deacon.

WOMEN DEACONS?

Now, let’s get to the reason you are reading this article. Is Paul talking about the wives of deacons or women deacons when the text says, “their wives,” in 1 Tim. 3:11?

A quick reading of 1 Timothy 3, comparing the elder and deacon qualifications two things jump out.

  1. Deacons don’t have to be able to teach.
  2. It looks like Paul is giving qualifications for deacon’s wives and not elder’s wives. That’s odd.

Now, the phrase, “their wives” is not the most helpful rendering of the Greek. If you have an ESV Bible, which is what I preach from, look at footnote number four. The note is showing that this phrase could, and I think, should be rendered, “Women likewise”. The Greek word translated “wives” in the text, is simply “women”. Additionally, the word “their” is not even there.

Screen Shot 2014 05 05 at 10 20 12 AM

The Greek literally reads, “Women, likewise.” The translators made an interpretive decision with, “Their wives likewise,” and like a faithful translation should, they provided the alternative translation possibilities.

So if Paul isn’t addressing the wives of deacons, Paul is giving qualifications for women deacons—and that makes a lot more sense. Why would deacon’s wives need qualifications and not elder’s wives, when elders are the overseers of the church?

Look at the qualification structure of 1 Tim. 3 The repeated likewise is important to the flow of the text. Paul is establishing two groups, male and female deacons, who will serve the church in similar ways, with similar character.

Screen Shot 2014 05 05 at 9 17 41 AM

The qualifications parallel each other. He is applying the qualifications, not to deacon’s wives, but to female deacons.

You could look at Paul’s section on deacons and summarize the teaching as:

  • Male deacons addressed (1 Tim. 3:8–10)
  • Female deacons addressed (1 Tim 3:11)
  • Male deacons addressed (1 Tim. 3:12)
  • Male and Female deacons addressed (1 Tim. 3:13)

What about when Paul says that deacons must be the husband of one wife? A few things are at play here. First, the Greek word for deacon can be masculine or feminine. Paul uses the plain word for women to address the women, and the normal word for deacon to address the male deacons—so it wouldn’t be confusing. Additionally, it is seen through church history that women deacons tended to be older widows. But these principles for women deacons should still be considered, but not mandated since it isn’t in God’s Word. But we ought to apply the principle. Women deacons, they must be faithful to their husbands—they must be one-husband kind of ladies, who manage their tasks in the household well. The Proverbs 31 Woman’s character and actions don’t fly out the window in the diaconate. They matter. They are for the purpose of godliness and for glorious service in the life of the local church.

We think that Paul is teaching about women deacons, and that the Bible has the office of deacon open for women. I want to show you other places in the Bible where it seems to be the case, and throughout Church History.

PHOEBE: DEACON OR SERVANT?

Paul writes at the end of Romans:

“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.” (Romans 16:1–2 ESV)

Phoebe is called a servant, the same Greek word used for deacon in 1 Tim. 3 and Philippians 1:1.

The ESV text has a footnote on the word “servant”—it could say deaconess, or really deacon, since the Greek word can be masculine or feminine. But it would make sense to say deaconess since the context reveals Paul is writing about Phoebe, a woman. But that alone doesn’t mean she is a deacon.

Paul could just be calling her a servant, but the context does seem to say that she is a deaconess. Why? Because Paul mentions a specific church, “of the church at Cenchreae.” That structure, when used in the rest of New Testament is noting a specific person in an official office.

Dr. Svigel, at Dallas Theological Seminary, says:

First, Paul describes Phoebe as a ‘diakonos of the church at Cenchreae,’ specifying her function as diakonos to that specific church. This may seem insignificant until we realize that whenever the Greek phrase “________ of the church” is used in the New Testament and the earliest Christian literature (where “________” is a personal designation or title), the personal designation refers to an office, not just a generic function (Acts 20:17; Eph. 5:23; Jas. 5:14; Rev. 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14; Ignatius, Trallians 2.3; Philadelphians 5.1; Polycarp 1.1; Shepherd of Hermas, Vision 2.2.6; 2.4.3; 3.9.7; Martyrdom of Polycarp 16.2; 19.2). Therefore, if Phoebe is merely a “helpful assistant” of the church at Cenchreae in Romans 16:1, this is the only time the construction is used this way in the earliest Christian literature.”[1]

Phoebe is great deacon, an official servant from the Church at Cenchreae.

Now, this is all of the Biblical evidence for women deacons. I don’t think the exegetical waters are muddy. I think it is more than safe to say there is room for women to be deacons. However, this is all of the New Testament’s cards on this matter.

So, what is the best way to resolve this matter?

A few things must be said. I don’t think this is an issue of division or argument. This isn’t an essential doctrine. Having women deacons, or not, doesn’t compromise the integrity of local church like having women pastors/elders does. “According to Paul, women can serve as deacons because a diaconal ministry is supportive and does not involve teaching or exercising authority over men. The office of elder or overseer is restricted to men, for qualifications for pastoral ministry include being able to teach and to lead (1 Tim. 3:2; 5:17; Titus 1:9)—the very two activities prohibited for women, according to 1 Tim. 2:12.” [2] Now, of course women aren’t prohibited to teach (Titus 2:3–5). What Paul means in 1 Tim. 2:12, which Schreiner references, is that women are not to be the teaching authority (preaching to the church), or the leadership authority (governing/overseeing) in the local church, which is reserved for the pastors.

The teaching of the New Testament is limited on deacons and one could take it either way. Great scholars and pastors land on both sides of this discussion. Dr. Russell Moore, one of my heroes, doesn’t think women should be deacons. While, Dr. Tom Schreiner of Southern Seminary thinks they can.

He says:

It is also quite likely that women served as deacons in the early church. The NRSV reflects this view in identifying Phoebe as “a deacon of the church at Cenchreae” (Rom. 16:1 NRSV). The reference to a particular church after the term “deacon” suggests that an office is in view… Whether women are identified as deacons in 1 Tim. 3:11 is disputed, but there are a number of reasons to answer in the affirmative.

  • First, the word “likewise” suggests that Paul continues to speak of deacons.
  • Second, the qualifications listed are remarkably similar to what is required for male deacons (1 Tim. 3:8).
  • Third, a reference to wives is improbable, for then Paul would be addressing the wives of deacons and saying nothing about the wives of elders, which is quite unlikely because elders had greater responsibility than deacons.
  • Fourth, it is evident from an early period in church history that there were female deacons.[3]

There is much room for charitable disagreement and co-laboring for the Kingdom on this matter.

So what helped Redeemer Church arrive at our conclusion?

When we are uncertain what the Bible teaches, not because of the Bible, but because of us—we should consider Church History. Historical Theology shows us what Body of Christ before us has done. This practice may not always lead us in the right direction, but it may help us see more clearly. We should always hold exegesis and texts in our hands, and Church History as a voice in the background.

For me, the historical evidence here is overwhelming.

CHURCH HISTORY

In A.D. 111 Pliny, Governor of Bithynia, reported questioning, under torture, two women who called themselves deaconesses concerning Christian rites. He arrested them as Christians, they said they were deaconesses, and he tortured them.[4] So right at the end of the Apostolic Period, there are deaconesses in the church. These are churches that were planted by the Apostles and those were disciples by the Apostles.

Early Church

We find evidence of deaconess in the second, third, and fourth centuries.

Here is a quote from the third century from the Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, a guidebook written for church plants, based on the teaching of the apostles.

Let the deacons be in all things unspotted, as the bishop himself is to be, only more active; in number according to the largeness of the Church, that they may minister to the infirm as workmen that are not ashamed. And let the deaconess be diligent in taking care of the women; but both of them ready to carry messages, to travel about, to minister, and to serve…Let every one therefore know his proper place, and discharge it diligently with one consent, with one mind, as knowing the reward of their ministration.”[5]

And again:

Ordain also a deaconess who is faithful and holy, for the ministrations towards women. For sometimes he cannot send a deacon, who is a man, to the women, on account of unbelievers. Thou shalt therefore send a woman, a deaconess, on account of the imaginations of the bad. For we stand in need of a woman, a deaconess, for many necessities; and first in the baptism of women…”[6]

Here we have those who were discipled by the Apostles, installing women deacons in local church. They even wrote a prayer for the installation of women deacons:

O Eternal God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator of man and of woman, who didst replenish with the Spirit Miriam, and Deborah, and Anna, and Huldah; who didst not disdain that Thy only begotten Son should be born of a woman; who also in the tabernacle of the testimony, and in the temple, didst ordain women to be keepers of Thy holy gates,—do Thou now also look down upon this Thy servant, who is to be ordained to the office of a deaconess, and grant her Thy Holy Spirit, and “cleanse her from all filthiness of flesh and spirit,” that she may worthily discharge the work which is committed to her to Thy glory, and the praise of Thy Christ, with whom glory and adoration be to Thee and the Holy Spirit for ever. Amen.”[7]

Greg Allison, professor of Historical Theology at Southern Seminary, in his book, Historical Theology, writes about a generous deaconesses at the church in Constantinople. “Olympias, a widowed deaconess of the church in Constantinople, leveraged her immense wealth to become a generous patron of the church. She donated many of her estates to the church, supported the ministries of such church leaders as John Chrysostom and Gregory of Nazianzus, ransomed exiled captives, sustained a community of 250 virgins, and cared for the poor.”[8] And a woman named Salvina, Jerome tells us, served as a deaconess under Chrysostom’s ministry. “Salvina, however, consecrated her life to deeds of piety, and became one of Chrysostom’s deaconesses.”[9]

When Chrysostom preached on 1 Timothy 3, he echoes the same exegetical approach of Dr. Schreiner. Paul isn’t talking about women in general, he’s talk about church leaders. “Some have thought that this is said of women generally, but it is not so, for why should he introduce anything about women to interfere with his subject? He is speaking of those who hold the rank of Deaconesses.”[10]

Spurgeon

When I see all of this evidence, I can’t help but echo Spurgeon, who said, “Deaconesses, an office that most certainly was recognised in the apostolic churches.”[11] Spurgeon never gave a defense, as far as I can tell, for women deacons; he merely stated it as if it were a known fact. “It would be a great mercy if God gave us the privilege of having many sons who all preached the gospel, and many daughters who were all eminent in the church as teachers, deaconesses, missionaries, and the like.”[12]

Calvin

He too saw women deacons in God’s Word.

For deaconesses were appointed, not to soothe God by chantings or unintelligible murmurs, and spend the rest of their time in idleness; but to perform a public ministry of the Church toward the poor, and to labour with all zeal, assiduity, and diligence, in offices of charity.”[13]

Modern Day: John Piper, Mark Dever, Tim Keller, John MacArthur

When Piper was leading Bethlehem through clarifying church structures and changes he purposed a re-structuring of the deacons, including women deacons.

The revision aims to unite men and women in one body of deacons. We believe that God calls men to bear the primary leadership and teaching office in the church (elders) but that he calls both men and women to a broad array of ministries including the body of deacons elected by the congregation. In the present structure the main governing board is a Council of Deacons distinguished from a Committee of Deaconesses. The revision would replace the Council of Deacons with a Council of Elders, made up of men, and would create one body of deacons including both men and women. The deaconess committee would no longer exist.[14]

A quick glance at Capital Hill Baptist Church’s site and Redeemer Presbyterian’s website shows that Mark Dever and Tim Keller hold to women deacons.

And, to my surprise, John MacArthur also sees the exegetical and historical reasons for women deacons.

The office of deaconess is clearly implied. The “likewise” in verse 11 ties the qualifications of these women to those already given for the offices of overseer and deacon. In verse 11, Paul did not refer to those women as deaconesses because diakonos has no feminine form.

During the first few centuries of the church, the role of a woman servant (diakonos) was to care for fellow believers who were sick, for the poor, for strangers passing through, and for the imprisoned. They also were responsible for helping baptize and disciple new women converts and to instruct children and other women.[15]

HICCUPS AND HURDLES

Given the exegetical evidence and the historical evidence, I think it is absolutely honoring to Christ to have women serve as deacons. If you still feel uncomfortable with this notion, it can’t be because of the Bible or because of Church history—it’s probably your history.

If you grew up in a church where the deacons ran the church, they had the governing authority and not elders, and if this church were installing women deacons, it would jolt your system because it would basically mean, in your frame of reference, they were installing women pastors, women overseers. And that contradicts the New Testament.

Bad ecclesiology brings bad fruit. And sometimes we don’t realize we are still lugging around some of that spoiled fruit in our mental baskets, making us basket cases in corners of our theology. I could say more on this matter of church structure, but we can save that for another day.

In closing, we are never to bring creative license to the church of Jesus. He died for her. He let his flesh be ripped open on the cross, and he rose from the dead to forgive all of our sins and to give us new life, and to call the Church to himself. We don’t treat the church lightly. We don’t bring a new spin to Christ’s Bride and Body; we follow Christ’s word for Christ’s Bride.

In a culture that treats women in sinful ways, it is in the Church of Jesus Christ where they can be powerful servants for the cause of Christ. Maybe we should join our brothers from the Early Church and pray great things over and for our women deacons.

Deacons exist for the fame of Jesus; unclogging what would hinder the proclamation of the gospel of the Kingdom (Acts 6). Toilets, sure, and so much more than toilets. Yes! So much more!

Praise the Lord for deacons, male and female.


  1. http://www.retrochristianity.org/2012/04/14/did-the-apostles-establish-the-office-of-deaconess/  ↩
  2. Thomas R. Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 774.  ↩
  3. Ibid, 772–773.  ↩
  4. V. M. Sinton, “Deaconess,” ed. D. R. W. Wood et al., New Bible Dictionary (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 262.  ↩
  5. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds., “Constitutions of the Holy Apostles,” in Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily, and Liturgies, trans. James Donaldson, vol. 7, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 432.  ↩
  6. Ibid, 431.  ↩
  7. Ibid, 492.  ↩
  8. Gregg R. Allison, Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 25–26.  ↩
  9. Jerome, “The Letters of St. Jerome,” in St. Jerome: Letters and Select Works, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. W. H. Fremantle, G. Lewis, and W. G. Martley, vol. 6, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1893), 163.  ↩
  10. John Chrysostom, “Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the First Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to Timothy,” in Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. James Tweed and Philip Schaff, vol. 13, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1889), 441.  ↩
  11. C. H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 13 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1867), 589.  ↩
  12. C. H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 51 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1905), 259.  ↩
  13. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 1997).  ↩
  14. http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-aims-of-the-constitutional-revision  ↩
  15. http://www.gty.org/resources/bible-qna/BQ060713/was-phoebe-a-deaconess?term=deaconess  ↩

John MacArthur: “Deacon is a word that can refer to a man or a woman.”

By Adam Brown –

At the 2010 Shepherds’ Conference, John MacArthur was asked the question, “What does the Bible say about deaconesses?”

MacArthur’s answer was that deacon is a word that can refer to a man or a woman. While his understanding of deacon is slightly different than Southshore’s understanding of deacon (see Southshore’s interpretation of 1 Timothy 3:8-13 here), MacArthur makes the point that there is no reason to limit the role of “deacon” to men.

To hear his full answer, watch this video:

 

Why Do the Hard Work of Exposition?

By Angie Brown –

[Originally posted at Discerning Daughters on November 2, 2017]

“Your story and my story might have the power to amuse someone or impress someone, even inspire someone. But let me tell you, only God’s story centered in the person and work of Christ has the power to make dead people alive…

That’s why Him we proclaim, we proclaim Christ and not ourselves…

We’re not out to make friends or fans for ourselves. We’re out to reconcile people to God. That’s why we do the work of exposition. We start with the Scriptures, we’re doing the work to figure out what they have to say, what the main point or implication is first. Then we’re figuring out what story will help to open up the hearts and minds of women to see their need for, and to be open to, accepting the implication of this passage for their lives. That’s how we want to use story.”

Nancy Guthrie challenges women Bible teachers and writers to do the hard work of exposition to make the mystery of Christ known. This is a must listen for all women Bible teachers and writers! Thank-you Nancy for your work to the glory of Christ!

Listen to her podcast on  here.

Women Can – and Should – Teach the Bible

By Adam Brown –

Southshore has been blessed by God with many women who are passionate and capable of speaking, teaching, and writing. As a complementarian church that takes seriously God’s creative purposes for men and women, it is essential that we provide good and biblical contexts for our women to speak, teach, and write.

First, we affirm that God has called men to teach and to lead in the church. Women are not permitted to teach or to exercise authority over a man (see 1 Timothy 2:11-15). Does this mean that women are never to teach? Is there ever an appropriate context for women to teach? Of course, there is. The women who have been gifted by God to teach ought to teach if they are to be good stewards of the gift that the Holy Spirit has entrusted to them.

What is this context? Qualified women ought to teach and lead in any context so long as they are not intending to teach and exercise authority over men. Therefore, there is but one thing to consider: If I teach in this context, will I be putting myself over a man? Rather than drafting a never ending “thou shalt not” list that makes women teachers feel unwanted or unneeded, why not focus on thy many, many, contexts where robust biblical teaching by a woman is a blessing and a need?

Thus, to this end, we desire to disciple women to be effective Bible-teachers, workers who have no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). And, if we are going to do this, our women need to be trained just as men are trained, to exposit the Word of God. When we neglect rigorous biblical and hermeneutical training of our women teachers, then our women’s discipleship misses what it needs most, namely, the Word of God.

Nancy Guthrie has articulated a vision for women’s Bible teaching that is very much in line with Southshore’s vision for women’s Bible teaching. In this podcast (originally posted by The Gospel Coalition on October 26, 2017), Guthrie laments that in North America it is uncommon for women to be expected to be Bible teachers. Moreover, she is grieved by the fact that many women’s ministries are based on much less than the faithful presentation – by women for women – of God’s Word. I encourage you to listen to it as a way to get a better handle on what we are working toward at Southshore:

“Why Do the Hard Work of Exposition?” by Nancy Guthry

I am encouraged by God’s generosity toward us as a church. I pray that God would use us to demonstrate that women can – and should – teach the Bible, and teach it well. As complementarian Christians, may we demonstrate to the church and the world that God has given women tremendous gifts and, with these gifts, appropriate contexts within which they are to use these gifts. All of this is for the building up of the Body of Christ and to the exaltation of God our Father.

 

 

John Piper: “Were Women Deacons? Probably Yes.”

By Adam Brown –

In 1987, John Piper was a founding member of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). The mission of CBMW “is to set forth the teachings of the Bible about the complementary differences between men and women, created equally in the image of God, because these teachings are essential for obedience to Scripture and for the health of the family and the church.” As a key step in advancing this mission, CBMW drafted the Danvers Statement, which the elders of Southshore have officially embraced as our own view on manhood and womanhood.

According to CBMW, Piper played a leading role in the articulation of CBMW’s mission and the drafting of important statements, such as the Danvers Statement:

Under Piper’s leadership, the group drafted a statement outlining what would become the definitive theological articulation of “complementarianism,” the biblically derived view that men and women are complementary, possessing equal dignity and worth as the image of God, and called to different roles that each glorify him.

It is for these reasons, that Piper’s voice is so important to us in the discussion about women serving the local church as deacons. Piper’s complementarian credentials are uncontested. His commitment to the equality and functional distinction of men and women in the home and in the church is well documented.

Of course, just because Piper affirms women deacons does not necessarily mean that this is the only way to interpret 1 Timothy 3:8-13. However, Piper’s interpretation does suggest that committed complementarians can, with good reason, conclude that this passage does invite women to serve as deacons.

Perhaps the clearest articulation of Piper’s position comes from Appendix 2 in the Seminar Notes from Piper’s May 1, 1999 Session 1 presentation of “Biblical Eldership.” Here is an excerpt from that resource:

Were Women Deacons?

Probably yes. There are four observations that incline me to think that this office was held by both men and women.

1. The Greek word for deacon can be masculine or feminine in the same form. So the word itself does not settle the issue.

2. In the middle of the qualifications for deacons in 1 Timothy 3:8-13Paul says, “The women likewise must be serious, no slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things.” This could be the wives of the deacons, but could also be the women deacons. The latter is suggested by the fact that no reference to women is made in 3:1-7. Since women were not candidates for the eldership in the New Testament (1 Timothy 2:12-13) because of its authoritative function in teaching and oversight, the absence of the reference to women in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 would be expected. But this confirms the probability that the reference to women in 3:11 is to women deacons, not merely to wives of deacons.

3. The deacons were distinguished from the elders in that they were not the governing body in the church nor were they charged with the duty of authoritative teaching. So the role of deacon seems not to involve anything that Paul taught in 1 Timothy 2:12 (or anywhere else) which is inappropriate for women to perform in the church.

4. In Romans 16:1, Phoebe is very probably called a deacon. “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon(ess) of the church at Cenchreae, that you may receive her in the Lord as befits the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a helper of many and of myself as well.”

It appears then that the role of deacon is of such a  nature that nothing stands in the way of women’s full participation in it. Within the deaconate itself, the way the men and women relate to each other would be guided by the sense of appropriateness, growing out of the Biblical teaching of male and female complementarity.

Follow this link for the full appendix concerning deacons.

Thabiti Anyabwile: “I’m Complementarian, BUT… Women Can be Deacons”

By Adam Brown –

The first article that I commend to you is by Thabiti Anyabwile. As an active speaker, writer, and pastor with The Gospel Coalition, Anyabwile takes a very irenic approach to this divisive issue. Below are some excerpts from his article entitled, I’m Complementarian, BUT… Women Can be Deacons:

I believe answering the question “What meaningful role can and should women play in congregational life?” is as important a practical and spiritual question we can consider. It’s a question that affects at least half (usually much more) of our congregations. It’s a question that touches directly upon gospel-ordered congregational life. It’s a question that potentially restricts or broadens Christian freedom for women in our churches. It’s a question that either employs or unemploys the gifts the Lord himself sovereignly grants to our sisters.

The Lord has given me the privilege of being in a range of settings, witnessing a range of approaches on the question of women serving as deacons. All of these churches would in some way define themselves as “complementarian,” yet they had differing views of how sisters could serve.

First Timothy 3:8-13 contain some key instruction on this matter. For me, the issue turns in part on verse 11: “In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything” (NIV). . . Both the NIV and ESV contain marginal notes for the word “wives,” indicating the term may be translated “women.” So, the text could either have in view the wives of deacons (if you accept the supply of “their” in the verse), women deacons, or women who assist deacons but are not themselves deacons. Because “their” is not explicit in the text, and the word “likewise” seems to indicate another category in the list, I lean with many others in understanding this verse to refer to women deacons or at the least women who assist deacons.

I’ve been a member at churches that do not have elders but are governed by a group of deacons. If the church does not have elders and deacons perform the teaching and oversight responsibilities biblically belonging to elders, then women should not serve as deacons. . . But having said that, the more important “fix” to such a situation is not to restrict women from serving in what may be a permissible area of service in the church, but to conform the church itself to the New Testament pattern of governance. We shouldn’t restrict women in an effort to maintain irregular governance; we should conform our governance of the church to the word of God and deploy women to serve wherever and whenever appropriate.

To my brothers serving in churches without elders and with ruling deacons, for the blessing of a well-ordered congregation, for the liberty of our sisters, and for the flowering of gospel ministry, re-examine why you currently neglect so clear a New Testament office as elders, which was established in all the apostolic churches (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1). And test yourselves to see if the failure to obey the Lord’s word on elders gives opportunity for denying our sisters an opportunity to serve their Lord and their churches as deacons. Structures do matter. Sometimes the wrong structures prevent spiritual growth, service, and gospel advancement.

Please follow this link for the entire article.

Complementarian Churches Should Appoint Qualified Women to Serve as “Deacons”

By Adam Brown –

I am devoted to complementarity. By this I mean that even while I affirm the full equality of men and women, I believe that God created humanity in two genders, male and female. Gender-blindness, therefore, is not a biblical option. There are not twelve genders, seven genders, three genders, or just one homogenous gender. There are two genders. As the Word of God says:

So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them (Genesis 1:27).

Thus, I affirm Southshore’s Elder Summary Statement on Manhood and Womanhood:

God created humanity in two genders, male and female, and each gender equally bears God’s image. As such, men and women are equal in value, nature, and personhood. Men and women share equally in the responsibility of benevolent dominion over the animal kingdom and the created order. Men and women also share equally in Jesus Christ and in salvation through the Gospel. At the same time, the gender distinction between men and women is a part of God’s design for humanity. Adam was created to exercise leadership and Eve was created as a helper fit for him. This man-woman distinction has implications for the functional role of men and women in the home and in the church.

There are many brothers and sisters in Christ who would also agree with this Summary Statement who have, in my opinion, misapplied complementarity by becoming more restrictive than the Bible when it comes to the position of “deacon” (which can also be translated “servant” or, in the case of Southshore, “steward”). According to 1 Timothy 3:8-13, deacons are servants, helpers, believers, and managers. They are not teachers and governors. Therefore, aside from our own traditions, it does not seem right to me to prohibit women from serving as a deacon (steward) in the local church. In my opinion, in our zeal to guard 1 Timothy 2:11-15, we go too far when we restrict women in their service to the local church beyond the biblical limits of teaching men and exercising authority over men (1 Timothy 2:12).

To show that this is not an unreasonable biblical interpretation, I invite you to read  articles by other complementarians who hold to the same position with regard to women deacons. The accusation that I, or they, do not hold to a high view of the Scriptures is, in my opinion, an unfortunate tact to take on this issue.

I will be posting these articles by other complementarian pastors over the next many days. Whether you agree or disagree with the appointment of women deacons (stewards), I ask that you read them carefully and prayerfully. For those who agree, may you find encouragement that this is a viable biblical position. For those who do not agree, I beseech you to be charitable in your admonishments and, perhaps even, open minded in your considerations.

In all things, let us agree that we all desire to be submissive to the Word of God and to implement this Word with fidelity. For, in the end, we all must give an account to Christ our God. I most certainly do not want to be reckless with the Scriptures, for I know that the burden of accountability falls all the more to the male elders and teachers of the local church (Hebrews 13:17; James 3:1). Thus, this is not a topic that I take lightly.

Our goal must always be to seek to understand the Word, do the Word, and then teach the Word (Ezra 7:10). I believe that appointing women stewards is faithful to this charge.