WRF Member Rev. Rick Tyson Discusses the "Undiscussable" - Women in Ministry
Discussing the “Undiscussable” - A Response to the PCA Report on Women in Ministry
I have read the report on Women in Ministry to be considered at this year's PCA General Assembly. The Biblical and historical material was thorough and well written. I do want to make a few observations that I trust will be helpful.
1. I come at this discussion with a history of four decades of pastoral ministry. In 1982 I came out of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, into a PCA church in the Philadelphia Presbytery just prior to the joining and receiving of our two denominations. The R.P.C.E.S. General Synod had prepared a well written report on this same subject. The majority report concluded that gifted women could serve in any capacity in the church that was not the exclusive domain of the Elders - including the office of Deacon. No decision was reached due to Joining and Receiving which took the paper out of consideration. In my first meeting of the presbytery as a newly minted P.C.A. pastor I made my first speech asking the Philadelphia Presbytery to discuss the R.P. paper with the possibility of bringing the matter of Women Deacons to the forefront of the PCA. Being new, with no theological capital in my new church, I was quickly dismissed by an old founder of the church who said the issue was unconstitutional; the church was founded on the position that women were forbidden from being officers in the church, and there would be no discussion. That was it. The matter was closed, and I wished that I had not brought it up. Now, thirty-five years later, the non-discussible is being discussed.
2. My views on this subject have also been forged in the context of many godly women who have shaped my life and influenced me in the direction of pastoral ministry. Godly women in Christian School saw gifts in me that I did not recognize. My theological training, honed in college and seminary, was begun on my mother's knee. Through my teenage and college years I spent many a night around the kitchen table with my mom pouring into me the great redemptive and covenantal truths of Scripture. My father, a kind and loving man, was an Elder in our Presbyterian church, but my mother was the teacher. I was not the only beneficiary of her gifts. Years later, men and women in the church would tell me how much they had learned from my mother's teaching. Further, I owe so much to my wife, Bethann, who served side by side with me in ministry. Her advice, counsel, and godly insights have been indispensable. I could not think of spending forty-one years in three churches without her. My pastoral DNA has always been to turn to strong and wise women for guidance.
3. For many years, our churches have been working out practical ways to engage women in the ministry of service without violating the Book of Church Order. Our presbytery, now known as the Eastern PA Presbytery, held a forum on the issue, giving our members freedom to discuss the variety of ways we approach this matter. Some churches ordain men as deacons and encourage women informally to minister to women and families in the church as needs arise. They are not deacons or deaconesses, nor are they ordained. Other churches elect and ordain men as deacons, and then elect or appoint godly women servants without ordination, called deaconesses, to serve alongside the deacons. These women may or may not be allowed a vote on the deacon board.
4. The matter before the church is a discussion of what the Bible teaches and not a capitulation to culture. It would be unfair to argue against the inclusion of women by citing the proverbial camel with his nose under the tent. Churches do not go liberal by allowing women to serve in tasks previously forbidden to them. They go liberal when they fail to hold to the inspiration of Scripture. The foundation of this report clearly holds to a high view of Scripture. Our denomination, in consideration of Scripture, has repented of past complicity in slavery and bigotry against our African-American brothers and sisters. We should be prepared to admit to our sins against the women in our church where Scripture calls us to repent.
We believe our churches have been given great help by this report in the encouragement given to women to use their gifts to the fullest. The bottom line for us is this: Whatever is not the exclusive realm of the Elder should be open to men and women. It is our prayer that this discussion will continue and that God will show us the way forward.
Rick Tyson, Retired
Calvary Presbyterian ChurchWillow Grove, PA