Tuesday, December 21, 2010


What about Phoebe?

When people bring up Phoebe in the discussion about women deacons I am reminded how much we love proof texts -- even while claiming we do not. And I also am reminded that we love to explain verses based on what we already believe.

Phoebe is referred to as a servant, or as a deacon. The question is whether this described her position or her life. If you believe there are women deacons, this is the best you will get in terms of a proof text. If you do not, you will think that people twist this verse to prove a point.

Most translations say "servant". She clearly is an important person in Christian ministry. She may even be carrying this letter to the church in Rome. So was she a deaconess in the sense of a recognized and appointed servant?

If you just use this passage, of course you could make that arguement. If you read I Timothy 3, it is harder to make that arguement. Phoebe would be the only clear reference to female deacons in the New Testament. If it were important, I wish God had made it clearer.

But it is sure hard to read this verse and argue that women have no role in the church as ministers or those with recognized functions. In fact, read in I Timothy 5. There are "official" widows with recognized tasks.

Personally, I lean to the position that Phoebe was not a recognized deaconess, but I do believe she was doing some form of ministry in the church at Cenchrea.

More later.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


More on Deacons: Acts 6

One of the passages frequently studied when discussing deacons is Acts 6. Since my focus on these occasional posts is about the subject of women deacons, I am just going to make a few comments as it pertains to that subject.

First of all, this passage does not say the men selected here are deacons. The work is refered to by apostle's as "waiting on tables", but we have made the assumption these are deacons. Scripture does not say that.

They clearly selected men, not women, to do this ministry. They were told to select men. It seems the entire church, including women, was involved in the selection.

If there was ever a need that could have been filled by using women deacons, this would seem to be it. It was about taking care of widows. And I do not believe there were no women full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. But it was seven men they chose. And, by the way, it does not say who actually did the work. They picked seven men to handle it. For all I know, they used women to do the actual organization.

I don't know if these men were married or not. I Timothy indicates deacons should be married. So either you assume these men were married, or you assume they were not deacons.

If you are convinced that deacons are men only, this is a great passage to use based on what you can infer. If you are convinced that women can be deacons, focus on the fact that the word deacon is not used here.

As for me, I would never teach that this proves women cannot be deacons. It does not say that. I do teach that men were selected to handle this potentially devisive crisis. Because that's what it says.

So were these men Deacons? Maybe. Maybe they were just ministry leaders. Maybe they were just seven wise, Godly men who fixed this problem. At least two of them (Stephen and Phillip) were preachers. But they were not women.

So what do you think? More to follow later.

Thursday, December 09, 2010


Deacons/deaconess and I Timothy 3

This is the passage that says more about Deacons than anywhere else. You have discussions of the kind of men who are to be elders, then in verses 8-10 it speaks of Deacons. Verse 11 talks about women, then verses 12 and 13 about deacons.

I am not a scholar. And there are lots of theologians who debate what this passage means, but let me share some observations and questions.

Deacons are called men in verse 8 and are to be the husband of one wife according to verse 12. That sure seems to mean men. If verse 11 is about female deacons, I have to assume they do not need to be married since there is no mention of one husband.

Almost all translations say "wives", not "women".

It would seem to be the most natural interpretation.

However... why is there no discussion of elder's wives? And if this is about wives of both elders and deacons, it is in an unusual place.

If God wanted this to refer to female deacons, why use the word for women/wife? Why not just say Deaconess?

If this does refer to a position held by women, then it is clear that women can not be elders because chapter 2 has the instruction about women not teaching or having authority over a man. Of course, a Deaconess would be a position of service, not authority.

If it does refer to a Deacon's wife, would that make them a Deaconess? In other words, is a married Servant couple a Deacon and Deaconess.

Now, feel free to answer, question, or rebut (or agree) with any and all. I learn lots from your comments.

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