June 25, 2015

Why churches should recognize women as deacons

by Jesse Johnson

Yesterday I looked at how the New Testament describes the office of a deacon. Today I want to argue this point: the Bible describes women as holding this office, and the church should follow the New Testament’s example in similarly recognizing women who are exceptional servants by identifying them as deacons.

The qualifications for deacons are listed in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. The key verse for this discussion is right in the middle: verse 11 says, “Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things.”

There are four different views on this verse, and I want to explain why I don’t find the first three interpretations convincing before defending what I think is the biblical view.  

View 1: Wives of deacons

Among American churches that don’t recognize female deacons, this is probably the most widely held view. According to this understanding, Paul is describing the qualifications for a male-only deacon office, and one of those qualifications is the standing of the deacon’s wife. If she does not meet the qualifications of verse 11, then the husband should not be recognized as a deacon.

This view has the backing of the many English translations (KJV, NIV, ESV, Holman) which render the Greek word for woman as wife, and also inserts the word “their,” which is absent from the Greek (“Their wives…”). What this view has going for it is that it removes any controversy about women in positions of leadership by simply removing women from being recognized as deacons altogether.

I don’t find this view at all convincing. First, it would be very odd for Paul to give qualifications for deacons’ wives without similar qualifications for elder’s wives (1 Tim 3:1-7). Further, while it is true that the Greek word gune can be mean either wife or woman depending on the context, in this instance the context does not make a compelling case for to limit its meaning to married women.  Paul does not say “their wives/women” but simply “women.” The ESV seems aware of this dilemma, but it mutes it by adding “their” to the passage. I’m not convinced that addition is grammatically defensible.

Moreover, had Paul meant something along the lines of “their wives,” Greek grammar would demand the use of an article before wives to identify that he is speaking to people who by identity are deacons’ wives. The absence of the article here is huge, and indicates that he is referring to people who are by quality female, rather than those who are by identity wives.

Finally, Paul follows the use of women with the word “likewise.” This ties the group of people Paul is talking about to the group that has gone before—namely, deacons—not to a new class of people such as wives.

View 2: All women in the church

For those who can read Greek, this view is much more defensible grammatically than View 1. It rightly sees Paul as describing those who are by nature women in the church, and thus it holds that all women should be aspiring to be dignified, with their speech under control. Which is true!

But the problem is that it doesn’t fit very well in the context. For six verses Paul is describing the qualifications for the office of a deacon, so to break off in the middle of that to describe a gender-based qualification seems strange. Moreover, he dealt with a description of godly women in Chapter 2, so this view also makes this passage not only misplaced, but also redundant.

View 3: Deaconesses

Outside of the Americas, this may very well be the majority interpretation of this passage. This view sees Paul as describing three separate offices in 1 Timothy 3: elders (all male), deacons (all male), and deaconesses (all female).

This view also is very defensible grammatically. But it just doesn’t fit with what you see in the rest of the New Testament. While there are at least a dozen references to New Testament deacons, there are no references (outside of this verse) of this third office. There are no descriptions of what they should do. No other references to their existence at all. I generally don’t buy the argument that something has to be in the Bible more than once for it to be true, but it seems untenable that Paul would introduce a church office he expected to see in the church in only one verse, and that there would be no other canonical references to this group.

This guy wants you to recognize female deacons

View 4: deacons (some of whom are men, and some of whom are women)

This is what I believe is Paul’s intent in this passage. He describes the office of deacon in verses 8-13. Verses 8-10 describe all deacons, verse 11 describes in particular deacons who are women, and verse 12 describes in particular deacons who are men. Verse 13 concludes the section by returning to a discussion of all deacons.

This view best fits the grammar of the passage, and best explains the way Paul lays out these qualifications. The first set of qualifications (8-10) lay out that deacons must be godly, and somewhat seasoned believers. They have experience, and their doctrine is in order. Verse 11 then contains a group of qualifications that are more gender-specific. Every culture has their own idioms that get this point across; in English you might say “don’t be a grumpy old man.” That doesn’t mean that it is ok to be a grumpy old woman—it simply indicates that in English, “grumpy old man” is idiomatic, it is most commonly associated with men, and don’t be one.

This is what Paul is doing in this passage. He is not saying its ok for male deacons to gossip, but he’s simply saying that in Greek, “gossipy old woman” is a saying, and it is one that should not be descriptive of any of the church’s deacons. After that somewhat gender-specific qualification, he turns to the male deacons: they must manage their households well. That doesn’t mean its ok for the female deacons to be poor parents or have terrible marriages. It simply means that those qualifications more particularly apply for men (as the heads of the household), and so he addresses them in particular. Then in verse 13, he wraps it all up by addressing all deacons.

Before I deal with some objections to this, let me say that this is an area of wisdom. I understand that different churches interpret this passage differently, and I don’t see this as a key doctrine of the faith. It is certainly not worth dividing over. But with that said, I think this understanding accurately reflects what Paul is implementing in 1 Timothy 3.

Objection 1: Isn’t this a slippery slope that leads to female elders?

Elders are all about leadership, teaching, and shepherding. Paul makes clear in 1 Timothy 2:9-15 that elders are to be men and that women may not hold that office. While it seems logical that future elders are drawn from the deacons, that doesn’t mean that every deacon must be qualified to be a future elder. It is the height of American-style bureaucracy to say that “we choose elders from deacons, so all deacons must be elder qualified.” That just simply is not how Paul instructs the church.

Objection 2: Doesn’t this make women leading in the church?

No. If deacons are rightly understood, they do not exercise leadership in the church, but rather are simply known for their exceptional service. This is true for both men and women. In fact, Paul says that there are “a variety of ways to serve” (1 Cor 12:5; cf Rom 12:6). Examples given which use the Greek word diakania (deacon) include giving to the poor (1 Cor 8: 3-4, 9:1, 111-12), as well as evangelism and discipleship (1 Cor 3:5, 2 Cor 6:4, Eph 3:7, Col 1:23). There is no reason to say that those ministries are inherently leadership in the church that should be reserved for men.

Objection 3: We haven’t done that before!

Your church may not have done it before, but this is the model of the NT. In fact, given the history of the Philippian church (and Philippians 1:1) it is likely there were female deacons there. But conjecture aside, the NT does describe at least one female deacon by name:

“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon at the church in Cenchrea. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me” (Rom 16:1-2).

A final appeal:

I do appeal to pastors to follow Paul’s lead and to recognize the faithful servants in your church, and particularly the women who serve the church exceptionally well. Our world is so gender-confused that it can’t understand how the church can see any differences between men and women. It does our testimony no good to refuse to recognize faithful servants who we allow to serve, but refuse to recognize, because they are women. Rather, we should embrace gender differences, guard leadership for men, and esteem the faithful service of all who meet the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3:8-13.

Jesse Johnson

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Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA. He also leads The Master's Seminary Washington DC location.
  • samloveall

    I am in complete agreement with you on this. In fact, I’m preaching this Sunday about deacons, as we are commissioning our first deacons this Sunday evening. These are the arguments I’m using.

    However, I’m surprised at your major point about deaconesses. I’ve never heard or thought of an office called “deaconess” that would be a separate and different office. We have Actors and actresses, but they do the same thing. We have waiters and waitresses, but they do the same job. Why would deacons and deaconesses be something different than that?

    • Nicholas Payne

      Because thinking that the Bible considered deacons as an office able to be filled by women is utterly rediculous if you know anything about context.

      • So Nicholas, what do you do with Romans 16:1?

        • Craig Giddens

          You don’t do anything with it except believe what it says. You can be a servant in the church without being a deacon. That’s why Phebe wasn’t called a deacon.

          • Craig: she was called a deacon. “Phoebe, a deacon of the church which is at Cenchrea.” Romans 16;1.

    • I think that historically it might be a response to the idea that deacons have inherent leadership, but that the text obviously also describes female deacons. The result: give leadership to male deacons, and have the female deacons do something different. As I said, I’m not persuaded by that.

  • rdrift1879

    We have an elder board, a deacon board, and a deaconess board. The deaconess board has certain specific areas of responsibility, as do the deacons. The deacon board, as one of it’s main duties, is to oversee finances and the overall church budget. It works quite well.

    • Sweet. That’s what I meant by view 3 above. Are you in the US?
      Also, in that context, what is the difference between elders and deacons? Thanks for interacting.

      • rdrift1879

        I am in southern California. The elders handle spiritual oversight, teaching, worship, etc.. The deacons take care of the money and support ministries of all kinds. Hands on stuff. The Deaconesses take care of helping women in practical ways, as well as flowers, cards, meals, baby and bridal showers, organizing details around special services (baptism, e.g.) and events. They are extremely helpful and dedicated ladies. In our church, they have a fund-raiser once a year that gives them their own budget, though some things they do are covered by the general budget. Usually a deaconess will sit in on deacon meetings, and often an elder will sit in on deaconess meetings. We have learned that communication between boards is important.

  • Andrew Chance

    Would you please address Acts 6? If the first deacons are chosen here, then the church chose all men. If that’s the case, then it’s at least allowable to have an all-male diaconate. And while we recognize that it’s descriptive, not prescriptive, isn’t it still a noteworthy example and precedent?

    • Totally. I think those in Acts 6 were like proto-deacons. The church does not have a whole lot figured out by that point, but they realized they needed to officially recognize some servants to help with the physical needs of the church, and they ensured they were qualified. So in that sense they were deacons.
      But they were all male. I think that is owing to the nature of their task–they had a task that most certainly involved leadership, and thus it was fitting that they be men. I agree that some deacon tasks do overlap with leadership, and the deacons that do that should be men (since it involves leading). That said, I don’t think that Acts 6 is descriptive of all deacon work, since the NT gives other examples of deacons doing non-leadership tasks, and 1 Tim 3 in turn gives qualifications, and Rom 16 an example, as well as Acts 18:1-2 (Pricilla, although not called a deacon, much like Acts 6).

    • Don Hagner

      Acts 6 does not identify the seven as “deacons” but their assignment was one of service – distributing food and funds to the needy. Having not appointed any women to the task, does not preclude such appointment for service duties at some latter point.

  • Andrew Chance

    As for Romans 16:1, I don’t think it’s sufficient as a proof-text, since diakonos is so often used in a non-technical sense.

    • Right, I get that response. But, let me counter: if the “technical sense” is essentially recognizing someone for serving in an official way, then I think that what Paul does in Romans 16:1 is that, just in its own right. He recognizes a woman as a “servant of the church in Cenchrea.” And then v. 2 even describes her qualifications. I mean that is pretty much the technical sense of a deacon right there. I can’t think of anything missing, unless you start by saying “you can’t have a woman recognized as a ‘servant/deacon’ so Paul must not mean that in the technical sense. I just think it is way more natural to see Paul recognizing her as a servant/deacon by name, esteeming her, and saying “that is what a true deacon/servant is.”

  • Jason

    Thank you Jesse! Deacon is servant, pastor is shepard, bishop is overseer, elder is… well… elder is elder.

    Elders are to shepard(pastor) and oversee(bishop) the church (1 Peter 5:1-2, Acts 20:28). Not all people who serve the church will serve as leaders. Therefore, servant (deacon) needs it’s own category but that category obviously includes leaders (1 Peter 5:3).

    The untranslated words in the Bible lend to all sorts of mystery that isn’t intended in the text. Add to that our tendency to “professionalize” these positions and people have crammed these terms into all sorts of unbiblical offices. With that has come all sorts of restrictions on how a person can and cannot serve the church that aren’t remotely Biblical.

    • Yeah. The professionalization aspect is a new problem. Interestingly, many churches have women on staff doing things that actually involve more authority than the average deacon, yet don’t recognize female deacons!

  • Craig Giddens

    The passage appears to be geared towards men only as deacons.

    1 Timothy 3
    8. Likewise must the deacons be grave, not double tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;
    9. Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.
    10. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.
    11. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.
    12. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
    13.
    For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to
    themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in
    Christ Jesus.

  • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

    While I understand and appreciate the effort of recognition in assigning this title to women, it always makes me sad that there is often a hint of contention in the discussions regarding where women should serve and whether or not that service overlaps into areas of leadership.

    For years I served our male elder board by transcribing minutes for their meetings. When they began discussions of where women can serve in the church, it was so discouraging for me, not in the scriptures they used, but the way in which they used them to diminish women. One elder in particular was truly misogynistic. Since I didn’t speak, they seemed unaware that I was in the room. I would often leave having to remind myself that Christ valued me despite of what I just heard.

    Now I don’t say that to imply that any of that is going on here, I say that as a gentle reminder that we are listening. And truth be told, women will continue to serve in the church as they always have without title or recognition. I for one am content with that.

    • Still Waters

      Well said. The statistics say that across all denominations, the number of single women to single men on the mission field is seven to one. Where I worked, the single women were the backbone of the ministry, and had been the ones to keep the ministry going through multiple crises. Yet, none of them were formally recognized and although several of them had broken their health in service and returned home, there did not seem to be any help for them – they had to keep working. I too returned with broken health, but I feel more concerned about those who had no family to return to as I had. Surely, that is the church’s responsibility.

      • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

        I like to believe that it is purposed that those who receive little recognition here will receive the richest welcome into the Kingdom of Heaven. May God bless you and keep you on your mission!

    • Thanks for the reminder. We are grateful for all our readers!
      There is alwasys going to be a sense of awkwardness in this discussion because our culture is hell-bent on egalitarianism, and so the question gets framed in the context of “what can’t a woman do?”

  • Deke

    I mean this in the most edifying way, but is this about titles and recognition or about The Lord Jesus Christ? All believers are called to serve. Why must we have a title to do it? If we just let that portion of scripture speak, I think it’s pretty clear it is referring to men.

    • Great question: the short answer is because Paul instructs Timothy (and then in vv 14-15 all churches) to recognize specific people as deacons for their work of service in the church.
      The longer answer would be along the lines of by esteeming people who are qualified as capable servants, you set out patterns for others to follow, and you help meet the practical needs of the church.

  • Adam

    It would not make contexual sense to address wives/woman in verse 11 if the address to deacons in verse 8 was not specifically directed towards men. If, in v.8, Paul is implying that the office of deacon is for both men and women simply because he does not state a specific gender, then it makes no sense for him to single out women in v.11. What purpose would it serve? He states the moral qualifications for a deacon in vv.8-9 (which is for men and women) and then adds additional qualifications for women deacons in v.11? This is an interpretive inconsistency. No doubt the translators picked upon this inconsistency and therefore logically translated gune in v.11 as wife rather than women. This is more consistent with v.12 and creates a natural flow with the overall context of this 3rd chapter – the moral qualifications of a bishop and his relationship with his wife is addressed and then Paul moves on to address the same topic with a deacons and their wives. Interpreting v.8 in application to men and women (as deacons) creates a disjointed text and we are left wondering why v.11 is needed in isolation to women and not simply inserted with v.8; e.g., “Likewise, must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.” Logic tells us that the reason why women were singled out in v.11 is because up to that point Paul has not addressed them in relationship to the office of deacon which was for the men. (v.8)
    Secondly, we cannot ignore the interpretive dependency v.13 has to v.12. Verse 13 begins with the following connecting thought indicated by the conjunction ‘for” – “For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree…” QUESTION: Who are the “they” to which Paul is referring to? Remembering there were no verses in the original, those “who use this office well” must be interpreted in light of v.12. Here it is without verse breaks – “let the deacons be the husband of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well, for they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree…” The deacons, then, to which Paul refers to in v.13, are the men, the husbands of v.12. The 13th verse therefore cannot apply to women in application to the office of deacon.
    I believe we are very hard pressed to include women in the office of deacon when interpreting 1 Tim. 3:8-13. While some may disagree and say it is not conclusive, one thing we can say in no uncertain terms is that men are addressed in relationship to the office of deacon, and that, should at least lend strength to one interpretation over the other.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful response, and you articulate the other view very well. My response to it is simply this: it seems awkward only if you come into the text with the gender distinction in your mind–as if you start reading assuming he must only be referencing men, then v 11 can seem awkward. Let me restate it this way: buying your argument that the deacon qualifcations here are male only, still what is to keep women from the office (esp. in light of Acts 18, Rom 16:1)? What is it about being a deacon that precludes women? I have the answer for that question for elders (1 Tim 2, 1 Cor 11). But for deacons?
      IOW: if I follow your argument, I’m still left wondering why women can’t be deacons. Does that make sense?

      • Deke

        Jesse, doesn’t 1 Tim 3:12 state to let the deacon be they husband of one wife?, or am I missing something?

        • Right. I take that as a gender-specific command for the male deacons (much like verse 11 is for female deacons). But if you take vv. 11 as a requirement for deacon’s wives, then I assume verse 12 would be furthering that point (your wives should be like verse 11 says, and verse 12 says more about them).
          But to my question to Adam–I assume that you would say that requirement itself is not what makes the office gender specific. For example, Paul himself was a deacon but also had no wife, right? So that requirement can’t be seen as excluding those who have no wives and certainly not those that have no children. So what I meant by that qualification is by what standard do you say it excludes women as well? (I guess someone could say that it does exclude single men, or men without children at home, but I’ve never met someone who has taken that view).

          • Craig Giddens

            Paul was a deacon?

          • Colossians 1:25: “I have become its servant [diakonos] by the commission God gave me…”
            That word for servant is the same word for deacon, btw. Remember that the KJV translators (and most English translations follow) translated deacon as “minister” or “servant” in many places, except in 1 Tim 3 where they just roll with transliterating the word. This is the source of the English word “deacon.”

          • Archepoimen follower

            Jesse,
            The way you are now reading the scriptures, is akin to how the LGBT group has read them for the last five years! Don’t deny what the scriptures say, just limit their application! Cripplegate, welcome to liberal exegesis!

            Tim

      • Craig Giddens

        Acts 18 and Romans 16:1 say nothing about women deacons. As I posted yesterday 1 Timothy 3 is clear that deacons are men. You can be a servant in the church and not be a deacon.

        • Craig, I’d encourage you to read my post the day before (linked the first sentence of this post).
          And yes, Romans 16:1 does call Phoebe a “deacon.”

      • Adam

        Jesse, I can honestly say that I did not interpret 1Tim.3 with a biased viewpoint. I have learned, and am still learning, to let the text speak for itself and not the “charts” of our various theologies, (although they do serve the good and necessary purpose of arranging our doctrines into an orderly and logical system of thought).
        For me, v.11 is still nonsensical if the office of deacon is applicable to men and women. Therefore I still pose the questions:
        (1) What purpose does it serve and
        (2) Why not just include it with verse 8 and in doing so leave out the particular address to women in v.11?
        As far as using the text from 1 Tim. 3 to answer the question as to what disallows women from being a deacon, the answer is more of an implicit rather than explicit nature. We cannot say that simply because Paul fails to state outright that women cannot be deacons he therefore is implying that they can. By that rationale, and not to have an inconsistent hermeneutic, we must also conclude that he also does not rule out women bishops because in that instance he never gives an explicit prohibition against that either. He just says, “If a man desire the office of a deacon…” Well, what if a woman desires the office?? This is why I say the answer, or rather prohibition, is implied rather than explicitly stated. How so? Basically through Paul’s lack of address to woman in connection with the word “deacon” in the same way it is linked with men and just as “bishop” is for men. (compare v.1&4 with 12) (Also keep in mind that this last argument flows from the two questions I posed above concerning v.11)
        As to what disqualifies a woman from being a deacon, (still staying with the context of 1Tim.3), I would answer this with another question: What disqualifies a woman from being a bishop? 1 Tim.3 does not answer this question as well. The answer is dependent upon my initial interpretation of the text; i.e. is the office of deacon even for women to begin with? This, then, would be a gender based choice given by the Holy Spirit, not based upon an intellectual or moral superiority of a man over a woman, but simply because of a Sovereign choice made by the Holy Ghost. The same would apply to the office of bishop.
        As far as Acts 18 and Romans 16:1, I have not looked into those. My posts have come from only what I have read in 1 Tim.3

        • I dind’t mean the comment about bias negatively. Sorry if it sounded that way. Here are your two questions:1) the purpose of recognizing deacons is to encoruage them, and to hold out as examples those who are serving and are qualified.
          2). I dont’ understand what you mean by your second question. Are you asking why Pual put verse 11 in the context of deacons? I’m saying he did so because the whole section (8-13) talks about deacons, but 2 verses (11, 12) are gender specific. One for the men, one for the women. I hope that helps. Thanks for interacting here.

  • Still Waters

    I have recently been prayerfully studying this issue. My church treats deacons as elders and thus only men fill the office. However, as a woman, I was formally commissioned to go to a mission field by the church. It is a curious feeling of limbo – to be commissioned to go as a servant of the church, as Phoebe was; but also to not hold a formal position in the church because only men can hold the office of a deacon. I should say here that I fervently agree with and hold to the position that a woman cannot be an elder in the church. In my own study, I have come to the conclusion that View 4 is most likely correct, although I do submit to my elder’s views and don’t make it a point of contention. I understand through my study that John Calvin thought that the I Timothy 3:11 passage was referring to women deacons, so it is not an new interpretation.

    • Yeah. In some sense the words themselves are not what is important. If you have the godly men leading the church, I guess it doesn’t matter that much if they are called deacons or elders. On the other hand, how hard is it really to use the words the way the NT uses them? I mean if I call my car a bicycle, I guess it still gets me where I want to go, its just unnecessarily confusing.

  • Chaylon

    The issue is authority. Does the office of deacon have any authority above the laity? If yes, then you cannot have female deacons as female headship is forbidden. If no, then the office is meaningless. John Calvin’s church called their male office holders “deacons” and females “hospitaleers”. I think that is a good approach.

    • I completely disagree that unless the office has authority it is meaningless. I’d encourage you to read my post right before this (linked in the first sentence of the this post) where I explain why that is.
      Calvin did indeed take what I give as view 3 above. But Calvin also had the city council essentially running his church, so there is a limited effectiveness to his example.

      • Chaylon

        If the Deaconate contains only servant duty, devoid of
        authority, then I posit that the Office has no distinction from any service that a lay person might perform at any given time. A healthy, authoritative Deaconate can reduce Elder burn-out and enhance Elder focus. Acts 6 dropped seven men into a hornet’s nest of trouble and asked them to deal with it. We don’t really think it was an office strictly to serve tables do we? Handing out plates, food, managing the KP? Could not the Junior High group aptly do such work, if that was all that were being asked of the Acts 6 group? No, there was management and/or enforcement of which women would be placed on the widow’s list and who, specifically, got a portion of the church’s limited resources.

        One might say it was the Elders who decided who was going to
        be placed on the list. I could see it going either way, perhaps blended between policy making Elders and rubber meeting the road Deacons. But I do not understand the Scripture to be definitive on the issue. If the Diaconal position were only about
        “serving tables” and similar menial labor, why the need of a high moral standard for the office holder? Either way you lean on this question, one should allow that even if the Elders decided and the Deacons executed the list, enforcement power and therefore, enforcement authority, must be granted. This Acts 6 account is a substantial diaconal example with the need for real authority and compassionate discernment and maturity. Some of their actions likely proved unpopular. Some decisions were pretty tough. Tangible consequences resulted from the decisions of these seven. Paul later addresses further the issue of the widow’s list in 1 Tim. 5. It was apparently an ongoing problem needing management and consequential, decision-making authority in its solution and in its execution.

        • Still Waters

          I can think of very good reasons why the “mere servants” of the Church should be of high moral character. You mention child care. What about all the recent scandals in the about child abuse in the Church? Had youth leaders and Sunday School teachers been chosen with as much care as I Timothy 3 commands, the problem may have been lessened.

          Also, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, women are frequently commissioned as servant missionaries. If missionaries are not of good character, it will show – the pressures of the mission field are too intense to be able to hide one’s faults.

          You speak of menial labour as if anyone could do it. Yet, Christ said, “He that would be greatest among you, let him be your servant” and to demonstrate the fact, he acted the position of the lowest household slave and washed his disciples’ feet. Clearly, those who serve in the Church are to be representing their Lord; and from I Timothy 3 it seems as if it is a privilege to be attained.

          • Chaylon

            Still Waters, I am not suggesting that all laity, all Christians, whatever their station, should not strive for high moral character. The church benefits greatly, as does the world, when all her dear ones are of high moral character. I agree with you that our teachers should be screened carefully.
            I don’t find missionary to be a proscribed office within the church and don’t think the point relevant.
            Anyone CAN do menial labor. That is not to subtract from the Lord’s words which you have quoted. Christ was not there making the point that only superior beings can do menial labor.
            I just want to say I praise God for women! And their good and necessary work within the Church and within the Kingdom of God.

  • Chaylon

    The problem with calling them “deaconesses ” is the implication of holding a office which has authority potentially over a man. Better to remove doubt and confusion by giving them another name – like Calvin’s Hospitaleers. Or, even safer, reserve the role for wives of Deacons.

    • I get that. For the most part people who reject my view above do so because they come from a church where deacons have authority. My response is that this imposes a meaning on deacon that is just not in the NT. the office of deacon does not lead or have authority over men. It is an office of service.

  • rhutchin

    In v8, Deacons are to be grave…; then v11, similarly, the women are to be grave… Whoever is in view in v11 must be similar to that person described in v8. As both are to be “grave” should we not identify these as different categories of people? Those who would be deacon are to be grave… and likewise the women are to be grave…

    There seems to be no issue with the Bishop of verses 1-7 being a man as he is the husband of one wife, one who rules his house. When Paul begins v8, “similarly,” we tie the following verses to those that precede. When Paul again writes, similarly, in v11, we are also to tie this back to the preceding verses. One way to do this is to have Deacons being men who are subordinate to Bishops and then women being subordinate to Deacons. So, are the women to be Deaconesses – equal in status to Deacons – or are they women who desire to be of help to Deacons?

    Are the women in v11 to be the wives of the Deacons? We should want the wife of a Deacon to be these things, but we would also want any women providing assistance to the Deacons to be these things. So, it should be understood restrictively as describing the wife of that man appointed as Deacon, but it might be understood expansively as any women assigned to assist the Deacon.

    Since the Greek word, diakonos, can refer in a general sense to anyone who is a servant, there is the issue of distinguishing the general form from that more formal designation we find in 1 Timothy 3. When Paul refers to Phobe in Romans 16 as a “diakonos” in the church of Cenchrea, do we understand this to be the big “D” of 1 Timothy or a little “d” of more general use and referencing v11? If the big “D” of 1 Timothy is to en a man, then Phobe would be a little “d” of v11.

    • I get what you are saying, and would encourage you to read my response to Andrew Chance above.

  • Johnny

    As long as they follow Scripture and also wear head coverings (I Cor. 11)