Study Committee on Role of Women [2004]

Report of the Study Committee:
Role of Women in the Church

EDITOR’S NOTE: The findings of this report led the committee to propose that Conference allow churches to elect women as deacons. The 2004 Conference accepted the report, but (for unrecorded reasons) did not vote on the committee’s legislative proposals. Instead, Conference “Resolved, that the Chairman appoint a committee of seven, including ministers and laypersons to study the question, ‘Do the Scriptures allow women to serve in the office of Deacon / Deaconness?’ and report to the 122nd Annual Conference.” That committee reported in 2005 and that Conference did approve their proposal to allow women deacons, ultimately finishing the work at the 2007 Conference.

The Committee to Study the Role of Women in the Church met to complete the task of refining legislation with regard to women serving as deacons. The following is our work presented to Annual Conference:

Legislation to be adopted at first reading at the One-Hundred- Twenty-First Annual Conference of the Bible Fellowship Church

To provide a framework to our thinking this committee supports the “Danvers Statement”[1] (see appendix 1). Further, the footnotes in the “whereas” statements that follow are for clarification only and will not become part of the legislative changes.

Whereas, the Bible calls for male leadership in the church[2] and in the home,[3] and

Whereas, the Faith and Order of the Bible Fellowship Church clearly states that the office of deacon is an office of service, not oversight,[4] and

Whereas, the Bible names a woman as a deacon,[5] and gives examples of other godly women who served in the church,[6] and

Whereas, the Bible has specific requirements for this office of service,[7] therefore be it

Resolved, that the Bible Fellowship Church allow qualified women to serve as deacons / deaconesses in the church,[8] and be it further

Resolved, that since the Bible calls for male leadership in the church and in the home, in obedience to the Scriptures, certain provisos must be observed if a woman is to serve on the Board of Deacons:

1. Women who serve on the Board of Deacons shall not constitute a majority of the board (1 Timothy 2:12).

2. A woman shall not hold an office of leadership or exercise authority over men on the Board of Deacons (1 Timothy 2:12).

3. A woman shall not serve on the Board of Deacons in a capacity which places her in a position exercising authority over men in the church (1 Timothy 2:12).

Resolved, that these provisos become part of the Faith and Order of the Bible Fellowship Church and titled “401-2.5” and that the former 401-2.5 become 401-2.6.

Whereas, the Faith and Order of the Bible Fellowship Church uses three terms (Minister, Elder, Layperson) when discussing matters of election, office, or positions of service in the church, therefore be it

Resolved, that the following changes be made to the current documents of the Faith and Order:

204-3. Deacons

204-3.1 The office of deacon is presented in the Scriptures as an office not of ruling, but of service. A deacon should be a layperson (replaces man) of deep spiritual life, exemplary conduct, and sound judgment (1 Tim. 3; Acts 6:1-8). This (replaces His) office is one of sympathetic service to the church and to the distressed, friendless, or sick, after the example of our Lord Jesus Christ.

401-2. The Board of Deacons

401-2.1 The Board of Deacons shall be composed of all deacons/deaconesses duly elected by and from the congregation who meet the qualifications of the Scriptures. They shall be mature laypersons (replaces men) who demonstrate a spiritual wisdom and compassion so that they might serve the needy in a Christ-like, merciful way.

401-2.6 Since the Bible calls for male leadership in the church[9] and in the home[10], in obedience to the Scriptures, certain provisos must be observed if a woman is to serve on the Board of Deacons:

1. If women are to serve on the Board of Deacons, they shall not constitute a majority of the board.

2. A woman shall not hold an office of leadership or exercise authority over men on the Board of Deacons (Chair or Vice-Chair).

3. A woman shall not serve on the Board of Deacons in a capacity which places her in a position exercising authority over men in the church.

401-2.5 Election and Installation of Deacons. Each congregation may elect deacons in keeping with the qualifications set forth in Scripture. Deacons must be laypersons in full communion in the church in which they are to exercise their office.

The term of office shall be determined by the Particular Church by congregational vote, but shall not be less than three years, except when a Particular Church desires a probationary term of service for newly chosen deacons. When possible the Board of Deacons shall be divided into not fewer than three classes as determined by congregational vote in each of the Particular Churches.

In the event of a vacancy by death, resignation, or removal, a layperson (replaces man) may be elected to fill the unexpired term of office….

Questions to the congregation – end of 401-2.5

(1) Do you, the members of this church, acknowledge and receive this brother (sister) as a deacon (deaconess)?

(2) Do you promise to give him (her) all the honor, encouragement, and support in the Lord to which this (replaces his) office entitles him (her)?

After the members of the church have answered these questions in the affirmative by holding up their right hands, the minister shall proceed to set apart the candidate by prayer to the office of deacon and shall give to him (her) and to the congregation an exhortation suited to the occasion.

Committee to Study the Role of Women in the Church: Carl J. Fischer, Jr. Chairman; Betty Herb, Secretary; E. Davis DeRonde, Doris Hoyle, Michael T. Littlejohn, J. Mark McCreary, James E. Mortland, Robert C. Newman, Robert A. Sloan

Appendix 1

The Danvers Statement

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood A Response to Evangelical Feminism

Wayne Grudem and John Piper


We have been moved in our purpose by the following contemporary developments which we observe with deep concern:

1. The widespread uncertainty and confusion in our culture regarding the complementary differences between masculinity and femininity;

2. the tragic effects of this confusion in unraveling the fabric of marriage woven by God out of the beautiful and diverse strands of manhood and womanhood;

3. the increasing promotion given to feminist egalitarianism with accompanying distortions or neglect of the glad harmony portrayed in Scripture between the loving, humble leadership of redeemed husbands and the intelligent, willing support of that leadership by redeemed wives;

4. the widespread ambivalence regarding the values of motherhood, vocational homemaking, and the many ministries historically performed by women;

5. the growing claims of legitimacy for sexual relationships which have Biblically and historically been considered illicit or perverse, and the increase in pornographic portrayal of human sexuality;

6. the upsurge of physical and emotional abuse in the family;

7. the emergence of roles for men and women in church leadership that do not conform to Biblical teaching but backfire in the crippling of Biblically faithful witness;

8. the increasing prevalence and acceptance of hermeneutical oddities devised to reinterpret apparently plain meanings of Biblical texts;

9. the consequent threat to Biblical authority as the clarity of Scripture is jeopardized and the accessibility of its meaning to ordinary people is withdrawn into the restricted realm of technical ingenuity;

10. and behind all this the apparent accommodation of some within the church to the spirit of the age at the expense of winsome, radical Biblical authenticity which in the power of the Holy Spirit may reform rather than reflect our ailing culture.


Recognizing our own abiding sinfulness and fallibility, and acknowledging the genuine evangelical standing of many who do not agree with all of our convictions, nevertheless, moved by the preceding observations and by the hope that the noble Biblical vision of sexual complementarity may yet win the mind and heart of Christ’s church, we engage to pursue the following purposes:

1. To study and set forth the Biblical view of the relationship between men and women, especially in the home and in the church.

2. To promote the publication of scholarly and popular materials representing this view.

3. To encourage the confidence of lay people to study and understand for themselves the teaching of Scripture, especially on the issue of relationships between men and women.

4. To encourage the considered and sensitive application of this Biblical view in the appropriate spheres of life.

5. And thereby

• to bring healing to persons and relationships injured by an inadequate grasp of God’s will concerning manhood and womanhood,

• to help both men and women realize their full ministry potential through a true understanding and practice of their God-given roles,

• and to promote the spread of the gospel among all peoples by fostering a Biblical wholeness in relationships that will attract a fractured world.


Based on our understanding of Biblical teachings, we affirm the following:

1. Both Adam and Eve were created in God’s image, equal before God as persons and distinct in their manhood and womanhood.

2. Distinctions in masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created order, and should find an echo in every human heart.

3. Adam’s headship in marriage was established by God before the Fall, and was not a result of sin.

4. The Fall introduced distortions into the relationships between men and women.

• In the home, the husband’s loving, humble headship tends to be replaced by domination or passivity; the wife’s intelligent, willing submission tends to be replaced by usurpation or servility.

• In the church, sin inclines men toward a worldly love of power or an abdication of spiritual responsibility, and inclines women to resist limitations on their roles or to neglect the use of their gifts in appropriate ministries.

5. The Old Testament, as well as the New Testament, manifests the equally high value and dignity which God attached to the roles of both men and women. Both Old and New Testaments also affirm the principle of male headship in the family and in the covenant community.

6. Redemption in Christ aims at removing the distortions introduced by the curse.

• In the family, husbands should forsake harsh or selfish leadership and grow in love and care for their wives; wives should forsake resistance to their husbands’ authority and grow in willing, joyful submission to their husbands’ leadership.

• In the church, redemption in Christ gives men and women an equal share in the blessings of salvation; nevertheless, some governing and teaching roles within the church are restricted to men.

7. In all of life Christ is the supreme authority and guide for men and women, so that no earthly submission-domestic, religious, or civil-ever implies a mandate to follow a human authority into sin.

8. In both men and women a heartfelt sense of call to ministry should never be used to set aside Biblical criteria for particular ministries. Rather, Biblical teaching should remain the authority for testing our subjective discernment of God’s will.

9. With half the world’s population outside the reach of indigenous evangelism; with countless other lost people in those societies that have heard the gospel; with the stresses and miseries of sickness, malnutrition, homelessness, illiteracy, ignorance, aging, addiction, crime, incarceration, neuroses, and loneliness, no man or woman who feels a passion from God to make His grace known in word and deed need ever live without a fulfilling ministry for the glory of Christ and the good of this fallen world.

10. We are convinced that a denial or neglect of these principles will lead to increasingly destructive consequences in our families, our churches, and the culture at large.

The “Danvers Statement” was prepared by several evangelical leaders at a CBMW meeting in Danvers, MA., in December, 1987. It was first published in final form by the CBMW in Wheaton, IL., in November, 1988. We grant permission and encourage interested persons to use, reproduce, and distribute the Danvers Statement. Additional copies of this brochure are available for a donation of $9.00 for 50, and $15.00 for 100, postpaid, from CBMW, P.O. Box 317, Wheaton, IL 60189.

Council Members

Gary Almy, M.D.

Prof. of Psychiatry and Assoc. Dean

Chicago Medical School

Gleason Archer, Ph.D.

Professor of Old Testament

Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Donald Balasa, J.D.

Attorney, Wildwood, Illinois

James Borland, Th.D.

Prof. of New Testament and Theology

Liberty University

Waldemar Degner, Ph.D.

Professor of Exegetical Theology

Concordia Seminary (Ft. Wayne, Ind.)

Lane T. Dennis, Ph.D.

President, Crossway Books

Thomas R. Edgar, Th.D.

Professor of New Testament,

Capital Bible Seminary

John M. Frame, M.Phil.

Professor of Systematic Theology

Westminster Theological Seminary

W. Robert Godfrey, Ph.D.

Professor of Church History

Westminster Theological Seminary

Wayne A. Grudem, Ph.D.*

Assoc. Prof. of Systematic Theology

Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

H. Wayne House, Th.D., J.D.*

Vice-president and Professor of Theology

Western Baptist College

R. Kent Hughes, D.Min.*

Senior Pastor

College Church in Wheaton (Illinois)

James B. Hurley, Ph.D.

Professor of Counseling

Reformed Theological Seminary

Elliot Johnson

Professor of Bible Exposition

Dallas Theological Seminary

S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. Th.D.*

Minister, Believers Chapel, Dallas

Mary A. Kassian

Author, Women’s Ministry Consultant

Calvary Baptist Church, Edmonton Rhonda

H. Kelley, Ph.D.

Associate Director, Innovative Evangelism

New Orleans, Louisiana

George W. Knight, III, Th.D.

Administrator, Dean and Professor of New Testament

Knox Theological Seminary

Beverly LaHaye


Concerned Women for America

Betty Jo Lewis


Atlanta, Georgia

Connie Marshner


Child Family Protection Inst.

Richard Mayhew, Th.D.

Vice-Pres., Dean of Grad. Studies

The Master’s Seminary

Douglas J. Moo, Ph.D.

Chairman, Dept. of New Testament

Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., Ph.D.

Asst. Prof. of Old Testament

Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Dorothy Patterson, D.Min.


Dallas, Texas

John Piper, Dr. Theol.*

Senior Pastor

Bethlehem Baptist Church (Minneapolis)

Joyce Rogers


Memphis, Tennessee

Ken Sarles, Th.M.

Asst. Prof. of Systematic Theology

Dallas Theological Seminary

Siegfried Schatzmann, Ph.D.

Professor of New Testament

Oral Roberts University

Larry Walker, Ph.D.

Professor of Old Testament

Mid-America Seminary

William Weinrich, Ph.D.

Professor of Church History

Concordia Seminary (Ft. Wayne, Ind.)

*Currently serving on the Council’s Executive Committee

Board of Reference

Hudson T. Armerding Harold O. J. Brown D. A. Carson Edmund Clowney Jerry Falwell Carl F. H. Henry Paul Karleen D. James Kennedy Gordon R. Lewis Erwin LutzerJohn MacArthur, Jr. Marty Minton

Thomas McComiskey J. I. Packer Paige and Dorothy Patterson Pat Robertson Adrian and Joyce Rogers Bob Slosser R. C. Sproul James A. StahrJoseph M. Stowell, III John F. WalvoordLuder Whitlock Peter Williamson

Copyright © 1997 Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Appendix 2


2100 Greenfield Drive, El Cajon, CA, 619/440-1802

Dr. David Jeremiah, Senior Pastor

Deaconess Board – General Job Description

A deaconess serves for three years, or for only one or two years if she is completing a term for someone who has been unable to finish a full three years.

The deaconess board meets at 9:45 am on the 4th Tuesday of every month. The meeting is held in various homes, lasts until noon, and is followed by fellowship over a simple lunch, for those who can stay.

There are three areas in which we are all involved, and each deaconess also functions on one small committee.

We are all involved in:

PRAYER CHAIN: One deaconess coordinates the prayer chain. When a church member asks for prayer regarding a particular need, it’s our privilege to pray faithfully for that need – collectively at our meetings and individually throughout the month. Of course, we treat all prayer requests as confidential.

HOME FRIENDS: We are each assigned a special home-bound friend. There are a number of elderly church members who, because of poor health, are unable to attend services, and need to know that their church family cares about them. And that’s what we try to do. Some of these people live in their own homes, and others are in nursing homes. We keep in touch with our own home-friend with visits, cards, little remembrances at special occasions, sometimes provide transportation to a doctor’s appointment, and generally try to be a friend and spiritual encouragement. In December we pool assorted edible treats and small personal items at our meeting, and each of us makes up a Christmas box of these goodies to take to her special home-friend, as a gift from all the deaconesses.

SICK & BEREAVED: We take turns in helping to provide a meal for sick or bereaved members, and we have a committee of 3 who coordinate our efforts. (In the case of a serious illness of a church member, that person’s Sunday School class members will normally provide meals, if and when needed. If the person is not enrolled in a class, then the deaconesses step in). In the case of a death, we usually provide a meal for the family on the day of the funeral. (Sometimes several months pass without our being needed in either of these ways). A deaconess might also make a hospital visit, if this seems appropriate, or attend a funeral if the family is known to her. We also provide all the ingredients for a holiday meal at Thanksgiving and Christmas, for a family that is going through hard times. In addition to these areas of service, there are also a number of small committees with special responsibilities and each deaconess serves on just one of these:

BAPTISM: The 2 or 3 deaconesses on this committee take turns in assisting women when they are baptized. They make sure that baptism robes and towels are taken care of, meet with the women just before baptism to pray with them, help them think through their testimonies, and generally help them feel at ease.

COMMUNION: The 3 deaconesses on this committee prepare the elements for communion, and clean up afterward.

NEW BABIES: This is usually a “committee” of 1, and this deaconess has the pleasure of visiting the new babies born to church members. She arranges a time convenient for herself and the new mother, and takes a rose and a book to the mother and prays with her for the baby.

NEW MEMBERS: The 3 or 4 deaconesses on this committee take turns at sitting in on the twice-monthly Sunday morning classes for new members, making them feel welcome, and joining the deacons in listening to their testimonies.

The board is also represented by having one deaconess on the MISSIONS BOARD and one on the CUSSD BOARD. The women who serve on these boards will not be asked or expected to serve on any other deaconess committees.

The dictionary tells us that a deaconess is: A woman appointed as a helper or assistant in a church.” That’s what we are – helpers. And it’s truly a joy and a blessing to serve the church family (and therefore the Lord) in this way!

Permission for addition to this appendix granted by Barbara Boucher, Administrative Assistant to Dr. David Jeremiah, Shadow Mountain Community Church, 2100 Greenfield Drive, El Cajon, CA.

[1] Appended “The “Danvers Statement” was prepared by several evangelical leaders at a Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood meeting in Danvers, Mass., in December, 1987. It was first published in final form by the CBMW in Wheaton, Ill., in November, 1988.

[2] 1 Corinthians 11:2-3; 1 Timothy 2:12-14; 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9

[3] Ephesians 5:22-24, 32-33

[4] Faith and Order of the Bible Fellowship Church

204-3.1 “The office of deacons is presented in the Scriptures as an office not of ruling, but of service. . . . . His office is one of sympathetic service to the church and to the distressed, friendless, or sick, after the example of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

401-2.3 “The general responsibility of the deacons is one of sympathetic and benevolent service to the church, to the distressed, and to the friendless and sick, showing the mercy and concern of the church for the material and natural needs of others. The deacons shall assume the responsibility to care for such specific benevolent and material services as directed them by the Board of Elders.”

401-2.4 “The function of the deacons is to see that the material and natural needs of the church constituency are met so that the elders can give freely of their time and concern to the spiritual needs of the congregation.”

[5] Romans 16:1-2

[6] Rom. 16:1, 3, 12; Phil. 4:2, 3; 1 Tim. 3:11; 5:9, 10; Titus 2:3, 4

[7] 1 Timothy 3:11

Robertson, A. (1997). Word Pictures in the New Testament. Vol.V c1932, Vol.VI c1933 by Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. (1 Ti 3:11). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.

I Timothy 3:11 Women ((L<“46″H [gunaikas]). Accusative with *,4 ,Æ<“4 [dei einai] understood (ÒF”LJTH [hosautôs], likewise) as in verse 8. Apparently “women as deacons” (Rom. 16:1 about Phoebe) and not women in general or just “wives of deacons.” See Pliny (Ep. X. 97) ministrae.

Pliny to the Emperor Trajan (Letters 10.96; written A.D. 111 or 112) Documents on the Persecution of the Early Church;

Quo magis necessarium credidi ex duabus ancillis, quae ministrae dicebantur, quid esset veri, et per tormenta quaerere.

Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses.

Wuest, K. S. (1997, c1984). Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader (Ro 16:1). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Pliny the Younger, about a.d. 104, appears to refer to them in a letter to Trajan, in which he speaks of the torture of two maids who were called ministrae (:4<4FJD”,) (female ministers).

Wuest, K. S. (1997, c1984). Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader (1 Ti 3:11). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.The word “wives” is gunç ((L<0), “a woman.” The word, when used in reference to the marriage relation, means “a wife.” Here, it should be translated “women.” It does not necessarily refer to the wives of the deacons, and for the following reasons: first, the words, “even so,” are the translation of hôsautôs (ñF”LJTH), which is used in introducing a second or third in a series, the series here is of Church officials; second, there is no possessive pronoun in the Greek, which would be needed if the women were the wives of the deacons; third, the four qualifications which follow correspond, with appropriate variations, to the first four required of deacons as regards demeanor, government of the tongue, use of wine, and trustworthiness; and fourth, this is a section dealing wholly with Church officials. The reference here is to women who hold the office of deaconess, as Phoebe (Rom. 16:1);

Keener, C. S., & InterVarsity Press. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary : New Testament (1 Ti 3:11). Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press. “Scholars debate whether “women” here refers to deaconesses or to male deacons’ wives, although even the Roman government was aware of Christian deaconesses (female deacons) by a.d. 112.”

Easton, M. (1996, c1897). Easton’s Bible Dictionary “Deaconess — Rom. 16:1, 3, 12; Phil. 4:2, 3; 1 Tim. 3:11; 5:9, 10; Titus 2:3, 4). In these passages it is evident that females were then engaged in various Christian ministrations. Pliny makes mention of them also in his letter to Trajan (A.D. 110).

C. F. Pfeiffer, H. F. Vos & J. Rea, Ed. (1975). The Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia, Chicago: Moody Press. It is probable that there were in the different churches groups of women engaged in visiting those of their own sex in the same way as the deacons performed their duties. The rules given in I Tim 3:11 and Tit 2:3–5 as to the conduct of women have been referred to the office of the deaconess. I Tim 5:9–10 have also been suggested as requirements for the office. It is not certain that these passages refer to that office, although there existed such an order later in church history. Pliny the Younger, writing as governor of Bithynia to the emperor Trajan in a.d. 112, indicated that by that time there were deaconesses among the Christians whom he assigned to torture in that province.

[8] 1 Timothy 3:11

[9] 1 Corinthians 11:2-3; 1 Timothy 2:12-14; 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9

[10] Ephesians 5:22-24, 32-33

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