Instead, while thinking through how to address scenarios we imagine may arise from such a recommendation, it is wisest to adopt a wait-and-see approach. The nature of this study committee report is not one where immediate action is required. Rather, because the report urges sessions to consider, recognize, or establish different ideas, the best that can be done is to try to anticipate possible negative consequences and be ready to answer them should they arise.
At the 45th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in Greensboro, N.C., much attention was given to the ad-interim report of the study committee on the role of women in the church. The committee suggested 7 recommendations in which it asked presbyteries and sessions to consider different aspects of women and their role in the life of the church. Last post reviewed the first of these recommendations and this one will continue by looking at recommendation 3.
Recommendation 3 states: “That sessions, presbyteries and the General Assembly strive to develop, recognize, and utilize the gifts, skills, knowledge, and wisdom of godly women in the local, regional, and national church, and particularly consider overtures that would allow qualified women to serve on appropriate committees and agencies within the church.”
This recommendation seems to suggest considering submitting overtures to accomplish what is already happening. This General Assembly study committee, looking at the issue of the role of women in the church, was made up of nine pastors and three women, two of whom were voting members of the committee. Therefore, it seems that women are already serving on committees within the church. The question could be asked: “What forms an appropriate committee that a woman can serve on within the church?” Unfortunately, that issue is not addressed in the report. Instead we are being asked to consider overtures to allow something that is already being done.
Beyond the apparent tautology of this recommendation, it is difficult to imagine that sessions, presbyteries and the General Assembly are not interested in developing, recognizing and utilizing the gifts of godly women in the church. I would grant that the way these women’s gifts are utilized will vary from congregation to congregation, but I would be shocked if there were churches which did not strive to develop the gifts of the godly sisters of their number.
There is one danger in recommendation 3 from the committee. It is possible that some would submit overtures allowing women to be the coordinators of the permanent committees and agencies of the PCA. These paid staff positions, responsible for oversight and administrating the different committees are, to this point, populated by elders of the church. However, if these positions would be opened to women, we could potentially have woman overseeing the Mission to the World or Mission to North America. The logic for allowing them to serve would be that the permanent committees and agencies of the PCA only carry out the will of the Assembly. However, the coordinators do have supervisory responsibilities. In the case of women serving as coordinators, the PCA would be forced to deal with whether a woman exercises authority over a man in the context of the church through this permanent committee. Would a woman be exercising authority over the missionaries and church planters that are organized and administered by the MTW and MNA committees? Does that fall within the range of biblical and constitutional acceptability? It would be a question that would have to be answered.
Of course, for some it is tempting to jump to conclusions and make dire predictions at this point. Instead, while thinking through how to address scenarios we imagine may arise from such a recommendation, it is wisest to adopt a wait-and-see approach. The nature of this study committee report is not one where immediate action is required. Rather, because the report urges sessions to consider, recognize, or establish different ideas, the best that can be done is to try to anticipate possible negative consequences and be ready to answer them should they arise.
Geoff Gleason is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is pastor of Cliffwood PCA in Augusta, Ga. This article appeared on his blog and is used with permission.