Deacons

Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business…  And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:  Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.  And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied…”

Acts 6:3-7

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Order of Contents

Articles
The Power of Ordaining Deacons comes from a Presbytery
That the Office of Deacon is Restricted to Males Only
That Deacons have Not Authority for Baptizing
How Deacons Need the Holy Spirit


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Articles

1600’s

Guthrie, James – A Treatise of Ruling Elders and Deacons  

Guthrie (1612?–1661) was a Scottish covenanter.

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1800’s

Girardeau, John

The Diaconate  (1879)  33 pp.

Girardeau was instrumental in reviving the diaconate in the southern presbyterian church.

The Diaconate Again  (1881)  37 pp.

The Importance of the Office of Deacon  (1881)  29 pp.


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The Power of Ordaining Deacons comes from a Presbytery

Intro

The power of ordaining deacons comes from a presbytery (Acts 6:6), though only the implicit consent of a presbytery is needed for such valid ordinations in regularly constituted churches.

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ed. Chad Van Dixhoorn, Minutes of the Westminster Assembly

“Session 116 [sic] May 10, 1644, Friday morning

Concerning debate over the power of congregational elderships – majority voted ‘no single congregation, which can conveniently join with others in association may assume to itself all and sole power in ordination’

“Mr. Goodwin: This much urged, found out an instance for a classical presbyterys ordaining, but not otherwise.  For that instance of deacons ordaining in the 6 Acts, I desire it may be considered.
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Mr. Gillespie: I argue from deacons much more to pastors; if a classical presbytery ordain the lowest officers, then much more the other.

Said it doth not serve our turn because deacons are not ordained in Scotland or at least not by a presbytery.  They are ordained for the substance, though they have not imposition of hands, in that they have missio potestativa [an authoritative sending] & a public admission.””


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That the Office of Deacon is Restricted to Males Only in Ordinary Circumstances

Articles

1800’s

Faris, D.S.

‘The Female Deacon and the Sentimental Overflow of Synod’  in The Reformed Presbyterian & Covenanter, vol. 26, no. 10  (Oct. 1888), pp. 357-59

Faris was an RPCNA pastor and one of the primary dissenting voices from the decision of their synod in 1888 to allow women deacons.  For more background on these transpirings, see Schwertley’s booklet, p. 29 ff.

‘The Female Deacon.  Animadversions on the Argument of the Synod’s Committee’  in The Reformed Presbyterian & Covenanter, vol. 27, no. 5 (May 1889), pp. 137-40

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2000

Cara, Robert J. – ‘Justification of Ordained Office of Deacon Restricted to Qualified Males’  (2020)  on Reformed Faith & Practice of the ARP.

Cara is a professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, and is associated with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP).

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Book

Schwertley, Brian – A Historical & Biblical Examination of Women Deacons  88 pp.

This booklet has the most detailed and best survey of Church history on the topic available, that this webmaster is aware of.  Schwertley wrote this when he was a minister in the RPCNA, which has women deacons; hence his need to thoroughly investigate the issue.  The survey, which documents much of Church history having women deacons, with some of their reasons for it, reveals the complexity of the subject.

The second half of the booklet deals with the Biblical evidence (which is more complex than one at first might realize) and argues for male only deacons.  This is essential reading; you will learn a lot.  Here is a review of the work in the OPC journal for officers.

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In Extraordinary Circumstances

Quote

Wes Bredenhof, ‘Herman Bavinck on Women in the Church’  (2021)

“In some areas, efforts were made to have deaconesses, but the Synod of Middelburg in 1581 decided that it was not advisable to reintroduce the office of deaconess in the Reformed churches of the Netherlands.

In exceptional circumstances such as a time of plague, however, the work of deacons could be done by their wives or other women.  According to Bavinck, this happened in places like Middelburg, Utrecht, Amsterdam, and Emden.”

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That Deacons have No Authority for Baptizing

Article

Rutherford, Samuel – Objection 11  of Deacons in ch. 7, section 7  in The Due Right of Presbyteries, or a Peaceable Plea…  (London, 1644), pp. 167-8


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How Deacons Need the Holy Spirit

Samuel Rutherford

The Due Right of Presbyteries (1644), pt. 1, p. 165

“Answer:  To distribute in a civil and natural way requires not a man full of the Holy Ghost, but to distribute in simplicity and with the grace of heavenly cheerfulness, Rom. 12:8, and with the qualities of a complete deacon, 1 Tim. 3:12-14, requires the Holy Ghost, though they may be good deacons who are not full of the Holy Ghost; but such [persons full of the Holy Ghost] were chosen:

1.  Because this was to be a rule to all deacons to the world’s end, and the rule should be as straight and perfect as can be;

2.  Because there were choice of such men as those in the apostolic Church, and [there is] reason that God be served with the best of his own;

3.  The Holy Ghost is required for sanctification, as well as for gifts of preaching, Luke 1:15; Mt. 10:20.

4.  Stephen [a deacon] did no more (Acts ch. 7) in his apology [contra Anglicans who hold that deacons may preach] than any witnesses of Christ convened before rulers may do who are obliged to be ready always to give an answer to every one who asks them of the hope that is in them, with meekness and fear, 1 Pet. 3:15, yea though it were a woman who yet may not preach, 1 Cor. 14:34.”

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