Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Servant Follow Up


(A question came to me concerning the practices of a larger church in our region...without going into great detail -- in relationship to male and female servants. I have no desire to address their practices...not my business...but will offer some Biblical/practical perspectives. Since this is closely aligned to my last post, I thought it would be pertinent to address the subject here. I have written an extensive paper in relationship to the subject of men's and women's roles and would make it available for a reasonable price...just kidding -- all you have to do is ask). [I also feel a message related to what is descriptive (Biblically) as opposed to what is definitive will be coming soon to a blog near you. :-]

I do believe that we have to separate fact from tradition on this subject, as well as many others. In our conservative C of C tradition, for good or for ill, there have been only men in the leading and the primary service roles in the local congregation. I am not certain that this has been Biblically honest or accurate, and has probably hurt our fellowship in many practical ways, as well. But, to say that this is a hot button issue where folks are unwilling to be a big understatement. This all, for a long time, has been...and still is...very interesting to me -- both the study of the subject and the inflamed emotions related to said study (or lack thereof).

I cannot pass judgment on whether "deacons" are required, as in some "office," because the implication from Paul to Timothy (1 Timothy 3) is that "if you have deacons...these are the qualities that they need to have." I do not believe that there is an imperative in the passage that deacons are "required" least I can't find it. I do believe that, traditionally, we have assumed such, but it is not necessarily the case. The best argument could probably be made from Acts 6, which I will discuss shortly. However, such a case can be made (to use legal language) in relationship to elders/overseers/shepherds (Titus 1).

As mentioned previously, deacon comes from the Greek word diakonos, which can mean deacon, minister or servant...all English words have their origin in the same Greek word. The word diakonos is used in Acts 6, Philippians 1, as well as the 1 Timothy well as used to describe Phoebe in Romans 16:1. This is why some have called for deaconesses, or as some call them, special servants. Some would argue that the "women," gunaikas, in 1 Timothy 3:11 are deaconesses, but could just as easily be the wives of deacons (and elders, perhaps)...the language allows for both interpretations -- a compelling case can be made either way. I tend to believe that Paul says that "deacons," in a strict sense, are to be men, i.e. "husbands of one wife." But, in more general terms, women like Phoebe, Priscilla, Lydia and perhaps others (especially from Romans 16...Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis, etc.) were also prominent servants (diakonos) in the early church. In fact, the joke is that it seems likely that Phoebe was at least the church secretary in Cenchrea -- haven't known many men in this prominent role. :-) I actually believe she was likely the church treasurer, if we look closely at the language (16:2). We have tended to gloss over these matters because we have been so under the influence of some shaky interpretations from 1 Corinthians 11 about women having to be "silent" in the church (which is another discussion). Nevertheless, to assume that there have been no special servants in the church that are women, Biblically, and historically, is not true. Many congregations today are in the process of establishing deacons, as well as, in some shape or form, ministry leaders/servants that are men and women. Blessings,


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