Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Clarity Sought on Women in the Office of Elder

The Philadelphia Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America is asking the denomination's General Assembly to appoint a study committee to clarify what Scripture teaches on women elders.

The presbytery has submitted an overture to the 42nd PCA General Assembly, which meets in Houston, Tex., June 17-20, asking for a study of the Book of Church Order's requirements on ordination vows.

"...[T]he third ordination vow requires a candidate for ordination or transfer to 'approve of the form of
government and discipline of the Presbyterian Church in America, in conformity with the general principles of biblical polity' ... and ... our constitution does not clearly delineate or define 'the general principles of biblical polity' or their relation to male only eldership," the overture states, adding that "some candidates for ordination or transfer may come forward who understand scripture to allow women to be ordained to the office of elder, contrary to BCO 7-2, but are willing to practice their ministry in accord with BCO 7-2, while not believing their view violates the general principles of biblical polity."

The overture asks the G.A. "to establish a study committee in order to clarify and define the general principles of biblical polity referenced in the third ordination vow (BCO 21-5, 3rd Vow), and their application to gender and the office of elder, and to evaluate whether or not the constitution should be amended and if necessary to recommend a constitutional process to that end."

2012 M.A. Graduate Michelle Sekuras
Greenville Seminary, which is not officially affiliated with the PCA but has faculty and many students from that denomination, holds that scripture limits all of the ordained offices (teaching elders [pastors], ruling elders, and deacons) to male members of Christ's church. For that reason, the seminary's divinity degree programs are limited to males. The seminary does admit women to its master of arts program but requires female students to subscribe to the following statement:
"Recognizing the clear Biblical teaching that a woman is not 'to teach or have authority' in the church, I do promise and affirm that I will not apply credit for course work taken at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in any program that would be used toward ordination, or for ordination, to any office in any church to which I belong. I understand and approve of the fact that this statement will be part of my transcript for any work taken in the seminary."
The Philadelphia Presbytery overture notes that "the first ordination vow requires a candidate for ordination or transfer 'to believe in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as originally given, to be the inerrant Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice' (BCO 21-5, 1st Vow); and ... the second ordination vow requires a candidate for ordination or transfer to 'sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures; (BCO 21-5, 2nd Vow)."