How much can a woman do in church?
For some Christians the answer is obvious: everything. Most Mainline (i.e. liberal) churches do not believe there are any restrictions on a woman serving in church and now ordain women into the pastorate. Even more theologically conservative denominations are becoming more open to female pastors. The historic position of the Christian church around the globe, however, has restricted the pastorate to men.
The debates over female ordination continues to rage on today. Unfortunately, the emotion and divisiveness of such debates can also influence the whether a woman can serve the church in the role of a deacon. Things become even more complicated because many churches in America use the words deacon and pastor synonymously.
The Bible doesn’t speak that way, however. The Bible speaks of two positions in the church: elders and deacons. Elders and pastors are synonymous. They lead the church and fulfill the authoritative teaching role in the congregation. Deacons, on the other, serve the church. They meet practical needs and perform works of mercy.
So the question remains: “Can a Woman Serve as a Deacon?”
I believe the answer is, “Yes.” There is enough evidence in Scripture to allow women to serve as deacons. Church history also bears out a long testimony of allowing women to serve as deacons. Having female deacons also strengthens male-only eldership. Too often, slippery-slope arguments are employed when discussing female deacons. The objection goes something like this: “If you allow a woman to serve as a deacon, then eventually she’ll be serving as an elder!” Not only is such reasoning fallacious, but the whole argument in favor of women deacons undercuts the argument for allowing women to be elders.
In the next three posts, we’ll cover the Scriptural grounds for allowing women to be deacons, survey church history and what it shows us about women serving as deacons, and consider how opening up the diaconate to females leads to a flourishing church (and male-only eldership).