The role of women as 'deacons' in the church
In a dimly lit room, a circle of godly women gathered, their voices weaving together stories of life, love, and faith. Among them were elder women, seasoned by life's many lessons, and women who faithfully and passionately serve the church, dedicated to the church's cause. But do the labels of "elder" and "servant", revered in everyday life, translate directly to their official titles within church walls? The terms "elder" and "deacon" (which means "servant") require a closer look as we unravel their meanings and the age-old debate surrounding women's place within these roles.
Understanding the role of women in the church, particularly regarding their designation as 'deacons,' requires both an exploration of scripture and an appreciation for long-held traditions.
The terms "elder" and "deacon" have significant importance both within and outside church walls. In general terms, an elder can be anyone with more life experience, someone who provides wisdom to younger generations. Many women in our churches are living embodiments of the term "elder" due to their rich insights and guidance. However, within the church's official structure, being an "elder" has a unique, more formal connotation, and it is broadly understood that only men can be elders.
Similarly, the term "deacon" translates to "servant." Countless women serve the church, its congregation, and the community at large. Their devotion and service emulate the essence of a capital-D "Deacon". Yet, when we delve into the official designations within the church, holding the title of a deacon has specific requirements.
The clear and obvious arguments against women holding the formal role of deacons in the church primarily stem from traditional interpretations of scripture.
For reference, first read 1 Timothy 3:8-12 (ESV)
(8) Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. (9) They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. (10) And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. (11) Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. (12) Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well.
Scriptural Basis: One of the primary arguments against female deacons in the church comes from 1 Timothy 3:8-12. These verse outline the qualities of a deacon and it's clear on the gender specification. Particularly, the text mentions "Their wives" (or "the women" in some translations) and specifies that deacons should be "the husband of one wife." It would be unbiblical for a woman to have a wife (see Romans 1:26-27 where Paul describes same-sex relations as unnatural) and therefore, Timothy is clearly saying that deacons can only be men.
Historical Precedence: Throughout the history of Christianity, across many denominations, male leadership has been the norm. This tradition is anything but arbitrary and functions as a significant part of the argument against female deacons.
Role Differentiation: Men and women were made differently and made to fulfill distinct roles in God's broader plan for mankind. While women might not be designated as capital-D "Deacons", they can still serve in other crucial capacities.
In summary, while numerous women in the church embody the spirit of, and can be rightly labeled, "elders" and "deacons," their official designations as church "Elder" or "Deacon" is unbiblical.