Documents of Synod:
Study Papers of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (1965 to 1982)

 

154th General Synod Minutes, MAY 21, 1976, pp. 59-64.

STUDY COMMITTEE ON THE FUNCTIONS OF DEACONS.

Rev. Edward A. Steele III presented the following report, recommending substitutions to the FOG, except for section V,9,f. These substitutions were amended by action of Synod and adopted en toto and sent down to
presbyteries for action en toto and specifically not ad seriatum. [NOTE: In these minutes, the substitutions to be acted on by presbyteries are printed as changed and adopted by the 154th General Synod.] The report follows:

Fathers and Brethren:

The 153rd General Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, held at Geneva College, May 30-June 5, 1975, established a study committee on the functions of deacons with the mandate "to study the entire paragraph regarding the functions of deacons, i.e. FOG, ch. II, sec. 11, d, and report back to the 154th General Synod." (1975 Minutes, p. 28)

General Synod authorized the study committee in response to an overture from the Covenant Presbyterian Church of Auburn, Alabama, transmitted with dissenting remarks by the Southern Presbytery to the 153rd General Synod. (1975 Minutes, p. 91)

Southern and northern Presbyterian traditions differ as to the functions of deacons and a diaconate in relation to the functions of trustees and a board of trustees. The study committee was to evaluate not simply the functions of deacons as officers of the church but to study the functions of trustees in relation to the functions of deacons. Thus this report has recommendations concerning both trustees and deacons.

This report contains committee recommendations for amendments to the Form of Government, one motion which will be necessary if the amendment for 11,7, carries, and a brief statement that supports the recommendation that women may be ordained to the office of deacon.

I. RECOMMENDED SUBSTITUTIONS FOR THE FORM OF GOVERNMENT
A. The committee recommends that the following be substituted for the present section 7 of FOG, II:
"7. The corporation of a particular church.

a. All particular churches holding, or expecting to hold real property should be incorporated under the laws of civil government. The fiscal year for the corporation should be determined in the articles of incorporation or the bylaws of the church.

b. All communicant members of the congregation who are twenty-one years of age or older are members of the corporation unless the laws in particular states in which the churches are located have corporation voting ages lower than twenty-one, in which cases these churches may follow the corporation voting age requirements in such states.

c. The corporation shall have stated meetings at least once each fiscal year. The church's bylaws shall make provision for pro re nata meetings. The corporation shall call a pro re nata meeting when required
by presbytery.

d. The chairman of the board of trustees shall ordinarily preside at meetings of the corporation, but in case of his absence or inability to serve, the corporation of a particular church may elect another one of its trustees, or any ruling or teaching elder in good standing in this denomination, to preside at a particular meeting. 'In such case
the teaching elder, or a moderator for the church appointed by the presbytery, may preside at a meeting of the corporation, until a moderator of the meeting is elected.

e. The corporation of a particular church, through its trustees, shall hold title to all property, both real and personal, owned by the church. The corporation shall have authority over the acquisition, sale, and improvement of all property, both real and personal, owned by the church, but these powers may be delegated to its board of trustees. The upkeep of property may be delegated to a committee of the corporation appointed by the corporation for that
purpose.

f. If the Session, or the Session along with the diaconate, does not provide sufficient trustees to meet the requirements of local corporation laws then the corporation shall elect from the corporation additional trustees as required. The corporation shall first elect men who are ruling elders not serving on the session, then deacons, deacons not serving on the diaconate, and lastly spiritually mature members of the corporation who give credible, affirmative answers to the first four constitutional questions asked in the ordination of elders and deacons (FOG V,3).

g. Unless otherwise provided in the constitution or governing rules of the local church, the corporation shall elect a treasurer to serve for a term of one year and to be responsible for the corporate, current, and benevolent funds of the church. The treasurer shall make monthly reports to the session.

h. The provisions of this section (11,7) shall not be binding upon particular churches existing within presbyteries of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, prior to the adoption of the revision of this section in [insert month and year], "or upon particular churches organized with other arrangements for the matters covered by this section prior to their application for admittance to a presbytery of this denomination."

B. The committee recommends that the following be substituted for the present section 11 of FOG, II:
“11. The diaconate.

a. The diaconate of a particular church shall consist of a teaching or ruling elder as moderator and the deacons elected by the congregation for active service as such.

b. The diaconate shall elect its own vice-moderator and secretary.

c. The moderator or vice-moderator shall normally preside at all meetings. If both are absent at a stated or pro re nata meeting those present may elect a moderator pro tempore for that meeting. Actions taken under a moderator pro tempore are binding and do not require subsequent ratification.

d. Three members of the diaconate, or two if there are fewer than four members, shall constitute a quorum. A quorum shall never be more than two-thirds of the members.

e. The diaconate shall have stated meetings at regular intervals. The diaconate shall set its own rules for the calling of pro re nata meetings and shall have pro re nata meetings whenever requested by the session.

f. Deacons are ordained for life. They may be elected to terms of service in a system of classes set by the congregation. By a two-thirds vote the congregation may at a called meeting of the congregation terminate the services of a deacon on the diaconate for reasons not involving judicial process.

g. The diaconate is responsible to and under the authority of the session and shall provide a report for each of the session's stated meetings. The diaconate shall report annually to the congregation."

C. The committee recommends that the following be substituted for the present section 12 of FOG, II:

"12. The board of trustees of a particular church.

a. The board of trustees shall ordinarily be composed of the ruling elders serving on the session. Where desired by the corporation the ruling elders along with deacons may comprise the board of trustees. If there are insufficient number of men on the session or in the session with the diaconate to meet the requirements of state law, then
additional trustees shall be elected in accordance with 11,7,f.”

b. The board of trustees shall meet as a distinct body and shall elect its own chairman and secretary. Unless the constitution of the particular church shall provide otherwise, the treasurer elected by the corporation shall serve as treasurer for the board of trustees.

c. The trustees shall be the trustees of the corporation, and as such shall hold title to all property, both real and personal, or equities in property, both real and personal, owned by the church. They shall perform such duties as delegated to them by the corporation. If requested by the session, they shall prepare the general budget for
the church, including not only property expenditures and upkeep, but current expenses and benevolences.

d. The provisions of this section (II,12) shall not be binding upon particular churches existing within presbyteries of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, prior to the adoption of the revision of this section in [insert month and year], or upon particular churches organized with other arrangements for the matters covered by this section prior to their application for admittance to a presbytery of this denomination." [cf. 11,7, h]

D. The committee recommends that the following be substituted for the present section 9 of FOG, V:

"9. The office of deacon.

a. The office of deacon was instituted in the early church, as recorded in Acts 6:1-6, and is characterized by service, particularly in the ministry of mercy to the poor, and is distinct from the teaching-ruling office, to the oversight of which it is subject.

b. The spiritual qualifications of deacons are set forth in 1 Timothy 3:8-13, and correspond to the nature of the diaconal task of administering and rendering faithful and compassionate service.

c. Deacons are called to administer Christian mercy to those in distress, especially those of the household of faith in expression of the communion of the saints, but also to outsiders as a manifestation of the compassion of Christ. The diaconal ministry is one of material assistance, spiritual counsel, and practical advice as circumstances require.

d. In the collection and distribution of funds, the diaconate acts as an entity, duly set apart by the congregation for this responsibility.

e. The diaconate or individual deacons according to their gifts may be assigned by the session other ministries consistent with the nature of the office, such as visitation, evangelism, administration, and counseling, according to the needs of the session, the congregation, and the community.

f. Women, as well as men, may be ordained to the office of deacon."

E. The committee recommends that the following be substituted for the present section that is found at the top of page 45 of FOG entitled "Trustees" which should be numbered 11:

"11. Trustees. If, as provided in chapter II a particular church has trustees who are not elders or deacons, it is requisite that such trustees be communicant members of the congregation in accordance with 11,7,f."

II. A MOTION CONCERNING PARENTHETICAL INSERTIONS IN TWO CONSTITUTIONAL QUESTIONS FOR ORDINATION.

If the recommended II.7.f carries then the references to trustees in questions seven and nine should be deleted. The committee does not understand that such removals would constitute any change in the constitutional questions themselves.

"MOVED: TO STRIKE 'or trustees' in question (7) and ',or a trustee' in question (9) in FOG V, 3."

III. A BRIEF STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF THE RECOMMENDED V.9.f.

The office of elder is one of oversight (1 Timothy 5:17); 1 Peter 5:2,3; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; Hebrews 13:17), as is borne out in the New Testament by the use of the descriptive term episkopoi as an alternative designation for those ordained to this office. The office of deacon, on the other hand, is one of service, as expressed in the term diakonoi. In view of the fundamental difference between the two offices, the argument from the subordination of women whereby they are excluded from the teaching-ruling function of the office of elders, does not enter into the question of women deacons inasmuch as the function of this office is helping-serving.

Moreover, Paul includes a reference to women in the section of his correspondence dealing with the ordination of deacons, 1 Timothy 3:8-13. The question is whether gynaikas in verse 11 should be translated "their wives" (as in the AV, NEB, TEV, and NIV), or "women" (as in the ASV, RSV, NASB, JB, and NAB). Since it does not seem likely that Paul would make reference to women in general in the middle of a section dealing with qualifications for ecclesiastical office, the alternatives seem to be between deacons' wives and women deacons (the NIV has "deaconesses" in the margin).

If the reference is to the wives of deacons, there is a lack of definiteness that could have been easily made plain by the definite article or the possessive pronoun. As it stands, one must supply "their." The absence of a parallel statement of the qualifications for the wives of elders renders this interpretation doubly suspect. Instead of saying gynaikas echontes, "having wives" (cf. vs. 4, "having children"), Paul says gynaikas hosautos, "women likewise." As in verse 8, hosautos introduces a new paragraph in the qualifications for office. The sequence of verses 2, 8, and 11 is as follows: the bishop must be ... deacons likewise . . . women likewise.

Not that a third office distinct from elders and deacons is introduced. The word specifically to women is clearly set within the framework of the diaconal office, and there is a remarkable correspondence in the qualifications for men and women in relation to this office:

deacons likewise

women likewise

worthy of respect
not double-tongues
not addicted to much wine
not greedy for gain

worthy of respect
not slanderers
sober
faithful in all things

The thought of the apostle may be paraphrased as follows: "Deacons in like manner [to be qualified for their office as elders must be for theirs] must be worthy of respect, etc. Women in like manner {when engaged in the same office here in view] must be worthy of respect, etc. Deacons [specifically those who are married men with families] must be husbands of one wife and manage their children and households well."

IV. The proposed substitutions given in section I of this report are unanimously recommended by the committee whose names are given at the end of the report with only one exception: Donald J. MacNair does not support the proposed V.9.f.

The Reverend Edward A. Steele III, Chairman
The Reverend James P. Kern
The Reverend Donald J. MacNair
The Reverend Professor David C. Jones

ACTION

Synod adopted and sent down to presbyteries for action the above substitutions to the FOG, namely: 11,7,a-h; II,1l,a-g; II,12,a-d; V,9,a-e; V,11.

[NOTE: Section V,9,f. is not sent down for action]. Presbyteries are to vote on the above changes en toto, not seriatum.

Kyle Thurman, Robert Needham, and Robert Cox requested that their negative votes be recorded.

At noon the Orders of the Day were extended 10 minutes by motion. It was moved, seconded and carried to strike "or trustees" in question (7) and "or trustee" in question (9) in FOG V,3. This also is sent down to presbyteries for action.

[Editorial Note: See "Reconsideration of Overture N" for the final decision regarding FOG V,9,f within the RPCES]