Transcript of Women in Ministry Study Committee Debate at 2016 PCA General Assembly (Part 3 of 4)

Presbyterian_Church_in_America_logo.jpegPart 1 here. Part 2 here.

(picks up at 2:21:46 of “Thursday Afternoon Business” video)

Moderator TE George Robertson
No, please, no demonstration. Ah, Number 7. Please.

TE Bill Schweitzer
Fathers and brethren, Teaching Elder Bill Schweitzer, Low Country Presbytery. I rise in favor, in support of the substitute motion. Let me say what this issue is not about. It is not about giving women an opportunity to serve in accordance with the gifting and the roles that God has given them. That door is open, has been open, and it shall remain open.

Neither is the issue some new and unprecedented crisis in our culture that we have not seen before. This year, another General Assembly is celebrating a dubious anniversary, the PCUSA is celebrating the 60th anniversary of ordination of women. Appropriately, by appointing not just one but two women to be joint-moderators at their assembly.

Nor is the issue a lack of information. Few issues have been studied so thoroughly in the Christian church over the last six decades than this particular issue.

What, then, is really the issue? Quite simply, it is whether we intend, whether we intend with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength to submit to the plain Word of God on this issue. The Bible says this, “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak but they are to be submissive as the Law also says.” 1 Tim. 2:12 says this, “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” It could not be any clearer. If it involves teaching, or having authority over a man in the church, it’s wrong. Now the world says this is outmoded and abhorrent. Again, the question is whose word are we going to honor? As Christ’s Church, whose word are we going to obey? God’s or the world’s? Now precisely because this issue is so clear in Scripture, it’s a bellwether. It’s a litmus test. That’s the way it’s served on this. Where a church stands on this issue manifests your attitude toward Scripture and indicates your future direction. Many brothers, many denominations have gone down the road of appointing study committees to find out what the Bible says on this issue. And as a pure point of historical fact, few have come back. For most, for most, it proves to be the point of no return. And one thing, what the brother said notwithstanding, one thing that we can be absolutely certain of that pursuing this issue is in fact divisive. It is. Make no mistake. Pursuing this issue is a provocative move. And if you are for peace, and I’ve heard many strong and sincere desires expressed for peace and unity…if you are for peace, fathers and brothers, I urge you, please, do not approve this study committee. Thank you.

Moderator TE George Robertson
Thank you. Microphone number 6. For or against?

TE Mike Khandjian 
I am against the sss…

Moderator TE George Robertson
The substitute…

TE Mike Khandjian
I’m for what Mike Ross said. I can’t remember which one that is.

Moderator TE George Robertson
Proceed.

TE Mike Khandjian
OK. Mike Khandjian, Chesapeake Presbytery. Thank you, Mr. Moderator.

Moderator TE George Robertson
Point of Order? Yes, number 4.

Unknown
Withdrawn.

Moderator TE George Robertson
OK. Back to you, Mr. Khandjian. No, no… Go ahead.

TE Mike Khandjian
Mr. Moderator, Mike Khandjian, Chesapeake Presbytery. I’ve been in the PCA for 33 years. I didn’t join the PCA because of its view on women. I joined it because of its view on Jesus and its commitment to the Scriptures. I never once thought that it was settled into anything that would leave it unwilling to revisit the Scriptures, to study, to wrestle with the Scriptures, to be changed by the Scriptures, to be shaped by the Scriptures, to be challenged by the Scriptures, to be convicted by the Scriptures, and I believe that anything that we would teach our people about how the Scriptures can sometimes stop us in our tracks and change how we view life and ourselves and the world and Jesus that we would have to do as a denomination. If we are not willing to do that, that scares me a little bit.

Um…a group of brothers for three years has met, has met, has wrestled, has struggled, has studied, and has come up with a recommendation. That’s pretty amazing. They, ah…nobody came up to the floor two years ago and said that they shouldn’t be doing this. No one came up to it last year and said they shouldn’t be doing it. But now when they have a recommendation, we are fighting that. It’s made up of younger and older brothers. I think maybe a couple sisters. I can’t remember. I hope so. All who share in a common love for Jesus; all who are committed to the PCA; all, who like the rest of us, have views all over the place. When it comes to some of this, some of us have harder views. Some of of have softer views, when it comes to things like deaconesses. But all of us have taken the same vows. All of us agree that we are to be submitted to this denomination’s wishes as the Spirit of God leads us corporately. How beautiful can that be? I mean we don’t have to all agree separately, but when we come together and we vote, we agree. And that means that sometimes we will be asked to consider what we have settled on even if we don’t agree that there was 2000 years ago a woman deacon.

The chairman of this committee served as a lieutenant colonel in the armed forces. And as with Larry Hoop, I am grieved that he has been painted by a label. I’m grieved that an unofficial publication of the denomination that it chose to not go to him but it instead decided to label him in a certain way…and that makes me sad.

I think it is sad that we would be fearful. And I think that is what this is. I think we’re afraid of the dreaded slippery slope. I think we’re afraid that this will lead us to controversy. I want you to know that I’m not afraid of what will happen if the committee studies this. I’m not afraid even if we fight over this and, in God’s providence, He chooses to forge us into two denominations. I don’t think that’s going to happen but I’m not afraid that He’ll do that…because I want to be able to be shaped by the Word of God. (skip in video)…five times or five thousand times. But I think that it is valid that we would be willing to consider studying what makes up half of our denomination.

About 13 years ago my wife came with me to GA. She sat with me, and we were discussing this once again. And, once again, we came to a place where we affirmed all kinds of things about women without any women being in the conversation. And my wife, who is an amazing human being, who is the daughter of a PCA pastor, turned to me and whispered, “Mike, if the women in the PCA heard how these PCA pastors and elders talked about women in the PCA, there wouldn’t be very many women in the PCA.” I think she’s right. What are we afraid of, guys? Is what we believe so fragile that we are terrified of testing it against the Scriptures and arguing back and forth with one another? Are we afraid that maybe we’ll find that we may have been wrong or that in nuanced ways we may have been misguided? Or that even we would have been correct? Why do we have to enter into something like this having forged conclusions already? It was suggested that this represents an assertion to a race…

Moderator TE George Robertson
Mr. Khandjian, your time has elapsed.

TE Mike Khandjian
Thank you, Mr. Moderator.

Moderator TE George Robertson
Let me give a… I’m going to go to microphone number 7. Before I do, a friendly exhortation. This is not reflective on the previous speech, but just, we have, thirty-six or so speakers at the microphone and about thirty-five minutes left in the debate. Consider making your arguments…consider what new you are contributing in your arguments. And then, several there have been references to outside publications, either negatively or positively. Restrict your arguments to matters that are before us in our court. Ah…microphone number 7. For or against?

Unknown
Point of order.

Moderator TE George Robertson
Yes, number 4.

Unknown
Mr. Moderator, I believe you called on 7. Microphone 4 has not been recognized once during this debate. Thank you.

Moderator TE George Robertson
I appreciate that but we take it in the order that people have appeared at the microphone and number 7 is, has been there, and this is a speech that has been waiting there for this amendment for some time. He was there before microphone number 4. Please proceed.

RE Wes Reynolds
Ruling elder Wes Reynolds from Great Lakes Presbytery. We’ve heard about wanting to be shaped by the Word of God. I guess my question is at what point will we be shaped by the Word of God? Will that be when we’ve heard it a third time? Or the fifth time? Or the tenth time? What we are saying from the committee of commissioners is that the Word of God is clear on this matter. We are not saying we have had study committees. We are saying that the Scriptures are clear. We are saying that the assembly has been clear, as well, and have quoted the minutes from more than one assembly. The assembly has been clear repeatedly: No, we are not going to erect a study committee on the issue because the Scriptures are clear. No.

We’ve heard about ad hominem arguments as well. I have known Bryan Chapell for more than forty years. I have seen his sterling character under extremely adverse circumstances. This is not about an ad hominem argument. The discussion is about imprecise language, to put it charitably. The reason that people keep mentioning the ordination of women is because the ordination of women is in the original recommendation: “Clarification on the ordination or commissioning of deacons/deaconesses.” How can we imagine that there would not be alarm?

Lastly, maybe we are going at this from the wrong perspective, because why aren’t we teaching our wives. Why are we teaching our daughters? That they only have value when they are on a board of directors. Or that they have more value, somehow, when their doing what the guys do. Please vote against the original recommendation. Vote in support of the substitute. Thank you.

Moderator TE George Robertson
Microphone number 8 are you for or against the substitute?

TE Daniel Robbins
I’m against the substitute.

Moderator TE George Robertson
Please proceed.

TE Daniel Robbins
Thank you. I’ll try not to be redundant but I might lose track of what I’m trying to say if I don’t stick to my notes here. If I understand the recommendation of the committee of commissioners correctly there are two stated concerns. Oh, I’m sorry. Daniel Robbins, Pacific Northwest Presbytery, teaching elder.

Ah, first, that the issue has already been studied and to appoint a committee would not bring new light, and secondly, the issue with the committee of commissioners which I won’t deal with, I’m too new of a commissioner. Ah, I think in reviewing the minutes of the 37th GA on this matter and this year’s committee of commissioners recommendation of the negative, it’s to me that much of the parliamentary complaints made are protective distractions from the real issue. The reality is is that if an overture were brought, recommending a change to the BCO to address some role or order of women serving the church, it would be very unlikely to pass precisely because the format of overtures…unless all of us would like to read close to six hundred whereas sections. I just don’t think we are up for that.

Of course, the other complaint is that a study committee would only be reporting their non-binding pastoral advice on an issue on which this body, in fact, may be divided. This surprises me since it’s this kind of careful advice we have sought on precisely these kind of hot-button, divisive issues from study committees in the past. Such as, creation, insider movements, to name two. I suspect that for many of us, it has nothing to do with parliamentary procedure or loathing study committees but, as has been mentioned, the fear we are crossing the threshold and slipping into feminism. And I don’t mean to impugn any of our committees or the brothers here, but I do mean to say that we are in great danger of rejecting every initiative to deal with this issue and in so doing continue to limp along and ask our women to limp along. Brothers, we need to stop coddling our fears and bite the bullet so we can be a blessing to our women, protect the offices of the holy ministry, and equip our churches to use their godly women for vital, gospel ministry. To say the issue has been studied is true in the sense that much dust, tension, and confusion has been raised but as the minutes of the 37th GA state, there is a fair amount of tension and disagreement on the question. In fact, the still inconclusive, informal study of various PCA ministers and the resulting confusion are the very motivation for a duly authorized representative body to give us guidance.

I too am very afraid of making decisions for the sake of appeasing cultural trends of a crass, third-wave feminism. Especially if compromising a plain reading of numerous texts, such as 1 Tim. 2 or 1 Cor. 11, not to mention the overwhelming normative example of the Old Testament and Acts in only ordaining male elders. I am afraid of feeling so guilty about our own neglect to invest in women in our own churches that we end up trying to make repairs by becoming progressive, whatever that even means. But I’m also not sure what to do with the normative example of the male diaconate in Acts 6, Paul’s insertion of a clause regarding some female group in speaking of deacons in 1 Tim. 3, not to mention the order of widows in chapter 5. As well as what I’m told of is the historic office of deaconesses in the ancient church who were quite distinct from deacons in authority and function. What I am trying to say is that these things are not as clear as they could be. And none of this has to do with appeasing the unnuanced feminism of our day, nor slipping towards a compromise of our Biblical stance on male ordination. In fact, this study committee would be a way to keep our communion from casually drifting from our Biblical and historic commitments. I’m trying to figure out what to make of the history of BCO 9-7 and its historic ancestor the 1867 PCUS draft, which reads, the New Testament authorizes the employment of godly women in the diaconal function; wherefore, it is proper where it shall appear needful that the church session select and appoint deaconesses for the care of the sick, prisoners, and so on. So, yes, I and the women in my church would greatly benefit from the godly, wise counsel of older brothers to preserve the peaceful unity of our denomination.

Finally, I’ll just say, we have to simply acknowledge our ability to even have this discussion and to be so leisurely about it has to do with the great privilege of being ministers, having chapters and verses addressing our calling, shaping our job description, and giving us a protected place. What I mean is that if the issue is not a burden to us, it is likely because we don’t have to worry about it for our own job description. It’s safer just to squash it…but if we would grapple for one moment with the tremendous pressure and expectations put on pastors’ wives alone, along with the lack of clarity regarding where, how, and when they should serve…well, I think we would have engaged this a long time ago. Not only is there a cloudiness about what a woman should and shouldn’t do—and I’m not talking about offices, friends—but there is also a hyper-sensitivity to anything in her that looks like…

Moderator TE George Robertson
You time, Mr. Speaker, has elapsed. Ah…paragraph…microphone number 6. For or against?

Final part is here.

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