In 2014 the Cooperative Ministries Committee (CMC), consisting of presidents and coordinators of PCA agencies and committees and moderators of the past five General Assemblies, identified five key issues facing the PCA and established subcommittees to study them and report to the full committee. One subcommittees was assigned to study the issue of women in ministry. In January, that subcommittee, chaired by former moderator Michael Ross, brought an updated report.
Writing in byFaith magazine’s summer issue, Ross quoted a former GA moderator as saying, “Women in Ministry is the atomic bomb for the PCA,” meaning that if we do not review and recommend changes in the way we treat women, we will probably lose a large segment of millennials. Ross identified a “triangle of pressure points” the PCA faces as it confronts this issue: an egalitarian spirit owned by an increasing number in our culture, especially the young; a history of passivity and even resistance in the PCA toward discussing women’s role in the church; and our commitment to a complementarian viewpoint of gender roles and relationships, which contemporary culture denounces. “Finding the ‘points of biblical tension,’ and living faithfully at that intersection, will not be easy,” Ross wrote. “It is, nevertheless, something the PCA must do in order to be ‘faithful to the Scriptures, true to the Reformed Faith, and obedient to the Great Commission.’”
The CMC adopted five recommendations brought by the subcommittee. Under the Rules of Assembly Operation, the Cooperative Ministries Committee may not make recommendations directly to the General Assembly but must do so through an appropriate committee or agency. The subcommittee’s central recommendation, the creation of a study committee on the issue of women serving in the church, was referred to the Administrative Committee. The recommendation approved by the Administrative Committee and sent to the 44th General Assembly reads as follows:
• That the Assembly form a study committee on the issue of women serving in the ministry of the church (RAO 9-1; 9-3). The Assembly authorizes the Moderator to appoint the study committee. The study committee should be made up of competent men and women representing the diversity of opinions within the PCA (RAO 9-1; Robert’s Rules of Order [11th edition], §13, pp. 174-175, §50, pp.495- 496, §50, pp. 497-498 §56, p. 579]).
• That the committee should give particular attention to the issues of:
(1) The biblical basis, theology, history, nature, and authority of ordination;
(2) The biblical nature and function of the office of deacon;
(3) Clarification on the ordination or commissioning of deacons/deaconesses;
(4) Should the findings of the study committee warrant BCO changes, the study committee will propose such changes for the General Assembly to consider.
• The committee will have a budget of $15,000 that is funded by designated donations to the AC from churches and individuals (RAO 9-2).
• A Pastoral Letter to be proposed by the ad interim study committee and approved by the General Assembly be sent to all churches, encouraging them to
(1) promote the practice of women in ministry,
(2) appoint women to serve alongside elders and deacons in the pastoral work of the church, and
(3) hire women on church staff in appropriate ministries.
This recommendation will be reviewed by the Committee of Commissioners on the Administrative Committee when it meets the Monday afternoon before the beginning of the Assembly. That Committee is scheduled to report during the Assembly on Thursday afternoon.