Deaconesses?

Dear Reader,

Our church held its first deacon election last night (we are a new congregation). I am happy to say that it was wildly successful. Our session had said they wanted 3 deacons. Four were elected though not all may accept the position. Our denomination allows for female as well as male deacons. Yet last night though many women got  a few votes, only men were elected or even close to elected. And I wonder why. And I wonder if we should care.

In our previous congregation (same denomination), I know there were individuals who were opposed to having women deacons at all. Given that all such votes tend to be close, it was no surprise that women were never elected there. But I don’t get the impression that that is the case in our current congregation.

Though there are some who are against having deaconesses (for reasons of biblical interpretation), there are others floating about in the denomination who seem to think not only are deaconesses okay, we should actively be seeking to elect them. I suppose the logic is that since they are biblical, if we are deliberately not electing them, then we are not following biblical precedent and we should try to correct that. One interesting thing to me is that the ones I have heard express this view, or that I suspected were pushing for the election of a woman, were all men.

And then at last night’s meeting something else interesting happened. When a deacon is elected, they have two weeks to say if they will accept. They are by no means obligated to do so.  And they are not asked at the time of nomination or election how they feel about being elected. But last night as we prepared for the second ballot, a woman asked, “Can I say that I am not interested even if elected?” So while this is not really part of the process, she indicated that she would not accept if elected. And a couple of other women quickly followed suit. And none of the men did.

So, while I do agree with my church’s position that the Bible indicates there can be deaconesses and we should allow them, I begin to wonder–why is it that I see men pushing for deaconesses and women seeming to bend over backwards to excuse themselves from the position?

It is a curious situation to me. It reminds me of the great debate about women in the workforce and how unfortunate it is that they still in this day and age get paid less than men for the same work. Study upon study tells this. Yet I always wonder, do the women care? Do they see themselves as being penalized for things like taking time off to have babies? Or do they understand that they are making a choice and they are willing to give up some income to have a family? So maybe it is the same with the women in a church. Maybe they are doing other things, like having and raising young children, instead of being deacons. Of course for every woman with young children, there is usually a man with the same children. But it is not the same for men. Apart from the physical aspect (pregnancy and childbirth and all that), it just isn’t the same for men.

Our church is a young one demographically. We have 29 adult members and about the same number of baptized (read: children) members. And of the baptized members, some 25 or so, all but one is age 12 and under. That is a lot of little kids. Now my youngest is 5. But I look at the moms with toddlers and babies and even though I think they are very competent, godly people, I did not vote for any of them for deacon. And if they had been elected and asked my advice, I would tell them to focus on their kids now. Not that it is  a bad thing to serve. I know we are supposed to strive for it. But I also think there is a season to everything. And for a mom of young kids, as far as she is able, it is her season to focus on them and her home. I don’t remember which book I read it in but I seem to recall C.S. Lewis saying that women are inwardly focused, toward their families, and men are outwardly focused toward the world. And I think that is often true. For all women are said to be better at multitasking, I think it would be very hard for me to have two focuses, children and work. That would drive me crazy. But it seems to be no problem for my husband. And from what I see in other families, I imagine this to be true for them as well.

So I guess my point would be that while I do believe women can be deaconesses, I also think there is a time for it. And that time is not when one has young children. For a women without children or whose children or older, it could be  very good to be a deacon, but it is not something I think we should rush into when our families need us. And if the average woman has more of her life when she is not available for this type of service, then it should not surprise us that we end up with more male deacons than female. That is okay and I don’t think it need concern us.

Nebby

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