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The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 9 : The Deacon

Paragraph 7 : Of Diaconal Assistants

9-7. It is often expedient that the Session of a church should select and appoint godly men and women of the congregation to assist the deacons in caring for the sick, the widows, the orphans, the prisoners, and others who may be in any distress or need. These assistants to the deacons are not officers of the church (BCO 7-2) and, as such, are not subjects for ordination (BCO 17).

HISTORICAL SUMMARY:
The inclusion of "men and " after "appoint godly", dates to 1974. The influence of the Southern BCO on other denominations is shown in the Cumberland Presbyterian text.

ANTECEDENT TEXTS:
PCA [year?] It is often expedient that the Session of a church should select and appoint godly men and women of the congregation to assist the deacons in caring for the sick, the widows, the orphans, the prisoners, and others who may be in any distress or need.

PCA 1973, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 132
and
Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, 10-7, Proposed text, p. 10
It is often expedient that the Session of a church should select and appoint godly women of the congregation to assist the Deacons in caring for the sick, the widows, the orphans, the prisoners, and others who may be in any distress or need.

PCUS 1933, XI, § 50
PCUS 1925, XI, § 50
It is often expedient that the Session of a church should select and appoint godly women of the congregation to assist the Deacons in ministering to the sick, to widows, to orphans, to prisoners, and to others who may be in any distress or need. They may also aid the Deacons in collecting and distributing the offerings of the people.

PCUS 1879, IV-4-6

Where it shall appear needful, the Church Session may select and appoint godly women for the care of the sick, of prisoners, of poor widows and orphans, and in general for the relief of distress.”

PCUS 1869 draft, IV-4-6
Where it shall appear needful, the Church-session may select and appoint godly women for the care of the sick, of prisoners, of poor widows and orphans, and in general for the relief of distress.

PCUS 1867 draft, IV-4-6
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, of prisoners, of poor widows and orphans, and in general for the relief of distress.

OTHER COMPARISONS:
Cumberland Presbyterian, 1883,
§23
Where it appears needful, the Church-session may appoint godly women for the care of the sick, of prisoners, of poor widows and orphans, and in general for relief of distress.

COMMENTARY:
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order (1898, p. 62), on IV-4-6
51.--VI. Where is shall appear needful, the Church Session may select, and appoint godly women for the care of the sick, of prisoners, of poor widows and orphans, and in general for the relief of distress.
These differ from the male Deacons in the fact that they are not selected by the congregation, and in the fact that they do not have charge of distribution generally. It would save much to the credit of the Church, and promote greatly the efficiency of its beneficent work, if this paragraph were put into general execution, so that what is done would appear to be done by the Church, as it really is, and would be done with fuller counsel and supervision.


Edward Mack, The Office of the Deacon. [Richmond, VA: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, revised, 1929, pp. 42-43.]
Chapter X. Co-operation of Godly Women.
It is often expedient that the Session of a church should select and appoint godly women of the congregation to assist the Deacons in ministering to the sick, to widows, to orphans, to prisoners, and to others who may be in any distress or need. They may also aid the Deacons in collecting and distributing the offerings of the people.—Form of Government, Section IV, Parag. 51a.
This paragraph must not be taken as instituting an order of Deaconesses. As a matter of fact, many of the duties assigned to the Deacon under the revised chapter have been performed in an informal way all the while by the devoted women of the Church. Care for the cleanliness and beauty of the House of God has often fallen to their charge. They have rendered invaluable assistance in canvassing for funds. The poor, the sick and the stranger rejoice in the comfort of their ministrations. Their zeal and hard work account for the raising of large funds for church repairs and for mission purposes. As pastor's aids, in missioniary and aid society, always with the same tact and talent, cheer and comfort as in the home, so also in the Churhc they have been able allies of the Deacons. The Session and Deacons are not to forget "those women, who labored in the Lord." Many a pastor and church today enters into the spirit of Paul, when he wrote to those at Rome: "I commend to you, Phoebe, the deaconess of the church at Cenchraea . . . who has been a succourer of many, and of me also."
In fitting and grateful recognition of this blessed service, the closing paragraph of the new law suggests to Sessions the wisdom of continuing this ministration of women, now in a constitutional way. As she ministered to Christ Himself, so there are occasions and needs in our times, when her presence can comfort and her hands bind up the broken of heart.



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I. King & Head of Church
.§1.
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