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We can start with women as deacons:

The main passage that people reference in saying that women should not be in the role of deacon are found in the letters to his younger protégé’s Timothy and Titus in the criteria listed . For example:

I Timothy 3:12

Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well.”

This passage (and its sister passage in Titus) has been the main point of contention. Does the wording of this passage forbid women by saying “husband?” And remember, that the language can also mean “man of one woman”… the words in each of the passages are slightly different – but are all assigned the same word in Strong’s Concordance.  The distinctions, if of great meaning, are being missed by me.

Granted that this passage has also been interpreted to apply to single men and divorced men as well as women, but who is it meant to apply to? Who is being denied the opportunity to be a deacon?

Keep in mind that “deacon” means “servant”. Paul encouraged his young pastors to choose people as “elders” (later on that) and “servants” in the churches they led.

Could this verse be intended to reference a sex or gender or just the idea of fidelity to one spouse? People have disagreed since probably not long after Paul died and could not longer make it clear… but here are a few further factors to contribute to the uncertainty:

One is the previous verse:

I Timothy 3:11

Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.”

Some translate this passage as actually “the women likewise…” (Remember the Greek word issue?) and that is specifically references the women who are deacons.

Most likely to have an impact on the correct interpretation of 3:12 are Paul’s warm words about a deacon in Romans 16:1-2

“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.”

The word here for servant is “deacon” and there is nothing in the context to indicate that Paul doesn’t mean to honor her as a “deacon” as described in the pastoral letters. In other words, I think it is very likely that Phoebe was a deacon, and she was certainly not the husband of one wife.

I think this also possibly means that phrase is not meant to be understood that way in the other places where it is used – it is not meant to forbid women from becoming deacons or perhaps not elders either, since the same phrasing is used there:

“Therefore an overseer (elder/bishop?) must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach…” I Timothy 3:2

Again, there are different words in the Timothy and Titus passages.  One common theory is that in each, Paul is referencing a total of three offices (deacon, Presbyter, Eklesion) or that the last two or different types of the same office or that he is using the last two terms interchangeably.  My research has not taken me far enough into the offices side of this conversation yet.  I hope to have the time to in the future.

In the meantime, back to the role of women…

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