This article was shocking to my wife. She was positively scandalized to learn there are pca churches who refuse to ordain their deacons and call women “deacon.”

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Take a look at the PCA's Korean presbyteries. There will be few if any Korean churches in the PCA that do not have women as deacons, as deaconesses, or some other English translation of the relevant Korean word which is used for both male and female deacons.

For better or for worse, the PCA went down this road of tolerating churches ignoring the church order with regard to deacons many decades ago when it made the decision to accept Korean churches without requiring them to make some pretty major internal changes to the way their churches operate.

A case can be made that the PCA made the right decision, or that the PCA made the wrong decision. A case cannot be made that it was a good decision by the PCA to accept what quickly became not just dozens but hundreds of Korean Presbyterian churches, and now entire presbyteries, without changing the PCA's church order or requiring the Korean churches to change.

What would have been the alternative? As a practical matter, a decision to tell the Koreans to get rid of their deaconesses wouldn't have resulted in getting rid of deaconesses. That would have been a decision by the PCA to tell the Koreans to join a different denomination, most likely the Korean American Presbyterian Church.

(A historical point of significance: during the period that Korean churches were beginning to be organized in large numbers in the US, the Christian Reformed Church was allowing women in the diaconate but not the eldership, and had a relationship dating back to the 1950s with the Hapdong Presbyterian Church, one of the two large Presbyterian denominations in Korea. There are reasons why the CRC was the first choice for a number of Korean churches to join in the 1980s, though most of the large Korean CRCs left under the leadership of Dr. John E. Kim over women's ordination, tolerance of a gay CRC minister, and the other problems that were happening in the 1990s.)

Telling people in large and growing churches to go away isn't exactly the way PCA missions and church growth people operate. If a church is growing, and is evangelical, and practices infant baptism, and believes in the five points, and identifies itself as Reformed and Presbyterian, "minor points" of church order are not going to be a problem for a lot of people in the PCA.

Anyone familiar with Korean Presbyterianism will know that feminism is pretty strongly opposed. Most Korean Presbyterians strongly oppose women's ordination to the eldership or pastorate. However, Korean Presbyterians have had deaconesses almost from the beginning of Presbyterianism in Korea, based on the practice of late 1800s and early 1900s American Presbyterian missionaries. It's far from a new thing for them, and long predates any sort of feminist agitation as has been seen in the American church world as a reason for promoting women in the diaconate as an interim step to getting women ordained.

It's probably also relevant that Korean churches have an office known as "kwonsa." Originally it was used for elderly widows over the age of 60, following the directions of the Apostle Paul, and performed a similar role in allowing elderly women who were believers who had been rejected by their families to have a means of support while doing work for the church. For many generations, however, the kwonsa have not been required to be widows, and are usually married women who are older and function as mentors and spiritual leaders for younger women. The biblical warrant for women in such roles is clear, though creating a formal office is considerably more problematic.

Koreans also have "jondosa" -- seminary-trained women who do extensive work with women and children. The title is also used for male seminarians while still in seminary before they are ordained, though female jondosa do not get ordained following graduation from seminary.

I trust the way women fill these three roles -- deaconess, kwonsa and jondosa -- make clear that Korean PCA churches operate very differently from most of the rest of the PCA when it comes to internal church government.

This has been tolerated for decades by the PCA. It's going to be pretty hard to tell English-speaking PCA congregations to get rid of deaconesses when Korean deaconesses are the norm in most if not all Korean PCA churches.

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