I am trying to clearly understand how the OPC understands the role of women. I see from a previous Q&A that the OPC "appoints" women to the diaconal role of missionary. So if I try to verbalize for someone (not in the OPC) how this differs from women in diaconal roles in the local church, how would I do that? I am at a loss to understand the difference, so I find myself unable to explain it to a sincere questioner. Is there something in print form that lays out the beliefs of the OPC on the "roles" of men and women?
In order to answer your question, I need to begin by explaining the vocabulary we are using. The Greek noun from which we get the word "deacon" is diakonos or diakonon in the singular and diakonoi in the plural.
Diakonos is found 14 times in the New Testament. They are Matthew 20:26; 23:11; Mark 9:35; 10:43; John 12:26; Romans 13:4; Galatians 2:17; Ephesians 3:7; 6:21; Colossians 1:7, 23, 25; 4:7 and 1 Timothy 4:6. Diakonon is found twice. It is in Romans 15:8 and 16:1.
Please pause to look them up. You will see that most of the time the word "servant" is used to translate it and occasionally the word minister is used to translate it.
Diakonoi is found 6 times in the New Testament. They are John 2:9; 1 Corinthians 3:5; 2 Corinthians 6:4; 11:15; 11:23; and I Timothy 3:12. Once again, the translators used "ministers," "servants" and "deacons" to translate the words.
And, these aren't the only form of the word. For instance there is diakonoun in Philippians 1:1—translated deacons. I am not even accounting for the verb which in its various forms is found many times. It is translated "help," "serve," "wait on" and "serve as a deacon" (1 Tim. 3:10). Then there is diakonia which means "service."
Sometimes these words are used in a secular manner (e.g. waiters at a table), sometimes to the members of the church, sometimes to the servants of Satan and sometimes to Jesus (Romans 13:4). Most of the time then, it is not referring to office. We do not believe, in light of context nor in light of the regulative principle for worship that that any of these passages are describing a female ordained deacon. However, it is also quite clear that all of Christ's disciples are to be servants to him and each other (e.g. 1 Peter 4:10). All un-ordained disciples of Jesus are servants (diakonoi).
I suppose that we could describe the role of un-ordained men and women who go to the mission field to assist our ordained missionaries as "serving" rather than diaconal, but I am not sure that that would be more helpful.
May I suggest, that you explain it to your friend in this way. There is a difference between "diaconal" and "deacon" as we are using them. "Deacon" describes someone in an ordained office. "Diaconal" is an adjective that can describe the work of the deacons but we are using it to describe the more general work of serving. A doctor, nurse, teacher, construction worker, etc., who is not ordained, serves the Mission by using their skill to relieve the preaching missionaries of some non-ordained duties and by accompanying the preaching of the Gospel with deeds of love. This is just like Sunday school teachers, pianists and those who set up for worship or who mow the lawn. A local church doesn't appoint such people but it does approve them for some of those roles. On the mission field we do "appoint" them to their task in order to officially connect them to the administrative oversight of the Mission.
I hope that this helps you.
"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.
The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.
At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those people who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)
The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.
While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.
You will receive an answer by e-mail. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two (2) weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.
Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been editedall personal references are removed, Scripture references or from some source may be added, and sometimes portions are expandedto make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.