Burning Question: Is there a biblical reason that women cannot be deacons?
For most churches, part of their organizational structure includes not only a pastor or pastors, but also deacons. Across denominational lines, practices vary as to who “qualifies” to serve as a deacon. Perhaps the biggest question surrounding the qualifications for deacon pertains to whether the position is open to women as well as men.
First of all, the Bible makes it very clear in Genesis 1:27 and elsewhere that men and women have been created equally in the image of God (that started with God, not Thomas Jefferson!). However, the Bible seems to draw distinct conclusions as to certain limitations as it relates to leadership within the local church. Passages such as 1 Timothy 3:8-13 speak of the expectations of a deacon and these expectations also include certain understandings. One is that the deacon is to be a man specifically, as we see in verse 8 (“men of dignity”), verse 10 (“men“), and verse 12 (“husbands of only one wife”).
Understandably, there has been much discussion about this topic of whether women are biblically allowed to serve in the position of deacon. Some very well-respected evangelical leaders who hold to the authority and inerrancy of Scripture come down on opposite sides of the fence in relating to this topic. Sadly, this discussion in our evangelical culture today has often evolved into outright hostility with both men and women giving full vent to their anger. What is often lost in the rhetoric is that God has all right to place parameters upon the leadership structure of the local church. These parameters have nothing to do with who can do a job better (every believer has unique gifts and equipping by the Holy Spirit). These parameters also have nothing to do with whether one gender is any better than another (for all are created equally in the image of God). It would seem, however, that the parameters God sets for pastors and deacons traces back to the creative order in Genesis 1-2. It is there that God places the man in a position of leadership and accountability and this placement is affirmed in the New Testament in Ephesians 5:23.
In the end, we are all called to serve others and to serve God. Whether or not a title is attached to that service is not nearly as important as whether we render that service with joy and humility.