Western Carolina Expresses 'Deep Concern' Over Women Preaching in PCA Pulpits

Presbytery Sends Letter to Tennessee Valley, and Overtures the Assembly


At its March 20, 1999, stated meeting, the Presbytery of Western Carolina sent a communique to Tennessee Valley Presbytery, expressing "deep concern" over the report that a woman preached at a church in Knoxville, Tennessee, and asking the higher court to look into the matter and to report back its findings. Western Carolina Presbytery also overtured the General Assembly to counsel the presbyteries and sessions that female preaching is a practice that should not be allowed to continue.
Sparking the communication and the overture was the report that Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church, a prominent congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), had allowed a woman to preach, twice, during Sunday evening worship services in August, 1998. In an interview, Cedar Springs' pastor, Dr. John Wood, defended the practice, and stated that having a woman bring the message during public worship had occurred on other occasions in the church.
The PCA was formed, at least in part, because of the feminism in the Southern Presbyterian Church that produced women's ordination and female preaching. Over the last several years, the PCA General Assembly has addressed the propriety of women exercising public ministry. In 1997, the Assembly instructed the Mission to North America Committee that "Seminars led by women on biblical and theological exposition will have women as the intended audience. The Scriptures and the subordinate standards are clear that only men are to be appointed as elders. The subordinate standards are clear that the preaching of the Word in the public worship on the Lord's Day is to be conducted by elders, under the oversight of the session. The GA [General Assembly] recognizes that the ministry of women within the church, including MNA, must be exercised within the bounds of Scripture, including I Timothy 2:11-12." The same Assembly voted to take exception to the minutes of Southern Florida Presbytery for having a woman read Scripture during public worship, and for having another woman in the same service lead in prayer. In 1998, the Assembly referred Southern Florida to I Corinthians 14:34; I Timothy 2:11-15; and Westminster Larger Catechism Questions 155-159, as the rationale for its prior action.
I Corinthians 14:34 says that women are "to keep silent in the church." I Timothy 2 instructs women not to "usurp authority over men." In Questions and Answers 155-159, the Larger Catechism speaks of the public ministry of the Word, both in reading the Word and in preaching. Q/A 156 states that not everyone is to read the Word publicly; the context is that only those called to that ministry (as in ministers) are to do so.
The current overture will be considered by the Bills and Overtures Committee of General Assembly. The letter to Tennessee Valley was received prior to its April stated meeting. According to the Presbytery's Stated Clerk, Dr. J. Render Caines, the court decided to schedule the matter for discussion on the floor of Presbytery at its summer stated meeting.


The Letter to Tennessee Valley
Whereas the most recent issue of the Presbytery and Reformed News has reprinted that the Cedar Springs Church of Knoxville, TN. has had a woman "bring the message" {P & R News, March,1999, p.13} at a regular worship service, and
Whereas, the separation of the PCA was stimulated, in part by the fact that the PCUS approved the ordaining of women to the office of TE and RE, and
Whereas, the PCA at its 25th General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to sever the fraternal relationship with the Christian Reformed Church primarily over the fact that the CRC had approved the ordination of women to the office of elder, both teaching and ruling. therefore
Be it resolved that the Presbytery of Western Carolina addresses a communication to the Tennessee Valley, expressing our deep concern over the report and requesting that they inform us as to the following:
1. The reliability of the report made in the Presbyterian and Reformed News.
2. If the report is reliable, that the Presbytery of Tennessee Valley report to us the action they take regarding the matter.