The Reformed Tradition has long placed a high value on polity and ordination. Confessional Presbyterians also place a high value on words and what they convey about ordained officers in our churches. Those who support the proposed amendment share a duplex concern that the doctrine of ordination has been downplayed as of late, and that there is a consequent confusion and disorder around the offices of elder and deacon in the PCA. Some of this downplaying is evidently unintentional (e.g., in the use of the words “pastor” and “minister” to describe unordained ministry staff), but perhaps some is intentional (e.g., in the case of the diaconate).
Members of our congregations visit or transfer to other PCA churches and find unordained people listed as “pastors” and “deacons.” Some of these well-meaning staffers and volunteers could not be properly ordained in our polity. In such cases, unordained persons are occasionally listed on church websites and weekly bulletins as “youth pastor” or “women’s pastor.” More frequently, we find egalitarian lists of “deacons” which include both men (either ordained or not) and women (not ordained) who function together as a board of deacons for their church. These confusing practices cause many onlookers and visitors to question the practical weight, then, of ordination when the difference between an “ordained deacon” and an “unordained deacon” may be reduced to a mere asterisk in the bulletin.