Women can serve in deacon and leadership roles within the church, according to the Bible, says David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., who recently addressed the controversial topic in a sermon.
"There are two schools of thought on whether women can be deacons. One says yes and the other says no. There are bible believing pastors and scholars who I respect greatly that are on both sides of this," said Platt.
He added, "Some of you might think 'look at 1 Timothy 3, it's pretty easy.' It says 'Deacons must be dignified, not double-tongued…their wives likewise, must be dignified, not slanderous…each deacon be the husband of one wife…,' I don't think it's necessarily that easy."
Platt said there are a few biblical points that indicate the possibility that women can assume such roles and responsibilities. He says it is important to consider the translation when reading the 1 Timothy 3:11 verse, specifically. In some variations of the text, "their" is not included when referring to a deacon's wife. However, Platt notes that many bible scholars believe this verse pertains to women.
"There's ambiguity there, consider the transition," said Platt. "Paul transitions at that point in the same way he transitions from elders to deacons then to what some would say, 'deaconesses.'"
He also noted that Romans 16:1 refers to a women name Phoebe who served as a deacon of the church in Cenchrea, which he says is another indication that the scriptures allows women to serve.
"There are different pictures of church structure represented around this room and there are churches represented in this room whose deacons serve as elders and deacons are more of an overseeing body. If that's the case in a church then I would not say women should be deacons because they're basically serving as elders, an overall role."
Platt pointed out that Paul writes about 17 women who are in significant leadership positions in the New Testament, while emphasizing that women work well within hospitality ministries, among others.
'I think if we have a proper understanding of elders and deacons and where they fit, I think it makes total sense that it's certainly possible," said Platt.
Platt's sermon was part of Radical, a parachurch ministry that serves and provides biblical resources to numerous local churches.