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Topic: Complementarianism

On the State of Complementarianism in the PCA (Todd Pruitt)

June 6, 2024

Editor’s Note: The following article is part of a multi-denominational forum on the state of complementarianism and appears in the Spring 2024 issue of Eikon.

Q: What do you believe the Bible teaches about God’s design for men and women, particularly in the home and the church? How do you view the relationship between the Bible’s teaching on the proper order of the home and the proper order of the church?

A: Beginning in the creation account of Genesis, God is depicted as making distinctions. The most obvious of which is the distinction between the Creator and his creatures. But distinctions abound. There are distinctions between the darkness of night and the light of day and between the sea and dry ground. There are distinctions between members of the animal kingdom and God’s human creatures. And among humanity, those who bear God’s image, there is the distinction between male and female. The differences between the man and woman extend well beyond the architecture of their bodies. Adam bears the responsibility of spiritual leadership and federal headship. This headship is seen in the fact that even though the woman sinned first (1 Timothy 2:8-15), it is the man’s sin which is imputed to his progeny (Romans 5:12ff).

That order of creation is reflected in the family as well. The Apostle Paul refers to the husband as “the head of the wife,” and that he is to lead her in a way that reflects the love of Jesus for the church (Ephesians 5:22ff).

Q: What limits, if any, do you believe the Bible places on women serving in the church?

A: Men and women share the burdens and privileges of ministry in the church. But it is clear in Scripture that the role of preaching and teaching in the gathered church is limited to qualified men. What is more, the offices of elder and deacon are limited to qualified men. This is a reflection of the order of creation (Genesis 1&2). Indeed, the qualifications for elders (overseers) and deacons are specified for men (1 Timothy 3:1ff).

These boundaries are to be received joyfully as a reflection of God’s wisdom for his people. There is freedom and protection in this design just as there is in all the boundaries God establishes. To push against this design is to push against the One responsible for those designs.

Q: How would you evaluate the fidelity of your denomination as a whole and its member churches individually regarding the Bible’s teaching on men and women?

A: As a whole, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) has made constitutional the matter of male headship in general and the specific requirement that sacred office (elder and deacon) be filled by biblically qualified men. That is, this biblical prescription is part of The PCA’s Book of Church Order (BCO) and therefore must be honored by every PCA church, session, and presbytery. Every elder in the PCA makes sacred vows that he both believes and will uphold these biblical standards as a condition of his ordination. If a PCA church violates these standards it is subject to discipline by the presbytery or General Assembly.

Q: What direction would you like to see your denomination head regarding the Bible’s teaching on men and women?

A: I would like all of the churches of the PCA to teach well the biblical order of creation and the goodness of God’s design for men and women and how that design plays out in families and the church. I know that many of our churches do that. The members of our churches need biblical instruction so that they can understand the goodness of God’s design for leadership in the family and church.

Some of our ministers have left the PCA for egalitarian denominations. My concern is that, in at least some of those cases, ordained PCA ministers have not personally held to the standards they have vowed to both believe and teach.

Todd Pruitt has been the Lead Pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Harrisonburg, Virginia since 2013. Todd is also cohost of the Mortification of Spin podcast and blog.

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