Posted in theology

Female deacons? Women Serving Communion? A Reader asks

By Elizabeth Prata

Photo by Kate Remmer on Unsplash

A reader contacted me and asked the following question: “Understanding Paul’s instruction for men’s and women’s roles in the church in 1 Timothy, what are your thoughts on women deacons serving the communion elements to the body?”

Hmmm. Good question. In today’s culture, a thorny one too. Let’s first define terms.

The deacon’s qualifications are in 1 Timothy 3:8–13.

Deacons were instituted to take logistical and practical load off the elders/bishops/overseers (AKA pastors) so the elders could concentrate on preaching, teaching, and praying. Deacons are servants who manage the details of running the church and helping the members. They help in practical ways so the elders can do their job of prayer, study, and sermon preparation.

The word deacon means simply a servant. (diakonos). Everyone serves in the church. We’re all servants (deacons) in some way, diakonos-ing, lol. But by Acts 6 the role of general servant of the church was formalized into an office.

Why? The church had grown so much and some things were falling through the cracks. Elders were spending a lot of time serving people and neglecting the study and preparation of the word. Some of the people needing to be served were overlooked. So there needed to be a formalized division of labor. The office of deacon was born.

This is a formal role, where believers are chosen from the congregation to particularly serve, as opposed to the general service unto the Lord are members alle called to do.

The chapter describes “the choosing of the 7” to serve the daily food to the widows. This lifted the burden of the practical serving from the elders so they could serve by studying, preparing, and preaching of the sermons (and prayer). (Acts 6:2). In Acts they said to choose some men to serve at table who were were “from among you” (from that congregation) “seven men” (men) “of good reputation full of the Spirit and of wisdom whom we may put in charge of this task.”

That was the history and explanation of how deacons came about. Now, to the question of female deacons.

I believe the Bible says no to women deacons who occupy the office of deacon. I know the Greek word for deacon is used in reference to women, and in those cases it simply means service or server. Like Phoebe of Romans 16:1. In that verse, the word diakonos is used, and it means, “a waiter, servant; then of any one who performs any service, an administrator.”

First, in Acts, the elders called the brothers and sisters together and were told to select 7 men. In every translation of Acts 6:3, the verse says that though sisters were involved in the selection, the people being selected as deacons were men.

Photo by David Klein on Unsplash

Second, the qualifications for deacons are found in 1 Timothy 3:8–13 and are remarkably similar to the qualifications for overseer/elder (aka pastor). The Bible says deacons ‘are to be men’…’husbands of one woman’… etc.

I know there are arguments around verse 11, and I won’t get into the details and jots and tittles of it, but the overarching thrust of the New Testament is that women are active and valued members of the church but not leaders of the congregation.

Thus, since the Bible does not indicate that deacons in the office can be women, and the consistent biblical stance is that women do not lead men, I think that women serving the communion elements would be a poor decision for any local church.

As for any woman not a deacon simply serving the communion elements, this would also be a poor choice. If the person distributing the elements says a prayer over the congregation first, or explains the verses related to communion, then that would be a woman teaching in the congregation and violating 1 Timothy 2:12 and she would not be silent as 1 Corinthians 14:34 says she must be.

If the woman serving the elements is not explaining or praying over the congregation it’s still tricky. Nothing seems to forbid it in scripture, unless I overlooked a key verse. However, in my opinion, the ‘look’, or the ‘optics’ of a woman offering something to a man who is on his knees and he submissively taking it looks like a role reversal.

Beth Moore in Dec 2021 at her new Anglican church. She had begun visiting in June of 2021, she said

When I broke the news that Beth Moore had become Anglican and was serving the Eucharist at her new church, and posted the photos, it made a huge scandal and discussion across denominations. For example, Church Leaders posted this article, and they were not exaggerating about the meltdown:

Beth Moore Serving Eucharist at Her New Anglican Church Causes Twitter Meltdown

Because Moore is so famous and followed by millions, breaking that story brought visuals to the concept of females serving in various, non-biblical ways, such as preaching, and teaching the Sunday Service from the pulpit. Seeing it is startling.

Satan is subtle. He is patient and he incrementally chips away at standards, boundaries, and benchmarks.

A woman serving the communion elements sets up the congregation for further incremental acceptance of the authority of the females leading the congregation in other ways, since they have already become used to women circulating before them and ‘leading.’ The ‘optics’ are bad but once people are used to seeing women circulating in leading roles, they accept further pushing of boundaries.

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

Ask, does this church want to visually communicate that they are led by men as the Bible commands, or visually communicate that they have crumbled to cultural pressure to have women leading with men over the church? When women are serving the communion elements, does this church want to visually declare there are passive men here?

The Bible says women are to receive teaching quietly. If it is improper for a woman to speak in church as 1 Corinthians 14:35 says, then one must ask why a woman would want to serve communion. Why does she have that desire? If she wants to serve then she should want to do so in ways that aren’t pushing a boundary. She’d want to err on the side of caution, and serve in more biblically sure ways.

In other words, why does she want to be in front of the congregation, when the Bible says she should not be, but rather sitting quietly in the service, receiving instruction and asking her husband at home?

Yet in every mainline denomination, there are not only women serving communion, but actually leading as ordained “pastors”. I did not have to hunt long or hard to find these examples. They are abounding.

No, women should not serve the communion elements. No, there should not be female deacons serving in the office of deacon. No, women should not preach. No, women should not teach men. Yet so many woman complain they are not allowed to do this or that, rather than exult in what we ARE called to do! And there is much we can do to serve the Lord. As Spurgeon said of women in ministry,

Some people can do nothing that they are allowed to do, but waste their energies in lamenting that they are not called on to do other people’s work. Blessed are they who do what they should do. It is better to be a good housewife, or nurse, or domestic servant, than to be a powerless preacher or a graceless talker. ~Charles Spurgeon, sermon, First Healing and then Service

Sister, are you wasting your energy lamenting that you cannot do other people’s work? Or are you joyful in serving within the spheres we are called upon to serve? The choice is yours.


Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.

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