Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Update: Tim Keller’s Response to the YouTube Video « Green Baggins

Over the last few days I've posted about the 'deaconess' issue at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. Tim Keller has given his response here. On that post, at comment #26 is this response from the minister who presided at that service. Turns out he and I were seminary classmates. Here is his explanation of what went on:

Thanks for the heads-up about people’s questions re: the You Tube video. I’m so sorry that my the commissioning with my use of the erroneous vows has caused so much confusion. It is very understandable why the confusion exists, because this commissioning was done in error, by me. Here are some brief thoughts of my own on the video, in the event that it might be helpful to you or others.

This was an error that was entirely my doing and should not be construed as representing standard Redeemer practice. If the world were able to view video recordings of the other Deaconess commissionings performed at Redeemer since its inception, the world would see that Redeemer does not ordain Deaconesses, nor has it ever done so. The You Tube video is an aberration due to the unintentional mistake of a minister who was new to Redeemer, and just re-entering the PCA, at the time (yours truly).

To the question of how someone in my position could make this kind of mistake (It’s a very legitimate question)…I only have a faint recollection of the installation ceremony myself. But when I saw the video last week, I too was very surprised to hear the words “ordination vow” and “yield obedience” (in the congregational vow) come out of my mouth as I led the Deaconess through her vows. My own response was, “Oh my goodness, how could I have missed that detail?” I am fully aware that we do not ordain Deaconesses in the PCA, and there is no desire or intent in me to subvert the BCO in my profession or in my practice. I take my own ordination vows to submit to the brethren, and also to PCA church polity, very seriously. The only explanation I can surmise as to how this mistake could happen is that this was my first Deaconess commissioning at Redeemer. It had been five years since I had attended a PCA General Assembly, as I had left the PCA to plant and pastor a church in the EPC, where we did ordain Deaconesses. So up to the time I commissioned the Redeemer Deaconess, for almost five years my own practice had been according to EPC polity, not PCA polity. This is the only thing I can think of that would cause me to commit such a gross oversight as the one seen in the You Tube video. Very unintentionally, I did not modify the vows as Redeemer pastors customarily do for a Deaconess commissioning. Suffice it to say that I will never make that mistake again.

This explanation may or may not satisfy everyone who has concerns about the video. However, it is the only explanation I have. My main concern is that Redeemer not be assigned blame for this. Neither Tim nor Redeemer should be held accountable for my mistake. This was my error, and my error alone. I am so sorry for any confusion it may be causing among those who no doubt are asking you questions about it.

On a related note, if anyone you talk to about this wishes to understand Redeemer’s actual practice with respect to Deacons and Deaconesses, please encourage them to read Tim’s article which is posted at the By Faith Online website.

Lastly, you can feel free to forward this email on to anyone you think could benefit from it.
Hope you are well. Grace to you, and Happy Thanksgiving.

Scott Sauls
@scottsauls on Twitter
Redeemer Presbyterian Church of NYC
212.808.4460 xt 1410

Note: Scott began his ministry in the PCA, then moved to the EPC where some churches do ordain deaconesses.  He has returned to the PCA in the last year or so.  While I find his explanation satisfactory I would still like to learn more about Redeemer's practices in this area.

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