The Vatican has confirmed that “after intense prayer and mature reflection, Pope Francis has decided to institute the Commission for the Study of the Diaconate of Women.” A deacon is a minister of the Catholic Church who is ordained as a sacramental sign of Christ, who came “to serve and not to be served.”
If women are permitted to be deacons by the church, they can baptize as well as marry and bury. They can offer homilies. These are momentous steps.
During a meeting with hundreds of nuns back in May, Pope Francis surprised many both in and outside the Catholic Church by saying he’d like to consider the historical role of female deacons, or deaconesses, in the early church and whether the diaconate should be re-opened to women.
On Aug. 1, Pope Francis made good on his expressed interest by appointing a commission to study the question, reports CNN.
For the past week, news sources have been abuzz about Pope Francis’s announcement to create a commission to study women deacons. It’s an initiative worthy of talk, but there’s more to the story.
As you may know, the question of whether women can serve as deacons has been recently debated among many evangelicals. Since scripture makes clear that Phoebe served as a deacon in the church in Cenchrea, there is an abundance of historical and archeological evidence that women deacons were upheld by the apostles. Both Clement of Alexandria and John Chrysostom recognize Phoebe was a deacon.