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Typical discussions of the office of deaconess in Texas Baptist newspapers in the 1880s and 1890s de-emphasized the official nature of the position. A common interpretation was that the term referred simply to the wife of a deacon, as exemplified in this report:

We have another deacon and deaconess now, Brother O. B. Love and wife.
Texas Baptist and Herald (Dallas), January 12, 1887, n.p. Hereinafter in these notes this publication will be referred to as " TBH ." Another typical viewpoint indicated that since women were already functioning as deaconesses, or female helpers, in churches, why bother to ordain them? An editorial favoring this informal arrangement explained:
Practically, the churches have the office [of deaconess]. There are always good women in the church ready to serve it. They need not be ordained.
BS , February 16, 1893, p. 4. By 1900 the same stance was bolstered with scholarship; in a lengthy discussion, F. M. McConnell explained that the Greek word "deaconess" could also be translated simply "servant." Since he felt that the idea of a woman serving in an official ordained capacity
[made] havoc of our knowledge of the Word of God,
he concluded that the Romans passage was probably conveying that Phoebe had been entrusted with some errand for her church. BS , February 22, 1900, p. 7. A gentleman from South Carolina, C. C. Brown, wrote the Baptist Standard in 1902 in support of the position that the New Testament actually referred to women who served as deacons, the same office men held, BS , April 24, 1902, p. 3. but his idea was judged extreme by McConnell and not commented upon by women.

Controversy around the deaconess issue had been raised because women sought to enlarge their activities in church, not because they wanted to infiltrate the diaconate; therefore, the issue died early in the twentieth century after women defined mission and education roles that fulfilled their needs. They did not have the perimeters of those new roles absolutely circumscribed and they continuously sought to enlarge them, but as long as they did not infringe upon the male prerogatives of management (control of money and policy) and superiority (symbolized by ordination), they were given freer and freer rein with their missionary organization and educational work.

Late in the nineteenth century, similar arguments over women's rights in church meetings were settled by this assignment of concerns—service for women and management for men. In small churches a woman's right to make or second a motion or to serve as a clerk often caused grave concern and generated letters to the newspapers in search of legitimation for such acts. Yet they were cautioned that to so speak would be to make themselves

conspicuous before the church,
behaving, therefore,
contrary to the teaching of God's word.
BS , June 24, 1897, p. 7. If, because there were no males or so few, the organization or continuance of a church necessitated a woman's doing more than raising her hand to vote, the church was advised to disband or never to form. BS , May 27, 1897, p. 1. In such cases, women struggled with the limitations of their passive, assisting role. They did not desire to supersede men in church government—they merely wanted to participate and they wanted the church to survive. Once there were sufficient numbers of active men to carry on church meetings and there was other satisfying work for women to do, the women were willing to limit themselves to formalities on such occasions. Men, on the other hand, recognizing that women were content to expand their horizons without demanding equality, relaxed the limitations on women's participation. Women not only voted in meetings, they spoke to issues and occasionally served on committees.

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Source:  OpenStax, Patricia martin's phd thesis. OpenStax CNX. Dec 12, 2012 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11462/1.1
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