Deacons are an ancient, scripturally founded order in the church. Deacons are not secondary, dependent, or incomplete. Working directly under the bishop’s authority, the deacon informs and empowers the ministry of the people, intentionally and beyond the “walls” of the gathered church. The sacred order of deacons is a ministry that inspires the church to engage in the diakonia of all believers – to be a servant church. Deacons are living reminders of the diaconal, or servant ministry to which the whole church is called.
Deacons serve the marginalized, the outcast, the rejected, the ignored, and the forgotten. The deacon ensures that ALL God’s people have a place at the banquet table; therefore, the diaconate is a ministry that makes concrete the inclusiveness of the Gospel. The current diaconate is the restoration of the ancient, full, and equal order of ministry, based on the call to imitate Christ in service to the poor and needy. The deacon stands at the edge of the gathered community as a bridge to the world, ‘to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world … and to show Christ’s people that in serving the helpless they are serving Christ himself.’ [Book of Common Prayer, p. 543].
The diakonia is work that brings to life Christ’s presence by its response to and advocacy for those in need. This servant work includes identifying and proclaiming the gospel through word and deed to individuals, institutions, and authorities throughout the world. Diaconal work also mandates the interpretation to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world. Finally, diaconal work includes assisting the bishop and priests in public worship by introducing the confession, proclaiming the gospel, reading the prayers of the people, setting the table, and dismissing the congregation to go forth into the world as servants of Christ.
Perhaps most important, the current renaissance of the diaconate is part of the church recovering its own sense of diakonia, of being called and sent into the world to serve. Education continues to be needed to ease the tensions and concerns of presbyters and bishops, and to inform the laity of the varied and distinct ministries of deacons. For the church to move ahead in the third millennium it will need scores of called, dedicated, well-trained and passionate deacons to bring the word of Christ to all people, to interpret to the church the needs of the world, and to restore the early church’s understanding of diakonia to all the baptized.
Introduction to the Sacred Order of Deacons
Association of Episcopal Deacons