SPIRIT-FILLED: developing a pneumatological understanding of diaconal ministry

Canon Rosalind Brown has given permission for this draft of her article for Ecclesiology to be published here.  In it she argues for a further development of the theological underpinning of diaconal ministry which recognises that the ministry of Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit and that he sent the Holy Spirit to empower his followers in their proclamation of the gospel. Strengthening the pneumatological foundation of diaconal ministry gives it a more secure Trinitarian foundation and an impetus for mission that could help to transform the mission of the church.

Image result for spirit-filled

It’s an inspiring read!  rbrown Diaconate, for submission to Ecclesiology

If you subscribe to the journal Ecclesiology you can find the final version of the article here:  http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/journals/10.1163/17455316-01302005


‘It is a movement from diaconal ministry as something Deacons undertake on behalf of the church ‘out there’ to Deacons equipping and empowering the laity, the whole people of God, for diaconal ministry, and Deacons collaborating in collective action with others in the community, beyond the four walls of the church’.

DIAKONIA President Rev Deacon Sandy Boyce, in her final presidential address to the Chicago delegates this month, poses a profound question.

Sandy Boyce - Deacon

‘what kind of model for (diaconal) ministry is required in our time and place, for our particular context?’

She quotes Methodist Deacon David Clark‘s vision for the whole church to become diaconal in its outlook and movement.  At a time when we Anglicans are seriously considering unity with the Methodists, maybe this is the question we should be asking ourselves.

Here is Sandy’s whole address:

Chicago 2017

DIAKONIA World Federation Assembly

22nd Assembly: Shaken by the Wind

Visions for the Future

Address by President Rev (Deacon) Sandy Boyce
During my term as President of DIAKONIA World Federation I have learned just how diverse are the expressions of diaconal ministry around the world and how diverse are the structures in which diaconal ministry is couched. There is no one way – but we have found we can all learn from each other. And that’s the great work, I believe, of the DIAKONIA World Federation, that within and between the member associations we can all learn from the experience of the other, to affirm as well as to be a catalyst for change when need be.

It is worth briefly pausing to look at the development of the Deaconess movement in 1836 under the leadership of a German Lutheran pastor, Theodor Fliedner. It was a response to the challenging contextual issues of the day, especially with the rise of industrialisation, the movement from rural areas to the cities for employment, the subsequent rise of the urban poor who lacked the community support they might have enjoyed in rural communities, the rapid spread of disease, the end of the Napoleonic wars that left society in upheaval, and so on. It was into this particular context that Fliedner established a deaconess motherhouse and a diaconal community that would enable women in the 19th century to find a meaningful vocation and that would respond to these challenges in society.

Now, I want to suggest that this direct correlation between the context as the catalyst for the shape and ordering of ministry may at times be disconnected. It is necessary from time to time to step back from the immediacy of ‘doing’ ministry, to reflect on the pressing challenges for our time, and how may we together to respond through releasing lay and ordained people to exercise ministry and mission within the church and in the community.

You know the many current challenges in the world – globalisation, the unjust distribution of resources, weapons of mass destruction, the rise of terrorism, increasing disparity between the rich and the poor, complex inter-faith relations, accelerating climate change, the worldwide refugee crisis, to name but a few. The pressing overarching question may be, how can we live together in peace as a global community? The particular question for the church may be, how do we respond most effectively to this particular context in which we find ourselves?

Using the example of Theodor Fliedner and the development of the deaconess movement, the question may be, what kind of model for ministry is required in our time and place, for our particular context? (We have heard this morning some thoughtful insights about that)

David Clark in his two books, Breaking the Mould of Christendom and Building Kingdom Communities, offers very compelling arguments for a new way of thinking. He provides a comprehensive vision of church and ministry from a diaconal perspective. The movement is away from what is ‘done to’ people, and towards collaborative and collective action – what people do together to address the issues and needs of the day.

It is a movement from diaconal ministry as something Deacons undertake on behalf of the church ‘out there’ to Deacons equipping and empowering the laity, the whole people of God, for diaconal ministry, and Deacons collaborating in collective action with others in the community, beyond the four walls of the church.

It places Deacons within the heart of the congregation – visioning, animating, equipping, empowering, sending.

It places Deacons within the heart of the community – building relationships, standing in solidarity, drawing alongside people and groups, committing to collective and collaborative action in cooperation with community groups to work towards an outcome that will enable flourishing for all.

‘The role of Deacon is not so much a personal vocation lived out in the community, but a vocation that releases all members – the whole people of God – to live out their baptism in service in the community, ‘to recognise, encourage, develop and release those gifts in God’s people which will enable them to share in the ministry of caring, serving, healing, restoring, making peace and advocating justice as they go about their daily lives.’ (Report on Ministry in the Uniting Church 1991 Assembly)

The role of the diaconate is very much a live issue for Deacons in the Methodist Church in the UK, where there is currently a debate about the future of the Methodist Diaconal Order.

David Clark suggests that the kind of leadership required for a church that orients its life towards diaconal ministry requires new understandings about leadership. He suggests that Presbyters (Leaders and Pastors and Ministers) take responsibility for the renewal of the gathered church through accessing the kingdom community’s gifts of life, liberation, love and learning.

The diaconate as an order of mission would assume responsibility for furthering the ministry of the laity as the church dispersed in the world, educating and equipping lay people for their task of building communities which make manifest the gifts of the kingdom community throughout the whole of society.

David Bosch’s definition of mission picks up this idea of ‘participation in the liberating mission of Jesus, the good news of Gods love incarnated in the witness of a community for the sake of the world.

What flexibility do we need in how we are church together in order to respond to the particular context and challenges of our time? What ways of organising ourselves as church will best enable a collective response to a particular context – social, political, economic?

Inga Bengtzon served 65 years as a Deaconess, and served for 13 years as the President of DIAKONIA World Federation. She was a visionary. Referring to the General Assembly of the WCC in 1983, she argued for the inclusion of a self-critical dimension of the diaconal role that challenges the church’s “locked, frozen, static and self-centred structures” in order to turn them into a “workable, living instrument for the church’s task of healing, reconstruction and sharing with each other.” Diaconia, she said, cannot be limited to institutional forms. It must “break through the already established structures and demarcations in the institutional church” in order to act, heal, and build in the world. (Bengtzon, 1984, translated from Swedish).

David Clark casts his vision to what he calls the kingdom community and suggests that in order to be able to undertake a kingdom-focused mission, the church has first of all to break the mould of Christendom, and become a diaconal or servant church, where all the ministries serve that purpose, and all the ministries orient themselves to servant leadership.

The diaconate should be responsible for encouraging and equipping the laity to exercise their ministry of kingdom community building in every sphere of the life of society.

What will enable us to most fully respond to God
s mission in and through the church? Its a question for us all, and particularly how we orient what we name as church to be a kingdom community with a kingdom-focussed mission.

And I return to the question I asked when I introduced Theodor Fliedner’s initiative to establish a deaconess community in 1836 in Germany: what kind of model for ministry is required in our time and place, for our particular context? How can the church best shape ministry so that the diaconal mission of the whole people of God can be best equipped?

It is a continuing conversation and perhaps calls for a conversion of how we ‘do’ church.

4th July 2017 

[David Clark is a member of the British Methodist Diaconal Order]


Clark, D. (2005, reprinted 2014) Breaking the mould of Christendom – kingdom community,

diaconal church and the liberation of the laity. Peterborough: FastPrint Publishing

Clark, D. (2016) Building Kingdom Communities – with the diaconate as a new order of

mission. Peterborough: FastPrint Publishing

[Available via Amazon]

David Clark has a blog at http://www.diaconalchurch.com



The global DIAKONIA conference which has just finished in Chicago, comprising more than 400 deacons worldwide, was addressed by Rev Dr Michael Kinnamon in an outspoken critique of  current American politics, and the essential place of the diaconate in the fallout of these policies.

Related image

This is the second half of his address.  You can find the whole thing here:  file:///C:/Users/gmk/AppData/Local/Temp/Michael%20Kinnamon-1.pdf

or here under ‘Plenary Presentation’:  http://www.diakonia-world.org/2017/Chicago2017_Presentations.shtml

” … there are signs that we are being shaken by the wind of the Spirit, for which we should give thanks. God is at work, calling us to participate in divine diakonia. But we are also being shaken by turbulent social-political winds, both new and persistent, both in the US and around the world.
* * *
What does all of this suggest for the practice of diakonia in this era? In one sense, diakonia is diakonia in any era. Serving those in need is essential, no matter what political winds are blowing. And our focus on the margins, rather than the center, of society will likely be at least somewhat at odds with most governments.
As I see it, however, there are particular emphases that are especially appropriate, especially needed, right now. I will name five as a way of inviting discussion. These are not new ideas, but I believe they deserve even more emphasis in the way we undertake our ministry in this era.
1) Emphasis on global solidarity, including our ties as DIAKONIA within the world-wide ecumenical movement. Trump’s slogan, as you probably know, is “America First.” Seen in Christian perspective, this is nothing short of idolatrous, an exaltation of artificial boundaries that divide God’s one human family. The noun that defines us is Christian. I am an American Christian, not a Christian American–which means that Chita, not just Jan, is my sister in Christ, a bond more consequential than national citizenship. And because we are followers of One who died for all, there are no boundaries, either national or religious, to our service.
I have no doubt that you practice this kind of global solidarity already, but I am arguing that it needs to be highlighted even more in this era of nationalist fervor. The cross of Jesus undercuts the pretensions of any group that declares its self-interest to be pre
eminent, and especially the pretensions of any rich nation that seeks to preserve its prerogatives and resources at the expense of the poor. Global interdependence is a key theme of Christian living, and I hope we emphasize it in the coming years.
2) Emphasis on welcoming the stranger. The President’s immigration policy proposes to close this nation’s doors at a time of a global refugee crisis because, as he repeatedly says, American safety comes first. Seen in Christian perspective, this is nothing short of idolatry–a denial of the hospitality due to any person who comes to us in need.
I have a friend, a biblical scholar, who argues that the most persistent commandments in scripture are have no strange gods and welcome strangers. The Hebrew people saw the latter as a mark of covenantal faithfulness: Remember that you were strangers in the land of Egypt, and treat others as God treated you. Christians confess that through sin we have made ourselves strangers to God; but, in Christ, God has extended a gracious welcome even to us–and calls on us to do the same.
You know, of course, that such hospitality is not a matter of politeness or distant charity. We have not necessarily done it by giving money, since the issue in welcoming someone is relationship. A genuine welcome also doesn’t mean inviting the stranger to become like us. White churches in this country often put “All Welcome” signs on the door, without changing anything inside, and then wonder why people of color don’t join. No, true welcome is not absorption. It simply enables the other to feel at home.
Welcoming the stranger, while not formally a sacrament, is certainly sacramental: an outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual bonds that connect all who bear the image of the Creator. I hope the whole ecumenical movement will emphasize it in this era of threatened exclusion.
3) Emphasis on what we might call a “diakonia of resistance.” I realize that this is familiar territory for many of you who have lived in situations of overt oppression. Here in the United States, however, where oppression gets swept under the rug, ecumenically-engaged churches have tended to stress the importance of incremental change, of speaking truth to power as the way “to get things done.” Before becoming head of the National Council of Churches, I was the chairperson of the Council’s Justice and Advocacy Commission, which maintains a regular presence in Washington, DC in order to lobby (we don’t call it that!) for particular legislation. But such a strategy may not be what is needed in this era.
The churches that make up Church World Service signaled a new approach, following the executive orders aimed at stopping refugees, with a powerful statement of “strong
opposition.” A number of congregations, including my own in San Diego, are preparing to resist, making plans to harbor persons threatened with deportation.
There is a time, obviously, for patient, long-term advocacy. But surely there is also an appropriate time to resist policies and systems that are fundamentally at odds with the gospel. As I see it, that time has come for this country, and perhaps for others, as well.
4) Emphasis that following the servant Christ is inherently risky, and that we welcome such risk. Security, as I suggested earlier, has become a one-size-fits-all justification for policies that all of us, I suspect, find troubling. Indeed, there are days when I think “security” is the most dangerous word in the English language. Increase the military budget at the expense of dollars for health care and education–in the name of security. Relax gun laws and promote gun sales–in the name of security. Deny entry to refugees fleeing violence–in the name of security. Step up deportation of immigrants and build a wall against Mexico–in the name of security. Justify the use of torture–in the name of security!
Christians know that, because human community is interdependent, true security can never be achieved through unilateral defense, but through attentiveness to the injustice and anxiety that afflict other children of God. South Korea will be insecure so long as North Korea feels threatened. Israel, in the words of one of its former defense ministers, “will have security only when Palestinians have hope.” European security, as recent events make clear, is intertwined with that of North Africa and the Middle East. US security depends, among other things, on reducing the economic disparities that understandably fuel global resentment.
The Christian vision, however, is even more profound, because, as the United Methodist bishops put it, “following Jesus leads to radical insecurity.” If scripture is our guide, then we are called to live vulnerably as participants in God’s risky mission of serving and welcoming those in need. To borrow a formulation from the Russian Christian philosopher, Nikolai Berdyaev, security for oneself is a material issue–not necessarily sinful, but also not a highest value. Security for one’s neighbor, however, is a spiritual issue. Protecting persons who are most at risk, even when doing so is risky, is the calling of those who follow Jesus. This needs special emphasis in our era.
5) Emphasis on hope. The opposite of fear is not invulnerability; people in guarded, walled communities (or nations) are often afraid. The opposite of fear is hope in God’s future, both for ourselves and for life on this planet. In fear, people live in anticipation of possible danger. In hope, they live in anticipation of promised fulfillment; and this frees us to risk a life of service, welcoming those unlike ourselves. To say it another way,
scripture provides us with a vision of life as God would have it. And we show our trust in God by acting to help make it so.
It takes intentional effort, however, to live hopefully rather than fearfully. Hope is a conscious, cognitive activity; fear is a more automatic, spontaneous emotion–which means it is not easy to live hopefully when the cultural narrative is one of fear. That is why we need the reinforcement of one another, why hope needs to be emphasized over and over, why we need to insist that promoting hope is a crucial part of the church’s diakonia.
There may be some of you who feel that I have not been hopeful enough in this address! Of course, as you know, Christians are not often optimistic. We know too much about sin for that! But Christians are always hopeful because we trust that, in God’s mercy, the future does bend toward justice. And, friends, I am hopeful because of you. You, as a globally-connected community of diaconal ministers, committed to welcoming strangers, are in the front line of the church’s risky, hope-filled resistance to the winds that now shake our world. This morning, let us acknowledge those negative winds, but let us also proclaim together that they are not the most powerful wind in our lives!
And so I pray to our gracious God: May the wind of your Holy Spirit blow through this assembly! May we be shaken and directed and empowered by this wind! And may all we do and say in these days together be to your glory! Amen.

Michael Kinnamon



We cannot forget the poor and the powerless, even if it is nothing more than speaking up on their behalf: speaking to people we know; putting ourselves out there when we hear others forgetting about our responsibility, as a nation, to the poor; speaking on behalf of those who have taken to the streets to protest policies that perpetuate an economic structure fraught with systemic injustice.

-Br. Robert L’Esperance
Society of Saint John the Evangelist

Image result for speak on behalf of others


Image may contain: text

To see the presentations, go to the Diakonia website:  http://www.diakonia-world.org/





DIAKONIA Prayer letter July 2017

These last few days, more than 400 deacons and deaconesses have gathered in Chicago for the 22nd World DIAKONIA Assembly, exploring the theme, ‘Shaken by the Wind’. There have been many highlights: making new friends, learning together, singing, dancing, sharing in worship, tuning our ears to languages and accents not our own, celebrating the 70th anniversary of DIAKONIA. It has been a time to re-collect ourselves in prayer, to re-imagine how the world might be, to re-connect with each other. What a great community this has been. Truly memorable. Photos will be uploaded to the DIAKONIA website and the DIAKONIA World Federation Facebook page – you may be able to see for yourself how wonderful this week has been.

Image may contain: 4 people, people on stage

Fijian deacons lead morning prayer

And in the midst of this, we have dared to name some of the chaos ‘out there’ – policies and practices in the political and business realm that deny human dignity and worth, that diminish the integrity of the earth and care for the environment, that enslave, imprison and denigrate people, that force people to struggle just to survive – rather than flourish. Jesus said, I have come to give you life and life in all its abundance. But, not all leaders make decisions shaped by the values of God’s reign. Our speakers have taken us on a journey that speaks truth to power and invites us to tell a different narrative to that of fear, fear which has trumped hope. (You can read their presentations on the DIAKONIA website, http://www.diakonia-world.org, and click on Chicago Assembly on the right)

The caring community that has been created this week has drawn us together in ways that contrast with much of what is happening in the world, where division and suspicion are normal. And so we have treasured our time together, for we have experienced some of the richness and diversity and joy of our global Christian community. We want to hang on to that!

At the same time, we are disciples of Christ, those who are ‘sent’. The ministry of diakonia beckons us out into the world where God already is, to be in the world of human concerns and needs, and to be in service in solidarity with others in ways which reflect the special concern of Jesus for them. Our world needs to hear a different story other than fear, retribution, division, hate, violence and chaos, and to know the gospel practices of love, hospitality, peace, joy, generosity are not only possible, but are the only hope for the future.

“The holiest thing we have to offer the world is a ‘broken-open’ heart, emptied of fear and vengeance, filled with forgiveness and a willingness to take the risks of love”. (Parker Palmer in his book, The Politics of the Brokenhearted).

We can feel overwhelmed by a world of fear and chaos. Or, we can be open to hearing the message of Jesus who says the reign of God has come into our midst – where peace and justice meet, with the promise of a whole new future for our world graced and animated by the Holy Spirit.

Wherever you are in the world, may the peace of Christ be yours.

Rev (Deac) Sandy Boyce President, DIAKONIA World Federation

Facebook Link::  https://www.facebook.com/groups/262487100432637/

Website:  http://www.diakonia-world.org/


Children of God
Never mind your weakness; it is the very thing that qualifies you. Never mind your feelings of inadequacy; it is God’s work, not yours. Simply make yourself available, and let go of any need to impress others, or prove yourself worthy, or achieve “success.” What matters is that God has chosen you, and that God claims you as God’s own.
-Br. David Vryhof
Society of Saint John the Evangelist
Image result for God has chosen you



Discerning the Diaconate

http://www.here-i-am.org.uk/features/diaconate.html (2011)

This short paper is designed to help Vocations Advisers, DDOs and Bishops’ Advisers in their discernment of candidates with a vocation to the distinctive diaconate. It surveys some of the current thinking about the diaconate within the Church of England, but it does not attempt to be the last word on the subject.

1. What is a Deacon?

In discerning a vocation to the diaconate, we need first to be clear what a deacon does and is. There are in particular three sources of reference which are helpful in this regard: the Ordinal in Common Worship; the report The Mission and Ministry of the Whole Church produced by the Church of England’s Faith and Order Advisory Group in 2007; and the report The Distinctive Diaconate produced by the Diocese of Salisbury in 2003.

The Ordinal

In the Common Worship Ordination of Deacons, the Bishop addresses the congregation in the following words:

Deacons are called to work with the Bishop and the priests with whom they serve as heralds of Christ’s kingdom. They are to proclaim the gospel in word and deed, as agents of God’s purposes of love. They are to serve the community in which they are set, bringing to the Church the needs and hopes of all the people. They are to work with their fellow members in searching out the poor and weak, the sick and lonely and those who are oppressed and powerless, reaching into the forgotten corners of the world that the love of God may be made visible.

Deacons share in the pastoral ministry of the Church and in leading God’s people in worship. They preach the word and bring the needs of the world before the Church in intercession. They accompany those searching for faith and bring them to baptism. They assist in administering the sacraments; they distribute communion and minister to the sick and housebound.

Deacons are to seek nourishment from the Scriptures; they are to study them with God’s people that the whole Church may be equipped to live out the gospel in the world. They are to be faithful in prayer, expectant and watchful for the signs of God’s presence, as he reveals his kingdom among us.

The Mission and Mission of the Whole Church

The report of the Church of England’s Faith and Order Advisory Group The Mission and Ministry of the Whole Church (2007) has this to say about the work and role of a deacon:

The first thing to say about deacons, in the light of the pivotal use of the terms diakonia and diakonos in the New Testament, especially by St Paul, is that deacons, in their ordination, receive the fundamental commissioning of Christ to be ministers (diakonoi) of the gospel. St Ignatius of Antioch calls them ‘deacons of the mysteries of Jesus Christ’ (cf. 1 Corinthians 4.1). They are sent by Christ, through the Church, as bearers of the Good News to the world and in this role (as the classic Anglican Ordinal of 1550/1662 particularly emphasizes) they have a special compassionate care for the needs of the sick, the lonely and the oppressed. Together with all Christians and all ministers, theirs is a life of compassionate service in obedience to Christ’s command and example – service primarily of Christ and under his authority, secondarily of those who are Christ’s and to whom he imparts his authority.

Deacons, like priests and bishops − and lay ministers too, for that matter − are related to the word, the sacraments and pastoral care: they receive the full ministry of the gospel. But they have an assisting, not a presiding role in relation to these three central tasks of the Church’s mission. Deacons assist the priest and the bishop and carry out the duties deputed to them in relation to this mandate. They preach, teach and give instruction in the faith. They lead the people in worship and assist in the celebration of the sacraments by bringing candidates, whom they have sought out and prepared, to baptism and (as the 1550/1662 Ordinal says), baptising them in the absence of the priest, and by assisting the president in the Eucharistic liturgy and leading the people in their participation.

Deacons are ministers of pastoral care on behalf of bishop and priest; they carry Christ’s compassion to the forgotten corners of society and ensure that the needy receive practical help. Through their role in the liturgy, deacons bring the concerns and petitions of the wider community, within which they minister day by day, to the heart of the Church’s worship, in order that these concerns may be laid upon the altar and placed at the foot of the cross (Common Worship spells out the role that it is appropriate for deacons to take at the Eucharist). Deacons can cross boundaries, from a parish base, into the ‘fresh expressions’ dimension of the mixed economy church. Deacons thus share in the apostolic ministry, being sent by Christ, through the Church as missionaries to carry forward his saving work.

This is an inward calling that may be discerned by the bishop and his advisers where a candidate has a calling and aptitude for a life-long ministry that is inextricably related to the word, the sacraments and pastoral care, but is suited more to an assisting than to a presiding role in relation to both the sacraments and the leadership of the community. The distinctive diaconate is particularly appropriate where an individual feels strongly drawn to the missionary, go-between ministry, seeking out the lost sheep and bringing both the message of the gospel and the practical care that goes with it to the unchurched and, therefore, may be reluctant to proceed to priesthood with its additional responsibilities and constraints. The distinctive diaconate appears to be suited to those with an evangelistic gift, provided this is clearly related to the three basic dimensions of ministry, tied into the liturgy and directed towards the full sacramental initiation of new converts. As those who cross boundaries, make connections and bring people together, deacons are well placed to move into the challenging new contexts, with their network relationships, of mission and evangelisation.

Drawing on the fresh interpretation of the New Testament language of diakonia and diakonos … we can say that diaconal ministry, like all ministries, embodies God’s saving purpose in the world, that is to say, becomes an agent of the kingdom of God. The deacon is invested with authority from Christ in his or her ordination. The deacon is not set apart for humble service any more than any other Christian, lay or ordained, and is not expected to exhibit humility more than anyone else! … But a deacon is a person on a mission, a messenger or ambassador – making connections between liturgy and pastoral need, building bridges between the life of the Church and those who are not yet within it. The ministry of the deacon says something important about the nature of the Church as the Body of Christ and is indeed a sign of what the whole Church essentially is and is called to become more and more. Picking up the language of the House of Bishops’ report on Eucharistic Presidency (1997), we can say that the diaconal ministry, like the ministry of the priest and the bishop, ‘promotes, releases and clarifies’ what is true of the Church as such. The ordination of a deacon may be regarded, therefore, as an ecclesial sign – a visible sign of what is true of the Church, of its essential calling, and is carried out in many ways by all the faithful and particularly by those who are called to a recognized ministry, lay as well as ordained. In ordination the deacon receives a distinctive identity from God through the Church. That identity relates to the kingdom or reign of God that has dawned upon the world in the mission of Jesus Christ, but remains to be fulfilled, and it points to the role of the Church in the coming of God’s kingly reign.

The Distinctive Diaconate

The report The Distinctive Diaconate was produced by the Diocese of Salisbury in 2003. The report proposed an alternative way of describing the ministry of the deacon – focussing not so much on its content as on where it takes place. The report highlighted the following strands of diaconal ministry:

The deacon in the church:

  • Has a non-presidential, representative ministry, representing Christ’s own diaconal ministry

  • Participates in the liturgy

  • Proclaims the word of God and preaches where this is necessary or pastorally appropriate, recognising that some but not all deacons are gifted in preaching

  • As a person with a ministry that is pastoral, catechetical and liturgical, helps to make connections for the children between their age-appropriate teaching and their inclusion in the liturgical life of the church

  • Shares the participation of people for pastoral or liturgical rites, including baptism, confirmation and marriage and accompanies those concerned when they come to the church, sharing in the liturgy as appropriate, perhaps presenting them, or baptising them

  • Has a prophetic role in drawing the church’s attention to peace and justice issues that the church is overlooking

  • Shares in the pastoral care of those who look to the church

  • Brings and interprets the needs of the world to the church’s worship and pastoral care

  • Helps to order the church in administration, perhaps at a deanery rather than just a parochial level.

The deacon in the world:

  • Is equipped to see Christ in the midst of the life of the world, whether locally or internationally

  • Has a prophetic role in the world where need or injustice exist

  • Brings the church’s ministry of peace and justice to the world, either directly or by facilitating the ministry of others in the church

  • Brings the pastoral ministry of the church to people in need, seeking out the lonely, the forgotten, the marginalised, the sick, those in trouble

  • Makes the invisible ministry of the church visible

  • Is the eyes and ears of the church in the local area

The deacon on the boundary:

  • Is at the door of the church to greet people, particularly those encountered in ministry in the local area, helping them to cross the threshold into worship

  • Is in the prophet’s place on the edges and boundaries of society

  • Is a two-way go-between or agent between church and world, straddling the boundary and helping others to cross it

  • Brings the needs of the world over the boundary into church and interprets them in intercession

  • Sends people out from worship into the world, in peace and for service

  • Is a catalyst for Christian discipleship in the mission space between worship and the world

2. What is the Church looking for in Candidates for the Diaconate?

The Criteria for Selection for Ordained Ministry in the Church of England are applicable to candidates for both the diaconate and the priesthood. However, there are particular aspects of the Criteria that should be accentuated when a vocation to the diaconate is being discerned. The additional points to consider in assessing a candidate for the diaconate are taken from the report The Distinctive Diaconate.

A Vocation

Distinctive points to consider in assessing a candidate for the Diaconate:

  • the support of the local church, and perhaps wider community, for their vocation

  • a strong sense of vocation to the ministry of the deacon, not a failed or thwarted sense of vocation somewhere else

  • a sense of a life-calling from God, not a potentially passing desire to engage in the church’s ministry

B Ministry within the Church of England

Distinctive points to consider in assessing a candidate for the Diaconate:

  • engagement with a servant ministry, a responsible behind the scenes person, able to be hidden, to get on with things out of the limelight, to oil the wheels

  • Being comfortable occupying space on the boundaries, a liminal person who is at ease alongside people on the edges of the church and of society yet who is also secure and centred for themselves

C Spirituality

Distinctive points to consider in assessing a candidate for the Diaconate:

  • liturgical sensitivity and presence that enables others to worship, brings the needs of the world into worship and interprets them for the Christian community

  • a rooted Christian spirituality, grounded in a life of prayer and immersion in God’s word, attentive to God’s presence in the world in its majesty and its misery

  • a passion for God and for life, and a refusal to allow stagnation to set in, personally or in the Church

D Personality and Character

Distinctive points to consider in assessing a candidate for the Diaconate:

  • an attitude that reflects a vocation to be a servant without being a doormat

  • sensitivity, expressed in an ability to listen and appropriate body language that welcomes others whilst respecting their space

  • an outgoing, risk-taking, world-orientated perspective

E Relationships

Distinctive points to consider in assessing a candidate for the Diaconate:

  • evidence of ability to relate to people of different ages and social contexts

  • an instinctive ability to get alongside people and speak their language

  • pastoral skills that point to an ability to care for others appropriately

F Leadership and Collaboration

Distinctive points to consider in assessing a candidate for the Diaconate:

  • the ability and willingness to work in a team

  • leadership gifts that reflect a willingness to be a leader who assists rather than always takes the lead, and does not unsettle or unseat others who have either long term or short term responsibilities

  • a person who is capable of being a public representative person for the church, who is competent and comfortable in the public eye, whether in liturgy or the life of the world

  • organisational gifts that equip and free others to do their work well

G Faith

Distinctive points to consider in assessing a candidate for the Diaconate:

  • communication skills that enable the person to preach the gospel in deed and in word

  • teaching gifts, expressed in various and appropriate ways

H Mission and Evangelism

Distinctive points to consider in assessing a candidate for the Diaconate:

  • evidence of engagement with and in the local community, and awareness of what is happening in the wider world

    evidence of a life of service within and outside the Christian community

I Quality of Mind

Distinctive points to consider in assessing a candidate for the Diaconate:

  • a quality of mind that reflects a thirst to know more of God and an ability to interpret what is known for others

  • a creativity and imagination coupled with stability and common sense

Short Reading List

Avis, Paul, A Ministry Shaped by Mission (T&T Clark, 2005)

Brown, Rosalind, Being a Deacon Today (Canterbury Press 2005)

Collins, John N., Deacons and the Church (Gracewing, 2003)

For Such a Time as This (GS 1407, 2001)

‘The Mission and Ministry of the Whole Church’ (GS Misc 854, 2007)

(Received from Ministry Division, July 1st 2011)