Methodist deacon David Clark and Methodist presbyter Maurice Staton have produced an interesting response to the recently published Diaconate in Ecumenical Perspective, edited by Deacon Michael Jackson.

Michael says in his foreword to the paper,

I note in particular their emphasis on the diaconate’s missional role in building a ‘kingdom community’ (a favourite phrase of Deacon Clark) beyond ecclesial structures.  While the missional dimension is implicit throughout the book, David Clark and Maurice Staton challenge us to place it explicitly at the forefront of diaconal ministry.

He commends it as a ‘valuable complement and sequel’ to the book.

Read the article here:  clark and staton Towards a renewed diaconate Nov. 2019

Image result for kingdom community clark

(image from River Methodist Church)


Do We Need Deacons?

GUEST BLOG: Are deacons mere liturgical functionaries, on their way to the priesthood or presbyterate? Or are they social activists with only a loose connection to the churches? Or something in between? Are deacons valuable for Christian ministry? Or can we do quite nicely without them? D. Michael Jackson, editor of The Diaconate in Ecumenical Perspective, provides the answers.

(I have put some of the key ideas in bold – Ed.)

These widely differing viewpoints are explored in The Diaconate in Ecumenical Perspective by writers from the Anglican and Episcopal, Roman Catholic and Ukrainian Catholic, Lutheran and Methodist traditions. Contributors hail from Canada, the United States, England and Scotland, giving the book an international as well as an ecumenical dimension.

The essays tackle head-on just what diakonia and deacon mean today. The long-accepted notion that diakonia is humble service and that deacons are essentially ecclesiastical social workers is shown to be inaccurate and incomplete. The diaconate is much more than that: ministry of word and sacrament, mission and proclamation, as well as charity and outreach.

In this light, some of the authors challenge the continued existence of the “transitional” diaconate—that is to say, requiring future priests/presbyters to first be ordained deacons. They argue that the practice of “consecutive” ordination makes no sense for priests and compromises the integrity of the permanent or vocational diaconate. Diakonia is the vocation of all Christians through baptism, not ordination.

Another topical issue is the ordination of women to the diaconate. Although there is general agreement that there were female deacons in the early church, there is no consensus on whether they were ordained like men and had a similar ministry. The Orthodox and other Eastern churches have ordained some female deacons, but not without controversy. There is now consideration of the female diaconate among Roman Catholics and Pope Francis appointed a commission to look into it. But after receiving their report, Francis has said that the historical evidence is inconclusive and appears to have put the matter on hold.

Evidently the diaconate is of interest to a number of Christian churches, and not only those with the historical episcopate. A contributor from the British Methodist diaconal order sees deacons—male and female—as enablers of the “kingdom community”. Lutherans have a complex history of the diaconate and a somewhat ambivalent attitude toward it. The prevalent view of deacons as “ecclesiastical social workers” began with the deaconess movement in 19th-century Germany and to this day many Lutheran churches “commission” or “consecrate” rather than ordain their deacons.

The prophetic or social ministry of the deacon is found with varying emphases in all traditions. For Lutherans and Methodists, this is the diaconal role. For the Eastern churches, it is more of a supplement to the prime function of the deacon: worship. Practices in the Anglican and Roman Catholic communions vary greatly, but generally deacons as are seen as ordained ministers bringing the gospel to those both within and beyond church structures, especially the marginalized.

The significance of the deacon’s liturgical—and preaching—role in the various traditions, not surprisingly, mirrors their approach to social outreach. In the Orthodox and other Eastern churches, the liturgical function is dominant. In the Methodist and some Lutheran churches it is minimal, in some cases non-existent. Roman Catholics specify that the deacon’s ministry is three-fold: Word, sacrament and charity. Anglicans (as usual!) are somewhere in the middle: in a number of dioceses, the deacon’s liturgical and preaching role is important; in others, it is minimized or even discouraged.

Of course, just having deacons is still a matter of discussion. Some but not all Lutheran churches have diaconal ministers. Many but by no means all Roman Catholic dioceses have embraced the permanent diaconate after the impetus given to it by the Second Vatican Council. In the Anglican Communion, the Church of England, particularly its evangelical wing, has been cool towards the diaconate, preferring to focus instead on lay readers. On the other hand, the Episcopal Church in the United States has taken up the vocational diaconate with enthusiasm, followed to a large extent by the Anglican Church of Canada and now the Scottish Episcopal Church.

But there is a consensus among the contributors to this book that the diaconate can and should be a vital component of ministry, representing and focusing on the diakonia of all the baptized. In the post-Christian era, deacons may provide an effective connection to a society largely indifferent to the gospel.

Ordained to the diaconate in 1977, D. Michael Jackson is the longest-serving deacon in the Anglican Church of Canada. He is author of two studies on the diaconate, The Diaconate Renewed: Service, Word and Worship and The Deacon in the Worshipping Community, coordinates an international network of Anglican and Roman Catholic deacons, and is a frequent reviewer of diaconal publications. He serves as a deacon at St Paul’s Cathedral in Regina and is a canon of the Diocese of Qu’Appelle.


Last year there was a major ecumenical gathering in Canada on the diaconate.  The papers have now been collected into a book, as promised, which will be published on 1st August.  However it’s  possible to pre-order a copy now.  This is the most significant publication on the diaconate to emerge for a long time.  I encourage you not only to order a personal copy, but to alert your DDOs, and also your heads of ministerial training, suggesting they get a copy for their theological library.

If you use the word DEACON you’ll get 10% off!

The Diaconate in Ecumenical Perspective

Ecclesiology, Liturgy and Practice

by D. Michael Jackson (editor), Frederick C. Bauerschmidt, et al.


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Publisher: Sacristy Press

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Christian Churches, East and West, especially in the past fifty years, have revived the diaconate as a permanent form of ordained ministry rather than a brief stage on the way to the presbyterate. These essays examine this development from the perspectives of history, theology and practice, showing ecumenical convergence on the renewal of an ancient order. Contributors from Anglican, Roman Catholic, Ukrainian Catholic, Lutheran and Methodist perspectives explore and emphasize the relevance and potential of deacons for the Church today. As well as significant differences, there is much common ground between the traditions. The essays explore subjects such as the retention of the transitional diaconate, women deacons, and the prophetic ministry of the diaconate, as well as the liturgical role of the deacon.

Contributors from the UK, the US and Canada engage in constructive ecumenical theological discussion that offers a fresh and important contribution not only to the study of the diaconate but to ecumenism in general.

About the Editor

Ordained to the diaconate in 1977, D. Michael Jackson is the longest-serving deacon in the Anglican Church of Canada. He is author of two studies on the diaconate, The Diaconate Renewed: Service, Word and Worship and The Deacon in the Worshipping Community, coordinates an international network of Anglican and Roman Catholic deacons, and is a frequent reviewer of diaconal publications.  He serves as a deacon at St Paul’s Cathedral in Regina and is a canon of the Diocese of Qu’Appelle.

About the Contributors

Frederick C. (Fritz) Bauerschmidt is a deacon of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore (ordained 2007) and Professor of Theology at Loyola University Maryland. He is the author of several books, including Thomas Aquinas: Faith, Reason, and Following Christ (Oxford University Press), Catholic Theology: An Introduction (with James Buckley, Wiley Publishers), and The Deacon’s Ministry of Liturgy (Liturgical Press).

Josephine (Phina) Borgeson was ordained deacon in 1974 and serves in the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California. Her community work centres on food system ministries and related environmental concerns, including interfaith networking and consulting. She is involved in ministry development and education, mentoring new deacons and teaching those preparing to be deacons. She is a past president of the North American Association for the Diaconate.

Rosalind Brown, after a few years living in the United States, during which she was ordained, trained people for ordination in the United Kingdom. She was a Residentiary Canon at Durham Cathedral from 2005 to 2018, where she had oversight of the nave, or public, ministry of the cathedral. Prior to that, she chaired the Diocese of Salisbury’s working party on the ministry of deacons, edited the Salisbury report on the Distinctive Diaconate, and is author of several books on ministry and preaching, including Being a Deacon Today (Canterbury Press, 2005).

Brian A. Butcher, a sub-deacon in the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church, is Lecturer and Research Fellow in Eastern Christian Studies in the Faculty of Theology at the University of St Michael’s College (Toronto School of Theology). He is part of the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptysky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies. His second book is Liturgical Theology after Schmemann: An Orthodox Reading of Paul Ricoeur (Fordham University Press, 2018).

David Clark became a member of the British Methodist Diaconal Order in 2005. Prior to that, he worked as a Methodist minister in Sheffield and London and as a senior lecturer in community education at Westhill College, Birmingham. He played a leading role in the emergence of the Christian Community Movement, set up the Christians in Public Life Programme, and founded the Human City Institute. His latest book is The Gift of a Renewed Diaconate—and the Contribution of British Methodism (FastPrint Publishing, 2018).

Susanne Watson Epting was ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church of the USA in 1989. She served as a board member of the Association for Episcopal Deacons for eight years and as its director for ten. Active over many years in ministry development, she became an assistant to the bishop, working with individuals and congregations. Her book Unexpected Consequences—The Diaconate Renewed was published by Morehouse Publishing in 2015.

Gloria Marie Jones, OP, served eleven years as Congregational Prioress for the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose, an international Roman Catholic community with sisters in Mexico and the United States. She received her MA in Religious Studies from the Catholic University of America and served the Catholic Community at Stanford University as Director of Faith Formation and Chaplain. As the daughter of a deacon, she brings keen interest to the question of diaconal ministry in the Church today.

Anne Keffer was consecrated a Lutheran deaconess in 1964. As Director of Christian Education and Youth Ministry, she served large urban congregations in Ontario and a rural team ministry in Nova Scotia. Receiving her MEd in Counselling, she was a university chaplain in Saskatchewan and Ontario. While she was the Executive Director of the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism in Saskatoon, she was called by the Deaconess Community, ELCA, to be its directing deaconess in Chicago, where she served for seven years.

Maylanne Maybee has been a deacon in the Anglican Church of Canada since 1978. She is an educator, social justice activist, ecumenist, and writer on the diaconate and ecclesiology. She was Principal of the Centre for Christian Studies, a theological school in Winnipeg for diaconal candidates, and is now Interim Principal at the United Theological College in Montreal. She edited and contributed to All Who Minister: New Ways of Serving God’s People (ABC Publishing, 2001).

George E. Newman, ordained to the Roman Catholic diaconate in 1987, served as Director of Diaconate Formation in Toronto from 1992 to 2002. He established a diaconate formation programme in the Diocese of St Catharines in 2003, retiring from this position in 2017. Deacon Newman currently assists Newman Theological College in Edmonton as instructor in diaconate programmes. He has assisted with the establishment of diaconate programmes in a number of dioceses.

Alison Peden was a medievalist at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, before moving to Scotland in 1990, where she taught at the Universities of Glasgow and Stirling. She trained in the Scottish Episcopal Church and at Edinburgh University for her ordination in 2002. When serving as Rector of Holy Trinity, Stirling, she became involved in the formation of ordinands. She was appointed Provincial Director of Ordinands in 2011, with oversight of recruitment and selection for ministry throughout the Scottish Episcopal Church.

E. Louise Williams is a deacon in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and was consecrated a deaconess in 1967. After serving in parish ministry, she served on the staff of the Lutheran Deaconess Association (LDA), retiring as Executive Director in 2008. She is past president of Diakonia World Federation and Diakonia of the Americas and Caribbean. She teaches Theology of Diaconal Ministry at Valparaiso University in Indiana.


As deacons we are pretty starved of resources about our vocation and ministry.  But there’s good news.  Last year there was an international ecumenical conference on the diaconate in Saskatchewan:  see report here.

As a follow-up, a book is coming out in August this year with all the talks, to be called ‘The Diaconate in Ecumenical Perspective’,  published by Sacristy Press.  The speakers were all very experienced leading Episcopal deacons or people who have been involved with diaconal formation for many years.   They  include our own Canon Rosalind Brown, and English Methodist deacon David Clark.

You can view all the conference talks here:

(That should keep us quiet for a while!)

Read more details  in Deacon Michael Jackson’s latest letter:

Message to Conference Participants – March 2019-2