Australian Bishop Tom Frame does some serious and honest thinking about the diaconate in this address to the Anglican diocese of Melbourne.
It’s titled “The diaconate in 2030: What might it look like and how do we get there?” by Tom Frame, Director of St Mark’s National Theological Centre and Professor of Theology at Charles Sturt University
Here’s a taster (I’ve put some thoughts into bold type):
Let me here suggest a critical difference between priestly and diaconalministry as it seems to be evolving. In my view, we will do well to divide our effortsinto two categories: mission and ministry. Mission has its focus beyond the gathered community where the principal beneficiaries are people who are not members of the Church. Ministry has its focus within the gathered community where the principal beneficiaries are the members of the Church.Priests have their primary focus within the gathered community; deacons are most active beyond it. This divide, and it is more an analytical tool than an organisational principle, can help us to assess where the bulk of our effort is located. In effect, isthe Church serving itself or others? At St Mark’s, 95% of our effort is serving the Church because the beneficiaries of what we do are overwhelmingly Church people. Many parishes, if they were to conduct an audit, would find that 80% or perhaps more of their efforts were directed internally. In effect, there is much more ministry than mission.But if we have an order of ministry whose focus is beyond the gatheredcommunity, we avoid duplication (deacons trying to be priests) and we ensure anoutward focus. I am not saying here that deacons do not have a place and a functionin the gathered community or that the remit of priests is restricted to those who areChurch people. But in wanting to secure a place for the diaconate and to prioritiseoutreach, I am inviting Anglicans to consider a very broad and general outlook which finds complementarity between the roles of deacons and priests.Adopting this approach creates a need for diaconate-specific education and training which will be construed around mission, outreach and engagement. As people who can make connections within and between communities, who facilitate conversation and encourage dialogue, who can identify shared interests and common aspirations, deacons will be different kinds of people to priests and their formational needs will be different.