Deacon Phina Borgeson called on deacons to “exercise leadership in the church’s prophetic activity,… speaking out about injustices and inconsistencies” and protecting God’s created order.

In May this year there was an international and ecumenical conference on the diaconate, held at the University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.  Canon Deacon Michael Jackson, who acted as conference secretary,  has offered us this excellent report.  Other reports and papers can be found elsewhere on this blog.

How can it feed in to our English diaconate, I wonder?

Regina Hosts Ecumenical Conference on Diaconate By Canon Michael Jackson

Published in Saskatchewan Anglican September 2018

Close to 100 people gathered at Campion College, the Jesuit affiliated college at the University of Regina, for an international Anglican-Roman Catholic-Ukrainian Catholic conference on the diaconate. The conference, held May 10-13, was co-sponsored by the Diocese of Qu’Appelle and the Archdiocese of Regina. Believed to be the first of its kind, the conference attracted four bishops, eight priests, 55 deacons and a number of diaconal candidates and lay people, from seven Canadian provinces, six U.S. states, England, Scotland and New Zealand.

Bishop Rob Hardwick of Qu’Appelle and Archbishop Donald Bolen of Regina co-chaired the conference, while Bishop Bryan Bayda of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon was a session chair. Anglican bishop Donald Phillips of Rupert’s Land also took part. The conference was an outcome of the covenant between the Diocese of Qu’Appelle and the Archdiocese of Regina, which has been in place since 2011. Said Archbishop Bolen, “This international conference is a new venture in our covenantal relationship, building on the fact that both our Churches have a threefold ministry including the diaconate, and that diaconal ministry is being explored in significant ways by both Churches, including our respective dioceses, at the present time.”

Image result for Qu'Appelle conference on diaconateThree bishops involved in the ecumenical conference were photographed at Campion College. (l-r) Bishop Bryan Bayda of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon, Bishop Rob Hardwick of the Anglican Diocese of Qu’Appelle, and Archbishop Donald Bolen of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Regina. (photo – Frank Flegel) 

Entitled “The Ministry of the Deacon: Word and Sacrament, Charity and Justice,” the conference brought together 11 leading authorities on the diaconate from Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. They addressed nine topics:

  •  the Conundrum of the Transitional Diaconate
  •  the Theological Basis of the Diaconate
  •  Women and the Diaconate
  •  the Diaconate as Ecumenical Opportunity
  •  the Diaconate in the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches
  •  the Prophetic Ministry of the Deacon
  •  the Deacon in the Worshipping Community
  •  Diaconal Formation
  •  Diaconal Relationships.

Roman Catholic speakers were Deacon Frederick Bauerschmidt, professor of theology at Loyola University in Baltimore, Sister Gloria Marie Jones of the Dominican Sisters of St. Jose in California, Deacon George Newman of Newman Theological College in Edmonton, and Dr. Brett Salkeld, archdiocesan theologian of the Archdiocese of Regina. Sub-Deacon Brian Butcher of St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto, was the speaker from the Ukrainian Catholic Church.

From the Anglican Communion, speakers were Deacon Phina Borgeson of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California; Canon Rosalind Brown of Durham Cathedral, Church of England; Deacon Susanne Watson Epting of the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa; Deacon Canon Michael Jackson of Qu’Appelle, Deacon Maylanne Maybee,

formerly Principal of the Centre for Christian Studies in Winnipeg; and Canon Alison Peden, director of ordinands for the Scottish Episcopal Church.

The presentations and discussions showed considerable convergence and common ground on the diaconate among the participants despite their different faith traditions. For example, there was a majority consensus that the “transitional” diaconate – the practice of ordaining people deacons for a brief period before they become priests – was unnecessary and undesirable. Deacon Susanne Watson Epting described efforts in the American Episcopal Church to come to grips with this conundrum. As Roman Catholic deacon George Newman said, “one would be led to wonder, if [a candidate for the priesthood] is not going to engage in traditional deacon ministry, why ordain him as a deacon?” Anglican deacon Maylanne Maybee noted, “if we were to be consistent, we would resume the practice of direct ordination (i.e. ordination to the priesthood without passing through the diaconate first).” However, countering this, Roman Catholic deacon Frederick Bauerschmidt and Anglican canon Rosalind Brown defended “sequential” ordination as deacon, then priest, on the grounds that all orders of ministry incorporate the diaconate.

Several speakers commented on the welcome recovery of the permanent or vocational diaconate, especially since the Second Vatican Council, as a distinctive order of ministry. It is no longer the “inferior office” referred to in the 1662 Anglican Book of Common Prayer, but a symbol and instrument of the New Testament idea of diakonia, or service, which is the vocation of every Christian through baptism. “Diaconal ministry,” said Canon Brown, “is a dynamic extension of Eucharistic celebration, as deacons are incarnational ministers of the Eucharist in the forgotten, awkward corners of the world.” The session on the prophetic ministry of the deacon explored in depth this role of incarnational minister. Deacon Phina Borgeson called on deacons to “exercise leadership in the church’s prophetic activity,… speaking out about injustices and inconsistencies” and protecting God’s created order. Sister Gloria Marie Jones emphasized that “the prophetic mission of Jesus, and therefore of the deacon, is about unity, inclusivity and forgiveness.”

The issue of women in the diaconate was of particular interest to the Roman Catholic participants: their Church does not admit women to ordained ministry, while the Anglican Communion ordained its first women deacons in the 1970s, soon to be followed by priests and more recently bishops. Sister Gloria spoke poignantly of her own experience as daughter of a deacon, whose wife actively supported him in his ministry. “It was truly a shared preparation and ministry….but one was ordained and the other was not.” She was present in Rome in 2016 at the meeting of women religious superiors where Pope Francis announced a commission to study the question of women deacons. “I have come to believe,” she said, “the ordination of women to the diaconate is important for the sake of the Church, much more than for the sake of women.”

Anglican and Roman Catholic speakers alike asserted the value of the deacon’s role in worship, despite a tendency in some areas of both Communions to downplay it. Deacon Bauerschmidt, who has published a book, The Deacon’s Ministry of the Liturgy, explained from the Roman Catholic perspective how the diaconal function in the Eucharist and other liturgies “points to the importance of the diakonia of the Church as a whole.” Canon Brown sees the deacon’s functions at the Eucharist – reading the Gospel, leading the intercessions, calling for the exchange of the Peace, setting the Table and clearing it, giving the Dismissal – as highly symbolic of the Church’s ministry of hospitality.


One of the most intriguing aspects of the conference, especially for the Anglicans, was the unique contribution of the Ukrainian Catholic participants. Brian Butcher gave a comprehensive overview of the diaconate in the Orthodox and Eastern Rite Catholic traditions, noting the presence of women deacons in the early church. SubDeacon Butcher, along with Bishop Bayda and Protodeacon David Kennedy of Toronto, led a moving choral celebration of Ukrainian Catholic vespers in Campion College Chapel. The conference participants also experienced Anglican compline and morning prayer and Roman Catholic morning prayer.

Highlights of the conference were the two eucharistic celebrations. While the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches are not in communion, Archbishop Bolen spoke of a real but incomplete unity. The bishops took part in each other’s liturgies for the Feast of the Transfiguration. Bishop Hardwick preached at the Roman Catholic Mass at Campion College Chapel on May 12 concelebrated by Archbishop Bolen and Bishop Bayda. In turn, Archbishop Bolen preached at the Sung Eucharist at St. Paul’s Cathedral on May 13, where Bishop Hardwick presided. All three bishops joined in giving the final blessing at both celebrations. And Bishop Bayda preached and gave the blessing at the May 13 joint prayer service of the Diocese of Qu’Appelle and Archdiocese of Regina – Solemn Evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral – the final event in the conference.

A month later, Archbishop Bolen ordained nine permanent deacons – who had all attended the conference with their spouses – at Holy Rosary Cathedral. This was the first group to graduate from the diaconal formation program of the Archdiocese of Regina, directed by Dr. Salkeld.

As Roman Catholic journalist Frank Flegel reported,

In spite of the vigorous debate, organizers said it was a learning experience. “We learned so much from each other, experienced each other’s worship and theology and came closer together, which is really what the ecumenical movement is all about,” said conference secretary Deacon Michael Jackson, who has served 41 years in the Anglican Diocese of Qu’Appelle. Joe Lang, a Roman Catholic deacon for 20 years, felt reaffirmed in his ministry after listening and taking part in the discussions, and said he found it interesting to hear about the variety of ministries in all the faith communities.

Conference organizers expressed appreciation to the Faith, Worship and Ministry Department of the Anglican Church of Canada and to the Archdiocese of Regina for grants which made the conference possible, to both sponsoring dioceses and the Regina Catholic School Board for providing resources, and to Campion College for hosting the event.

Canon Michael Jackson is deacon at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Regina, and was secretary of the 2018 conference on the diaconate.

Image result for Qu'Appelle canon deacon michael jackson


In May this year there was a major international conference on the diaconate in Canada.

Rev Frances Wilson, Bishop’s Director of Ordinands for the Diocese of Lichfield, attended and has kindly shared with us her reflections.  They make fascinating reading and provide much food for thought especially as we consider our national conference this October.  Many thanks, Frances, and we look forward to seeing you in October!

Frances Wilson

Reflections on the International Conference on the Diaconate

Regina, Canada, May 2018 

Diaconate: Transitional v. Distinctive

There was a lot of passion in the assembly, particularly from some delegates, about transitional diaconate which seemed to demean some Distinctive Deacons.

  • Candidates for priesting follow a formation path for this ministry, yet then are ordained into a different ministry, that of the deacon.
  • Although ‘inferior’ language has been removed from Anglican Prayer books, a priest who is a deacon first seems to show that they ‘move on to higher things’ when ordained priest.
  • Suggestion that priests who do diaconal tasks do so, not as ordained deacons but answering the diakonia calling of all the baptised.
  • From an RC perspective, D. deacons are valued because they are more likely to share the lived experience of the congregation (married/working etc.)
  • A huge negative reaction was expressed at priests acting out their diaconal role at the Eucharist in the liturgy and wearing a diaconal stole (‘cross-dressing’!). The depth of feeling about this was shocking.

Some Questions:

  • Does this affect the position of the Bishop – an arch-priest? Or should we ordain directly to the Episcopate also!

Also – does the Bishop, if never a deacon, have a relation to deacons?

  • Does a diminished place in society for priests in a more-professional world makes priests hold on more closely to their ‘privileges ‘? – This came from ‘the floor’.*

*A strong impression that D Deacons thought their parish priests held on to too much and didn’t give them space to articulate their specific ministry.

– Later, on speaking to priests (after the Conference), a suggestion that many Deacons were not used because they were not well selected or trained.

NOTE:  Selection and Training in the Episcopal Church is Canada is local and variable.  Eileen Scully is working with the National Church to set guidelines (my [priest] sources say these are minimal but this is a starting point).  Min Div. of the CofE does have Criteria for Selection for Distinctive Deacons but it might be worth seeing how Canada’s consultation is going.  On speaking to one TEI this month, I found that they had no teaching/formation pathway for Distinctive Deacons; perhaps Canada might have suggestions here too.

The Essence of a Deacon 

How should one answer the question, “How does Deacon differ from a priest or lay person?”  Usually the response is one of power: Deacons can… (baptise….) but the list isn’t that different from that of a lay person.

So perhaps the essence is more about the ‘being’ conveyed by a Deacon than the ‘doing’.

  • ‘Servant ministry’ is only a partial answer (those who were ‘set aside’ in Acts 6 are NOT designated Deacons)
  • The diakonia are rather ‘ones who act on behalf of another (Lumen gentium and draft CW: ‘Ambassadors’ and ‘heralds’ – angels are often shown in Diaconal vesture!)
  • The archetypal Deacon is therefore not Stephen, but Jesus Christ.
  • The 5 Marks of Mission (and particularly the final two) must be at the heart of their ministry. “Pastoral care of people with missional activity in the world.”
  • Also (later Speakers): ‘Speaking truth to power’ (and that power will not always be ‘the other’, politics etc. but Church and the ‘power’ in each of us).
  • This will be a ‘prophetic’ ministry.
    • That all shall be one -forgiven – Unity
    • – That all shall be welcomed at the table- Inclusivity
    • That all are forgiven – Forgiveness
  • Deacons are at their most diaconal when they engage in their ‘Door’ activity – not simply being at the door to welcome people into Church but outside on the steps assisting them to transition.
  • AND, the balance of this, sending the People of God out into the World again at the end of worship.

Women and the Diaconate  

A: Within the Orthodox Tradition:

Why should we be particularly interested?  Because this is an area which is being ‘mined’ at present by the RC (and the Orthodox) church as it works out its position on women and ordination.

  • See notes! This was a dense lecture (v. interesting but too much to take good jottings).  Two clear points arose…
  1. Ordination and Monastic life are intimately connected within the Orthodox tradition. Yes, there have been women who have acted as ‘deacons’ in the past but they have always been Religious.
  2. Each Orthodox tradition is unique and has its own theology; conflating the tradition and practices of each strand to show that there was a variety of ministries which women as deacons practiced is not true to Orthodoxy.

B: Icons meditation

My only comment would be to affirm the comment that where the Church suppressed the active role of women, other expressions of Faith and Order have sprung up (For an insight into this in Medieval times see From Virile Woman to WomanChrist by B. Newman).

C: The Witness of Sr. Gloria

Spoke passionately and with first hand experience of the journey to the current state of the RC Church’s exploration of the question of women and the Diaconate.

There is an obvious Ecumenical tie-in; the Diaconate is a less ‘explosive’ area of Ministry which it would be good to explore amongst Churches of different Traditions.

The Spirituality of a Deacon:

  • Rosalind Brown argued strongly for its Benedictine qualities of Hospitality and Attentiveness to the Actual.
  • A ‘butler’ awareness: Not to do everything oneself but to draw the best out of others so all may share in ministry.
  • A need to cultivate Prayerfulness in a Busyness ministry of the Liturgical Deacon…
  • An openness to the direction of the Holy Spirit, in responding to the ‘Now’ situation.
  • …The Deacon and ‘Communion by Extension’… such a thorny issue!

Diaconal Formation:

There was a lot of really good, really practical, input here.  I’m hoping we might receive the papers on these as my notes are inadequate.  In particular, I thought Alison Peden, Provincial Director of Ordinands, had interesting ideas on forming a learning/formational community across a large geographical area with a sparse number of differing vocations learning together.  Also Phina Borgeson on self-mentored learning using Grid/checklist.  The formational path of RC Deacons is impressive!

Frances Wilson 27th May 2018