Wait! What’s a Deacon?

This was originally published in the April 2016 issue of the Virginia United Methodist Advocate. The focus of this issue was the 20th Anniversary of the Order of Deacon. 

A group of church leaders had gathered for a meeting. The district superintendent mentioned the possibility of hiring a deacon to help the congregation reach beyond the church walls. A woman sitting across the table looked back at the DS with a quizzical expression. “Wait,” she said, “What’s a deacon?”

It’s not the first time that question has been asked. For twenty years, the United Methodist Church has been struggling to articulate the answer, “What’s a deacon?”

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What It Means to be a Deacon

Rev. April Casperson spoke at the Methodist Theological School of Ohio in October 2013 about the ministry and role of the deacon. She has done a great job of explaining some of the differences between elders and deacons.

From her talk:

In the United Methodist Church, some people are called to ordination – a set-apart life of ministry and service. There are two orders within ordained clergy – elders and deacons.

Elders are ordained to Word, Order (the ordering of the Church), Sacrament and Service. Elders are primarily pastors; while elders can and do serve in extension ministries outside of the local church, an elder’s identity is rooted in the pastoral role, and being a pastor.

Deacons are ordained to Word, Service, Compassion and Justice. Deacons are not pastors – we are ministers. We can certainly be pastoral! But our identity is based in being a minister rather than being a pastor.

Deacons are called to specialized ministry. We have a specific area and skill in which we connect the people of God, the church and the world with compassion and justice. This is a challenge and an opportunity at the same time.

Read the complete article here.