The Diaconate

Rev. Cliff WarnerCliffNotes

I’m in the midst of preparing for ordination exams and interviews. As I prepare I’m learning more about what the role of a deacon is about and how it has been understood in the history of the church. Below are a few things that have been meaningful to me as I’ve been reading.

1. Deacons are servants. Most of you likely already know that deacons are meant to be servants; serving Christ, serving the church and serving those in need. The word “deacon” arises from the Greek word meaning “to serve”, commonly translated in the Bible as “to minister”.

This fundamental piece of the role is probably most clearly seen in a passage like Acts 6:1-7 where several Christians are set aside “to serve tables.” One of the things I love about this passage that those selected, even for what could be seen as a basic task are to be “full of the Spirit and of wisdom”. That those characteristics were required is challenge to me personally, but it also points to how important service is in the life of the church, it requires the Spirit and wisdom.

2. Diaconate ministry points to the holistic character of the gospel. In the Acts 6 passage the apostles are responsible for preaching and teaching the Word, while the deacons are to serve the community in terms of physical needs. These two prongs of ministry go together and must always be intertwined for there to be faithful gospel ministry. The teaching of the apostles would have seemed quite empty if the community they came out did not work to serve and meet the needs of those within it. The two must go together. Deacons have been singled out in the Anglican tradition as have a particular role in empowering the church to be Christ’s presence in the world.

3. The office of deacon is not a means to an end. While a great deal of deacons do eventually get ordained to the priesthood, this should not be seen as moving on to a higher office. The ordination to the diaconate, as a first step in formal church service, is meant to color one’s actions in whatever other office of the church they serve. The same humility, availability and willingness to serve that are markers of the deacon are a to mark out the actions and character of the priest and bishop. While the name “deacon” might no longer be used, the role is to continue to inform all work in church service and leadership. I’m thankful that this has been my experience here at Christ Church and in the church more broadly, what a blessing to have leaders who serve!

Thank you for your support and encouragement of me in this process! It is an enormous privilege to be stepping into this office in the life of Christ Church, it is very much an answer to prayer for Shannon and I. Thank you especially for your continued prayer as work through this process.

Looking forward to more service,