“All baptized people are called to make Christ known as Savior and Lord, and to share in the renewing of his world.” (BCP 531)
Deacons are members of one of three distinct orders of ordained ministry (with bishops and presbyters). In the Episcopal Church, a deacon exercises “a special ministry of servanthood” directly under the deacon’s bishop, serving all people and especially those in need (BCP, p. 543).
This definition reflects the practice of the early church, in which deacons were ordained “not to the priesthood but to the servanthood [diakonia, “ministry”] of the bishop” (Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition). In the ancient Greek-speaking world, the term diakonos meant an intermediary who acted or spoke for a superior. Christian deacons were agents of the bishop, often with oversight of charity. Since ancient times the liturgical functions of deacons have suggested the activity of angels.
As they proclaim the gospel, lead intercessions, wait at the eucharistic table, and direct the order of the assembly, deacons act as sacred messengers, agents, and attendants.
Deacons serve in a special ministry of servanthood directly under the bishop. They are to serve all people, particularly the poor, the weak, the sick, and the lonely. Deacons are called to make known Christ’s redemptive love by word and example. They interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world; and are called to bring the baptized to meet the needs of their communities.
Through their life and teaching, deacons are to show Christ’s people that in serving the helpless, they are serving Christ himself.
- Diaconate Covenant between the bishop, faith community, and deacon
- Episcopal Church in Western Oregon’s Clergy Manual
- Association for Episcopal Deacons
- The Fund for the Diaconate
- Unexpected Consequences: The Diaconate Renewed, by Susanne Watson Epting
- Many Servants: An Introduction to Deacons, by Ormonde Plater