The schedule for Synod 2013 tells us that the Diakonia Remixed report will be discussed on Wednesday evening. Synod will be discussing, among other things, the role of deacons in the broader assemblies of the church. This is one live webcast I'm going to pop the popcorn for, because it will hopefully be a moment when this noble but often under-rated office will be encouraged to enter a new chapter.
But will we see a new chapter being written on Wednesday, or will we see a chapter repeating itself? It's not the first time that we've had this discussion. Throughout our history as a denomination there have been voices encouraging us to take this step, to see the potential of Christ's ministers of mercy better integrated into the broader assemblies, calling us to see the catalytic effect that this might have on the church as a whole. If I jump in the Wayback Machine and set the dial over a hundred years in the past, I hear William Heyns in his Handbook discussing the need for a further reformation of the CRC diaconate, saying that while it had been restored through the reformation, it had been restored as a merely local institution, and this hindered its true development. "Without a doubt," he said, "the ideal solution is the delegation of deacons to the major assemblies with the power to deal with all matters brought before them that concern the ministry of mercy." I hear voices in the 50s and 60s calling for a "synodical diaconal committee" that would become the CRWRC, seeing the need for diakonia to be recognized as something at the heart of the church. I hear voices from overtures and reports in 1967, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1981 saying things like "some development of the role of deacon in the ministry of the church is necessary if the church is to fulfill her total ministry. The diaconal office has not developed within the church as fully as the other two offices..." The pushback, though, was always that this was not the traditional way of understanding the office. But should tradition take first place in a church that is a child of the Reformation?
And so on Wednesday night, we will revisit the topic again. And the question is, will those voices be heard? Will a new chapter be written, or will an old one be repeated?
What do you think?