Diakonia — We've Passed This Way Before
June 10, 2013
Updated June 21, 2018
8 comments 15 views
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?
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Yes, we have been down this road before. However, I have a gut instinct that this time around will be differnt. That presentation/discussion is less than 24 hours away, but something tells me that Synod 2013 will be the turning point. I believe that nearly half the classes already have deacons attending their meetings, a big change from 1981 and previous.
If the report from the advisory committee on the Synod page is any indication, I am afraid that we will be seeing a repeat tonight. We'll have to wait and see.
Reading it more closely, I'm glad that they are bringing forward the proposed CO changes; my hope is that no reversals along this process will take place between now and 2015-2016.
The Diakonia Remixed report likely won't be considered by Synod until Thursday at the earliest. Watch http://www.crcna.org/synod/synod-documents to monitor what has been processed by Synod. It appears that this will be one of the last items on the agenda to be considered.
It appears that Synod won't be considering the Diakonia Remixed report until Thursday at the earliest. You may want to monitor http://www.crcna.org/synod/synod-documents to see what items Synod has remaining on its agenda. This will be one of the last items on the agenda to be considered.
If the following agencies are part of the agenda of Synod:
Disability Concerns, Office of Social Justice, Centre for Public Dialogue (Canada), Race Relations, Safe Church, ServiceLink, World Renew/CRWRC
they would also seem to be core to the diaconal mandate and ministry.
I would agree. Now the task remains of delineating the tasks of the offices. I think that John Calvin will help a lot there. In one of his commentaries he breaks up the calling of the elder and deacon along the lines of the Great Commandment, with elders being responsible for pietas, love of God, and deacons being responsible for caritas, love of neighbor. This may be a good organizing principle for the work before us.
My version is things are not looking good for reforming the office of deacon. First clue is: Synod chose to deal with a report from its advisory committee, one appointed in the last days before synod convenes and meets a couple times for a few hours as opposed to a committee that met over a period of several years for several times and actully produced a well studied along with reformational recommendations. I was not at synod, but what were they thinking? Yes I know the process was not stopped by doing this but why slow it down?
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