This year's synod will, among other things, receive and review a progress report from The Task Force to Study the Offices of Elder and Deacon (Task Force). I have read the Task Force report and encourage every deacon to do so as well. Perhaps take some time at the beginning of your next meeting to discuss it as a diaconate. You can download this year's Agenda For Synod on line at http://www.crcna.org/sites/default/files/2014_agenda.pdf. The report itself is on pages 323-350.
Among the changes being proposed by the Task Force are changes to the Form for the Ordination of Elders and Deacons (Form) found on pages 341-343 in the Agenda For Synod 2014). I am including the two major sections of the form that relate specifically to deacons in this post. Changes from current form (1982) are noted in boldface text. The first paragraph is a more general explanation of how deacons serve. The second paragraph contains the proposed changes to the Charge to Deacons.
Deacons serve by leading and equipping the church to serve its members and the world in a rich diversity of ministries, awakening compassion, demonstrating mercy, seeking justice, and collaborating with God’s Spirit for the transformation of persons and communities. In imitation of Christ’s mercy, deacons summon the church to help relieve victims of injustice, equip the church for ministries of reconciliation and peacemaking, seek opportunities for advocacy, and call God’s people to faithful stewardship of the gifts of creation. By this they show that Christians live by the Spirit of the kingdom, fervently desiring to give life the shape of things to come. Deacons are therefore to identify and develop gifts in both the church and community, assess needs, promote generous stewardship, and offer wise and respectful care for the poor. By adding to all this words of encouragement and hope, deacons demonstrate in word and deed the care of the Lord himself.
Charge to the Deacons
I charge you, deacons, to inspire faithful ministries of service to one another, to the larger community, and to the world. Remind us that the Lord requires us “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with [our] God” (Micah 6:8). Prompt us to seize new opportunities to love God, our neighbors, and the creation with acts of generous sharing, joyful hospitality, thoughtful care for the poor, and wise stewardship of all of God’s gifts. Weigh our opportunities for giving and service, that we might use the church’s resources discerningly. Offer wise care to victims of injustice, and teach us holistic responses that respect their dignity and mend the broken relationships and exploitative structures and systems that contribute to poverty. With respectful compassion for the needy and awareness of the often hidden needs of the wealthy, teach us to minister to rich and poor alike, both within and outside the church. Encourage all with words that bring hope to their hearts and with deeds that bring joy into their lives. Show us by your example how to be critics of the waste, injustice, and selfishness in our society, and to be sensitive counselors to victims of such evils. Let your lives be above reproach and live as examples of Christ Jesus, looking to the interests of others. And in all your ministries help us anticipate and participate in the renewal of all things when God’s kingdom comes.
In addition to the description and Charge, the Task Force has also included what most folks would consider a job or position description for both elder and deacon. This description immediately the Form in the Agenda and I offer it here for your convenience and use. (The "CO" accompanying each statement of responsibility indicates the Church Order article to which th responsibility is linked)
1. Adult confessing member who meets the biblical requirements (CO3a)
2. Must be officially called and ordained or installed to hold and exercise office in the church (CO3b)
3. Signify agreement with the doctrine of the church by signing the Covenant for Officebearers (CO5)
4. Serve for a limited time (CO25a)
5. Represent and administer the mercy of Christ to all people, stimulate members to faithful stewardship on behalf of the needy (CO25c)
6. Lead the congregation in ways that inspire faithful stewardship of time, talent, and resources (CO25c-proposed)
7. Call the members to be ambassadors of reconciliation in all areas of life (CO25c-proposed)
8. Create and encourage participation in structures and ministries that use member gifts in areas of compassion, community transformation, creation care, justice, stewardship, and pastoral care, both locally and globally (CO25c-proposed)
9. Give an account of its work to the council (CO35c)
10. Meet at least once per month (CO36a)
11. Extend pastoral care to all members (CO65)
12. Enable the needy under their care to make use of Christian institutions of mercy (CO74b)
13. Confer and cooperate with diaconates of neighboring churches (CO74b)
14. Seek mutual understandings with agencies in their community which are caring for the needy (CO74b)
15. Subject to general and special discipline (CO82)
16. Shall not lord it over another officebearer (CO85)
Any questions or comments? This is a great opportunity for us to discuss and share our thoughts in this forum. Please understand that this is primarily a "progress report" to Synod from the Task Force. In other words, Synod will not make any decisions on the recommendations this year... that is scheduled to occur at next year's Synod.