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Defining the United Methodist diaconate

By United Methodist News Service

May 9, 2007 

In The United Methodist Church, the term diaconate most often refers to those whom the church has commissioned, consecrated or ordained to lead the church in servant ministry. Diaconate and its other names grow from the Greek roots diakonos (servant) or diakonia (service).

Here are some common terms and definitions:

Deacon: Clergy ordained since 1996 to the ministry of word and service to both the community and the congregation in a ministry that connects worship with service to God in the world. Deacons teach and proclaim the Word, assist elders in administering the sacraments, form and nurture disciples, conduct marriages and bury the dead, lead the congregation's mission to the world and interpret the needs, concerns and hopes of the world. Appointed by the bishop to ministry in a local congregation or in a church-related, faith-based or secular setting. (Most United Methodist elders who began preparing for ordination prior to 1996 were first ordained deacon.)

Deaconess/Home Missioner: A laywoman (deaconess) or layman (home missioner) commissioned by a bishop, on recommendation of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, to share faith in Jesus Christ through ministries of love, justice and service. Appointed for service in any agency or program of The United Methodist Church and in other agencies or programs if approved by the Office of Deaconess and Home Missioner of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries in consultation with the bishop.

Diaconal Minister: Laity called to specialized ministries of service, justice and love, consecrated by a bishop and appointed to a local congregation or in a church-related, faith-based or secular setting. No new candidates for diaconal ministry were accepted after Jan. 1, 1997.

Deacons, as clergy, are members of an annual conference. Deaconesses, home missioners and diaconal ministers are members of a local church and lay members of an annual conference.

Source: Definitions adapted from The Book of Discipline and the glossary found on www.umc.org, the denominational Web site.

*Noble is editor of Interpreter, a publication of United Methodist Communications and the official ministry magazine of The United Methodist Church.

News media contact: Kathy Noble, Nashville, 615-742-5470, or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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