A few highlights of the program from the Atlantic District’s “Diaconate Guidelines” document:
4.1 At the heart of the ministry of deacons are works of mercy, witness, and worship, in solidarity with the poor and needy. The actual tasks undertaken by members of the diaconate will vary according to the gifts and skills of the deacon and the needs of the church and its surrounding community. Deacons so gifted will engage in various ministries of teaching within the congregation/agency, including baptismal and communion preparation, catechesis of youth and adults, and small group Bible study leadership or supervision. All aspects of diaconal ministry are under the supervision of the supervising pastor.So the Deacon shall not preside at the Holy Eucharist, except where they may, and they may proclaim the Gospel in the worship service. This violates our own confession, as Augsburg Confession Article XIV reads “Our churches teach that no one should publicly teach or preach in the Church, or administer the Sacraments, without a properly ordered call” – that means a pastor. And since the Deacons of the Atlantic District may be male or female, it certainly creates even more confusion, since women would then be preaching and administering the Sacrament, a move which violates the trust of our walk together as a synod. I’ve heard rumblings from people who think that this is a back door approach to women’s ordination. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but now would be a great time to reread Pastor Todd Wilken’s excellent article “From Exception to Rule: How Error Replaces Truth in the Church.”
4.2 Members of the diaconate assume a leadership role in worship, but this is never to be their primary task. Rather, the serving function of deacons in the Church’s liturgy is to be a reflection of their tangible, actual servant hood in the world.
4.3 Members of the district diaconate shall neither preside at the Holy Eucharist nor exercise the Office of the Keys. In the absence of an ordained pastor and with approval of the pastor and congregation, the deacon may serve at the divine service including the communion liturgy using reserved sacrament. This practice should be used sparingly so as to not confuse the “Office of Deacon” and the “Office of Pastor.” The deacon may officiate at funerals under the direction of a supervising pastor. The deacon may proclaim the Gospel in formal and informal settings after he/she has received training in homiletics and while remaining under the supervision of an ordained pastor.
5.5 It is expected that most members of the district diaconate will continue to hold regular employment and therefore would be involved in diaconal service on a part-time, non-stipendiary basis. There may be instances however, when a deacon serves a ministry for a stipend….
Ironically, the Atlantic District’s program continues at a time when other districts resolved in convention to abolish these types of programs. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
photo credit: Martin Cathrae