The Bishop’s Guidelines for the Diaconate in the Diocese of Pennsylvania
(Revised in September, 2004)
All baptized members of the body of Christ are the anamnesis or representation of Christ in his church. In a special way, deacons represent Christ in his eternal role as diakonos or servant, agent, and advocate of God in creation and salvation, and they represent the church in its loving duty to strive for mercy, justice, and peace. The Greek term dia-konos literally means “through the dust,” and deacons are consequently characteristically humble in their desire to help others. But more than helpers of a voluntary organization endeavoring to be of service to the society, they act as agents and advocates of social transformation by bringing others to Christ. As servants, agents, and advocates of God, deacons announce the Good News to the poor and marshal, coordinate, and facilitate the various ministries of the church’s members in the world. In their liturgical role, deacons proclaim the gospel, urge people to pray for those in need, and oversee practical arrangements to feed the hungry. Deacons: evangelize and bring others to Christ advocate for the sake of peace and justice organize communities coach the people they serve in the exercise of their own gifts for ministry recruit, train, and equip catechists for the sake of evangelization serve congregations at risk serve missional outposts in their outreach ministries exercise critical and analytical skills in economics, politics, sociology accompany the bishops in being apostolic or “sent out” study the Bible in community write the Prayers of the People function in bilingual and/or bicultural contexts in terms of generational, racial, ethnic, linguistic, and/or gender differences function knowledgeably and gracefully in the liturgy
Deacons in the Diocese
Every congregation of the diocese has the right to the full ministry of the church, including priests and deacons. The Bishop assigns one or more deacons to any congregation, which desires to have them, serve among them, if qualified candidates can be found. The assignments normally last from two to five years.
Diocesan Support of the Diaconate
The Bishop appoints an Archdeacon to educate people about the diaconate, identify, recruit, and train potential deacons, and administer the diaconate in the diocese. The Bishop also appoints the Commission on Ministry to advise the Bishop and the Archdeacon on the program.
The Bishop appoints an Archdeacon to serve as a member of the Congregational Advancement Team at Church House The Archdeacon works with the Bishop, the Canon for Deployment, the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and its Anglican Advisory Committee, Clinical Pastoral Education administrators, community organizing trainers, field education supervisors, and others as necessary to prepare candidates for ordination and to form deacons in ministry. The Archdeacon is charged by the Bishop to develop, build, form, and maintain a vibrant diaconate within the diocese. Together with the Bishop and member(s) of the Congregational Advancement Team s/he participates in the interview process with aspirants for ordination to the diaconate. S/he is the liaison between the Bishop and the LTSP Diaconal Training Program and is the advisor to candidates in the LTSP Diaconal Training Program. Within the diocese, s/he is the prime educator about the diaconate as a separate and distinct order of ministry. Outside the diocese, s/he is the link between efforts to advance the diaconate in other dioceses and those within our diocese. S/he maintains a continuing formation program for all deacons. S/he works with the Canon for Deployment to oversee the deployment of deacons in the diocese. In addition, s/he oversees for the bishop the work of the diocese in advocacy, service, and justice.
Selection of Deacons
All persons called to the diaconate must first see their parish priest, who, if he or she endorses the person’s vocation to the diaconate, communicates his or her endorsement to the Bishop. The Bishop then invites the aspirant and, if s/he wishes to attend, the aspirant’s spouse, to two interviews – one with a member o the Congregational Advancement Team, and one with himself. The Bishop may then invite the aspirant to undergo psychological testing at the Northeast Career Center in Princeton, New Jersey, for which the deacon, the deacon’s congregation, and the diocese each, if able, share a third of the costs (at present approximately $1,500 or $500 for each party). Once he receives the results of the tests the Bishop may invite the aspirant to complete in a parish or a seminary community the vocational discernment process required for all those entering the ordination process. If that process is carried out in a parish, a Parish Advisory Committee on Ministry (PACOM) is formed. Informed by the report of the PACOM, the vestry of the sponsoring congregation writes a letter endorsing the aspirant. The spouse, if any, must consent in writing to the aspirant pursuing the diaconate. The Bishop then invites the aspirant to attend a pre-postulancy conference. If approved for postulancy, one may then enter the Diaconal Training Program.
Preparation for the Diaconate
Depending on postulant’s past experience and academic ability, preparation for ordination normally takes four years and requires approximately fifteen hours a week. The expense of a postulant’s preparation for ordination is borne by the diocese on an as-need basis. In accord with Canon III.6.3, the Diaconal Training Program includes these five general areas. (1) Academic studies. Because all deacons in the Diocese of Pennsylvania are licensed to preach, the Bishop requires all aspirants to the diaconate to hold a baccalaureate degree or its equivalent. Equivalency may be demonstrated by passing an examination in the language, literature, and culture of the people among whom the postulant expects to exercise ministry; history; and two of the following: mathematics, a natural science, philosophy, or a social science, or otherwise satisfy the Commission on Ministry of sufficient knowledge in these areas.
To meet the requirement in this area, students are to earn the M.A. in Diaconal Studies at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. Alternatively, in consultation with the Commission on Ministry Academic Subcommittee they may take no less than 14 courses offered in the LTSP program and prove competency by taking an examination prepared by the Subcommittee. As a third option, those for whom it is difficult to attend courses at LTSP may prepare for the examination by reading and studying on their own under a tutor assigned by and compensated for by the Bishop. In any case, all candidates must complete the equivalent of the following courses at LTSP. Those who satisfactorily complete the M.A. at LTSP are not required to take the diaconal ordination examination. Bible BOT110 –Introduction to the Old Testament BOT111 –Introduction to the Old Testament BNT110 – New Testament Introduction BNT111 – New Testament Introduction BNTxxx – New Testament Elective or BOTxxx – Old Testament Elective History HCH100 – Introduction to the History of Christianity Systematic Theology HTH100 – Thinking about God or HTH253 – Anglican Social Ethics or HTH310 – Modern Anglican Theology or HTH311 – Poets, Mystics, and Theologians Practical Theology IHM100 – Introduction to Homiletics ICS100 – Church in Society or SGC55x – Seminar in Public Theology Liturgics IWR100 – Introduction to Liturgy HTH322 – The Book of Common Prayer (2) Diakonia and the diaconate. To meet the requirement in this area, candidates must satisfactorily complete LTSP courses HCH202 – Essentials of Anglicanism, including the history of the diaconate, and IFE160 and 161 – Ministry Action/Reflection, or their equivalents. (3) Human awareness and understanding. To meet the requirement in this area, candidates must satisfactorily complete LTSP course IPC100 – Introduction to Pastoral Care, or its equivalent. (4) Spiritual development and discipline. This is the foundation for the entire program. Candidates are expected to say the Daily Office faithfully and to participate actively in the community and worship of a particular congregation. Through prayer, worship, and reflection,
students prepare for life in the Spirit with a specific commitment to the ministry of servant-hood, advocacy, and agency to help the diocese fulfill its vision of transforming society by empowering individuals with Christ-like initiative. They must also make regular use of a spiritual director and attend one silent retreat every year, and take formation group – SGN110 and 111 Their spiritual formation is to be built on their experience of servant-hood and of life in the Spirit, which began with their baptisms. Also recommended is the LTSP course HTH390 – Spiritual Autobiography. (5) Practical training and experience. During the course of their preparation students are required to take: (a) 10 residential days of training in community organizing among the poor, such as is offered through the Industrial Areas Foundation, or the equivalent, as approved by the Bishop, (b) the equivalent of one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education, (c) LTSP courses IFE110 and IFE111 – Field Education in which the student works for two years on a variety of projects to help develop specific skills for diaconal ministry in a specially selected training parish under the direction of the parish priest and a lay guidance committee, (d) sexual responsibility awareness training, (e) training regarding Title IV of the Canons, and (f ) anti-racism training.
Deacons and the Bishop
Deacons serve directly under the Bishop, and they always have the right to direct access to him. All the deacons of the diocese meet together with the Bishop at least twice a year for worship, fellowship, formation, and support. Until an Archdeacon is appointed, the Bishop oversees the deacons of the diocese and is in charge of their formation, deployment, supervision, and support. Major decisions affecting the life and ministry of any deacon are taken after consultation between the Bishop and the deacon. Deacons are to be ready and able at any time to respond to the Bishop’s call to serve anywhere in the diocese, either in a congregation or in an institution whose mission is to serve the poor and needy. The Bishop works with the Canon for Deployment in the deployment of deacons. The Bishop usually assigns deacons to serve in a congregation other than that from which they came. Each assignment must be at the request, or with the consent, of the incumbent priest and vestry. Each assignment is reviewed, maintained, or changed, every September, and is announced at Diocesan Convention in November. When a new rector is called, the Bishop assigns the deacon to a new congregation or institution. After several years, or for other good reasons, the deacon may be assigned to another congregation. Each assignment will specify the nature and scope of the deacon’s ministry. Deacons may take sabbatical leave from all assignments and other church duties, normally after each seven years of service, after application to the Bishop. The typical length of such leave is six months. For good reason, the Bishop at his discretion may withdraw the assignment of any deacon. Deacons not assigned to congregations, for whatever reason, remain subject to the authority of the Bishop, and to the provisions of these guidelines.
Deacons and the Diocesan Convention
At the Bishop’s invitation, one of the deacons annually addresses the Diocese in Convention on what the deacons perceive to be the needs of the world. Deacons have the right to vote in the Convention.
Deacons in Congregations
In assigned congregations, deacons serve for an agreed-upon number of hours a week for a set, limited number of years in accordance with a Letter of Agreement between the deacon and the
parish priest, signed before the assignment. The Bishop must approve the letter. The letter may not be canceled or revised without the Bishop’s consent. Deacons are not “assistant clergy” but “deacons,” as defined in canon law. Deacons hold a specific office in their assigned congregation, which requires them to work closely with the priest and people in the liturgy and life of the congregation. In all matters concerning a congregation, the priest exercises authority. Deacons shall meet periodically with the priest to review and coordinate their ministry. In other matters concerning the church, deacons are responsible to the Bishop. The parish priest determines whether or not a deacon attends meetings of the vestry; the terms of attendance at vestry is to be spelled out in the Letter of Agreement. The Letter of Agreement shall specify at least the following periods of leave: One month vacation each year Two weeks each year for the development of diaconal proficiency Sabbatical leave for continuing formation, research, and reflection. Sick leave, as required. Such other leave as is required to develop and maintain self-support outside the church.
Deacons in Social Transformation
Deacons are assigned to congregations and institutions of the Diocese, which are engaged in social transformation through public advocacy or hands-on social service, or in congregations creating partnerships where the deacon can function as the “go between” person linking the congregation to its partner. Deacons are to play an essential role in helping congregations analyze and understand the causes underlying the marginalization of the poor, the weak, the disenfranchised, and the widowed and orphaned. They are to disclose the role of social location in a person’s understanding and knowledge, and they are to be aware of the institutionalized forms of systemic injustice under which many are oppressed.
Deacons in the Liturgy
The liturgical role of the deacon is to model service and participation by the whole community of the baptized. Where permissible, deacons should enable rather than replace lay participation (e.g., in the Prayers of the People, the preparation of the table, and the administration of communion). At assigned parishes, deacons serve in their proper liturgical role on Sundays and other occasions of worship, including Christmas Day, Ash Wednesday, and the Paschal Triduum. Whenever possible, deacons shall serve in parochial liturgies such as baptisms, weddings, and funerals, and in diocesan liturgies when called upon to do so by proper authority. At all liturgies the proper role of deacons is: To proclaim the gospel To serve at the table (preparing the table and gifts, assisting during the eucharistic prayer, assisting with communion, and supervising the ablutions) To give directions (such as the invitation to confession and the dismissal) To give the Dismissal To attend the Bishop To lead, and train others to lead, and, where indicated, introduce the Prayers of the People
To care for and prepare the sacred vessels and the altar To oversee and direct all ceremonies and lesser ministries To assist at the people’s communion with the cup To stand at the right hand of and assist the president as needed throughout the liturgy
At the Easter Vigil the deacon carries the pascal candle, signs the Exsultet, and assists according to order at baptism and the Eucharist. In liturgies deacons wear the alb, the stole handing from the left shoulder, and where it is local custom, the dalmatic. They should not wear personal ornaments over their vestments. In assigning deacons to congregations the Bishop automatically grants the license to preach at any church in the diocese, unless he specifically withholds or limits the license. The liturgical role of deacons includes directing lay Eucharistic ministers of the congregation, bringing the sacrament to the sick and absent, and (if a priest is not available) anointing the sick with oil blessed by the bishop. If a bishop or priest is not present, deacons may anoint at the Ministration of the Sick. They shall not preside in the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified (the so-called “Deacon mass”) or at sacramental confession. Although at a marriage deacons may assist the presider by delivering the charge and asking for the declaration of consent, they shall not preside in Holy Matrimony, unless they receive special permission from the Bishop. If no priest is available, deacons may preside at the Burial of the Dead (but may not celebrate the Eucharist). All deacons of the diocese are expected to be present at the annual rite for the ordination of deacons, where one of their number leads the litany for ordinations, but do not themselves lay on hands. To welcome deacons at the beginning of new ministries to which the bishop has assigned them they carry out the functions of a deacon in the eucharistic liturgy, are welcomed and recognized by the congregation with applause before the Dismissal, and then give the Dismissal.
Compensation of Deacons
Some deacons serve in both the liturgical and the pastoral life of a congregation. Some serve only in liturgical roles and otherwise serve primarily by representing the church as schoolteachers, prison chaplains, hospital chaplains, and through similar roles ministering to the poor outside of a congregation, and their compensation comes from the institution in which they serve. Some mix service in the church and service in world in varying degrees. When serving a congregation, a deacon is normally non-stipendiary (not salaried); it is however expected that the congregation where the deacon serves will offer the deacon: Reimbursement of actual expenses, including mileage, both to and from home to church and while carrying out diaconal ministry at the church Reimbursement of the expense of attending required meetings Assistance in continuing formation
Some deacons may receive a stipend as a salaried employee of the church or of a church agency. They are expected, nonetheless, to offer regular volunteer service in the place where the Bishop assigns them, and they are subject to the canonical and other normal provisions for such employment.
Address and Dress of Deacons
All deacons are referred to as deacons, rather than vocational or permanent or transitional deacons. The proper title or form of address for a deacon is “Deacon.” This is the normal usage in diocesan and congregational publications, newsletters, and documents. Deacons usually wear street clothing, but may wear clericals when serving in their diaconal ministry. They should wear what is appropriate for ministry in their congregations.
Once ordained, all deacons shall take part in at least one continuing education or formation program or event each year. Information about various courses is available from the Canon for Vocations. They shall report completion of this requirement in their annual report to the Bishop.
Review and Evaluation
Each deacon and each parish priest of a congregation with a deacon shall submit an annual letter reporting to the Bishop on the deacon’s life and ministry. The Bishop or Archdeacon shall meet with each deacon at least every year for a discussion and evaluation, to set goals for the deacon’s work in the diocese, and to clarify expectations.
Deacons may retire from active service for reasons of age or infirmity with the consent of the Bishop, and that they shall retire for reasons of age or infirmity at the request of the Bishop. The Bishop may, with the consent of the deacon, assign a retired deacon for a period not to exceed twelve months. Retired deacons may also serve in liturgies when invited by the proper authority. Retired deacons are not required to fulfill the obligations of these guidelines for continuing formation, attendance at meetings, annual report, and evaluation.
Evolution of these Guidelines
With the advice and counsel of the Commission on Ministry, the Standing Committee, the Academic Sub-Committee, and the Anglican Studies Committee of the Lutheran Theological at Philadelphia, the Bishop originally issued these guidelines in 2001. For much of their language he was indebted to the work of Ormande Platter, Archdeacon of the Diocese of Louisiana. This revision, made in September, 2004, comes in light of the Title III canonical changes regarding the diaconate made at the 2003 General Convention. They will be revised periodically, as needed.