The video embedded in this section is a presentation by author J.N. Sullivan. It was given in October, 2015 at the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. Her book was published by Archdeacon Books.
J.N. Sullivan Book Presentation
Thursday, December 31, 2015
Friday, December 11, 2015
Sunday, December 6, 2015
This is the first in a series of articles about deacons in the church. In order to avoid any confusion at the outset, deacon as described herein is about the Order of Deacons as so structured in the so-called catholic churches. Catholic churches are those whose ordained orders of ministry follow that of the apostles – those who claim to be in the apostolic tradition or apostolic succession: generally speaking, Roman Catholic; Eastern Orthodox; and Anglican.
The three orders of ordained ministry are Bishops (over-seers); Presbyters (priests); and Deacons (servants). Historically the church ordains a candidate to the diaconate; six months later, or more, that “transitional” deacon is ordained into the presbyterate or the priesthood. Bishops are elected or appointed variously according to the canons and constitutions of their particular tradition. In the Roman Catholic Church, for example, it is the Pope who appoints bishops. The Eastern Orthodox and Anglican traditions have differing methods of election within their own structures. But they all have deacons.
This series of articles proposes to articulate the relationship between the bishop and his deacons. In order to understand this special relationship and the many ministries it produces, it is necessary to document the genesis of the Order of Deacons and the nature of structured ministry.
In Acts 6:1-6 we are told:
Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.
Many biblical scholars identify this passage in the Acts of the Apostles as the creation and identification of the first deacons in the early church. The charge for deacon ministry, as we read, differed from that of the apostles. The church’s expanding ministries, not only the preaching but the acting out of the Gospel, are represented in the appointment of these seven deacons. The original apostles are considered the church’s first bishops.
Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was a deacon.
Paul in his greeting to the church in Philippi wrote: Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons … (Philippians 1:3). Note that Paul, an apostle, refers to himself and Timothy both as servants.
After first listing qualifications for overseers, qualifications for deacons in the early church were then spelled out by Paul: 8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9 They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 3:8-13).
This first article is intended to show that the Order of Deacons existed in the early church and by way of analysis any organization – including the organized church – is a social entity composed of real human beings. The church’s fundamental nature is social and organic. In order to exist as a life of its own the church must therefore be ordered (Barnett: The Diaconate – A Full and Equal Order, 1979, 1995). In order to work out its calling, the church must be ordered. Chaos in the church is not an option.
The fundamental character of the church is service – service to God and service within God’s creation. Therefore the ordered structure of the church – lay, deacon, presbyter, bishop – is diaconally constituted. All members of the church – lay or ordained – minister in service.