Election 2004 Part 1 - Understanding the Divided Electorate

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 10 November 2004 0 Comments
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I am convinced that I am called to the ministry of being a Deacon that reaches out to people, that offers hope to those who feel they have no hope and love to those who feel unlovable. What do you think is the future of such a servant office in the church?


First, the diaconate as you describe it is a part of the ordination process in those churches that have a threefold understanding of ordained ministry that includes bishops, priests and deacons. In those churches, the deacon is the face of ordination in the world. Deacons are not generally stipendiary clergy. They continue to earn their living in their jobs or professions and take on the additional role of the diaconate. They are to interpret the world to the church more than the church to the world. They are given liturgical tasks such as reading the Gospel at the Eucharist and carrying the sacrament of the altar to the sick and dispersed people of the parish.

The role of deacon has been squeezed in recent times from two directions. First, there has been an expansion of the ministry of the laity to be and to do most of the things a deacon once was designed to do and be. Second, from the point of view of the ordained, the deacon has come to be viewed as a semi-priest who can carry out sacerdotal functions without being paid to do so and thus to expand the ordained ministry at no extra cost. In the present crisis in the Roman Catholic Church over the shortage of clergy, deacons make a sacramental life available to many congregations who might not otherwise have one.

My suggestion to you is to talk with your priest or bishop about your sense of vocation and to submit yourself to whatever process they have in place to test vocations. Then listen to what the Spirit says to you through the decision making process of the Church. Since I know both your Anglican priest and your bishop, I think you will find the testing experience a positive and growing time of life. Don't wait. Act now. Godspeed.

-- John Shelby Spong




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