What can an Anglican Deacon do

The ELCA just passed a resolution allowing for the ordination of its lay ministers, teachers, and deacons to be Ministers of Word and Service.

A month ago my son was ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament (Pastor). One of the participants was a deacon who was instrumental in getting him to go into seminary. There were eight ordained pastors--one from the Episcopal Church (retired) and the deacon. Now when it came to the laying on of hands, the pastors all participated, but the ELCA bishop did not permit the deacon from doing the laying on of hands. He had the deacon simply hold the liturgical book for him.

I felt a little odd about it. I even spoke with my bishop about it, she said that was how the ELCA Council of Bishops decided to approach this issue. Yet, as I recall, when my bishop was installed (we do not re-ordain them) the deacons did participate in the laying on of hands.

I would like to know how other denominations approach this. Thanks

Comments

  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    edited October 9
    Among the Presbies, deacons do not participate in the laying on of hands. That’s done by ministers and elders, regardless of the order of ministry to which the one receiving the laying on of hands is being ordained.

    Perhaps related to the question as it speaks to the nature of the various rites, I thought I had read that the ELCA is using the term “consecration” rather than “ordination” with regard to deacons/Ministers of Word and Service. Did I misunderstand something, or am I misrembering?

  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    In the Church of England my observation is that only priests and bishops participate in the laying in if hands at the ordination of priests and deacons.

    IIRC I’ve only ever been to one consecration, and I can’t remember who laid in hands there. I think it was only bishops.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    There was some variation in what Anglican training ministers allowed their deacons to do. You can't preside at the Eucharist, conduct weddings or give priestly blessings. But mine allowed me to perform baptisms.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    Legally, in England, an Anglican deacon can conduct weddings, but very clear advice is given that a deacon in the first year of ordained ministry should not be asked/allowed to.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    RC deacons do not lay hands on ordinands to any orders.
  • I took a wedding as a deacon. My vicar had lost his voice that day, and couldn't be heard at all. So I stumbled through the service, with no preparation, but it was still legal.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    I can't speak for the US episcopal church, or whether there is a difference between retired clergy and others, but in the CofE ordaining is very definitely something that only bishops do. That's because it is seen as transmitting apostolic succession. Only bishops can ordain priest or deacons, but at a priesting, other priests lay hands on the candidate in support as well as the bishop. So a deacon would definitely not be able to lay hands on someone as part of their ordination as a Minister of Word and Sacrament, even if it were not to CofE ministry.

    There's not much in the CofE that a deacon can do that anyone else can't. Indeed, their role tends to be seen a bit as a list of the things they can't do, specifically, consecrate the elements, absolve or pronounce a blessing in 'you' form. They can baptise, conduct a wedding, but not pronounce the blessing, which is why they are discouraged from doing so. Like a Reader, their licence automatically gives them permission to preach.
  • All of this does make me wonder if Readers should be ordained as Deacons. Some friends of mine are enthusiastic about the idea. We have a Biblical term, that doesn't relate to the work going on today, and people doing lots of work, who don't fit into a Biblical system.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    All of this does make me wonder if Readers should be ordained as Deacons. Some friends of mine are enthusiastic about the idea. We have a Biblical term, that doesn't relate to the work going on today, and people doing lots of work, who don't fit into a Biblical system.

    Doesn't diakonia (service) come into the deacon's ministry? A reader is a purely liturgical thing isn't it? Whereas being a deacon carries pastoral implications.
  • Readers do far more than liturgy.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Readers do far more than liturgy.

    More info would be good.
  • Alan29 wrote: »

    Doesn't diakonia (service) come into the deacon's ministry? A reader is a purely liturgical thing isn't it? Whereas being a deacon carries pastoral implications.
    The role of a Reader in the CofE is constantly evolving. When I was first licensed some **years ago the role was liturgical, i.e. reading Morning or Evening Prayer including preaching at those services, as well as occasionally preaching at Holy Communion.
    At various stages along the way in many Parishes, some pastoral duties were added to the Readers role.
    In my case it included assisting the local hospital chaplain with ward communions, serving on a local Whitley Committee (MOD) and editing the local newsletter for one of the MOD trade unions with a brief to contribute articles and editorials from a Christian point of view.
    With a change in Parish, bereavement counselling became a focus and another change in Parish meant that I actually conducted a number of funerals (including the necessary visits to the family). In my present ministry (semi-retired) I assist the Vicar both liturgically and with various pastoral and practical matters.
    In other areas, Reader would include being a J.P.; a local or County Council member, Samaritans, Street Pastors, prison visitor, various forms of social work etc as all being part of their ministry.
    A former Chairman of the Central Readers' Council drew up a chart comparing the roles of various "lay ministries" using that of a Deacon as his benchmark. It showed that the only difference in training and function between a Deacon and a Reader was that the Deacon could baptise.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Thank you.
    I wonder what would stop a Reader from being ordained as a non stipendiary priest?
  • Unfortunately, there seems to be an unwritten rule, that as you have opted to be a lay ministry i.e. Reader you cannot change your mind and apply to go through the various selection procedures for the priesthood, whether self-supporting or stipendiary.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited October 9
    You can train for the ordained ministry as a Reader. You just have to attend a BAP for discernment of your vocation. I was at theological college with a number of ordinands who were Readers.
  • It showed that the only difference in training and function between a Deacon and a Reader was that the Deacon could baptise.

    Except that of course anyone can baptize, if necessary in extremis. Baptism should be performed by a priest or deacon in the interests of good order, not because there is
    something about a diaconal ordination that enables them to baptize.
  • angloidangloid Shipmate
    I seem to remember our late shipmate Leo being very adamant that his calling was to be a Reader and not a deacon. I could never understand this as the line between a deacon's function and that of a Reader seems invisible. The latter is not solely a liturgical role (however it may have originated). I think perhaps Leo resisted being clericalised. But the role seems virtually the same as that of RC permanent deacons, who don't seem to me to be particularly clericalised. The only things that would make them so would be the wearing of the collar (which most don't do) and the title Reverend which they could refuse to use if they had a mind to.
  • BroJames wrote: »
    In the Church of England my observation is that only priests and bishops participate in the laying in if hands at the ordination of priests and deacons.

    IIRC I’ve only ever been to one consecration, and I can’t remember who laid in hands there. I think it was only bishops.

    In the RC ordination of deacons, only the bishop lays lands, not priests and not fellow deacons. I think I'm right that even if other bishops are present, only the ordaining bishop lays on hands. This was said to be because of the special link between the diocesan bishop and his deacons, who in former times had important administrative duties (archdeacons were once actually deacons and the functions undertaken now by vicars general would probably once have been undertaken by deacons). It may be that Anglican cannons still permit deacons to undertake these administrative roles (RC cannon law does in some cases).
  • angloidangloid Shipmate
    As far as I recall, Anglican deacons are ordained by the bishop alone; priests by the bishop plus other bishops and priests present; and bishops by the presiding bishop along with other bishops. Thus similar to RC practice above.
  • Enoch wrote: »
    I can't speak for the US episcopal church, or whether there is a difference between retired clergy and others, but in the CofE ordaining is very definitely something that only bishops do.

    Speaking solely as a priest in the US Episcopal Church but not as its spokesman:
    In TEC only the Presiding Bishop, or his/her designee, plus two additional existing bishops, can lay hands to ordain a new bishop. (It takes 3 to make 1). There are usually several co-consecrators. Also any ordained bishop present joins in a bishop scrum to also join in the laying on of hands.

    Only a Bishop can ordain a priest (after all the requirements of background check, review and approval by various groups.) In that rite those priests present are invited to join in the laying on of hands in a priestly scrum.

    And only a bishop can ordain a deacon who is, perhaps mercifully, scrum free -- no one else joining in the laying on of hands.

    I have worked closely in my time with two deacons: One had been licensed to preach as a Reader. Her chief ministry focused on a feeding program for those in need, and through that some very decent pastoral care, both to those seeking a meal, and to those volunteers who helped with the cooking and washing up. The other also did some food related ministry -- begging food from grocery stores and distributing it to front porches of those who had been referred as in need.

    My next door neighbor is a married, retired RC deacon. His ministry was primarily liturgical: proclaiming the Gospel and preaching. In retirement he is the anchor for a weekly local access television station program, speaking with one other on various topics, bringing his theological perspective.
  • The Canadian RCs have ended up relying greatly on deacons, while in Anglican circles they are still looking for a role-- some dioceses and parishes use them in charitable and/or outreach work. There are attempts to try to systematize approaches and figure out a way of using deacons effectively-- this (https://www.anglicandeacons.ca/ministries/the-iona-report) is worth a look.

    Among the RCs, many dioceses use them to support a generally aging and stagnant priestly cohort. Locally, Ottawa has 86 deacons and 286 priests, Kingston 27 and 73, Alexandria 16 and 29, Pembroke 13 and 63. I'm told that they are valued for marriage preparation courses, having more street creds than the celibate priests, and for diocesan administration, partly because active priests are more necessary in pastoral work.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    angloid wrote: »
    I seem to remember our late shipmate Leo being very adamant that his calling was to be a Reader and not a deacon. I could never understand this as the line between a deacon's function and that of a Reader seems invisible. The latter is not solely a liturgical role (however it may have originated). I think perhaps Leo resisted being clericalised. But the role seems virtually the same as that of RC permanent deacons, who don't seem to me to be particularly clericalised. The only things that would make them so would be the wearing of the collar (which most don't do) and the title Reverend which they could refuse to use if they had a mind to.
    The distinction between a Reader and a Deacon is important if the concepts of clerisy and ordination are important to you, if words like 'diaconal' and 'priestly' generate a warm glow in your heart, and if the symbolism of roles is as important to you as what the person actually does. Otherwise, there is very little difference. After all, most pastoral support, care for the sick, representing Christ's kingdom to the world, etc is something that anyone can and, arguably, all should be doing.

    As I've mentioned before, several times, on these boards, in England, although some clergy may disapprove of this, you do not have to be ordained to read the gospel at Holy Communion. I think, though, you do in Wales.

    There are very few permanent deacons in the CofE. Almost all are apprentice priests. The only two I can think of off-hand are people who have for personal reasons not proceeded to priest's orders at the end of their year, and are functionally theologically trained lay people.

    In the CofE, all priests and bishops remain deacons as well, and all bishops are also priests.

    In the nineteenth century, when being 'the Reverend' was often seen as a qualification to be a schoolmaster, some people who were ordained primarily so as to enhance their status in the teaching profession did not proceed to priest's orders, or only did so when this became desirable for career reasons at a later stage on their professional life.
  • PendragonPendragon Shipmate
    I believe that reader training is shorter overall than pre-ordination training. They are also licenced to serve in a specific place, which deacons aren't, with the exception of ordained local ministers, who aren't terribly common and tend to be coming to ministry later in life.

    Being a reader is also not your sole role, whereas clergy can vary, especially in the self-supporting realm. I think if a reader decides they want to go forward for ordination their previous study is credited towards their course, but there will be further training.

    There are one or two permanent deacons in the Anglo-Catholic end of the CofE, as I have met a lady in that role.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    BroJames wrote: »
    In the Church of England my observation is that only priests and bishops participate in the laying in if hands at the ordination of priests and deacons.

    IIRC I’ve only ever been to one consecration, and I can’t remember who laid in hands there. I think it was only bishops.

    That describes Anglican practice here, save for one special instance I'm aware of (and that we were present at. A permanent deacon, sibling to the person being priested, was by special request and permission one of those laying on hands.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    Thank you for the clarification about Anglican deacons. An ELCA bishop presided at my son's ordination. That bishop had received consecration from an Anglican bishop, so all is in order there. The laying on of hands by the pastors in attendance was to show support to my son.

    Before seminaries were established in the US those seeking ordination would read under an approved minister, but I took it to mean they just went through the ministers library and discussed issues with the minister. They did participate in the conduct of the liturgy as well.
  • I agree that there is a very fine line between Reader and Deacon functions. And I recall seeing on the CofE Reader's website an article which showed that there was no difference between RC permanent Deacons and CofE Readers. However all this is resisted by the powers because by introducing anything "new" they would cause the boat to rock.

    In response to Pendragon, in both my last diocese and my present diocese, Readers train alongside candidates for the ordained ministry and are awarded the same degree or diploma in higher education. Because of the commitment involved there are very few Readers commencing training under the age forty - the same as those training as SSM's.
  • Enoch wrote: »
    angloid wrote: »
    I seem to remember our late shipmate Leo being very adamant that his calling was to be a Reader and not a deacon. I could never understand this as the line between a deacon's function and that of a Reader seems invisible. The latter is not solely a liturgical role (however it may have originated). I think perhaps Leo resisted being clericalised. But the role seems virtually the same as that of RC permanent deacons, who don't seem to me to be particularly clericalised. The only things that would make them so would be the wearing of the collar (which most don't do) and the title Reverend which they could refuse to use if they had a mind to.
    The distinction between a Reader and a Deacon is important if the concepts of clerisy and ordination are important to you, if words like 'diaconal' and 'priestly' generate a warm glow in your heart, and if the symbolism of roles is as important to you as what the person actually does. Otherwise, there is very little difference. After all, most pastoral support, care for the sick, representing Christ's kingdom to the world, etc is something that anyone can and, arguably, all should be doing.

    As I've mentioned before, several times, on these boards, in England, although some clergy may disapprove of this, you do not have to be ordained to read the gospel at Holy Communion. I think, though, you do in Wales.

    There are very few permanent deacons in the CofE. Almost all are apprentice priests. The only two I can think of off-hand are people who have for personal reasons not proceeded to priest's orders at the end of their year, and are functionally theologically trained lay people.

    In the CofE, all priests and bishops remain deacons as well, and all bishops are also priests.

    In the nineteenth century, when being 'the Reverend' was often seen as a qualification to be a schoolmaster, some people who were ordained primarily so as to enhance their status in the teaching profession did not proceed to priest's orders, or only did so when this became desirable for career reasons at a later stage on their professional life.

    In the 18th and 19th centuries, men would occasionally take deacon's orders so that they might be eligible for certain college fellowships or other offices (apparently there were a few municipal lectureships or chaplaincies), when they were not interested in proceeding to priest's orders. This practice pretty well died out after university reform acts in the Victoria period, which removed these requirements.
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    I started out in the Free Church of England which has some quirks. Bishops ordain deacons unassisted. At a priesting the presbyters present join in the laying on of hands and sign the ordination certificate along with the bishop. In the case of the consecration of bishops, there are usually three bishops plus several presbyters; the old FCE being a bastion of the "two orders but three ministries" line of thinking that was not uncommon among 19th century Anglican Evangelicals. That may have changed in recent years as the present Primus is ex-CofE and sits a bit loose on some of the old FCE customs.

    Oddly, the FCE thing of having presbyters participate in the laying on of hands at an Episcopal Consecration has an echo in the old Church of Sweden ordinal where several pastors used to lay hands on alongside the consecrating bishops as a sign of collegiality. I get the feeling that the attitude of CofSwe to "apostolic succession" is about the same as the FCE's - they have it, but they don't make a big deal out of it.

    My present ecclesiastical home has a single track for Readers and Deacons. The complicating factor for us is that Readers come in two varieties, Most are parish readers who are not allowed to preach sermons of their own composition and are usually trained by the incumbent, and are restricted to a particular parish, and its dependent missions in most circumstances. The other variety are diocesan readers who have to get the appropriate qualification from the ministerial training scheme, and their training differs little from that for a deacon. They are allowed to preach sermons of their own composition, and can be sent/loaned to parishes other than the one to which they are licenced. IIRC, the current guidelines say that a diocesan reader needs eight modules, and a deacon ten, or summat like that. The major difference between deacons and diocesan readers is that deacons can do sick communions by extension "ex officio" whilst diocesan readers can only do so in unusual circumstances (i.e. a vacancy with no priest or deacon nearby to fill in) the bishop's express permission. Technically we do not have permanent deacons, but there are several who have made it quite clear they are not going any further, and that they will get quite angry if they get chivvied by a purple shirt or their rector.

    Non-stipendiary priests usually come through the diocesan reader/deacon track. They have to do another eight "modules" before being priested and even when they have completed that task they would still have to do quite a bit of Potty Training before they can be considered for an incumbency. The present system seems a bit on the overkill end of the spectrum, but it is the result of a bad experience some years ago when the diocese ordained a lot of "permanent deacons" who were ordained priest without much further training by the next bishop. To be polite, the results were *cough* uneven, and to a certain extent, we only finally got the last of the mess cleared away a couple of years ago.
  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    I have to say that as I am now in charge of overseeing all these programmes in our (tiny and unimportant) diocese I am terrified of generating a similar mess
  • Pendragon wrote: »
    I believe that reader training is shorter overall than pre-ordination training. They are also licenced to serve in a specific place, which deacons aren't, with the exception of ordained local ministers, who aren't terribly common and tend to be coming to ministry later in life.

    That’s not strictly true. Reader training usually lasts around three years and here in Southwark, Readers train alongside clergy in some instances as the Reader and Ordination courses overlap. As far as licensing is concerned, although Readers usually serve in their home parish, unlike OLMs, they are licensed to practice anywhere in the diocese.
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    edited October 15
    Zappa wrote: »
    I have to say that as I am now in charge of overseeing all these programmes in our (tiny and unimportant) diocese I am terrified of generating a similar mess

    The present bishop is youngish for a bishop (50-ish) and has made it quite plain he does not want the present system to be significantly changed. He is open to tweaks, but not "rewriting the prospectus" at this stage, or any time in the foreseeable future. This is mainly because this particular tiny and unimportant diocese is, for the first time in years, not in the middle of a staffing crisis. The modular system and maintaining fluidity between reader and ordained ministry tracks through the first eighteen months of training is giving folks extra time to discern their actual call without imposing an artificial ordained/non-ordained streaming right from the beginning seems to be helping us. The other beneficial factor is the fact that we have accepted, as a diocese, that most of our parishes can no longer afford priests who have just been ordained and have trained full-time and therefore have a mountain of debt to service. There just isn't the amount of money in the system to pay the stipends those fellows need.
  • Pendragon wrote: »
    I believe that reader training is shorter overall than pre-ordination training. They are also licenced to serve in a specific place, which deacons aren't, with the exception of ordained local ministers, who aren't terribly common and tend to be coming to ministry later in life.

    Being a reader is also not your sole role, whereas clergy can vary, especially in the self-supporting realm. I think if a reader decides they want to go forward for ordination their previous study is credited towards their course, but there will be further training.

    There are one or two permanent deacons in the Anglo-Catholic end of the CofE, as I have met a lady in that role.

    Our Readers (called licensed Lay Ministers now) are trained alongside ordinands apart from a few modules specific to the tasks of a priest. The role is a calling in itself to preach and teach and lead worship, and not lower than that of a priest, who they work alongside. They are licensed to the whole diocese while based in a benefice. They often work full time ( and more) as lay ministers. They can take reserved sacrament services to residential homes and housebound individuals. They can assume the diaconal role during the liturgy, read the gospel, serve the sacraments, etc.


  • kmannkmann Shipmate
    Unfortunately, there seems to be an unwritten rule, that as you have opted to be a lay ministry i.e. Reader you cannot change your mind and apply to go through the various selection procedures for the priesthood, whether self-supporting or stipendiary.
    Well, here in Durham (St. John's College, Cramner Hall) one of the ordinands is a licensed reader.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    Unfortunately, there seems to be an unwritten rule, that as you have opted to be a lay ministry i.e. Reader you cannot change your mind and apply to go through the various selection procedures for the priesthood, whether self-supporting or stipendiary.
    That’s not true for England in general. It’s quite a common occurrence to meet someone at a Bishop’s Advisory Panel (i.e. who is exploring a call to ordained ministry) who is already a Reader. Such candidates do sometimes struggle to articulate why, given the ministry they already have, they are seeking ordained priestly ministry.
  • I know someone who is training to be a Reader as a first step towards ordination. My impression is that it's not unusual.
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    kmann wrote: »
    Unfortunately, there seems to be an unwritten rule, that as you have opted to be a lay ministry i.e. Reader you cannot change your mind and apply to go through the various selection procedures for the priesthood, whether self-supporting or stipendiary.
    Well, here in Durham (St. John's College, Cramner Hall) one of the ordinands is a licensed reader.

    It is almost exactly the reverse here. You pretty much have to be a reader in order to be considered, or be willing to become a reader in order to start the training process. The arcane piece of thinking here is that if you cannot hack it as a reader, you are even less likely to hack it as a deacon or presbyter.
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