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Diaconate
http://methodistdiaconalorder.org.uk

Although recruitment to the Wesley Deaconess Order ceased in 1978, there were still those who believed themselves called to a diaconal ministry and in 1986 the Conference re-opened that possibility. In 1988 it resolved that the re-opened order should be called the Methodist Diaconal Order and be open to both women and men (called 'deaconesses' or 'deacons' according to sex). The members of the Methodist Diaconal Order received into full membership of the Order were to be 'ordained to the diaconate in the Church of God'.

In 1993 the Conference adopted a report upon the theological and constitutional issues raised by these 1988 decisions, which concluded that 'the Methodist Church recognises and has received from God two orders of ministry, the presbyteral and the diaconal'; thus the members of the Order should no longer be regarded as 'lay'. The 1995 Conference amended (for the first time since this was permitted under the Methodist Church Act 1976) the doctrinal standards clause of the Deed of Union by removing any wording that might appear to exclude the diaconate as a form of ordained ministry. Further reports were adopted in subsequent years which re-affirmed the diaconate as a separate order of ministry, as well as being a religious order, and reflected this in various changes. These included the creation of a separate diaconal session of Conference (from 1999), and provisions for reception into full connexion upon ordination and for stationing by the Conference. In 1998 the Conference received all existing members of the Methodist Diaconal Order into full connexion and resolved that 'deacon' should be the official usage for all members of the Order.

In 2010, the Diaconal Session of the Conference was replaced by a Conference Diaconal Committee, not necessarily meeting around the time of Conference. It does not have legislative powers, but has the right to be consulted on certain specified matters, and significant decision-making powers in relation to e.g. candidature and reception into full connexion.

As a religious order the Methodist Diaconal Order, like its predecessor the Wesley Deaconess Order, meets in an annual Convocation which all deacons are required to attend unless given a dispensation upon compelling grounds. The overall responsibility for the oversight of the Order lies with the deacon appointed by the Conference as the Warden of the Order, with provision for the appointment of an official Deputy being made in 2014.. The Rule of Life for the Order was approved by the Conference in 1998 and is printed in CPD.

By 2015, there were 117 deacons in the active work, 27 probationer deacons, 15 student deacons and 120 supernumerary deacons

See also Deacon.

Sources

  • Conference Agendas: 1993, pp.223-44; 1995, pp.713-20; 1997, pp.165-91; 1998, pp.503-77
  • Trevor Rowe, 'The Re-formation of the Diaconal Order', in Epworth Review, April 1997 pp.62-71
  • Constitutional Practice and Discipline, Vol 2, Book VI, Part 10
  • Maurice W. Staton, 'The development of the diaconal ministry in the Methodist Church', Ph.D.thesis, Leeds, 2001
  • E. Dorothy Graham, Saved to Serve (Peterborough, 2002) pp.456-59

Entry written by: SRH
Category: Subject

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