A task force studying the office of deacon is recommending that deacons be delegated to both classis meetings and to synod, the annual leadership meeting of the Christian Reformed Church.
The recommendations come from Diakonia Remixed, a task force appointed by Synod 2010 to review the articles of the Church Order related to the office of deacon and to recommend resources that encourage revitalization of the diaconate and its role.
In its report, the task force indicated that the central principle guiding its recommendations is that “the church does not simply have deacons but is by its very nature and calling a diaconate—that is, a community created by the triune God to be a servant people in the world.”
Because of that, the report continues, diakonia cannot be reduced to simple acts of charity and the distribution of alms (as suggested by the use of Acts 6 in the form for ordination) but includes the much broader and richer mandate found in Ephesians 4:11-13.
Thus deacons are not called simply to perform acts of service on behalf of the church but to lead the whole church in faithful obedience to its multifaceted participation.
To do that, the task force wrote, deacons need to participate in the church at all major assemblies. “When deacons are missing from major assemblies, the full voice of the church is not heard, nor is the full ministry of the church under discussion.”
The task force recommends that each church delegate one minister, one elder, and one deacon to classis meetings. Delegations would have to comply with each classis’ decisions regarding gender.
At the synodical level, the delegation from each classis would include one minister, one elder, one deacon, and one other office-bearer.
The task force conducted a survey that suggested there is a lingering perception that deacons are “elders in training” and also that deacons receive inadequate training. So they recommend more flexibility in the length of terms of office. “Our studies lead us to believe that longer terms of office along with more intentional training may help to unleash ministry potential, change minimalist perception of the role of deacons, and lead to healthier churches with dynamic ministries.”
The report will be discussed at Synod 2013, scheduled for June 7-14 in Grand Rapids, Mich.