26. RENEWAL OF THE DIACONATE (Synod of NSW / ACT; Synod of Victoria and Tasmania; Presbytery / Synod of South Australia; Presbytery / Synod of Western Australia)

That the Assembly resolve to

1. note the 20th anniversary of the renewal of the diaconate in the UCA as foreshadowed in paragraphs 13 and 14c of the Basis of Union;

2. give thanks to God for the ways Deacons have broadened the Church's understanding of ministry and led the Uniting Church in new missional directions; and

3. ask the Ministerial Education Commission (MEC) and the Synods’ MEB’s to review the materials provided to applicants and mentors in the Period of Discernment and in the selection process to ensure that the Ministry of Deacon is presented accurately and fully.

Rationale:

The renewal of the diaconate was one of the few tasks that remained to be completed following Church Union. The decision in 1991 to recognise diaconal ministry as a ministry for men and women both honoured the ministry carried out prior to Union by Deaconesses and recognised that God also called men to this ministry.

In recognising Deacons as a full and equal order of ministry that stood alongside the ministry of Word, the Uniting Church in Australia truly sought to create a ‘Renewed Diaconate’. They also recognised that sacramental ministry was not confined to Ministers of the Word. In both areas, the Uniting Church has been a significant leader in the renewal of diaconal ministry around the world.

In bringing these proposals to Assembly, we seek to raise awareness of the significant role that Deacons can have in assisting the gathered congregations to exercise ministry in the wider community, and particularly with those who would not otherwise have contact with a church. We also recognise the role of the diaconate in assisting the Uniting Church to embody the stated priorities in the Statements to the Nation in 1977 and 1988.

In the 20 years since the decision was taken, we rejoice that God has continued to call men and women to this ministry, expressed in a diversity of ministries through the church and in the community. We note, however, that many Deacons still find it difficult to negotiate placements, especially placements with a specific diaconal focus. For some in the church, the question, What is a Deacon and why do we need them? remains a live issue that needs ongoing education and clarification.

These proposals offer one way in which the whole church can be made more aware of the ministry of Deacon and how Deacons can play a vital role in extending the ministry of our churches.