Home > Uncategorized > Sacramental Authority of Deacons?

Sacramental Authority of Deacons?

The United Methodists in Arkansas received a very nice report from General Conference by Perkins professor and Arkansas native Beka Miles through our Conference Communications team. Here’s a paragraph from the middle of that message:

I think tomorrow we’ll be talking about homosexuality, membership requirements, and sacramental authority for deacons – among other things. I expect that we’ll have a protest of some kind.

Seasoned United Methodists probably looked at those first two issues and thought, “Of course.” What stood out to me was the issue of the “sacramental authority of deacons.” I’ve not seen nor heard anything about the possibility of changes regarding ordination and sacramental authority. Can some of you Methobloggers shed some light on this for me?

My first question is, if we give sacramental authority to deacons, what will that do to the itinerancy?

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  1. April 30, 2008 at 10:36 am

    I don’t believe giving sacramental authority to Deacons will affect itinerancy. I believe it allows Deacons to administer the sacraments in their places of specialized ministry (i.e. hospitals, on retreat, in small groups etc.) To me it makes sense to give the sacramental authority to people we call clergy. The difference between an Elder and a Deacon will then be that of Order. Deacons will not be called upon to “order the local church.” That means Deacons will not be appointed to pastor local congregations and therefor the itinerancy should remain unaffected.

  2. Matthew Johnson
    April 30, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Eric. I think my concern is that people who want to be in ministry but not itinerate could get positions as associate pastors and be, for all intents and purposes, non-moving elders. They’d be treated as such.

  3. April 30, 2008 at 9:02 pm

    I agree with Eric on this. Don’t Deacons have to go through the same stuff as Elders? And so you have Hospice Chaplains who have gone through the same process as I have, and they cannot give communion? Deacons orders are a rip off.
    You can get a job as what amounts to an Associate Pastor and not be moved now. You couldn’t serve communion, but you could stay forever as the “Pastor of discipleship” or something.
    And… Not to be a negative Nellie, but the itinerant system was sweet in 1808 when pastors died before they were 30, but now not so much… Gotta love the guaranteed appointment shuffle that goes on this time of year every year.

  4. Matthew Johnson
    April 30, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    If deacons orders are a rip off then why don’t they go through the process to become an elder? Deacons know what that order entails. If they don’t like it they can be ordained an elder.

    I support the itinerancy.

  5. May 1, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    If deacons orders are a rip off then why don’t they go through the process to become an elder?
    Yeah, I have no idea. I guess because then the Bishop would tell them where to go. My point was that I am not sure what the benefit is for someone to go through the process of becoming a Deacon when they can hold the same position without. This may be due to my lack of understanding the order though, I won’t rule that out.

    Deacons know what that order entails. If they don’t like it they can be ordained an elder.
    Sure. And the people that don’t like the fact that I work only one day a week all had the chance to become elders as well. I think though, that this is the reason that we have so few deacons (at least up here) – the people beginning the process find out what the order entails and then a majority ask themselves, “why?” I don’t suspect that it will affect itinerancy either way. I think that your scenario of associate pastor staying is the only possible way it could affect itinerancy, and to be honest the number of UM Churches that could afford an associate is comparatively so small that even if they did function that way the impact upon the system would be minimal. Unless, I’m missing something. Even so, the way things function in reality in our “appointment” system is that a large church in my conference handpicked their associate pastor and another tried to do so as well (and when they were denied they got rid of the position).

    I support the itinerancy.
    As do I officially.
    However, and I don’t mean this in a snarky way, it’s a real question. What specifically do you appreciate about it? As I have experienced it in action I have seen a lot of hurt people and a lot of pastors and churches being enabled.

  6. Matthew Johnson
    May 1, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    I like it – and this is solely my opinion AND modus operandi – because it calls for the development and support of a strong laity. No matter who the pastor may be at a particular church, the laity is the backbone and they do the work of the church. I realize it’s not always like that but that’s what I’m helping to build. Plus, the itinerancy gives me the freedom to be faithful in my preaching and teaching without fear that the deacon board will vote me out like they do in Baptist churches.

    We’ve got a bunch of Deacons in Arkansas, btw.

  7. May 1, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    I agree with those. I also know that I need to be in submission to an authority (I’m still working on my heart in this regards). I wonder though, if perhaps the most profound positive impact that the itinerant system has made has been in the realm of women in ministry.

    I guess I’ve seen too many examples of small churches with too many pastoral changes and each time a change happens things fall back and the effect is a pastor driven church. I am not sure if my issue is with the system or how it is functioning. I do know that I am just having issues overall with how the denomination is functioning. I think the Wesleyan Holiness theological stream is so important, but this UM incarnation is so frustrating.

    We’ve got a bunch of Deacons in Arkansas, btw.
    Perhaps it’s nothing to do with the requirements. Maybe Deacons just need warmer weather to thrive…

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