Wednesday, September 1, 2010

David Pendleton Oakerhater, Deacon

Great name, and an amazing story. But today I want to focus on the "Deacon" part.

Some of you already know that I'm on the Board of Trustees of the School for Deacons out here. I'm the only priest (currently) on the board (I think). It's been fascinating to be an eavesdropper of sorts on the kinds of misunderstandings and prejudices deacons get all the time. They can get a bit cranky about it, but after serving on the board and hearing all the stories, I can understand why.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the new board members orientation and learned something new about the history of the diaconate: that for a long time the diaconate was where you put people who weren't evolved enough to be priests. You know, like women or people of color. It was a second class ordination for second class citizens.

I am glad that by and large second-class citizenship is gone. But from my observation, the notion of the diaconate as second-class ordination still lingers. What a loss to the church, not only that we kept people out of the priesthood because of their race or gender, but that we lost an order of ministry by designating it as an inferior calling for inferior people.

Tell me something: does that deacon look inferior to you?


it's margaret said...

This diocese hasn't had the Order of Deacons..... except transitional.... Our previous bishop, +Lee, thought people would get confused, so he didn't ordain any at all... And for many reasons, our current bishop has refused to ordain the first class of vocational deacons-- graduated from a Diocesan program last spring....

Sigh.... I think we have three --only three vocational deacons in this diocese of 300+ clergy....

Anonymous said...

In my diocese, some people seem to think that "deacon" is a good alternative for someone who hopes to combine work as a priest with work as something else - never mind that priests and deacons are not the same thing, sacraments and service are not the same thing, etc., etc., etc. Another sigh.

It's as if people can only understand the work of a priest if that priest is working as a rector. It's as if chaplains don't exist. It's as if - forgive me, I appear to be ranting.

I love the Episcopal church with all my heart, but its current divisions of labor among its clergy and its laity are not, alas, one of the things I like the best about it.