Wednesday, August 22, 2012

General Assembly Resolution: Deacons & Elders

Here is a copy of the General Assembly resolution on deacons and elders, which I have presented to our district delegation. - Please note that underlined words are those to be added, while words in brackets are to be deleted. - I am asking all Nazarenes to send this resolution to your district delegation. - Thank you!

                 DEACONS/ELDERS                 403, 430.1-2, 430.4, 431., and 431.1

403.  The Church of the Nazarene recognizes the order of elder and the order of deacon [only one order of preaching ministry, that of elder].  It also recognizes that the member of the clergy may serve the church in various capacities.  Christ has called “some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:11-12).  The church recognizes the following categories of service in which a district assembly may place an elder, deacon, or, as circumstances warrant, a licensed minister: pastor, evangelist, missionary, teacher, administrator, chaplain, and special service.  Service within these categories that qualifies as being an “assigned minister” would include that service for which ministerial training and ordination are normally required, or greatly desired.  The Sourcebook on Ordination shall provide guidelines for each category of ministry that will aid district boards in identifying the qualifications necessary for consideration to be an assigned minister.  Only assigned ministers shall be voting members of the district assembly.

430.1.  [The deacon does not witness to a specific call to preach.]  The church recognizes, on the basis of Scripture and experience, that God calls some individuals to a lifetime ministry [who do not witness to such a specific call] of Word and Service, and believes that individuals so called to [such ministries] the ministry of a deacon should be recognized and confirmed by the church and should meet requirements, and be granted responsibilities, established by the church.  This is a permanent order of ministry.

430.2.  The deacon must meet the requirements of the order for education, exhibit the appropriate gifts and graces, and be recognized and confirmed by the church.  The deacon shall be vested with the authority to administer the sacrament[s] of baptism [and the Lord’s Supper], to officiate at marriages where the laws of the state do not prohibit, to assist the elder in the distribution of the Lord’s Supper, and [on occasion] to conduct worship and to preach.  It is understood that the Lord and the church may use this person’s gifts and graces in various associate ministries.  As a symbol of the servant ministry of the Body of Christ, the deacon may also use his or her gifts in roles outside the institutional church.  (35.2)

430.4.  If in the pursuance of his or her ministry, the ordained deacon feels called to the [preaching] ministry of elder, he or she may be ordained [elder] as such upon completion of the requirements for that credential and the return of the deacon credential.

431.  An elder is a minister whose call of God to preach, gifts, and usefulness have been demonstrated and enhanced by proper training and experience, and who has been separated for the ministry of Word and Table and to the service of Christ through His church by the vote of a district assembly and by the solemn act of ordination, and thus has been fully invested to perform all functions of the Christian ministry.

431.1  [We recognize but one order of preaching ministry – that of elder.]  The order of elder [this] is a permanent order in the church.  The elder is to rule well in the church, to preach the Word, to administer the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and to solemnize matrimony, all in the name of, and in subjection to, Jesus Christ, the great Head of the Church.  (35.2, 412-13.3, 413.9, 435.12)


1.  Throughout the history of the Church, from ancient times up to and including our own lineage of John Wesley’s Anglicanism and American Methodism, the distinction between the order of deacon and the order of elder has been: a.) the deacon is called to a ministry focused on service, and b.) the elder is vested with the authority to administer the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.  This has been expressed as the ministry of “Word and Service,” on the one hand, and the ministry of “Word and Table,” on the other hand.

 2.  This is this distinction that that hold nearly universally in the larger Wesleyan/Methodist tradition (cf. the Disciplines of the African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion, Christian Methodist Episcopal, and United Methodist churches). 

3.  This is the main distinction that seems to be held ecumenically, and it is the main distinction that seems to be held in the Roman  Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions, as well.

4.  Our current distinction between the two orders (viz., preaching), seems to have been assumed due to the statement in par. 429.1 that “We recognize but one order of preaching ministry – that of elder.”  -  However, making preaching the distinction between the two orders when we developed the order of deacon was an erroneous assumption.  The statement found in par. 429.1 was not intended to distinguish the order of elder from any other order.  Rather, that statement was meant to reinforce that we had only ONE order; that of elder.  We did not have TWO preaching orders (viz., elder and deacon), as did the Methodist Episcopal Church of the time.  We only had ONE preaching order (viz., elder).
5.  To identify the distinction between the elder and deacon as one of a call to preach, not only disregards the historic position of the larger Church, but is very difficult to maintain when the deacon, according to par. 428.2, may also preach, and when we are a part of a tradition that involves lay preachers (cf. par. 402.1).

6.  The proposed changes will bring us much closer to alignment with the usage of the terms in Scripture, the distinctions throughout the history of the Christian Church, the ecumenical consensus, and our own Wesleyan heritage.

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