- The Diaconate in Ecumenical Perspective: Ecclesiology, Liturgy, and Practice ed. by D. Michael Jackson
On the book’s back cover, Archbishop Donald Bolen (Roman Catholic Archbishopric of Regina) lauds this collection of essays as one that “launches us into a life-giving dialogue between our Communions.” The launching itself may be characterized as a lift-off into a reconnaissance-for-consensus mission amid the “rich variety, flexibility, depth, and potential of the order in diaconal ministry in today’s churches” (from the editor’s Introduction). Referenced with appreciation by the authors throughout is the prior scholarship of Australian Catholic John N. Collins that elevated the concept of diaconal service from menial waiting upon to spirited and enterprising Kingdom ambassador-ship (Diakonia: Re-interpreting the Ancient Sources, Oxford University Press, 1990). Accordingly, the results of Collins’s investigation may be taken to be the launch pad for the effort presently under review. The contributors to this volume are ecumenically attuned and seasoned representatives from the Anglican Communion, the Roman Catholic and Ukrainian Catholic Churches, plus the Lutheran and Methodist traditions. This book comprises nineteen contributions from thirteen authors divided in seven tightly edited sections. Each section title (e.g., “The Theology of the Diaconate,” “Women and the Diaconate,” “Prophetic Ministry of the Deacon”) could serve as a book title itself, making for a small collection of books constituting a fairly comprehensive introduction to the history, practice, and inchoate possibilities of diakonia in and for the aforementioned traditions.
In disposing of the discredited menial service concept of diakonia, Josephine Borgeson is pleased to imagine deacons as community catalysts and prophetic parabolic destabilizers. David Clark affirms the British Methodist Diaconal Order—an intertwining of an order of ministry and a religious order—as a model and a leaven amid the people of God as they live out their calling to be kingdom community builders in a multitude of spheres of life and society. Frederick C. Bauerschmidt recommends Lumen gentium’s perspective on the essence of ordination as a guarantor of openness and variety of form in relation to vocational discernment. Anne Keffer and E. Loise Williams elevate diaconal ministry in their Lutheran tradition to that of a possible model that holds companionship and empowerment as key values to be adopted by their traditionally pastor-centric churches—and all churches. [End Page 137] Rosalind Brown envisions diaconal service as a conduit for bringing eucharistic life and worship into the heart of a needful world.
Christological, pneumatological and eschatological dimensions of diakonia receive due treatment (Brown, Gloria Marie Jones, OP). George E. Newman describes and comments on the transitional/permanent diaconate distinction and their appropriate formational peculiarities. In subjecting the transitional diaconate to scrutiny, Suzanne Watson Epting cautions against sustaining an abiding “sentimental attachment” to this stepping-stone form of diaconal service; for Alison Peden, transitional deaconship poses a “huge challenge” to the vocational and sacramental integrity of those discerning a calling to be heralds and commissioned agents of the Church’s mission. Maylanne Maybee advocates functional flexibility in extending the apostolic mission beyond historical religiocultural contexts. Her historical review is interspersed with photos of diaconal artist Terrie Chedore’s beguiling iconographic and station-like arrangements of beach detritus depicting successive eras of the fully churched—men and women—in ecclesial ministry. Voices are raised or referenced that reveal differences: Maybee believes that the distribution of Pre-consecratedGifts during a so-called “deacon’s mass” disengages consecration from congregation. Jackson reinforces the positive perspective, regarding such masses as valid temporary alternatives to a priest’s absence that honors the ideal form of Sunday worship, while assisting the assembly to celebrate the presence of the risen Christ.
Of course, of capital interest for each reader will be the material pertinent to one’s own faith tradition. This Eastern Catholic reviewer is cognizant of the fact that the deacon’s frequent call to attention throughout Byzantine worship services (“Let us be attentive!”) is perhaps rooted in the “snap to” command of military life; for...