The role of deacons in the Church will be discussed by an international ecumenical gathering in Regina, Canada, next year, in a programme bringing together Anglicans, Roman Catholics and Ukrainian Catholics. The Revd Canon Michael Jackson, a deacon in the Anglican Church of Canada, described the gathering as “an academic conference about the diaconate” and said: “We hope lots of deacons are going to come . . . but it’s a conference about the diaconate, and anyone who’s interested in the diaconate is welcome to attend.”
The Anglican-Roman Catholic-Ukrainian Catholic Conference on the Diaconate will take place from May 10 to 13 next year at Campion College in the University of Regina. It is being sponsored by the Anglican Diocese of Qu’Appelle and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Regina. Speakers and panellists from Canada, the US, England, and Scotland will address the liturgical role of deacons, women and the diaconate, the prophetic role of the deacon, and relationships between deacons and other ordained ministers.
Jackson has served as an Anglican deacon for four decades, and is the longest-serving deacon in the Anglican Church of Canada. He is the Anglican co-chair of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Covenant Implementation Committee. He hopes that the conference would lead to a better awareness and understanding of the diaconate, which he described as a very “current topic” in light of the revival of the permanent diaconate in the Anglican and Catholic churches.
“The diaconate is still not fully understood in both our communions, and I hope we’re going to get a better theological basis for the diaconate, a better understanding of it, and what deacons can do and their potential in the church,” he said.
“There is still this underlying view among Anglicans or Roman Catholics [that] ‘Well, a deacon’s just a partway-there minister. Really, the full ministry is the priesthood.’ And we are arguing that no, the diaconate is . . . a full and equal order.
“There are three orders of ministry in our traditions . . . bishop, priest, and deacon. And we’re trying to re-establish the deacon as an order in its own right, with its own integrity in the church – whether it be in the structure of the church, in liturgy, in ministry.”
Recent Anglican discussion on the diaconate has centred around the 2016 Iona Report, which outlined a new list of competencies for deacons, the Anglican Church of Canada said, adding that “Roman Catholics are currently embroiled in a debate regarding the ordination of women as deacons, following the establishment by Pope Francis of a Vatican commission to study the issue.”
The lead Catholic organiser of the conference, Brett Salkeld, currently theologian for the Archdiocese of Regina, said that the conference also reflected the good working relationship between the Anglican and Roman Catholic dioceses based in Regina.
The two churches have started a diaconate formation program together that is now in its fourth year, with its first cohort set to be ordained in June. “In a diocese where this will be our first cohort, a lot of people don’t really understand the role of the deacon,” he said. “So it’s really important for us to communicate that a deacon is its own specific ministry, and that it’s not like a miniature priesthood. It’s a different thing.”
“The idea for this conference was perfect. It’s a bunch of people who already know each other and who like working together . . . able to work on something that both of our dioceses are pursuing right now.”
Conference fees are $250 CAD (approximately £145 GBP), excluding accommodation. Registration is open until 29 April 2018.