General Synod 2016 will consider legislation dealing with the role of deacons in the Anglican Church of Canada.
A resolution brought forward by the faith, worship and ministry (FWM) co-ordinating committee asks General Synod to receive The Iona Report (and the Competencies of the Diaconate it includes) and commend it to the dioceses to be studied and reviewed, with feedback to be submitted by October 2018.
The Iona Report is part of a much larger renewal of the diaconate in the Canadian Anglican church that has been taking place since the 1980s, explained the Rev. Eileen Scully, FWM director.
For much of Anglican history, the diaconate was seen simply as a step toward priesthood, but more recently it has been championed as a distinct ministry in its own right-one especially directed toward “those living at the margins of systems and society,” as the report puts it.
But while Canada has had an association of Anglican deacons since 2000, Scully noted that in many parts of the church, the diaconate is still not very well understood.
“[Deacons] are marginalized in most places in the life of the church-many of them do not have voice, let alone vote, at synods,” she explained. “It is very difficult for them to be recognized in a lot of places as being an authentic ministry and a fully ordered ministry of the church.”
As the number of deacons in Canada has increased, the need for a set of common standards has become more urgent, said Scully. This eventually led to a call at General Synod 2013 for the creation of a task force that would develop the national theological vision statement and set of competencies for the diaconate that would eventually become The Iona Report.
“My hope had been that deacons themselves will feel supported and affirmed and know that they are not alone, and know that there is a ground with which they can work within their dioceses, parishes, college of deacons, bishops,” she said when asked how she hopes the Iona Report will be received.
“Secondly, it is to equip the leadership who are responsible for calling forth, discerning, forming, training [and] giving spiritual direction, ongoing continuing education, tips and the constant sort of life-long ministry review that is supposed to happen.”
The resolution also requests that the primate convene a study of the report within the House of Bishops and report back to FWM, and that a revised liturgical text for the ordination of a deacon be prepared in time for General Synod 2019.