Deacons and Presbyters

The Methodist Church has two orders of ministry: presbyteral and diaconal. The two orders are equal in status yet with certain differences in focus, style and character.

Deacons

In the Methodist Church, deacons are ordained:

to assist God's people in worship and prayer
to hold before them the needs and concerns of the world
to minister Christ's love and compassion
to visit and support the sick and the suffering
to seek out the lost and the lonely
to help those served to offer their lives to God.

The focus of diaconal ministry

Service

Taking as their model the way that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, deacons help people to understand the nature of God's love and healing through acts of loving kindness. They encourage people to realise that by serving others in His name they also encounter and are served by God.

Free from responsibility for pastoral charge of churches, deacons are able to work at grassroots, alongside people within and beyond the Church community and to offer a prophetic voice from the margins.

Witness

Deacons seek to connect faith with life in today's world in such a way that people are encouraged to articulate their experience and deal with the practical problems they encounter. They draw attention to and help interpret God's activity in the world and daily life.

There is a distinctive quality to the ministry of witness when it is not primarily linked to formal preaching, but maintains a vital link to the experience of the people who are being served.

Presbyters

Presbyters (often called ministers) are ordained:

to preach by word and deed the Gospel of God's grace
to declare God's forgiveness of sins to all who are penitent
to baptise, to confirm, and to preside at the celebration of the sacrament of Christ's body and blood
to lead God's people in worship, prayer and service
to minister Christ's love and compassion
to serve others, in whom the Lord himself is served.

The focus of presbyteral ministry

Word

This includes formal and informal preaching, evangelism, apologetic, theological and prophetic interpretation, teaching and the articulation of faith and human experience.

Sacrament

A presbyter presides at acts of celebration and devotion, especially baptism and communion.

Pastoral Responsibility

The oversight, direction, discipline, order and pastoral care of congregations is the responsibility of presbyters.

Different roles, same servant ministry

Whilst a presbyter serves through the ministry of pastoral responsibility and pastoral charge of congregations, a deacon focusses on new and distinctive ways of serving the church and community.

A deacon's main focus is to take care of the community's needs and to help God's people make the most of their faith in every day life whilst a presbyter focusses more on the delivery of God's word to the community.

Many deacons, like presbyters, preach, teach and exercise leadership but their main emphasis is on pastoral care, teamwork and outreach. They sometimes work with community organisations and can be involved in ecumenical projects. They can encourage growth in faith and the development of skills of service.

Deacons also have the privilege of belonging to a community of Deacons in the Methodist Diaconal Order, which is both a religious order and an order of ministry.

For both presbyters and deacons, ordination is to a permanent, lifelong commitment to the Church and those ordained are working on behalf of, and answer to, Methodist Conference.

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