A diaconal minister in the ELCIC is called by and publicly serves the church with primary responsibility for witnessing to the gospel through a ministry of service mandated by the Word and Sacraments that enables and equips the people of God in their ministry.
The Constitution of the ELCIC says, "The mission of this church…is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with people in Canada and around the world through the proclamation of the Word, the celebration of the Sacraments, and through service in Christ's name."
The Evangelical Declaration of the ELCIC states, " We believe, teach and confess that the crucified Christ calls us into a life of discipleship in which we are to be persons for others."
Diaconal ministry is established to offer the ELCIC a form of ministry designed to work interdependently with types of leadership in the church as we work In Mission for Others.
In the Evangelical Declaration, "We commit ourselves as church to equip all of us to be people in mission and to live as faithful disciples." The public diaconal ministry of the church furthers this commitment to equip all the people of God for service in Christ's name. The diaconal minister serves, but also intentionally prepares and leads others in service. The diaconal ministry is one form of the Evangelical Declaration's commitment " to respond faithfully, promptly and flexibly to the many opportunities for mission."
In order to encourage and enhance service of the whole people of God in Christ's name, and to have a body of rostered church workers serving as agents of the church in interpreting and responding to needs, hopes and concerns within church and society this church has instituted a roster of diaconal ministers.
From: The Diaconate as Ecumenical Opportunity, The Hannover Report of the Anglican-Lutheran International Commission)
- Be rooted in the word of God.
Diaconal ministers are ministers of the service of Christ, informed by the Word of God, and called as witnesses to the gospel and the apostolic faith. They are called to be part of the theological engagement of this church in God's world.
Be equipped to carry out a particular service.
Diaconal ministers carry out a public ministry of service and witness. With demonstrated competence and expertise in a particular discipline, diaconal ministers may serve both within and outside of congregational settings, in each case bearing responsibility for making connections between church and world. Programmatic ministries within congregational settings should also be marked by extension of the witness of the church into the larger community.
Be committed and prepared to equip the baptized for ministry in the world and in the church.
Diaconal ministers along with pastors and bishops are called to lead and equip the baptized for ministry. Diaconal ministers support the ministry of the baptized through appropriate programmatic ministries and by discerning and encouraging their gifts for ministry.
Give particular attention to ministries at the boundaries between church and world.
Diaconal ministers carry public responsibility to speak for the needs of God's world to the church as well as taking God's saving gospel to the needs of the world through the actions of God's people, both individually and collectively.
Exemplify the life of Christ-like service addressing all forms of human need.
The call to diaconal ministry is a lifelong commitment that supports and complements the ministry of Word and Sacrament, focusing on ministry to the whole person. This 'diaconal bias' provides the lens and vision for developing the diaconal mission of the church carried out among and through its members.
Be grounded in community.
Diaconal ministers need the support and shared vision of a community of leaders committed to a common calling. This grounding in a diaconal community serves as the reminder to build community in all ministry settings.
Persons seeking consecration as diaconal ministers in the ELCIC are expected to fully participate in all steps of the candidacy process. The candidacy process is the shared responsibility of the candidate and CTEL.
Initial contact begins a process of discernment which explores an individual's potential for rostered ministry and readiness to begin theological study and candidacy in the ELCIC. Two years of active membership in an ELCIC congregation is required prior to endorsement. The process includes registration, structured interview and psychological and career evaluation through the synod CTEL, and positive annual endorsement throughout the candidacy. In consultation with CTEL, application may be made to the seminary.
Persons admitted to the roster and who continue as diaconal ministers of the ELCIC shall satisfactorily meet and maintain basic standards established in the Constitution, Bylaws and continuing resolutions of the ELCIC, as well as the following:
- commitment to Christ;
- accept and adhere to the Scriptures as the inspired Word of God;
- acceptance of and adherence to the Lutheran Confessions of this church;
- willingness and ability to serve in response to the needs of this church;
- academic and practical qualifications for ministry;
- life consistent with the gospel and personal qualifications including leadership abilities and competence in interpersonal relationships;
- receipt and acceptance of a letter of call; and
- membership in a congregation of this church.
The definition of diaconal ministry requires the following components to be included in any preparation and educational program designed to equip persons for this leadership role:
- knowledge and understanding of the Word of God;
- a Lutheran understanding of the gospel;
- knowledge and understanding of the Lutheran Confessions;
- theological reflection on issues of faith and life;
- personal spiritual formation and ministry identity;
- communication and planning skills necessary for effective witness and service, both verbally and in action; and
- specific education and competence in an identified ministry of service.
In preparation for consecration as a diaconal minister of this church, a candidate will engage in a comprehensive program of preparation.
Except as otherwise provided, a candidate for consecration as a diaconal minister shall:
- Demonstrate competence in at least one area of specialization or expertise according to guidelines established by the ELCIC (see point 2);
- Have a minimum of a bachelor's degree, college degree, a graduate degree or a professional certificate appropriate to the designated field of specialization. If the degree is in an unrelated field of study, significant work experience (minimum of three years) with leadership responsibilities appropriate to the type of diaconal ministry being sought is required. In some special cases a person not holding a bachelor's degree may be considered for candidacy under the provisions described in Addendum 1 to this document, Equivalencies/Alternatives in Lieu of Academic Credentials.
- Complete the basic foundation coursework in theological education which shall include a minimum of one year of studies at the bachelor's level (or 30 semester credit hours). At least a one-term 3 hour course must be completed in each of the following areas:
- Biblical Studies, Old Testament
- Biblical Studies, New Testament
- Lutheran Theology and Confessional Writings
- Canadian and Lutheran Church History
Additional courses should include Practical Theology appropriate to the specialization. All theological credits must be earned through courses at an accredited college or seminary of this church or through a course of study approved by CTEL based on evaluation by an ELCIC seminary. See Appendix 5 for a list of approved courses. Candidates are encouraged to consider a Masters in Theological Studies offered at Lutheran Theological Seminary or Waterloo Lutheran Seminary;
- Complete the required formational component in the preparation program for Lutheran diaconal ministry as defined by the ELCIC (see below);
- Satisfactorily complete supervised field experience in the field of specialization as approved by the synodical CTEL (see below); and
- Successfully complete the final evaluation by the Examining Committee. (The preparation of a sermon is not required of diaconal candidates.)
- Successfully complete a unit of SPE.
A diaconal ministry formation event will be offered at least every second year under the sponsorship of the ELCIC. A candidate must be endorsed by CTEL of their synod prior to participation in a formational event. Successful completion of this event meets the formation component requirement for approval as a candidate for consecration to the diaconal ministry.
The formation event is considered integral to the preparation of diaconal ministry candidates. Ideally the formation event precedes theological studies and will assist candidates in shaping their course of study and field experience. Candidates will:
- study and explore biblical, theological, historical and ecumenical roots and expressions of diaconal ministry;
- examine current diaconal approaches and models for ministry in a variety of settings through study and field trips;
- gain deeper understandings of Lutheran theology as it relates to all forms of ministry, call and ecclesiology; and
- develop spiritual insights and disciplines for active ministry through worship, prayer and group processes designed for spiritual formation, development of community and mutual vision for diaconal ministry.
A variety of learning and community building experiences will include lectures, reading, writing, small group and individual reflection, field trips to diaconal ministry sites, and optional tutorials. Worship, spiritual formation and community life are central to the experience. Seminary faculty, guest lecturers and ecumenical guests may all be involved.
All participants will be asked to be in residence for housing and meals at the chosen venue for the entire event. Applicants who are accepted will be sent a reading list to complete prior to arrival. A journal/evaluation is to be kept during the event and given to the event coordinator following the event. The journal may be shared with the candidate's CTEL.