The Deacon in the 20th Century

People in the 19th century saw much social upheaval and economic disparities created by the industrial revolution and the breakdown of traditional political systems. In response, the Lutheran churches on the continent created orders of deaconesses and deacons who performed servant ministry in ways that laid the groundwork for a wider "social gospel" in the 20th century. Up to the 1950s, the diaconate manifested itself in three distinct forms. The church ordained deacons to minister to Native Americans and other ethnic groups. (A good example is David Pendleton Oakerhater.) Though not ordained, women were "set apart" as deaconesses who performed diaconal ministry, even if not recognized at the time as "deacons." Thirdly, the "perpetual" diaconate of the 1950's, created deacons who performed primary liturgical tasks, when demand for priests outstripped the supply, particularly in growing areas (eg, California). When the Second Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church voted to restore a permanent diaconate in 1962, the 1968 Anglican Lambeth Conference built from the Roman Catholic decision and passed a resolution commending the restoration of the diaconate throughout the Anglican Communion.

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