By Sister Krista Anderson, Director of Vocation and Education
Tomorrow, August 12, the voting members of the ELCA Churchwide Assembly will be entertaining a motion to unify the three existing Official Rosters of Laypersons (Associates in Ministry, Deaconesses, and Diaconal Ministers) into a roster of Ministry of Word and Service…and that the existing three rosters be eliminated. This week I have heard others lift up concern for the Deaconess Community, and what may be lost for the Community in the creation of this new roster. I give thanks for those voices and those questions.
The Deaconess Community has a history that dates back in the United States over 130 years. Our story is one of partnerships, collaboration, and mergers – opportunities! The creation of a new roster of Ministers of Word and Service is another opportunity for the Deaconess Community, but more importantly for the whole church. The Deaconess Community is a separately incorporated ministry that relates to the Domestic Mission Unit of the ELCA. The formation of a Roster of Word and Service will not close the Deaconess Community. There will continue to be the Deaconess Community, a community of women called by the church to public leadership and diakonia in the ELCA and ELCIC (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada).
The Deaconess Community is, and will continue to be, a community composed of women who are called by God to compassionate service in and through Church and world–compelled by the love of Christ, and sustained by community. Deaconesses have a specific call to a prayerful, Spirit-led, interconnected vision of community as part of their diaconal call.
I am grateful for the creative visioning and the faithful conversation that has brought the church to considering this motion. I am confident that a unified Roster of Word and Service will strengthen the vital ministry of service leadership, enhance and encourage partnerships with Ministers of Word and Sacrament, and enrich the unique gifts and contributions of the Deaconess Community, and present us with ever new opportunities—including welcoming women who feel called to live out their call to public Word and Service ministry grounded in a rich, Spirit-guided community.