SYDNEY DIOCESAN SYNOD has supported diocesan plans to create a permanent
diaconate, with a view to increasing significantly the number of deacons.
Numbers of men and women now working as stipendiary lay ministers would become
eligible for the expanded order.
The resolution, presented by an assistant bishop in Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies,
recommends that permanent deacons be selected and trained according to
different criteria than that for priests. The current nexus between deacon and
priest would be dispensed with.
Under the new arrangements, the priesthood would be restricted to
incumbents. "For us, priesthood is connected with incumbency rather than with
eucharist," Bishop Davies explained.
Bishop Davies said that the new form of diaconate would be a better option
for women deacons in the diocese, who cannot be ordained to the priesthood.
Currently women deacons were in a permanent diaconate "by default", he said.
The move also recommends that permanent deacons should be able "to resign
their orders when no longer licensed as deacons", which would also be an
attractive option for women, according to the Archdeacon for Women’s Ministry,
the Ven. Narelle Jarrett. The possibility of relinquishing their orders for a
time would be helpful for women who wanted to enter full-time ministry, but
also wanted to get married and have children, she said.
Bishop Davies said that he expected the new arrangements would start next
year, and that the first permanent deacons would be ordained in 2006 or 2007.
One critic, Professor Michael Horsburgh, has drawn attention to the impact
an increased diaconate would have on Sydney’s voting power at the Australian
General Synod; diocesan representation is based on the number of clergy in the
diocese, both deacons and priests.
The Sydney synod also called for a report on the "practicality of replacing
the word ‘priest’ with words such as ‘presbyter’ or ‘senior minister’ in all
our legislation and formularies". A Sydney rector, the Revd Chris Clerke, said
that the term "priest" was confusing. It was a dangerous term because people
could look to a person labelled "priest" "to do things he cannot do, to fix
things up with God".
Sydney’s also became the first diocesan synod to adopt all the standards and
protocols relating to child protection adopted by the meeting of the General
Synod, held earlier in October. The standards relate to both ordained and lay
church workers, either paid or unpaid.