Every once in a while I review the vows I will one day to be ordained into the Sacred Order of Deacons, Episcopal Church, USA. It is my hope to offer a series of reflections upon these vows. Below contains part one of a multi-part series examining the ordination vows of a Deacon.

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“Will you be loyal to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them? And will you, in accordance with the canons of this Church, obey your bishop and other ministers who may have authority over you and your work?”

I find it interesting that the first words of the bishop to the ordinant addresses doctrine. Many times Episcopalians gladly proclaim that we are a non-doctrinal church. We have no central doctrinal body as does the church of Rome, we have no Pope who determines doctrine yet here we have a bishop asking this question. In a broad sense, doctrine becomes a matter of tradition. In fact, if we look back to the early church, we find a wealth of diversity and more than anything, one can accept the traditional view of diversity contained within the broad spectrum of Christian thought. At the heart of all baptized, should be a sense of doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church as received them.

The second part of the question surrounds authority. This question laid down by the bishop obviously keeps in mind the hierarchical nature of the church which places the bishop at the top of the ecclesiastical food chain. The interesting aspect of the vow is that later on, the deacon is given the task of interpreting the needs and hopes of the world to the church; this means that even though the deacon is to be the model of servanthood for the church, under direct authority of the bishop, the deacon has also been given charge to instruct the church to the needs of the world, and the voiceless. Eventually the deacon must walk a fine line between working under the authority of others, and instructing the broader church to its wider focus to the world.