|1.||(in the Roman Catholic and other episcopal churches) an ordained minister ranking immediately below a priest|
|2.||(in Protestant churches) a lay official appointed or elected to assist the minister, esp in secular affairs|
|3.||(Scot) the president of an incorporated trade or body of craftsmen in a burgh|
|[Old English, ultimately from Greek diakonos servant]|
Anglicized form of the Greek word diaconos, meaning a "runner," "messenger," "servant." For a long period a feeling of mutual jealousy had existed between the "Hebrews," or Jews proper, who spoke the sacred language of palestine, and the "Hellenists," or Jews of the Grecian speech, who had adopted the Grecian language, and read the Septuagint version of the Bible instead of the Hebrew. This jealousy early appeared in the Christian community. It was alleged by the Hellenists that their widows were overlooked in the daily distribution of alms. This spirit must be checked. The apostles accordingly advised the disciples to look out for seven men of good report, full of the Holy Ghost, and men of practical wisdom, who should take entire charge of this distribution, leaving them free to devote themselves entirely to the spiritual functions of their office (Acts 6:1-6). This was accordingly done. Seven men were chosen, who appear from their names to have been Hellenists. The name "deacon" is nowhere applied to them in the New Testament; they are simply called "the seven" (21:8). Their office was at first secular, but it afterwards became also spiritual; for among other qualifications they must also be "apt to teach" (1 Tim. 3: 8-12). Both Philip and Stephen, who were of "the seven," preached; they did "the work of evangelists."
(from Greek diakonos, "helper"), a member of the lowest rank of the threefold Christian ministry (below the presbyter-priest and bishop) or, in various Protestant churches, a lay official, usually ordained, who shares in the ministry and sometimes in the governance of a congregation. In churches in which the diaconate exists there is a general continuity, at least in principle, with the early Christian pattern of deacons as a basic but subservient ministerial order and as helpers responsible for the practical and charitable functions of the Christian community. In the Orthodox, the Anglican, and (until the 1960s) the Roman Catholic churches, the diaconate in practice almost entirely lost its original independent status as one of the major orders and became in effect a transitional probationership for ordination to the priesthood, customarily lasting for a year.
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