serving together

Southern Africa: The Methodist Diaconal Order

2014 Order of Deacons report prepared by Rev (Deac) Dr Vernon van Wyk Order of Deacons.Southern Africa

(The 2011 report by Deacon Ernie Nightingale can be read here)

About Deacons in the MDO in Southern Africa

13.1 To share Christ’s love through service and to help the Church respond to the needs of the wider community.

13.1.1 Deacons belong to an ordained ministry of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. Their ministry may include working in a pastoral context in a Society or Circuit, or, working in secular employment e.g. education, health care, welfare and social upliftment organizations. Deacons seek to be Christ’s servants in the world and encourage the Church community to a ministry of servanthood. Apart from local pastoral ministry or church planting projects some practical aspects of service that the Order of Deacons could engage in are: poverty alleviation; care for the sick and dying; care for the aged or youth; evangelism and mission outreach; parachurch organisations.

13.2 Members of the Order are known as “Deacons” a term reserved in the Methodist Church of Southern Africa for members of the Order of Deacons.


The model for diaconal ministry is Jesus Christ, ‘one who serves’. Servanthood is the key to understanding the call to diaconal ministry. The servanthood that is central to diaconal ministry is a costly way of life chosen by those who know their own brokenness and their own need for God’s healing. It can be embraced only by those who have received God’s love and been empowered by the Holy Spirit. Diaconal, servanthood ministry, according to DIAKONIA World Federation (DiaconalReflections, p. 1), “… means being a healing, accepting, encouraging presence to others, enabling them to experience God’s unending, unconditional, love and forgiveness. It includes seeking justice and sharing a vision. It presumes an image of God whose love and care extends to all people. It is a call to be in a relationship with God and God’s world, to accept, support, and comfort, and to equip and encourage others to use their own gifts to fulfill their potential in service and life.”

Deacons are ordained in and act as “living icons of Christ the servant, who is the sign of hope in the Church and the world.” (From the Diakonia of Christ, p 109). When harnessed to the hope that Christ brings, the Deacon becomes an icon of that hope. It is in this role of a living icon reflecting Christ the servant, who is the sign of hope in the church and to the world, that the Deacon’s service emerges. In being an icon of Christ, Deacons are identifying with the suffering of the world, with the oppressed, the poor, the disenfranchised, and the abused. The diaconate calls the whole church, Presbyters, Deacons and laity, to see the suffering of the world and to be involved in mobilising the church to being a caring community. We are to bear one another’s burdens, not to make others dependent, but to express solidarity and support, to be agents of healing and hope.

(Source: 2014 Report of Order of Deacons)

There is still uncertainty and confusion in the wider Methodist Church about the place and role of a deacon and this unfortunately leads to gifted and committed persons not being given adequate opportunities to exercise their calling in helping the Church respond to the needs of the wider community. Deacons are mandated by Conference to;
•Recover the “diakonia” (service, especially toward people in distress) of the whole Body of Christ
• Imaginatively explore new possibilities for ministry, especially to those who are outside the church
• Be used as agents for an outward-focussed ministry
• Exercise leadership in mobilising the church to being a caring community of saints
• Proclaim the Word of God through teaching, preaching and service.
(Source: 2011 report)


13.3 The Order is under the direction of a Connexional Committee consisting of the Presiding Bishop, the Executive Secretary, a Bishop, the Warden, and three Ministers, five lay members and two Deacons nominated by the Executive Committee.

Deac Dr Vernon van Wyk

Deac Dr Vernon van Wyk

The following persons are recommended to Conference to serve on this Committee in 2014:
Bishop: Bishop Andrew Motswenyane – Northern Free State and Lesotho District
Warden: Dcn Dr Vernon van Wyk – Alberton (Highveld and Swaziland District)
Ministers: Rev Dr Cedric Poole – Alberton (Highveld and Swaziland District),
Rev Ina Guy – Brackenhurst (Highveld and Swaziland District)
Deacons: Deacon Rosemary van der Merwe – Parys (Northern Free State and Lesotho District), Deacon Gerald Dickson – Toekomsrust (Central District)
Lay members: Mr Percy Howroyd – Alberton Circuit (Highveld and Swaziland District), Mr John Mitchley – Benoni Circuit, Highveld and Swaziland District, Mrs Maureen Mildenhall -–Representing Women’s Auxiliary; Highveld and Swaziland District, Mrs Beth Kok – President of Women’s Auxiliary: Central District, Mrs J Sbo Mlangeni – President of Women’s Manyano, Highveld and Swaziland District

13.4 The Connexional Committee shall report and make recommendations to the Connexional Executive on Candidates, Probationers, Candidates for Ordination, and the examinations.

13.5 An Executive Committee may be appointed consisting of the following members of the Connexional Committee: the Executive Secretary, the Warden, three Ministers and two Deacons. The Committee is also the Examining Committee and the Stationing Committee.


The annual Convocation remains the highlight of the year for Deacons. Deacons function as a dispersed religious community and the time spent together in fellowship, study and training at Convocation is invaluable and affords members an opportunity for celebrating the successes and sharing the heartaches of ministry. Deacons meet at Convocation to transact the business of the Order (L & D Appendix 7), to foster and develop their calling as servant-ministers and to receive training relevant to their ministry. The Convocation serves the ongoing expectations for training, and professional development.

13.6 An annual Convocation of the Order shall be held at a time determined by the Warden in consultation with the Presiding Bishop. The Convocation consists of the Presiding Bishop, the Executive Secretary, the Warden and the members of the Order. The Presiding Bishop is the President of the Order. Probationers shall attend but may not vote. The Agenda for the Convocation is contained in Appendix 7.

13.7 The Convocation shall nominate a Warden to the Connexional Executive who shall make the appointment. The appointment shall be for three years. The Warden shall be the representative of the Order at Conference. Rev (Deac) Dr Vernon van Wyk has recommended to continue in this role, 2015-2017.

2013 Convocation:
The Convocation was held from Monday 22 April 2013 to Friday 26 April 2013 at eMseni Christian Conference Centre. We had a full programme focusing on various aspects of Children’s ministry. The Deacons went on a field visit to AMCARE in Alberton and Rev. Dr. Leon Klein conducted a Workshop on “Servant Leadership”. A Re-dedication Service conducted by the Warden, Deacon Dr. Vernon van Wyk ended the Convocation. It was especially gratifying to have Bishop Andrew Motswenyane present for the whole Convocation


The measure in which progress has been made is reflected in the growing numbers of candidates for the Order. In 2012 one Deacon was ordained at Conference in Swaziland. No Deacons will be ordained in 2013, but the Convocation of the Order have recommended eight (8) Deacons for ordination in 2014. Three (3) Candidates were admitted to the Order in 2013 and two (2) are in the screening process for admission in 2014. This will grow the numbers to 44 in active servant-ministry:
• Eighteen (18) ordained Deacons (12 female and 6 male.)
• Five (5) Supernumeraries (4 female and 1 male)
• Fourteen (14) Probationer Deacons (6 female and 8 male)
• Two (2) candidates (1 female and 1 male)
Having men and women representing all sectors of our Southern African communities is an exciting development in The Order. The scope for serving Jesus Christ in the world is limitless and the Order provides a vehicle through which persons can be trained and prepared for servant ministry. The names of all Deacons appear in the Church Directory.


The Candidating procedure is the same as for Presbyters. Christians of any age with a call to primarily a ministry of Service and wishing to candidate for this Order should, in the first instance, explore their calling with their society minister and circuit superintendent minister early in the calendar year. A clear understanding of a call to serve and of the type of service ministry that will be conducted is essential in avoiding possible role confusion. Candidates should have a strong sense of vocation to the Ministry of Word and Service (or Service only) and not a failed or thwarted sense of vocation somewhere else (e.g. Word and Sacrament). There needs to be clarity of vision/purpose for the whole Circuit, into which a vision for the diaconal appointment fits. This should be analysed and translated into specific aims and goals for the diaconal appointment. All parties are requested to ensure that only qualifying candidates are recommended to the Order.

The basic Entrance Requirements for Deacons are as follows:
• Matriculation (or equivalent) Certificate
• Be a Local Preacher on trial, if candidating as preaching-Deacon
(Applicants may candidate to become non-preaching Deacons, i.e. those who believe that their ministry is of a more practical nature and that for them God’s Word can be adequately proclaimed through their acts of service. A letter of recommendation from Superintendent Minister is required)
• Completed on the academic level:
– Higher Certificate in Theology: Introduction to New Testament (45121); Introduction to Old Testament (45111); Introduction to Theology (45241) and Pastoral Care (45371)
– Diploma in Theology: Getting to Know the Bible (85100); Systematic Theology 1 (85240) and Practical Theology 1 (85370)
– Bachelor in Theology: Developing Skills for Theological Study (7000); Interpreting Texts (7004) and Engaging with people pastorally and ethically (7002)

To be accepted for ordination all Deacons must:
Complete either the Higher Certificate in Theology (TEEC), or the Diploma in Theology (TEEC), or Bachelor Degree in Theology (TEEC) plus
Methodist Studies – Wesley, Polity and Accounting, plus:

In accordance with Section 13.17 of the MCSA Laws and Discipline have completed at least 4 years of probation (together with presbyters) focusing on skills – and character formation for a ministry of Service. One further year will be allowed to enable a probationer to complete certain academic requirements and/or internship projects not yet completed (maximum 5 years).
Be a local preacher on full plan, if seeking to be ordained for Word and Service.

13.8 The primary qualifications for the Order are the sense of a divine call, spiritual and intellectual gifts, the graces of Christian character, and the fruits of Christian service. Candidates shall intend to give their life’s service to the Order.

13.9 The minimum educational standard of Candidates is the Senior Certificate, Matriculation, or an equivalent. Where the primary qualifications are clearly evident consideration may be given to those who have not yet reached this standard.

13.10 No age limit is laid down for candidates. Candidates must be willing and able to fulfil the conditions of probation that will include academic studies and internship training as laid down by the Order, under the general auspice of the Education for Mission and Ministry Unit.

13.11 A Candidate shall apply through the Superintendent to the Warden who shall supply an Application Form.

13.12 A Candidate shall also provide a recommendation from the Superintendent, and the name and address of the Minister of the Society and a Leader of that Society as referees.

13.13 Once the Candidature has been provisionally approved by the Examining Committee, the Superintendent may nominate the Candidate at the next Circuit Quarterly Meeting. The Superintendent shall forward the nature of the voting to the Warden.

13.14 If the Quarterly Meeting approves the candidature, the Warden shall provide the Superintendent with directions for the Candidate’s appearance before the Examining Committee.

13.15 Prior to appearing before the Examining Committee candidates shall write two assignments as directed by the Examining Committee. One assignment shall be on The Word and the other on Service. A pass mark is 50% in each assignment.

13.16 The recommendation of the Examining Committee and the results of the examinations shall be considered by the next Synod which shall make a recommendation to the Connexional Executive, which shall accept the Candidate or otherwise. Candidates shall give testimony regarding their Christian experience, call to the Order, belief in Methodist doctrine and adherence to Methodist discipline at Synod.


13.17 Probation is normally four years. Part of the Probation may be in collegiate training as decided by the Connexional Committee. The cost of training is borne by the Training Fund although the Probationer should bear as much of the cost as possible. Training shall be determined by the Order in consultation with the Education for Mission and Ministry Unit. A syllabus shall be published in the Yearbook

13.18 Probationers who have successfully completed their probation shall appear before the Connexional Executive for admission into membership of the Order. They shall be ordained by the Presiding Bishop at a service arranged by the Warden.


13.19 The Stationing Committee, of which the Warden shall be a member, shall decide the appointment of Deacons after the recommendation of the General Committee. Deacons serve under the direction of the Quarterly Meeting and the Superintendent.

13.20 A Deacon may be invited to serve in a Circuit following the system applicable to Ministers, but the Warden shall be consulted at every stage of the negotiations.

13.21 If the Quarterly Meeting decides no longer to provide an opportunity for service by a Deacon the Superintendent shall immediately inform the Warden. 13.22 A Deacon is a member of the Leaders’ Meeting, the Quarterly Meeting and Synod.


13.23 A Circuit providing an opportunity for service for a Deacon shall pay to the Connexional Office on or before the 15th of every month an assessment determined by Connexional Executive. The Connexional Office shall pay the stipend to the Deacon before the end of the month. The Connexional Executive shall determine the stipends and allowances.

13.24 Deacons are members of the Supernumerary Fund, and contributions shall be made to the Fund and benefits received in terms of the rules of the Fund.

13.25 Deacons shall be admitted to the Long Leave Roster, the conditions and benefits being decided by the Connexional Executive.

13.26 Deacon who are paid a stipend through the MCO participates in the Pharos Medical Plan and Extraordinary Affliction Fund on the same basis as Ministers.

13.27 A Circuit providing an opportunity for service for a Deacon shall provide suitable accommodation and shall make adequate provision for travelling.


13.28 The disciplinary procedure provided for Ministers in Chapter 11 shall apply to Deacons.

13.29 Rule of Life
Devotional Life Deacons are called to:
1 Attend worship regularly, especially Holy Communion.
2 Daily devotion that should include Scripture reading and prayer. Deacons are encouraged to pray for Members of the Order.
3 Set aside time for regular self-examination which should include a time to reflect upon failure to love God and neighbours, and to give thanks for blessings received.

Discipline Deacons commit to:
1 Attending Convocation (Dispensation from the Warden for nonattendance is required)
2 Participate in the life of the area groups, by attending meetings, sharing in fellowship by letter and telephone.
3 Being sensitive to the needs of family, dependants and friends.
4 Involvement in the community in which they live.
5 Good stewardship of time, to accommodate reading, study and appropriate relaxation of a day off once a week and an annual holiday.
6 Good stewardship of money.


13.30.1 Stipends and Allowances
A Circuit employing an Ordained or Probationer Deacon shall pay to the Connexional Office a minimum stipend assessment which is 75% of the minimum stipend assessment for a Minister or Probationer Minister as the case may be. The Connexional Office will pay to Deacons an amount proportionate to their years of service. Circuits should work towards the target scale. A Circuit employing a Deacon is encouraged to supplement the above minimum stipend.

13.30.2 Allowances for Uniform
An annual uniform allowance may be given. The amount as decided from time to time is recorded in the Yearbook.

13.30.3 Book Allowances
The Diaconal Order Fund is authorised to pay to the Bookroom an amount for each probationer to assist in purchasing books from an approved Book list in consultation with the Warden. Circuits employing Deacons are to be approached to cover this expense. The cost of books for Probationers’ studies will be refunded if they pass. The Circuit shall provide suitable accommodation comparable with that provided for Ministers.

13.30.4 Travelling
Circuits employing a Deacon should pay a travelling allowance on the same basis as is paid to Ministers. An Associate Membership subscription may be levied where possible in order to cover cost of printing and postage.

13.30.5 Status of Deacons
Deacons are recognised by the Church as called of God, and trained and Ordained for the service of the Church; Their service is primarily evangelistic and pastoral, but they should not be denied opportunity to exercise gifts of preaching, initiative and leadership; They are colleagues on the staff of the Circuit to which they are appointed, responsible to the Superintendent, and thus share in the work of the Circuit.

13.30.6 Furlough
Furlough is due to Deacons on the same basis as Ministers and is shown in the alphabetical list of Deacons. Ordained Ministers may invite ordained or probationer Deacons to assist in the distribution of the elements at Holy Communion. Probationers who are authorised by the Presiding Bishop to administer the sacraments may invite ordained Deacons to assist in distributing the elements without obtaining the Superintendent’s approval, but shall obtain such approval in the case of probationer Deacons.

13.30.7 Deacon
The Connexional Executive resolves that the use of the term ‘Deacon’ in the MCSA be reserved for members of the Diaconal Order.


The changing demands of modern-day society and the growing needs of communities makes it imperative that the MCSA, through its various structures and organisations, is able to respond appropriately to the spiritual and social needs of such communities. For this to happen, Circuits and/or local Societies need to recognise the place for ministry and mission outside of their normal church structures and make provision for the appointment of a deacon.
The current proliferation of large shopping malls that attract thousands of people to them on a daily basis becomes fertile soil for ministry for a deacon appointed to work there. The growing prisons population is another under resourced ministry of the church that could be filled by a deacon. The challenges of working and ministering in informal settlements are huge and needs can best be met if opportuni ties for ministry are made available.(Source: 2011 report)


Other information to be collected includes (but is not limited to) the following questions.

A brief history (may include links to documents and websites) – how did it all get started? What are the key dates and events? Are there documents that are part of the history (please specify)?

Historical information and dates re formation/recognition of diaconal ministry agents in the denomination/church agency.

Are there key people (historical or current) in the organization who have provided significant leadership. Any weblinks to their story, or a short write up?

An overview of main responsibilities for diaconal ministry agents (past and present). Are they located within a church, a particular facility or agency, or community based? Are diaconal ministry agents appointed to individual placements or work together on projects or in institutions?

Are diaconal ministry agents able to preside at sacraments (communion, baptism, weddings etc)?

Who makes the appointments for diaconal ministry agents eg they apply for positions, they are appointed (eg by a Bishop, by the conference office, or another body/committee).

Is there a length of time for appointments (eg usually less than 5 years, usually between 5 and 10 years, at the discretion of the diaconal ministry agent or at the discretion of the appointing body), appointed to and remain with a particular mother house, etc.

Key issues and challenges in the contemporary ministry context

Do the diaconal ministry agents have ‘code of conduct’ or ‘code of ethics’ that inform ethical and behavioral expectations for ministry?

 Key documents (historical, vision and mission etc) – links or PDF or Word files


 Links to relevant articles, websites etc

 Other areas of interest……

 (information to Rev Sandy Boyce, President, DIAKONIA World Federation,, to upload to this website)