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Exodus from Privilege: Reflections on the Diaconate in Acts

Thomas E. Breidenthal


In this ecclesial reflection on Luke’s account of the institution of the diaconate (Acts 6), I explore the thesis that ordained ministry is the church’s instrument of self-criticism and self-correction in the face of the dynamics of privilege, exclusion, and inertia within the body of Christ. For Luke, the post-Pentecost Jerusalem church betrays a failed exodus from these dynamics, as becomes evident when it is discovered that the widows of the non-Palestinian segment of the community have been neglected in the daily distribution of food. The church responds by setting Stephen and six other diaspora Jews apart, not only to ensure future fairness, but (as Stephen’s sermon shows) to call the church and Israel to renewed exodus. I argue that this sets the pattern for all ordained ministry, and suggest that priesthood and episcopacy are best viewed as specific variations on diaconal ministry, grounded in diakonia.

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