Original Research - Special Collection: Diakonia

Diens van barmhartigheid of diakonaat – hoe belangrik is ’n naam?

Willie van der Merwe
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 44, No 1 | a2783 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v44i1.2783 | © 2023 Willie van der Merwe | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 December 2022 | Published: 29 May 2023

About the author(s)

Willie van der Merwe, Department of Practical Theology and Missional Studies, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

Abstract

Service of mercy or diaconate - how important is a name? Churches hold different views regarding the office of deacon and role of deacons in the church. Churches also use different terms for their social ministries. This lack of a common language regarding the church’s diaconal ministry often creates confusion in the ecumenical discourse on the diaconate of the church. This article explores the hypothesis that the conceptualisation of a church’s diaconal ministry is influenced by a specific frame of reference, be it a historical perspective, a specific theology or tradition. In this case study of the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) it is shown how a specific historical and theological understanding of diaconal ministry determines not only this church’s preference for the term ‘service of compassion’ but also its diaconal praxis. The article concludes with a suggestion to the DRC to consider the use of the concept diakonia in contemplation of more active participation in ecumenical disourses regarding the diaconate of the church.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: The article describes how a specific historical and theological understanding of diaconal ministry determines not only the DRC’s preference for the term ‘service of compassion’ but also its diaconal praxis. The suggestion to more actively participate in developing a common understanding of diakonia ecumenically has implications for the DRC’s ecclesiology, as well as its missional and social ministries.


Keywords

diaconia; diaconate; diaconal ministry; sevice of compassion; service and witness; church social services; church social work; community development; missio Dei; missional diaconate.

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 1: No poverty

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