Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Deacon, in the Greek, Roman Catholic, and Anglican churches, the lowest of the three great orders of the clergy. (The two former churches, however, recognise an order of sub-deacons and minor orders.) It is related in Acts vi. that the Apostles, finding that the ministration of temporal relief to the poorer members of the church interfered unduly with their spiritual work, appointed seven deacons (Greek diakonos, helper) to attend to the former work. Philip and Stephen, the first martyrs, were among the members; but both also preach, and one administers the rite of baptism; in St. Paul's Epistles deacons are referred to as part of the Christian ministry, and in the first three centuries of the church's history the spiritual side of the deacon's work seems to have displaced the temporal. References to the office by the Fathers seem to indicate this, though there is much controversy as to their precise significance. The Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.) made a marked distinction between deacons and priests, and ordered that the former should be subject to the latter. In the English Church the diaconate is a first step to the ministry, the deacon being usually ordained priest after a year. Occasionally, however (though usually from conscientious scruples), men remain deacons throughout life, as also do sometimes in the Roman Catholic Church those whose work in life is secular rather than sacerdotal (e.g. those employed in some political capacity by the Vatican). The idea of an "Order of Deacons," who should not proceed to priest's orders, consisting of missionary clergy less highly educated than the ordinary Anglican clergy and nearer the type of the "evangelist" or "Scripture reader," has been occasionally put forward in the Anglican communion of late years, but not as yet with any definite result. Most of the Nonconformist churches in English-speaking countries holding that a broad distinction was meant by the Apostles to exist between priests and deacons, employ the latter as secular officers, who manage the temporal affairs of the church and occasionally preach, especially in rural districts and at the less formal religious meetings.