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Thread: Ordination of deacons - a blue sky thought

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    Senior Member Billy Cox's Avatar

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    Ordination of deacons - a blue sky thought

    What if, instead of considering the deacon track a second-class order, we recast the deacons orders as a precursor to ordination as an elder?

    I realize that is a substantial change, but what do you think?
    "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us wthout end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
    - C.S. Lewis

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    Senior Member John Reilly's Avatar

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    Re: Ordination of deacons - a blue sky thought

    The course of study for Deacons is mostly identical to the course of study for Elders. The difference is preaching. Taking preaching courses would help Deacons in public speaking. Even if Deacons do not preach the preaching courses will help them in presentations. So I think Deacons ought to prepare as Elders and use the preaching classes to enhancing teaching and presentation skills.

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    Senior Member Hans Deventer's Avatar

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    Re: Ordination of deacons - a blue sky thought

    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Cox View Post
    What if, instead of considering the deacon track a second-class order, we recast the deacons orders as a precursor to ordination as an elder?
    Well, what would be the difference, Billy? Right now, that would be that a deacon isn't called to preach. That wouldn't make sense in your proposal, so what would it be?
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    Senior Member Jon Bemis's Avatar

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    Re: Ordination of deacons - a blue sky thought

    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Cox View Post
    What if, instead of considering the deacon track a second-class order, we recast the deacons orders as a precursor to ordination as an elder?

    I realize that is a substantial change, but what do you think?
    The Free Methodist Church used to do that. You were first ordained deacon, then after a certain amount of experience you could be ordained elder. If I recall correctly they did away with the two step process a little while ago. I think the best solution is to have a single ordination - that of elder.
    Loving God . . . Loving others.

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    Senior Member Billy Cox's Avatar

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    Re: Ordination of deacons - a blue sky thought

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans Deventer View Post
    Well, what would be the difference, Billy? Right now, that would be that a deacon isn't called to preach. That wouldn't make sense in your proposal, so what would it be?
    A deacon would be similar to a medical residency and provide formal on-the-job training and mentoring by an elder to bridge the conceptual gap between district license and ordination as an elder.
    "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us wthout end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
    - C.S. Lewis
    Thanks Hans Deventer - "thanks" for this post

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    Senior Member Billy Cox's Avatar

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    Re: Ordination of deacons - a blue sky thought

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Bemis View Post
    The Free Methodist Church used to do that. You were first ordained deacon, then after a certain amount of experience you could be ordained elder. If I recall correctly they did away with the two step process a little while ago. I think the best solution is to have a single ordination - that of elder.
    Perhaps, but why not discuss the benefits and drawbacks of a two step process?
    "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us wthout end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
    - C.S. Lewis

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    Senior Member Craig Laughlin's Avatar

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    Re: Ordination of deacons - a blue sky thought

    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Cox View Post
    A deacon would be similar to a medical residency and provide formal on-the-job training and mentoring by an elder to bridge the conceptual gap between district license and ordination as an elder.
    Hmmm. I think I like this. The requirement for years of service can make the process pretty long in the COTN. maybe make this possible once academic requirements and one year of service have been fulfilled. This would make a nice signpost or right of passage as one moves toward ordination as an elder and could encourage some to get their academic requirements completed.

    Good thought Billy.
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    Senior Member Hans Deventer's Avatar

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    Re: Ordination of deacons - a blue sky thought

    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Cox View Post
    A deacon would be similar to a medical residency and provide formal on-the-job training and mentoring by an elder to bridge the conceptual gap between district license and ordination as an elder.
    Or perhaps even be an end station for those who'll never make it to elder, for whatever reason? If so, I like the idea. If I recall correctly, John Wesley was also initially ordained as a deacon.
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    Senior Member Jon Bemis's Avatar

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    Re: Ordination of deacons - a blue sky thought

    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Cox View Post
    Perhaps, but why not discuss the benefits and drawbacks of a two step process?
    I wouldn't have any objection to the two step process. I was involved in that at one time and thought it worked up to a point. The end result though (in that process as it existed) is everyone who pursues ordination ends up "fully ordained" as elder, all others are "not yet elders." As such, a deacon seemed to be viewed as a "not ready for prime time" step.
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    Senior Member Michael Flowers's Avatar

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    Re: Ordination of deacons - a blue sky thought

    The drawback to such a proposed system is that we do not have enough churches who can afford staff in order for this to work. Also, it would seem to diminish the role for those who are called to be a Deacon. I feel like this would actually serve to make the Deacon even more a second-class order as those who did not "make it" to Elder would seem more visibly to be below those who are ordained Elder. As it currently stands, being a Deacon or being an Elder really doesn't hold much of a difference as far as authority or ability to lead. They are designations representing the specific calling of the individual and affirmation of the church. There is absolutely no need to change them.

    Also, as far as a "residency" that is exactly what the local/district license is supposed to be for. If this is not being adequately accomplished then we need to explore how to strengthen that system, not alter our ordination standards.

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    Re: Ordination of deacons - a blue sky thought

    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Cox View Post
    What if, instead of considering the deacon track a second-class order, we recast the deacons orders as a precursor to ordination as an elder?

    I realize that is a substantial change, but what do you think?
    I'm pretty sure this is how it works in the RC church already.
    ...just my $.02.

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    Senior Member Kyle Borger's Avatar

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    Re: Ordination of deacons - a blue sky thought

    Ok, I was thinking about starting a thread about ordination. Perhaps this one will work. If you are ordained, why? What difference has ordination made in your ministry other than the church recognizing you. Is there something different after ordination that you wouldn't have been able to do otherwise?

    I can read about ordination and the requirements and so forth, but what I am trying to discover is the spiritual aspect.
    Thanks Craig Laughlin - "thanks" for this post

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    Senior Member Craig Laughlin's Avatar

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    Re: Ordination of deacons - a blue sky thought

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyle Borger View Post
    Ok, I was thinking about starting a thread about ordination. Perhaps this one will work. If you are ordained, why? What difference has ordination made in your ministry other than the church recognizing you. Is there something different after ordination that you wouldn't have been able to do otherwise?

    I can read about ordination and the requirements and so forth, but what I am trying to discover is the spiritual aspect.
    Think Marriage. - Covenant. For me ordination is a sacred trust and the people I pastor are a sacred trust. Just like my wife and my children are sacred trust. I pour my spiritual life into them and I receive spiritual life from them. - In ordination I covenant bound my life to the church. All who are ordained give their lives to it and draw life from it. (Literally in terms of support for those who are paid)
    It is not enough to be right, you have to be like Jesus.

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    Senior Member Eric Frey's Avatar

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    Re: Ordination of deacons - a blue sky thought

    I didn't read all the responses, but what you are suggesting is what has been done in the church since at least the 2nd century. Still in the RC, Orthodox, Anglican traditions, one is ordained a deacon. Then they can either stay a vocational deacon or they can later be ordained presbyter (then presbyters go on to be ordained bishop). An interesting bit of the theology is that when one is ordained from deacon to presbyter, one does not cease being a deacon. Imagine a series of concentric circles. The outer circle is baptism. The next is deacons orders. The next is presbyters orders. The next is episcopal orders.

    I know most won't agree with this, but I just finished a course of the History and Theology of the diaconate. Here are a couple quotes from my paper:

    It was noted above that baptism is the means of grace by which one is empowered and sent by God to be an icon of Christ to the world and that ordination is the means of grace by which one is empowered and sent by God to be an icon of Christ for the church. Deacons become, through ordination, icons of Christ the servant. “With towel in hand, the deacon empties her- or himself and seeks not to be served but to serve.”1 The deacon embodies the servanthood of Christ, and in serving the church reveals to the church what it is to be a servant, teaches the church how to serve, and provides accountability to the church in being true to its service to the world.

    If the deacon is an icon of Christ the servant for the church, then the elder is an icon of Christ the prophet, priest and king. The God-Called Ministers Commission articulated this very well. “Although in the New Testament all Christians are to be ministers, two nuanced terms, diakonia and leitourgia, describe the service. The first term (diakonia) in particular connotes service to one's neighbor while the second term (leitourgia) includes the connotation of service to God in worship.”2 These two aspects of the work of the church are rooted in the same to aspects of the work of Christ. The clergy, as an icon of Christ to the church, embodies both aspects. The deacon is the servant, and the elder is prophet, priest and king. The relationship between the orders, therefore, is of a complementary nature. Neither order reveals to totality of Christ's work. Only held together does the church get a full picture of what it is to be Christ to the world.

    -----

    * Ordination is (1) the authenticating, authorizing act of the Church, presenting to God those women and men, in whom the church has discerned God's call to ministry and recognized God's gifting for ministry, trusting that God will grant her/him all grace necessary for ministry; and (2) the work of God, through the laying on of hands and prayer, by which the Holy Spirit is given to the ordinand, setting her/him apart for ministry in the church, and empowering her/him to be Christ for the Church according to the order to which she/he is ordained. We affirm two distinct and unique orders of ministry in the church.

    * A deacon is one who, in the course of living out one's baptismal vows, is called and subsequently ordained by God to a lifetime ministry of voluntary service to the church according to one's gifts, as an assistant to and under the supervision of an elder.

    * An elder is one who, in the course of living out one's diaconal vows, is called and subsequently ordained by God to a lifetime ministry of vocational leadership in the church as Christ's prophet, priest and king for the church.


    -----

    In bringing this about, the diaconate would have to replace the district license. When a person, who is living out their baptism, feels called to formally serve the church, that person would enroll with the deacon's course of study (a curriculum of foundational biblical studies, theology and church history courses) and with a discernment board. When both processes have been satisfactorally completed, the person would be ordained deacon. If that person, in the course of serving the church was called to a ministry of vocational leadership in the church, she/he would enroll in the elder's course of study (a curriculum of advanced courses in biblical preaching, worship studies, pastoral ministry and Christian leadership) and with another discernment board. Following satisfactory completion of this process, the candidate is ordained again, this time as an elder.

    Restoring the relationship between deacon and elder provides many advantages. It allows for both a transitional and a vocational diaconate which have both been present in the diaconate since its inception. It provides an opportunity for a more highly educated clergy. It provides a natural avenue by which to mentor deacons who are called to become elders. It provides much needed assistance to elders, especially those who are not in a parish on a full time basis. A strong relationship between the elder and deacon is imperative if the church is to fulfill its mission in the world.


    -----

    I know this is a bit more than most Nazarenes would be willing to say, but the purpose of the paper was to examine the Biblical material, the historical development, evaluate the present state and offer a way forward for a diaconate more inline with the biblical/historical understanding. Anyway, if you would be interested in reading the rest of the paper send me a pm...
    Thanks Rich Schmidt, Jon Bemis, Kyle Borger, Billy Cox - "thanks" for this post

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    Senior Member Wilson Deaton's Avatar

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    Re: Ordination of deacons - a blue sky thought

    Simplify, simplify, simplify.

    Let's get over our obsession with classic "preaching." Let's get over our obsession with hierarchies, dividing, and categorizing.


    Action steps:
    1. Remove the emphasis on "preaching" from the definition of Elder.
    2. Assimilate existing (and future potential) Deacons into the order of Elder.
    Wilson
    "But by the grace of God I am what I am." (1 Cor. 15:10)

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    Re: Ordination of deacons - a blue sky thought

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyle Borger View Post
    Ok, I was thinking about starting a thread about ordination. Perhaps this one will work. If you are ordained, why? What difference has ordination made in your ministry other than the church recognizing you. Is there something different after ordination that you wouldn't have been able to do otherwise?

    I can read about ordination and the requirements and so forth, but what I am trying to discover is the spiritual aspect.
    I will be ordained (God, and Dr. Duarte willing) in less than two weeks.

    I am being ordained because the Church has called me to it. I received a call to preach, my denomination analyzed and examined that call, affirming it and suggesting I proceed down a path towards ordination. Personally, I chose to go to NTS and receive a broader theological education; I have been engaged in ministry and preaching the whole time. I would continue to do so regardless. During that process, those to whom I am accountable have continued to encourage district license interviews and I have been granted 7 of them thus far. Last spring, my DS saw my district license renewal application and told me to apply for ordination this year. I've done that.

    I view ordination as something the Church bestows and not something I've ever sought or worried about. I've tried to remain faithful to God's call on my life and allowed the affirmation and support to come from those who hold me accountable. I am being ordained because the Church thinks I should be.

    I hold it a great honor and a sacred trust. It both changes everything and nothing - if that makes any sense?
    ...just my $.02.
    Thanks John Kennedy, Rich Schmidt, Jon Bemis, Hans Deventer - "thanks" for this post

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    Senior Member Eric Frey's Avatar

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    Re: Ordination of deacons - a blue sky thought

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyle Borger View Post
    Ok, I was thinking about starting a thread about ordination. Perhaps this one will work. If you are ordained, why? What difference has ordination made in your ministry other than the church recognizing you. Is there something different after ordination that you wouldn't have been able to do otherwise?

    I can read about ordination and the requirements and so forth, but what I am trying to discover is the spiritual aspect.
    I will answer this more fully a little later. I am working on a couple papers on this topic for an upcoming class. (1) "The Work of the Holy Spirit in Ordination" (2) "Toward a Theology of Priesthood for the Wesleyan Tradition." The short answer is yes. The Holy Spirit is working through the laying on of hands. See my definition of ordination above. I think perhaps the issue is often framed in terms of a changed ontology. I think that may be the wrong way to approach it. I would prefer to look at it through the lens of relationship. Through ordination, the Holy Spirit creates a new relationship between the candidate, the church, and God. This has tremendous implications. From the perspective of history/theology, there are things one can do because they ordained. Namely, administer the sacraments.

    For more reading on the spiritual aspect, I think Dennis Cambell's "Yoke of Obedience" is the top of the class. Then both Will Willimon and Tom Oden have works on ordination that will be helpful.

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    Senior Member Kyle Borger's Avatar

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    Re: Ordination of deacons - a blue sky thought

    Thank you for your responses. I look forward to reading your paper Eric.

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    Senior Member Billy Cox's Avatar

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    Re: Ordination of deacons - a blue sky thought

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Frey View Post
    I will answer this more fully a little later. I am working on a couple papers on this topic for an upcoming class. (1) "The Work of the Holy Spirit in Ordination" (2) "Toward a Theology of Priesthood for the Wesleyan Tradition." The short answer is yes. The Holy Spirit is working through the laying on of hands. See my definition of ordination above. I think perhaps the issue is often framed in terms of a changed ontology. I think that may be the wrong way to approach it. I would prefer to look at it through the lens of relationship. Through ordination, the Holy Spirit creates a new relationship between the candidate, the church, and God. This has tremendous implications. From the perspective of history/theology, there are things one can do because they ordained. Namely, administer the sacraments.

    For more reading on the spiritual aspect, I think Dennis Cambell's "Yoke of Obedience" is the top of the class. Then both Will Willimon and Tom Oden have works on ordination that will be helpful.
    I would be curious to know where the early church came up with the practice of 'laying on of hands'. Surely it wasn't invented by the apostles but had some sort of history in Judaism.
    "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us wthout end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
    - C.S. Lewis
    Thanks Craig Laughlin - "thanks" for this post

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    Senior Member Eric Frey's Avatar

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    Re: Ordination of deacons - a blue sky thought

    It was a common ritual for the empowerment of Israels leaders. It was a sign of the transfer of power, the mantle of leadership of the Kings and Priests of the OT. I don't recall if it was common for prophets to have hands laid on them or not. And I don't know what might have preceded the Jewish practice in terms of the non-Jewish nations.
    Thanks Craig Laughlin - "thanks" for this post

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    Senior Member Michael Flowers's Avatar

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    Re: Ordination of deacons - a blue sky thought

    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Cox View Post
    I would be curious to know where the early church came up with the practice of 'laying on of hands'. Surely it wasn't invented by the apostles but had some sort of history in Judaism.
    Didn't the Apostles lay hands on those whom they sent out to do the work of the church?

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    Senior Member Wilson Deaton's Avatar

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    Re: Ordination of deacons - a blue sky thought

    History question:

    Before we began ordaining Deacons, what were we doing with those who are now being ordained as Deacons? Were we simply excluding them for ordination or were we letting these "non-preachers" into the ranks of Elders?

    (I suppose the answer is going to be, "both," but what was most common/expected/accepted?)

    Wilson
    "But by the grace of God I am what I am." (1 Cor. 15:10)

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    Senior Member Eric Frey's Avatar

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    Re: Ordination of deacons - a blue sky thought

    Wilson, when we began ordaining deacons, it was a response to the rise of associate ministry and the desire of some to keep the senior pastorate set apart from associate ministry. It was the intention that those serving as senior pastor would be Elders, and those doing associate ministry would be deacons. Now from the idea to the implementation to the present it has gotten all muddled. So before adding deacons, either a person was called to be a pastor or she was not. If she was, she was ordained. If she was not, she was not. That'se short answer.

    The long answer is more complicated. If you'd like I can send you the longer answer. I won't try to post it all here. Perhaps if there is interest I'll try to post more later when I have more time...
    Thanks Billy Cox - "thanks" for this post

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    Senior Member Michael Flowers's Avatar

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    Re: Ordination of deacons - a blue sky thought

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Frey View Post
    Wilson, when we began ordaining deacons, it was a response to the rise of associate ministry and the desire of some to keep the senior pastorate set apart from associate ministry. It was the intention that those serving as senior pastor would be Elders, and those doing associate ministry would be deacons. Now from the idea to the implementation to the present it has gotten all muddled. So before adding deacons, either a person was called to be a pastor or she was not. If she was, she was ordained. If she was not, she was not. That'se short answer.

    The long answer is more complicated. If you'd like I can send you the longer answer. I won't try to post it all here. Perhaps if there is interest I'll try to post more later when I have more time...
    It was one of those decisions that made sense in the thought that an associate would be an associate. It really got muddied as some of those associates moved from being associates to senior pastors. We definitely do not have a clear description of why someone would become a Deacon versus an Elder except for the distinction in the call to preach (which is pretty significant). I for one would enjoy seeing the longer version of the answer.

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    Senior Member Billy Cox's Avatar

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    Re: Ordination of deacons - a blue sky thought

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Flowers View Post
    Didn't the Apostles lay hands on those whom they sent out to do the work of the church?
    Yes, that's what I was alluding to, but I don't imagine that they invented the practice.
    "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us wthout end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
    - C.S. Lewis

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    Senior Member Michael Flowers's Avatar

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    Re: Ordination of deacons - a blue sky thought

    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Cox View Post
    Yes, that's what I was alluding to, but I don't imagine that they invented the practice.
    Yea, probably not, but that is where we get the practice as being biblical (at least, its the most obvious that I remember).

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