Reflections on the Theology of Diakonia
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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The installation of an archbishop is an ecumenical event,1 and a strong symbol of the unity of the church, despite confessional and other differences dividing church traditions. The unity of the church is not first and foremost a question of church order and ecclesial structures. Rather, it is intimately related to a vision of the unity of human beings2 and the church’s ministry of reconciliation in the world (2 Cor 5:18). The Greek New Testament highlights the “ministry of reconciliation” (tὴn diakonίan tῆV katallagῆV). With regard to the unity of the church, this suggests that diakonia plays a central role in the reconciled communion of believers, and the church’s mission for the healing of the world. According to tradition, defending the unity of the church and the dignity and participation of the poor and marginalized is part of the bishop’s oversight. In the Early Church, the deacon assisted the bishop in this task, and it was said that the deacon was his “eye and ear,” bringing the concerns of those living on its periphery to the attention of the church leadership. In the following “diakonia” refers both to the New Testament where the diakonwords appear close to 100 times, and to the contemporary use of this concept in ecumenical theology. I am fully aware of the difference between the two, as is the case with other biblical terms being used today. I claim, however, that the two are related and consider it a theological task to elaborate critically on this relation.