John Collins, author of the ground-breaking study Diakonia, explores the pastoral implications of a new scholarly understanding of the role of deacons in the Early Church. In many churches today -- Catholic, Anglican, and others -- deacons have come to serve largely as servants of the poor and needy. In Deacons and the Church, Collins argues that this limited role for deacons was based on misinterpretations of key scriptural passages. Following the history of deacons in the Early Church to modern times, Collins offers extensive reflections on the relevant Scriptures, and suggests that we redefine the role of deacons for today. Rather than limit the role of deacons, he urges the church to adapt ancient meanings to modern pastoral situations. In the words of Ignatius of Antioch, whom he quotes in the final chapter, "Deacons are not providers of bread and drink but are agents of the congregation."
Collins paints a rich picture of deacons as agents of the church, ordained to the service of the bishop, who sends them forth as ministers of the church as a whole, rather than simply social workers. Collins provides an understanding of deacons that embraces social welfare but is not bound by it.