The rostered ministers in the ELCA–pastors and deacons–provide this church with skilled and tested leadership that attempts to meet the needs of a complex twenty-first century society. Each roster has distinct characteristics, responsibilities, and accountabilities; and yet they are complimentary, share specific tasks and are all centered in the mission of Christ in the Church.
Pastors or Ministers of Word and Sacrament are called and ordained by the church for ministry. With a seminary master of divinity degree, pastors are primarily responsible for the life of the community of believers. That is– preach the Gospel, forgive sins, interpret doctrine, and regularly celebrate the sacraments. Pastors also serve as institutional chaplains, administrators, teachers, and counselors.
Deacons or Ministers of Word and Service are called and ordained by the church for service. With demonstrated competence in an appropriate specialization and a master’s level theological degree, deacons serve in church-related and secular positions extending the church’s ministry and mission of witness and care into the world to address societal needs. They often serve at the intersection of life where church meets the world and its problems. Deacons serve as institutional chaplains, counselors, advocates, educators, spiritual directors, gift discerners, health professionals, musicians, youth and family ministers, parish visitors, and in many other ways, many still to be discovered.
Some deacons also are consecrated by the church for service as deaconesses. With appropriate professional credentials and a master of arts in religion or master of ministerial studies degree from seminary, deaconesses participate in community life and serve in specialty ministries in the congregations, agencies and institutions of the ELCA and ELCIC. Some of these ministries include various medical vocations, teaching, writing and editing, parish work, hospital and nursing facility administration, spiritual direction, and retreat work.
(For more information, visit the Deaconess website at deaconesscommunity.org)