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The Deacon's Bench

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In the past, I’ve noted the curious habit in some dioceses of referring to deacons and their wives as “deacon couples”. Now, Deacon Bill Ditewig is tackling that subject — and some others involving spouses, terminology, and what it all means:

Another expression that still has traction is that of “deacon couples”; we often hear this, especially in terms of social or church events: “All deacon couples are invited.” Again, the intent here is clear enough. Deacons and their spouses (for those who are married, of course) are invited. However, the precision of the expression is lacking. Only one of the two is an ordained deacon, and that does not extend to the couple. I made a career in the Navy, and retired as a Commander. We would not be invited to things as a “Commander couple” or even as an “officer couple.” The same precision applies here. So, most places have stopped using that expression in favor of something more precise.

As long as we’re looking at terminology, here’s another. For a long time, it was pretty common to hear about “deacons’ wives”, as in, “There is a deacons’ wives’ group in the diocese.” Now, for a while that didn’t seem to be problematic. However, some of the wives began to get their backs up. They began to realize that their identity was being determined and described by their husband’s role as deacon. “I’m a deacon’s wife” often ignored the fact that this woman has an identity, often an official ministerial identity, quite distinct from her husband’s. One wife told me bluntly: “I have a doctorate in ministry, and have been active in ministry for years before my husband even thought about the diaconate; now people simply think of me and my role as his wife, and disregard or minimize my own professional expertise and experience.” Even more fundamental, of course, is the very sacramental identity we each have, individually, through baptism. My Christian identity and dignity is established through initiation, not through association with someone else. So, another term has emerged as a preferred expression: “the wife of a deacon.” I should point out that this distinction is usually made by the wives themselves as they reflect on their own sacramental identities. Some ladies are perfectly comfortable with “deacon’s wife”; others are not.

He has much more to say, so check it out.

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