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Document Details :
Title: Waar blijft de 'Diakonia in het Woord'? - What about the 'Diakonia of the Word?'
Subtitle: Kanttekeningen bij een nieuw handboek diakonie-wetenschap - Comments on a New Dutch Handbook towards the Discipline of Diaconate
Author(s): KOET, Bart J.
Volume: 67 Issue: 1 Date: 2006
This article contains observations on the first Dutch ecumenical introduction to a special sector of practical theology: the service of the church to the poor. The book targets students of what is known as ‘Diakonie’ in German and ‘diaconie’ in Dutch, as well as those already engaged in social work in ecclesial contexts. In German and Dutch church circles ‘Diakonie/diaconie’ (derived from the Greek word diakonia) designates the churches’ social work. Originally the usage was Protestant but is now increasingly Roman Catholic. Papers in the first part present perspectives on social services provided by the churches. The papers cover the seven classical works of mercy – plus a new one (to make peace; see Matthew 5,9). Then the book presents accounts of the different visions on social work in the different Dutch churches. A special chapter reports on social engagements among other religions like Judaism, Islam and Hinduism. Papers in the second part are more technical, covering such topics as the biblical roots of social work and relationships between‘diaconie’and central ecclesial activities like liturgy and catechesis. The editors of this book recognize the need for much further reflection among both contributors and readers. Although the book is presented as an ecumenical enterprise, Protestant views of the church’s social engagement predominate over Roman Catholic. An telling illustration of this is their treatment of deacons in church history and contemporary Catholic thought. In the early Church and in contemporary Catholic thinking there is a dynamic relationship between the social role of deacons and their role in liturgy and ministry of the word. Although often presented in German circles as lowly servants, deacons in early Christianity were something different. An important book by the Australian scholar J. N. Collins shows that the meaning of the Greek word diakoniachanges according to context – the term can be called a ‘floater’. Worth stressing is that according to Collins – and I think rightly – the ancient diakonianever expresses the notion of loving and caring service. If this proves to be correct – and scholarly opinion is moving in this direction – the editors will need to give some thought to revising their concept of diaconie.