The office of deacon is described in the New Testament (1 Tim. 3:8-13), where the Greek worddiakonos is used from which the English “deacon” is derived. The Greek word is variously interpreted as “servant, minister, writer, attendant” and in Christian circles acquired the specialized meaning now attached to “deacon.” Scripture clearly endorses the office in the New Testament church: “They that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 3:13). On this authority, the church elects some of its members to serve in eminently practical ways, caring for several aspects of church services, as well as for church property.
Deaconesses were included in the official staff of the early Christian churches. “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cenchreae, that you may receive her in the Lord as befits the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a helper of many and of myself as well” (Rom. 16:1,2, RSV). The deaconess is elected to office, serving for a term of one or two years as determined by the local church. It does not follow that the wife of a man chosen as deacon thereby becomes a deaconess, nor is it incumbent upon a church to choose the wife of a deacon as deaconess because her husband is a deacon. The deaconess is to be chosen from the standpoint of consecration and other qualifications that fit her to discharge the duties of the office. The church may arrange for a suitable service of induction for the deaconess by an ordained minister holding current credentials.