by Shelby Ruch-Teegarden
In 1996, the General Conference of The United Methodist Church created the order of the ordained deacon. Before this, deacons were ordained as a step in the ordination process to elder, instead of as a stand-alone order. Since 1996, the number of ordained deacons in The United Methodist Church has continued to increase. But despite the increase, deacons still only comprise a small percentage of United Methodist clergy: in 2018, 5% of our total clergy (including licensed local pastors) were deacons in full connection or provisional deacons. Of our ordained deacons, a significant majority are women. 76.5% of our deacons in full connection and our provisional deacons in The United Methodist Church in the United States are women. This should give us joy for the progress that has been made and hope for the future of the church. Another statistic that should give the church hope is that 271 out of 1581 provisional clergy are provisional deacons. This means that 17.4% of provisional clergy are provisional deacons, which suggests that those seeking ordination as deacons in full connection are rapidly increasing in numbers.