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The growth of interest in the "escalating phenomenon" of the diaconate in a number of denominations- predominantly in the North Atlantic region - has been well-documented in ecumenical dialogues, denominational reports, and scholarly publications. A number of articles have placed the diaconate in the larger context of ecclesiological reflection, but an accurate picture of the practical reality of individual deacons and their perceptions about their ministry has rarely been examined beyond anecdotal evidence? A better picture of the views and experiences of deacons is vital for at least two reasons. First, it is necessary to support ecumenical cooperation in the development of the diaconate as a movement for the renewal of the church's mission and liturgy. Without an honest appraisal of the similarities and differences of deacons' ministries, it is difficult to propose areas for ecumenical cooperation. Second, social scientific analysis of the modern diaconate can contribute valuable insights for ecclesiological reflection. Reflecting on his experience after Vatican II, Joseph A. Komonchak contends that social analysis must accompany theological reflection on the nature of the church.

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