Deacon (Gr. minister, servant), an inferior minister of the Christian church. The faithful of Jerusalem, at the request of the apostles, chose seven men, whom the latter, with laying on of hands, appointed their own assistants in the ministry. Besides the distribution of alms and the care of the temporal concerns of the infant church, they also preached and baptized (Acts vii. and viii.). Deacon ship is a major order in the Latin and Greek churches, ranking next to the priesthood. Bishops and priests are the ordinary ministers of baptism, while deacons are called by the canons the extraordinary or delegated ministers of it. Subdeaconship is also held by both these churches to be a major order. Tertullian, Cyprian, and Cornelius, among others, mention subdea-cons. The deacon and subdeacon assist the bishop and priest when they celebrate solemn mass. In the Latin church the reception of subdeaconship implies the obligation of perpetual celibacy. In the Anglican church the deacon is allowed to exercise all priestly functions except consecrating the eucharist and pronouncing absolution. His office is an order of the ministry and a preparation for the priesthood.
In the Methodist Episcopal church the deacons constitute an order in the ministry, are ordained by the bishop, and assist the elders in divine service. In the Presbyterian and some other churches the deacons care for the poor, and to them may be committed the temporal affairs of the church. Among Congregation-alists the deacons, besides attending to the poor, assist the pastor in the celebration of the sacraments.