The Diaconate, Diakonia, and Why They Matter to the Church

  • On Zoom
  • Part I: Thursday October 7, 7 – 9pm CT 
  • Part II: Tuesday November 97 – 9pm CT 

Deacons are a crucial part of the fabric of our church – yet Episcopalians often have divergent views of who deacons are called to be and what they’re called to do. For good reason: The Church has understood the ministry of deacons in several differing ways in the past century and a half! Join us for this interactive two-part seminar to review the history of deacons, deaconesses, and the revival of the diaconate over the last 150 years. We will examine how the office and leadership of deacons has changed over time and how the urbanization, industrialization and mass-consumption of the 19th Century prompted a revival of the diaconate. We will also look at the diaconate among some of our ecumenical partners and neighbors. 

Registration is free, and donations are welcome!

Who should join in this event?

  • All in formation for the diaconate and the priesthood
  • Priests and lay leaders, especially those with a deacon assigned to their congregation
  • Lay leaders interested in social justice and advocacy
  • Vocational deacons – this is a great refresher for you!

Required Short Reading: A short reading will be distributed electronically to those who register for the workshop. It is an excerpt from Jeannine E. Olson’s landmark text Deacons and Deaconesses Through the Centuries, Revised Edition, 2005. Please read the Introduction, at least the first four paragraphs of the Preface, and then Chapter 1 before our first session. (If you are interested more deeply in the history of the diaconate or of Christian social engagement, buy the book. It runs about $45 on-line.)

Required Book: Susanne Watson Epting. Unexpected Consequences: The Diaconate Renewed.  New York:  Morehouse Publishing, 2015. (available new and used on-line for about $25)
Every ordained leader in the Episcopal Church should know this book, and you may have already worked with it. Please read the whole short book before the second session of the workshop. I suggest beginning reading it as soon as you can get it, however. If you need to break up your reading time, try to tackle at least the first half of the book (through Chapter 6) before the first session and complete the book before the second session. If you cannot read the whole thing before we meet, please examine the chapter titles in the Table of Contents and read at least the Preface and Chapters 1, 8 and 9.


Bradley Peterson, PhD, is a historian of Christianity who has taught for the Episcopal School for Deacons of the Diocese of California, for the Center for Anglican Learning and Leadership of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, and for the San Francisco Theological Seminary of the University of Redlands. Though he specializes in the Reformation of the 16th century Reformation, his additional interests include the histories of monastic life, ordained ministry, and Christianity’s theological and practical responses to the economic and social challenges of the 19th century.
Dr. Peterson is a layman and a member of All Saints’ Episcopal Church in San Francisco’s famed Haight-Ashbury District. He is a member of the Association for Episcopal Deacons and currently serves as a board member and secretary for the Association.



For Those in Formation for Holy Orders 

After taking part in both sessions of this workshop, answer each of these questions in your own words in no more than two typed pages. Then include your response in your portfolio. 

  • What’s your understanding of how the ministry of deacons and the ministry of priests differ, contrast, and complement each other?
  • With their differing gifts and calling, how might priests and deacons work together collaboratively?


The limit of two typed pages means you cannot say everything about your theological, spiritual and practical understanding or vision of these two ordained ministries. Rather, this exercise is to help you find the most effective words and the fewest necessary to use when explaining deacons, priests and your own call to people who ask about them.