Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, has begun a new graduate-level program for deaconess preparation, approved by The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod’s Board for Higher Education (BHE). The master of arts degree program combines a major in diaconics with a second major, either in biblical theology or spiritual care. Successful completion of the program leads to certification as a minister of religion-commissioned, deaconess in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS).
A deaconess is a woman with theological and practical preparation who is called to serve as a support to a pastor and his ministry. Many of the nearly 100 LCMS deaconesses serve with special emphases in spiritual care, teaching the Christian faith, and works of mercy and encouragement. Typically, they serve in congregational or institutional settings.
Shortly after the BHE approval was announced, prospective students began applying to the program. Since the program was approved, Concordia Seminary already has eight students enrolled in the program. “There was a great deal of anticipation and excitement as this program was being designed and submitted for approval,” commented Dr. Bruce Schuchard, dean of Concordia Seminary’s Graduate School. “Following the program’s formal approval, the response has been very strong. I would encourage women who are interested in an in-depth study of biblical theology and spiritual care as a foundation for service in the church to investigate this new program.”
Deaconess Theresa Jo List has been appointed to serve as the assistant to the dean of Concordia Seminary’s Graduate School, with oversight of the new deaconess program. In addition to the opportunity to study theology at the Seminary, List commented on a practical advantage offered by the Seminary’s new program. “Future deaconesses will be prepared side-by-side with future pastors. Deaconesses see themselves as supporting the pastoral office, helping in practical ways to free the pastor up so he can focus on his call to Word and Sacrament ministry and shepherding God’s flock. It’s a blessing that students start learning early in their preparation how pastors and deaconesses can interact in team ministry settings.”
List is a 1994 graduate of the deaconess program at Concordia University, River Forest, Ill., and a Ph.D. candidate in New Testament studies at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. She is aware of the need to offer a distinctive program which does not compete for students with the other deaconess programs already in existence. “Concordia Seminary’s program will be distinct in that it is designed to meet the needs of those who wish to pursue graduate-level study of theology,” commented List. “Any deaconess who wants to train at the baccalaureate level would not be served by our program. Or, any deaconess whose life experiences have led her to the point where she desires to enter the colloquy program to be added to the deaconess roster of the LCMS would not be served by our program. Those women should contact the deaconess program at Concordia University, River Forest, Ill.”
For more information on the new deaconess program, contact Deaconess Theresa Jo List, Concordia Seminary, 801 DeMun Ave., St. Louis, Mo. 63105; 314-505-7147; firstname.lastname@example.org.