Diaconal Studies

Lived Theology for the Church in North America

Diakonia is essential to the church’s mission and ministry in North America. Such is the premise of “Revitalizing the Church through Diaconal Studies in North American Theological Education,” a research project of Warburg Theological Seminary. A four person leadership team (Craig Nessan, Man Hei Yip, Darryl W. Stephens, and Lori Mills-Curran) has met monthly since April 2021 to envision, plan, and carry out this collaboration involving 22 scholars and reflective practitioners spanning five continents.

Ecumenical diakonia encompasses Christian motivated social service, community development, justice, and human rights. The goal of diaconal ministry is to empower individuals and communities through God to become the agents of change in their own communities for the flourishing of all creation.

This exploration of diakonia expands horizons ecumenically and supports the emergence of diaconal studies as a field of study in North America. Diaconal studies is an existing field of study in other parts of the world, notably in Scandinavia and Germany. Now, North American seminarians and church leaders can benefit from this history of vitalizing and revitalizing the church’s ministry in the world, placing the “diaconate of all believers” alongside the “priesthood of all believers” as integral aspects of discipleship.

Participants are catalyzing an ecumenical, lived theology for the revitalization of the church. By working together through a collaborative methodology, they model the spirit of diakonia with each other through presentations and writings. Participants stir each other’s imagination by speaking from their own contexts about the meaning and purpose of the diaconate and writing constructively about the transformative potential of diakonia for the church today.


“Revitalizing the Church through Diaconal Studies in North American Theological Education” is a project of Wartburg Theological Seminary and is supported by grants from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation and the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies.

The Book

Diaconal Studies: Lived Theology for the Church in North America is under contract with Regnum Books International. Publication is expected in late 2024.


This book is written by scholars and practitioners from Lutheran, Methodist, Anglican, and other ecumenical Protestant traditions. Check back in early 2024 for author video introductions.

  • Valerie Bailey Fischer is the Chaplain to the College at Williams College, Massachusetts, and a priest in the Episcopal Church (US).
  • Jessica Bickford is a deacon in Canada.
  • Mitzi J. Budde is Head Librarian and Professor at Virginia [Episcopal] Theological Seminary and a deacon in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
  • Norma Cook Everist, a deaconess and pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, is Professor of Church and Ministry, emerita, Wartburg Theological Seminary.
  • Margaret Ann Crain is Professor Emerita of Christian Education and Deacon Studies at Garrett-Evangelical Theological School, an ordained deacon, and author of three books on the United Methodist diaconate.
  • Norma Dollaga is a deaconess in The United Methodist Church, serving in the Philippines.
  • Kristin Husby Dyrstad is a deacon in the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Norway and is working on a Ph.D. at VID Specialized University about the history of deacon education.
  • Johannes Eurich holds a chair for practical theology/study of diaconia and is director of the Institute for Diaconal Studies at Heidelberg University, Germany, and is also chair of ReDi, The International Society for the Research and Study of Diaconia and Christian Social Practice.
  • Benjamin L. Hartley is Associate Professor of Mission and World Christianity at Seattle Pacific University and is an ordained deacon in The United Methodist Church.
  • Annette Leis-Peters is Professor of Sociology of Religion and Diaconal Studies and academically responsible for the PhD program in Diaconia, Values and Professional Practice at VID Specialized University in Norway.
  • Julie Lytle is Director of Distributive and Lifelong Learning Initiatives and Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at Bexley Seabury Seminary, Chicago.
  • Lori Mills-Curran is former Executive Director of the Association for Episcopal Deacons and founding Executive Director of ProGente Connections, an ecumenical immigrant advocacy ministry in the Boston area.
  • Mary Elizabeth Moore is a deacon in the United Methodist tradition, who has sought to build, research, and communicate the diaconal movement, while also teaching and leading in theological education as Dean Emerita and Professor Emerita of Boston University School of Theology.
  • Jean Berchmans Mweningoma is bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Muwinga, Burundi and founder of Burundi’s first school for deacons, located in Buyé.
  • Craig L. Nessan is the William D. Streng Professor for the Education and Renewal of the Church and Professor of Contextual Theology and Ethics at Wartburg Theological Seminary.
  • Daphne B. Noyes is a deacon in the Episcopal Church (US) and recipient of research grants from the Episcopal Women’s History Project and the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church.
  • Dionata Rodrigues de Oliveira is the Diaconal Advisor of Nordeste Gaúcho Synod and is the Community of Deacons Coordinator for Igreja Evangélica de Confissão Luterana no Brasil.
  • Darryl W. Stephens is a deacon in The United Methodist Church and teaches at Lancaster Theological Seminary, USA.
  • Myka Kennedy Stephens is a United Methodist deaconess and CEO of Fosgail.org in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, United States.
  • Ignatius Swart is a full professor in the Department of Religion and Theology at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa, and a member of the Dutch Reformed Church.
  • Leo Yates is a United Methodist deacon living out his diakonia as a licensed therapist in vocational rehabilitation and an adjunct professor at Wesley Theological Seminary.
  • Man-Hei Yip is Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology at Wartburg Theological Seminary, Iowa.