Frequently Asked Questions

The Concordia Deaconess Conference (CDC) is an association of active or previously active Lutheran Church Missouri Synod deaconesses. The CDC provides a community of support and renewal for deaconesses and a yearly opportunity for continuing education. The CDC has generously allowed student deaconesses to wear the deaconess uniform with a light blue cross insignia to assist in formation of the students' identity.

The official CDC motto is based on 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3: We give thanks to God always for you all, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. Drawing on this passage, the CDC motto reads:

  • Working in faith
  • Laboring in love
  • Remaining steadfast in the hope of our Lord Jesus Christ

The garb, or uniform, has been a part of deaconess identity since the mid-1800's. In a practical vein, the uniform enables hospital staff and patients to instantly recognize one who provides care that is distinctly spiritual and Christian. In the parish, visitors and members easily identify the person in the uniform.

The uniform of the Concordia Deaconess Conference - LCMS (see more below) consists of a navy blue business suit with a white blouse or a navy blue business dress along with the insignia and cross pin. White is a reminder of the towel Christ used to wash his disciples feet. The gold cross is for commissioned deaconesses. Students wear a light blue insignia.

With a cross on her shoulder and a cross pin over her heart, the uniform visually reminds a deaconess of her identity and purpose. It reminds her that the Lord has chosen her for service; she has not chosen Him or the work. A uniform also covers her person and helps people to recognize it is really Christ who is caring for them.

The uniform is not required. Some deaconesses wear their uniform every day; some wear it once a week. Certain deaconesses, such as those in prison ministry, may not wear the garb because a uniform may symbolize oppressive authority and block the way for the Gospel.

The Concordia Deaconess Conference - LCMS (CDC) cross starts with the cross because Jesus is the center of our faith and life. The edges of the cross flare out to form Easter lilies, symbolizing the Resurrection that we proclaim to the four corners of the world. The cross is inscribed with four fish that meet in the center. Fish are used because the first letters of the Greek words for Jesus Christ, God’s son, Savior, form the word for fish (ICHTHUS).

A treasured and often-quoted deaconess motto is "The True Deaconess Spirit" by Wilhelm Loehe. Many deaconess motherhouses in Germany adopted Loehe's poem as their motto in the 19th and 20th centuries, and it later gained popularity in America after the immigration of German deaconesses to this country.

There are 172 Commissioned Deaconesses on the LCMS Roster. Of those:

  • 111 are active
  • 19 are on candidate status
  • 17 are on con-candidate status
  • 25 are emeriti

  • Member Congregations
  • Recognized Service Organizations
  • Chaplain-Institutional
  • Other Special Ministry
  • Synod College or Seminary Faculty
  • Professional Staff
  • Synod Executive Staff
  • Missionary-Synod
  • District Executive or Staff
  • District-Other Staff
  • Teacher
  • Missionary-Other
  • Principal

It began in 1980.

166 women have completed the undergraduate and deaconess colloquy programs since the first graduating class in 1983.

Yes. Chaplaincy positions in institutions have been open to deaconesses, other church workers, and laity for over 30 years. One goes through a process of Synodical endorsement to be an LCMS institutional chaplain. It is normally expected that the student must complete a rigorous master's degree in theology and four units of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE).

Because the arena of institutional chaplaincy is fraught with many theological challenges, only those firmly grounded in Lutheran theology should even consider this path. Post-modernism and relativism combined with anti-Scriptural positions are the norm among chaplains from other denominations with whom the deaconess might work.

We stress that a deaconess in a chaplaincy setting serves as a complement to, not a substitute for, the pastoral office. The title of chaplain is sometimes used because it is the title the health care industry applies to those who are tending to religious aspects of patient care. For careful discernment and for more information, contact the Chaplaincy Director at the LCMS International Center: 800-248-1930, x1380 or the Deaconess Program Director at Concordia University Chicago: 708-209-3136.

A D.C.E. is primarily a life-span educator. D.C.E.’s lead the educational programming and structure for a congregation.

A deaconess specializes in spiritual caregiving. She may lead programs in the area of caregiving and service to the community. A deaconess also gives special attention to issues faced by women. A deaconess teaches God’s Word, but she is not often the education coordinator for the congregation. There may be situations where the duties of the two offices look like they overlap. Some large congregations have a D.C.E. and a deaconess who have distinct responsibilities.

Half of deaconesses serve in institutions; D.C.E.’s usually serve congregations, with the exception of outdoor education.

Women of all ages enroll in the Deaconess Program. Students range from age 18 to their 60s.

It depends on the program in which one is enrolled and whether one can study full-time.

The Undergraduate Program is a 5-year full-time program that includes a 1-year paid internship.

The Deaconess Certification Program is designed for those who already hold a bachelor’s degree. Class requirements vary according to the previous experience and educational background of the student. Most full-time certification students complete the academic requirements in 2 years and then complete a 1-year paid internship. Some students complete a portion of the requirements via distance learning, but it is not a distance learning program.

Up to one half of the course requirements, excluding the internship, may be fulfilled through transfer of credit into the program, as approved by the Deaconess Director and the Theology Department Chairperson.

Up to one-fourth of course requirements, excluding the internship, may be completed by some combination of credit for prior learning and distance learning methods with members of faculty, as approved by the Deaconess Director and the Theology Department Chairperson.

Most Master of Arts in Religion (M.A.R.) with Deaconess Certification full-time students complete the academic requirements in 2 years and then complete a 1-year paid internship.

The Deaconess Colloquy Program is designed for graduates of non-LCMS deaconess programs who desire synodical certification. Time required to complete the program varies according to the previous experience and educational background of the student.

A colloquy is a formal conversation or conference, usually among peers.

Undergraduates may choose to transfer in to Concordia during their sophomore or junior year. However, there are a many benefits to coming to Concordia for the entire college education. Please contact Undergraduate Admissions at 708-771-8300, x3100 for more information on the application process, financial aid and transfer questions.

Deaconess Certification students can transfer a limited number of credits from another LCMS institution. Some courses can be obtained during summer intensive sessions.

Deaconess Certification or Deaconess Colloquy students may combine the Deaconess Certification with a Master of Arts in Religion.

If one is distant from CUC or an LCMS institution, it can be challenging, but not necessarily impossible, to obtain the needed theology courses. Please contact the Deaconess Program Director to talk about your particular situation.

The call process for deaconesses is similar to the process for calling pastors, teachers and other LCMS rostered church workers. The Synodical Placement Director at CUC coordinates the placement of a candidate into her first call. The Council of Presidents of the LCMS places all deaconesses.

There are three programs that specifically prepare a student to be rostered in the LCMS:

  • Concordia University Chicago has a program leading to a bachelor’s degree in theology, Deaconess Certification with or without a Master of Arts in Religion for women who already have their bachelors degree, and Deaconess Colloquy for women who have graduated from a non-LCMS deaconess program.
  • Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana, have graduate level programs for deaconess certification. Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, partners with The Hispanic Institute of Theology to provide deaconess certification for Spanish-speaking women.

There are two other Lutheran deaconess programs:

  • The Lutheran Deaconess Association (LDA), Valparaiso, Indiana, has been training deaconesses since 1919. The LDA is not directly affiliated with a church body, but it has strong historic ties with the LCMS. Deaconesses trained through the LDA must complete Concordia Univeristy Chicago's Colloquy program to be rostered in the LCMS.
  • The Deaconess Community of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is in Chicago, Illinois. The Deaconess Community has roots in the former church bodies that merged into the ELCA. They have been educating deaconesses since 1888.

Contact the Deaconess Program Director at 708-209-3136 for more information. Sample parish job descriptions are provided and our staff is happy to be a resource as you evaluate your situation.