serving together

Canada: Diaconal Ministers of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, ELCIC

ELCIC (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada)
Address: 600-177 Lombard Avenue, Winnipeg, MB R3B 0W5
Telephone: 204.984.9150

Website for deaconess community of ELCIC and ELCA,

ELCIC - Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, In Mission for Others


An Undefinitive History of the Lutheran Canadian Diaconal Ministry by Judy Whaley is a good resource – document located here. (Much of the content on this page comes from this source)

The early history of the ELCIC begins in the USA. The ELCA Deaconess Community was the first to send Deaconesses to Canada. The ELCA Community of Deaconesses had its origins in Germany, when 7 deaconesses arrived in Philadelphia from Germany in 1884. They established the first motherhouse of deaconesses in the U.S. The first U.S. trained deaconesses from this motherhouse were consecrated in 1887. Previously, trained deaconesses were “borrowed” from Germany and Norway to staff hospitals and other social welfare institutions. Eventually there were 12 motherhouses developed by ELCA predecessors. In 1910 the Board of Deaconess Work opened the first specialized school to prepare women for full-time service in the church, affiliated with the Baltimore Motherhouse. More than 1,000 women would train at the school for service in parish work, Christian education, and health and welfare services.

Since the late 1940’s, women have been serving in various ministries as Deaconesses in the Canadian Lutheran Church. At first they came from the United States, many from the ELCA or predecessor Deaconess Communities and the Lutheran Deaconess Association.

In 1966, the Canada District of the American Lutheran Church was formed and became the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), a separate autonomous church. The current Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada was formed in 1986 through a merger of the ELCC (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada) and the LCA (Lutheran Church of America) – Canada Section (three Canadian Synods).

An officially recognized Diaconal Ministry program is relatively new in the ELCIC (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada). The initial push for diaconal ministry came from many people – mostly in the Synod of Alberta and the Territories who were serving as Parish Workers and who wanted some formalisation of standards but who didn’t want to become deaconesses.

In 1993, an ELCIC Task Force for the Study of Ministry in collaboration with DTEL (Division for Theological Education and Leadership) created a status for diaconal ministry within the larger framework of a discussion on a three fold ministry. In 1995, the ELCIC in convention approved the following motion (NC 95-50) “That those persons who have been set apart as deaconesses and currently serve in the ELCIC be considered diaconal ministers and included in the diaconal ministry roster.” In 1997, course requirements for the Diaconal Ministry program were developed by the National Church. (Richard Stetson, 2007).

“This establishment of a Diaconal Ministry track within the ELCIC means that the church has made a commitment to this expression of diaconal ministry and Community. This pledge also involves commitment of its deaconesses to the church. The Deaconess organization agrees to establish some kind of relationship with the church. It means mutual accountability and responsibility.”(Sister Monica)

“The intent behind the Diaconal Ministry program was not to be a Community, but a roster, similar to the clergy. Diaconal Ministers who are rostered may be members of the Lutheran Deaconess Association, The Deaconess Community of the ELCA and/or ELCIC Diaconal Ministers.” (Sister Anne)

With the development of the Diaconal Ministry Program (see below in ‘Training’), men and women are able to follow their own personal call to serve as a Diaconal Ministers in the ELCIC.

Diaconal Ministers are called by and publicly serves the church with primary responsibility for witnessing to the gospel through a ministry of service mandated by the Word and Sacraments that enables and equips the people of God in their ministry. It is a public ministry of “Word and Service.” Rooted in the Word of God, and accountable to the church, diaconal ministers train both theologically and for a particular service. Inherent to diaconal vocation is leading and equipping all the baptized for diakonia, by helping people to discern gifts for service, by encouraging awareness of the world’s brokenness, and by forming supportive community in the midst of ministries. In this way, the diaconal minister serves, but also intentionally prepares and leads others in service.
(Source: ELCIC Leadership for Ministers)

As in the Anglican Communion, Lutheran diaconal ministers are allowed to wear a stole draped sideways from one shoulder and tied off at the waist, usually with some material left hanging below. Diaconal ministers (the term “deacon” is used occasionally but not officially) are involved in preaching, assisting in worship, leading worship in lieu of an ordained pastor and other congregational duties; they are, however, primarily called to service outside the church, in fields such as campus ministry, chaplaincy, congregational ministry, counseling, social service agency work, spiritual direction, parish and community nursing and a range of other avenues.
Also of note are the ‘associates in ministry (AIM), a rostered position within the ELCA consisting of laypersons commissioned into positions of service within the church, most often as educators, musicians, and worship leaders. While there is a trend towards combining the diaconal and associate ministries, the ‘AIM’ program continues in its own right, and associates are spread across the entirety of the churchwide body. AIMs are “commissioned” in the church and the hierarchy for service. (Source: Wikipedia)

Brochure on diaconal ministry here.

Diaconal ministers shall:


  • Be rooted in the word of God. Diaconal ministers are ministers of the service of Christ, informed by the Word of God, and called as witnesses to the gospel and the apostolic faith. They are called to be part of the theological engagement of this church in God’s world.
  • Be equipped to carry out a particular service.

    Diaconal ministers carry out a public ministry of service and witness. With demonstrated competence and expertise in a particular discipline, diaconal ministers may serve both within and outside of congregational settings, in each case bearing responsibility for making connections between church and world. Programmatic ministries within congregational settings should also be marked by extension of the witness of the church into the larger community.

  • Be committed and prepared to equip the baptized for ministry in the world and in the church.

    Diaconal ministers along with pastors and bishops are called to lead and equip the baptized for ministry. Diaconal ministers support the ministry of the baptized through appropriate programmatic ministries and by discerning and encouraging their gifts for ministry.

  • Give particular attention to ministries at the boundaries between church and world.

    Diaconal ministers carry public responsibility to speak for the needs of God’s world to the church as well as taking God’s saving gospel to the needs of the world through the actions of God’s people, both individually and collectively.

  • Exemplify the life of Christ-like service addressing all forms of human need.

    The call to diaconal ministry is a lifelong commitment that supports and complements the ministry of Word and Sacrament, focusing on ministry to the whole person. This ‘diaconal bias’ provides the lens and vision for developing the diaconal mission of the church carried out among and through its members.

  • Be grounded in community.

    Diaconal ministers need the support and shared vision of a community of leaders committed to a common calling. This grounding in a diaconal community serves as the reminder to build community in all ministry settings.


Diaconal Ministers are:

• pastoral assistants
• worship assistants
• nurses: parish/other institutions
• youth directors
• directors of Christian education
• educators in child care/schools/community
• recruiters, trainers, organizers of volunteers
• administrators
• legal advisers/advocates for: youth at risk, older adults, people with addictions, and others
• musicians
• chaplains of hospital, prison, nursing home
• bridge-builders between cultures
• infinite possibilities and interesting combinations of the above


Persons seeking consecration as diaconal ministers in the ELCIC are expected to fully participate in all steps of the candidacy process. The candidacy process is the shared responsibility of the candidate and CTEL.


Initial contact begins a process of discernment which explores an individual’s potential for rostered ministry and readiness to begin theological study and candidacy in the ELCIC. Two years of active membership in an ELCIC congregation is required prior to endorsement. The process includes registration, structured interview and psychological and career evaluation through the synod CTEL, and positive annual endorsement throughout the candidacy. In consultation with CTEL, application may be made to the seminary.

Information on the ELCIC website here.

Brochure on call (ordained and lay diaconal ministry, side by side) can be downloaded here.


Sister Monica wrote, “Many of the standards developed for the Diaconal Ministry program were borrowed from the ELCA. These standards are met by both the Lutheran Deaconess Association and the Diaconal Community of the ELCA. Because of these shared standards, Diaconal Ministers can be rostered ELCIC Diaconal Ministers and members of our respective diaconal communities.” However, she noted that, “The ELCA and LDA standards exceed those of the ELCIC.” One of the key areas where the standards exceed those of the ELCIC is in the area of purposeful emphasis on a distinct diaconal community.

The Diaconal Ministry program was approved by the Lutheran Theological Seminary in May 2002. It was developed as a one year diaconal ministry certificate program, using standards developed by the church.

There are several commonalities in requirements between the Lutheran Deaconess Association, the Deaconess Community and the Diaconal Ministry Certificate Program of the ELCIC, due to the fact that many of the standards were modeled after the ELCA Deaconess program. All three programs place a strong emphasis on theological education for their student candidates, requiring Old and New Testament courses, studies in Lutheran and Church History, and Lutheran Confessions. All three programs require their student/candidates to take at least one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education and participate in a twelve-month internship. The ELCIC Diaconal Ministry Certificate Program requires students to take Ethics and Canadian Church History courses, and to attend one Formation event.

Formation component
A diaconal ministry formation event will be offered at least every second year under the sponsorship of the ELCIC. A candidate must be endorsed by CTEL of their synod prior to participation in a formational event. Successful completion of this event meets the formation component requirement for approval as a candidate for consecration to the diaconal ministry.


Purpose: The formation event is considered integral to the preparation of diaconal ministry candidates. Ideally the formation event precedes theological studies and will assist candidates in shaping their course of study and field experience. Candidates will:


  • study and explore biblical, theological, historical and ecumenical roots and expressions of diaconal ministry;
  • examine current diaconal approaches and models for ministry in a variety of settings through study and field trips;
  • gain deeper understandings of Lutheran theology as it relates to all forms of ministry, call and ecclesiology; and
  • develop spiritual insights and disciplines for active ministry through worship, prayer and group processes designed for spiritual formation, development of community and mutual vision for diaconal ministry.


Components: A variety of learning and community building experiences will include lectures, reading, writing, small group and individual reflection, field trips to diaconal ministry sites, and optional tutorials. Worship, spiritual formation and community life are central to the experience. Seminary faculty, guest lecturers and ecumenical guests may all be involved.

Expectations: All participants will be asked to be in residence for housing and meals at the chosen venue for the entire event. Applicants who are accepted will be sent a reading list to complete prior to arrival. A journal/evaluation is to be kept during the event and given to the event coordinator following the event. The journal may be shared with the candidate’s CTEL.

Diaconal Ministry Certificate program
The aim of the Diaconal Ministry Certificate program offered through Lutheran Theological Seminary is thus:
•To meet the academic expectations for diaconal ministers as set by the ELCIC.
•To assist participants in the program to grow in a deeper understanding of and commitment to the liberating Gospel of Christ and the life of the Church.
•To enable all participants to appropriate and introductory understanding of the primary sources and classic traditions of the Christian faith.
•To develop and to foster in all students the specific practical skills necessary to relate the Gospel of Christ effectively to the challenges of diaconal ministries in our church.
•To produce not only well trained diaconal ministers but also curious students, encouraging participants to commit to build upon the basic foundations of this program and develop an ongoing process and reflection in their work and service to the church

The definition of diaconal ministry requires the following components to be included in any preparation and educational program designed to equip persons for this leadership role:


  • knowledge and understanding of the Word of God;
  • a Lutheran understanding of the gospel;
  • knowledge and understanding of the Lutheran Confessions;
  • theological reflection on issues of faith and life;
  • personal spiritual formation and ministry identity;
  • communication and planning skills necessary for effective witness and service, both verbally and in action; and
  • specific education and competence in an identified ministry of service.


In preparation for consecration as a diaconal minister of this church, a candidate will engage in a comprehensive program of preparation. Except as otherwise provided, a candidate for consecration as a diaconal minister shall:

  1. Demonstrate competence in at least one area of specialization or expertise according to guidelines established by the ELCIC (see point 2);
  2. Have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, college degree, a graduate degree or a professional certificate appropriate to the designated field of specialization. If the degree is in an unrelated field of study, significant work experience (minimum of three years) with leadership responsibilities appropriate to the type of diaconal ministry being sought is required. In some special cases a person not holding a bachelor’s degree may be considered for candidacy under the provisions described in Addendum 1 to this document, Equivalencies/Alternatives in Lieu of Academic Credentials.
  3. Complete the basic foundation coursework in theological education which shall include a minimum of one year of studies at the bachelor’s level (or 30 semester credit hours). At least a one-term 3 hour course must be completed in each of the following areas:
    • Biblical Studies, Old Testament
    • Biblical Studies, New Testament
    • Lutheran Theology and Confessional Writings
    • Canadian and Lutheran Church History
    • Ethics

    Additional courses should include Practical Theology appropriate to the specialization. All theological credits must be earned through courses at an accredited college or seminary of this church or through a course of study approved by CTEL based on evaluation by an ELCIC seminary. See Appendix 5 for a list of approved courses. Candidates are encouraged to consider a Masters in Theological Studies offered at Lutheran Theological Seminary or Waterloo Lutheran Seminary;

  4. Complete the required formational component in the preparation program for Lutheran diaconal ministry as defined by the ELCIC (see below);
  5. Satisfactorily complete supervised field experience in the field of specialization as approved by the synodical CTEL (see below); and
  6. Successfully complete the final evaluation by the Examining Committee. (The preparation of a sermon is not required of diaconal candidates.)
  7. Successfully complete a unit of SPE.

A diaconal minister is “consecrated”, rather than “ordained”. This ceremony is usually presided over by a bishop. Diaconal ministers may call themselves Deacon, though many by tradition retain ‘sister’ and ‘deaconess’.
“A rite was accepted for the consecration of Diaconal Ministers. The term consecration was chosen to differentiate the rite from the ordination of ministers of Word and Sacrament and because of its historical usage. The rite may say as much from a different perspective about the intention of this ministry in the church as the church’s constitution, by laws and Candidacy Manual. The consecration rite speaks the language of the heart. Diaconal Ministers may not serve without a formal call from a church body that is authorized to extend a call: congregation, Synod or National. Students who are consecrated through the LDA must have a second consecration through the ELCIC in order to take a call in the ELCIC and be rostered, or they must have a formal call in order to be consecrated and rostered. “ (Stetson. 2005) The term Diaconal Minister was chosen as a gender inclusive title for the roster – a title used by the ELCA and the United Church of Canada. All Diaconal Ministers in the ELCIC have the right to use the title “Deacon”; as a result of the church’s rich history of diaconal ministry, some ministers continue to use the title “Deaconess” or “Sister.”

The ELCIC refers to Diaconal Ministers in the category of Lay Diaconal Ministry. Initial Calls for lay diaconal ministers may be issued by a Synod Council as a Call to Special Service in support of specialized ministries.


Persons admitted to the roster and who continue as diaconal ministers of the ELCIC shall satisfactorily meet and maintain basic standards established in the Constitution, Bylaws and continuing resolutions of the ELCIC, as well as the following:

  • commitment to Christ;
  • accept and adhere to the Scriptures as the inspired Word of God;
  • acceptance of and adherence to the Lutheran Confessions of this church;
  • willingness and ability to serve in response to the needs of this church;
  • academic and practical qualifications for ministry;
  • life consistent with the gospel and personal qualifications including leadership abilities and competence in interpersonal relationships;
  • receipt and acceptance of a letter of call; and
  • membership in a congregation of this church.



“At the time of the beginning of the discussions for an ELCIC Diaconal Ministry Program, there was little understanding about the need for a Diaconal Ministry Community, although an awareness of the importance and need for Community within the Diaconal Ministry program is beginning to take shape.” (Sister Anne, of the ELCIC/ELCA Deaconess Community) The ELCIC Diaconal Ministry Program is therefore in the early stages of developing a sense of intentional community among the Diaconal Ministers, using the Lutheran Deaconess Association and the ELCA communities as examples.
“The challenge for the development of a distinct community for Diaconal Ministers in Canada will be for the National Church to recognise that the gift of “community” is at the heart of diaconal ministry. Recognising the idea of community as a gift, the National Church will then work to support the idea of a distinct Diaconal Community”. (Deaconess Julie Hink)


Tranformation, Reconciliation and Empowerment: An LWF Contribution to the Understanding and Practice of Diakonia (Lutheran World Federation) Download document here.
Diaconal ministry in the Lutheran Churches statement (2005). Download document here.
Prophetic Diakonia – for the healing of the world (LWF, 2002). Download document here.
The Hannover Report: The Diaconate as ecumenical opportunity. Download document here.

Diaconal Sunday (on or around February 24 – last Sunday in February)
ELCIC congregations are encouraged to lift up the mission and witness of diaconal ministry, and to celebrate witness expressed through service (diakonia) and leadership offered by the ELCIC’s diaconal ministers.

Diaconal Sunday brochure here.
Additional prayers and resources are available online here.
Other relevant links here.




Further information to be collected includes (but is not limited to) the following questions.

A brief history (may include links to documents and websites) – how did it all get started? What are the key dates and events? Are there documents that are part of the history (please specify)?

 Historical information and dates re formation/recognition of diaconal ministry agents in the denomination/church agency.

 Does the diaconal ministry agent wear a distinctive uniform? Are diaconal ministry agents able to be married? Are they remunerated? Do they live in community (eg motherhouse) or independently? Etc.

 Are there expectations of ongoing training, or professional development? If yes, what is expected and how often does it happen?

How many diaconal ministry agents are there currently in the denomination or church agency? Any comment on trends in numbers?

 Are there key people (historical or current) in the organization who have provided significant leadership. Any weblinks to their story, or a short write up?

 Who are the current leaders in the diaconal association? (photos, ‘blurb’).

 Relationship of diaconal ministry agents to a denomination/church agency

 An overview of main responsibilities for diaconal ministry agents (past and present). Are they located within a church, a particular facility or agency, or community based? Are diaconal ministry agents appointed to individual placements or work together on projects or in institutions?

 Are diaconal ministry agents able to preside at sacraments (communion, baptism, weddings etc)?

 Who makes the appointments for diaconal ministry agents eg they apply for positions, they are appointed (eg by a Bishop, by the conference office, or another body/committee).

 Is there a length of time for appointments (eg usually less than 5 years, usually between 5 and 10 years, at the discretion of the diaconal ministry agent or at the discretion of the appointing body), appointed to and remain with a particular mother house, etc.

 Do diaconal ministry agents organize conferences, seminars, gatherings for professional development, pastoral peer support etc? How often and what is the nature of these events?

 Key issues and challenges in the contemporary ministry context

 Do the diaconal ministry agents have ‘code of conduct’ or ‘code of ethics’ that inform ethical and behavioral expectations for ministry?

 Key documents (historical, vision and mission etc) – links or PDF or Word files


 Links to relevant articles, websites etc

 Other areas of interest……

 (information to Rev Sandy Boyce, President, DIAKONIA World Federation,, to upload to this website)