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Deacon Studies

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary provides a unique space to discern and interpret one's call, the coursework necessary to prepare for a variety of ministries, and the companionship necessary to sustain one on the journey.

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary has been a leader in preparing students for ministry as a deacon since The United Methodist Church created the Order of Deacons in 1996. In 1998, Garrett-Evangelical became the first seminary to create a Deacon Studies program and hired Rev. Dr. Margaret Ann Crain as the first Director of Deacon Studies. Today, Rev. Dr. Virginia Lee, a deacon in the Virginia Conference, serves as director of the program. She and the entire Garrett-Evangelical community help to provide a supportive environment for students to continue to discern their call and vocation.

Who Are Deacons?

Deacons are clergy leaders who are called by God, authorized by the church and ordained by a bishop to a lifetime ministry of word, service, compassion and justice. Deacons exemplify Christian discipleship, nurture others in their relationship to God and lead church people to respond to the needs of the needy, neglected and marginalized of the world.

In the congregation, deacons teach, preach, officiate at funerals and weddings, offer pastoral care, assist the elder in administering Baptism and Holy Communion, lead discipleship development ministries and help lay people identify and claim their own ministries. Deacons lead the congregation in its servant ministry and equip and support all baptized Christians in their ministry. Through the Order of Deacons, The United Methodist Church affirms this historic, central and distinct ministry.

Outside the walls of the church, deacons share the good news in word and in their advocacy for the poor, neglected, oppressed and discouraged; provide ministries of mercy; and invite Christians into these ministries.

You can learn more about the Order of Deacon at the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

Meet the Director

Rev. Dr. Virginia Lee

Rev. Dr. Virginia Lee joined Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary as associate professor of Christian education and director of deacon studies in 2011. Lee has served in various capacities at numerous churches as a deacon in full connection in the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church. In addition to her work as a professor and director of deacon studies, Lee has been instrumental in the creation and launch of the Garrett-Evanston Children's Defense Fund Freedom Schools Program. She currently serves as co-executive director of the program.

Lee's academic accolades include receiving the Diaconal Advance Graduate Award and being the first recipient of the Rosalie Bentzinger Graduate Award, both of which are given by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of The United Methodist Church. She has also published articles in both academic and lay journals and has been an active participant in educational and ministerial forums and conferences. Lee earned her doctor of education from Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education, master of religious education from Duke Divinity School, and bachelor of arts from The College of William and Mary.

Deacon Dialogue

Garrett-Evangelical has been proud to host Deacon Dialogue conferences since 2007. These conferences bring together United Methodist deacons and deacon candidates from across the connection for a time of worship, networking, fellowship, and workshops. Rev. Dr. Margaret Ann Crain, deacon, emeritus professor, and former director of deacon studies, put it best when she said, "United Methodist deacons need to speak clearly to the church about who we are and what God has called us to do. Deacon Dialogue provides an opportunity to meet together, hear from some of our most articulate deacons, and share in the efforts to clarify, for the United Methodist Church, the unique contribution of deacons to the mission of Jesus Christ.

Basic Graduate Theological Studies

The Basic Graduate Theological Studies (BGTS) are required by the Book of Discipline for all candidates for ordination in The United Methodist Church. Candidates for ordination must complete a minimum of 27 hours of coursework covering “Old Testament; New Testament; theology; church history; mission of the church in the world; evangelism; worship/liturgy; and United Methodist doctrine, polity, and history. These courses may be included within or in addition to a seminary degree” (¶324.4a).

The BGTS program at Garrett-Evangelical is an education route for those wanting to be ordained as deacon who have either 1) already completed a master’s degree in their area of ministry or 2) are at least 35 years of age and intend to complete professional certification concurrently. Additional information about education routes and steps towards ordination as a deacon can be found on the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry website.

Deacon Gatherings

Monthly informal lunch gatherings are hosted on campus by members of Garrett-Evangelical’s faculty and staff who are deacons in The United Methodist Church. These gatherings are open to all who are on the ordination track as a deacon in The United Methodist Church or who are interested in learning more about the ministry of deacons.


Deacon Fellows Program

As a Deacon Fellow, a masters degree student will be a part of a cohort that:

  • has meals together with the Director of Deacon Studies once or twice a semester;
  • has opportunities to network with deacons in the Chicagoland area;
  • connects through a Garrett-Evangelical Deacons Facebook group;
  • is invited to the Deacon Dialogue –a gathering for deacons from around the country, every other year, for workshops, worship and networking; and
  • has opportunities for internships both inside and outside of the local church, including an internship at Garrett-Evanston Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools Program.

You can learn more about the Deacon Fellows Program at!

Application: Apply for admission to one our master degree programs and include in your statement of purpose your call to become ordained as a deacon in The United Methodist Chuch. Admitted students will automatically be considered for scholarships and for the Deacon Fellows Program.