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Version 20191201



  • The School of Theology (University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu) is planning the next international and ecumenical research conference on patristic understandings of diakonia. It will be the fourth such conference held. Our purpose is to continue the work of earlier symposia (2014, 2015, 2017), inspired by the Rome 2009 conference Diaconia, diaconiae, diaconato.
  • The topic is ‘What did deacons do?’. In this conference, we will be focusing on Late Antiquity, especially the 3rd and 4th centuries.
  • Most of the 2017 congress, along with some additional papers, was published by Mohr Siebeck as Deacons and Diakonia in Early Christianity: the First Two Centuries (Deacons 2018). Our co-operating partners are Prof. Bart J. Koet (Tilburg), Dr. John N. Collins (Melbourne), Dr. Anni Hentschel (Würzburg) and Dr. Edwina Murphy (Sydney) as well as the Finnish Association for Research in Diaconia, Societas Patristica Fennica and IDC – Pro Diaconia Christi.

  • The next conference will be held on May 12th – 14th 2020 in Joensuu, Finland.

  • The papers for the conference has been chosen, and the program will be published in Januari 2020.

due the date


The dead line for the second was September 30th, and we are now planning the program. If you have an interesting topic, please let us know. We will see what we can do.



Second Call for Papers

  1. The previous common understanding of how to translate the Greek “diakonia” words has been questioned since the works of Dieter Georgi (1986), John N. Collins (1990, 2012, 2014) and Anni Hentschel (2007, 2013). The discussion of this topic is now expanding into later periods. See Pylvänäinen (2017), reports of two symposiums in Joensuu (2014, 2015) in Diakoniantutkimus 3/2015, Deacons (2018) and Koet (2019). Earlier specialist studies (e.g., Theodor Fliedner, Paul Philippi) have been shown to have interpreted patristic texts according to a predetermined agenda (Ryökäs 2011, Ryökäs 2015).
  2. In this context, we are calling for papers on patristic understandings of deacons (incl. deaconesses), particularly focusing on the status and functions of deacons. The conference to be held on May 12th – 14th 2020 will examine evidence, especially from the third and fourth centuries. However, we also welcome papers which take into account development prior to this period, as well as looking into the consequences in later periods, until about the 6th century.
  3. The deadline for the first Call for Papers was 25 April 2019 (see The First Call to What did deacons do 2020). We have received some very interesting proposals from over seven countries and three continents. Below is a short and summarized list of proposed themes. (Figure 1 below).
  4. There are some further areas we would like to explore, so we have opened a second Call for Papers until September 30th 2019. There are lot of important or otherwise interesting sources on Greek, Syriac, Latin, Bohair, etc. Please check the list of possible topics below (Figure 2), and write to with your suggested topic and abstract. Of course, if you have a proposal which focuses on a different area, please feel free to send us your suggestion.
  5. Publication opportunities: Selected papers, related to the 3rd-6th centuries, are planned to be published by Mohr Siebeck in Volume 2 of Deacons and Diakonia in Early Christianity. Papers related to the reception of patristic material may be published in a special Diakonian tutkimus / Journal for the Study of Diaconia edition. An example of the first would be: "What did deacons do according to John Chrysostom in his letters to Olympia?" Of the second: "How does the Anglican Church understand the Early Fathers' views on Deacons?"
  6. If you would like to be involved in this project, please send a proposal for a 30-minute paper to Esko Ryökäs: The language of the conference is English. Some ideas are presented in the figure below (Figure 3). This is the second call, but we would like to get your title and abstract by 30 September 2019 so that we can arrange the themes (to analyze one source text we usually have only one paper, but sometimes more could be informative). In late autumn 2019, we will publish a preliminary program.

  7. Bonus: The biannual festival of Finnish orthodox choir music will be held in Joensuu on May 15th – 17th 2020.



Figure 1: Themes accepted for presentation (shortened) :


Accepted papers (status 31.5.2019)

Deacons in Origen

Deacons in the Didascalia
The liminal role of deacons in the Didascalia
Deacons in the Apostolic Constitutions
Deacons in Cyprian
Deacons in the Desert
What did deacons do according to St. Athanasius of Alexandria?
Deacons as preachers in Augustine’s letters
What did deacons do according to  St. Jerome

Deaconesses in John Chrysostom

Deacons in the Church of Rome (4th/5th c.)

Deacons in the Visigoth sources of Hispania

Theodore of Mopsuestia on the Deacons
"Deaconess” but not a deaconess

The language and terminology on deacons

The economic role of the deacons during the first three centuries

Gregory the Great as deacon of Rome

The Case of Ephrem

The Tasks of Deacons in Cyril of Jerusalem.

How the patristic material has been used

Women deacons and mothers

Deacons and their Work in the Writings of Gregory Nazianzen



Figure 2: There still are some who could be analyzed
On this list we have only some of the most important Greek Fathers. Writers of other languages (Latin, Syriac etc.) are missing.


 How many "deacons"A.D.
Theodoretus Scr. Eccl. et least 1004-5 c.
Basilus Caesariensis least 1004 c.
Eusebius Scr. Eccl. et least 604 c.
Socrates Scholasticus least 304-5 c.
Pseudo-Macarius least 204 c.


Figure 3: An overview of possible papers


 Referred literature is here


Collins, John N. (1990). Diakonia: Re-interpreting the Ancient Sources. New York – Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Collins, John N. (2012). A Monocultural Usage: διακον- words in Classical, Hellenistic, and Patristic Sources. Vigiliae christianae 66.3 (2012) 287-309.

Collins, John N. (2014). Diakonia Studies. Oxford.

Diakonian tutkimus 3/ 2015 –

Deacons (2018). Deacons and Diakonia in Early Christianity, The First Two Centuries. Ed. by Bart J. Koet, Edwina Murphy, and Esko Ryökäs. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2. Reihe 479. Mohr & Siebeck.

Diaconia, diaconiae, diaconato (2010). Diaconia, diaconiae, diaconato. Semantica e storia nei padri della chiesa. (eds. Vittorio Grossi, Bart J. Koet and Paul van Geest) Studia Ephemeridis Augustinianum 117. Roma: Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum.

Georgi, Dieter (1986). The Opponents of Paul in Second Corinthians: A Study on Religious Propaganda in Late Antiquity. English translation and greatly expanded edition of the German original 1964; Philadelphia: Fortress.

Hentschel, Anni (2007). Diakonia im Neuen Testament. Studien zur Semantik unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Rolle von Frauen. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament. 2. Reihe 226. Mohr Siebeck. Tübingen.

Hentschel, Anni (2013). Gemeinde, Ämter, Dienste Perspektiven zur neutestamentlichen Ekklesiologie (Biblisch-Theologische Studien, 136) Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag.

Koet, Bart J. (2019). The Go-Between: Augustine on Deacons. (Brill's Studies in Catholic Theology; Vol. 6). Leiden: Brill.

Pylvänäinen, Pauliina (2017). Agents in Liturgy, Charity, and Communion. The Tasks of Female Deacons in the Apostolic Constitutions. Doctoral Dissertation, the University of Eastern Finland (unpubl.).

Ryökäs, Esko (2011). Zur Begründung der Diakonie bei Theodor Fliedner. Anmerkungen zum “Gutachten, die Diakonie und den Diakonat betreffend”. – Diakonische Einblicke. Her­ausgegeben von Christian Oelschlägel. DWI-Jahrbuch Bd. 41. Diakoniewissen­schaft­liche Institut der Theologischen Fakultät, Heidelberg, 49–71.

Ryökäs, Esko (2015). Diaconia – A Make-Believe Which Continues? – Diaconia, Volume 6, Issue 1, 61–74.


School of Theology, in contact with:


Finnish Association for Research on Diaconia


Societas Patristica Fennica


Internationales Diakonatszentrum



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