Pioneers in American Women's Theological Education: Methodist Deaconess Training Schools


Theological Education

How to Cite

Pope-Levison, P. (2018). Pioneers in American Women’s Theological Education: Methodist Deaconess Training Schools. Methodist Review, 10, 73-91. Retrieved from


This essay demonstrates that Methodist deaconess training schools in the late nineteenth century provided theological education for laywomen through courses in Bible, church history, theology, and ethics, courses that constitute to this day the core ingredients of a theological education. Seminaries did not welcome women students at the time; nonetheless, Methodist women had access to theological education through the bishops’ course of study offered in deaconess training schools. Deaconesses studied the Bible in-depth, became conversant with ancient Jewish and Christian authors, mastered theological movements and ecclesial leaders in successive generations of church history, studied theological doctrines from creation to glorification, and became experts in Methodist history and doctrine through assiduous study of the discipline, catechism, and James Porter’s Compendium of Methodism. Due to such a rich and robust curriculum in theological subjects, this paper argues that deaconess training schools delivered a theological education for Methodist women decades before theological seminaries opened their doors to both sexes.