In 1960, Bishop James Pike of the Episcopal Diocese of California established studies for those persons wishing to be ordained as deacons by setting up a course specifically for that purpose. In the same year he ordained a number of students to the diaconate. In 1975, the Commission on the Ministry, at the behest of Bishop Pike's successor, the Rt. Rev. C. Kilmer Myers, directed that the established courses be regularized. This reorganization of studies in 1976 brought The Diocesan School for Ministries into being under the direction of the Rev. Robert Shearer. During the following years about twenty-five persons graduated from the three-year course. Most of these graduates were ordained to the diaconate or commissioned to a special ministry.
In the fall of 1979, the curriculum and program were again revised in order to provide an experience of community living for the students, and to strengthen the experiential part of the program. At the end of 1980, the Rt. Rev. William E. Swing, Bishop Myers' successor, determined that the school should be used specifically for the education and training of deacons, therefore he asked that the name of the school be changed to The School for Deacons. The Very Rev. Shirley F. Woods became Dean of the School at this time.
In 1978, the School began meeting at Mt. Alverno, a Franciscan convent in Redwood City. In September 1983, after five years at this site, the School moved to expanded and shared quarters in Castro Valley. The relationship expanded and together the School and Holy Cross Church moved into a new permanent church building and temporary modular buildings in July 1988. The Very Rev. Judith G. Dunlop succeeded Dean Woods in September 1990 and in 1993, the School moved to St. Barnabas' Mission, San Francisco. In 1998, the School was relocated to Berkeley at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP). Roderick B. Dugliss, Ph.D. has served as dean since 1999.
Because the School awards degrees only in theological disciplines, it is exempt from regulation by the State of California Bureau of Private Post-Secondary and Vocational Education. As an exempt institution, the School does not participate in the Student Tuition Recovery Fund.