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Doctor of Philosophy

The PhD program at LTSP equips persons for vocations of teaching and research and for the scholarly enhancement of ministerial practice in accord with the standards of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS). The overall thrust of the program is public theology – that is, theological discourse in the public arena. In each field of study or concentration, the candidate will be asked to consider the mutual, interdisciplinary interaction between theology and public life. Hence, this program values interdisciplinary work and practical, social, and ethical reflection where appropriate. Each student selects a Major specialization and a Minor Specialization, which are the focus of coursework and seminars during the two-year residency:

Church & Society, Constructive Theology/Ethics, Early Church, Historical Theology, Reformation, Scriptural Theology, Theology and Practice of Ministry, and World Christianity

Comprehensive examinations that follow residency include one examination in the Major specialization and one examination in the Minor specialization, in addition to examinations in the Dissertation area and in Public Theology. These areas are the focus of the two-year residency (the first two years of the program).

LTSP Mission Statement and Expected Learning Outcomes for the Advanced Level STM/PhD Programs

With the above program goals in mind, LTSP expects that graduates of the PhD program will have the following Learning Outcomes, which are based upon the LTSP Mission Statement:

Centered in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia seeks to educate and form public leaders who are committed to developing and nurturing individual believers and communities of faith for engagement in the world

1       Centered in the Gospel of Jesus Christ
1.1  Demonstrate advanced level knowledge of biblical, historic and theological disciplines knowledge of biblical, historic and theological disciplines
1.2  Demonstrate advanced comprehensive understanding of one particular theological discipline understanding of one particular theological discipline
1.3  Demonstrate the ability to communicate learnings within appropriate publics (academic and ecclesiastical) learnings within appropriate publics (academic and ecclesiastical)

2      Educating and Forming
2.1    Demonstrate the ability to understand and explore the intersection of various theological disciplines
2.2    Demonstrate the ability to form productive questions and utilize appropriate research methods and skills
2.3    Articulating advanced theories and disciplines (through a written dissertation)

3       Developing and nurturing individual believers and communities of faith
3.1   Demonstrate capacity for articulating theological resources in appropriate communal context
3.2   Demonstrate specific research and teaching skills
3.3   Demonstrate a commitment to theological scholarship

4       Engaging the world
4.1   Demonstrate the ability to engage broader academic discourses of the academy and church
4.2   Demonstrate that awareness and sensitivities to diverse cultural contributions and discourses in theological scholarship
4.3   Demonstrate an ability to integrate global, ecumenical and interfaith realities within scholarship

The Learning Outcomes will be measured by the rubrics for the PhD Learning Outcomes.


Candidates must have the BA or equivalent degree from an accredited college or university. Normally candidates must have the MDiv or a first graduate theological degree providing equivalent theological background or its educational equivalent from accredited theological institution (degrees to be completed before matriculation; minimum GPA on MDiv or first graduate theological degree should be 3.7 or equivalent).

All U.S. applicants must present scores of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). GRE scores are valid for five years. Applicants must arrange to have their official scores reported by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to arrive in time for the application deadline. LTSP institution code is 2371. For information about the administration of the GRE, see the ETS website at or write to ETS, P.O. Box 6000, Princeton, New Jersey 08541-6000, telephone 1-866-473-4373 (U.S., U.S. Territories and Canada) or 1-609-771-7670 (all other locations).

Candidates should be able to demonstrate proficiency in the English language. All applicants whose language of origin is not English and/or previous instruction is not in English, including all applicants from abroad, must present scores of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)  taken within two years of application to the program. These tests are given regularly at many centers throughout the world. Scores must be reported to LTSP by the admissions deadline, using institution code 2371. The student should also submit a letter from a professor (or similar person) that vouches for the quality of the student’s ability to read technical material and to write in English at a level suited for study in doctoral degrees. (Photo of 2009-10 PhD Student Christmas Lunch. Click on the image to download a high resolution version.)

All candidates must demonstrate reading knowledge in two languages, normally one ancient language (Greek, Hebrew, or Latin) and one modern language (French, German, and/or Spanish), by successfully passing language exams in comprehension and translation administered by LTSP. Both language requirements must be completed successfully by the end of residency.  Students are strongly encouraged to complete all language requirements before entering the program so they can use these languages throughout their program.

Note: Other languages may be required depending on the topic of the dissertation. International students whose native language is other than English may use their native language as one research language, provided the language is relevant tothe student’s chosen area of study.

In addition, applicants must submit a completed and signed application form; payment of application fee; and the additional required essays, references, transcripts, and other required documents as listed in the application packet. Judgment on fulfillment of these requirements rests solely with the Graduate Studies Committee of LTSP, which is the admitting body for the PhD program.

Due date for applications in any year is January 15. Should January 15 fall on a Saturday or Sunday, then the application will be due on the Monday following January 15. If successful, the applicant must respond within 30 days of receiving notice of admission. Admission is for September only; applicants will not be permitted to begin the program in mid-year.

The program includes a two-year residency at LTSP.  (Students are not required to live on campus, but must be within commuting distance.)

Students will take a total of twelve 3-hour seminars/courses (three for each of two semesters [Fall and Spring] in the first two years of the program), plus a non-credit Teaching Public Theology Seminar throughout their residency. Normally, at least two and no more than three of these courses will be taken at other institutions; at least one of them at the University of Pennsylvania; the other one or two courses at the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, Princeton Theological Seminary, or Westminster Seminary.

The following courses are required of all students: Research Methods course;Seminar in Public Theology;  an Independent Study course with the advisor in the area of the Dissertation, and the non-credit Teaching Public Theology Seminar, in which sutdents will engage in at least three experiences as a teaching assistant in a LTSP class or an authorized ecclesiasical teaching ministry, and the development of a teaching portfolio.

Eight elective courses depend on the student’s dissertation area and preparation for comprehensive exams. Five of the courses/seminars must be taken in the Major specialization, including the Indendent Study with the advisor in the area of the Dissertation, and three in the Minor specialization; these may include reading seminars to prepare for comprehensive exams.

Four comprehensive examinations are taken at designated times during the third year, at the discretion of the student’s advisor. They consist of examinations in the Major spcialization, the Minor specialization, Public Theology, and the Dissertation area.

Following the Comprehensive Examinations, the student develops a Dissertation Proposal. The student’s advisory committee approves the topic and proposal. An oral defense follows the submission of the dissertation proposal. The writing of the Dissertation follows. It is expected to be an original contribution to the field of scholarship in the Major specialization chosen by the student. Normally, the length should be between 225 and 275 pages.

A final Oral Examination/defense of the Dissertation completes the program.

The student will have an advisory committee of three faculty members: one in the student’s major field (Advisor), one in the minor field, and  one other.

Normally the length of the PhD program is four years (2-year minimum residence; comprehensive exams in third year; writing and defense of dissertation in fourth year). Extension is limited to total of 8 years in the program.

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PhD Manual

PhD Handbook 2014-2016

PhD Course Planning Guide

TA Agreement Form

Writing Status Declaration Form

LTSP PhD recipients

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"Centered in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia seeks to educate and form public leaders who are committed to developing and nurturing individual believers and communities of faith for engagement in the world."