Policies

Degree Programs

The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia is a professional school at the post-baccalaureate level, offering the following degrees:

  • The Master of Divinity (MDiv) Degree
    Prerequisite: A Bachelor Degree or equivalent degree.
    Requirement for completion: Three years of full-time academic study, plus any additional ecclesiastical requirements.
  • The Master of Arts in Religion (MAR) Degree
    Prerequisite: A Bachelor Degree of equivalent degree.
    Requirement for completion: Two years of full-time academic study.
  • The Master of Arts in Public Leadership (MAPL) Degree
    Prerequisite: A Bachelor Degree or equivalent degree.
    Requirement for completion: Two years of full-time academic study.
  • The Master of Sacred Theology (STM) Degree
    Prerequisite: A first theological degree involving at least 60 semester hours.
    Requirement for completion: One or two years of full-time study.
  • The Doctor of Ministry (DMin) Degree
    Prerequisite: An MDiv or equivalent degree involving at least 90 semester hours.
    Requirement for completion: Student involvement in both academic study and professional ministry over at least a three-year period.

 

Admissions Schedule

First professional degree students (MDiv, MAR, MAPL)
Application for admission should be made 3-9 months in advance of the desired admission date. The Admissions Committee receives and makes decisions on applications throughout the year. Early decision — applications submitted by April 15 for fall enrollment — is encouraged, in order to establish eligibility and priority for financial aid and campus housing.

Full-time first professional degree students are strongly encouraged to begin the Fall Semester in August at which time the first course in each degree program is offered. Beginning class work in the January or Spring semester disrupts the preferred Bible sequence, making it more difficult to schedule needed courses in subsequent semesters. This could result in the MDiv students adding an extra semester of academic work — total 5 semesters — prior to internship (if internship is required).

Part-time Advanced Level students (STM, DMin)
Students should make application for admission 3-6 months in advance of the desired admission date.

PHD students
Students should make application for admission by January 15 prior to the start date of the next fall semester.

 

Admission Requirements for All Degree Programs

Admission standards for each specific academic program are listed separately within the description of each program. For all degree programs, however, the following general materials must be submitted for a complete application:

  • An Application Form
    Forms may be obtained one of three ways: They may be obtained from the Admissions Office, downloaded from the seminary’s website Ltsp.edu, or completed online.
  • A $40 nonrefundable application fee
  • References
    Refer to the specific application form instructions.
  • Essay
    The content of the essay should address the areas described in the application instructions.
  • Official Transcripts
    Official transcripts of prior academic work should be sent directly from the issuing institution to the Admissions Office. Student copies and other third-party copies are not acceptable. Current undergraduate applicants who have not yet received their degrees may submit transcripts of their programs in progress. Any admission is subject to review following completion of the degree and submission of an official final transcript.
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
    Applicants whose first language is other than English are expected to submit TOEFL results from within two years of the application.Test results must be sent directly from the Educational Testing Service. Photocopies will not be accepted.A minimum score of 523 (193 on the computer-based test, 70 on the Internet-based test) is expected for First Professional applicants. Advanced level (non-PhD) applicants should achieve scores of at least 550 to 570 on the paper-based test (213 to 232 on the computer-based test, 80 to 89 on the Internet-based test). PhD applicants are expected to achieve minimum scores of 570 to 583 on the paper-based (232 to 237 on the computer-based test, 88 to 92 on the Internet-based test).The seminary’s institution code is 2371.Testing is available at the following address:
    TOEFL/TSE Services
    P.O. Box 6151
    Princeton, NJ 08541-6151USAWeb address: www.toefl.org

The seminary reserves the right to require additional credentials in any particular case, including an interview, and to solicit information from anyone in a position to evaluate an applicant’s qualifications. The seminary may refuse admission to any applicant for any reason. While “firmly committed to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions,” the seminary is intentionally open to “theological education that is inter-confessional, inclusive, and cross-cultural.”

 

Admission Requirements for First Professional Students
(MDIV, MAR, MAPL, CERTIFICATE, SPECIAL)

In addition to the Application Requirements for All Degree Programs, first professional student programs require the following:

Bachelor Degree or its Equivalent
This degree must be from a regionally accredited college or university. In extraordinary cases, a student lacking a Bachelor Degree but having the support of his/her denominational judicatory and demonstrated academic ability may be admitted as a Special Student. Special Students are defined as a person with at least 3 years (72 semester hours) of regionally accredited undergraduate education. Upon successful completion of all requirements and with a grade point average of at least 3.5, this student may be awarded the MDiv or MAPL degree by unanimous vote of the faculty.

Cumulative grade-point average of “B” (2.8 or above on 4.0 scale) at undergraduate level
Admission decisions will also take the following into consideration:

  • patterns of progress in academic history
  • degree of difficulty of the undergraduate program
  • standard of school attended
  • performance in coursework most relevant to theological studies
  • writing ability
  • academic letters of references
  • success in other graduate programs
  • performance in career life
  • other measures such as Graduate Record Exams and Test of English as a second language

Academic Readiness
The seminary does not require a particular type of undergraduate preparation but deems it beneficial to all applicants to have attained a broad background in the liberal arts including such courses as English, history, modern languages philosophy, Greek, communications, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. It is expected that applicants have achieved the ability to write and speak English clearly and correctly as well as to think critically and reflectively. Competence in a second language is helpful.

Ecclesiastical readiness
Applicants are expected to demonstrate through essays and references the following personal qualifications:

  • A commitment to Christ with an openness and willingness to serve in response to the needs of the church.
  • A life consistent with the Gospel, leadership abilities and competency in interpersonal relationships.
  • Active membership in a Christian congregation. A Lutheran applicant should be a member in good standing of a Lutheran congregation for at least one year, in accordance with the ELCA candidacy policy.
  • A basic acquaintance with the scriptures and statements of belief associated with one’s own tradition. ELCA candidates should have a working familiarity with Luther’s Catechism.
  • Approval of applicant’s denomination or judicatory. All MDiv applicants pursuing ordained or rostered lay ministry in their denominations are expected to have consulted offices or agencies appropriate to their traditions prior to applying for admission to the seminary.
  • ELCA applicants for rostered ministry need to have a Positive Entrance Decision from their synodical candidacy committee no later than the end of the first semester of study. This process can take a year or more. Students without ecclestiastical approval may complete degrees so long as they meet all other seminary standards.
  • All first professional degree students are required to submit to criminal background and child abuse checks. Such clearance must be certified no later than October 15 of the student’s first semester or any contextual education experience for which the student is registered will be voided.

Admission to and/or award of a degree by the seminary does not guarantee ordination or approval for rostered ministry. Approval for rostered ministry is the responsibility of appropriate officials of the student’s denomination — synodical candidacy committees for ELCA students: see the section on ELCA candidacy.

 

Advanced Level Degree Programs (Graduate School)

The term “Graduate School” serves to distinguish the advanced-level degree programs of Master of Sacred Theology (STM), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), and Doctor of Ministry (DMin) from the first professional programs of Master of Divinity (MDiv), Master of Arts in Religion (MAR), and Master of Arts in Public Leadership (MAPL). The Graduate School was established to encourage and assist men and women who are already graduates of a seminary or divinity school to pursue advanced study. Graduate students may pursue the STM and PhD programs which are oriented toward theological research ad teaching or the DMin program designed to enhance ministerial practice.

In addition to the above degree programs, the Graduate School offers an Advanced Graduate Certificate that enables seminary graduates to keep current in theological studies by taking courses without pursuing a formal degree. The programs of the Graduate School, whether academic or professional in nature, are designed to aid in the development of a more effective ministry and to engage the student in academic reflection and research.

Master of Sacred Theology Degree (STM)
The Master of Sacred Theology (STM) emphasizes academic accomplishment. It is course/seminar/research-oriented and offers a broad exposure to all theological disciplines at a more in-depth level than is provided in the MDiv program.

In addition to the standard application requirements, admission to the STM program requires the following:

  • A Bachelor’s degree or equivalent degree from a regionally accredited college or university.
  • A Master of Divinity or another Master’s degree in a theological discipline earned in a program that requires at least 60 semester hours or the equivalent. The granting institution must be fully ATS or regionally accredited.
  • A cumulative grade point average in the MDiv-level program of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
  • A working knowledge of one language in addition to English, depending upon the major field selected.

Doctor of Ministry Degree (DMin)
The Doctor of Ministry (DMin) is an advanced professional degree designed to enhance the practice of ministry. The majority of participants are men and women in ordained ministry of the church. Admission requires both the completion of an MDiv or its equivalent and at least 3 years of experience in ministry subsequent to the first graduate theological degree. It is expected that enrolled students be actively engaged in professional ministry and demonstrated evidence of capacity for an advanced level of competence and reflection.

The candidate for this degree is expected to demonstrate achievement at a level significantly beyond the expectations of first-degree programs with respect to four goals:

  • To develop an advanced understanding and integration of ministry in relation to theological disciplines
  • To formulate a comprehensive and critical understanding of ministry in which theory and practice inform and enhance each other
  • To develop skills and competencies and appropriate research methods that are required for pastoral leadership at the highest and most effective level
  • To contribute to the understanding and practice of ministry through the completion of a doctoral-level project in ministry

In addition to the standard admission requirements, admission to the DMin program requires the following:

  • A Bachelor’s degree or equivalent degree from a regionally accredited college or university
  • An MDiv or another Master’s degree in a theological discipline earned in a program that requires at least 90 semester hours or the equivalent. The granting institution is to be fully ATS-accredited.
  • A cumulative grade point average in the Master Level Program of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. Exceptions may be made by the Admissions Committee.
  • A minimum of 3 years in the professional ministry of the church after receiving the MDiv or its equivalent.

Doctor of Philosophy Degree (PhD)
The PhD Program equips students for vocations of teaching and research and for the scholarly enhancement of ministerial practice in accord with the standards of the Association of Theological School (ATS). The emphasis of the program is public Theology — that is, theological discourse in the public arena. In each field of study or concentration the candidate is asked to consider interaction between theology and public life, therefore this program values inter-disciplinary work and practical/social ethical reflection where appropriate.

Each student selects a Methodological Area of study; Contemporary Theology or Historical Theology. Within the chosen area a Major Specialization and Minor Specialization are declared. These specializations become the focus of coursework and seminars during the two year residency and are chosen from the following list:

  • Church and Society
  • Constructive Theology/Ethics
  • Early Church
  • Reformation
  • Scriptural Theology
  • Theology and Practice of Ministry
  • World Christianity

A student’s dissertation is in the area that has been declared as the Major Specialization. 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 Public Theology.

In addition to the standard application requirements admission to the Doctor of Philosophy Degree Program requires the following:

  • A Bachelor’s degree or equivalent degree from a regionally accredited college or university.
  • An MDiv or first graduate theological degree providing equivalent theological background, or its educational equivalent from ATS-accredited theological institutions with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.7. Qualifying degrees must be completed prior to matriculation in the PhD Program.
  • The submission of scores from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) sent directly from the Educational Testing Service. For more information about the administration of the GRE, see www.ets.org/gre. The seminary code is 2371.
  • Demonstrated fluency in English. All applicants whose language of origin is not English and/or whose previous instruction is not in English, must present scores of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), and the Test of Written English (TWE), as described on pages 11-12 of the catalogue. A letter from a professor 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 must also be submitted.
  • Satisfactory scores on language comprehension and translation exams in one ancient language (Greek, Hebrew or Latin) and two modern languages (French, German and/or Spanish) which have been administered by the seminary. One ancient and one modern language exam must be completed successfully prior to beginning the first year of residence. The second modern language requirement must be completed successfully before the beginning of the second academic year of residence. Language exams will be given during the orientation sessions of the first year of residency.

Students are strongly encouraged to complete all language requirements before entering the program so that these languages can be used throughout the program.

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

Judgment on fulfillment of these requirements rests solely with the Graduate Studies Committee of the seminary — the admitting body for the PhD Program.

The deadline for applications in any year is January 15 (or the following Monday should January 15 fall on a weekend) for admission in the following year. Admission is for Fall Semester only: applicants will not be permitted to begin the program in mid-year. If successful, the applicant must respond within 30 days of receiving notice of admission.

 

International Students

The following are required for making application to the seminary:

  • Submission of an international student application available from the Office of Admissions.
  • A letter of recommendation from the head of the applicant’s home church, a competent ecclesiastical authority, or from a religious institution.
  • Certification of the applicant’s ability to meet the financial costs of round-trip travel, tuition, housing and personal expenses. Student visas cannot be approved by U.S. Federal Law without guarantee of ability to pay all costs. The seminary does not provide scholarships to international students except as noted below.*
  • Scores for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Information is available at toefl.org.
  • Advanced-level students must submit scores for the Test of Written English (TWE) in addition to TOEFL. Advanced-level students must also submit a letter from a professor or other qualified person certifying the student’s ability to read technical material in English and to write in English at a level suited to advanced level study.
  • Checks submitted in payment of application fees and deposits must be payable in U.S. dollars, drawn on a U.S. bank and with the bank’s computer code located in the lower left corner of the check. Checks not meeting these requirements will be returned, which may delay admission.
  • International students are responsible for payment of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee upon application for an F-1 visa. Students on F-1 visas need to be enrolled full-time in the Fall and Spring semesters, according to U.S. government policies.

If prior transcripts are essential to establishing an applicant’s eligibility for a degree, but the institution is unknown to the Admissions Staff, the applicant may be required to provide a credential evaluation report from a transcript evaluation service such as World Education Service (WES). Such a credential evaluation report will also be required if the student seeks to have credits transferred from a non-U.S. institution to a degree program at the seminary. The WES website is wes.org.

*Applicants should note that the seminary does not provide financial assistance to International Students other than those officially sponsored by Lutheran World Federation/World Council of Churches.

 

Transfer Students

A student wising to transfer from another ATS-accredited institution must submit an application for admission and an official transcript of completed seminary work, together with a letter of honorable dismissal from the dean or president of the school he/she is currently attending. ELCA students must also provide evidence of current candidacy status.

At least one full year must be spent in residence at LTSP in order to qualify for a degree. Transfer students should not expect that all prior coursework will be accepted. Consult with the Admissions Office for the rules governing transfer credits.

 

Contact Us:
Office of Admissions
215-248-7302
admissions@ltsp.edu

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Philadelphia, PA 19119-1974
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