Master of Divinity Degree (MDiv)

The Master of Divinity degree serves in the ELCA and many other denominations as the basic degree to prepare for ordained ministry in congregations and other settings. The degree program includes both academic studies and practical learning experience.

Students seeking ordination must be careful to satisfy both degree requirements and any parallel ecclesiastical expectations. It is important that applicants considering ordained ministry make early contact with appropriate officials of their synods or other church bodies, both to ensure that they have met those requirements that precede entrance into the seminary and to ensure that they understand any special academic requirements they may be expected to fulfill.

THE PROGRAM

The MDiv degree program normally requires three years of full-time study. Full-time weekday students may be able to complete the program in less than three years by taking heavier semester loads and/or summer courses. Evening/weekend students may be able to complete the program in three years, depending on their personal schedules and course scheduling, but the duration of studies for such students will vary considerably. Students completing internships within the MDiv program (see below) generally need to add a fourth year of study. Faculty advisors can assist students to tailor programs according to their academic strengths and personal needs. The degree is to be completed within ten years from the onset of the first course at LTSP that is applied to the degree program.

Because the MDiv is part of a dual set of requirements for ordination in the ELCA, the typical ELCA student’s seminary program includes two additional ecclesiastical requirements: Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), normally pursued during the summer following the first year; and a 9- to 12-month internship, usually pursued between the second and third academic years.

DEGREE REQUIREMENTS

  1. A bachelor’s degree or its equivalent from a regionally accredited college or university.
  2. Satisfactory completion of 26 course units. One unit is equivalent to three semester hours. These 26 course units are to include
  • A minimum of 5.0 units in the Bible and biblical languages.
  • A minimum of 3.0 units in Church history.
  • A minimum of 3.0 units in systematic theology.
  • A minimum of 7.0 units in integrative theology.
  • A minimum of 2.0 units in interdisciplinary/integrative courses, including Introduction to Public Theology, which is to be taken in the student's first year of study, and a senior seminar on public theology, which is to be taken in the student's final year.
3.  Satisfactory completion of the following non-credit requirements:
  • Four semester of field education, contracted through the Contextual Education Office
  • Focus in at least one of the above courses or through free electives or through approved experiences on each of the following themes: Global/cross-cultural, ecumenical, interfaith, and mission/evangelism
  • Completion of required institutional student assessment processes
  • Participation in anti-racism/multicultural awareness training, as offered annually at the seminary.
  • Eight hours of training in the areas of sexual ethics, boundaries, and wellness. Students may participate in seminary-provided programs, offered annually, or submit proof of having completed equivalent training through a qualified institution or agency within three years of entering seminary.

4.  A cumulative grade point average of 2.0 or above.
5.  Minimum residence at LTSP of one year. Residence of less than three academic years in the MDiv program is permitted only when candidates are admitted to advanced standing by transfer from other recognized seminaries, or with Faculty approval of an accelerated program of study for qualified candidates. Residence is defined as the satisfactory completion at this seminary of at least nine units of required and elective courses. Courses for which credit is earned through test-out do not count toward the residency requirement.

Students from particular denominations or who are pursuing MDiv concentrations may have additional requirements they need to fulfill. For more information on denominational requirements and concentrations, consult the Catalog or materials available from the Registrar.

CONTEXTUAL EDUCATION

With the goal of “hands-on” training in a real-life, off-campus ministry situation, MDiv students participate in contextual education. For most MDiv students this includes field education; many will also take part in Clinical Pastoral Education and/or Internship.

Field Education

The typical MDiv student undertakes a field education assignment for each of four semesters. (Full-time ELCA students should normally complete field education in the first two years of a full-time program.) In consultation with the Director of Contextual Education, the student is assigned to a designated site for either two or four semesters. An effort is made to assign students to sites most appropriate to their discerned calls. The practicum of a site assignment consists of working a limited number of hours each week in a congregation or agency under the guidance of an approved supervisor. Students assigned to congregations typically participate in worship planning, leadership, spiritual formation, visitations, and Christian education activities. A student with significant prior parish experience may be able to gain credit for prior experience.

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is an ecclesiastical (not academic) requirement for ordination by the ELCA and some other denominations. Designed to provide an intensive pastoral care experience coupled with deep reflection and discernment, CPE offers students the opportunity to hone their listening and care-giving skills in critical care facilities under qualified supervision. One quarter (12 weeks) of CPE is normally taken during the summer between the first and second academic years. Exceptions to this schedule (i.e., CPE taken concurrently with an academic semester) require judicatory and Faculty approval for students in ELCA candidacy.

Internship

Internship is not an academic requirement for the MDiv degree but is an ecclesiastical requirement for ordination by the ELCA and some other denominations. It places the student under the direct supervision of an experienced pastor/supervisor in a congregation or a Church-related agency. Intern placements are usually clustered in order to provide maximum interchange among students and supervisors.

The traditional internship consists of a nine- to twelve-month ministerial practicum, normally between the second and third academic years of an MDiv program. In consultation with a student’s advisor, the Director of Contextual Education, the Dean, and his/her candidacy committee. However, a student may determine early in his/her first year whether an exception to the normal practice may be feasible. For selected students the Faculty may approve a “concurrent” internship, a seminary-based extension of the final academic year over two years on a part-time basis, correlated with the internship extended over that same period.

The ELCA student planning to do an internship needs to have received a positive endorsement from his/her candidacy committee. No student may begin an internship if his/her cumulative grade point average is below 2.0. Also, no student may begin an internship if he/she has failed to complete satisfactorily all required courses included in the first and second years of the curriculum. When an “F” or “W” occurs in a required course in the semester immediately preceding the internship, the Dean in consultation with the Director of Contextual Education must determine whether the internship is to be terminated, continued, or revised in its nature (e.g. changed to a part-time internship). When an “I” occurs in a semester immediately preceding the internship, the deficiency must be removed within six weeks of the conclusion of the semester or the internship will be terminated, continued, or revised as in the case of an “F” or “W.”

Students from non-Lutheran denominations seeking internship are treated on an individual basis, taking into account any special educational needs or other requirements pertaining to the denomination. LTSP’s goal is to provide flexibility in length, sequence, and character of the internship for the non-Lutheran student.

The internship program is served ably each year by intern supervisors and leaders of Intern Clusters; these persons supplement the regular faculty in training, mentoring, and evaluating candidates for ministry.

ORDINATION AND PLACEMENT

Ordination and placement of MDiv graduates in the ELCA (as in most other Church bodies) are functions reserved to itself by the Church and not functions of the seminary. However, both faculty and staff are prepared to assist candidates in the process. The campus also hosts the office of Region 7 of the ELCA, where there is a deployed ELCA staff member trained to help ELCA candidates find calls and secure ordination.

The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia is accredited by the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Learn more here.