Degree Programs

Master of Divinity

Outstanding Theological Education.

The Master of Divinity program prepares persons for ordained ministry or for pastoral/leadership service in congregations and other settings. The program provides the necessary tools and resources for the spiritual, vocational, professional, and theological requirements of pastoral leadership. Courses are offered on both campuses in various formats: residential, hybrid, intensive, and online. Students may complete the degree via a “residency” track with mostly on-campus courses or a “distributed learning” track, utilizing online and intensive courses.

The degree, normally a 3-to-4-year program when taken full-time, requires completion of 72 academic credits plus noncredit contextual formation experiences, including a year-long immersion or internship. If the degree is not completed within eight years, the student must petition the faculty for continuance in the degree program.

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 seminary and to ensure that they understand any special academic requirements they may be expected to fulfill. For students in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the program works in conjunction with the student’s synod candidacy committee to prepare the candidate for rostering as a minister of Word and Sacrament.

Beyond the traditional, residential approach to completion of the MDiv, ULS offers two alternative pathways:

Distributed Learning MDiv (DL)

The Master of Divinity Distributed Learning pathway enables students to complete a Master of Divinity degree without having to relocate to campus. One third of the student’s coursework is completed through on-campus, week-long intensives, offered at various times of the year. The student’s remaining coursework may be completed on-line. Contextual Formation requirements, arranged in consultation with the Contextual Formation office, can generally be fulfilled near the student’s home location.

Accelerated Co-operative MDiv (Co-op)

The Accelerated MDiv Co-op pathway for outstanding ELCA students is an innovative partnership between the seminary, congregations, and synods that enables the student to complete both MDiv and candidacy in three years. Co-op students complete their Ministerial Fieldwork and Ministerial Immersions by working roughly 20 hours per week at a single congregation identified by their bishop and Candidacy Committee. At the same time they are fulltime students, creating a highly integrated learning experience. Coursework may be completed on a residential or distributed learning basis, depending on the student’s location and learning style.

Mission Statement

The mission of the MDiv program is to prepare persons for ordained ministry and for committed and transformative pastoral and religious leadership.

Learning Outcomes

  • 1. Unifying – Developing skills to bring people together as an engaged learning community in the diverse unity enabled by the Triune God
    1. Actively draws on faith traditions and diverse perspectives, including biblical, theological, scientific, ecumenical, and interfaith, when engaging contemporary events
    2. Consistently advocates for the development of a shared vision in groups of diverse learners
    3. Demonstrates an ability to lead and teach with biblical and theological integrity communities of faith in worship and service
    4. Presents a biblically and theologically clear and consistent message when proclaiming and engaging the gospel in all contexts
  • 2. Learning – Developing skills in lifelong critical thinking and research through the lifegiving power of the Holy Spirit
    1. Interprets the Bible through various methodological approaches in light of both historical and contemporary contexts
    2. Recognizes interrelationships among concepts and commitments, combining them to interpret past and present realities within biblical, historical, theological, sociological, and cultural contexts
    3. Understands one’s rootedness in a living theological tradition, its place in the context of human living, articulates it to others, and cultivates a capacity for self-critique
    4. Draws on contextual experience as a source of continuing critique and ongoing education
  • 3. Serving – Developing skills and confidence in leading communities for outreach and public witness grounded in the risen Christ
    1. Utilizes conflict management, counseling, and pastoral theology effectively in individual and group situations, while also understanding the limits of one’s skills
    2. On the basis of sound theological and biblical understanding, establishes opportunities to accompany those who are marginalized, actively addresses the systems that cause and perpetuate such marginalization, and works to transform the community
    3. Articulates a sound and ethical approach to management of human, cultural, institutional, and financial resources
    4. Celebrates opportunities and challenges in building communities of diverse peoples and the gifts they bring


  • 1. A bachelor’s degree or its equivalent from a regionally accredited college or university.
  • 2. Satisfactory completion of at least 72 credits. One credit is equivalent to one semester hour.
    • A.  Biblical Studies (18 credits)
      • BIB 100 Greek: Language of the Early Church and the Church Today
      • BIB 201 Reading and Telling the Story
      • BIB 210 The Story of Jesus
      • BIB 212 The Story of the Early Church
      • BIB 220 The Story of Israel
      • BIB 3xx Bible at the Crossroads of Church and Culture option
    • B.  History and Theology (18 credits)
      • HTH 100 Systematic Theology 1: Creation, Sin, and New Creation
      • HTH 11x Church History 1 option
      • DEN xxx Denominational polity (e.g., Lutheran Foundations, Baptist Polity, Essentials of Anglicanism, and other denominational equivalents). DEN 205 The Ecumenical Church may be substituted by students for whom no denominational course is available or appropriate.
      • HTH 20x Church History 2: Globalizing Christianity option
      • HTH 21x Systematic Theology 2: Doing Theology in a Religiously and Culturally Diverse World option
      • HTH 3xx Gospel and Freedom option
    • C.  Praxis (18 credits)
      • PRAX 10x Worship option
      • PRAX 11x Pastoral Theology
      • PRAX 12x Church in Society option
      • PRAX 13x Preaching option
      • PRAX 14x Christian Education and Formation option
      • PRAX 31x Equipping the Saints/Church Administration option
    • D. Free electives (18 credits)
  • 3. Contextual Formation
    Contextual Formation is an intentional process involving contextualized experiences, reflection, integration, feedback, and assessment. In the MDiv program Contextual Formation consists of three required (noncredit) components. All Contextual Formation components will be assessed as Successfully Completed (Pass) or Not Successfully Completed (Fail). Up-to-date information, forms, and important links for students and supervisors may be found at
    • 1. Ministerial Fieldwork
      • Student will be assigned to a congregation for two consecutive semesters to engage in practices of ministry in order to develop skills and vision related to pastoral leadership. This will normally take place in the first year of full-time study; part-time students who may be unable to begin fieldwork in the first semester should contact the Director of Contextual Formation during the first year to determine the optimal timing for fieldwork and subsequent contextual formation experiences. It is possible with the permission of the Director of Contextual Formation for students already employed in a congregational setting to use that setting as their Ministerial Fieldwork site.
      • For students participating in the Co-operative MDiv (Co-op), the first two semesters of Co-op will be considered Ministerial Fieldwork.
      • Pre-requisite for Ministerial Fieldwork: Positive entrance decision for ELCA students (or assurance thereof)
    • 2. Critical Reflection on Praxes of Ministry (normally CPE)
      • This is a peer group-based action-reflection program in which students foster their theological understandings of pastoral ministry as they intentionally integrate their praxes of ministry, systematic theology, and formation of personal and ministerial identity. A certified unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is the recommended option to fulfill this contextual formation requirement and is required for ordination in certain denominations (including the ELCA). Most students will complete CPE during the summer after the first year of full-time study. CPE sites can be found at many hospitals and clinical institutions around the country, some of which offer online units that can be accessed from deeply rural or urban areas. Some sites also offer “extended” units during the academic year that can sometimes be helpful to part-time students. The CPE site must be certified by the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education, an independent entity that provides training for spiritual care professionals.
      • Students whose denominations do not require CPE and who are unable to avail themselves of a CPE program may take PRAX 410 Critical Reflection concurrently with Ministerial Fieldwork or Ministerial Immersion to satisfy the degree requirement. Normally a student will complete this requirement prior to beginning their Ministerial Immersion experience, though exceptions may be granted by the Director of Contextual Formation.
      • Pre-requisites for CPE or PRAX 410 include PRAX 110 Pastoral Theology.
    • 3. Ministerial Immersion (Internship)
      • Immersion (Internship) provides opportunity for students to experience the full scope of pastoral ministry in a parish-based setting for between 8 and 12 months. The expectation is for the student to engage in worship leadership, regular preaching and teaching of the faith, relationships across the spectrum of ages, pastoral care and visitation, administration, strategic planning, and, insofar as possible, significant life events such as baptisms, confirmations, weddings, and funerals.
      • ELCA students will normally be assigned to a 12-month internship under the supervision of an experienced pastor and with the guidance of a selected lay committee. ELCA students normally undertake internship after the second year of full-time study, so long as they have been endorsed by their synods. Students who delay internship until the conclusion of coursework (capstone internship) may participate in graduation so long as they have successfully completed at least nine months of the internship.
      • Non-ELCA students will work with the Director of Contextual Formation to create a plan in an appropriate setting to be immersed in the leadership and workings of a congregation. While a non-ELCA immersion cannot typically be completed in less than 8 or 9 months of full-time work, great flexibility will be employed in enabling students to develop and demonstrate the stated MDiv competencies.
      • For students participating in the Co-operative MDiv (Co-op), the final four semesters of Co-op will be considered as concurrent internship for Ministerial Immersion purposes.
      • Pre-requisites for the ministerial immersion normally include CPE, Healthy Ministerial Boundaries training, and the Anti-Racism Workshop.
  • 3. Additional non-credit requirements
    1. Spiritual Formation—A variety of individual spiritual practices is recommended to encourage students’ growth in intimacy with God. Regularly offered courses may be taken as free electives to fulfill this requirement, but students may also engage in at least 32 hours of alternate activities (retreats, spiritual direction, individual or group lectio divina, etc.) to develop and demonstrate competencies. Students have great latitude in choosing classical or unconventional prayer forms and disciplines that fit both their personality type and spiritual needs. Maintaining a “log” or dated record documenting one’s time and activity is required, a hard copy of which must be submitted to the Director of Spiritual Formation.
    2. Healthy Ministerial Boundaries training—A focus on how ministers faithfully live out the sacred trust granted them by the church, particularly as their behaviors show respect for personal and ministerial boundaries. Training is offered at least once each year on each campus. Pre-approved trainings offered by synods or other judicatories may sometimes be substituted.
    3. Anti-Racism Workshop—A consideration of the church’s call to radical inclusion as a witness to God’s radical grace, particularly as we recognize our need—individually and corporately—regularly to unlearn certain behaviors while re-learning our real relationship to all others as siblings in Christ. Training is offered at least once each year on each campus.
  • 4. Minimum residence at ULS of one year, defined as the satisfactory completion of at least 24 credits through courses offered on one of the seminary’s two campuses

Sample Tracks

For Campus-based Students

The following sample grid illustrates one way of fulfilling MDiv requirements for campus-based, weekday students, assuming full-time study for three academic years plus one year of ministerial immersion.

For DL Students

The following sample grid illustrates one way of fulfilling MDiv requirements for students admitted to the “distributed learning” track, assuming study for four academic years and one year of ministerial immersion. Note that the student is required to be on campus (either Philadelphia or Gettysburg) during August and January terms to take part in at least eight week-long intensive courses.


Students bring a rich diversity of gifts to the task of theological education. To create the maximum potential for students to grow in their gifts for ministry, students may, in addition to completing the standard curricular requirements, pursue a concentration in a specialized field of study. The decision to pursue a concentration should normally be made by the end of the first year of study. A concentration normally requires twelve credits in the particular field of study. Some concentrations may specify that a minimum number of concentration credits be counted among the student's free electives.

Concentration in Black Church Ministry

The Concentration in Black Church Ministry is offered under the auspices of the Urban Theological Institute (UTI) and prepares students for ministry in a Black Church context. A student who wishes to pursue the concentration should confer with the director of the UTI to choose at least 12 credits, typically from among the following courses, normally offered on the Philadelphia campus:

  •  African American Church History
  • African American Theology
  • Worship in the African American Tradition
  • Preaching in the African American Tradition
  • African Presence in Scripture
  • Other courses designated for the concentration

Concentration in Town and Country Church Ministry

The Concentration in Town and Country Church Ministry is rooted in the Town and Country Church Institute (TCCI), an endowed program of the Seminary. The purpose of the concentration is to enhance ministry study with focus in specific settings (open country to towns of 10,000 in population), but it is not intended to narrow studies to the exclusion of other contexts, nor to inhibit broad preparation for ministry wherever God and the church might call one to service. A student who wishes to pursue the concentration should confer with the director of the TCCI to choose at least 12 credits of course offerings and learning experiences from the categories below.

1. Rural and Small Church Ministry (3 credits; required; also fulfills Church in Society core course)

2. Immersion in a rural setting (3 credits or equivalent)

     -- Environment and Religion in Northern Appalachia

     -- Small Town and Rural Ministry Immersion with Wartburg/Luther Seminaries

     -- Other immersions from the Appalachian Ministries Educational Resource Center

3. Other courses elected by the student in consultation with director of CTCCM (6 credits)

     -- Additional immersion from #2, above, if so desired

     -- Other relevant offering from the Theological Praxis area of curriculum, such as Ecological Christianity and Stewardship; Green Preaching; Urban Ministry courses for broadening and comparative experience, etc.

     -- Contextual Formation in a rural or small town setting

Other Concentrations

Other concentrations may be available, including, but not limited to, Interfaith, Multicultural Ministry, and Theology and Public Life.