Master of Divinity (MDiv)
The Master of Divinity is a postbaccalaureate degree. Admission requirements include (1) a baccalaureate degree from an institution of higher education accredited by a US agency recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, or approved by a Canadian provincial quality assurance agency, or the demonstrated educational equivalent of an accredited or approved North American baccalaureate degree; and (2) a minimum grade point average of 3.0.
The primary learning outcomes of the MDiv are:
- A critical appreciation and a broad, operative understanding of the Christian tradition in relation to other religious and cultural traditions, including:
- the broader heritage of the Christian tradition and its legacies and the more specific character of particular Christian traditions and communities in relation to other faith traditions and social-cultural contexts;
- the ways that traditions transcend particular social and cultural settings, and the ways they come to unique expression in them; and
- the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, the historical development and contemporary articulation of the doctrinal and theological traditions of Christian communities of faith, the social and institutional histories of those communities, and the mutual influence of those distinctive traditions with diverse social contexts.
- A critical understanding of and creative engagement with the cultural realities and structures within which the church and other religious communities live and carry out their missions, including:
- contemporary cultural and social issues and their significance for diverse linguistic and cultural contexts of ministry; and
- the global character of the church as well as ministry in the multifaith and multicultural context of contemporary society.
- Growth in personal faith, emotional maturity, moral integrity, and public witness.
- Growth in prophetic ministerial and professional leadership, including:
- ministerial and public leadership skills to address social issues in transformative ways;
- the use of theological and other scholarly resources in the service of social justice;
- professional and ministerial ethics;
- a developed sense of vocational direction;
- a critical awareness of one’s own theology, both lived and conceptualized;
- the ability to think theologically about the practice of ministry; and
- the cultivation of habits of lifelong learning.
- Growth in one’s capacity for a robust embrace of and engagement with social and theological diversity and one’s capacity to relate across difference.
The Master of Divinity at Boston University School of Theology (STH) is shaped by a conviction that prophetic, practical religious leaders, thoroughly grounded in the wisdom of their traditions, are essential in the work of ongoing transformation of the church and the world. The curriculum seeks to educate religious leaders who can interpret complex and evolving local and global contexts and who can engage those contexts in creative and confident conversation with a full array of theological resources.
The curriculum is built on a sequence of first-year courses that begin the process of exploring the knowledge, skills, and practices of religious leadership. In the first year, students engage in interdisciplinary reflection on the contexts, theologies, and historical experiences of Christian communities through a yearlong sequence that begins with Introduction to Christian Traditions and ends with Christianity Engaging Modernity. Employing theological, historical, and other contextual lenses, students explore leadership for the twenty-first century in a variety of contexts within those two courses. In the semester-long Practicing Faith, students investigate the spiritual and ethical practices of Christian communities across time and throughout the world and begin to develop a vision of their vocation as leaders in religious communities and in the world. Students in their first year also participate in the First-Year Formation seminar and Spiritual Companioning Groups (required in the first semester and optional in the second) that establish a framework for personal and spiritual formation that is integrated throughout the MDiv program.
Spiritual Companioning Groups
Master of Divinity students in their first year participate in Spiritual Companioning Groups (required in the first semester and optional in the second) that establish a framework for personal and spiritual formation that is integrated throughout the MDiv program. These are taken in addition to the First-Year Formation course, which introduces the “relational spirituality” model used at STH. The notion of “companioning” here borrows from theologians and educators (especially LatinX leaders who speak of “acompañamiento”) who understand formation for religious leadership to be a communal journey of traveling together and learning from one another through processes of spiritual reflection and development, mutual support, and mentoring. Guided by facilitators, students share and learn spiritual practices, develop sustaining relationships, and cultivate patterns of balance, rhythm, and integration as an intrinsic dimension of their scholarship and vocation.
By the end of the semester, students participating in a Spiritual Companioning Group will:
- Gain an introductory understanding of and appreciation for several of the diverse spiritual practices in their own and other religious traditions.
- Incorporate one or more key practices into their own lives as a way of sustaining the rhythms, balance, and integration that is intrinsic to their scholarship and vocation.
- Demonstrate a deepening in their approaches both to spiritual dwelling and questing, especially as these bear on the MDiv degree outcomes of “growth in personal faith, emotional maturity, moral integrity, and public witness.”
- Cultivate skills in active listening, empathy, accountability, and community building, all of which are essential to “companioning” and to various “pastoral” dimensions that are intrinsic to all forms of religious leadership.
All students in the MDiv program may choose up to 15 credits (five courses) of the required 74 credits as free electives. Any student seeking to satisfy denominational polity, history, or doctrine requirements must take those courses as free electives.
Recognizing that religious leadership will take place in a variety of vocational arenas, the remainder of the curriculum is then shaped around seven distinct tracks: Pastoral Ministry; Global and Community Engagement; Chaplaincy; Theology and the Arts; Theology and Social Work Dual Degree; Interfaith Leadership; and Religion and the Academy. Each track is made up of nine courses selected by the student with careful advising from their academic advisor. These include two additional courses in the study of scripture, one track-specific elective, and two courses from each of three course clusters: (1) Texts and Traditions, (2) Engaging Contemporary Contexts, and (3) Theories and Practices of Leadership. The current list of courses available in each cluster is found in the STH Bulletin, and the STH Registrar maintains a list of alterations to that list between Bulletin updates.
All students in the Master of Divinity program are required to undertake a yearlong contextual education placement along with “Integration of Theology and Practice” (ITP) groups designed to reflect on those placements and to integrate learning from the experience with the wider MDiv curriculum. The Directors of Contextual Education assist students in securing those placements, whether in congregations or local community sites. All students who serve in field placements are required to complete a background check before their service can begin. The requirement is for all students serving in field sites, regardless of degree program. Students undertaking a contextual education field placement should consult the Contextual Education office or its website for instructions on securing the background check prior to the beginning of their placement.
For students in the Theology and Social Work Dual Degree track, the yearlong SSW FE 803/FE 804 Social Work Field Education placement counts as the STH Contextual Education requirement. Students must, however, participate in an ITP group as mentioned in the previous paragraph and register for STH TF 821 ITP for Dual Degree Students (Fall) and STH TF 822 ITP for Dual Degree Students (Spring).
All students in the MDiv program participate in a mid-degree assessment, typically in the spring semester of the second year of their program. This assessment culminates in an extended advising session with the student’s faculty advisor so that the last year of the program can be tailored to the results of the assessment. The mid-degree assessment requires the creation of an e-portfolio, which includes a short self-assessment, examples of papers or other projects completed, and any contextual education evaluations that have been completed to that point. The assessment is as much an assessment of the curriculum and how well it has served the student as it is an assessment of how well the student has taken advantage of the curriculum in moving toward the aims of the degree program and the student’s particular track within that curriculum.
Length of Program
The program requires a minimum of six semesters of full-time study for a total of 24 semester courses (72 semester credits) plus the 1-credit “First-Year Formation” seminar and the Spiritual Companioning Group required in the first semester (and optional in the second semester). Some of the courses are in a sequence with prerequisites; in certain instances two or more courses are designed to be taken concurrently, if possible, although it is recognized that some students proceed on a part-time basis. The residency requirement is two semesters with a minimum of 18 credits. The time limit for the degree program is five years (10 semesters).
Taking Courses Outside STH
MDiv students are allowed to take up to three track electives (one from each cluster) and any free electives outside STH within Boston University or through the Boston Theological Interreligious Consortium (BTI). In addition, either the Hebrew Bible or the New Testament track elective course may be taken outside STH, but only by successful petition to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. No core courses may be taken outside STH (except Contextual Education within the Theology and Social Work Dual Degree Track), and the track-specific elective must be an STH course unless specified by the Track plan of study. Up to a total of 24 (one-third) of the 74 MDiv credits may be taken outside of the School of Theology, with no more than 18 of those 24 credits taken through the BTI.
No grade lower than C is acceptable for use in satisfying any course requirements for the Master of Divinity.
Dean’s Scholarships are awarded for the academic year, September to May. They are renewable each year, contingent upon the annual evaluation of the recipient’s grade point average (3.5 minimum), character, and commitment to ministerial or other religious leadership. All awards are for a maximum of three academic years of full-time MDiv study. Dean’s Scholarships are awarded before initial enrollment in the School of Theology. If the student has been awarded a stipend in addition to their full tuition, the stipend will be split equally over the two semesters and be paid to the student by check in the first month of each semester.
Tuition Scholarships are awarded for the academic year, September to May (though, in special cases, scholarships are available in the summer). They are renewable each year, contingent upon the annual evaluation of the recipient’s grade point average (2.7 minimum), character, and commitment to ministerial or other religious leadership. All awards are for a maximum of three academic years of full-time MDiv study.
The MDiv Plan of Study
The Master of Divinity consists of core requirements (32 credit hours), free electives (15 credit hours), and track electives (27 credit hours), for a total of 74 credit hours.
Core Requirements (32 credit hours)
|STH TC 703 Spiritual Companioning Group 1
|STH TC 801 Contextual Education I
|STH TC 802 Contextual Education II
|STH TF 701 Introduction to Christian Traditions
|STH TF 702 Christianity Engaging Modernity
|STH TF 703 Practicing Faith
|STH TF 710 First-Year Formation
|STH TN 721 Introduction to the New Testament
|STH TO 704 Introduction to the Hebrew Bible
|STH TS 8XX Any STH social ethics course
|Theology II (Students must take one of the following:)
|Church History II (Students must take one of the following:)
Policies pertaining to the core:
- All MDiv core requirements must be completed within STH.
- All students must complete the STH TF 701/702 yearlong sequence, Spiritual Companioning Group 1, and Practicing Faith during their first year of study. Students who do not earn a passing grade in Introduction to Christian Traditions may continue on to their second semester of coursework, taking TF 702 Christianity Engaging Modernity; however, students will be expected to retake TF 701 Introduction to Christian Traditions.
- All core requirements must be passed for graduation.
- Students may, in exceptional circumstances, petition the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs for advanced standing in Introduction to the New Testament or Introduction to the Hebrew Bible based on prior academic transcripts and syllabi in order to move directly to more advanced study in scripture, history, and/or theology. These students will remain obligated to complete an equivalent number of credit hours in any discipline for which they are granted advanced standing.
- For students in the Theology and Social Work Dual Degree track, the yearlong SSW FE 803/FE 804 Social Work Field Education placement counts as the STH Contextual Education requirement for a total of 8 credits. Students must also take STH TF 821 ITP for Dual Degree Students (Fall) and STH TF 822 ITP for Dual Degree Students (Spring) for 2 additional credits. Since together these requirements constitute 10 credits instead of the 6 Contextual Education requirements in the MDiv Core, the extra 4 credits are considered Free Electives.
Free Electives (15 credit hours)
Five courses, for a total of 15 credit hours, may be taken as free electives. All may be taken within the BTI as long as the total of the required 74 credit hours taken outside Boston University does not exceed 18 credit hours. All students taking denominational history or polity courses must take them as free electives.
Track Electives (27 credit hours)
Students choose nine track elective courses based on the specific requirements of their chosen Master of Divinity track. The following seven tracks are available: