The Master of Divinity Degree Program


Program Overview

The purpose of the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) program is to prepare present and future ministry leaders to effectively lead the church and other ministries. It is designed for those preparing for vocational ministry, including the pastorate, intercultural service, Christian education, pastoral counseling, chaplaincy, evangelism, music and worship ministries, and related areas of service. Historically, the M.Div. degree has been the recommended program for those preparing for ordination. It is also the foundational degree for the Doctor of Ministry program and other advanced degree programs oriented towards theological research and teaching.

The M.Div. course of study, designed to assist the local church in the training and nurturing of godly leaders and pastoral theologians, is guided by five overarching educational values which the Seminary believes are essential to that objective. Those values are:

  • Outcome-based instruction
  • Spiritual and character formation
  • Mentor relationships
  • Church relatedness
  • Global and cultural awareness

Program Goals and Student Learning Outcomes

The Master of Divinity program goals include:

  • Develop students’ knowledge of the biblical and theological foundations of the Faith
  • Foster student’s spiritual life and moral integrity
  • Equip students’ capacity for cultural engagement
  • Expand student’s competencies for ministry leadership

The M.Div. student learning outcomes encompass multiple dimensions of the graduate’s life and work. This means that the M.Div. student’s educational experiences are intended to produce growth in knowledge, character, and skills for ministry. Many of these outcomes are best achieved and measured in the context of ministry rather than the classroom. Consequently, many of the educational experiences bring the classroom and the ministry context together in partnership to prepare the student for a life of effective ministry.

The Master of Divinity is designed to prepare graduates with the following learning outcomes:

  • Apply biblical truth to life and ministry based on a thorough understanding of the biblical canon and solid exegesis
  • Employ mature theological thinking to evaluate competing ideas, develop a personally integrated and gospel-centered expression of biblical teachings, communicate theological truths clearly, and apply theological truths to life and ministry
  • Demonstrate cultural awareness and discernment in theological thinking and ministerial practice
  • Exhibit a Christ-like character worthy of being emulated, and integrity that imparts credibility to his/her ministry
  • Demonstrate self-awareness and a commitment to an ongoing process of personal and spiritual formation that is clearly grounded in the gospel
  • Implement a gospel-centered philosophy of ministry that is biblical, missional, and transformational
  • Communicate God’s truth clearly, accurately, and convincingly
  • Nurture and equips people so that God’s purposes are effectively accomplished in and through them

Admission Requirements

In addition to the general requirements for admission to the Seminary, applicants for the M.Div. program must possess a four-year baccalaureate degree or its educational equivalent from a college or university accredited by a United States association holding membership in one of the six regional accrediting associations, membership in the Association of Universities and Colleges in Canada, membership in the Association for Biblical Higher Education, or from an institution which maintains similar academic requirements and standards. Additionally, M.Div. applicants must present a GPA of 2.5 or higher, including a breadth of liberal arts. Applicants who do not meet these general academic requirements may petition the Admissions Committee for consideration. A recommendation from the applicant’s pastor and three personal recommendations regarding the applicant’s Christian character and leadership also are required.

Transfer Credit, Advanced Standing, and Residence Requirements

Upon approval by the registrar’s office, transfer of up to 41 hours credit is allowed toward the M.Div. program from graduate institutions accredited by the Association of Theological Schools. Students must have earned a grade of B or higher for a course to be considered for transfer and coursework must have completed no more than five years prior to matriculation to Western Seminary. Transferability of credits earned at Western and transferred to another institution is at the discretion of the receiving institution.

Alternatively, students may receive advanced standing of up to 20 credit hours of the 41 credit hours of transfer credit allowed toward their program if they are able to demonstrate current competency in required coursework based on prior study (based on parallel undergraduate work or transfer credit that is ineligible for consideration based on age). Advanced standing is allowed for up to eight credits of the required BL courses (501, 502, 503) and eight credits of the required TH courses (501, 502, 503). They may qualify for four additional credits of advanced electives for the remaining credits in each of these required courses. Students can receive a maximum of six credits of advanced standing in NT and OT required courses. Consult the registrar’s office for information on eligibility of transfer credit and advanced standing.

Residence requirements for Portland, San Jose and Sacramento Campuses: Of the 82 credit hours required for the Master of Divinity program, a minimum of 41 credit hours must be completed through coursework completed at Western Seminary, with a minimum of 28 credit hours taken in resident study at one of Western Seminary’s physical campus locations.

Residence requirements for Online Campus only: Of the 82 credit hours required for the Master of Divinity program, a minimum of 41 credit hours must be completed through coursework at Western Seminary, with a minimum of 10 credit hours taken in resident study through the following specific courses and program orientation (Approved exception to ATS Standards A.3.1.3 and B.3.1.3):

  • During October, February or June of a student's first academic year, the student must travel to Portland for one week to attend program orientation and two threshold courses, CS501 Learning to Love God and Others (2 credit hours) and MF501 Introduction to Theological Study and Ministry Formation. (2 credit hours).
  • During the middle of a student's program, the student must travel to Portland to complete at least four credit hours of required (non-elective) courses.
  • During the student's final academic year, the student must return to Portland to attend the capstone course, TH504 Integrating Ministry and Theology (2 credit hours).

Program Specializations and Concentrations

The intent of a ministry specialization is to equip the student with the skills, insights, and training experiences necessary for a distinctly defined ministry role. Eight to twelve credits of course work reflect a thoughtful blend of required courses and restricted electives designed to impart the character, knowledge, and skill outcomes deemed essential for each particular role. Six ministry specializations are offered, though not all specialization courses are offered at each campus: Chaplaincy, Ministry Coaching, Exegetical, Global Leadership, Pastoral, and Women’s Transformational Leadership. Additionally, Western Seminary offers Master of Divinity students the option to complete a Reformed Specialization that is intentionally designed to meet the needs of students pursuing ordination in a Reformed or Presbyterian denomination. This will involve a combination of Western Seminary courses, transfer credits from an approved seminary of the Reformed tradition, or individualized studies under the supervision of an approved ministry supervisor. Interested students are encouraged to contact the Academic Dean’s Office for further information.

The purpose of program concentrations is to provide a focused, intensive preparation in one narrow area of emphasis. They may be ministry-specific, academically-oriented, or a combination of both. Program concentrations consist of at least six credits of course work in one area of emphasis, chosen in consultation with one’s faculty advisor. Courses selected for a program concentration may not come from the core of the M.Div. program. Program concentrations include:

  • Bible
  • Chaplaincy
  • Church and Culture
  • Church History
  • Church Planting
  • Christian Spirituality
  • Coaching
  • Educational Ministry
  • Evangelism
  • Family Ministry
  • Global Leadership
  • Greek
  • Hebrew
  • Intercultural Studies
  • Pastoral Care
  • Women's Transformational Leadership
  • Worship
  • Youth Ministry

Students may choose from among the concentrations listed above, or may propose a new concentration drawn from courses offered by Western Seminary (subject to approval). Appropriate course work from other graduate institutions might also be used in designing a concentration (subject to transfer credit provisions). These must be acceptable graduate-level work, with at least 50% of the credits being taken at Western. Students may complete both a ministry specialization and a program concentration, but no more than two hours of credit may overlap and be applied to both. The successful completion of a program concentration is noted on the student’s academic transcript. No course may be applied to more than one concentration. Please consult with the Registrar’s Office for additional information.

Online Campus Students Please Note: The specific concentrations available to Online Campus students will depend on the list of courses currently available in online format and on the student's ability to travel to a physical campus to take courses if needed to complete the concentration.

Biblical Language Options

The Seminary offers Master of Divinity students two options to complete their requirements in the biblical languages: the foundational language track and the functional language track.

The foundational language track equips students with both the foundations of the Greek and Hebrew languages, including the elements of grammar, syntax, and reading, and with the skills of exegesis—the interpretation of the text. Then students will be able to read the Bible as it was written and encounter the depths of meaning that can get lost in translation. Students are introduced to a wide range of language tools, including computer programs. Following this track will lay a foundation for in-depth study in advanced classes. It will give students the strongest foundation as life-long learners to teach and preach the biblical text in an informed manner and/or to pursue advanced studies in which this level of original language competence would be expected. In addition, students in this track will be able to read advanced commentaries with greater understanding, be able to take additional elective courses in the interpretation of various biblical books, and be better equipped to evaluate commentaries, articles and theological books on their own. If the study and the preaching of God’s Word is your main focus of ministry, this is the recommended track to take. Students in the exegetical language track for all Tracks except Expositional Ministry enroll in NT511-512, OT511-512, and NTS513 or OT513; those in Expositional Ministry enroll in NT511-512, OT511-512, NT513, OT513, and an exegetical elective in either language.

For students who choose not to develop the skill to read and translate the Bible in the original languages, the seminary offers the functional language track. It is designed to give students the practical ability to access the original languages through the Bible Works computer program and other contemporary reference tools. Using these tools, the student will learn the essential grammar and syntax of the biblical languages. Students will use the computer to find word meanings, parsing, etc. By the end of the two-semester sequence, students will be able to use original language commentaries with discernment and do many steps of the exegetical process as they prepare sermons and lessons in ministry. Students in the functional language track enroll in NT501-502, OT501-502, and an additional BL elective.

Degree Requirements

Students may complete their studies in as few as six semesters, with a minimum of 82 credits required for graduation. The M.Div. program requires a common core 70 credits including of biblical, theological, Christian formation, and applied ministry studies. In addition, students select an elective track of 12 credits consisting either of a ministry specialization or a self-designed sequence of electives approved by a faculty mentor. This flexibility of design recognizes that many students come with differing God-given gifts, passions, talents, experiences, and goals. The elective track also involves either the completion of a ministry specialization (12 credits of prescribed and elective credits) or an open track (12 credits of elective credits and mentored ministry approved by a faculty member).

The Master of Divinity degree is conferred upon the attainment of certain personal and academic requirements. In addition to the general seminary requirements, degree candidates must (1) give evidence of a genuine Christian character, orthodox belief, and conduct consistent with a God-given call to a position of leadership; (2) complete all courses in the prescribed M.Div. curriculum with a minimum grade point average of 2.5.

All work leading to the Master of Divinity must be completed within six years from the time of matriculation. Permission to extend the six-year statute of limitation must be granted through submission of an academic petition. Reinstatement to the program after withdrawal requires Admissions Committee action and may subject the student to additional requirements for the degree. All credits applied toward the degree requirements must be earned within ten years of the awarding of the degree.

Master of Divinity Curriculum Plan

Foundational Studies: 10 credits
BT501 Hermeneutics 2
BT502 Understanding Biblical Theology 2
CS501 Learning to Love God and Others 2
CS502 Growing in Prayer and Other Key Spiritual Disciplines 2
MF501 Introduction to Theological Study and Ministry Formation 2
Biblical Studies: 26 credits
BL501 Interpreting Genesis to Song of Solomon 4
BL502 Interpreting the Prophets and Gospel 4
BL503 Interpreting Acts to Revelation 4
NT501/511 Greek Grammar 3
NT502/512 Greek Reading and Syntax 3
OT501/511 Hebrew Grammar 3
OT502/512 Hebrew Reading and Syntax 3
Please note: NT/OT513 are not regularly scheduled on all campuses but may be available online or web-conference (registration contingent on approval via academic petition).
NT513 -or- Greek Exegesis 2
OT513 -or- Hebrew Exegesis 2
BL5XX Biblical Studies Elective for 501/502 students 2
Theological Studies: 18 credits
CH501 Wisdom from Church History 4
TH501 Knowing the Living God: Theology I 4
TH502 Glorifying the Word of Life: Theology II 4
TH503 Living as the Community of the Spirit: Theology III 4
TH504 Integrating Ministry and Theology 2
Ministerial Studies: 16 credits
ML501 Theology and Practice of Gospel-Centered Ministry 2
ML502 -or- Transformational Leadership 2
WL504 Women in Leadership 2
ML503 Nurturing Faithful Disciples 2
ML504 Taking the Gospel to Diverse Cultures 2
ML505 Applied Pastoral Counseling: Caring for People in a Broken World 2
ML506 Ministerial Ethics 2
ML507 Gospel Responses to Contemporary Challenges 2
ML508 Preaching Gospel-Centered Messages 2
MF531-532 Ministry Leadership Formation (P/F graded, lab fee) 0
MF533-534 Ministry Leadership Formation (P/F graded, lab fee; as needed) 0

Track: 12 credits (select one)

The 12 credits of coursework in the elective tracks may be taken in one of two ways:

  1. A ministry track (minimum of 8 credits in chaplaincy, coaching, exegetical, global leadership, pastoral, or women's pastoral leadership courses)
  2. An integrated sequence of electives selected with faculty guidance

The choice among these options is based on student goals, talents, God-given gifts and prior experiences.

Open Track (Online, Portland, Sacramento, & San Jose campuses)
Open electives: 12 credits
Chaplaincy Track (Portland, Sacramento, & San Jose campuses)
Chaplaincy required course: 2 credits
CA501 The Chaplaincy 2
Restricted electives: 6 credits
Select from the courses below or related electives with advisor approval:
CA505 Hospital Chaplaincy 2
CA530 Chaplaincy Practicum 1-2
CA531 Clinical Pastoral Education 1-4
CNS501 Clinical Foundations: Basic Counseling Skills and Interventions 2
CNS557 Emergency Preparedness: Suicide Prevention and Crisis Intervention 1
CNS558 Emergency Preparedness: Crisis Intervention, Trauma and Loss 1
Open electives: 4 credits
Coaching Track (Portland, Sacramento, & San Jose campuses)
Coaching required courses: 2 credits
CO501 Introduction to Coaching 2
CO502 Coaching Change, Transition, and Transformation 2
Restricted electives: 4 credits
Select from the courses below with advisor approval:
CO503 Life and Personal Coaching 1
CO504 Coaching Approach to Leading and Managing 1
CO505 Coaching Spiritual Transformation 1
CO506 Coaching as a Brain-Based Approach to Learning 1
CO507 Using Assessments, Inventories, and Tools in Coaching 1
CO508 The Language of Coaching 1
CO509 Growing Your Coaching Practice 1
CO530 Coaching Supervision 1
Open electives: 6 credits
Evangelism and Cultural Engagement (Portland, Sacramento, & San Jose campuses)
Evangelism and Cultural Engagement required courses: 8 credits
GL501 Spiritual Formation and Discipleship in Global Context 2
GL502 Theology in Global Context 2
GL503 Leadership in Global Context 2
GL504 Self-Directed Learning for Global Leadership 2
Open electives: 4 credits
Exegetical Track (Portland, Sacramento, & San Jose campuses)
Exegetical required courses: 4 credits
Note: All M.Div. students complete NT511-512 and OT511-512, plus either NT513 or OT513. M.Div Exegetical track students must complete both NT513 and OT513 plus one exegetical elective.
NT513 -or- Greek Exegesis 2
OT513 Hebrew Exegesis 2
NT5XX -or- Exegesis elective 2
OT5XX Exegesis elective 2
Open electives: 8 credits
Global Leadership Track (Portland campus only)
Global Leadership required courses: 8 credits
GL501 Spiritual Formation and Discipleship in the Global Context 2
GL502 Theology in the Global Context 2
GL503 Leadership in the Global Context 2
GL504 Self-Directed Learning for Global Leadership 2
Open electives: 4 credits
Pastoral Track (Portland, Sacramento, & San Jose campuses)
Pastoral Theology required courses: 8 credits
PT501 Pastoral Care and Leadership 2
PT502 Theology and Practice of Worship 2
PT503 Maximizing the Church's Redemptive Influence 2
PT511 Advanced Expository Preaching 2
Open electives: 4 credits
Women's Transformational Leadership Track (Portland, Sacramento, & San Jose campuses)
WL531-534 may replace MF531-534 in program requirements above.
Women's Transformational Leadership required courses: 7 credits
WL501 Pastoral Understanding of Women 2
WL505 Building Relational Ministries for Women 1
WL506 Develop and Deliver Life-Changing Bible Messages 2
WL507 Develop Life-Changing Bible Study Curriculum 1
WL508 Develop Your Discipling and Evangelism Potential 1
Restricted elective: 1 credit
Select from the courses below with advisor approval:
WL502 -or- Women in Pain, Part 1 1
WL503 Women in Pain, Part 2 1
Additional required course: 2 credits (replaces core ML course above)
WL504 is required but is approved to substitute for ML502 Transformational Leadership above. If not taken in substitute for ML502 it will replace two credits of open electives for the track.
WL504 Women in Leadership 2
Open electives: 4 credits

2018-2019 Academic Catalog