Beginning in Fall 2017, with the enthusiastic support of the faculty, Union will provide students three pathways to its Master of Divinity degree. In addition to the already existing Master of Divinity Oriented Toward Ministerial Leadership, Union will now offer a Master of Divinity in Islam, Social Justice, and Interreligious Engagement, and the Master of Divinity in Socially Engaged Buddhism and Interreligious Engagement.
“These curricular developments under score the fact t hat preparation for ministry remains our core academic mission,” observes Dr. Mary C. Boys ’75, ’78, Dean of Academic Affairs and Skinner and McAlpin Professor of Practical Theology,” but how and for whom we offer that preparation is changing in some exciting and educationally rich ways. Union’s mission summons us to meet the changing needs of faith communities and to prepare our graduates to contribute to a religiously pluralistic world. Muslim and Buddhist communities are increasingly seeking seminary-trained leaders and have turned to Union to help meet that need. Christian ministers are also asking for more and more resources so that they can offer effective leadership in interreligious as well as ecumenical settings.” As Boys notes, “Union’s updated curriculum promises to enhance the school’s longstanding tradition of academic excellence and commitment to social justice while expanding its capacity to educate leaders in multiple faith traditions.”
For all M.Div. candidates, the Master of Divinity remains a full-time program that requires 78 credit hours, including 40-44 credits in core distribution requirements in the fields of Bible, Church History, Theology, Practical Theology, and Interreligious Engagement. In the revised curriculum to begin September 2017, students will choose one of three possible pathways to fulfill degree requirements.
The Master of Divinity Oriented Toward Ministerial Leadership, the most flexible of the pathways, offers different options in required courses and various concentrations. Persons interested in preparing for Christian ordination or other credentialed ministry within a church or a vocation of service will find the requisite courses for those vocations. Those interested in preparing for non-credentialed ministry, non-profit leadership, or vocations in contexts outside of or beyond a church will find alternative courses that will prepare them for their own calling.
The Master of Divinity in Islam and Interreligious Engagement is designed for those interested in specific preparation for diverse leadership roles working with and in Muslim communities. These roles include religious and spiritual leadership; chaplaincy at universities, hospitals, or prisons; professional counseling; teaching; and careers in interreligious cooperation, policy making, social justice advocacy, journalism, nonprofits, and government. The curriculum engages students in sustained and probing study of sacred texts, history, systematic theology and Islamic religious sciences, practical theology, and field education. This pathway to the Master of Divinity has three distinctive features: focus on Islamic tradition and Muslim practice, a focus on interreligious engagement, and a focus on social disparities based on gender, race, class, sexuality and other marginalizing forces. In keeping with Union’s broader curricula, the goal of this focus, which is integrated into many courses, is to cultivate and ability to respond to these disparities with analytic rigor, historical consciousness, sensitivity to tradition, and spiritual compassion.
The Master of Divinity in Buddhism and Interreligious Engagement will equip persons for diverse leadership roles with and in Buddhist communities, as well as bringing Buddhist practices and principles to communities that may not identify as Buddhist. This pathway prepares students for various vocations, as outlined above in the Islamic concentration, and also keeps a focus on Buddhist traditions and practice, on interreligious engagement, and on addressing social disparities with analytic rigor, historical consciousness, sensitivity to tradition, and equanimity and compassion. All three M.Div. options provide significant opportunities for students’ personal, professional, and spiritual development.
In addition to the M.Div. degree program, Union offers a dual degree for students seeking both a Master of Divinity and a Master of Science in Social Work. Currently, Union offers a dual degree with the Columbia School of Social Work, and it anticipates offering this same dual degree option, beginning in fall 2018, with the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. Students may also pursue theological studies in the Master of Arts program, which is a two-year, 51-credit degree program that provides students with a foundational understanding of theological disciplines in preparation for further graduate study or for general educational purposes.