A Master of Divinity degree prepares students for Church ordination or to pursue other professional ministries where advanced leadership skills are essential. Those ministries include congregational pastor, healthcare and military chaplaincy, campus ministry, spiritual direction, pastoral counseling, not-for-profit work, and other community-based ministries. Unlike some master of religious education programs, the M.Div. combines a framework of academic disciplines— Bible studies, theology, history, homiletics, liturgics, counseling, and Christian spirituality—with practical ministry experience.
The program fulfills the education requirements of most major denominations. Core M.Div. courses are taught in San Anselmo, but many elective and upper-level courses are offered in Berkeley and at other GTU schools.
The distinguished faculty has formulated the goals of theological education at SFTS in a list of the Habits and Skills the Seminary expects graduates of our programs to display in their lives and practice of ministry. The specific learning outcomes of the M.Div. degree are to:
• Lead and order services of Christian worship.
• Reflect theologically on Christian faith, the Church and the world.
• Provide pastoral care and spiritual formation for individuals and communities.
• Equip churches and communities for mission and ministry in a multicultural and pluralistic context.
The M.Div. degree program consists of six semesters of course work or the equivalent and field education. The normal full-time course load is four, 3-unit courses or 12 units per semester. Up to eight courses may be taken online for credit toward the degree. A total of 72 semester units of credit and competence in one biblical language are required for the degree. The required units of core courses and electives are distributed among various disciplines.
Reading knowledge of one biblical language, Greek or Hebrew, is required for the SFTS M.Div. degree. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) requires competence in both languages for ordination.
COURSES (18 Required/ 6 Free Electives/ 24 Total Courses)
• Old Testament I (OT 1200)
• Old Testament II (e.g. OT 2142)
• New Testament I (NT 1004)
• New Testament II (NT 1005)
• Language*: Hebrew and Greek
Please note, SFTS M.Div. students must take one required language course and two for PC (USA). Students may choose from Hebrew and Greek.
• Exegesis*: OT/Hebrew (e.g. OT 3275) and NT/Greek (e.g. NT 2000)
• *One language required for SFTS M.Div.; two for PC (USA)
Church History and Theology
• Church History I (HS 1080)
• Church History II (HS 1081)
• Theology I (ST 1084)
• Theology II (ST 1085)
• Ethics or Public Religion (e.g. CE 2011)
Ministry and Spirituality
• Spirituality I & II
• Preaching (HM 1001)
• Worship (LSFT 2525)
Pastoral Care & Counseling (PS 1015)
• Integrative Studies
• Interdisciplinary Lectures I
• Interdisciplinary Lectures II
As an M.Div. student, you may choose between two field education plans. Plan A features a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) experience acquired in-house or in an approved external program. Plan B allows you to complete the requirement by part-time or summer placement in a parish or special ministries site. Each plan allows for the addition of elective experiences, providing for satisfying the various expectations of ordaining bodies. Field Education experiences are required but do not receive course credits. You must complete 24 units of M.Div. course work before beginning field education.
Field Education Plan A: Clinical Pastoral Education
As a Master of Divinity student, you may meet the minimum San Francisco Theological Seminary field education requirement by successfully completing one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (C.P.E.) at an ACPE accredited site. One unit of C.P.E. requires approximately three hundred hours of fieldwork and one hundred hours of critical reflection through writing assignments, individual supervision, and peer group work.
Complete one unit of C.P.E. through the SFTS Clinical Pastoral Education program. This community-based program allows you to fulfill your clinical hours in a hospital, hospice, congregation, street ministry, or other non-traditional C.P.E. setting. It requires a weekly time commitment of approximately 23 hours of field work and several hours of supervised critical reflection over four months. If you wish to complete your CPE unit in the SFTS program, you must apply and be admitted to the program according to its standard policies. Placement is not guaranteed based on your status in the M.Div. program.
Complete one unit of C.P.E. through another accredited site. Many C.P.E. sites offer a three-month, full-time C.P.E. internship, and a few sites offer part-time extended units that could run concurrently with seminary coursework. You will find a complete list of accredited programs at www.acpe.edu.
Field Education Plan B: Internship
Master of Divinity students may meet the minimum SFTS field education requirement by successfully completing an internship in a congregation, nonprofit, or other approved internship setting. In addition to your fieldwork, you will be required to engage in critical theological reflection throughout your internship. Specific terms and learning goals for any internship placement must be negotiated with the internship site and approved by SFTS field education staff before you may begin your internship.
Option 1: Complete a nine-month, part-time internship that runs concurrently with seminary coursework. You must spend a minimum of ten hours a week at your internship site under the guidance of an approved internship supervisor. If you complete your internship during the academic year, you will participate in peer group meetings (one hour per week) supervised by the Shaw Family Chair for Clinical Pastoral Education, Rev. Laurie Garrett-Cobbina.
Option 2: Complete a three-month, full-time internship that does not run concurrently with coursework. Such an internship would likely be completed during summer, but if you are consolidating coursework into fewer than six semesters, you may complete a full-time internship at another time in the year. Full-time interns who do not have access to a peer group during the summer will work with SFTS field education staff to design a plan for supervised critical reflection.
For additional field education information and requirements, please refer to the Field Education Handbook.
Every Wednesday morning the entire SFTS community assembles for ninety minutes of lecture and discussion. Each week, a different member of the faculty addresses the semester’s theme from the point of view their discipline. You are required to participate in four semesters of these lectures and receive three units of course credit per year. Previous lectures may be found online at https://sfts.edu/lecture-videos/.
As a Master of Divinity student, you may refine your academic program to reflect your individual educational and vocational goals by selecting a discipline-specific concentration. If you pursue such a concentration, you work closely with an SFTS faculty advisor to outline a course of study in one of the following areas:
History and Theology
A concentration in history or theology allows you to engage with a particular academic discipline in depth. Each concentration requires three courses (nine units) of master’s- or doctoral-level coursework beyond general requirements. If you select a history concentration, you may focus on any period or subject of the history of religion in Europe, the Americas or African Diaspora. A theology concentration might include Rev. Dr. Gregory Anderson Love’s God and Human Suffering. You also must write a paper on an approved topic.
Chaplaincy & Pastoral Care
Chaplains and pastoral care providers offer critical spiritual and emotional support to those in need. This concentration includes academic coursework in pastoral care and spirituality, a unique chaplaincy/pastoral care lecture series and a minimum of two units of Clinical Pastoral Education (C.P.E.) to facilitate competencies in pastoral care. It also prepares you to engage in professional requirements for chaplaincy in institutional and congregational settings. An important piece incorporated into this concentration is the requirement for C.P.E. Under the direction of Rev. Dr. Laurie Garrett-Cobbina, SFTS has the first endowed C.P.E. chair within a theological seminary.
This concentration reflects the Seminary’s commitment to fostering critical biblical scholarship. In the Biblical Studies Concentration, you must have elementary knowledge of both Greek and Hebrew and do intermediate work in at least one biblical language. To complete the concentration, you must take three courses (nine units) of biblical studies beyond the core M.Div. requirements, which may be selected from either master’s- or doctoral-level coursework. A final paper on an approved topic is also required. The current course list may be found online at https://sfts.edu/students/course-schedule/.
M.Div. students interested in a concentration in spirituality will explore some of the depth and breadth of the Christian and world spiritual traditions: medieval mystics, contemplative theologians, Native American novelists, civil rights mothers and fathers, interfaith studies. They will take academic courses as well as practice courses. They will study classical texts as well as music, poetry, nature. By learning more about how rich and diverse Christian spirituality is, students develop tools not only to critique their experience but more importantly to find a home in Christianity as they come to learn how sustaining and expansive Christian faith has been in times and places all over the world. This concentration allows students to deepen their understanding of the links between spiritual practice and social justice as well as to encounter spiritual friends in other religious traditions. It models ways to combine spiritual practice with academic study. Through this concentration, students will deepen their faith through academic study and focused practice. More information on this concentration can be found online at https://sfts.edu/academics/program-in-christian-spirituality/.
OT 1200 Pentateuch & Former Prophets.
This course introduces the text, history, and theology of the first nine (eleven) books of the Hebrew Bible (i.e. Genesis through 2Kings) in the context of ancient Near Eastern culture, the history of the biblical period from early Israel to the Persian period, and the nature of critical study of the Bible. It assumes no prior study of the Bible. Method of evaluation, classroom participation, short exams, papers, final exam.
OT 2142 Old Testament II Prophets.
This course is an introduction to Old Testament prophets and prophetical books. It assumes prior knowledge about the historical-critical study of the Old Testament and the outlines of the history of Israel. Course format, Mixture of lecture and seminar. Method of evaluation, Quizzes, short essays, final exam. OT intro (OT 1200 or equivalent).
NT 1004 New Testament Introduction.
This course is a general introduction to the canonical and apocryphal Gospels and Acts in early Christian literature. Major methodological issues in current Gospel scholarship will be introduced first. Then, each text of the Gospels and Acts will be interpreted in terms of its literary characteristics, historical background and theological ideas. Throughout the course, explicitly or implicitly, hermeneutical implications of the critical interpretation of the bible will be raised and discussed. The Gospels emerge in social and complex political context of the Roman Empire. This course examines the Gospels and contemporaneous texts within their first-century Greco-Roman contexts (especially Jewish contexts), pays attention to archaeological and inscriptional materials of the time, and demonstrates contemporary hermeneutical strategies, including feminist and postcolonial. Students will also consider the controversial contemporary contexts in which they and others interpret the New Testament.
NT 1005 Introduction to New Testament.
PAULINE EPISTLES This course is an introduction to the life, work, and theology of Paul as they are reflected in his epistles in the New Testament and in other related documents within and outside the NT. The course will reconstruct Paul's life and ministry and survey his letters in their chronological order. Special attention will be paid to the particular historical circumstances and theological concerns of each letter. The primary mode of inquiry in this course is historical-critical, but hermeneutical questions will also be raised with regard to the application of Pauline theology to current theological issues. Lecture and discussion. Midterm exam and final research paper.
OT 3275 Old Testament Exegesis.
RUTH: This seminar surveys and discusses recent literary approaches to the book of Ruth from the late 20th century until now. The introduction of the course deals with conventional questions such as place and date of composition, and political, sociological, and theological features of the narrative. The remaining of the course focuses on literary interpretations of the text with attention to the various methods and approaches used to examine the Ruth story.
NT 2000 New Testament Exegesis.
This is an introduction to major hermeneutical theories from Romanticism to postmodernity and the standard exegetical methods currently practiced in New Testament interpretation. Theoretical discussion will be followed by interpretation of selected passages from various parts of the New Testament. Due attention will be given to the ordination exam of the PCUSA, while the course aims at wider applicability. Lecture and discussion. Final exegesis paper. Elementary Greek.
HS 1080 History I.
CHRISTIANITY FROM JEWISH SECT TO COLONIAL CHURCHES This course is an introduction to the history of Christianity and historical theology from the second to the seventeenth centuries. During this time, Christianity developed the main features of what is today the world's largest religion. Along the way, Christianity was transformed again and again as it adapted to vastly different, changing cultural and social environments. This course is about Christianity in the real world. You will learn how to study the origins and development of beliefs and practices, but you will also study much more. The course will introduce you to the continuities and varieties of Christian experience and belief in different times and places, from the Roman Empire to Persia, China, Africa, Europe, and Latin America, and you will be introduced to the complexity of Christianity's social, cultural, and political entanglements in all these places. The course will help you learn to break down real life situations and understand the fine points at which religious innovation and change occur, even when people try to resist change or return to the past. Audio files of weekly lectures, illustrated with slides, and videos are provided for each week. Readings from primary sources in translation are indicated on the course schedule. The readings will illustrate history, but more importantly, they will give you the opportunity to develop basic skills in assessing and evaluating the belief and behavior of religious communities in the real world. Weekly exercises will ask you to apply analytical skills, draw conclusions, and communicate them to your peers. You will be introduced to the history of the interpretation of the bible on the example of commentaries on the first day of creation in Genesis 1. You will learn about the historical entanglement of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. You will read and study several theological and mystical classics. You will be exposed to the politics, ideas, and actions that gave rise to Protestantism and the intimate relationship of Protestant and Catholic reforms. You will discover the birth of the tension between theology and natural science. Finally, you will be encouraged to apply the critical skills and aptitudes you are developing in your study of the past to situations of religious life, leadership, and service today.
HS 1081 History II.
CHRISTIANITY FROM COLONIAL CHURCHES TO GLOBAL RELIGION This course is an introduction to the history of Christianity from the Sixteenth century to the present. During this time, Christianity became the largest religion in the world. Along the way, it was transformed again and again as it adapted to vastly different, changing cultural, social, and political environments. Topics will include the roles of Christian churches in European colonialism, the impact of expanding cultural networks across the globe on religious knowledge, cultural hybridization; Christianity and the rise of nation-states; the conflict of religion and science; the role of Christianity in slavery and in anti-slavery, suffrage, fascist, and labor movements; the rise and fall of American denominations; and the competition of orthodox and pluralistic theologies. Lectures, readings in primary sources, discussions. Midterm and final examinations (term papers may be substituted).
ST 1084 Systematic Theology I.
The first semester of a two-semester introduction to Christian theology. Beginning with the meaning of religious faith, we move into the method question of the relation between divine revelation and the authority of scripture, human reason and experience. From there, we investigate the meaning of God using ancient and contemporary Trinitarian theology, Reformed theologian John Calvin, feminist theologian Elizabeth Johnson, and Latin American theologian Gustavo Gutierrez. We conclude with differing understandings of creation, and God's relationship to human suffering. Three exams (with option of substituting papers for exams). This course is the prerequisite for ST 1085, Systematic Theology II. Auditors with Faculty permission.
ST 1085 Systematic Theology II.
This course is the second semester of a two-semester introduction to Christian theology. The purpose is to help the student gain a basic knowledge of the principal topics of the theology of the universal Church, especially as these topics are understood in the Reformed tradition and in conversation with feminist and other contemporary theologies. Beginning with the doctrine of humanity, we look at our original goodness and our fall into relational forms of sin as pride, despair and denial. Next, we look at the person and work of Jesus Christ, from a variety of perspectives. We look deeply at the meaning of our being "saved by grace through faith alone," and the roles of the divine Spirit and human spirit in bringing about our healing. We conclude with the nature of the Christian spiritual life, including sanctification and vocation, the Church and its mission in the world and sacraments.
CE 2011 Contemporary Theory in Ethics.
A foundational course in Christian social ethics from the perspective of several twentieth-century moral theologians. The focus of the reading is ethical method, so this course fulfills the SFTS requirement for ethics. We will pay attention to recurrent themes and issues, love, forgiveness and justice, non-violence, coercion, and violence, universal validity of principles and cultural relativism. The second half of the semester will investigate the value of human rights theory (an instance of universal moral norms) through the lens of Native American history, theology and ethics. Auditors with faculty permission.
HM 1001 Introduction to Preaching.
Introduction to the composition and delivery of sermons with attention given to hermeneutical and theological issues. Examination of selected homiletical models. Practice preaching. Instructor and class critique. Sermon recording option. SFTS core course.
LSFT 2525 Reformed Worship.
This course is designed to introduce students to the nature and practice of worship and the sacraments in the Reformed Tradition. Worship and the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper are studied biblically, historically, and theologically, as well as in contemporary settings. Worship ad pastoral issues attendant to the celebration of weddings and funerals are examined. Skills necessary to leading worship effectively are rehearsed. Preparation for the PC (USA) Ordination Exams included in lectures and discussion materials.
PS 1015 Pastoral Care & Counseling.
This is an introductory course in the important ministry of pastoral care and counseling. It is designed to introduce the M.Div. student to the basic concepts, dynamics, issues and skills necessary for effective pastoral care. This course will teach both theory and the skills of pastoral care. The course will include lectures and skill practice in small groups. Course requirements include regular attendance, personal reflection papers, quizzes, and a final case study.
FT 1062 Interdisciplinary Lecturers.
Each week a different member of the SFTS faculty will address a common theme from the perspective of his or her discipline, providing students an opportunity to broaden and integrate learning in a key field. The course is required for all M.Div. students and is open to all master’s degree students. Attendance is mandatory, a brief reflection paper is required. Pass/fail only.