Posted on October 17th, 2008
Eastern Mennonite Seminary’s extension site in Lancaster, Pa., has received approval to offer a fully-accredited, three-year master of divinity degree. This achievement culminates more than two years of work and offers new possibilities for students preparing for pastoral work or other areas of Christian ministry.
Students interact in the course, “Introduction to Christian Worship” (l. to r.): Tim Yoder, instructor, Lancaster Mennonite High School; Gina Burkhart, worship leader, Landisville Mennonite Church; and Joe Miller, editor, “OurFaith Digest” at EMU at Lancaster.
In spring 2006, EMS applied to the Pennsylvania Department of Education for approval to offer two graduate certificates and the MDiv. degree. EMS also petitioned the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) national accrediting agency. This culminated in site visits in the spring of 2008 of delegations from the Department of Education and ATS.
In their separate approval processes, both organizations commended EMS for “the quality of its program, instructors and students.”
Mark Wenger, director of pastoral studies for EMS in Pennsylvania
“A growing number of students from Mennonite and other churches in southeastern Pennsylvania have expressed interest in earning a graduate certificate or MDiv. degree from EMS,” said Mark R. Wenger, director of pastoral studies at the Lancaster branch. “However, many students find it not viable to move or commute to the main campus in Virginia.”
For the MDiv degree program, EMS in Pennsylvania has negotiated cooperative arrangements with accredited seminaries in the area, including Lancaster Theological Seminary; Evangelical Theological Seminary, Myerstown, Pa.; and Biblical Seminary, Hatfield, Pa.. EMS students can take seminary courses at these seminaries and receive credit at EMS.
The official notification letter by Dr. Gerald Zoharchak of the Pennsylvania Department of Education stated, “I wish you success with the degree programs and the certificate programs and know that they will be administered to reflect the high academic quality which is the standard of Eastern Mennonite University.”
When she heard the news, EMS student Misty Wintsch, associate pastor at Mechanic Grove Church of the Brethren, Quarryville, Pa., responded, “A great big YEEHA! I couldn’t be more thrilled.”
Student Julie Dunst from Reading, Pa., wrote: “Congratulations! it is well earned. I am eager to see what your offerings are in the future.”
EMS in Pennsylvania currently offers two or three graduate-level seminary courses each semester in addition to other pastoral training programs. Students can earn a graduate certificate, which requires 24 credit hours, in about two years. Certificates in Biblical Studies and Theological Studies are now offered in addition to the MDiv. degree.
Seminary Dean Ervin R. Stutzman said, “I am very grateful for the dedicated and cooperative workers at the Lancaster extension,” EMS dean Ervin R. Stutzman said. “I offer my congratulations to everyone on completing the difficult tasks necessary for this approval.”