Master of Arts in Religion

The Master of Arts in Religion (MAR) program is designed for students who prioritize academic preparation in the theological disciplines over professional preparation for ministry. The emphasis in the MAR program is on concentrated study in a field of theological knowledge and on the development of analytical and reflective skills appropriate to that field. The clearest expression of the program’s academic emphasis is the thesis as the student’s capstone in the program.

Students who identify the following goals as matching their primary purpose for their seminary studies are most likely to benefit from the MAR program:

  • training for teaching or writing
  • integration of theoretical underpinnings for practical ministry
  • preparation for further graduate/doctoral studies – see final sentence in this paragraph

Students preparing for ministry in congregations or church agencies are generally encouraged to consider the Master of Divinity (MDiv) or the Master of Arts in Church Leadership (MACL). Given significant diversity in the admissions expectations for doctoral programs, students choosing between the MAR and MDiv programs as preparation to apply to such programs are urged to consult the admissions requirements of specific programs to which they aspire.

The MAR degree requires the completion of 60 semester hours, requiring two years of vigorous study when enrolling as a full-time student. The total number of hours required for the degree may be adjusted for a student who brings extensive undergraduate studies in religion or has done graduate-level theological study. In the case of undergraduate studies, only courses at the junior and senior level (usually numbered between 300 and 499) are applicable toward reduction of MAR requirements at the ratio of four undergraduate credits translating to three hours of graduate credit. Fifteen semester hours is the maximum reduction permitted. In the case of a student who has already completed another post-baccalaureate degree in theology, the required hours may be reduced to as few as 30 semester hours if there is sufficient overlap in course content. Such adjustments in any student’s degree requirements are formalized only after the student has been admitted to degree candidacy by the EMS faculty.

A unique strength of Eastern Mennonite Seminary is our formation program. We believe that focusing on one’s own formation is the best way to prepare students to be healthy and whole in their vocations, this is true for those pursing an academic degree no less than it is for those whose seminary degree will focus on the practice of ministry. For this degree, two formation courses, Formation in God’s Story I & II (2 credits each), are required. These courses are designed to help students understand their own lives in conversation with and connection to God’s story as found in Scripture and being written in the present in their own lives through spiritual practices. For more information, please visit the formation page.

Program of Study

Each student’s program of study consists of

  1. A required core of six courses taken by all EMS degree-seeking students, totaling 16 semester hours of credit.
  2. Designated electives in four additional areas, with twelve semester hours for a combined total of 28 required semester hours.
    Biblical Studies elective 3 SH – Generally courses prefixed BVOT or BVNT and focusing on study of Biblical texts (but not the elementary or readings level Biblical languages courses).
    Church & Society elective 3 SH – These two courses meet this requirement: CM 643 Missio Dei in Cultural Context, or CM 652 Churches and Social Transformation.
    Anabaptist / Denominational Studies 3 SH – Anabaptist-affiliated students take one of three courses: CTH 641 Mennonite History, CTT 633 Anabaptist Theology, or CTT 523 Anabaptism Today, or other approved courses. 
    Theological studies elective 3 SH – The courses prefixed CTT, CTH or CTE generally meet this requirement.
  3. A concentration tailored to the interests of the individual student, consisting of 20 semester hours of coursework.
  4. A thesis anchored in the concentration, worth 6 semester hours.
  5. Electives totaling 6 semester hours which may be rolled into the concentration if there is a rationale showing that these courses directly enhance the concentration, and if so compiling a concentration of 32 semester hours in specialized study.

Students may craft MAR concentrations within the classical disciplines of the seminary curriculum or pursue interdisciplinary approaches. Interdisciplinary programs of study may draw from the various programs of the seminary as well as the university’s other graduate programs.

Students must follow a careful process of academic advising and program approval in this program. The director for the MAR program serves as Academic Advisor to all MAR students throughout their program of study. During the second year of study the successful student prepares a thesis proposal which gains the approval of the seminary’s Academic Committee. When approving this proposal the committee also appoints a thesis advisor from the academic discipline to which the thesis relates. The thesis culminates in an oral defense before an Examining Committee consisting of the MAR director, academic advisor, the thesis advisor, and one or two additional readers. The various procedures toward the Master of Arts in Religion are outlined more fully in an MAR program manual.

A minimum of 30- hours shall be taken in residency (see residency requirements)

Core Courses
FS 501 Formation in God’s Story I (2)
FS 502 Formation in God’s Story II (2)
CTH 501 Christian Tradition I (3)
CTH 511 Christian Tradition II (3)
BVOT 511 Old Testament: Text in Context (3)
BVNT 512 New Testament: Text in Context (3)

Designated Electives
Biblical Studies elective (3)
Church & Society elective (3)
Anabaptist / Denominational Studies (3)
Theological studies elective (3)

Electives in concentration (20)
Electives (6)
Thesis (proposal) – (3)
Thesis (writing and defense) – (3)

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