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 postbaccalaureate 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.

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 18 semester hours of credit.
  2. Designated electives in four additional areas, with twelve semester hours for a combined total of 30 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 – Any of the following three courses meet this requirement: Missio Dei in Cultural Context, Christian Faith and Inter-Religious Encounters, or Churches and Social Transformation.
    Anabaptist / Denominational Studies 3 SH – Anabaptist-affiliated students take one of four courses: Believers Church, Mennonite History, Anabaptist Theology, or Anabaptism Today. Students from other traditions take one of the four courses above or a course in the history/theology of their tradition
    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 18 semester hours of coursework.
  4. A thesis anchored in the concentration, worth six 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 30 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.

The following schedule with 15 hours each of four semesters serves as a template from which the student and the academic advisor will design an individualized course of study. Students may also arrange to pursue the MAR degree on a part-time basis and extend the time in which they fulfill the program requirements. A minimum of 30- hours shall be taken in residency (see residency requirements)

Junior Year

Formation in God’s Story I (2)
Christian Tradition I (4)
Old Testament: Text in Context (3)
Concentration (3)
Biblical Studies elective (3)
Formation in God’s Story II (2)
Christian Tradition II (4)
New Testament: Text in Context (3)
Concentration (6)

Senior Year

Church & Society elective (3)
Concentration (9)
Thesis (proposal) – (3)
Thesis (writing and defense) – (3)
Electives (6)
Anabaptist / Denominational Studies (3)
Theological studies elective (3)