Emory University’s Candler School of Theology announced last week the creation of five new degrees to address the changing needs of the church and expand theological perspective beyond religious occupations.

The brand new degree programs include a Doctor of Ministry, Master of Arts in Religious Leadership, Master of Arts in Religion and Public Life, a dual Master of Divinity/Master of Development Practice and Master of Divinity/Master of Social Work.

The Doctor of Ministry degree, set to lunch in fall 2014, is a three-year program geared toward current pastors who “got out in the real world and got to know what they don’t know,” Brent Straw, associate professor of Old Testament and director of the program, said in a Sept. 17 Candler School of Theology press release.

The classes for the program will be offered online as a part of an initiative from Candler to utilize technology as a learning tool and to allow students to continue participating in their congregation while they are enrolled in the Doctor of Ministry program.

“They can stay put where they are and get an degree online,” Love said.

The program has two tracts, Church Leadership and Community Witness, geared toward those who want to work inside and outside the church, and Biblical Interpretation and Proclamation, for students who want to focus on the theology, interpretation, teaching and preaching of the Bible.

The final degree project required for completing the program is spread across three years.

“The program has been carefully designed by the faculty for maximum utility,” Strawn said. “It’s ideal for ministers who both need and want to dig deeper for the sake of their ministries and churches.”

The Master of Arts in Religious Leadership is a two-year program designed for those who wish to serve in the church as volunteers and staff.

Students are able to choose from five concentrations: Mission, Evangelism and World Christianity, Justice Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation, Pastoral Care, Ministries with Youth and Worship and Music.

“These are people who want to lead in the church and elsewhere but don’t want to be ordained,” Love said.

Students can complete the degree on a full-time or part-time basis and have access to online courses starting in spring 2014.

Meanwhile, the Masters of Arts in Religious and Public Life is a one-year degree geared toward lawyers, doctors, nurses, social workers and other professionals in non-religious fields.

“They come into contact with religious questions in the workplace, but they don’t know how to answer them,” Love said.

In addition to the new programs, two dual degrees are being created.

Candler and the Laney Graduate School have teamed up to create the Master of Divinity/Master of Development Practice degree, which started this fall.

The program was created for those who have an interest in doing sustainable development work and addressing social and economic issues as part of a holistic ministry approach, according to the press release.

Additionally, the Master of Divinity/Master of Social Work is a partnership between the University of Georgia and Candler, which will begin in the fall of 2014, and is a four-year program for those who are considering the role of faith and religious institutions in community health and development.

Courses will be split between both Candler and the University of Georgia’s Athens campus, the press release says.

When the three new degree programs will begin next year, Love said she expects approximately 50 students to enroll.

Prospective students can learn more about the new degree programs and apply online on the Candler website.

– By Bryan Cronan