Jul 20, 2024  
2021-2022 Graduate Catalog 
2021-2022 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Divinity, M.Div.

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The Master of Divinity degree is designed primarily for students who plan to be ordained clergy and serve in Word, sacrament, service and order. It may also equip a person for other specialized ministries.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Interpret scripture. Students will interpret scripture effectively, using a wide variety of approaches informed by an understanding of biblical history, the social and cultural realities of ancient Israel and the early church, and the interpreter’s own context.
  2. Comprehension of history and culture. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the life and thought of the Christian community in its historical expressions and of the interrelations between Christianity and global culture.
  3. Theological and ethical reflection. Students will be able to engage in constructive theological and ethical reflection, informed by an understanding of the content of the Christian faith in its historical and contemporary articulations, as well as current Christian thinking on philosophical, scientific, political and cultural developments.
  4. Ordained leadership roles. Students will demonstrate the capacity to function successfully and effectively in the various roles of ordained leadership, evidencing critical awareness of the social context of their ministry and the capacity to have an impact on that context.
  5. Worship leadership. Students will demonstrate the ability to plan, lead, and assess the basic rituals of the church in ways appropriate to local community and to the wider Christian tradition.
  6. Effective preaching. Students will preach effective sermons that are exegetically faithful to the biblical text and fitting to the congregation, utilizing an appropriate range of style, form, and sequence appropriate to the substance of each sermon.
  7. Spiritual formation. Students will demonstrate familiarity with and appreciation for the church’s spiritual tradition and the disciplines of prayer and devotion, and exhibit a capacity to evaluate specific instances of spiritual practice from a theological standpoint.

Requirements for Admission

The number of new students to be admitted each year is determined by policies of selection established by the faculty. The following considerations are decisive:

  1. Seriousness of purpose, emotional stability and likelihood of satisfactory performance in the degree program and of responsible membership in the Perkins and Southern Methodist University community.
  2. Presence of and potential for growth in those emotional, moral and spiritual qualities requisite for the profession of ministry and the absence of patterns of personal behavior tending to be seriously disabling to ministry.
  3. Academic ability as shown by a minimum GPA of 2.750 (on a 4.000 scale) in a well-balanced curriculum. Normally, an applicant must hold the B.A. or equivalent degree from a college or university which is accredited by one or more of the organizations recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (chea.org). An applicant with a degree from an unaccredited school may be considered if the case is exceptional. It is particularly important that the student have an adequate liberal arts preparation. In keeping with the recommendations of the Association of Theological Schools concerning pretheological studies, the following 60 hours of liberal arts coursework are highly recommended for admission to the M.Div. degree program:
    1. Three credit hours of philosophy (preferably historical or introductory courses or logic).
    2. Twelve credit hours of English (especially courses that include grammar, composition and creative writing).
    3. Three credit hours of history.
    4. Three credit hours of social science.
    5. Thirty-nine additional hours of liberal arts.

The following are considered highly desirable for admission to the M.Div. degree program:

  • Three credit hours of a natural science or mathematics.
  • Six credit hours of a foreign language.
  • Six credit hours in religion (such as Bible, church history, history of religions, theology or ethics).
  1. A reasonable program of financial support that will enable students to be devoted properly to the main business of their theological training.

Persons who have already graduated from college or who are considering the ministry as a second career are given special consideration by the admissions committee, especially with regard to the adequacy of their pretheological curriculum.

Beyond the evidence of ability furnished by transcripts, applicants may be asked to demonstrate their preparation for theological study by adequate performance on either the GRE graduate school entry exam or the Miller Analogies Test.

To supplement the data furnished by transcripts, letters of reference and other written material, a personal interview with the associate dean for enrollment management or with a person designated by the associate dean may be required of the applicant.

Requirements for Graduation

The M.Div. program requires 73 credit hours of academic credit, inclusive of a supervised internship. Each M.Div. student will also enroll in a spiritual formation group for two terms, normally the first year of study, for one credit hour for the second term.

A minimum cumulative GPA of 2.000 on all coursework is required for graduation to the M.Div. degree. A minimum cumulative average of 2.000 is likewise required for continuation beyond the second term and for continuation in school beyond the fourth term.

All degree requirements must be completed within seven calendar years from the time of initial registration.

Course Requirements

Students may use electives to concentrate in an area of theological studies, to study Hebrew and/or Greek, and/or to complete requirements for ordination. The course requirements, totaling 64 credit hours, are as follows:

Required Courses

Total: 12 Credit Hours

Total: 6 Credit Hours

Total: 9 Credit Hours

Total: 6 Credit Hours

Contextual Studies

Total: 6 Credit Hours

Total: 1 Credit Hour


Students may choose to complete an area of concentration as part of the 24-hour elective requirement. In order to complete a concentration, students must:

  1. Formally register for the concentration through the office of the Perkins Registrar and the concentration adviser or Perkins Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.
  2. Have sufficient hours remaining in their degree program.
  3. Not yet have applied for their internships (M.Div. candidates)

The following concentrations require a minimum GPA of 3.0 in order to register for the concentration:

  • African-American Church Concentration
  • Church/Nonprofit Management Concentration
  • Pastoral Care Concentration
  • Social Innovation and Nonprofit Engagement Concentration
  • Urban Ministry Concentration
  • Women’s and Gender Studies Concentration

The following concentrations require an internship in an appropriate setting for the concentration approved by the Internship Office:

  • African-American Church Concentration
  • Baptist Studies Concentration
  • Hispanic Studies Concentration
  • Pastoral Care Concentration
  • Social Innovation and Nonprofit Engagement Concentration
  • Urban Ministry Concentration

Total: 24 Credit Hours

African-American Church Concentration Courses

Baptist Studies Concentration Courses


In consultation with the professor of concentration-specific courses, students are normally required to develop assignments or a summative project which has a Baptist-specific focus. Alternatively, concentration courses may include advanced coursework in the Bible, including Biblical languages.

The Baptist Studies Concentration requires the completion of an internship in an appropriate setting identified and approved by the Intern Office and the Director of the Baptist House of Studies.

Concentration students are encouraged to participate and lead within the Baptist House of Studies.

Christian Education Concentration Courses

Total: 12 Credit Hours

Custom Concentration Courses

  • 15 credit hours of concentration-specific courses
    (Note: The Custom Concentration must be planned out at the beginning of the student’s career necessitating academic advising upon entry into the program.)
Total: 15 Credit Hours

Evangelism and Mission Concentration Courses

Healthcare Chaplaincy Concentration Courses (Houston/Galveston Program)


In addition to these courses, students in this concentration will be required to participate in two one-day events (one per semester) to be scheduled before or after one of the in-person meeting weeks each semester in Houston, in which the students will be invited to attend a lecture sponsored by Houston Methodist Hospital, participate in a “shadowing” program, and share their personal reflections with seasoned hospital chaplains and administrators.

Total: 18 Credit Hours


The Hispanic Studies Concentration requires the completion of an internship in a Hispanic setting if possible, or, if that is not possible, serve an internship in which, by agreement, no less than one-third of the student’s working time is spent in a Hispanic congregation or project within the community. If neither of these is possible, the student must do a 40- to 60-hour interethnic experience in a Hispanic church under supervision arranged by the director of the Hispanic/Latin@ Ministries Program.

Total: 15 Credit Hours

Pastoral Care Concentration Courses

15 credit hours of concentration-specific courses from the following list:


Students in the Pastoral Care Concentration must:

  1. Complete a practicum in an appropriate setting.
  2. Submit a paper to the concentration adviser at the end of the program. This paper should explore the interdisciplinary nature of the pastoral care field, focusing on all four divisions within Perkins’ course of study. In this paper, the student is expected to articulate her or his biblical paradigm in pastoral care. The appendix to the paper should include a description of the student’s efforts/participation in proactive self-care activities related to spiritual, physical and emotional health. Counseling by staff at the SMU Memorial Health Center or a licensed therapist of the student’s choice is strongly encouraged as a part of the certificate program and as a means of self-care.
  3. Engage in an oral defense of the interdisciplinary paper. Faculty from divisions I, II and III will be invited on a rotation basis to participate in the oral defense. Students working on the concentration should prepare for this integrative exercise from their very first introduction to courses in Division I – The Biblical Witness, Division II – The Heritage of the Christian Witness in Its Religious and Cultural Context, and Division III – Interpretation of the Christian Witness.
Total: 15 Credit Hours

Social Innovation and Nonprofit Engagement Concentration Courses

15 credit hours of concentration-specific courses:

Concentration-Specific Courses (12 Credit Hours)

Choose from the following:


The Social Innovation and Nonprofit Engagement Concentration requires the completion of an internship in an appropriate nonprofit setting identified and approved by the Intern Office.

Total: 15 Credit Hours

Social Justice Concentration Courses

Women’s and Gender Studies Concentration Courses

15 credit hours of concentration-specific courses:

  • 3 credit hours for TC 8375 Advanced Feminist Theory
  • 12 credit hours of concentration-specific courses that are Women’s and Gender Studies graduate-level approved core courses and Dedman College undergraduate departmental courses.

The Women’s and Gender Studies Concentration requires the completion a major research project that addresses issues concerning women and/or gender. A performance or exhibit may also constitute the major project, with approval of the director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program.

Students may substitute an internship for one of the four courses and the associated major research project. The supervised internship must involve an organization or setting that addresses issues concerning women and/or gender.

Total: 15 Credit Hours

Total: 64 Credit Hours

Spiritual Formation

All students completing the M.Div. are required to register for the program in spiritual formation. Students are required to attend a daylong orientation held in conjunction with the new student orientation program and are then enrolled in formation groups. These groups meet weekly throughout the fall and spring terms during the first year of the program. Led by facilitators in groups of five to 10, students share in a formative experience designed to provide them with the framework of a common experience, emphasizing the following:

  • The opportunity to explore the vital connection between spiritual formation and ministry.
  • Opportunities to explore the central genius of spiritual traditions.
  • The development of a critical capacity that will allow the student to evaluate those traditions theologically.
  • Broad-based exposure to a variety of spiritual disciplines.
  • Experience in prayer and devotion.

Students are evaluated and given credit by the group facilitators on the basis of attendance and engagement with the subject matter of the formation process. Students should register in both the fall and spring of the first year. Exceptions to this rule must be requested in writing from the director of spiritual life and formation.


The M.Div. program requires the satisfactory completion of a supervised internship carrying nine credit hours of academic credit. While the student registers for four and one-half hours of internship course credit during each of two consecutive terms, the internship degree requirement is satisfied only upon completion of the nine credit hours.

ST 6301 – Interpretation of the Christian Message I  and ST 6302 – Interpretation of the Christian Message II  are prerequisites for the internship course. The following courses are recommended in preparation for the internship course: two courses in biblical studies, XS 6310 - The Church in Its Social Context , HX 6305 - The Christian Heritage I  and HX 6306 - The Christian Heritage II , PR 6300 - Introduction to Preaching , WO 6313 - Introduction to Christian Worship , and participation in a spiritual formation group. United Methodist students, who are required by the Book of Discipline to take courses in United Methodist history, doctrine and polity, are advised but not required to take these courses prior to the internship. Comparable advice is given to students from other traditions.

M. Div. students may choose either a full-time or part-time internship. Both are nine months long, over the fall and spring terms of one academic year. Full-time is defined as a minimum of 35 hours per week (inclusive of the internship seminar) of work in the internship setting. Part-time is defined as a minimum of 25 hours per week (inclusive of the internship seminar) of work in the internship. A third option is a full-time Clinical Pastoral Education residency, which is 12 months long. All interns receive a stipend.

All internships are coordinated through the Perkins Intern Office. The placement process begins in September when a prospective intern is invited to apply for an internship that would begin in August of the following year. A student completes an application and interviews with the intern faculty who will determine throughout the placement process the student’s readiness for internship. If at any point during the placement process, the student exhibits patterns of behavior that suggests that the student needs further preparation prior to participating in an internship, the intern faculty may conclude that a student is not ready for an internship. The intern faculty will engage in a consultative process to determine appropriate measures to help the student become prepared for internship.

If a student declines two faculty-approved intern placements in a year, the Intern Program will remove the student from the placement process for that year. A student who is removed from the placement process is encouraged to re-apply for an internship the following year; however, the student must accept a subsequent faculty approved intern placement.

A student demonstrating readiness for an internship is encouraged to pursue placement possibilities for discussion in the initial interview with the intern faculty. Internship placements include church, agency and hospital chaplaincy settings. During the placement process serious consideration is given to the student’s denominational preference.

While interns are not prohibited from taking additional Perkins courses beyond the internship course or from holding employment outside the internship placement, the intern faculty will consult individually with students to help them make the choice between full-time and part-time internship in order to balance life and learn successfully on internship.

Students who hope to do internships outside the immediate five-state area (Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma) must initiate an early conversation with an intern faculty member, preferably in the first year of their degree program.

Note: Student pastors who are appointed as the sole or senior pastor of a church may choose to apply for either the full-time or part-time internship. The student pastor’s salary replaces the required internship stipend.

Master of Divinity students may complete the Perkins internship requirement (nine credit hours) by successful completion of a Clinical Pastoral Education residency that consists of three units of CPE (Level II). Typically, CPE residency consists of four units (a full calendar year). However, the Perkins requirement is only nine months (mid-August to mid-May). Eligibility for consideration into a CPE residency normally requires the completion of the introductory unit of CPE (Level I).

Master of Divinity students may receive elective academic credit for PC 7639 – Basic Clinical Pastoral Education  for an introductory unit of CPE (Level I) if they choose.

An intern faculty member will be assigned to the CPE intern and will consult with the CPE certified educator regarding satisfactory completion of the internship requirement.

During internship, students do ministry under supervision and reflect theologically on their experiences. As the interns become more competent and self-confident in carrying out the tasks of ministry and gain theological, emotional and spiritual maturity in their understanding of it, they prepare themselves to provide resourceful, faithful Christian leadership in the world.

The design of the Perkins Intern Program assumes interns to be adult learners who can assess and value their past experiences and vocational goals and build on these creatively and systematically in pursuing the learning opportunities offered at their particular internship site. To that end, the internship course curriculum specifies a set of required competencies under each of three categories: be aware, think theologically and lead faithfully.

The Perkins Intern Program faculty partners with pastoral staff and laity at congregations and agencies and with mental health professionals experienced in church family systems to provide supportive supervision for students during internship. The mentor pastor and lay teaching committee assigned to each intern receive orientation and training as part of the intern program.

A student’s internship begins with a required two-day Intern Orientation conducted in August by the intern faculty.

Global Theological Education

Through cultural immersion courses, the Global Theological Education Program offers students a study of theology, Scripture, missions, ministry or interreligious relationships in a cultural context different from the students’ own, usually outside the United States. These elective courses give special attention to the role of theological reflection in an environment affected by globalization in all its dimensions through focused, on-site study in a particular culture or region of the world.

Admission to Candidacy

M.Div. students will be reviewed for admission to formal candidacy for the degree in the spring term following the completion of 27 credit hours of academic work. A student will be admitted to candidacy provided he or she is not on probation and is not disqualified for having given evidence of patterns of personal behavior tending to seriously hinder ministry. Admission to formal candidacy signifies that the student is proceeding satisfactorily in his or her course requirements, including admission to and continuation in internship courses, and possesses a seriousness of purpose, emotional stability, and likelihood of satisfactory performance of Christian leadership. Formally, the presence of patterns of personal behavior tending to seriously hinder ministry may be grounds for the faculty to disqualify a student from graduation with the M.Div. degree, or, if the prognosis justifies it, to defer awarding the degree until such time as the hindering pattern is overcome. A student may be considered for the degree upon completion of all the requirements, but admission to formal candidacy does not oblige Perkins to grant the degree.

Ordination Requirements

Students preparing for ordination should become aware as early as possible of any specific educational requirements their denomination or judicatory may expect them to satisfy in the course of their M.Div. work (e.g., in the biblical languages or in denominational history, doctrine, polity and evangelism). They should explore, with their academic advisers, how best to deal with these expectations.

The requirements of the current United Methodist Book of Discipline concerning work in United Methodist history, doctrine and polity may be met by satisfactorily completing the following three courses: HX 7365 - United Methodist History  (three credit hours), ST 7034 - United Methodist Doctrine  (1.5 credit hours) and CA 7013 - United Methodist Polity  (1.5 credit hours). These courses are not required for the M.Div. degree; they are provided as a means of satisfying these requirements of the church in the context of the programs. The Book of Discipline also indicates that these requirements may be met in ways other than through regular coursework, and students may wish to explore these other options.

In the United Methodist Church, the provisions for education and preparation for all forms of professional status in ministry are expressed in detail in the books The Christian as Minister: An Exploration into the Meaning of God’s Call (2009–2012), General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, The United Methodist Church, Nashville, Tennessee, and Understanding God’s Call: A Ministry Inquiry Process (2009), GBHEM, The United Methodist Church, Nashville, Tennessee.

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