Master of Arts in Religion

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Master of Arts in Religion

The Master of Arts in Religion (34 graduate semester hours) at Community of Christ Seminary is designed for bi-vocational ministers who want to deepen their understanding of faith and ministry and transform community, as well as for professional ministers preparing to lead others in discipleship and mission. It builds a strong foundation of formation in Christian scripture, tradition and mission and offers three concentrations for focused development: Christian Theology, Spiritual Leadership, Peace and Justice. This degree provides a strong academic foundation in biblical studies, Christian history, and theology, leadership, peace, and justice. These subjects offer essential preparation for Christian ministry and/or doctoral study in religion.

The Master of Arts in Religion provides a unique blend of religious theory and practical studies that can meet the needs of students with a variety of learning objectives. The classes in the program will be offered either totally online or online with a face-to-face session at the Community of Christ Temple in Independence, Missouri during the fourth week. The faculty is composed of scholars and professionals in the field of religion with the academic and applied backgrounds to make the study of religion stimulating and worthwhile.

Program Admission

  1. Applicant must have earned a Bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 on a 4-point scale, or the equivalent from a non-U.S. institution. Students with a GPA below 3.0 will need to demonstrate the ability to do work at the graduate level.  Applicants who have not earned a baccalaureate degree from a recognized and U.S. regionally accredited institution or its educational equivalent will be considered individually.
  2. Applicant must complete the application form that is available on the seminary website.
  3. Applicant must provide official transcripts of all course work. International students are responsible to submit a professional audit of their undergraduate transcript and GPA (Grade Point Average) equivalency by CGFNS or World Education Service (WES). The student (or sponsoring organization, e.g. the church) is responsible for the cost of this audit.
  4. Applicant should request references from three persons who can attest to the applicant's promise for graduate study.  References use the form at this link: Reference Form, and must be submitted to applicant in a sealed envelope.  Recommenders should be persons who have known the applicant for more than 1 year and who have knowledge of the intellectual and ministerial abilities of the applicant.
  5. Applicant must submit an entrance essay (no longer than 500) describing why you are applying to the Community of Christ Seminary. This essay should be reflective of the following questions: Why Seminary? Why now? What is your ministry context? You may submit this essay with other relevant information. 
  6. Please have all transcripts and references sent to your address in sealed envelopes to be mailed together in one packet. Send your complete packet to: Graceland University, Independence Campus Attn: Seminary Admissions, 1401 West Truman Road, Independence, MO 64050. You may also email your transcripts and references to Sharon Ward.
  7. International students must have proficiency in both spoken and written English. To be considered for admission, students whose first language is not English must submit a TOEFL score of 550 or higher on the written exam or a 80 or higher on the online exam. Exceptions will be granted on a case by case basis (for example, someone whose first language is not English but whose undergraduate degree is from an English speaking institution, etc.)

Graceland University Community of Christ Seminary has a rolling admissions process; students may apply at any time during the year.  International student must submit TOEFL scores and the WES or CGFNS audit as part of their application packet, which is typically due by May 30 of the year in which the potential student will begin the MAR program. New MAR cohorts begin in the fall term each year.

Degree Requirements

  1. The Master of Arts in Religion (MAR) is a 34 semester-hour graduate degree.  Students must complete 22 semester hours of Core Curriculum and 12 semester hours of their chosen concentration with a cumulative 3.0 GPA.
  2. Students must attend focus sessions in person when a course includes a focus session.  Focus sessions are scheduled during the fourth weeks of January and May of each year.
  3. A maximum of nine semester hours with a grade of "C" will apply toward the MAR degree.  Students who earn a "C" in more than the maximum allowed number of hours will be required to repeat excess courses in which a "C" was earned.  Students must repeat any course in which they earn a grade lower than a "C."
  4. Students will normally successfully complete requirements for the MAR degree in two years of part-time study; students are allowed up to four years to complete the program.

Master of Arts in Religion (MAR) Degree

Core Curriculum 22 s.h.

  • RELG5011 Christian Theology 3 s.h.
  • RELG5040 New Testament - Gospels and Acts 3 s.h.
  • RELG5060 History of Christian Thought I 3 s.h.
  • *RELG5350 Community of Christ History and Scripture 3 s.h.
  • *RELG5360 Community of Christ Theology and Scripture 3 s.h.
  • RELG6240 Contemporary Culture and Theologies 3 s.h.
  • RELG6500 Portfolio 1 s.h.
  • RELG6900 Advanced Topics in Practical Ministry  1-3 s.h.

Complete all of one specific concentration: 12 s.h.

Christian Theology

  • RELG5022 Introduction to the Hebrew Bible 3 s.h.
  • RELG5050 New Testament - Letters and Apocalypse 3 s.h.
  • RELG6050 Christology and Liberation Theology 3 s.h.
  • RELG6070 History of Christian Thought II 3 s.h.

Spiritual Leadership

  • RELG5435 Pastor as Person 3 s.h.
  • RELG5440 Spiritual Formation and Transformation 3 s.h.
  • RELG6245 Transformational Leadership 3 s.h.
  • RELG6250 Community Building and Diversity 3 s.h.

Peace and Justice

  • RELG5445 Theology of Peace 3 s.h.
  • RELG5450 Philosophy of Peacebuilding 3 s.h.
  • RELG6255 Social Justice: Ecologies and Economies of Peace 3 s.h.
  • RELG6260 Conflict Resolution and Restorative Justice 3 s.h.

*Students from other denominations may substitute approved denomination-specific course work.

Transfer of Credits

Students may request the transfer of a maximum of 9 semester hours of credit for the MAR, provided that the courses transferred approximate courses offered by Community of Christ Seminary, were taken at a regionally accredited institution or its non-US equivalent, and that the student earned at least a “B” in those courses. The request must be accompanied by an official transcript from the institution where the credit was earned.

Courses in Religion (Graduate)

RELG5011 Christian Theology 3 s.h.
This course is an initial exploration of the discipline and methods of theology. The foundational topics of Christian theology are covered including the nature and necessity of the theological task and contemporary understandings of the doctrine of God, Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit, humanity, the church, and Christian hope.

RELG5022 Introduction to the Hebrew Bible 3 s.h.
A review of the sacred literature of ancient Israel, centered on its covenantal themes and Ancient Near Eastern contexts. Prerequisite: RELG5011.

RELG5040 New Testament - Gospels and Acts 3 s.h.
A review of the New Testament literature focusing on the gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, centered around its christological themes as they relate to other primary doctrines. Attention will be given to techniques of exegesis based on various methods of biblical criticism. Prerequisite: RELG5011.

RELG5050 New Testament - Letters and Apocalypse 3 s.h.
A review of the New Testament literature focusing on Paul,  the General Epistles, and the Apocalypse of John, centered around its christological themes as they relate to other primary doctrines. Attention will be given to techniques of exegesis based on various methods of biblical criticism. Prerequisite: RELG5040.

RELG5060 History of Christian Thought I 3 s.h.
This course traces the theological and doctrinal development of the Christian church from the biblical period to the period immediately preceding the Reformation. Attention will be given to the historical context in which this development occurred. Prerequisite: RELG5011.

RELG5350 Community of Christ History and Scripture 3 s.h.
This course traces the historical development of Community of Christ, from its origins in the setting of revivalism and democratization on the American frontier of the 1820s to the challenges the church faces as it negotiates the 21st century’s global, postmodern context. The course will also explore how the unique sacred texts of this movement have reflected the tradition’s ongoing engagement with culture. Special attention will be given to helping students learn how to apply critical historical methodology to the study of a religious tradition. Prerequisite: RELG5011

RELG5360 Community of Christ Theology and Scripture 3 s.h.
This course will explore the main themes, key issues, and seminal thinkers in Community of Christ theology, from its emergence on the American frontier (1820-1844) through its recontextualization into Reorganization theology (1851-1960) to the radical transformation of beliefs and denominational identity since 1960. The methods of both critical historiography and systematic theological analysis will guide our quest to understand this tradition. Central to our explorations will be how the church has responded to the intellectual, social, and cultural challenges of each age. We will devote special attention to the ways the church’s engagement with its own sacred texts has contributed to the denomination’s metamorphosis, especially as it has embraced its unique place within the wider Christian tradition and its vocation as a peace and justice church. Prerequisite: RELG5011

RELG5435 Pastor as Person 3 s.h.
A focus on ministerial formation through exploration of the connection between vocation, ministerial “calling”, and social context. Students will engage in critical examination of ministerial myths, narratives, and stories that shape leadership response in a variety of pastoral experiences. Attention will be given to resources and tools for critical reflection on self and vocation. Prerequisite: RELG5011.

RELG5440 Spiritual Formation and Transformation 3 s.h.
A study of the historical and theological roots and implications of spiritual formation. Students will engage in critical study and practice of spiritual practices and formation models. Students will reflect on study and practices from biblical, historical, and psychological perspectives through individual experience in class as in the context of ministerial and spiritual leadership. Prerequisite: RELG5011.

RELG5445 Theology of Peace 3 s.h.
An introduction to and exploration of peace in Christian theology. Biblical, historical, and theological perspectives of peace as central to theological narratives. Focus on given students’ resources for building foundational theologies of peace and resources for application of peace through a theological lens. Prerequisite: RELG5011.

RELG5450 Philosophy of Peacebuilding 3 s.h.
Peace is central to theological and ethical thinking. Students will explore approaches to peace, grounded in social and moral philosophy. Emphasis on evaluating ethical implications of peace, justice, and peacebuilding for individual, communal, and vocational contexts. Prerequisite: RELG5011.

RELG6050 Christology and Liberation Theology 3 s.h.
Explores Christological intersections between classical interpretations of Jesus of Nazareth’s identity and various modern and post-modern liberative approaches. As well as considering the contributions of the Social Gospel Movement, the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Jürgen Moltmann, special attention will be given to Latin American, Feminist, Womanist, African American, and Eco-liberationist Christologies. Emphasis will be placed on understanding the relevance of Jesus’ life and message to situations of violence, racism, and various forms of gender, environmental and economic oppression. Prerequisite: RELG5011.

RELG6070 History of Christian Thought II 3 s.h.
This course traces the theological and doctrinal development of the Christian church from the Reformation into the 21st century. Attention will be given to the historical context in which this development occurred. Prerequisite: RELG5011.

RELG6240 Contemporary Culture and Theologies 3 s.h.
An examination of the nature and implications of current issues and practices found in major world cultures with emphasis on their impact on Christian ministry, particularly ecumenical and intercultural ministry. Prerequisite: RELG5011.

RELG6245 Transformational Leadership 3 s.h.
Exploring leadership that leads to sustainable and transformative change in community and organizations. Critical study of missional leadership through theological, sociological, biblical, and ministerial analysis. Prerequisite: RELG5011.

RELG6250 Community Building and Diversity 3 s.h.
Examining essential skills in developing leaders as spiritual/sociological researchers in the context of their ministerial community for the purpose of cultivating missional transformation. Topics of social analysis will include social location, theological perspective, culture and cultural diversity, community systems, and religious pluralism. Attention will also be given to adaptive change as it relates to rapidly changing culture and context of ministry experience. Prerequisite: RELG5011.

RELG6255 Social Justice: Ethics, Ecology, and Peace 3 s.h.
An exploration of religious and philosophical foundations of imperatives for social and ecological justice. Examines mutual implications between interpersonal and environmental ethics as well as the scope of theories of justice as applied to human/nonhuman communities. Prerequisite: RELG5011.

RELG6260 Conflict Resolution and Restorative Justice 3 s.h.
Examining methods, concepts, and skills of conflict resolution and restorative justice paired with theological and historical perspectives. Intended to equip students with the skills to engage constructively and meaningfully with conflict and justice in personal, congregational, institutional, and community settings. Prerequisite: RELG5011.

RELG6500 Portfolio 1 s.h.
A summative project that encourages students to reflect on their experience and the directions it may take them as a disciple or minister. The Seminary Graduate Portfolio consists of a beginning paper, gathering of graduate work,and self-assessment. The student will review her/his portfolio with a committee as a “finale” of her/his graduate work. (Evaluated on a pass/fail basis.)

RELG6900 Advanced Topics in Ministry 1-3 s.h.
An in-depth study of topics selected from various areas of practical ministry such as church leadership, Christian ethics, mission, pastoral care, public ministry, spiritual formation, and disciple education. Students should have taken all of their other coursework prior to this course as this is a capstone course. The course is designed to guide students to integrate their learning into practical ministry application. Prerequisite: RELG5011.