Master of Divinity (M.Div.)


The Very Rev. Dr Bogdan G. Bucur, Director of the MDiv program

The Master of Divinity (HEGIS 2301) may be described in the most general terms as a graduate professional degree whose purpose is preparation for the ministries of the Church. At St. Vladimir's the degree program is designed chiefly for qualified Orthodox students who wish to prepare themselves for ordination to priestly ministry in the Orthodox Church, though it also provides appropriate preparation for other forms of church service and for graduate study in theology and related disciplines, such as hospital chaplaincy with certification in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). 

The program is a residential program designed to be completed in three years by full-time students, who take an average of twelve credits in course work per semester. Only if warranted by exceptional circumstances, such as illness, disability, or employment, and with permission of the Faculty Council, may the program be spread over a longer period of time. The degree must be completed within six years of entrance into the program, after which time the student is normally required to fulfill any new requirements that may then be in force. All credits applied toward degree requirements must be earned within ten years of the awarding of the degree.

St. Vladimir’s Seminary seeks to equip M.Div. students to:

  • Read Scripture and the Church’s tradition with discernment in order to teach, preach, and minister according to the gospel;
  • Think theologically and pastorally about the world and about their cultural context in order to address contemporary realities in a manner faithful to the Church’s tradition;
  • Grow in faith, emotional maturity, and spiritual life in order to develop the capacities needed for pastoral leadership;
  • Celebrate the offices of the Church with beauty and dignity in order to worship God rightly, forming a community in the faith and life of the Church; and
  • Employ managerial skills and understand administrative procedures in order to lead a community in accordance with the commandments of Christ and the discipline of the Church, so that they might witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

To enter the M.Div. program at St. Vladimir's, a student must normally have the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree or the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree from an accredited college or university.

The seminary does not prescribe a specific program of pre-theological studies, but it does encourage potential students to gain a broad liberal arts education while in college. Studies in the humanities and the natural and social sciences should prepare the student to think clearly, to speak and write correctly, and to understand not only the world of today but also the cultures of the past. Also useful are studies in languages, particularly in Greek. Potential students are also encouraged to read the Bible and sing in their parish choir, thus acquiring a basic knowledge of the language and chant tradition used in the ecclesiastical jurisdiction in which they wish to serve. Students are voiced-tested during orientation.

Credit for work completed at other accredited graduate institutions—up to twelve credits applied against electives—may be accepted at full value on a transfer basis (a) if work done parallels courses in the St. Vladimir's M.Div. program and is otherwise compatible with the objectives of that program; (b) if the courses in which the credits were earned were eligible for graduate credit in the institution at which they were taken; (c) if the work was completed within five years of matriculation at St. Vladimir’s; and (d) if the grade earned for the eligible courses was 3.0 (B) or higher. Transfer course grades are not included, however, in seminary GPA calculations.

Undergraduate work, graduate-level work completed at unaccredited institutions, or graduate-level work for which transfer credit has been accepted may qualify a student for advanced standing in subjects in which he or she shows proficiency. In these cases, students will be permitted to enroll in advanced courses or complete advanced assignments while remaining enrolled in core courses.

Requests for acceptance of transfer credits or advanced standing should be directed to the Academic Dean, who in turn submits them to the Faculty Council for consideration and approval.

In order to provide proper and full formation for M.Div. students, and in accordance with program standards of the Association of Theological Schools, students are required to be in residence for three full academic years. Students who have been full-time residential students at another accredited Orthodox seminary for at least one year may complete the M.Div. program at St. Vladimir’s in two full academic years.

A minimum of 72 credits in course work, with a cumulative grade point average of at least 2.3 (C+) is required for the M.Div. degree. This course work includes:

  • 15 credits in 100-level “foundational” theology courses: Biblical Languages 100, Church History 110, Liturgical Theology 102, New Testament 102, and Old Testament 100. These courses serve as introductions to the fields in question. They are designed to provide sufficient background for all higher-level courses.
  • 12 credits in 100- and 200-level courses in Liturgics and Liturgical Music: Liturgical Skills 101, Liturgical Skills 210, Liturgical Skills 211, and Liturgical Skills 220.
  • 30 credits in 200-level courses, which include higher-level courses in the academic areas mentioned above and courses relating to the practice of ministry: Applied Theology (Canon Law 203, Homiletics 204, Homiletics 205, Pastoral Theology 205, Pastoral Theology 208), Biblical Studies (New Testament 203), Historical Studies (Church History 200, Patristics 204), and Systematic Theology (Systematic Theology 201, Systematic Theology 202).
  • 15 credits in 200-, 300-, or 400-level elective courses.

Students are required to complete an introductory course or course sequence in one of the ancient languages offered by the seminary. Students fulfill the requirement by successfully completing one semester of New Testament Greek (Biblical Languages 100) or two semesters of Classical Armenian (Classical Armenian 203–204).

M.Div. candidates must complete two field education projects as part of the seminary’s program in applied theology.

Hospital Ministry. For the first project, normally completed in the summer after the junior year or during the middler year, students are assigned to hospital ministry, where they are required to complete an ACPE-accredited unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE).

Parish Ministry. The second project, completed during the senior year, is in the area of parish ministry. Students are placed in parishes in the greater New York area. This placement gives students invaluable exposure to and experience of the diversity existing in Orthodox parishes. In addition, it provides an opportunity for students to develop ministerial skills under the supervision of the pastor or another qualified professional. Under the supervision of the pastor of that parish, students will undertake specific tasks required by the seminary’s Parish Ministry Project and assigned by the pastor/supervisor. An agreement describing these tasks is provided by the Parish Ministry Coordinator and signed by the pastor/supervisor and the student, and submitted to the Coordinator. At the end of the year, the pastor/supervisor submits an evaluation of the student’s work to the Coordinator, using the appropriate form. Both the pastor/supervisor and the student are required to sign the evaluation form.

Some of the ecclesiastical jurisdictions that the seminary serves may require their students to complete certain studies in languages and liturgical music not otherwise required for the M.Div. degree. In order to serve these jurisdictions more effectively, and in close cooperation with them, the seminary offers appropriate courses in these areas.

Students entering the M.Div. program at St. Vladimir’s are required to take a music proficiency examination during the orientation period. The purpose of the examination is to assess the student’s ability to match pitch, read music, and sing, and to determine the student’s vocal range for placement in seminary choirs. On the basis of the examination, the Faculty Council may require an M.Div. student to do remedial work.

In the spring semester of their final year, M.Div. students are examined orally by the members of the faculty and invited guests. The purpose of the examination is to assess a student’s readiness to serve in a pastoral context. The examination typically includes preaching and answering general, coffee hour-type questions on liturgical, theological, pastoral, and spiritual matters. The examination is approximately one hour in length. Successful completion of the examination is required for graduation; students who do not perform satisfactorily will be given opportunity to retake the exam.

As part of its ongoing self-assessment, St. Vladimir’s Seminary requires M.Div. senior students to submit portfolios of their work. Compiled from student papers, sermons, and fieldwork evaluations, these serve as cross-sections of the seminarians’ work and growth. Portfolios are reviewed by the Director of Institutional Assessment and evaluated by an external reviewer at a peer school. (External reviewers are unable to see student names.) In this way the seminary is helped to see how it is measuring up to the outcomes it has established for the M.Div. degree program.

Candidates for the M.Div. degree with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 (B) or higher have the option of preparing and submitting a thesis—in lieu of elective credits—under the supervision of a member of the seminary faculty. Normally written in the form of an extended essay, the thesis must show the student’s ability to understand and express issues related to Orthodox theology, history, and/or contemporary witness. (Note: The thesis option does not replace the M.Div. Senior Oral Examination.)

The following thesis registrations are possible:

1. Extended Essay (TS 306 [3 credits]). M.Div. students are permitted to write an extended essay of 25–35 pages in length (not to exceed 14,000 words, including foot/endnotes, appendices, excurses, table of contents, and bibliography), normally in the fall semester of their senior year. Prerequisites for writing a thesis are:

  • minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 at time of registration;
  • successful completion of the research-writing seminar; and
  • submission of an acceptable thesis proposal.

2. Honors Thesis (TS 310 [3 credits]). Invited M.Div. students may write an honors thesis of 40–50 pages in length (not to exceed 20,000 words, including foot/endnotes, appendices, excurses, table of contents, and bibliography). Prerequisites for writing an honors thesis are:

  • minimum cumulative GPA of 3.4 at time of registration;
  • successful completion of the research-writing seminar;
  • submission of an acceptable thesis proposal; and
  • invitation, normally toward the end of the research-writing seminar, by the course instructor and the Academic Dean. TW 205 students who are not invited to write an honors thesis may appeal to the faculty council for permission to do so. The decision of the faculty council is final.

Important Note: Although honors thesis is not required to fulfill program requirements, it is required for graduation honors. However, an honors thesis receiving any grade lower than B from the thesis advisor will be treated as an extended essay: 1) the student will not be eligible for academic honors; and 2) the thesis will not be bound and deposited in the library.

The degree of Master of Divinity does not make a student automatically eligible for ordination in the Orthodox Church. In questions of ordination, the various Orthodox ecclesiastical jurisdictions are governed first of all by the universal canons of the Church. In addition, each jurisdiction may set further requirements that must be met by its candidates for holy orders. While the seminary faculty may recommend a seminary graduate for ordination, the final decision rests exclusively with the hierarchy of the Church.

Degrees are awarded annually at the close of the spring semester. (However, see also September Graduates on the Commencement page.) After a final review and vote of recommendation by the Faculty Council, the candidates’ names are submitted to the Board of Trustees for their approval.

Academic Honors. Academic honors are reserved for students who complete all academic requirements at a high level and submit an honors thesis. Upon recommendation of the Faculty Council and approval by the Board of Trustees, the following citations may be given at graduation:

  • For a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.90, summa cum laude;
  • For a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.80, magna cum laude;
  • For a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.50, cum laude.

For the determination of honors, only courses taken at St. Vladimir's are included in the calculation of the cumulative grade point average.

Commencement Speakers. Student commencement speakers are selected by the faculty council from among the graduating students of both the Master of Arts and Master of Divinity programs. The valedictorian, who delivers the valediction or parting words at commencement, is normally the student who has earned the highest grade point average, with consideration also being given to performance in all other aspects of seminary life. The salutatorian, who delivers the salutation or greeting at commencement, is normally the student who has earned the second-highest grade point average, with consideration also being given to performance in all other aspects of seminary life. Commencement speakers must have completed at least 48 credits at St Vladimir’s Seminary as full-time degree candidates. Neither the valedictorian nor the salutatorian is required to write a thesis.

Commendation for Service to the Community. Upon recommendation of the Director of Residential Life and approval of the Faculty Council, a student may receive commendation for service to the community.

Commendation for Thesis. Upon recommendation of the candidate’s thesis readers and approval of the Faculty Council, the student may receive commendation for thesis.

Requirement To Satisfy Financial Obligations. No degree will be awarded or final transcript issued unless all financial obligations to the seminary, library, and bookstore have been satisfied. In the case of outstanding loans or other obligations not then due and payable, appropriate agreements must have been drawn up and all payments must be current.