Master of Divinity (M.Div.)

The Very Rev. Dr. Alexander Rentel, Director of the Master of Divinity Program

(914) 961-8313 x 369
(914) 355-1470 – cell

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 15 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.


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 12 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 Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, 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.


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.


A minimum of 90 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:

  • 7 credits in 010-level “skills” courses in Liturgics (Liturgics 013, Liturgics 021–022, Liturgics 031) and Liturgical Music (Liturgical Music 012, Liturgical Music 021–022).
  • 14 credits in 100-level “foundational” theology courses: Biblical Languages 100, Church History 100, Liturgical Theology 102, Old Testament 100, Pastoral Theology 101, and Spirituality 101. These courses serve as introductions to the fields in question. They are designed to provide sufficient background for all higher-level courses.
  • 39 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, Christian Education 203, Homiletics 204, Homiletics 205, Pastoral Theology 205, Pastoral Theology 208), Biblical Studies (New Testament 202, New Testament 203), Historical Studies (Church History 202, Patristics 204), Liturgy (Liturgical Theology 202), and Systematic Theology (Systematic Theology 201, Systematic Theology 202).
  • 30 credits in 010-, 200-, 300- or 400-level elective courses.

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.


M.Div. students compile student portfolios throughout their time in the program. The portfolio includes a sampling of the student’s work, feedback and comments from professors, and reflections from the student on his or her growth in selected areas of formation. Students meet with professors to review the portfolio and to receive an evaluation of the student’s progress in the program.


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

Prison Ministry. For the first project, completed during the junior year, students are provided a structured and guided experience of prison ministry, for which they receive academic credit. This ministry, which takes place at a local correctional facility, introduces students to the special nature and challenges of prison ministry through bible study and one-on-one dialogue with criminal offenders, and seminars designed to help students develop the pastoral skills needed in prison ministry.

Hospital Ministry. For the second project, normally completed 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). Students who would like to receive academic credit for CPE—six credits—must register for CPE 300 and successfully complete the ACPE-accredited unit of 400 hours. Read more about the St Vladimir's CPE program.

Parish Ministry. The third 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.


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.


Candidates for the M.Div. degree with a cumulative grade point average of 3.3 (B+) or higher have the option of preparing and submitting a thesis project—of 30–50 pages—under the supervision of a member of the seminary faculty. This thesis would substitute for three credits of course work at the 300-level. 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. Although the thesis is not required to fulfill degree requirements, it is required for graduation honors.

Thesis Proposal. Students who wish to write a thesis must successfully complete the research-writing seminar (TW 205) and submit a thesis proposal of 4–5 pages in length, approved and signed by a faculty advisor, at the time of registration. In the proposal, students are expected to outline the problem to be investigated and give a sense of what they expect to find. The proposal must also include a working title and a bibliography, which is not intended to be exhaustive but must show that the student is familiar with the main works in the field, in particular those that will be of value to the project.Students who are unable to submit a thesis proposal at the time of registration, may not register for thesis until a proposal has been approved. The final deadline for thesis registration is the second Friday of the semester. No further changes will be permitted after the deadline for changes in registration.

Thesis Submission. A style sheet containing detailed instructions for the preparation of the thesis is available online. After the advisor has accepted the final version of the thesis, an electronic copy of the thesis (as PDF file) must be submitted to the Office of Academic Affairs by the deadline indicated in the Academic Calendar. The thesis is then evaluated by two readers: the first reader is the student’s thesis advisor, who is a full-time or sessional member of the faculty, and the second is appointed by the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs from among the other faculty of the seminary. Theses submitted after the deadline will be considered by the faculty council at its next meeting and, if accepted, will be subject to a full grade penalty (e.g., A becomes B). Students whose theses are not submitted on time will normally register, without grade penalty, for a semester of continuation.

Thesis Grade. The readers submit a letter grade with written comments, which become an official part of the student's record. In the calculation of the student's cumulative grade point average, the senior thesis is treated as the equivalent of three credits of course work, with the grade assigned as follows:

  • For a difference of one increment (e.g., A and A-), the higher grade becomes the final grade (in this case, A).
  • For a difference of two increments (e.g., A and B+), the average grade becomes the
    final grade (in this case, A-).
  • For a difference of three or more increments (e.g., A and B), the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs instructs the readers to reread the thesis and resubmit their grades.
  • When both readers assign the grade A and substantiate the grade in their written comments, the faculty council will entertain a motion to commend the thesis, which commendation is noted on the student’s official transcript.

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. 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 a 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.

Further, upon recommendation of the candidate’s thesis readers and approval of the Faculty Council, he or she may receive commendation for the thesis.

Valedictorian and Salutatorian. The valedictorian, who is selected from among graduating M.Div. students, delivers the commencement address on behalf of the graduating class. The salutatorian, an M.Div. middler who is completing his or her second academic year at St Vladimir’s as a full-time student, offers words of congratulation to the graduating class on behalf of those who will be remaining at the seminary. The valedictorian and salutatorian are selected by the faculty on the basis of each student’s excellent performance in all aspects of seminary life, including academic work, participation in chapel services, and completion of community service assignments.

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.