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BEST MDiv Programs

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hello gradcafe world, just got on this thing a few minutes ago. i am in need of some advice, perspective, outside opinions. where should i go to grad school to recieve an mdiv? okay, before you answer keep the following in mind. I want to teach, and eventually be a pastor if Jesus tells me to. oh, I also dont know anything about "popular" or "prestigious" schools so humor me a little. ive tried to google "top seminaries" etc, but nothing comes up. let me know what you think and more importantly what your point of reference is for thinking such things, awesome, thanx.

Edited by misteroakland

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Well, at this stage you should start to think broadly of what your goals actually are. Do you have a religious affiliation to which you feel strongly connected? If so, do you think a denominational seminary would best serve your goals (ask your denominational leaders where they went, or at least where they recommend you go)? Or do you imagine yourself in an ecumenical environment? Assuming you're already in Oakland, the Graduate Theological Union is right around the corner from you; the member seminaries all offer MDiv degrees, I would think. That might be a good place to start looking.

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My MDiv is from Union Theological Seminary in New York and I had a great experience there. Having served as a pastor for somewhere in the neighborhood of ten years, I was especially impressed with my colleagues who had graduated from Emory and from Wesley. They seemed very well prepared.

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Like the previous posters said, it all depends on your goals and your theological/academic preference. The Ivy League schools have popular M.Div. programs: Harvard Divinity, Yale Divinity, Princeton Seminary. Others popular ones are Univ. of Chicago Divinity, Vanderbilt Divinity, Emory/Candler, Duke Divinity. There are many many more that are also great. check out this site for a larger list:

http://www.ats.edu/MemberSchools/Pages/denom.aspx

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Really depends on your theological preference. Here's my list:

Fundamentalist/Evangelical

(Some of the below I wouldn't categorize Fundamentalist actually...)

Fuller

Gordon-Conwell

Asbury

Regent College

Mainline

Duke

Princeton Theological Seminary

Candler

Drew

Liberal

Yale

Harvard

I'm a current student at Duke and I'm biased. I love it here and highly recommend it.

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I am currently an MA student, but my first year in the program I took all the same intro classes as the first-year Ph.D students. Of them, the ones who seemed most knowledgable/best prepared had M* degrees from Duke Div or Asbury.

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I would make a plug for Gordon-Conwell if you are at all interested in getting and m.Div. from an evangelical perspective. GCTS is definitely not fundamentalist. Its evangelical commitments are explicit, but because it is a non-denominational school, it is not doctrinaire or closed-minded. The theology faculty right now in particular is extremely strong in my opinion, and you can get a tremendous grasp on the Christian tradition at GCTS. There are other very, very impressive people in other departments as well. As an m.Div. student, you learn both Greek and Hebrew which I think is essential to a really solid understanding of the biblical texts. Community is warm as well, though I assume (and hope!) this would be true at most seminaries/divinity schools. It has a beautiful and expansive campus (which matters!) in a tremendous location, just 5-10 minutes from the beach and even nearer to woods, trails, etc. Yet it is an easy drive from Boston, a terrific city. Furthermore, it is a member of the Boston Theological Institute, the largest theological consortium in the world, which grants virtually unlimited access to courses and libraries at any of eight other divinity schools in the area free of charge, including Harvard, BC, BU, which is an invaluable resource.

Edited by kalnds

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Notre Dame's M.Div. is fully funded, well structured, theologically substantive, and pastorally/spiritually formative. Most, but not all, students are Catholic. Lay students share classes and some formation with seminarians.

Edited by thekid

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hello gradcafe world, just got on this thing a few minutes ago. i am in need of some advice, perspective, outside opinions. where should i go to grad school to recieve an mdiv? okay, before you answer keep the following in mind. I want to teach, and eventually be a pastor if Jesus tells me to. oh, I also dont know anything about "popular" or "prestigious" schools so humor me a little. ive tried to google "top seminaries" etc, but nothing comes up. let me know what you think and more importantly what your point of reference is for thinking such things, awesome, thanx.

I agree with what has been said regarding the importance of the right theological and academic fit. I also know that can be hard to determine in advance, if you don't have a good frame of reference for hashing it out. I didn't have a good grasp on my theological leanings when I was applying, so in some ways, it might have behooved me to wait a couple of years, though I don't ultimately regret having gone when and where I did. I got my M.Div. from Yale Divinity, which is mainline/liberal; overall, it was not a great fit for me theologically, which could sometimes be alienating. However, I still had some excellent classes, and I finally figured out how to seek out good mentorship for myself. (That's another thing; I had naive expectations as to how spiritually formative the div school environment would be -- it is not necessarily something that happens easily or organically, and I had to figure out how to fit the intellectual and religious pieces together in a way that worked for me. That might be less the case in a smaller denominational seminary compared to a large ecumenical one, but I don't know.)

You can feel free to message me if you have any questions about Yale/the M.Div. experience. Also, my husband is getting his PhD at GTU right here in Berkeley, so between the two of us, we might be able to answer some questions you might have about life here (though we don't know a ton about each individual member school).

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There are already some great responses here. But I will add my two cents anyways...

It all depends on what you're looking for out of your seminary/divinity school experience. If you're looking for a program known for its academic rigor look into programs like Harvard, Yale, U of Chicago, Princeton Theological Seminary. If you're looking for programs where you will have a great time with the community and students; then it varies. I suggest visiting campuses and really researching them to feel out what is going to be the best match for you.

Since it sounds like you may want to teach and pastor, I would recommend looking into programs that offer dual degrees in MDiv and MA.

I really don't know what else to add, everyone else above offered some great advice already.

I applied to a variety of different seminaries that were known for different things, because I wasn't sure what I was really looking for. It's going to come down to academics for me; and which program will do the best at challenging me academically and preparing me for doctoral studies.

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I have to put in a shameless plug for my seminary. Multnomah Biblical Seminary in Portland Oregon was an amazing academic and formational experience! The school's motto is, "If you want Bible, you want Multnomah." They mean it, too! The community life there is more than I ever dreamed possible. Multnomah is generally a school for pastors and missionaries, but they are now branching out into counseling, teaching, and advanced academic preparation for doctoral studies with a new Th.M. program. So, if you want a very well rounded (academically rigorous, Scripturally sound, and spiritually formational) school, Multnomah would be a great choice. It is non-denominational and very evangelical.

The non-denominational component may or may not be a boon for your purposes. That I didn't go to a denominational school now poses a dificulty for me for ordination. I will have to complete a certificate program on top of the M.Div. I earned at Multnomah. If you are a Baptist or a non-demoninational Christian yourself, a non-denominational school may be great for you. In fact, it may even be better received. If you are a United Methodist or a Roman Catholic or some other denomination that prefers their own training for their ordinands, you may have to do extra work to prepare for ordination. It is something to consider when choosing the school for your M.Div. Talk to your church leaders. They may have recommendations for you. But, be careful of that, too. I was steered away from the denominational school I should have gone to because of internal church politics. That denominational school I had been looking at would have been easily as good as Multnomah and would have meant less work for me in the long run (Trinity School for Ministry). So, my advice here is to weigh your denominational needs and requirements with your desire for a well rounded education.

I have also heard great things about Gordon-Conwell, Regent College in B.C., Western Seminary, Dallas Theological, Wheaton College, and of course University of Notre Dame. Good luck with the decision!

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"Best" is not a theological category.

For what its worth, I just finished a degree at Regent College in British Columbia and I would highly recommend it. Not fundamentalist at all. Evangelical, yes. I am on the fringes of Evangelicalism, and I find the theological conversations here to be uniquely stimulating and free from the dominant American liberal/conservative ideologies. This is coupled with a serious desire to do theology for the Church, which is what it should be. But I am biased. If I didn't come here I would have gone to Duke.

Most importantly, if you are going to move somewhere for a few years it might as well be the most beautiful city in the world: Vancouver, BC.

If you are interested in pursuing doctoral work or concerned with intellectual seriousness, there are Regent alums at Oxford, Cambridge, St. Andrews, Endinburgh, and Aberdeen in the UK, and Baylor, Duke, Princeton, Yale, UCLA, Notre Dame, Fordham and Wheaton in the States. And that is across disciplines - from theology to biology to English lit. But that might be more of a reflection on the students that come here than the school itself.

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"Best" is not a theological category.

For what its worth, I just finished a degree at Regent College in British Columbia and I would highly recommend it. Not fundamentalist at all. Evangelical, yes. I am on the fringes of Evangelicalism, and I find the theological conversations here to be uniquely stimulating and free from the dominant American liberal/conservative ideologies. This is coupled with a serious desire to do theology for the Church, which is what it should be. But I am biased. If I didn't come here I would have gone to Duke.

Most importantly, if you are going to move somewhere for a few years it might as well be the most beautiful city in the world: Vancouver, BC.

If you are interested in pursuing doctoral work or concerned with intellectual seriousness, there are Regent alums at Oxford, Cambridge, St. Andrews, Endinburgh, and Aberdeen in the UK, and Baylor, Duke, Princeton, Yale, UCLA, Notre Dame, Fordham and Wheaton in the States. And that is across disciplines - from theology to biology to English lit. But that might be more of a reflection on the students that come here than the school itself.

Ah, a Hauerwasian :)

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As far as a general recommendation, I agree that Gordon-Conwell is excellent. Top-notch academic standards, ethical & caring faculty, access to elective courses at Harvard and the other B.T.I. schools, and a reputation as a “feeder school” to the best doctoral programs in the world.

More specifically, different schools have different strengths. It would help if you could share if there's a particular expertise you’d like to develop.

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Search, there are lots of threads about Vandy's program. I ended up rejecting their offer because they were fairly strict on what courses you could take (not bad for someone else, of course).

-Nick

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