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Master of Arts in Religious Leadership: Master of Arts in Religious Leadership:

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Master of Arts in Religious Leadership:

Posted on Fri, Oct 15, 2021

New Degree Program at Payne Theological Seminary

During the uncertainty of the global pandemic, Association of Theological Schools (ATS) schools have fared better in fall 2020 in terms of enrollment better than they have in preceding years. Of the 252 schools reporting, 135-or 54%-have shown enrollment increases. Relative to enrollment in specific degree programs, the October 28, 2020, ATS enrollment report shows member schools are experiencing a 58% decrease in persons pursuing the MDiv degree across the United States and Canada. With 91% of ATS schools reporting, there is an interesting trend in which 61% of incoming seminary students are looking to pursue a professional master’s degree.

Payne Seminary has created a two-year professional Master of Arts in Religious Leadership (MARL) to be offered Spring 2022. On June 8, 2021, ATS granted Payne approval to offer its third degree program, the MARL. With the enrollment trend moving upward in the Master of Arts category and considering the MDiv decline across ATS member schools, offering the MARL will enable Payne’s effort to diversify enrollment. This would allow Payne to be proactive in its offerings of degree programs and remain competitive. Also, Payne will be prepared, if there is a downward shift in the MDiv degree program offering, as we were prepared to meet the challenge of this global pandemic; having the unique ability to offer the MDiv 100% online. 

The MARL degree is designed with an Africentric perspective for persons not seeking the ordained ministry, although ordained clergypersons, without MDiv degrees, can be afforded the opportunity to pursue theological education through the MARL degree program. The degree will give recognition to lay ministry in the tradition of Methodism, the priesthood of all believers, and acknowledge that laity in ministry must reflect the highest standards of excellence, relevance, and timeliness in its partnership with ordained ministry. The MARL degree will also equip those persons in unordained ministry’s roles to engage in theological training to fill positions of leadership in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and other faith-based opportunities. Presently, Payne offers a Lay Leadership Training Certificate Program to interested persons in lay ministry across the connectional African Methodist Episcopal Church, particularly, and to laypersons in other denominations and non-denominations. The MARL will extend the opportunity to those persons completing the certificate program to advance to a theological degree program, the MARL. 

Payne Theological Seminary is committed to providing each student with the maximum opportunity to develop and learn. As such, we accept new students each semester. Students wishing to be admitted to the Master of Arts in Religious Leadership should hold the bachelor’s degree based upon the completion of work at a college or university approved by one of the regional accrediting agencies with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Students from foreign institutions of collegiate standing may be admitted if they present satisfactory evidence of having completed studies equivalent to comparable institutions in the United States. A graduate of an unaccredited U.S. school may be admitted only as a Special Student. A certificate in Lay Leadership Training is preferred but not required. An official transcript of all college, graduate, and seminary work undertaken must be submitted. Two letters of recommendation-one from the applicant’s pastor or supervisor at their place of employment and one from other persons, preferably college professors, who are familiar with the student’s academic ability. The application for admission must be completed online and submitted along with an application fee of $50, which can be mailed in the form of a check, money order, or online by credit card. The applicant to the MARL degree must submit a written 750-1,000-word essay on the subject, “What Is the Value of a Theological Education to Me?” Included in the essay should be the motives for entering the Christian Lay Ministry and those persons, influences and religious experiences that led to choosing a vocation.

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