Master of Religious Leadership

Overview of the Program

The Master of Religious Leadership (MRL) is designed to enhance the leadership potential of those interested in Christian service. The MRL aims to prepare students for forms of ministry beyond congregational-based pastoral ministry. These areas include pastoral care, conflict transformation, missions, music, worship leadership, and ministries with youth. This program offers students interested in specialized ministries a graduate theological program that provides a biblical, historical and practical foundation for their work. All students enrolled in the Candler MRL degree will upon its completion be able to:

  • conduct a social analysis of their context of ministry;
  • engage practices of ministry appropriate to their context and role; and
  • locate their particular ministerial practice within a broader understanding of theology and leadership.

Curricular Requirements

The 48-credit hour curriculum is structured to be completed in two years of fulltime study; the maximum length of time allowed to complete the program is six years. Students must complete the following courses and requirements in the Master of Religious Leadership curriculum.

Common Courses

  • SR/CC515. Methods of Social and Congregational Analysis (3 hours)

Contextual Education Experience

  • CE545R. Internship (up to 6 hours) or
  • CE546. Clinical Pastoral Education (up to 6 hours) Students must complete six hours of contextualized education in social ministry or ecclesial settings aligned with the program's five concentrations.

CE545R may be taken for a maximum of six credit hours. Each hour of CE545R credit requires 42 hours of work in the internship setting. Up to six academic credits are awarded for the successful completion of one unit of CPE. (See additional information regarding internships and Clinical Pastoral Education page).

Common Requirements

Students will complete 15 hours of additional foundational studies in leadership, biblical studies, history of Christianity, ethics and society, systematic theology, and church and community ministries or mission.

Area of Specialization

Students must complete 18 hours in their chosen area of specialization.

Mission, Evangelism, and World Christianity

This specialization produces practitioners who are critically aware of the complexity of the church universal as it engages in God's mission in the world.

Students enrolled in the Mission, Evangelism, and World Christianity Specialization will be able to:

  • understand the theological dimensions of mission and evangelism;
  • appreciate the importance of cultural and contextual analysis in mission, evangelism, and world Christianity; and
  • acquire skills for cross-cultural and cross-racial ministry.

Justice, Peacebuilding, and Conflict Transformation

This specialization contributes to the formation of religious leaders who are equipped to engage conflict constructively within their congregations and communities.

Students enrolled in the Justice, Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation Specialization will be able to:

  • mediate a dispute;
  • facilitate a circle process;
  • conduct a conflict analysis and an assessment of peacebuilding resources; and
  • reflect theologically on conflict, violence, and conflict transformation.

Pastoral Care

This specialization prepares persons to provide general pastoral care in congregational and community settings. It also provides initial training for those who may seek more advanced training in pastoral theology or pastoral counseling.

Students enrolled in the Pastoral Care Specialization will be able to:

  • understand pastoral care as a theological discipline and as a ministry of the church;
  • develop basic skills in pastoral assessment and constructing a plan of care;
  • develop intercultural competency in pastoral care; and
  • integrate theology and theories from human sciences and in practice of care.

Ministries with Youth

This specialization prepares students for a range of ministries with youth in and beyond the congregation.

Students enrolled in the Ministries with Youth Specialization will be able to:

  • develop innovative and collaborative models of ministries with youth;
  • design curriculum and plan programs that engage youth in practices of leadership, discernment, and ongoing formation;
  • provide pastoral care to youth; and
  • understand and apply developmental theory in the context of Ministries with Youth.

Wesleyan Leadership and Heritage

This specialization prepares students for lay ministry in Methodist/Wesleyan contexts. This specialization also allows United Methodist students over the age of 35 who already hold a master's degree in their area of ministry work to complete the United Methodist Basic Graduate Theological Studies (BGTS) requirements in order to seek ordination as a Deacon. Students enrolled in the Wesleyan Leadership and Heritage Specialization will be able to:

  • understand and engage practices of evangelism and worship leadership
  • place their own ministry work in the larger context of Wesleyan/Methodist history, beliefs, and practices.

Worship and Music

This specialization equips music and worship leaders and directors with creative and faithful ways to integrate music and worship.

Students enrolled in the Worship and Music Specialization will be able to:

  • plan and lead worship, in a variety of styles and across the liturgical calendar; and
  • place contemporary worship practices in historical context.

Degree Requirements

To qualify for the MRL degree, a candidate must complete the following requirements:

  • SR/CC515. Methods of Social and Congregational Analysis (3 hours)

  • 6 hours of contextualized education (CE545R or CE546R)

  • 15 hours in core courses selected from across the major disciplinary areas of theological study, including:

    • 3 hours in Ethics and Society (any ES course; students in JPACT concentration are encouraged to take ES501)
    • 3 hours in Systematic Theology (any ST course)
    • 3 hours in Leadership and Administration (any LA course)
    • 6 hours in Bible (Old or New Testament) (any OT or NT course; students in Wesleyan Leadership and Heritage should take one OT and one NT)
    • 3 hours in History (any HC course)
    • 3 hours in Church and Community Ministries (any CC course) or Mission (any M course) (students in Wesleyan Leadership and Heritage should choose an M course).
  • 18 hours in a student's chosen specialization.

Area of Specialization Courses

Mission, Evangelism, and World Christianity

The MEWC Specialization requires a minimum of six credits in mission, six credits in evangelism and six credits in world Christianity courses. Courses that would meet these requirements include:

  • EV501. Enabling an Evangelizing Church
  • EV511. Issues in Renewal and Revitalization of the Church
  • EV642. Religion, Culture, and Mission in Latin America
  • EV697. World Methodist Evangelism Seminar
  • M609. Global Church in God’s Mission
  • M/HC610. Survey of African Christianity: From Apollos to Adelaja
  • M612. The Church in Asia
  • M619. Social Mission of the Christian Church
  • M635. Globalization and the Church’s Mission
  • M642. Religion, Culture, and Mission in Latin America
  • M647. Theologies and Ecclesiologies of Brazil
  • M655. The Church on the Border
  • M675/HC675. Modern Christianity as a Global Phenomenon
  • M697. World Methodist Evangelism Seminar
  • HC509. Making of Global Christianity
  • SR615. Immigration, Religion, and the American Church

Justice, Peacebuilding, and Conflict Transformation

JPCT requires three credits of conflict transformation skills (ES671 and 672). The remaining 15 credits should include courses in nonviolence, restorative justice, and violence and peacebuilding. Students may choose among courses such as:

  • ST647. Theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • ST659. Theology of Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • ES658. Christianity and the Holocaust
  • ES669. Theology of Ethics and Reconciliation
  • ES678. Morality of Peace and War
  • ES663. Religion, Violence and Peacebuilding
  • ES673. Voices of Nonviolence
  • ES675. Restorative Justice
  • ES609/M619. Theology of Social Ministry
  • M655/CC655. The Church on the Border
  • SR/CC617. Memory, Culture, and Redemption
  • SR620/CC619. Nonviolent Strategies of Social Change
  • SR621. Howard Thurman: Spirituality and Community
  • RE527. Peacebuilding with Youth: Unlearning Violence, Learning Nonviolence
  • RE645. Teaching Peace in Congregations
  • WR614. Socially Engaged Buddhism

Pastoral Care

Students specializing in Pastoral Care will take PC502 and may choose PC offerings, including any of the following, for their remaining 15 units:

  • PC610. Crisis Ministry
  • PC615. Theological Dimensions of Pastoral Care
  • PC620. Short-Term Counseling in the Parish
  • PC628. Care for Marginalized Populations
  • PC640. Pastoral Care of Women: International Perspectives
  • PC645. Spiritual Care in African Religious Traditions
  • PC/RP660. Reading Lives: Narrative and Pastoral Care
  • PC650. International Perspectives on Pastoral Care
  • PC698. Special Topics in Pastoral Care
  • CE546R. Clinical Pastoral Education (three hours maximum)

Ministries with Youth

Students specializing in Ministries with Youth are required to take:

  • RE501. Religious Education as Formation and Transformation
  • At least one Ministries with Youth course, such as RE517. Introduction to Ministries with Youth, RE526. Empowering Youth for Global Citizenship or RE527. Peacebuilding with Youth: Unlearning Violence, Learning Nonviolence
  • PC502. Pastoral Care in Congregation and Community
  • Either RP648. Readings in Psychology of Religion or ES/RP/RE649. Moral Development and Education

The remaining six units can include courses such as:

  • RE515. The Art of Teaching
  • RE517. Introduction to Youth Ministry
  • RE526. Empowering Youth for Global Citizenship
  • RE527. Peacebuilding with Youth: Unlearning Violence, Learning Nonviolence
  • RE540. Teaching the Bible
  • RE610. Be(com)ing Christian: Theology, Education, and Public Life
  • RE636. Religious Education and Our Ecological Context
  • RE645. Teaching Peace in the Congregation
  • PC628. Care for Marginalized Populations

Wesleyan Leadership and Heritage

Students specializing in WLATT will take courses in:

Evangelism and Worship Leadership
  • EVxxx Any course in Evangelism (3 hours)
  • Wxxx Any course in Worship (3 hours)
Methodist History, Doctrine, and Polity
  • DS501. Methodist History and Doctrine (3 hours)
  • DS502. Methodist History and Polity (3 hours)

The remaining courses, chosen from the list below and not already used to fulfill other general or Area of Specialization requirements, fulfill the final 6 hours for the Area of Specialization:

  • CC502. Church and Community Development (3 hours)
  • DS698. Special Topics in Denominational Studies: General Conference (1-3 hours)
  • ES609/M619. Special Mission of the Church (3 hours)
  • ES615. John Wesley's Ethics (3 hours)
  • ES621. Christiain Sexual Ethics (3 hours)
  • ES628. Religion, Ethics, and Civil Rights (3 hours)
  • ES632. Pastoral Ethics (3 hours)
  • ES663. Religion, Violence, and Peacebuilding (3 hours)
  • ES669. Theology and Ethics of Reconciliation (3 hours)
  • ES671. Skills in Conflict Transformation I (1 hour)
  • ES672. Skills in Conflict Transformation II (3 hours)
  • ES/LA560. Principles and Practices of Moral Leadership (3 hours)
  • HC616. Pietism: The Development of Modern Piety (3 hours)
  • HC619. Reforming the Church and the People: 16th Century Models (3 hours)
  • HC/SR633. African American Religion and Culture (3 hours)
  • HC646. Method of Early Methodism (3 hours)
  • HC647. The Holiness Movement and American Methodism (3 hours)
  • HC/W699. History and Theology of Eucharistic Worship (3 hours)
  • M609. The Church's Mission in the World (3 hours)
  • M/SR634. Globalization and the Church's Mission (3 hours)
  • PT501. Introduction of Practical Theology
  • PT503. Vocational Discernment for a Sustained Life in Ministry (3 hours)
  • PT515. The Art and Practice of Christian Prayer (3 hours)
  • PT615. Good Food (3 hours)
  • PT625. Cross-Cultural Communication (2 hours)
  • PT550. Contemporary Wesleyan Spirituality and the Means of Grace (3 hours)
  • PT600. Creative Writing as Theological and Spiritual Practice (3 hours)
  • PT/CC633. Fearless Dialogues (3 hours)
  • RE501. Religious Education as Formation and Transformation (3 hours)
  • RE610. Be(com)ing Christian: Theology, Education, and Public Life (3 hours)
  • SR620/CC619. Nonviolent Strategies for Social Change (3 hours)
  • SR631. Gender, Sexuality, and Raxe in Methodist Church (3 hours)
  • SR640. Civil Rights Heritage Tour (1 hour)
  • SR/CC650. Faith and Health: Transforming Communities (3 hours)
  • ST605. Providence, Evil, and Suffering (3 hours)
  • ST607. Doctrine of God: Women's Voices Past and Present (3 hours)
  • ST631. Christian Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and Renewal (3 hours)
  • ST/ES641. Christology and Ethics (3 hours)
  • ST/W627. Theology of Church and Sacraments (3 hours)
  • ST/W628. Liturgical Theology (3 hours)
  • WR/M675. Interfaith Dialogue as Congregational Mission (3 hours) Any course that applies to student's area of ministry, with approval of Area of Specialization Advisor in conversation with the Academic Dean and Registrar.

Worship and Music

Students specializing in Worship and Music are required to take W501. Public Worship and W638. Planning Christian Worship. Students should work closely with their advisors to achieve a balance of method and theory in their remaining 12 units, choosing from courses such as:

  • CM530R. Candler Chorale (six hours maximum)
  • CM550R. Candler Voices of Imani (six hours maximum)
  • CM600. Candler Singers (six hours maximum)
  • CM610. Congregational Song
  • CM615. Introduction to Church Music
  • CM620. Music and Worship in the Black Church
  • W503. Global Perspectives in Christian Worship
  • W603. Liturgy, Spirituality, and Community Formation
  • W622, W623, W624. Practica in Liturgical Leadership
  • W632. Contemporary Christian Worship: Origins, Theory, Practice
  • W642, 643, 644, 646, 648. Practica in Worship
  • W/HC669. The History and Theology of Eucharistic Worship
  • HC617. Early Christian Worship
  • ST/W627. Theology of the Church and Sacraments
  • ST/W628. Liturgical Theology
  • ST631. Christian Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and Renewal

Credit Hours

In fulfilling the 48 hours required to complete the MRL degree, students may not exceed the following limits: 6 hours internship; 6 hours clinical pastoral education (Pastoral Care area of specialization); 3 hours course(s) taken on S/U basis (area of specialization course(s) only); 12 hours of summer courses; 9 hours for Atlanta Theological Association cross-registration (up to 6 hours toward area of specialization requirements), counted as transfer credit; 15 total hours for transfer credit (up to 6 hours toward area of specialization requirements), including ATA cross-registration; and, 3 hours for directed study (area of specialization credit only, with permission of the academic dean).

GPA Requirements

Courses taken to fulfill Common Course requirements, Common Requirements, and area of specialization requirements must earn a letter grade of at least C., i.e. 2.0 on a scale of 4.0. Students may elect to take one area of specialization course S/U with instructor permission. Students who earn less than a C in a course will not receive credit for the course toward the degree, though it will remain as part of the student’s academic record. Students who earn less than a C in a course may choose to retake the course. However, the same course cannot be counted more than once toward the total credit hours for graduation.

Advising and Assessment

In addition to the curricular requirements listed above, students in the MRL program are required to be advised each semester. Any student who fails to meet with his or her faculty advisor during the advising period will have a hold placed on registration until advising has taken place.

In the final semester of the MRL program, students will compile a program portfolio and submit it to their adviser, program director, and the registrar via a secure Emory Box folder provided by the registrar. The portfolio will include the following documents:

  • A two-page self-reflection on work done in the degree program and evaluation of the progress made on learning outcomes as well as plans beyond graduation
  • Supervisor and self-evaluations from the internship portion of the degree (Contextual Education, Internship, or CPE)
  • Copy of the final project for the internship if CE545R was used to fulfill the internship portion of the degree
  • Contextual analysis paper from SR/CC515
  • Paper or project from an advanced elective within the Area of Specialization (AoS) that demonstrates a concentration of the specific learning outcomes for the AoS
  • A paper from a Common Requirement course taken in the last two semesters of the program; if no Common Requirement course was taken in the final part of the program, a paper from any Common Requirement course may be substituted

Residence

Students must complete a minimum of four full-time equivalent semesters, to include at least three fall/spring semesters with not more than 12 total summer term hours. The last two semesters of the program must be complete at Candler. Students in good standing at other seminaries accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, or at other regionally accredited universities where they are studying religion at the graduate level, may, with approval, transfer up to 15 credit hours. A maximum of 9 hours taken through cross-registration at Atlanta Theological Association (ATA) schools may be applied toward the degree, counted as transfer credit. Upon transfer of 15 hours, no additional transfer work or ATA cross-registration work will be allowed. Students who transfer into the MRL program must complete a minimum of three semesters with at least 33 Candler semester hours. The MRL is structured to be completed in two years of full-time study. The maximum length of time allowed to complete the program is six calendar years.

Transfer Credit

Students in good standing at other seminaries accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, or at other regionally accredited universities where they are studying religion at the graduate level, may be admitted as transfer students. These students may receive transfer credit approval for up to 15 credit hours for courses in which they earn a grade of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale (84 on a numerical scale). Up to Six hours may be applied to area of specialization requirements. See the detailed MRL program transfer credit policy page.

Application for the Degree

At the beginning of the semester in which a student plans to graduate, the candidate must submit a formal application for the Master of Religious Leadership degree before the deadline stated in the academic calendar.

The Application for Degree is available in OPUS during a window of time set by the university registrar each semester, approximately four weeks prior to the submission deadline. A separate application is required for each degree received. Failure to apply on time will result in a $25 late fee and a paper application must be filed.

Admission

Admission to the MRL degree program requires a bachelor of arts, bachelor of science, or equivalent degree, with a well-balanced program in liberal arts and a grade point average of 2.75 on a 4.0 scale from a regionally accredited college or university. Strong candidates, including those who have been out of college for a number of years, are encouraged to apply. All completed applications, regardless of the GPA of the applicant, will be fully reviewed by the admissions committee.

Students enrolled as MDiv, MRPL, MTS, or special students at Candler may apply for admission to the MRL program. A new application with supporting materials must be submitted. If the applicant is admitted, coursework completed satisfactorily by an MDiv, MRPL, MTS, or special student will be considered toward the MRL degree. The registrar will determine which credits may be applied to the MRL program. Students in good standing at other seminaries accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, or at other regionally accredited universities where they are studying religion at the graduate level, may be admitted as transfer students. These students may receive transfer credit approval for up to 15 credit hours for courses in which they earned a grade of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale (84 on a numerical scale). Up to six hours may be applied to track requirements. See detailed MRL program transfer credit policy page.

Application Deadline

Offers of admission to the MRL program are made on a rolling admissions basis between November and August of each year. When an application is complete, it will be reviewed by the Admissions Committee. Typically a decision will be reached within three weeks. For priority scholarship consideration, applications should be submitted by January 15 for the fall semester. Applications received after January 15 will be considered for scholarship, based on the availability of funds. The final deadline for application is July 1 for the fall semester. The priority scholarship and final deadline for admission for the spring semester is December 1.

Those admitted who do not matriculate at the time for which they were admitted may request, in writing, a deferral of status for one academic year. All application materials for those who do not matriculate and who do not request an enrollment deferral will be kept on file for one academic year, after which applicants will be expected to submit a new application for admission to be considered for study in a future semester.

Applications for the MRL program are not accepted for the summer term, although applicants may request admission for the summer term as special students.

Application Procedures

Applicants should apply online at http://application.candler.emory.edu/apply. For further information, contact the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, Candler School of Theology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia 30322, telephone 404.727.6326, fax 404.727.2915, email candleradmissions@emory.edu.

To be considered for admission to the MRL degree program, an applicant must supply the admissions office with the following:

  1. Application for admission.

  2. $50 nonrefundable application fee paid online or by mail (check or money order made payable to Emory University).

  3. Résumé.

  4. Autobiographical statement: The three to four-page typed, double-spaced autobiographical statement is a critical element in the evaluation of your application. Please consider your response carefully, tending to content, style, grammatical correctness, and essay organization. The statement is a way to introduce yourself to the Admissions Committee. It also will help faculty advisers guide and evaluate your learning experience in your program. With this in mind, write a reflective essay about your life that addresses the following:

    • Significant life experiences that have affected your view of self, God, and the world. Include references to family members and significant others, courses, and experiences in college, church, service-related activities, and employment.
    • Aspects of your background that inform the unique perspective you would add to the diverse and vibrant community that exists at Candler School of Theology.
    • Reasons for applying to Candler School of Theology and the ways in which study in one of the Master of Religious Leadership concentrations—Mission, Evangelism, and World Christianity; Justice, Peacebuilding, and Conflict Transformation; Pastoral Care; Ministries with Youth; or Worship and Music—will enhance your ministry.
    • Your understanding of vocation, your own call to ministry, and plans following completion of study at Candler School of Theology.
  5. A sample of recent academic writing.

  6. Official transcripts from all colleges, universities, graduate schools, and seminaries, regardless of when the applicant attended, how many hours completed, and whether a degree was granted. Official transcripts should be sent directly from these institutions or delivered in a sealed and signed envelope. If currently enrolled at an institution, the applicant should send an official transcript of work to date and ask that a transcript be sent promptly following the completion of the term and/or conferral of a degree.

  7. Three letters of recommendation from persons who are not family members: one academic reference, provided by college or graduate school professors; one pastoral reference, provided by a pastor, chaplain, campus minister, or equivalent; one professional reference, provided by a work supervisor or a person who has known the applicant for three or more years. If you are currently a student, you may submit a second academic recommendation in lieu of a professional recommendation. Applicants who have been out of college for more than five years and are unable to secure an academic reference should submit additional work or character references. Students who have been enrolled previously at another theological institution must provide a letter certifying that they leave the school as students in good standing.

  8. The Admissions Committee welcomes, but does not require, the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). GRE scores, while not required, may be considered in an application if applicants submit them. The institution code for Candler is 5198.

  9. Persons whose first language is not English must furnish, with the application, recent evidence of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) with a score of at least 95 (Internet-based total) with a minimum score of 21 or higher in each of the four sub-areas, 250 (computer-based total), or 600 (paperbased total). The TOEFL results should be submitted directly from TOEFL to Candler (Institutional Code: 5455, Department 01). Applicants whose first language is not English are strongly encouraged to complete an intensive English course, at an institution in your home country, for at least six months prior to enrollment.

  10. A criminal background check is required of all students prior to enrollment at the expense of the student (approximately $18) through a vendor designated by the school. Candler School of Theology will provide information regarding the process of securing the required background check in early spring to admitted students. Reports from criminal background checks are due August 15. Students will not be allowed to register for classes— including internships—until the results of this report have been received and reviewed. Any student for whom the criminal background check has not been received by August 15 will forfeit the opportunity to participate in any program of Contextual Education for one year. Results of the criminal background check can impact placement in Contextual Education sites and may be released to a site supervisor.

  11. Stewards of Children—Adults Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse online training is required of first year MDiv and MRL students and those enrolled for internships. The training is offered on-line and at the expense of the school. Students will not be allowed to register for classes—including internships—until notification of completed training is received. Notification must be received by August 15 in the fall or December 15 to participate in a spring internship. Additional information about the Stewards of Children training will be provided to incoming students following admission.

  12. SAP-G training is required of all degree and nondegree students. SAP-G is an online learning platform designed to educate students on preventing and responding to interpersonal violence, including sexual assault, harassment, domestic violence, and stalking, in the Emory community. The training is offered at the expense of the school. Students will not be allowed to register for classes until notification of the completion of part I is received. Notification must be received by August 15 for fall enrollment or December 15 for spring enrollment. Part II of the training is completed six weeks after part I. Notification of completion of part II is required by October 15 for fall enrollees or March 15 for spring enrollees.

  13. All incoming Emory students must meet the CDC and American College Health Association immunization guidelines prior to registration for classes. For additional information, please see page 101. To access the Entrance Health Survey and Consent for Treatment Forms, visit http://studenthealth.emory.edu. In addition to supplying the above documents, international students (persons who are not US citizens or permanent residents) must comply with the following:

Upon admission, and before the visa process can begin, international students must complete the Emory University Financial Certificate, which indicates adequate financial resources to cover tuition, fees, travel, and living expenses for the first year of study in the United States. (An I-20 will not be prepared until this certificate has been approved; it must be approved by the university before July 1 for the fall semester and November 15 for the spring semester.)

International students will be billed automatically for health insurance through Emory University unless insurance compliance information indicating proof of comparable United States–based coverage is submitted by July 1. Information regarding insurance for international students can be found online at http://emory.edu/ISSS/students/index.htm.

Admission Deposit

A nonrefundable admission deposit of $100 is required of all students enrolling at Candler School of Theology. This deposit is required by April 1 for fall admission, or within three weeks of notification of admission to the degree program, in order to secure the student’s place in the program. The deposit will be posted as a credit to the student’s Emory University account; students who pay the deposit but fail to enroll will forfeit the deposit.