Denominational Preparation

Instruction in denominational history and polity is offered in Area II of the curriculum and as an integral part of the work in a variety of courses. During their time at YDS, students are urged to consult with the proper denominational authorities with regard to particular denominational requirements for ordination. Students should be aware that most denominations require specific courses in history and polity.

Black Church Studies at Yale Divinity School

Black Church Studies (BCS) at Yale Divinity School supports interdenominational inquiry and engagement with the history, thought, and practices of African American churches and other Christian communities of African descent. To promote and cultivate such inquiry and engagement, BCS at YDS offers opportunities for critical reflection and practice among emerging and existing leaders in the Black Church and the broader community. 

Through colloquia, special lectures, and other culturally relevant events, BCS at YDS endeavors to create space for innovative and interdisciplinary thinking that responds to the evolving Black Church. BCS at YDS offers a Certificate in Black Church Studies for interested students who intend to serve in historically Black congregations and/or who are inspired by the rich traditions of the Black Church.

In consultation with their academic adviser and the director of BCS at YDS, students are required to complete a range of relevant course work consisting of at least twelve credit hours. In addition, students must attend at least one colloquium per term and complete an internship in a BCS-designated site.

The Episcopal Church

Most Episcopal students who come to Yale to prepare for vocations in lay and ordained ministries are enrolled in both Yale Divinity School and Berkeley Divinity School at Yale. As a seminary of the Episcopal Church, Berkeley is characterized by its unique setting within YDS, commitment to academic excellence, and vibrant community life. Berkeley continues its historic tradition of being open to the spectrum of perspectives within Anglicanism. In the Yale setting, divinity students enter one of the world’s premier centers for theological learning.

Berkeley students undertake, in addition to their Yale degree, a Diploma (M.Div. students) or Certificate (M.A.R. or S.T.M. students) in Anglican Studies. The Diploma in Anglican Studies includes courses in the canonical areas mandated by the Episcopal Church, a three-year colloquium series on leadership, participation in the Annand Program for Spiritual Formation, and regular attendance at chapel services. Additional seminars, workshops, and class retreats focus on the acquisition of skills for the practice of ministry. Study for the Certificate in Anglican Studies includes completion of at least three courses directly related to Anglicanism. Requirements for the diploma and certificate are listed in the Berkeley Divinity School Advising Customary. In addition, the Berkeley Rule of Life outlines expectations for students’ spiritual formation, participation in community life, and personal integrity.

All M.Div. students must complete a year of internship in a parish, school, or other approved setting, or a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education. Berkeley students typically undertake both a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education and one or two years of supervised parish or other internship.

Daily worship in the Anglican tradition is held in St. Luke’s Chapel, and on Wednesday evenings the Holy Eucharist is celebrated in Marquand Chapel. These services are open to all.

The Berkeley Center functions as a focal point of hospitality and community. It is located one block from the YDS campus and includes St. Luke’s Chapel, student accommodations, and the deanery.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Lutheran students are reminded that all candidates for ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America must register with their synod’s candidacy committee. Candidates are expected to affiliate with a Lutheran seminary and to plan a yearlong, full-time internship as part of their seminary career. Arrangements for internships are made through the Lutheran seminary with which the candidate is affiliated; arrangements for field placements in Lutheran churches are made through the Office of Vocation and Leadership.

Candidates for ordination enrolled at non-Lutheran seminaries are expected to fulfill expectations for Lutheran formation. Candidates meet this requirement through consultation with their candidacy committee or by completing course work at a Lutheran seminary.

The Lutheran Studies Program at Yale is designed to support candidates for ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The program has two components: activities supporting formation for ministry and a course of studies adopted by the Oversight Committee. Those participating in the formation for ministry component qualify for a Certificate in Lutheran Studies. Those participating in both components qualify for the Diploma in Lutheran Studies. For information about the program, contact Timothy Keyl, director of the Lutheran Studies Program.

United Methodist Church

United Methodists should keep in mind the ruling of the General Conference that candidates for both deacon and elder orders in an Annual Conference must include in their graduate theological studies the areas of Old Testament, New Testament, theology, church history, mission of the church in the world, evangelism, worship/liturgy, and United Methodist doctrine, polity, and history. The specific requirement for United Methodist doctrine, polity, and history is the equivalent of two credit hours in each of the fields. This requirement may be met by successful completion of REL 691 (Ecclesiology, Ministry, and Polity) and REL 696 (United Methodist History) when taken in sequence. Annual Conferences may have additional requirements for ordination beyond those specified in The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church. Many Annual Conferences require both a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education and one or two years of internship. Students should be in touch early in their seminary career with their Board of Ordained Ministry to determine specific requirements.

Candidates for ordination are reminded that they should contact their district superintendent and District Committee on Ordained Ministry to begin the candidacy process as described in The Book of Discipline. It is advisable to begin this process early in the seminary experience. Courtesy mentoring for candidates is sometimes possible through the Connecticut District of the New York Annual Conference.

Methodist Studies Certificate

YDS offers a Certificate Program in Methodist Studies. The objectives of this program are to create a Methodist ethos in which students can receive the courses and formation needed to prepare for ministry, to provide academic inquiry into the Wesleyan tradition with special attention to United Methodist as well as pan Methodist identities, and to create a community of students on campus who identify with the Methodist tradition. Students in the M.Div. program interested in the Methodist Studies Program are primarily those seeking ordination as deacons or elders in denominations rooted in the Wesleyan tradition such as the United Methodist, the Korean Methodist, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME), and African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AME Zion). Other degree students are also welcome. Requirements for certification include completion of courses necessary for ordination, one colloquy each term, and active participation in the Methodist Society at YDS.

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

The M.Div. program provides the course work needed to fulfill most requirements for ordination in the PCUSA. Presbyterian students need to be a member of a PCUSA congregation for at least six months before proceeding with plans for ordained ministry. Students should contact their Presbytery’s Committee on Preparation for Ministry to enroll as an inquirer, which begins with a conversation with the Session of the congregation where the student holds membership. The Book of Order of the PCUSA explains the process and the requirements for ordination, which include receiving an M.Div. degree, an internship, and in most cases a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education. Students should take the Presbyterian polity course offered in the fall before scheduling their ordination exams in polity and worship and sacraments. At least one course in Reformed theology should be taken before the ordination examination in theology. Ordination-bound students are required to take Greek and Hebrew languages and exegesis. The biblical exegesis exam requires basic competency in Biblical Hebrew and Koine Greek. Presbyterian students who wish to receive a Certificate in Reformed Studies must also complete the requirements for that program.

Reformed Studies Certificate

Students may complete a Certificate in Reformed Studies at YDS. Drawing on the considerable resources of those faculty members who identify themselves with the tradition, and the students from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), United Church of Christ, Reformed Church in America, Presbyterian Church in America, Christian Reformed Church, and Disciples of Christ, YDS has formed a broad-based community of people committed to exploring the historical and contemporary issues facing the Reformed churches. The purpose of the certificate is to demonstrate to presbyteries and other denominational bodies that, while at YDS, students in the Reformed tradition are offered the courses and formation needed for ministerial preparation; are provided a knowledge and awareness of what it is to be a part of that Reformed tradition; and have access to communities that identify as Reformed. In addition to the courses required for completion of the certificate—which include courses in Reformed theology, history, worship, preaching, and polity—as well as required attendance at colloquium gatherings, there are specific denominational requirements that students should be aware of, including, for instance, the requirements in biblical languages of the PCUSA. Students interested in enrolling in the certificate program should contact Professor Bruce Gordon or Maria LaSala, coordinator of the Reformed Studies Program.

Roman Catholic Church

Since the Second Vatican Council (1961–65), Roman Catholic faculty, staff, and students have played an important role at YDS. In addition to the available course offerings in Roman Catholic theology, Catholic students have also availed themselves of the variety of courses in other Christian traditions, many of which are directly relevant to studies in Roman Catholicism. Many students in the Master of Divinity program prepare for service in the Roman Catholic Church as lay ministers. And students enrolled in the Master of Arts in Religion or Master of Sacred Theology programs often prepare for service in educational institutions or social services.

The YDS Catholic community, an informal body of students, staff, and faculty, provides opportunities for spiritual and human formation through prayer, fellowship, discussion, and lectures throughout the academic year. The Catholic community also gathers for Mass, which is celebrated regularly on the YDS campus and is often followed by a social gathering with refreshments. As emphasized in Lumen Gentium: Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life,” and indeed all ministries, and all the other sacraments, are bound up with and flow from the Eucharist.

Given YDS’s proximity to the wider New Haven community, there are numerous opportunities to engage in student-initiated volunteer ministries or social outreach in partnership with community organizations. Opportunities for worship, internship, and formation experience are also available through the Saint Thomas More Catholic Chapel & Center at Yale University, https://stm.yale.edu. As YDS welcomes students from a diversity of religious traditions and denominations, students have the unique opportunity to engage in ecumenical dialogue and worship. Liturgies at Marquand Chapel offer a chance to engage in ecumenical worship, and the Annand Program of Berkeley Divinity School provides occasions for spiritual direction. Each of the programs in which the Catholic community engages is intended to deepen student awareness of the ways they can serve the Church through education, parish ministry, and pastoral care, while also cultivating friendships and support among themselves and the broader YDS community.

A Catholic Lay Ministerial Studies Certificate is available to both M.Div. and M.A.R. students through participation in the Catholic Lay Ministerial Studies Program at Yale Divinity School. The program provides Catholic students with an integrated approach to theological education and preparation for lay ministry in the Catholic Church, encompassing both their program of study and their spiritual formation for ministry. The former is addressed by a compulsory curriculum with distribution requirements similar to those of Catholic seminaries. The latter is addressed by a program of formation for ministry that includes retreats, spiritual direction, community formation, an ongoing colloquium on the practice of ministry in the Catholic tradition, and opportunities for worship and social interaction. This program is informed by the principles outlined in Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord: A Resource for Guiding the Development of Lay Ecclesial Ministry, a 2005 publication of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The director of the program is Fr. Ryan Lerner, chaplain of Yale’s Saint Thomas More Center.

A series of colloquia focused on formation for lay ministry is offered to participants in the Catholic Lay Ministerial Studies Program. The specific topics covered vary from year to year, depending on the interests of the leader of the colloquium, but include Catholic church governance, canon law, Catholic social teaching, recent encyclicals, catechetical tools and instruction, church finance systems, and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). Those chosen as leaders of the colloquia are familiar with lay Catholic ministry and include persons actively engaged in various forms of lay and ordained Catholic ministry. Participants are also expected to take part in ongoing spiritual direction, coordinated by the director of Catholic Lay Ministerial Studies.

All students seeking to earn the Catholic Lay Ministerial Studies Certificate are expected to participate in the ongoing sacramental and community life of a Catholic worship community, whether at YDS, Saint Thomas More Catholic Chapel & Center, Saint Mary’s Parish in New Haven, or one of the other local Catholic parishes. More information can be found at https://divinity.yale.edu/academics/vocation-and-leadership/denominational-programs/roman-catholic-church.

United Church of Christ and American Baptist Churches USA

The presence of Andover Newton Seminary at Yale Divinity School is the result of an affiliation initiated in 2016 between Yale Divinity School and the former Andover Newton Theological School. The shared purpose of this partnership is the support of ministerial preparation in historically congregational churches, in keeping with Andover Newton’s mission: “Deeply rooted in Christian faith, and radically open to what God is doing now, Andover Newton Seminary at Yale Divinity School educates inspiring leaders for faith communities.” At YDS, Andover Newton carries out that mission by guiding students exploring a sense of call to ministry in congregations through a series of integrative educational experiences that help them craft a ministerial identity and set of competencies for effective service to God, church, and community.

Andover Newton offers a nondegree diploma to students who wish to prepare for ministry in locally governed faith communities. The seminary’s key partners are the United Church of Christ and the American Baptist Churches USA, two denominations with particularly strong traditions of congregationally based polities. However, students from all mainline and progressive Baptist denominations and all U.S.-based congregational traditions are also welcome. Students who intend to enroll in the Andover Newton program are invited to express their interest when they apply for admission to the YDS Master of Divinity program, although M.A.R. students with a previous M.Div. equivalency and S.T.M. students are also invited to apply. The Andover Newton application process involves a personal reflection and interview with a member of Andover Newton’s administration or affiliate faculty. The Andover Newton initiative interweaves seamlessly with Yale Divinity School’s M.Div. program.

The components of Andover Newton’s program include a two-term colloquium focused on ministerial competencies of integration, community-building, compassion and justice, perspicacity, leadership, and spirituality; two further colloquia on Bible study and worship as a means of community-building; a border-crossing immersion local or travel seminar addressing social justice from a cross-cultural position; instruction in denominational polity; an expectation that students take an introductory course in pastoral care and counseling; Clinical Pastoral Education and a pre-CPE seminar for the sake of preparation and integration; internship in a congregation among one of Andover Newton’s signature sites; and 4.5 credit hours in organizational management, at least partly to be fulfilled at the Yale School of Management. More information is available to students at https://andovernewton.yale.edu.

In addition to its diploma program, Andover Newton welcomes all members of the YDS community to become involved in its courses and activities. Except for Colloquia I–V (REL 3797, REL 3798, REL 3901, REL 3902, and REL 3905), all YDS students are invited to participate in any of Andover Newton’s educational programs. Weekly worship, Emmaus, is open to the entire Yale community as well as neighborhood friends.