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 a supervised ministry 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. To this day, 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 seven 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 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 supervised ministry in a parish, school, or other approved setting, or a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education. Most dioceses of the Episcopal Church require both a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education and one or two years of supervised parish internship before ordination.

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 Supervised Ministries.

Candidates for ordination enrolled at non-Lutheran seminaries are expected to fulfill expectations for Lutheran formation. Candidates often meet this requirement 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 supervised ministry. 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 PCUSA, UCC, RCA, PCA, CRC, 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; to answer student requests for a greater knowledge and awareness of what it is to be a part of that Reformed tradition; and to build community among those on campus who identify with the Reformed tradition. 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 and students have played an important role at YDS. Because the majority of the students are members of the laity who cannot at the present time become candidates for ordination in the Catholic Church, no formal programs for priestly formation currently exist at YDS. However, many Catholic students at YDS are enrolled in the M.Div. program and are preparing to serve as lay ecclesial ministers in the Catholic Church. Students enrolled in the M.A.R. and S.T.M. programs are preparing for service in educational and social service environments.

In order to provide a formative experience for all these students, the YDS Catholic community has been established as an informal body of students, staff, and faculty who gather throughout the academic year for worship, meals, and lectures. Mass is celebrated regularly on the YDS campus, followed by refreshments and socializing with fellow students and Catholic members of the faculty and staff. Throughout the year different activities, such as small prayer groups or volunteer groups committed to working in underprivileged areas of New Haven, develop according to the interests and needs of the students. Opportunities for supervised ministry and formation experience are also available through the St. Thomas More Catholic Chaplaincy at Yale. The variety of denominations and traditions represented at YDS allows students a rich opportunity to engage in ecumenical dialogue and worship in addition to their studies. The Annand Program of Berkeley Divinity School provides occasions for spiritual direction in which Roman Catholics regularly participate. Each of the programs in which the Catholic community engages is intended to deepen the students’ awareness of the ways in which 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.

United church of christ and American Baptist Churches USA

Andover Newton Seminary at Yale Divinity School is YDS’s newest partner, the result of an affiliation initiated in 2016 between Yale Divinity School and the former Andover Newton Theological School. The partnership’s shared purpose 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.

Andover Newton components include a two-term colloquium focused on mentoring, free church ecclesiology, and theological reflection for professional formation; 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; Supervised Ministry 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 covenant partners. These partners pray for Andover Newton Seminary and receive the community’s prayers, attend Emmaus Bible study and worship, and are invited to participate in any of Andover Newton’s educational programs—except for the two-term mentoring colloquium, which is intended exclusively for diploma earners. Students, staff, and faculty members as well as supporters from the wider New Haven community express their intention to become covenant partners at a September Emmaus worship service.