New York Theological Seminary began its life in 1900 as the Bible Teacher’s College in Montclair, NJ. Under the direction of its founder, Wilbert Webster White, the school sought intentionally to bridge the divide that had then begun to open between university-based and Bible school forms of theological education. A gifted scholar and teacher, President White was a leading proponent of what was known as “the inductive Bible study method.” He believed that the Bible ought to be taught in English and allowed to occupy the central position in the theological curriculum. The method lent itself easily to an emphasis on practical training for ministry, which characterized the institution from its inception.
President White moved the school to New York City in 1902 in order to provide what he called a more “cosmopolitan” setting for the ministerial training of students, renaming it the Bible Teachers’ Training School. In 1921 the corporate name was changed to The Biblical Seminary in New York, and then in 1967 to New York Theological Seminary. From 1900 through the 1960s the Seminary trained numerous men and women who went on into pastoral ministry, missions work, Christian education and teaching around the world. From its founding the school demonstrated a strong commitment to the education of women as well as men, and to members of all races and denominations.
In the early 1970s New York Theological Seminary under the leadership of another gifted theological educator, George W. Webber, took on a new mission, of providing accessible and affordable theological education to men and women in the greater New York metropolitan area who were already in ministry, were bi-vocational, or were contemplating a shift from a secular to a religious vocation. The Seminary sold its campus and relocated to more affordable space, and began offering its programs at nights or on week-ends when urban church leaders who worked full-time could attend. For several years it suspended granting the MDiv degree and focused on offering the STM degree, a newly formed Certificate in Christian Ministry, and continuing education opportunities for urban church leaders. In the mid-1970s the Seminary added the MPS and DMin degree programs. In the early 1980s it began to offer the MDiv degree again, and began what has become a highly acclaimed Master’s degree program inside Sing Sing Correctional Facility that trains inmates from throughout the New York State prison system for ministry within the system. In the 1990s the curriculum was modified to reflect the Seminary’s commitment to social and community analysis and the increasingly multicultural urban context. In 2002 the Seminary moved to the Morningside Heights area of Manhattan. Located with offices in The Interchurch Center, with classrooms in The Riverside Church, and making use of the Columbia University Library System which includes the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, NYTS is well-positioned at the intersection of the church, the city and the academy.
NYTS is fully accredited by New York State and the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. The Seminary currently offers six accredited degrees: Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Pastoral Care & Counseling, Master of Arts in Religious Education, Master of Arts in Religious Leadership and Administration, Master of Arts in Youth Ministry and Doctor of Ministry. Two non-accredited programs are also currently offered: a Certificate in Christian Ministry and a Clinical Pastoral Education program that is accredited by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education through a satellite contract with Norwalk Hospital. It also offers an ATS accredited Master of Professional Studies to selected inmates in Sing Sing Correctional Facility.
Approximately 600 students attend classes that are held evenings and weekends to accommodate those who work in secular employment. Instruction is offered in four languages - English, Spanish, Korean and French. Through these and other measures the Seminary seeks to make accredited and non-accredited theological education accessible and relevant to the New York City metropolitan region. Graduates have distinguished themselves throughout the nation in a variety of ministries in churches, faith-based organizations, and the secular professions. They serve as pastors, bishops, chaplains, teachers, business leaders, university presidents, executives, lawyers, medical doctors, missionaries, and more. The Seminary has often been cited as a model for institutions around the world in addressing the needs of those living in urban centers and facing the challenge of contemporary global economic and social conditions.
The NYTS Master of Divinity (MDiv) is a 90-credit graduate degree designed for men and women who are already serving full-time in ministry, who are bi-vocational, or who are contemplating a shift from a secular to a religious vocation. The MDiv is the standard graduate degree for professional ministry in the United States and Canada. It is designed to provide exposure in considerable depth to the broader range of theological disciplines (biblical studies, history, theology, ethics, sociology of religion, and the arts of ministry) in a manner that integrates theory and practice, or reflection and action. Many churches require the MDiv for ordination, and while others may not make it a requirement, they often encourage their pastors or other leaders to secure the degree to prepare them for more effective leadership.
Classes in the MDiv program are offered in the evening at NYTS, and at other times that are accessible to those who work full-time in either religious or secular employment. The curriculum is designed to be completed over a four-year period, although some are able to complete it in three years while others elect to take longer. As with other programs at NYTS, the MDiv is oriented toward ministry in the contemporary global urban context. The Seminary places a strong emphasis upon the life of churches and other religious communities who are considered the Seminary’s partners in the educational venture, but keeps in view the wider horizons of the global urban context as the arena in which ministry and transformation occur. Students in the MDiv program represent a wide range of cultural identities, professional experiences, and theological commitments. Many commute a considerable distance to avail themselves of the rich educational opportunities that the Seminary has to offer. We place a great deal of emphasis not only upon diversity but also inclusion at NYTS. Students from all walks of life will find themselves welcomed into a community of learning that takes seriously their call to ministry. As the continuation of The Biblical Seminary in New York, NYTS affirms both the centrality of Bible and the diversity of its interpretation and application. Students in the MDiv program are expected to gain a thorough acquaintance with both the First and Second Testaments (or the Old and New Testaments), as well as skills in exegesis and interpretation for ministry. There are opportunities for learning biblical languages and doing advanced work in biblical exegesis. Students are also expected to develop a deeper understanding of their own historical and theological identity through the classical disciplines of study as they develop an ability to analyze and engage the social, political, economic, and cultural forces that are encountered in the world around them. A rigorous supervised ministry program places emphasis upon pastoral formation in diverse professional contexts, while classes in the arts of ministry seek to hone student’s skills in preaching, teaching, leading worship, providing pastoral care, organizing, administering, and more.
The Seminary offers a modified Korean and Spanish language track as part of its MDiv program. Courses in the arts of ministry are offered regularly in these languages, designed to enable students who minister within these contexts to do so with increased competency. Additional courses explore the nature of leadership in a particular cultural context, or the history of a particular cultural community. Courses dealing with issues of justice and transformation, the empowerment of women, building capacities for ministry, and the diversity of expressions of spirituality are all likewise part of the program’s curriculum, reflecting the Seminary’s commitments to diversity and inclusion.
These orientations and emphases make NYTS distinctive among theological seminaries in the United States. Without dormitories, dining facilities, or other appurtenances of residential seminary life, a unique community of learning emerges year after year among students and faculty. Regular small group work in classrooms, weekly opportunities for corporate worship and prayer, and two overnight retreats each year contribute to building community life in the program. In addition, the Seminary’s strong commitment to the life of the churches and other religious communities in New York City and beyond allows students to draw upon them for resources as they engage in the transformational processes of theological education. Under the guidance of an outstanding and diverse faculty of women and men, students are invited to synthesize life experience with the academic study of religion, and to gain and enhance skills relevant to the constituencies they expect to serve. Through the programs of the Center for the Study and Practice of Urban Religion, the life of the church and the life of the city are brought together for interactive learning. The Center for World Christianity helps students gain a fuller understanding and appreciation of the global dimensions of their faith and to learn to see the contributions of their own communions or denominational traditions to the larger church at work in the world. The Resource Center for Women in Ministry seeks to empower women and men to minister together more effectively at every level, attentive to the needs of women from diverse cultural settings and contexts throughout the academic program.
The NYTS Master of Arts in Pastoral Care and Counseling (MAPCC) is a 48-credit graduate degree designed to prepare women and men to provide professional pastoral care and counseling and to address the pastoral care and counseling needs of congregations and other communities within a contemporary global urban context. The degree is designed both for those who are considering and those who are already engaged in some form of pastoral care and counseling ministry. The curriculum integrates theological learning with psychological training in order to enhance both skill and understanding.
The MAPCC is intended for people who seek to receive in-depth training in order to provide professional pastoral care and counseling to people dealing with the perplexities of life, puzzling or paralyzing circumstances, physical, spiritual or emotional crises, and issues around death and dying. Students in the program will learn to sharpen their listening skills and integrate theological and biblical reflection with their religious heritage in ways that will enable them to respond more effectively both spiritually and contextually to pastoral situations in a variety of contexts. Throughout the degree one will find a focus on healing and equipping a community of faith in order to make individuals, congregations, and the wider world a healthier and more wholesome place.
The degree includes foundational work in Bible, history and theology to enable students to develop a deeper understanding of their own historical and theological identity. Courses in pastoral care seek to address issues of pastoral identity and formation; provide theoretical and practical understanding of the complexity of human development and behavior; and impart the basic skills necessary to address particular situations as well as provide informed professional referrals. The MAPCC is an excellent degree for those who work in a supportive caring role within the life of the congregation, or who may be contemplating pastoral counseling or chaplaincy as an expression of their call to ministry to begin the journey toward full licensure. It does not prepare students to engage in long-term or specialized counseling and psychotherapy, and is not licensure-qualifying under Rules and Regulations in New York State.
Students in the MAPCC are required to attend two overnight retreats each year along with those in other master’s degree programs (attendance at the retreats is incorporated into the requirements for Introduction to Theological Education). They are also invited and encouraged to take part in other various activities organized and led by the Student Association throughout the course of the year. MAPCC students must complete a year-long practicum in which they will be placed in a supervised field setting under a qualified supervisor that is appropriate for their degree program. Students are normally not given a stipend from the site where their placement is located. Classes in the MAPCC are held mostly in the evenings at The Riverside Church, 490 Riverside Drive in New York or online. Students have access to the library system of Columbia University, which includes the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary; and the libraries of the New York Public Library System. All students will be trained in online learning in order to make use of Moodle, the NYTS online learning system.
The NYTS Master of Arts in Religious Education (MARE) is a 48-credit graduate degree designed to prepare men and women to administer and lead educational programs in churches, religious institutions, and other academic settings. The program seeks to integrate several academic disciplines in a manner that contributes to the best educational practices in the field of religious education. It includes foundational work in Bible, history and theology designed to enable students to develop a deeper understanding of their own historical and theological identity; and introductory and advanced course work in religious education that teaches specific skills while allowing students to deepen their understanding of the educational, cultural, and religious context in which they will serve. Courses in religious education focus on the art of teaching; historic models and contemporary methodologies germane to religious education; and programmatic development. Graduates of the MARE can expect to have a thorough understanding of the foundations necessary to build and sustain an educational ministry within a congregation or other institutional setting and to be able to go on to do more advanced work in the field.
Students in the MARE are required to attend two overnight retreats each year along with others in the MDiv and MAPCC degree programs (attendance at the retreats is incorporated into the requirements for Introduction to Theological Education and the Practicum). They are also invited and encouraged to take part in other various opportunities for corporate worship and prayer led by the Student Association throughout the course of the year. MARE students must complete a year-long practicum in which they will be placed in a supervised field setting under a qualified supervisor that is appropriate for their degree program. Students are normally not given a stipend from the site where their placement is located.
Classes in the MARE are held mostly in the evenings at The Riverside Church, 490 Riverside Drive in New York. Students have access to the library system of Columbia University, which includes the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary. All students will be trained in online learning in order to make use of Moodle, the NYTS online learning system.
The NYTS Master of Arts in Religious Leadership and Administration (MARLA) is a 48-credit graduate degree designed to prepare individuals for leadership and administrative positions and responsibilities in churches, religious institutions and faith-based organizations. The degree integrates foundational theological disciplines with the best management and leadership practices germane to faith-based institutions and non-profit organizations. Students can expect to acquire significant analytical and strategic skills, concepts and methodologies that will enhance and promote growth, stability and teamwork in a religious organizational context. Graduates can expect to be prepared to serve as executive ministers, managers, or administrators in leadership of faith-based or non-profit organizations.
Students in the MARLA are required to attend two overnight retreats each year along with others in other master’s degree programs (attendance at the retreats is incorporated into the requirements for Introduction to Theological Education). They are also invited and encouraged to take part in other various activities organized and led by the Student Association throughout the course of the year. MARE students must complete a year-long practicum in which they will be placed in a supervised field setting under a qualified supervisor that is appropriate for their degree program. Students are normally not given a stipend from the site where their placement is located.
Classes in the MARE are held mostly in the evenings at The Riverside Church, 490 Riverside Drive in New York and online. Students have access to the library system of Columbia University, which includes the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary. All students will be trained in online learning in order to make use of Moodle, the NYTS online learning system.
The NYTS Master of Arts in Youth Ministry (MAYM) is a 48-credit graduate degree designed to prepare individuals to serve in the area of youth ministry within congregations and other faith-based organizations. The program explores youth and young adult development, socialization, discipleship and spiritual formation primarily within an urban cultural context. Drawing from a wide range of interdisciplinary research within the field of religious education, leadership studies, youth development and socialization, courses attend to the theological, educational, psychological and socio-cultural foundations of youth and young adult ministry. Graduates of this program are prepared to serve as practitioners of youth ministry within varied institutional settings and are equipped to design and administer programs that foster the holistic transformation of youth and young adult faith development.
Students in the MAYM are required to attend two overnight retreats each year along with others in the various master’s degree programs (attendance at the retreats is incorporated into the requirements for Introduction to Theological Education). They are also invited and encouraged to take part in other various activities organized and led by the Student Association throughout the course of the year. MAYM students must complete a year-long practicum in which they will be placed in a supervised field setting under a qualified supervisor that is appropriate for their degree program. Students are normally not given a stipend from the site where their placement is located.
Classes in the MAYM are held mostly in the evenings at The Riverside Church, 490 Riverside Drive in New York and online. Students have access to the library system of Columbia University, which includes the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary. All students will be trained in online learning in order to make use of Moodle, the NYTS online learning system.
The Doctor of Ministry program is an advanced professional degree appropriate for clergy and lay leaders with significant ministry experience who desire to deepen and improve their ministries through a disciplined and integrative process of action, reflection, and research. The primary objective is to develop professional competencies, critical skills for reflection on ministry, the capacity for focused advanced theological research and interpretation, and appropriate interpersonal skills for service in specific, constituency-based contexts. The program is designed especially to prepare church leadership for effective ministries of personal and social transformation in the context of a multicultural, globalizing, and urbanizing world.
The approach to learning is participatory, interdisciplinary, collaborative, and dialogical. Through the study of Scripture, religion and theology, ethics, the social sciences (sociology, history, politics, political economy, psychology, and counseling), and the arts of ministry, students and faculty from diverse contexts are mutually engaged in creating opportunities for critical and imaginative forms of ministry and mission.
An important feature of the program is its emphasis upon collegiality. Peer relationships with other students and close working relationships with faculty are expected to be developed. A commitment to mutual respect, trust, and cooperation is nurtured throughout the program. This commitment to collegiality is extended beyond the immediate participants of the classroom to those with whom the candidate is involved in ministry through the formation of a Site Team, which is a committee of persons selected from the context of the student's ministry that works with the student for the duration of his/her program. Equally important is a commitment to the creation of pastoral leadership and identity, particularly as a practice of spiritual formation, through critical analysis, evaluation, and assessment.
The design of the program is based on the recognition that students are fully engaged in ministry, and therefore, may be limited in their work on campus. Toward this end, the Seminary has made provisions to accommodate the particular constraints under which the students may operate, even as it encourages students to improve their knowledge and skills and continue with their existing professional responsibilities. The Doctor of Ministry Program requires a minimum of three years to complete, and in all cases candidates are expected to complete their programs within six years of their matriculation. Program formats and designs are constantly being reviewed and re-structured to meet these needs.
Students are granted matriculation status upon entrance into the program. Upon successful completion of the course work and approval of the Proposal for a Demonstration Project, they are granted candidate status.
The Certificate Program in Christian Ministry (CP) is a non-degree course of study that provides a basic theological education suitable for both lay and ordained church leaders. Designed to be completed in two years, the program is offered in English, Spanish, and French at various sites throughout the New York metropolitan area and online. Candidates for admission need only to hold a high school degree or its equivalent, although many in the program have already completed college or even graduate programs. Classes are held mostly on Saturdays, with some sites offering classes on week-nights as well. The curriculum covers the basic theological disciplines of Biblical, historical, theological and practical studies, and many of the classes are taught by graduates of NYTS degree programs. Some sites are identified with specific denominations or theological traditions, but the program in all of its locations seeks to engage the rich diversity of the broader Christian movement in an open, ecumenical spirit.
Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is theological and professional education for ministry. It brings theological students, ordained clergy, members of religious orders and qualified laypeople into supervised encounter with persons in various clinical settings. Out of an intense involvement with persons in need, and the feedback from peers and supervisors, trainees develop new awareness of themselves as persons and of the needs of those to whom they minister. From theological reflection on specific human situations, they gain a new understanding of ministry. Within the interdisciplinary team process of helping persons, they develop skills in interpersonal and inter-professional relationships.
New York Theological Seminary has long been recognized for its innovative programs, its pioneering spirit, and its commitment to training women and men for ministry in the real world. NYTS is a diverse and inclusive community of learning with a historic urban focus. In this diverse and inclusive community of learning along with various clinical settings, NYTS provides Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) programs for Levels 1 and 2, which is accredited by the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE) through our satellite contract with Norwalk Hospital.
Our CPE programs are intended to meet the needs of clergy in active ministry, seminary students and selected laypersons who wish to: • Enhance their sense of pastoral identity • Develop their capacity for theological reflection • Improve their pastoral ministry skills • Deepen their own spirituality
CPE at NYTS provides a range of ministry training experiences for trainees. Some of the training focus on short term and crisis intervention, while others allow the trainees to develop ongoing relationships with patients, families and staff. CPE trainees are usually able to do their clinical assignment in the setting that is best suited to their needs, as determined by their learning covenant, interests, and/ or skill level.
(Currently offered only in Sing Sing Correctional Facility)
PLEASE NOTE: The Seminary discontinued offering the Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in other areas of ministry studies in 2011.
Since 1982 New York Theological Seminary has had one of the most unusual programs in theological education in the nation. Each year up to fifteen students who are currently incarcerated in New York State enroll in the Seminary’s accredited Master of Professional Studies (MPS) degree offered inside the Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York. Candidates for the program must apply to NYTS through a regular application process. Those who are accepted are transferred to Sing Sing (if they are not already housed there), where they enroll in a one-year, 36-credit graduate degree course of study. Candidates must demonstrate promise for leadership and an active faith commitment, hold an accredited undergraduate degree, and meet all of the Seminary’s other standards for admission. Many elect to move from medium - or even minimum - security prisons to the maximum-security environment of Sing Sing in order to attend the program.
Once enrolled, candidates attend classes five days a week. The MPS curriculum provides foundational study in the various disciplines of theological education: Old and New Testament, foundations of ministry, church history, theology, ethics, pastoral care and counseling, religious education, and program design and administration. Candidates for the program are expected to be part of a community of learning that is committed to the intellectual, moral, and spiritual dimensions of ministry and service. They must forego regular weekday visits during the year they are in the program in order to meet the attendance requirements for classes. Instruction in classes is provided by members of the Seminary’s core and adjunct faculty. Courses are designed to be relevant to the prison environment, with a strong emphasis on spiritual integration, community accountability, and service to others. Candidates for the degree are also required to work in field education within Sing Sing under the supervision of the NYTS Program Director, Dr. Edward L. Hunt. They serve as peer counselors, chaplain’s assistants, or tutors in one of the educational programs offered within the facility. Candidates must have a 3.0 GPA to be in good standing and graduate. A special graduation service is held inside Sing Sing each year on the second Wednesday of June at 6 in the evening, with members of the NYTS board of trustees, faculty and administration, and candidates’ family members and other guests in attendance.
The MPS degree program at Sing Sing is a transforming experience. Graduates serve in facilities throughout the State as chaplain assistants, peer counselors, or teachers. A number have developed inmate-initiated service programs and several are teaching college-level courses offered through Hudson Link, a non-profit educational program that grew out of the network of the Seminary’s MPS alumni and offers an accredited college degree in a number of prisons in southeastern New York. Other graduates, who have been released, have continued to carry that transformative work forward in society outside the walls of the correctional system. A significant number are currently working in ministry or social services. Several are leaders in the national re-entry movement, including Julio Medina, Executive Director of Exodus Transitional Community; Eddie Ellis, Executive Director of the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions; William Eric Waters, Program Coordinator for the Osborne Association; and the late Dr. Lonnie McLeod, Jr., consultant on re-entry programs to the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Others continue to serve within the correctional system, including Sean Pica, Executive Director of Hudson Link; and Imam Salahuddin Muhammad, a chaplain at Fishkill Correctional Facility in Beacon, New York. Still others are serving as pastors and leaders of other religious congregations. The recidivism rate for graduates from the NYTS M.P.S. program is well under 10% over the life of the program and close to zero for those who have been released over the past five years, compared to a 49% recidivism rate generally in New York State.
The Center for the Study and Practice of Urban Religion (CSPUR), formerly the Ecologies of Learning Project (EOL), is a research and action Center based at New York Theological Seminary.
Founded by the late Lowell Livezey, former Professor of Urban Studies and Religion, NYTS received a grant in 2004 for the Ecologies of Learning project which developed into the Center for the Study and Practice of Urban Religion (CSPUR) in 2009.
CSPUR is an interactive network of scholars, seminary students, clergy, and community leaders in metropolitan New York who are committed to producing knowledge and events that are useful and empowering to communities of faith, neighborhoods, government and private agencies. CSPUR accomplishes this by including members of NYC communities in planning and research, to help strengthen and transform our City and empower religious communities as agents in the City. CSPUR share its findings and sponsor public events, strengthening communities of faith as agents in the City.
At CSPUR people work together to learn about the impact of communities of faith in New York City and beyond. CSPUR conducts research to determine how churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and other religious organizations shape the City, and how changes in the City affect these institutions. The goal of CSPUR is to help religious leaders, scholars, public officials and secular organizations understand communities of faith and the role of religion in urban life.
Established in 2004 with the support of the Henry Luce Foundation, the Center for World Christianity seeks to support the Seminary’s mission to prepare men and women for ministry in a global context. As an academic field, World Christianity encompasses the traditional areas of mission studies, ecumenical studies, and the study of world religions. The work of the Center at NYTS builds upon these disciplines but seeks to move beyond them to engage areas of ministry in global urban contexts more intentionally. Programs of the Center include special courses, an annual major lecture, publication of the online Journal of World Christianity, a summer institute for multicultural ministry (offered in cooperation with the Presbyterian Church USA Office on Multicultural Ministry), and more. Additional support for faculty and students interested in better understanding and engaging Christianity as a truly world religion today are also available.
PROJECTNYTS is the new social-action arm of New York Theological Seminary, organized as a nonprofit corporation controlled by the Seminary under the formal name of FUND FOR COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP INITIATIVES. It serves the seminary’s alumnae and alumni, partner congregations and other friends as they seek to meet the needs of the communities they lead. FCLI facilitates and supports faith-based and community- based programs,projects and organizations that focus on serving the underserved of New York City and beyond.
Services include program site identification and convening, management consulting and training, back-office assistance, start-up support and program coordination and planning. In addition, FCLI initiates its own start-ups, securing funding and providing full-service administration and program management.David Benke, president of the Atlantic District of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod
Pat Robertson, American religious broadcaster
Eugene Peterson, religious commentator, author of multiple books and paraphraser of The Message translation of the Bible