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News from the Hill January 27, 2009 | back to index

Andover Newton’s Faculty Unveils New M.Div. Curriculum for 2009 and Beyond

The world today is already full of God’s grace and glory.
The world today is not yet what God intended it to be.
Faith communities are already rich with blessings.
Faith communities do not yet reflect the very best to which God has called them.

In this circumstance of “already” and “not yet” in which humanity hovers, we members of the Faculty of Andover Newton Theological School do not propose “answers” or “quick-fixes” that attempt to bring forth a new creation.
We do believe, however, that right and good responses to today’s challenges lie within our faith tradition, awaiting our critical and creative retrieval toward the re-formation of the world.

The new Master of Divinity curriculum, to begin in the fall of 2009, holds these somewhat conflicting assumptions in tension. A professional degree for ministry must equip students to face the needs of church and society today, while also recognizing that the world is changing quickly. It must help students to become as flexible as they are grounded, as open to the new as they are committed to tradition, and as confident engaging those who are different as they are in forming and expressing their own convictions.

The Andover Newton Faculty has built this new curriculum around four interdisciplinary competencies for ministry: Interpreting, Communicating, Leading, and Embodying. These competencies emerged through both research and reflection as essential arts for ministry in changing contexts. Faculty members continue to teach the core elements of theological disciplines that remain at the heart of our tradition, but those disciplines are interrelated in new ways and integrated in a curriculum that is oriented not toward “checking off boxes” but toward equipping students for reflection and practice.

This structure aims to give Andover Newton better means to hold itself accountable to its mission, challenging us to measure the effectiveness of our graduates in these areas and to continually strive to improve the preparation they are given. This new curriculum comes as a response to a question with which the Andover Newton Faculty has grappled for the better part of a decade: “What would it be like if the entire curriculum were built not simply around academic disciplines, but around what students and graduates need to serve today’s church and world?”

Curriculum Summary

The following outline will help current and prospective M.Div. students to understand what will be required to earn the M.Div. degree at Andover Newton, beginning in the fall of 2009. Please note that, in the 2009-2011 Catalog, which will be published in the summer of 2009, more planning resources will be provided to students, including:

  • Details about which courses meet which requirements
  • Recommended course sequences, including a specialized sequence for Unitarian Universalist candidates for ordination
  • Descriptions of what specific outcomes students can expect from different areas of competence
  • Expanded definitions for each required area of the curriculum

Number of credits required: 81, the equivalent of approximately nine courses per year.

Varieties of courses:

  • Core courses: Only one, particular course meets the requirement
  • Distributional requirements: Students may choose one course among several options
  • Electives: Students may choose any course
  • Integrative catalysts: Courses, with different forms of registration, that integrate experience with classroom learning

Curriculum Structure (All courses are three credits unless otherwise noted):


  • Systematic Theology I (Core)
  • Systematic Theology II (Core)
  • Early Christian History (Distributional)
  • Religious Education (Distributional)


  • Christian Bible I (Core) (“Old Testament”)
  • Christian Bible II (Core) (“New Testament”)
  • Upper-level Bible (Distributional)
  • Preaching (Distributional)
  • Worship (Distributional)


  • Field Education (Core)
  • US Religious History (Distributional)
  • Ministerial Leadership (Distributional)
  • Practicing Theology (Distributional)


  • Introduction to Christian Ethics (Core)
  • Pastoral Care (Distributional)
  • Ethics and Society (Distributional)
  • World Christianity and World Religions (Distributional)

Integrative Catalysts: Each Integrative Catalyst is designed to crystallize learning within one area of competence while also connecting learning across the whole of the curriculum.

  • Linked with “Interpreting:” Spiritual Formation (Integrative Catalyst) (One credit)
  • … with “Communicating:” Interfaith Engagement or The Arts (Integrative Catalyst) (Student may choose)
  • … with “Leading:” Professor-Practitioner Program (Integrative Catalyst) (In conjunction with Field Education)
  • … With “Embodying:” Border Crossing Immersion (Integrative Catalyst) (Two credits)