Degree Requirements

Master of Religious Leadership Degree Requirements

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

Credit Hours

In fulfilling the 48 credit 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).

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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 retake the course. However, the same course cannot be counted more than once towards the total credit hours for graduation.

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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)
  • ST501. Systematic Theology (3 hours)
  • ES501. Christian Ethics (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 contextualize education in social ministry or ecclesial settings aligned with the program's six areas of specialization.

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. Learn more about Internships and Clinical Pastoral Education.

Common Requirements

Students will complete 15 hours of additional foundational studies in leadership, biblical studies, history of Christianity, and church and community ministries.

Area of Specialization

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

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 masters 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; and
  • place their own ministry work in the larger context of Wesleyan/Methodist history, beliefs, and practices

Evangelism and Worship Leadership

  • EV xxx Any course in Evangelism (3 hours)
  • W xxx Any course in Worship (3 hours)
Methodist History Doctrine and Polity
  • DS 511 History of Methodism (3 hours)
  • DS 512 Theology of Wesley and Methodism (3 hours)
  • DS 513 Polity of the UMC (3 hours)

Additional course(s)chosen from the list below and not already used to fulfill other general or Area of Specialization requirements (3 hours):

  • CC 502 Church and Community Development (3 hours)                                            
  • DS 698 Special Topics in Denominational Studies: General Conference (1-3 hours)
  • ES 609/M 619 Social Mission of the Church (3 hours)
  • ES 615 John Wesley’s Ethics (3 hours)                                                                      
  • ES 621 Christian Sexual Ethics (3 hours)                                                                   
  • ES 628 Religion, Ethics, and Civil Rights (3 hours)                                                      
  • ES 632 Pastoral Ethics (3 hours)                                                                               
  • ES 663 Religion, Violence, and Peacebuilding (3 hours)                                             
  • ES 669 Theology and Ethics of Reconciliation (3 hours)                                             
  • ES 671 Skills in Conflict Transformation I (1 hour)                                                     
  • ES 672 Skills in Conflict Transformation II (2 hours)                                                   
  • ES/LA 560 Principles and Practices of Moral Leadership (3 hours)                              
  • HC 616 Pietism: The Development of Modern Piety (3 hours)                                   
  • HC 619 Reforming the Church and the People: 16th Century Models (3 hours)
  • HC 633 African American Religion and Culture (3 hours)                                           
  • HC 646 Method of Early Methodism (3 hours)                                                          
  • HC 647 The Holiness Movement and American Methodism (3 hours)                        
  • HC/W 669 History and Theology of Eucharistic Worship (3 hours)                             
  • M 609 The Church’s Mission in the World (3 hours)                                                  
  • M/SR 634 Globalization and the Church’s Mission (3 hours)                                      
  • PT 503 Vocational Discernment for a Sustained Life in Ministry (3 hours)                       
  • PT 515 The Art and Practice of Christian Prayer (3 hours)                                          
  • PT 615 Good Food (3 hours)                                                                                    
  • PT 625 Cross-Cultural Communication (2 hours)                                    
  • PT 550 Contemporary Wesleyan Spirituality and the Means of Grace (3 hours) 
  • PT 600 Creative Writing as Theological and Spiritual Practice (3 hours)                      
  • PT/CC 633 Fearless Dialogues (3 hours)                                                                    
  • RE 501 Religious Education as Formation and Transformation (3 hours)                     
  • RE 610 Be(com)ing Christian: Theology, Education, and Public Life (3 hours)
  • SR 620/CC 619 Nonviolent Strategies for Social Change (3 hours)
  • SR 631 Gender, Sexuality, and Race in Methodist Church (3 hours)
  • SR 640 Civil Rights Heritage Tour (1 hour)
  • SR/CC 650 Faith and Health: Transforming Communities (3 hours)
  • ST 605 Providence, Evil, and Suffering (3 hours)
  • ST 607 Doctrine of God: Women’s Voices Past and Present (3 hours)
  • ST 631 Christian Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and Renewal (3 hours)
  • ST/ES 641 Christology and Ethics (3 hours)
  • ST/W 627 Theology of Church and Sacraments (3 hours)
  • WR/M 675 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          

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.

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

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 Justic, 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.

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
  • ES675. Restorative Justice
  • ES609/M619. Theology of Social Ministry
  • M655/CC655. The Church on the Border
  • SR/CC617. Redeeming Memories: Cultural Memory, Christian Witness, and Social Genocide
  • SR620. Nonviolent Strategies of Social Change
  • SR621. Howard Thurman: Spirituality and Community
  • RE527. Peacebuilding with Youth: Unlearning Violence, Learning Nonviolence
  • RE645. Teaching Peace in Congregations
  • WR630. Sacred Spaces in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
Pastoral Care

This specialization prepares persons to provide general pastoral care in congregational and community settings and in chaplaincy contexts. 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.

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

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.

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

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 contemoprary worship practics in historical context.

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/HC699. The History and Theology of Eucharistic Worship
  • HC617. Early Christian Worship
  • ST/W627. Theology of the Church and Sacraments
  • ST631. Christian Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and Renewal

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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.

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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 completed 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 the 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.

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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.

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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.

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