Master of Religious Leadership

A two-year master’s degree that takes your call to the next level by enhancing the skills you need to lead.

Why the Master of Religious Leadership?

Professor Liz Bounds with a student

Six areas of specialization

The MRL areas of specialization reflect critical needs for leadership in church and society. Choose from Christianity in Global Contexts; Justice, Peacebuilding, and Conflict Transformation; Pastoral Care; Ministries with Youth; Wesleyan Leadership and Heritage; and Worship and Music.

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Flexible formats

Hybrid options are available for areas of specialization in Justice, Peacebuilding, and Conflict Transformation; Wesleyan Leadership and Heritage; and Ministries with Youth. Students specializing in these areas may take the majority of their classes online, and the remainder on campus as in-person intensives.

woman leads group of youth in discussion

Practical skill-building

Integrated into Candler’s MRL degree are supervised internships that put you right in your chosen field, providing invaluable experience in real settings. Clinical Pastoral Education may fulfill internship requirements for students who specialize in Pastoral Care.

More on Internships

Master of Religious Leadership Degree Requirements

To qualify for the MRL degree, a candidate must complete each of these requirements.

Requirements for Admission

To enter the MRL program, a candidate must have a:

  • Bachelor’s or equivalent degree from a regionally accredited college or university
  • Well-balanced program of work in the liberal arts

Credit Hours

In fulfilling the 48 credit hours required to complete the MRL degree, students may not exceed the following limits:

  • 6 hours of internship
  • 6 hours of clinical pastoral education (Pastoral Care area of specialization)
  • 3 hours of course(s) taken on S/U basis (area of specialization course(s) only)
  • 12 hours of summer courses
  • 9 hours of Atlanta Theological Association cross-registration (up to 6 hours toward area of specialization requirements), counted as transfer credit
  • 15 total hours of transfer credit (up to 6 hours toward area of specialization requirements), including ATA cross-registration
  • 3 hours of directed study (area of specialization credit only, with permission of the academic dean)

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.

Area of Specialization Courses

Christianity in Global Contexts

The Christianity in Global Contexts Specialization requires a minimum of three credits in mission, three credits in evangelism, three credits in world Christianity, and three credits in interfaith studies/world religion courses. The remaining six electives should be chosen from mission, evangelism, world Christianity, or interfaith studies/world religions courses. Courses that would meet these requirements include:

Mission (3 hours)

  • Any M course

Evangelism (3 hours)

  • Any EV course

World Christianity (3 hours)

  • BI625. Global South Biblical Hermeneutics
  • BI627. Bible and Postcolonialism
  • BI640. Bible and Health
  • EV/M642. Religion, Culture, and Mission in Latin America
  • M609. The Church’s Mission in the World
  • M612. The Church in Asia
  • M647. Theologies and Ecclesiologies of Brazil
  • M/HC675. Modern Christianity as Global Phenomenon
  • HC509. Making of Global Christianity
  • HC/M610. Survey of African Christianity: From Apollos to Adelaja
  • SR615. Immigration, Religion, and the American Church
  • SR634. Globalization and the Church’s Mission

Interfaith Studies (3 hours)

  • Any Candler WR course or any course from outside Candler that meets the criteria for fulfilling the World Religions Requirement as approved by the Candler faculty ad approved by the MRL program director and academic dean

Additional Courses (6 hours)

  • Any two three-hour courses chosen from and not already used toward any of the categories within the Area of Specialization

Justice, Peacebuilding, and Conflict Transformation (JPACT)

JPACT 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.
  • ES669. Theology of Ethics and Reconciliation
  • ES663. Religion, Violence and Peacebuilding
  • ES673. Voices of Nonviolence
  • ES675. Restorative Justice
  • ES609/M619. Theology of Social Ministry
  • M655/CC655. The Church on the Border
  • SR/CC617. Memory, Culture, and Redemption
  • SR620/CC619. Nonviolent Strategies of Social Change
  • SR621. Howard Thurman: Spirituality and Community
  • RE527. Peacebuilding with Youth: Unlearning Violence, Learning Nonviolence
  • RE645. Teaching Peace in Congregations
  • WR614. Socially Engaged Buddhism
  • WR650. Islam in America

Pastoral Care

Students specializing in Pastoral Care will take PC501 or PC502 and may choose PC offerings, including any of the following, for their remaining 15 units:

  • PC610. Crisis Ministry
  • PC612. Spirituality and Health
  • PC615. Theological Dimensions of Pastoral Care
  • PC620. Short-Term Counseling in the Parish
  • PC628. Care for Marginalized Populations
  • PC/CHP635. Trauma, Theology, and Pastoral Care
  • 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
  • PC657. Interfaith Spiritual Care
  • PC698. Special Topics in Pastoral Care
  • CE696R. Clinical Pastoral Education (three hours maximum)
  • CHP501. Introduction to Chaplaincy

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
  • One introductory course in pastoral care or chaplaincy, such as PC501. Introduction to Pastoral Care, PC502. Pastoral Care in Congregation and Community, or CHP501. Introduction to Chaplaincy

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
  • RE/WR635. Teaching World Religions to Youth
  • RE636. Religious Education and Our Ecological Context
  • RE645. Teaching Peace in the Congregation
  • RP648. Reading in Psychology of Religion
  • PC628. Care for Marginalized Populations

Wesleyan Leadership and Heritage

Students specializing in WLAH will take courses in:

Evangelism and Worship Leadership
  • Evangelism (Any EV course) (3 hours)
  • Worship (Any W course) (3 hours)
Methodist History, Doctrine, and Polity
  • DS501. Methodist History and Doctrine (3 hours)
  • DS502. Methodist History and Polity (3 hours)

The remaining courses, chosen from courses such as those below and not already used to fulfill other general or Area of Specialization requirements, fulfill the final 6 hours for the Area of Specialization:

  • CC502. Church and Community Development (3 hours)
  • DS698. Special Topics in Denominational Studies: General Conference (1-3 hours)
  • ES609/M619. Social Mission of the Church (3 hours)
  • ES621. Christiain Sexual Ethics (3 hours)
  • ES628. Religion, Ethics, and Civil Rights (3 hours)
  • ES632. Pastoral Ethics (3 hours)
  • ES663. Religion, Violence, and Peacebuilding (3 hours)
  • ES669. Theology and Ethics of Reconciliation (3 hours)
  • ES671. Skills in Conflict Transformation I (1 hour)
  • ES672. Skills in Conflict Transformation II (3 hours)
  • ES/LA560. Principles and Practices of Moral Leadership (3 hours)
  • HC616. Pietism: The Development of Modern Piety (3 hours)
  • HC/SR633. African American Religion and Culture (3 hours)
  • HC/W699. History and Theology of Eucharistic Worship (3 hours)
  • M609. The Church’s Mission in the World (3 hours)
  • M/SR634. Globalization and the Church’s Mission (3 hours)
  • M698. Special Topics in Mission (3 hours)
  • PT501. Introduction of Practical Theology
  • PT503. Vocational Discernment for a Sustained Life in Ministry (3 hours)
  • PT515. The Art and Practice of Christian Prayer (3 hours)
  • PT615. Good Food (3 hours)
  • PT625. Cross-Cultural Communication (2 hours)
  • PT550. Contemporary Wesleyan Spirituality and the Means of Grace (3 hours)
  • PT600. Creative Writing as Theological and Spiritual Practice (3 hours)
  • PT/CC633. Fearless Dialogues (3 hours)
  • RE501. Religious Education as Formation and Transformation (3 hours)
  • RE610. Be(com)ing Christian: Theology, Education, and Public Life (3 hours)
  • SR620/CC619. Nonviolent Strategies for Social Change (3 hours)
  • SR631. Gender, Sexuality, and Raxe in Methodist Church (3 hours)
  • ST605. God and Evil (3 hours)
  • ST607. Doctrine of God: Women’s Voices Past and Present (3 hours)
  • ST631. Christian Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and Renewal (3 hours)
  • ST/W627. Theology of Church and Sacraments (3 hours)
  • ST/W628. Liturgical Theology (3 hours)
  • WR/M675. 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.

Worship and Music

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:

  • CM510. Congregational Song
  • CM515. Introduction to Church Music
  • CM/W520. Music and Worship in the Black Church
  • CM530R. Candler Chorale (six hours maximum)
  • CM550R. Candler Voices of Imani (six hours maximum)
  • CM600. Candler Singers (six hours maximum)
  • 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/HC669. The History and Theology of Eucharistic Worship
  • HC617. Early Christian Worship
  • ST/W627. Theology of the Church and Sacraments
  • ST/W628. Liturgical Theology
  • ST631. Christian Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and Renewal

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.


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.

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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Areas of Specialization

Areas of Specialization Image

Christianity in Global Contexts produces practitioners who are critically aware of the complexity of the church universal as it engages in God’s mission in the world.

Justice, Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation contributes to the formation of religious leaders who are equipped to engage conflict constructively within their congregations and their communities.

Ministries with Youth prepares students for a range of ministries with youth in and beyond the congregation.

Pastoral Care prepares students 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.

The Wesleyan Leadership and Heritage specialization prepares students for lay ministry in Methodist/Wesleyan contexts, and allows United Methodist students over the age of 35 who already hold a master’s degree in their area of ministry to complete the United Methodist Basic Graduate Theological Studies (BGTS) requirements in order to seek ordination as a Deacon.

Worship and Music equips music and worship leaders with creative and faithful ways to integrate music and worship.

Ready to take the next step on your journey?

How to Apply