Masters of Sacred Theology - STM

The Masters of Sacred Theology degree program is designed to provide an opportunity for concentrated study in a given area of theological inquiry for those who have completed a first theological degree or its equivalent, by promoting advanced understanding in a particular theological discipline, by increasing the student's knowledge of research resources and methodologies, and by increasing his or her knowledge and competency for ministry in all of its variety. It may provide a foundation for further advanced study.

Objectives: This degree program prepares students to:

  • Achieve mastery of primary questions, ideas, methodologies and sources related to the chosen area of theological focus.
  • Engage in knowledgeable and creative thinking, writing and speaking in the chosen area of research.
  • Apply the knowledge gained to other contexts of theology and ministry
  • Demonstrate proficiency in research, writing and thinking.

Further information about the program is available upon request from the Director of STM Studies.


I. Purposes, Goals, Objectives

The Master of Sacred Theology (STM) is an advanced academic degree that enables men and women to continue their studies beyond a basic level degree in divinity (MDiv or other first graduate theological degree that provides equivalent theological background and evidence of aptitude for advanced theological study). It presupposes both the completion of a first professional degree and willingness to attend to serious theological study at an advanced level.


The Master of Sacred Theology degree is to provide an opportunity for concentrated study in a given area of theological inquiry and to provide a more advanced mastery of one area or discipline of theological study than is normally provided at the basic degree level.
Goals: This degree is designated to provide an opportunity for concentrated study in a given area of theological inquiry for those who have completed a first theological degree or its equivalent, by promoting advanced understanding in a particular theological discipline, by increasing the student's knowledge of research resources and methodologies, and by increasing her or his knowledge and competency for ministry in all its variety.

Objectives: Completion of this degree will prepare the student to:

  • Achieve mastery of primary questions, ideas, methodologies and sources related to the chosen area of theological focus.
  • Engage in knowledgeable and creative thinking, writing and speaking in the chosen area of research.
  • Apply the knowledge gained to other contexts of theology and ministry
  • Demonstrate proficiency in research, writing and thinking.

The program of studies may take place directly following completion of the M.Div., MAR, or other first graduate theological degree or may be entered into many years later. It may be pursued on a full-time residential basis or on a part-time basis.

This Manual describes policies and procedures currently in effect* in the Master of Sacred Theology program sponsored by The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg.
  *Later revisions of the Manual may affect your program so be sure to check with the Director of Graduate Studies if any changes have been made since you entered the program.


A. Administrative Oversight

Authorization to confer the Master of Sacred Theology degree is granted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Higher Education. Periodic evaluation and accreditation is the province of the Association of Theological Schools and the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.
At Gettysburg, the STM program functions under the direction of the Director of Graduate Studies and the auspices of the Office of the Dean of the Seminary.
The Office of the Registrar handles registration and management of student files. The business office is responsible for the administration of fiscal matters.
The Faculty reserves for itself such prerogatives as (1) admissions; (2) appointment of advisor, thesis panels; (3) final evaluation of candidate's work and recommendation to Board of Directors for the conferral of the degree.

B. Overall Degree Requirements

The STM with thesis consists of eight course units* in advanced program courses (at LTSG these would be STM/D.Min. courses), a half course thesis research practicum and a thesis.
At least four of the course units and the thesis must be in the major area of study. Examples might be: Biblical Studies,Theology, Church History and Studies in Ministry.

C. Admissions

1.General Requirements

Admission to the Master of Sacred Theology program, according to ATS standards, “shall require the M.Div., or first graduate theological degree providing equivalent theological background, or its educational equivalent, and evidence of aptitude for advanced theological study.” Specific admission requirements (policy and procedures) are outlined below.
Admission is on a “rolling” basis, with entrance into the program open on a year around basis. Successful applicants are then notified, assigned an advisor, and informed of the dates, location, format and costs of advanced program course offerings at LTSG. Candidates are expected to contact their advisor as soon as possible to discuss their expected program and begin to plan a tentative major.
Admissions presupposes that: 
· the student has a graduation grade point average of 3.0 (B) or better in the M. Div. or other first graduate theological degree.
· The student successfully completes all required Graduate School application forms, transcripts and references. Application forms for admission are available through the Admissions Office.

2. Duration of the Program

Timeline: the program shall be completed in no less than one year and no more than six.
The duration of the program will vary with each candidate, depending on whether study is full-time or part-time, the scope of the candidate's professional responsibilities (if any), and the pace of progress toward the stated goals of the program. However,
Be aware that students can rarely expect to complete the degree in a nine-month academic year. A full-time course load is four courses in each of the 12-week semesters (September to December and February to May) and one course in January. A thesis usually takes several months to complete. So only by dint of an extremely heavy overload could one complete the degree by May. Courses are offered during the summer, and full-time students should expect to use at least the summer to complete course work or write the thesis.

3. Specific Requirements

“S.T.M. Admission Application” form: The student completes and submits this form which is available through the Office of the Dean. The Director of Graduate Studies, in conjunction with the Dean of the Seminary, grants admission upon a positive review of the application. Notification of admission/denial is given through the Director of the STM Degree Program
  Entrance Time: Students admitted to this program may enroll in S.T.M. courses offered in either semester, during the summer, or in the January term. Suitable courses offered through the Washington Theological Consortium and in cooperative arrangements with other seminaries are open for enrollment. Specific inquiry by the student, following consultation with the student's advisor, is necessary in order to ascertain the acceptability of off-campus courses. Final authority for the approval of such courses rests with the Dean through Director of the STM Program.
  Relationship to the Doctor of Ministry Program:   The Doctor of Ministry program is administrated through the Lutheran Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) with D. Min. degrees being conferred through that institution on behalf of the seminaries in the Eastern Cluster of the Seminaries of the ELCA. Students may utilize the unique resources of Gettysburg Seminary in their focal areas and in the development and advisement of the Doctor of Ministry project. In addition to taking four courses at Gettysburg Seminary, students may draw on the resources of LTSG in the development and advisement of their required Project in Ministry.

4.  Candidacy for the Degree

Committee after the successful completion of:

  • eight full courses in the program,
  • the successful completion of the “Practicum in Theological Research,”
  • approval of a thesis proposal,
  • and the acquisition of research competencies deemed to be required by the thesis proposal.

All course work, along with an approved thesis proposal, must be completed in a satisfactory manner before candidacy for the degree is granted Action on candidacy shall be recorded on the face of the student’s transcript, and may include one of the following: 1. approval; 2. denial; 3. approval pending removal of deficiencies.


5. English Language Test

That, for admission to the advanced degree programs, applicants whose language of origin is not English and/or previous instruction is not in English, including all applicants from abroad, must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the Test of Written English (TWE), administered by the Educational Testing Service and given regularly at many centers throughout the world, or they must provide other evidence of competence in English.
In either case, the student must also submit a letter from a professor (or other person who knows the student’s academic writing) that vouches for the quality of the student’s ability to read technical material and to write in English at a level suited for study in advanced level degrees. Note: TOEFL and TWE tests must have been taken within two years of the student’s application to LTSG.

D. Coursework: Categories and Regular Procedures

Course Dates: Beginning and Concluding
Each course within the eight course units of supervised study shall have designated beginning and concluding dates. In the case of independent study courses such dates shall normally coincide with LTSG semester dates and will be designated by the student in a proposal to the Dean, submitted in advance of undertaking the course. After approval of the course as proposed the dates provided shall constitute boundaries for the calculation of fee refunds in the case of early withdrawal.
Up to four course-units may be transferred in from advanced level programs in other accredited institutions, provided they have not been used for any other degree, and provided that the requirements of the major are met. LTSG up-grade guidelines will apply to any M.Div. senior elective for which transfer is sought.
Only courses done in the last ten years are considered acceptable in the program, whether taken prior to or during the program. If a student wishes to count for credit any course older than ten years, a petition must be made for that purpose to the LTSG Academic Policies Committee (APC) through the Director of Graduate Studies.

1. Course Categories

a. A course unit means one full-course (3 or more hours) or two half-courses.
  “ Course units” includes independent studies (see “Independent Studies”). For full listing of course offerings in any year, consult the LTSG catalogue and Graduate Studies brochure.
  There are a variety of different types of course formats. These are
  b. Classroom courses held weekly in block timing during autumn, spring semesters and summer school.
  c. Intensive Courses
Such courses may be held over a limited period of time, such as a weeklong course in the summer session. Note: In some intensive courses the instructor may require an “additional day of instruction” that necessitates students returning to campus following the intensive week. In such a course, instructors will provide an option of doing additional work rather than returning to campus for students for whom such return would mean hardship.
d. Audit Status.
Students who have been regularly admitted to this program may audit a course in the program with the approval of the instructor and the Dean.
e. Changing Course Registration
Students enrolled in combined STM/Continuing Education courses may change their registration up to and no later than the second-class meeting. Thereafter STM registrants will receive their letter grade for their work in the course.
STM courses are also open to Lifelong Learning students for continuing education credits. See “Lifelong Learning and Development for Faithful Leaders” (1997 Churchwide Assembly Document), which states that the ELCA expects all rostered persons to participate in 50 contact hours of lifelong learning annually.
f. Withdrawal from any course in the program without penalty must be effected before the beginning of the fourth meeting of said course. After that time, students are expected to complete all course requirements as set forth in the course syllabus.
g.  Reinstatement: In rare instances, the Academic Policies Committee following removal may reinstate a student into this program, provided s/he meets current entrance requirements. In such cases, the student is subject also to the degree regulations current at the time of reinstatement.
h. Non-degree participation: Students not formally admitted to this program may take courses in the program for credit. If the student is then admitted to the program at later date, no more than three full courses successfully completed before admission will be accepted into the program.

2. Types of Courses Counted for the STM Degree

a. Course Upgrades

Criteria for upgrades of first professional courses for credit for advanced level degrees such as STM are as follows: 

  • Courses for graduate upgrades should normally be electives 
  • A graduate student should normally not take more than two such courses in a graduate degree program. (In special circumstances more may be allowed provided that “at least one-half of the work required shall be in courses designed for students in advanced programs”. [ATS standards, 1996])
  • Upgraded courses may not have been used for credit towards another degree.
  • The instructor and the Dean must approve such upgrades before the course is taken.
  • The faculty member must send notification of additional requirements to the Dean and the Director of STM Studies.
  • It is the responsibility of the student to request a faculty member to provide an upgrade. Faculty members have the right to refuse if they consider a particular course to be unsuitable for the purpose. Therefore, it is important to make the request before or at the very beginning of the course and, if necessary, to change registration to enroll in another course.

b. Independent Studies and Tutorials

The STM program provides opportunity for the student to negotiate an occasional independent study  through LTSG in the course of his/her program.
Independent studies in the program are normally limited to two courses. In as much as peer interaction is an integral part of the STM program of study.
The student’s adviser, through the Director of the STM Program, and the course instructor, must approve such studies in advance.

Independent studies. Several rubrics are important:

  • The student shall consult with his/her advisor prior to negotiating an independent study.
  • All independent studies require the same registration procedures as other courses, and all rules and deadlines concerning registration, fees, withdrawals, and extensions shall pertain. 
  • In addition to registration, the student should consult with the faculty member whom he/she hopes will be the instructor of the study. (Usually, independent studies will be supervised by faculty members from LTSG)
    Should the Dean assign an instructor for the study who is not a full-time LTSG faculty member, then reimbursement will be governed by accepted school policies and will negotiated by the Dean directly with the instructor concerned. Such an instructor will be considered as LTSG adjunct faculty for the purpose of the independent study.
    Should an independent study include experiences/instruction by persons/institutions other than LTSG and thus require additional fees or expenses, such additional fees or expenses will be the responsibility of the student and will be paid directly to the person/institution responsible for such experiences/instruction. 
  • The student will then complete and sign an independent study proposal (guidelines available from the Registrar). These shall be submitted to Dean for approval and the signature of the faculty member. The student will receive a copy of the signed form from the Dean’s Office.
  • Fees for independent studies shall be remitted as required to LTSG.
  • A proposal for independent study, called a "ROSE Statement," shall include a statement of rationale, objectives, strategies, means of assessment, normally between three to five double-spaced typed pages and bibliography, with a minimum of 10 books.


  • A tutorial is a class conducted by a professor for one student or for a small number of STM students in full-time residence.
  • The description for any tutorial course is initiated by the faculty member and must be submitted for approval by the dean. 
  • Tutorial courses are offered to obtain credit for a course not scheduled during a semester in which a student needs it and/or to enrich regular course offerings for students with a particular interest in the faculty member’s field. 
  • Tutorial courses are to be arranged with the consent of and at the convenience of the instructor and approved by the Dean. Although they ordinarily will not carry a course fee, the final decision on the payment of fees rests with the Dean.

c. Course Transfer Policy

To be eligible for transfer toward the STM degree, a course completed at another school shall meet the following requirements: 
Not more than four units toward an advanced-level degree may be fulfilled through transfer credits. 

  • The course was taken for credit at a fully accredited institution.
  • The course was taken in an advanced-level degree program.
  • The student had completed the appropriate basic-level program before taking the course.
  • The course is clearly relevant to the student’s LTSG degree and is approved by the student’s advisor.
  • The course was taken within ten years prior to the student’s admission to the STM program at LTSG.
  • The student received a grade of B or better.

NOTE: Admitted students are responsible  
· for informing the LTSG Registrar when they have enrolled in a course at another accredited graduate institution, as approved by their advisor, and which they intend to use for transfer credit in the STM program; and 
· for arranging on completion of the course for a transcript to be sent by the Registrar of that institution to the LTSG Registrar. Since a continuation fee is charged in any year when no work is done for credit, it is important to inform the LTSG Registrar when such work is being pursued. Credit will not be given and a continuation fee will be charged if no transcript is received. 

  See academic catalog for more information