Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

2/6 2020

What will I study in seminary?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

MDiv, MAPS, and MTS seminary studiesAs a former seminarian, and current seminary administrator, I am often asked what students will study in seminary. Those folks remotely connected to a church or faith community will have a number of sneaking suspicions about seminary. They assume seminary is a holy, almost monastic space, where students are immersed in study and enveloped in prayer. In a way, this assumption about seminary is correct.

Our students spend much of their time hunkered in corners of the library exegeting biblical passages or deconstructing theological arguments. Many join together in prayer in our weekly worship services, volunteering their musical gifts and homiletical skills to execute the service.


Seminary Curriculum

However, more and more in a time of change, both to the theological academy and the church writ large, seminary is a space where students can explore new and innovative forms of ministry. These new forms of ministry have inspired innovative curricular shifts at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Our students in the M.Div., M.A.P.S. and M.T.S. programs  participate in trainings to enable them to measure their intercultural competency. They take courses like contextual analysis and ecclesial formation, which require them to explore the ways their social or church location informs their own ministry in conversation with those who do not share the same experiences.

Seminary has become a place where students span wider backgrounds than ever before, and the seminary classroom consists of individuals from a variety of professional, church, and cultural backgrounds. The curriculum at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary enables students to take advantage of cross registration at other Pittsburgh universities to obtain an interdisciplinary competency that will inform the work they do as future teachers, social workers, pastors, church planters, and faith-based non-profit leaders. They will integrate their seminary training with courses in sociology, black studies, psychology, education, and more.

All of this curricular change makes seminary an exciting place to study and work, where students, faculty, and staff are learning collaboratively how to shape the future of the church, academy, and world. If you are someone seeking to join in this work, we invite you to connect with us at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.


Tracy Riggle Young is the senior director of enrollment services at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Prior to working at the Seminary, she earned her MA, taught at The Neighborhood Academy and with Teach for America, and worked in the admissions arena. Tracy is excited to help students discern their calls to ministry and ensure their success while in seminary. Her research interests include feminist theology and Black liberation theology.


12/6 2019

What Doctor of Ministry Focus is Right For Me?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
doctor of ministry grads

Members of the DMin Class of 2019


What Doctor of Ministry Focus area at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary makes the most sense for you?

One of the distinctive features of the Doctor of Ministry Program at Pittsburgh Seminary is the variety of different focus areas.

Passion, purpose, and plan are three important elements in determining the best DMin focus area for you.

First and most important, passion: What is your passion? What makes you come alive? What would you love to study and learn? Which focus area draws you most deeply?

Purpose matters too: Why are you returning for more study? Who and what do you hope this study will serve? Which focus area will best serve that purpose?

Finally, plan: How does Doctor of Ministry study fit into the trajectory of your call to ministry? What do you plan to do with what you study? How will it further the ministry to which God calls you? Which focus area best fits the plans you see unfolding before you?

Choices are wonderful, but choices can also be vexing. We hope this shorthand guide to our current DMin focus areas will help in your choosing.


Parish Focus

The Parish Focus is the most steady workhorse of the DMin Program, providing an opportunity for parish pastors to join colleagues in diving deeply into the challenges, questions, and opportunities of parish ministry. In years past, the Parish Focus was largely a re-immersion in the traditional areas taught in a the MDiv curriculum: worship, pastoral care, preaching, education, contextual analysis.

We’ve changed this focus up a bit lately, and are now orienting the Parish Focus around specific themes that are important in pastoral ministry today. Risking Faithfully is the theme for the current focus. In the Risking Faithfully cohort we are asking the question of what it means to lead congregations to take faithful risks on behalf of the gospel. We are exploring risk with an eye to changing culture and to the wonderful diversity of Christian community. Possible future themes include pastoral care and trauma, leading communities in the midst of political polarization, and nurturing scriptural interpretation as an act of the community.


Missional Leadership

In the Missional Leadership Focus we explore ministry as an invitation to engage the work God is already doing in the world—work that often takes place beyond the congregation. It is a wonderful focus for pastors who are seeking to discover how their faith communities can engage the local neighborhood and larger community in its present form, rather than in the form that community may have taken in earlier days. By cultivating skills in group discernment, appreciative inquiry, contextual analysis, and biblical interpretation in community, students discover pathways for new imagination in and with their congregations and ministries.


Christian Spirituality

The Christian Spirituality Focus encourages participants to explore the depth and breadth of Christian Spirituality across time periods, cultures, and contexts, and equips students with key skills to help them nurture their communities to be increasingly open to the Spirit of God moving in their midst and to engage the work God is doing in the world God so loves. Cohort participants are encouraged to deepen their own lives of prayer and practice as a necessary first step in leading the communities they serve. Christian Spirituality students also have the opportunity to receive a certificate in either Spiritual Direction in Ministry or Leading Spiritual Formation.


Reformed Theology

In collaboration with New College at University of Edinburgh in Scotland, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary offers a focus in Reformed theology. This is an opportunity to take a deep dive into classic and contemporary Reformed theological texts with an eye to how Reformed theology speaks to life in the world today. Three of the two-week course sessions will take place in Edinburgh and two in Pittsburgh, with students from both schools participating throughout. Topics include hospitality in ecumenical and interfaith encounters, the challenge of faithful presence in volatile political climates, and how historical, social, and cultural dynamics shape and are shaped by theological reflection.


Eastern Christian

In The Orthodox Way, Bishop Kallistos Ware explains, “We see that it is not the task of Christianity to provide easy answers to every question, but to make us progressively aware of a mystery. God is not so much the object of our knowledge as the cause of our wonder.” Through a collaboration with the Antiochean House of Studies, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary offers a Doctor of Ministry focus on Eastern Christian studies, inviting participants into learning, reflection, and deepening of pastoral practices within the traditions of Eastern Christianity. Most of the students are Eastern Orthodox priests, but this focus also offers ministers in other traditions the opportunity to be formed in the liturgy and learning of the Eastern tradition, with its awe for the mystery, beauty, and wonder of God at its center.


Science and Theology

The Science and Theology Focus provides space for a conversation between the narratives of science and the narratives of faith. Engaging questions of nature, biology, cosmology, technology, and neuroscience, this focus is intended to create opportunities for conversations between scientists and theologians by creating a community of students and scholars who have interests, and often training, in both areas. These conversations provide rich material for ministry in and among people who encounter the demands and promises of science and technology in our world.

Visit the Seminary’s website to learn more about these focus areas, start dates, and financial aid.


The Rev. Dr. Denise Thorpe serves as Pittsburgh Seminary’s interim director of the Doctor of Ministry Program. New cohorts typically begin in January and June each year and focus on a number of topics including Christian spirituality, parish ministry, and science and theology. Financial aid may be available for those who qualify. Learn more about the Doctor of Ministry Program at Pittsburgh Seminary.


11/27 2019

Located Leadership: Church Planting as a Lady Pastor

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
church planting woman clerical shirt

These snazzy numbers are available at: https://www.kingdom.com/women-s-long-sleeve-clergy-shirt.html


Have you ever tried to find a clerical shirt made for a woman? A quick Google search will inform you that the selection is sparse—and expensive. Perhaps the picture above offers a promising option? Sometimes it feels like conversations and literature about “leadership” fit about as well as those two poly blend shirts look like they fit me their wearers (or any other human woman). Like maybe if I borrowed my dad’s briefcase from the 90s and laced up his men’s size 16 (truly) wingtips, I’d look like what we all imagine a leader to be. Or perhaps in another tradition I’d need a beard, a flannel, and some tight jeans.


But these are not really looks I can authentically bring to the table—so what does it look like to be the person I am and to lead?


I can’t speak for all women (nor should I), but I can say that church planting—that is, gathering communities in newly imagined ways of Christian living—has a unique way of allowing the leaders to lead as themselves. It turns out, there are plenty of pastors who look like my dad in his wingtips with his briefcase. They have reached the folks who are looking for that. So too with flannel and beards and tight jeans. But every time I mention at a coffee shop or on a plane that I am a pastor, people have questions.


Church Planting and Listening First

Indeed, it was almost accidentally I learned that leading as myself meant leading from a posture of listening first. I heard their questions, and it turned out I didn’t always have the answers. So I started with hearing the questions and letting them be—I started with listening and being with. From there, it seemed natural to confess the truth of who I am, who the church is and has been, and confess that we don’t have all the answers we have long claimed to have. Perhaps it’s a funny way to be a leader, but in an uncertain world, I have found that for me, and for many others, gathering to live those simple practices—listening, confessing, and being with—has allowed church to spring up in all kinds of surprising places.  And that is pretty much what church planting is.


The Rev. Karen Rohrer, M.Div. is the director of the Church Planting Initiative at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, founding co-pastor of Beacon Church in Philadelphia, Pa., and, is in deed, a lady pastor.

1 2 3 4 5 57