Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

9/11 2020

Inside the PTS Curriculum: Justice and Pastoral Care

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The “Inside the PTS Curriculum” series gives you an inside look at what students are learning in their courses at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Each article focuses on one class, its subject matter, what students can expect to learn, the required texts, and the kinds of assignments students can expect. We’ll let you know whether the course is required or available for the Master of Divinity (MDiv), the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS), or Master of Theological Studies (MTS). Each article will include the professor’s bio.

This week’s course is: Justice and Pastoral Care.

Leanna Fuller teaches PTS students.

Professor Leanna Fuller teaches MDiv, MA, and Doctor of Ministry students at Pittsburgh Seminary.

About Justice and Pastoral Care

During this term, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary students will be learning about the connection between justice and caring practices with the Rev. Dr. Leanna Fuller in the class “Justice and Pastoral Care.” This course fulfills a requirement for the Graduate Certificate in Urban Ministry and is open to students in the Master of Divinity (MDiv), Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS), and Master of Theology (MTS) degree programs.

This course will explore the communal, intercultural, and systemic contexts of caring practices and the links between justice-making and pastoral care. Students will consider the ways in which communal dynamics such as injustice, exclusion, and conflict may shape individual experiences of suffering, both in congregations and in the communities of which they are a part.

By the end of the course, students will be able to articulate an understanding of pastoral care as a form of ministry that is situated within complex organizational and cultural systems—and narrate how this understanding challenges, supplements, or transforms their prior ideas about the nature of pastoral care. They will integrate insights from the course material with reflections on their own pastoral care experiences, with particular attention to the contexts of these ministry experiences. Finally, they will be able to describe their own emerging understanding of the proper relationship between practices of justice-making and practices of pastoral care.

Assignments will include required reading, classroom participation, reflection papers, blog posts, a public theology assignment, and a final integrative assignment. The texts for the course include but are not limited to Leah Gunning Francis’ Ferguson and Faith: Sparking Leadership and Awakening Community; M. Jan Holton’s Longing for Home: Forced Displacement and Postures of Hospitality; Emmanuel Y. Lartey’s In Living Color: An Intercultural Approach to Pastoral Care and Counseling; Injustice and the Care of Souls: Taking Oppression Seriously in Pastoral Care, edited by Sheryl A. Kujawa-Holbrook and Karen B. Montagno; and Chanequa Walker-Barnes’s Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength.


About the Instructor

A graduate of Vanderbilt University (Ph.D.), Vanderbilt Divinity School (M.Div.), and Furman University (B.A.), the Rev. Dr. Leanna Fuller is in her element when teaching about caring ministry. Ordained in the United Church of Christ, her most recent book is titled When Christ’s Body is Broken: Anxiety, Identity, and Conflict in Congregations (Wipf and Stock, 2016). Dr. Fuller has earned numerous fellowships, awards, and honors. She researches and writes about church conflict, and her book uses two case studies to examine the issue toward constructive outcomes. Fuller advises pastors to develop an intentional plan for dealing with congregational conflict—before the conflict arises! Some of the first steps, she says, include acknowledging that anxiety will be present in such circumstances and that the more serious the conflict, the more time it will take to resolve it constructively.


9/8 2020

Seminary or Divinity School: What’s the Difference?

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difference between seminary and divinity school

Perhaps the only thing I’ve found more difficult than earning a Master of Divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary has been explaining to friends exactly what seminary is! While one friend jokingly called it “cemetery school,” another thought it was more like a monastery. People somewhat familiar with the world of theological education often assume, however, that seminary is the same thing as divinity school. I was always at a loss to explain what the difference was and just chalked it up to the sphere of “I’m not really sure.”

So, how does a Pittsburgh Theological Seminary MDiv alum and current admissions counselor now explain the difference between a seminary and a divinity school?


Seminary or Divinity School?

First, the most fundamental difference between a seminary and a divinity school is that a divinity school is typically tied to a larger university via its label as a professional school within the umbrella of the university. Seminaries, on the other hand, are often their own educational institutions with no ties to a larger university’s jurisdiction. There are of course exceptions to this rule, but it’s a great starting point for understanding the difference.

Seminaries are also often affiliated with a specific denomination, offering specific courses to help student prepare for ministry within that tradition. That does not mean that you must be a part of that denomination to attend but that the seminary likely caters to a specific crowd in a specific way on top of offering general theological education. Divinity schools, on the other hand, are more likely to be loosely or not at all affiliated with a denomination and are often viewed as more “academic” since they skew toward helping prepare students for further study.

These differences, however, are not binding to all seminaries and divinity schools. For instance, one could attend a seminary and still pursue a PhD afterwards (students do that here, including many in the MTS program), while divinity school can prepare one for ordained ministry as well. Finding the right graduate program is ultimately up to personal preference, and any deliberation between these labels should not be a key factor in one’s decision.


Finding the Right Fit

So what makes Pittsburgh Theological Seminary unique to the world of seminaries? PTS is its own institution holding partnerships with other schools in the city, though it is not under the jurisdiction of those schools. PTS is also a seminary of the Presbyterian Church USA, uniquely rooted in the Reformed tradition. However, PTS welcomes students from all backgrounds of faith to explore the call that God has placed on their life here in this community. We have more than 20 denominations represented in our faculty and student bodies. Whether you are seeking ordination in the PCUSA, interested in starting a church plant, wanting to explore the world of urban ministry, or seeking to experience the Spirit’s movement in the global church, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary could be the right fit for you.



Chris Taylor, MDiv ’19 and admissions counselor, first came to the Seminary as a teen in the Miller Summer Youth Institute. After graduating from the University of North Carolina in 2015, Chris spent a summer in Acadia National Park and served as a youth director in Raleigh before moving back to his hometown of Pittsburgh to attend PTS. Chris has also been serving at Parkwood Presbyterian Church in Allison Park since 2017. You can often catch Chris watching Pittsburgh sports, Carolina basketball, reading a good book, or exploring the outdoors.


9/4 2020

Inside the PTS Curriculum: Preaching and Communication in Ministry

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The “Inside the PTS Curriculum” series gives you an inside look at what students are learning in their courses at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Each article focuses on one class, its subject matter, what students can expect to learn, the required texts, and the kinds of assignments students can expect. We’ll let you know whether the course is required or available for the Master of Divinity (MDiv), the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS), or Master of Theological Studies (MTS). Each article will include the professors’ bio.

This week’s course is: “Preaching and Communication in Ministry.”

Dr. Angela Hancock

Dr. Angela Hancock, who teaches Preaching and Communication in Ministry alongside colleague Dr. Roger Owens.

About Preaching and Communication in Ministry

Earlier this year, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary students learned about the theology and practice of preaching with the Rev. Drs. Angela Hancock and L. Roger Owens in the class “Preaching and Communication in Ministry.” This course is required for students in the Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree program and is open to students in the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS) degree or Master of Theology (MTS) degree program.

In this course, students were introduced to the theology and practice of preaching, with attention to the performative skills involved in effective communication in ministry settings. Topics included: the oral interpretation of Scripture, biblical exegesis for proclamation, the role of culture and context in preaching, the structure and rhetoric of sermons, and the non-verbal dimensions of communication.

Upon completion of this course, students were able to identify their gifts for and calling to the task of Christian proclamation; define and describe the theological and methodological issues at stake in the movement from a biblical text to a sermon in relation to a particular congregational context; and give evidence of growth in the exegetical, rhetorical, creative, pastoral, and performative skills involved in the practice of preaching and communication in ministry. Further, students were able to demonstrate working knowledge of the basic exegetical method and approaches to sermon design introduced in class through the creation and delivery of two sermons. Students exhibited the capacity to think critically and deeply about their own practice and listened with discernment to the sermons of others, using the theological and rhetorical language of homiletical criticism.

Assignments included speech performative exercises and class participation, two sermons (written and preached), regular analysis of selected sermons, a midterm take-home assessment, and a brief ethnography of context for the second sermon. Students read Ways of the Word: Learning to Preach for Your Time and Place by Sally Brown and Luke Powery; Wondrous Depths: Preaching the Old Testament, by Ellen Davis; The Witness of Preaching by Thomas Long; and Getting the Word Across: Speech Communication for Pastors and Lay Leaders by G. Robert Jacks.


About the Instructors

The Rev. Dr. Angela Dienhart Hancock serves as associate professor of homiletics and worship. She is an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and has served as pastor to churches in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Hancock is the author of Karl Barth’s Emergency Homiletic, 1932-33: A Summons to Prophetic Witness at the Dawn of the Third Reich, a contextual interpretation of Swiss theologian Karl Barth’s lectures on preaching in the early 1930s, based on unpublished archival material. Her current research explores Karl Barth’s contribution to the ethics of deliberation in Christian communities and the relationship between political and theological rhetoric. Hancock continues to preach, teach, and lead worship in a variety of settings.

The Rev. Dr. L. Roger Owens received his Ph.D. in theology from Duke University where he was awarded a Lilly Fellowship for the Formation of a Learned Clergy. Before that he completed his M.Div. at Duke Divinity School. As an undergraduate he studied philosophy and Bible/religion at Anderson University in Indiana. Owens is an ordained Elder in the North Carolina Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. In North Carolina he served both urban and rural churches for eight years as co-pastor with his wife before coming to PTS. His newest book is Threshold of Discovery: A Field Guide to Spirituality in Midlife (Church Publishing, 2019). Owens serves on the faculty for the Upper Room’s Academy for Spiritual Formation, where he lectures on postmodern spirituality and traditions of Christian spirituality.

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