The Masters of Arts in Public and Pastoral Leadership recognizes the kinds of leaders that are needed for the changing nature of Christian communities and supports persons engaged in various forms of leadership, from congregations to social entrepreneurships, faith-based social services, NGOs, community-based development, mediation services and community-based justice initiatives.  A unique specialization in Spiritual Care prepares students for a variety of chaplaincy ministries.

The MA PPL seeks to live out of a theological vision where love is linked to a passion for justice, in which the agenda of theology is that of the hurts and hopes of the world.  This means that we are committed to forming leaders who are spiritually, emotionally, intellectually and practically capable of placing themselves in service to others – offering to the world religious reflection and/or faith-based practices such as non-violence, love of the neighbor, community-building, sacrificial livelihood, and reconciliation.  The vocation to love God in the world is a wide work that does not discriminate between pastoral and public spheres. We recognize the longing for truth, identity, purpose and belonging at the heart of human life and community as religious work.

In this degree, attention is placed in the core curriculum on action-reflection models of learning and contextual analysis.  The theological intellect is honed towards the skills needed for public theologians and leaders — with special attention to the religious literacy needed to take one’s place as a leader in a multi-religious (including secular) context; to the visionary capacities of organizers and ecclesial change agents; to ritual, spiritual, rhetorical and communitarian skills needed for engaging the public sphere and individual citizens. Courses attend to spiritual practice as the practice of everyday life, as a street-based attention to faithfulness and therefore disciplined attention to developing a life that makes a difference in the world.

Students in this program are expected to connect to a community or project in which their ability to practice and grow their capacity for leadership will be tested.


Suitability for Particular Vocations and Occupations

  • An MA-PPL prepares people for offering theologically informed leadership in community organizations and institutions such as NGOs, non-profits, para-church initiatives, and community-based development organizations. This is especially the case when a student includes in their program courses from VST’s offerings in Indigenous and Inter-Religious Studies.
  • In the face of shifts in ministerial preparation in the churches, an MA-PPL, with a credit load of half of the MDiv, may be more achievable preparation for a variety of types of ministry leadership. An MA-PPL may meet denominational competencies for a variety of ordered ministries in some denominations, in some cases with the addition of denominational courses.
  • The degree is preparation for various forms of ministries and emerging models of Christian community, for example, as worker-priests and leaders of community-based ministries.
  • The MA PPL specialization in Spiritual Care is designed for those intending to pursue vocations as spiritual care practitioners in settings such as health care facilities, prisons and correctional facilities, pastoral counselling centres, and congregations.
  • An MA is recognized as preparation for graduate work should a person at some point decide to move to advanced study.

Degree Design & Requirements
The MA-PPL is a 48 credit hour degree, 27 credit hours in required courses, 12 credit hours in designated advanced elective courses, and 9 credit hours in open electives.

Public and Pastoral Leadership will be anchored in 5 courses (15 credit hours) and 3 units of theological field education:

a)       PT500: Spiritual and Theological Foundations for Public and Pastoral Leadership  (3 credits);
b)       PT551: Pastoral Identity and Practice (3);
c)       PT651/652: Public and Pastoral Leadership Studio I & II (6)
d)        PT653 Leadership Here and Now: Advanced Leadership Skills and Practice (3 credits)
e)       3 terms of Theological Field Education:

  1. TFE1: Exploration (taken in preparation for the Studio course)
  2. TFE2a: Studio Part 1 (taken alongside PT651)
  3. TFE2b: Studio Part 2 (taken alongside PT652)

Classical Core: Students will take 4 courses (12 credit hours), one course each from the 4 primary theological disciplines:

a)       Hebrew Bible Introduction (HB500, 3 credits)
b)       New Testament (either NT500 Synoptics or NT501 Paul, 3 credits)
c)       Constructive Theology I (TH500, 3 credits)
d)       History (either HIS500 Christianity and Judaism in Greco-Roman Antiquity or HIS600 N/A and Canadian Church History, 3 credits)

Representative electives
Students will be required to take 4 courses (12 credits) that pose critical religious reflection in relation to social context.  These electives are intended to be representative  of the core commitments of VST’s curriculum, such as feminism and gender studies, post-colonial awareness, interfaith and multicultural dynamics, and ecological justice.  The courses include  those which relate to inter-disciplinary study  (such as economics, education, sociology, political science, physical sciences) with an aim to develop capacity for public and/or practical theology in  inter-religious and inter-cultural contexts.  These electives should include opportunity to develop post-colonial analysis and an understanding of the impact of globalization.

Open Electives: 3 courses (9 credit hours)

Culminating Assignment
The final requirement for graduation in the MA-PPL will be a capstone project and presentation (see below).  Two further options are available to students under particular circumstances:

  • Students completing an MA-PPL toward a vocation in ministry may, with support from their Director of Denominational Formation, petition the PPL Committee to write a position paper on ministry (see MDiv requirements pg …) in place of a capstone project and presentation.
  • Students wishing to continue academic study after completing  the MA-PPL  may petition the Research Studies Committee to write a thesis (see MA requirements pg …) in lieu of a capstone project and presentation.

The final requirement is normally completed in the student’s final year or semester of study

Capstone Project and Presentation Description:
The Capstone Project is an opportunity for students to complete their MA-PPL degree by addressing a practical, real world leadership challenge or opportunity using the skills and knowledge they have gained throughout their program of study.   The Capstone Project and Presentation provides opportunity for students to synthesize and apply their knowledge and experiences from their whole program. It helps them to negotiate successfully the transition to the next stage of their career, whether to the workplace or further study.

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