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New Degrees Reflect a Changing Church

A study by the U.S. Department of Education reports benefits that support hybrid theological education.

especially as lay professionals have become increasingly important to the life of many denominations.”

Hill said that no educational model is perfect. “For full-time ordained ministry, Duke’s current model—residential full-time education—is one of the best. However, if that’s all we do, we narrow our impact. My reason for being here is to help Duke Divinity to extend its mission.”

The impact of these programs, Hays says, could be vast. “Ideally, they will produce a wave of energy and renewal in the church.”

There are lay and professional ministers with high levels of sophistication and expertise in their professional fields who are hungry for a deeper, fuller, and more nuanced understanding of the Bible and theology, says Hays. “There’s a nagging hunger for meatier study.”

Warner describes the ideal outcome as bringing Duke “closer to the energy and momentum of church renewal.”

For Hill, who worked in United Methodist churches for a decade, the new degrees will provide immediate benefits for those serving on the front lines of faith communities, which in turn will be more likely to flourish.

“It’s hard to maintain an active intellectual and spiritual life in those positions,” says Hill. “But it is enlivening to come into a situation surrounded by first-rate scholars and students in a structure that requires you to think and write. Many people long for such an opportunity, and we are grateful to be in a position to provide it.”

Rob Moll is author of The Art of Dying: Living Fully into the Life to Come (IVP Books, 2010).