Portland Seminary introduces new doctoral degree tailored for those outside church ministry

July 06, 2021

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The three-year Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives degree offers a cohort- and online-based format for Christian leaders in a wide range of environments

NEWBERG, Ore. (July 6, 2021) – A new program offering at Portland Seminary will provide Christian leaders with a faith-based professional doctoral degree that is broad, flexible and credible in a variety of environments, including faith-related organizations and nonprofit ministries, and hospice, counseling, social work, administrative and parachurch settings.

The Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives degree, a cohort- and online-based format, three-year program featuring a lead mentor and three in-person gatherings, is designed to prepare students to lead both inside and outside the church.

“In our disrupted world, Christian leaders already know they need a different learning experience, and we are thrilled to offer them our new Doctor of Leadership degree,” said program lead mentor Jason Clark. “This is a distinct and unique opportunity for Christians wanting to grow their leadership and better navigate our complex world – and to do so within a Christ-centered, theologically informed perspective.”

The new degree was launched following a survey of alumni from the seminary’s former DMin counterpart, the Doctor of Ministry in Leadership and Global Perspectives (DLGP) program. The findings pointed to a need for a professional doctorate for ministry leaders who work outside the church – those in bivocational, nonprofit, marketplace ministry, or business-as-mission environments.

“This new degree provides an opportunity for us to meet the need of a wider population of Christian leaders,” said Loren Kerns, director of Portland Seminary’s Doctor of Ministry programs. “When we did our market research, we discovered very few leadership degrees that engage the discipline of leadership from a Christ-centered, theologically informed and faith-affirming perspective. The seminary is uniquely qualified and best positioned to offer such a terminal degree.”

Lead mentor Clark sets the overall inspiration, ethos and direction of the program and oversees coursework. Students take four courses with Clark over two years, and he facilitates online discussions, provides feedback on individual leadership development plans, and participates in a Project Portfolio examination.

Each week, 12 to 18 students in the cohort join a videoconference conversation with Clark and engage one another weekly on a public blogging platform. Students also regularly interact with project faculty in small peer groups each semester.

The program also includes three face-to-face intensives, called “Advances,” over the course of study. Advances are tentatively scheduled in Washington, D.C. (in 2021 only); Cape Town, South Africa; London; and Singapore. Advances serve as “adventures with a purpose” to push the boundaries of students’ thinking through on-the-ground engagement with mentors, leaders and scholars.

Applications are currently being accepted for the program’s fall launch at seminary.georgefox.edu.

There is already significant demand for the program, according to Kerns.

“We are currently turning away quality students,” he said. “Fifty percent of current DLGP prospects are not admissible as doctor of ministry students because of master of divinity requirements, which is 72 credit hours of seminary training. They will be admissible under the new Association of Theological Schools’ standards for a professional doctorate, as it doesn’t require the MDiv.

“These prospects do not want a PhD, nor a business leadership degree. They want to study leadership from a theological and biblical perspective.”

As part of the program, students will “cross cultural divides, apprentice with experienced mentors, grow both as a person and in their understanding of leadership, and do it alongside a cohort of experienced leaders who become friends,” Kerns added.

“Portland Seminary is excited to offer this new degree for those wanting to study leadership on a global stage and with a theological framework,” added MaryKate Morse, executive dean of the seminary.

Portland Seminary is affiliated with George Fox University, ranked by Forbes among the top Christian universities in the country and is a Christian college classified by U.S. News & World Report as a “Best National University.” More than 4,000 students attend classes on the university’s campus in Newberg, Ore., and at teaching centers in Portland, Salem and Redmond, Ore. George Fox offers bachelor’s degrees in more than 40 majors, degree-completion programs for working adults, seven seminary degrees, and 13 master’s and doctoral degrees.


Loren Kerns
Director, Doctor of Ministry Program
Portland Seminary