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Approved Exceptions and Experiments

The 2012 revision of the ATS Commission Standards permits institutions to request approval for an exception to degree program requirements or permission for an educational experiment. Guidelines for both were developed by the ATS Board of Commissioners in 2013 (see Petition for Educational Experiment or Exception on the Petitions webpage), based on the Educational Standard, section ES.1.6.1, and on various sections of the Degree Program Standards (e.g., section A.3.1.3).

While all approved experiments and exceptions are noted individually under each school’s accreditation status in the Membership List and on the school's ATS webpage, the list below provides one convenient alphabetical listing of all the schools and programs to date that have approved exceptions and experiments. This list will be updated each spring and summer after the Board meets to approve any new exceptions or experiments, or anytime that approval contingencies set by the Board have been met.

Approved Exceptions

* Residency is understood as in-person interaction of students with instruc¬tors or other educators in locations approved for the offering of a full degree. All degree programs with the exception of academic masters degrees (Degree Program Standard D) require that a portion of the coursework be completed in residence (see section 3.1 of each Degree Program Standard).

Approved Experiments


Approved Exceptions

Residency Exceptions

Fully Online Degrees

Alliance Theological Seminary (NY)—fully online MDiv
Anderson University School of Theology (IN)—fully online MDiv and MA in Christian Ministry
Asbury Theological Seminary (KY)—fully online MA in Leadership and Master of Arts in Ministry
Bethel Seminary of Bethel University (MN)—fully online MDiv, MA in Ministry, and DMin
Carey Theological College (BC)—fully online MA in Christian Ministry and Master of Pastoral Ministry
Central Baptist Theological Seminary (KS)—fully online MDiv
Chicago Theological Seminary (IL)—fully online MDiv
Columbia Biblical Seminary of Columbia International University (SC)—fully online MDiv and MA in Biblical Exposition
Denver Seminary (CO)—fully online MDiv
Emmanuel Christian Seminary at Milligan (TN)—fully online MA in Christian Ministries (with residency met via synchronous video)
Freed-Hardeman University Graduate School of Theology (TN)—fully online MDiv and MA in Ministry
Gateway Seminary (CA)—fully online MDiv and MA in Educational Leadership
James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology of Mercer University (GA)—fully online MA in Christian Ministry
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MO)—fully online MDiv, MA in Christian Education, MA in Counseling, and MA in Worship Ministries
Moody Theological Seminary (IL)—fully online MDiv
Multnomah Biblical Seminary (OR)—fully online MDiv and MA in Christian Leadership
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (LA)—fully online MDiv, MA in Christian Education, MA in Discipleship, MA in Missiology, and MA in Pastoral Ministry
Northeastern Seminary at Roberts Wesleyan College (NY)—fully online MDiv, MA in Theology and Justice, and MA in Transformational Leadership
Pentecostal Theological Seminary (TN)—fully online MA in Discipleship and Christian Formation, MA in Counseling, MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and MA in Church Ministries
Regent University School of Divinity (VA)—fully online MDiv, MA in Practical Theology, and ThM
Shaw University Divinity School (NC)—fully online MDiv and MA in Christian Education
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (NC)—fully online MDiv and MA in Church Planting
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (KY)—fully online MDiv and MA in Biblical Counseling
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (TX)—fully online MDiv, MA in Christian Education, and ThM
United Theological Seminary (OH)—fully online MDiv and MA in Christian Ministries
Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University (IN)—fully online MA in Ministry and Master of Practical Theology
Western Seminary (OR)—fully online MDiv and MA in Ministry and Leadership
Westminster Theological Seminary (PA)—fully online MA in Counseling
World Mission University (CA)—fully online MDiv and MA in Christian Counseling 

Reduced-Residency Degrees

Abilene Christian University Graduate School of Theology (TX)—reduced residency (more than two-thirds online) for MDiv, and Master of Christian Ministry and MA in Global Service
Asbury Theological Seminary (KY)—reduced residency for MDiv (courses at the Memphis site count toward residency)
Bethel Seminary of Bethel University (MN)—reduced residency (three-fourths online) for MA in Transformational Leadership
Candler School of Theology of Emory University (GA)—reduced residency (one tenth) for DMin
Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CA)—reduced residency for MDiv transfer students
Fuller Theological Seminary (CA)—reduced residency (one fourth) for the MA in Intercultural Studies and MA in Theology and Ministry; also reduced residency for ThM and PhD degrees
Harding School of Theology (TN)—reduced residency for the MA in Counseling
Newman Theological Seminary (AB)—reduced residency (16.6%) Master of Religious Education
Portland Seminary of George Fox University (OR)—reduced residency for DMin: Semiotics and Future Studies track
St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry (NY)—reduced residency MDiv and MA in Pastoral Studies degrees (allowing ongoing course offering sites to count for residency)
Talbot School of Theology of Biola University (CA)—reduced residency (two thirds) for EdD and PhD and (one half) for the modified doctoral residential PhD and EdD in Educational Studies
University of Dubuque Theological Seminary (IA)—reduced residency (four fifths) for the MDiv and MA in Mission and Discipleship
Wartburg Theological Seminary (IA)—reduced residency (four-fifths online) for the MDiv

Other Residency Exceptions

Evangelical Theological Seminary (PA)—residency exception for immersion courses in the MA in Leadership Development and MA in MInistry
Starr King School for the Ministry (CA)—residency exception for immersion courses

Admissions Exceptions

Lexington Theological Seminary (KY)—concerning non-degree instructional programs that grant graduate credit, allowing students without a baccalaureate degree (but who have at least one full year of undergraduate study) to be admitted
Mount Angel Seminary (OR)—concerning DMin admission, the seminary may define educational equivalency for the MDiv as possession of a masters in theology and/or ministry, successful completion of a comprehensive exam, and evaluation of the applicant's narrative of ministerial/pastoral experience that includes an intensive interview
Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary of St. Adrew's University (MI)—only in the case of international students applying to the DMin, the seminary may assess the knowledge, competence, or skills of qualified international applicants using a portfolio to determine whether their educational preparation is comparable to a Commission-approved MDiv
St. Andrew's College (SK)—advanced standing exception for BTh students admitted into MDiv degree program
Talbot School of Theology of Biola University (CA)—expanded limit on both advanced standing for the MA in Christian Ministry and Leadership degree as well as to the 15-percent limit to the number of students who may be admitted to a professional master’s degree without a baccalaureate degree or its educational equivalent; exception to the 15-percent limit for students admitted to the graduate certificate programs without a baccalaureate degree
United Theological Seminary (OH)—exception to the 20 percent limit for students admitted to the DMin program with less than three years of ministry experience after the first graduate theological degree
Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University (IN)—exception to the 20 percent enrollment limit on students without three years of prior ministry experience for the DMin program

Duration Exceptions

New York Theological Seminary (NY)—duration exception for the MPS degree

Approved Experiments

Candler School of Theology of Emory University (GA) was approved in February 2015 for a five-year educational experiment permitting the school to offer a 30-hour Master of Religion and Public Life (MRPL) academic MA degree program.
Grace Theological Seminary (IN) was approved in February 2017 for a five-year educational experiment to offer the complete MDiv and Master of Arts in Local Church Ministry programs using a non-residential, competency-based model of theological education (called Deploy).
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (LA) was approved in June 2016 for a three-year educational experiment permitting the school to offer all required PhD coursework (roughly two-thirds of the program) through synchronous interactive video as an exception to residency.
Northwest Baptist Seminary (BC) was approved in June 2014 to offer for five years a competency-based MDiv, which includes an exception to the 15-percent limit for students admitted to that MDiv program without a baccalaureate degree
Portland Seminary of George Fox University (OR) was approved in June 2015 for a five-year experimental Leadership and Global Perspective track within the DMin in the Emerging Culture degree program, permitting immersion intensive to fulfill residency requirements.
Regent University School of Divinity (VA) was approved in June 2016 for a three-year experimental online Doctor of Ministry program, permitting online instruction to fulfill residency requirements.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (TX) was approved in June 2015 for a three-year experiment allowing all PhD program specializations (except music) to be offered in a reduced residency format.
Western Theological Seminary (MI) was approved in February 2015 for a five-year experiment permitting the school to admit up to 15 percent of candidates to its academic MA program without a baccalaureate degree.