Accreditation is about quality assurance for various publics and ongoing improvement for theological schools, especially regarding student learning and formation. It is a voluntary process through which schools mutually assure one another’s educational quality with an eye toward ongoing improvement, based on standards. Through self-review, a school has regular opportunities to reflect intentionally on its distinctive strengths and its areas of desired growth in light of its unique mission and distinct context and in light of the standards.
Self-review then supports the school’s efforts in planning, evaluation, and imagination. Through peer review, an accredited school is endorsed by its peers as one of quality and integrity, which affirms the school’s value to society, as well as its trustworthiness [from Preamble to 2020 Standards of Accreditation].
The body recognized as the accrediting agency for The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (“ATS”) is the Commission on Accrediting (“Commission”) of ATS, which is related to but separate from ATS. The current Commission membership includes more than 270 graduate theological schools in the United States and Canada who are Accredited Members.
The purpose of the Commission is "to contribute to the enhancement and improvement of theological education through accreditation . . . [and to] collect data from all members . . . for use in accrediting" (Commission Bylaws, Section 1.2). The Commission is recognized by the United States Secretary of Education and by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Acting on behalf of the Commission is the Board of Commissioners (“Board”), elected every two years by the membership with representatives from member institutions, ministry practitioners, and the public. The Board makes accreditation decisions based upon Commission-approved Standards of Accreditation, according to Commission-approved and Board-approved Policies and Procedures.
The Board also uses other resources that it has adopted to guide its work, such as the Board-approved Self-Study Handbook. The resources included on this website are intended to help schools pursue and maintain accreditation in order to assure and advance quality theological education.
As noted above, the Commission on Accrediting is related to but separate from The Association of Theological Schools. To become an Accredited Member of the Commission, one must first seek Associate Membership in the Association. Once a school has been approved for Associate Membership in the Association, it may then pursue membership in the Commission (see Guidelines for Achieving Initial Accreditation).
Senior Director of Accreditation
Barbara Mutch was appointed to the ATS staff as director of accreditation in September 2015, and was named senior director of accreditation in 2021. She oversees the accrediting staff, who report to her for supervision, goal setting, and development. Her work includes facilitating accrediting reviews, providing education and support to member schools about the process of accreditation, and providing staff support to the work of the Board of Commissioners of the ATS Commission on Accrediting.
Prior to coming to ATS, Mutch completed nearly 20 years of service at Carey Theological College in British Columbia, most recently as chief academic officer. She has taught courses in preaching, spiritual formation, issues in women’s faith and development, supervised ministry, and DMin theological reflection in ministry as well as a doctoral project seminar. She also taught at Regent College from 1996 to 2014, teaching a variety of courses including, most recently, the Seminar in Women’s Faith and Development.
In service to ATS, she contributed a chapter to the book C(H)AOS Theory: Reflections of Chief Academic Officers in Theological Education and an article on “Assessing a Doctor of Ministry Program” in the Theological Education journal. She has also served a full term on the ATS Board of Commissioners as well as on multiple comprehensive accrediting evaluation visits, and on the ATS Faculty Advisory Committee.
A graduate of Briercrest Bible College with both a Bachelor of Religious Education and a Master of Arts in Christian Ministry, Mutch earned her DMin at Princeton Theological Seminary. She is ordained in the Baptist Union of Western Canada and served as associate pastor of First Baptist Church in Regina, Saskatchewan, for 15 years while pursuing her graduate studies. In 2014, she was recognized as one of Canada’s preeminent preachers with the Lester Randall Preaching Fellowship at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church.
Director of Accreditation
Elsie Miranda was named director of accreditation for ATS in July 2018. She is responsible for coordinating evaluation committees, visits, and reports for approximately 20 percent of the nearly 270 member schools accredited by the Commission on Accrediting of ATS. She previously served on the ATS committee for the Revision of Standards from 2012 to 2014, has served on many evaluation teams, and, more recently, she served as a member of a peer group examining programs for Latino/a students as part of the ATS Educational Models and Practices project. She comes to ATS after 22 years at Barry University Department of Theology and Philosophy, serving most recently as associate professor of practical theology and as director of ministerial formation. As a Cuban American and practical theologian, she has focused her research interests on the intersection of faith and how socio-culture and socio-political realities impact both human formation and efforts toward peace and justice at local and global levels.
Miranda is the past president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians in the United States (ACHTUS), for which she coordinated the first bilingual colloquium in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 2016. Currently, she serves on the Formation and Religious Education Committee for the V Encuentro—a national conference on Hispanic Ministry in the United States coordinated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. She is also an active member of the Catholic Theological Society of America and the Association of Practical Theology. Her scholarship includes contributions to the edited volumes Hispanic Ministry in the 21st Century: Urgent Matters (Convivium Press, 2016) and Hispanic Ministry in the 21st Century: Present and Future (Convivium Press, 2010) and as coeditor and contributor to Calling for Justice Throughout the World, Catholic Women Theologians on the HIV AIDS Pandemic (Continuum Press, 2009). In her research and teaching, she continues to explore contemporary theological issues in the church and the world.
Miranda earned an MA in pastoral ministry from Boston College and a DMin in practical theology from Barry University.
Director Of Accreditation
412-788-6505, ext. 239
James R. Moore was named director of accreditation for ATS in 2021. He is responsible for facilitating accrediting reviews, providing education and support to member schools about the process of accreditation, and providing staff support to the work of the Board of Commissioners of the ATS Commission on Accrediting. Moore comes to ATS after 26 years at Trinity International University and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He most recently served as associate professor of educational ministries at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School of Trinity International University. Moore’s other roles have included associate dean of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, assistant dean of Trinity Graduate School, and director of administration for doctoral programs. He has been an active accreditation visitor and provides experience in the Commission’s work with accreditation and with the schools. In 2020, he was elected vice chair of the ATS Board of Commissioners.
Moore also previously served as assistant pastor and director of Christian education at Lifeway Wesleyan Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and he was a public school teacher in Indiana and Illinois. He is an ordained minister in The Wesleyan Church and a member of the Wesleyan Theological Society. His articles appear in the Baker Dictionary of Christian Education, Theological Education, Evangelical Missions Quarterly, Wesleyan Theological Journal, and Trinity Journal. He recently contributed “Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi: Advocate for Child-Centered Education” to A Legacy of Christian Educators, edited by Elmer Towns.
Moore earned his MA from Indiana Wesleyan University and his PhD from Trinity International University.
Director of Accreditation
412-788-6505, ext. 220
Valerie Rempel was named director of accreditation for ATS in 2021. She is responsible for facilitating accrediting reviews, providing education and support to member schools about the process of accreditation, and providing staff support to the work of the Board of Commissioners of the ATS Commission on Accrediting. Prior to accepting her role at ATS, Rempel most recently served as vice president and dean of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary at Fresno Pacific University. She joined the seminary faculty in 1996, was appointed dean in 2014, and became vice president in 2019.
Rempel also served at Fresno as associate professor and J.B. Toews Chair of History and Theology, and she was a past director of the Center for Anabaptist Studies. She is an experienced accreditation visitor and was a member of the ATS Redevelopment Task Force. Rempel was elected to the ATS Board of Commissioners in 2020. Her scholarship includes contributions to the California Mennonite Historical Society Bulletin, Direction, Conrad Grebel Review, and the Global Dictionary of Theology.
Rempel earned an MA from Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary (now Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary), and an MA and PhD from Vanderbilt University.
Director of Accreditation and Global Engagement
Director of Accreditation
412-788-6505, ext. 229
Tom Tanner joined the ATS staff in August 2012 after serving for 33 years in various academic leadership roles at Lincoln (IL) Christian University. As a director of accreditation, his work includes facilitating accrediting reviews, providing education and support to member schools about the process of accreditation, and providing staff support to the work of the Board of Commissioners of the ATS Commission on Accrediting.
Tanner served on many accreditation visits for decades before joining the ATS staff—for the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE) since 1984 and for ATS since 2006—as well as serving on several joint regional accreditation visits with SACS and HLC. He has presented numerous self-study workshops for ATS, ABHE, and HLC. He also served as a board member and commission member for ABHE. Tanner is a licensed minister among Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, having served as resident and visiting minister for several congregations in Illinois. His published works include two books (What Ministers Know and Verses and Voices), numerous articles for various journals, and former editorship of the Journal for Biblical Higher Education. In addition, he has published numerous articles in Colloquy Online, the Association's newsletter
A graduate of Lincoln Christian University (BA and MDiv) and the University of Illinois (MA, MLIS, and PhD), Tanner holds degrees in ministry, New Testament, classical philology, and library and information science.
Director of Commission Information Services
Christopher The joined the staff of The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) as director, commission information services in February 2017. He is responsible for managing the official records of the ATS Commission on Accrediting, handling requests for Commission-related information, processing reports, petitions, and other Commission-required documents, and supporting the work of the ATS Board of Commissioners and the organization’s accrediting functions.
He came to ATS from Fuller Theological Seminary, where he served on staff as student records coordinator, as communications center officer, and as recorder in the Office of the Registrar. As a rising second-year doctoral student in 2014, The was invited by the Forum for Theological Exploration to participate in the Summit for Future Theological Educators of Color and the Summit on Christian Leadership. Subsequently, he was invited to serve on the editorial board for the Indonesian Journal of Theology, in which he has authored an article on practical theological resourcing of immigrant churches for civic engagement.
In 2016, he was named a fellow of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, which promotes First Amendment ideals through education and advocacy. Ordained in 2010 in the Assemblies of God, The has served as associate pastor to two southern California congregations, and he has been a featured speaker and has provided pulpit supply to a number of congregations in the San Gabriel Valley.
The earned an MAR in theology and ethics from Azusa Pacific University, an MDiv from Fuller Theological Seminary, and he is presently a candidate for a PhD in practical theology.