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).
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.
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Heather Campain Hartung (formerly Vacek) was named director of accreditation for ATS in 2023. 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.
Hartung most recently served as vice president and dean of Moravian and Lancaster Theological Seminaries for the past two years. She began teaching at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 2012, where she was appointed associate dean for academic affairs in 2015, and vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty in 2016. She held the position of associate professor of church history at both schools.
Ordained in the Moravian Church, Hartung served as a trustee of Moravian Theological Seminary for ten years. Among her publications, her book, Madness: American Protestant Responses to Mental Illness, explores reactions to mental illnesses from the colonial era through the 21st century. Her service in theological education follows a career in engineering and marketing in technology companies.
Hartung holds a ThD and MDiv from Duke University Divinity School, and an MBA and MEM (engineering management) from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.
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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.
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Emanuel D. Naydenov was named director of accreditation for ATS in 2023. 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.
An educator with more than 30 years of experience in theological education and formation for ministry, Naydenov comes to ATS from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School of Trinity International University (TEDS). He served as director of the master’s programs and director of the MA in Theological Studies Program, and he led the Office of Extension and Affiliated Education. He recently served on the Board of Commissioners of the ATS Commission on Accrediting where, along with many other responsibilities, he contributed to the work of the Global Awareness and Engagement Initiative of ATS. Prior to TEDS, he was involved in launching Bulgaria’s first accredited seminary after the fall of Communism.
Naydenov, an ordained minister in the Evangelical Free Church of America, is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society, the American Academy of Religion, a cofounder of the Roundtable for Distance Education, and a contributor to the Bulgarian Journal of Theology and other indigenous theological and educational projects.
He earned an MDiv from Bethel Theological Seminary and a PhD in religious studies in the area of systematic theology from Marquette University.
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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, The 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.