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Princeton Theological Seminary Launches New MAT Program Focusing on Justice and Public Life

The hybrid degree program centers the power of leading with faith in the public square
News MAT release

NEWS RELEASE

Princeton Theological Seminary’s Board of Trustees has voted to approve a new degree program, the Master of Arts in Theology (Justice and Public Life). The Seminary’s first low-residency degree, this two-year, 36-credit program is designed for working professionals who wish to lead social change toward justice. Students from a variety of backgrounds will be introduced to the ways the Bible, history, theology, and practical theology can help them engage with today’s most challenging societal issues.

"I am excited about what this new degree program makes possible for working professionals who wish to study how theological reflection on justice empowers their public voice. Through virtual and in-person pedagogies, this degree offers these students access to top-rate theological education. Most importantly, this program provides a space for professionals to discern how their faith empowers their contribution to this conversation. We need more working professionals who will be willing to relate their faith to questions of social justice," says Keri Day, associate professor of constructive theology and African American religion.

The MAT (Justice and Public Life) program invites Christian laypersons to enhance their occupational credentials through a higher education degree that directly addresses their personal and faith convictions. Taking part in thought-provoking coursework on a part-time basis, students will come to campus during the January term for in-person courses each academic year, then complete the remainder of their coursework online. Asynchronous learning will involve watching recorded lectures and interviews and engaging in class discussions. Students will be expected to gather virtually for small group discussions or peer review sessions, creating digital communities amongst their cohort. Those without previous theological education training will learn foundational concepts in Introduction to the Ecology of Theological Education. Program offerings include courses and integrative seminars such as Proclamation Amid Trauma, Oppression and Mental Health, and Race and Belonging in Biblical and Theological Perspective.

The new degree will equip graduates to engage and lead in social justice and public witness in their chosen vocations, applying theological, historical, and biblical resources to a wide range of professions. Upon completion of the program, degree holders will be adept at community building, conflict management, and communication strategies. They’ll also be able to discern and address real-world issues through a theological lens. “The diverse and renowned faculty at Princeton Seminary has so much to offer people who want to know how they can bring their faith commitments to bear on the creation of a more just world, both locally in their home communities, and beyond,” says Jacqueline Lapsley, dean and vice president of Academic Affairs and professor of Old Testament.

The MAT (Justice and Public Life) program speaks to Princeton Seminary’s commitment to preparing students for ministries that extend beyond the walls of the church. By empowering faithful laypersons to integrate their religious beliefs into their work in the public sphere, the Seminary seeks to reshape the very definition of Christian leadership to be broader and more inclusive. Eric D. Barreto, Frederick and Margaret L. Weyerhaeuser Associate Professor of New Testament and chair of the New Degrees Program Task Force, says “For generations, Princeton Seminary has been equipping faithful leaders for the sake of the church and the wider world. With this new degree, we redouble these historical efforts by focusing on potential students we have not reached before, folks who are in the midst of vital vocations that this degree will help them pursue that much more faithfully. My hope is that these cohorts will position these new students to be bold prophets in a world of injustice, faithful healers of communities torn asunder by despair, careful and generous friends to those the world has most marginalized.”

In offering a hybrid program, Princeton Seminary is making its tradition of excellence in theological education available to a whole new audience. Anne Stewart, executive vice president, shares “The MAT (Justice and Public Life) program will enable leaders to speak to the most pressing issues and questions of our time. The low residency format will make the academic excellence of Princeton Seminary more broadly accessible, allowing students to participate in the vibrant intellectual and spiritual life of this learning community in new ways.”

The new MAT (Justice and Public Life) program also speaks to the vital nature of embracing the word of God in word and deed. “Christian witness to the gospel is as needed today as it ever has been. This degree imagines that the power of such witness is needed in many and diverse kinds of professions and vocations and that such faithful witness will help transform communities wherever our graduates serve,” says Barreto.

Learn more about the MAT (Justice and Public Life) degree program on Princeton Seminary’s website here. To apply for the inaugural cohort of the program, click here.



Educating faithful Christian leaders.

Pastor at Franklin Lakes United Methodist Church, New Jersey

Alison VanBuskirk, Class of 2015

“My call as a pastor centers on shaping a community where people can connect and be real with each other and God.”