The Certificate in Ministry Studies (CMS) is awarded upon completion of eight semester courses and may be tailored to fulfill the education requirements for the position of Commissioned Ruling Elders (CRE) in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This flexible program allows students to follow their interest in theological study and may be adapted to the specialized needs of individuals or groups.
Preparing to become a Commissioned Ruling Elder
The PC(USA) Book of Order indicates that CREs shall be instructed in Bible, Reformed theology and sacraments, Presbyterian polity, preaching, leading worship, pastoral care, and teaching. SFTS collaborates with presbyteries to prepare CREs in these subject areas. Certain seminary courses, including the introductory courses in Old and New Testament, Reformed theology, preaching, Presbyterian history and polity, Reformed worship and sacraments, pastoral care and counseling, Christian education, mission, and evangelism are appropriate for a CRE program of training for lay pastors.
However, because presbyteries have the exclusive right to determine the qualifications for CREs, SFTS does not claim that such coursework automatically qualifies you to be a CRE. The seminary does provide structured ways for you to acquire the educational component many presbyteries require. SFTS’ Certificate in Ministry Studies meets the educational requirements of a number of presbyteries.
Education for the Certificate in Ministry Studies is offered at the master’s level. The credits you earn in the CMS program may later be applied to a seminary degree if you are admitted to a degree program at SFTS or another seminary. You must apply for admission to the degree program through the regular process. Courses taken prior to admission will be evaluated by the SFTS registrar for possible transfer of credit and/or advanced standing in the degree program.
To pursue the CMS, register as an unclassified or non-degree student. SFTS requires a bachelor’s degree for admission to the M.Div. degree program. Those who enroll in graduate-level courses as unclassified students also are expected to have a bachelor’s degree. By special arrangement, however, those who lack the degree may pursue the CMS by enrolling as auditors rather than unclassified students. If you have less than two years of undergraduate education, you may attend classes only as an auditor.
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