With world-renowned teachers and alumni, CTS is the global leader in transformational religious studies. We offer several Masters and Doctoral degrees, including Masters in Divinity, Sacred Theology and Religious Leadership.

Master of Arts in Religious Leadership

Note: CTS is not currently accepting applications for the MARL Program (12/19/16)

The Master of Arts in Religious Leadership is a two-year program designed to prepare women and men for service in a range of religious, faith-based, community and advocacy settings. The degree provides an opportunity for students of diverse religious traditions to learn from and with each other.

Students in the Master of Arts in Religious Leadership program choose one of three concentrations: Interfaith Engagement, Social Transformation, or Word and Worship. Students also complete a unit of supervised Theological Field Education, at a site consistent with their vocational interests and concentration. The Master of Arts in Religious Leadership program culminates in a capstone project, which integrates a student's field education experience and theological studies.

Learning Goals & Concentrations

Learning Goals

  • Demonstrate the capacity for competent practice in and critical reflection on religious leadership in specific contexts.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of biblical, historical, and religious traditions.
  • Demonstrate understanding of the dynamics of personal, social and organizational transformation and their relevance for the practices of religious leadership
  • Demonstrate integration of the aforementioned outcomes
  • Communicate effectively, orally and in written form

Degree Concentrations

The Master of Arts in Religious Leadership (M.A.R.L.) at CTS is a single program with three concentrations:

Religious Leadership for Interfaith Engagement will develop the capacity to understand diverse faith traditions for purposes of interfaith collaboration toward personal and social transformation.

Religious Leadership for Social Transformation will develop the capacity to understand and engage the dynamics of community transformation in relation to specific contexts and religious traditions.

Religious Leadership for Word and Worship will develop the capacity to bring particular religious texts and traditions to bear on specific contexts through interpretation and liturgy.

Each program of study requires a minimum of 17 course credits, customized around your background, experience and interests.  Your program of study must be approved by your advisor and by the MARL Committee, normally by the end of your first semester in the program. A draft program of study, approved by your advisor, must be submitted to the MARL Program Director by the beginning of December for Committee review.

  • Seven core courses required of all MARL students:
    • 2 courses in sacred texts
    • 2 courses in religious thought/history
    • 1 course in personal/social transformation
    • 1 Capstone seminar and project paper
    • 1 course, Leadership and Ministry in Context (2 semesters)
  • 1 unit Field Education
  • 4 courses minimum in your concentration
  • 5 free electives

Sample Courses of Study

Joshua is a Jewish student interested in the social transformation concentration.  He is working full-time, and so chooses to study half-time, completing his program in 4 years instead of 2. He selects a field placement at Growing Home, which employs recovering addicts and individuals recently released from prison in organic urban agriculture, helping them to build healthy living and working habits.  After graduation, he plans to pursue a career in not-for-profit organizing around issues of sustainability.

First Year
Interpreting the Hebrew Bible
History of Jewish Thought

Theories of Change in Personal & Social Transformation (req)
Systematic Theology
Second Year
Introduction to Interreligious Engagement
Theological & Ethical Perspectives on AIDS & Violence
Religion and: State, Science, Environment
Theology & Practice in an Ecological Age
Homosexuality & Biblical Interpretation

Third Year
Field Placement (req)
Leadership & Ministry in Context (req)
Global Sensitivity in Ministry
Field Placement (req)
Leadership & Ministry in Context (req)
Urban Peacemaking in a Culture of Violence (SCUPE)

Fourth Year
Augustine, Niebuhr, & Malcolm X
Dangerous Religious Ideas in Judaism,
Christianity, & Islam
Bible, Animals, & Food
Capstone (req)



Aisha is a Muslim student concentrating in Interreligious Engagement.  She was a religious studies major in college and has already taken basic courses in sacred texts, so she will begin with more advanced scriptural courses.  She is able to study full-time and plans to complete the program in 2 years. She secures a field placement with the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, with a focus on the Jewish-Muslim Community Building Initiative.  A local interfaith organization wants her to lead its community engagement division after she receives her degree.

First Year
Introduction to Interreligious Engagement (req)
History of Jewish Thought
Global Sensitivity in Ministry
Sex, Race, & Class in the Song of Songs
The Bible & the Qur'an (LSTC)

Anthropology of Islam
Study Tour of Israel & Palestine
Systematic Theology
Second Year
Field Placement (req)
Leadership & Ministry in Context (req)
Living, Breathing Judaisms
Public Theology
Story & Religious Imagination in Judaism, Christianity & Islam
Field Placement (req)
Leadership & Ministry in Context (req)
Contemporary Islamic Renewal & Reform Movements (CTU)
Women & Religion in the United States
Capstone (req)

Ji-yeon is a Korean Christian student concentrating in Word and Worship.  She plans to return to a position of lay leadership in her home congregation, and also to teach undergraduates at a women's college.  Her field placement is at a local Methodist church, where she focuses on Christian education for children and adults, with occasional opportunities to preach.

First Year
Interpreting the Hebrew Bible
History of Christian Thought
Interpreting the Gospels
Interpreting the Parables for Preaching and Teaching
Interpreting the Epistles
Systematic Theology
Theories of Change in Personal & Social Transformation
Theology in Asia

Second Year
Field Placement (req)
Leadership & Ministry in Context (req)
Leading Worship: A Practicum for Presiders (req)
Educational Ministry in a Multicultural World
Field Placement (req)
Leadership & Ministry in Context (req)
Feminist Theory & New Testament Criticism
Feminist Liturgical Traditions
Preaching (req)
Capstone (req)


The Interfaith Engagement concentration and the Social Transformation concentration have 1 required course specific to the field, and the Word and Worship Concentration has 2 required courses. Many courses are available online. Not all courses are offered every year. We do have the entire ACTS catalog from which to choose, so there are always wonderful options for fulfilling the area requirements and stimulating your imagination.

Program Handbook [pdf]

MARL Interfaith Engagement Program of Study Worksheet

MARL Social Transformation Program of Study Worksheet

MARL Word and Worship Program of Study Worksheet