Published on December 8, 2022 by Kristen Padilla  
Beeson Divinity outside

Samford University’s Board of Trustees approved Beeson Divinity School’s Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Theology for the Church during its meeting on Dec. 6. Following approval by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), it will be the first research doctoral degree offered by the university in its 180-year history. 

“This is a noteworthy moment in the history of Samford University,” Samford provost Michael Hardin said. “The university, and Beeson Divinity School specifically, has a long and honorable record of educating ministers of the gospel. The Ph.D. in Theology for the Church will extend and expand that ministry in a way that will strengthen churches and those who serve them as pastoral leaders.”

The Ph.D. in Theology for the Church is a research doctoral program that will equip graduates for theologically robust ministry in and for the church of Jesus Christ. The program’s focus is not restricted to ecclesiology; rather, it attends to theology broadly understood as rigorous scholarship in service to the church.

The program will require the completion of a common set of courses in Bible, historical theology and practical theology, successful passage of comprehensive exams, and dissertation research and writing. Students will work closely with a faculty member, who will act as a resource and guide for students’ research and supervise them in their dissertation work.

Douglas A. Sweeney, dean of Beeson Divinity School, said his prayer is that this program will be a gift to the church.

“We believe that the clergy ought to be the most influential biblical and theological leaders of God’s people,” he said. “So, we’ve designed the only Ph.D. program we know of to equip them for just this ministry. Our goal is to underwrite ecclesial theology—theology done in, with and for the church of Christ to the greater glory of God—on the part of its pastors and denominational leaders.”

Beeson Divinity’s Ph.D. will be a modular, four-year degree program that includes five on-campus doctoral seminars lasting one week each, directed readings, virtual research seminars, comprehensive exams and a dissertation. 

Admission will be competitive with only five to seven students accepted per year. Applicants must have the desire to serve the church of Jesus Christ, be able to articulate coherently their research interests and vocational objectives and have a reading competency in Greek or Hebrew. Students in the program will be assigned a faculty supervisor during the first term of enrollment.

Mark Gignilliat, professor of divinity at Beeson, will direct the school’s new Ph.D. program.

“We’ve long debated a Ph.D. at Beeson and believe the character and purpose of this degree is a natural extension of our institution’s mission and purpose,” he said. “This degree program reflects the best of our school: academic engagement with the theological disciplines for the sake of Christ’s church and the world. Universities have been the privileged location of these activities for centuries, but the church is the more fitting social location for the theological disciplines to flourish.

“Our hope is to produce graduates who will extend their studies into the life of their parishes, denominations and the broader culture. Better readers of Scripture, deeper students of the tradition and faithful commitments to Christ’s church—our new Ph.D. aims to facilitate these hopeful and generative outcomes.”

Those interested in Beeson Divinity’s Ph.D. program and who would like to receive updates and more information can complete this form

Beeson Divinity School is an evangelical, interdenominational divinity school on the campus of Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. Beeson’s mission is to prepare God-called persons for ministry in the church of Jesus Christ. The school accomplishes its mission by providing face-to-face, classical graduate theological education, worshiping the Triune God and encouraging the practices of Christian spirituality in covenanted community.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.