For Cari Fydirchuk, uprooting her family to attend Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Mich., is simply not feasible.
Beginning in fall 2012, Calvin Theological Seminary will begin offering an online M.Div. degree.
Photo Courtesy of Calvin Theological Seminary
But come fall 2012, the Calgary, Alberta, resident will join 10 to 15 other students as the first cohort to participate in a five-year distance learning Master of Divinity program offered through CTS, the official seminary of the Christian Reformed Church.
“We are a young family with an energetic 2-year-old girl and developing careers,” Fydirchuk said. “We are blessed to be a part of an authentic church community where both my husband and I are involved in a local street ministry, as well as leadership positions within the church. To uproot my family at this time in our lives just isn’t feasible. That said, God’s call to seminary is very real, and so I feel very blessed to have this online opportunity at CTS.”
With students like Fydirchuk in mind, the seminary pursued and received unqualified endorsement from the Association of Theological Schools, their accrediting agency, to offer the distance education M.Div. degree on February 29, 2012.
“The word ‘distance’ makes us think long and far away, when the reality of technology is that it brings us closer together and allows for someone who is in Alberta to sit in a classroom with someone from Houston and San Francisco and Grand Rapids,” said Jul Medenblik, president of the seminary.
The five-year program will consist of about three courses per semester. Between a third and a half of classroom instruction time will be in person, as students are required to attend two eight-day on-campus intensives in the span of one academic year.
The academic expectations and quality of education will remain the same as the residential program. Initially the workload will be managed through current faculty, but Medenbik anticipates that as the program grows it will allow the seminary to add faculty members to both the distance and residence programs.
“When we talk about distance learning, a lot of the attention seems to focus on how it helps people overcome the inconvenience of moving—and I think that’s very much a valid point,” said Peter Choi, director of distance learning, “but I think there is also a much more positive aspect to this, in that a program like the distance learning M.Div. really empowers and enables people to stay where they are called to ministry.”