Campus View
News for friends of MTSO
January 2019


MTSO announces the Master of Arts in Social Justice degree

In the fall of 2019, MTSO will launch the Master of Arts in Social Justice, a new professional master’s degree program that takes full advantage of the school’s unique strengths.

The two-year, 39-credit-hour MASJ degree program provides a core curriculum drawing from ethics, religion and public leadership. Students also will benefit from a cross-cultural immersion experience and a customizable 280-hour internship.

“We live in an era of urgent need for individuals with both the commitment and the skills to drive conversation and action around social justice,” said MTSO President Jay Rundell. “Those who can speak and act with passion and competence on race, immigration, human sexuality, climate, disability, labor exploitation – to name just a few of the defining issues of our time – will shape our culture for generations to come.”

“MTSO is uniquely situated to offer this degree,” said Dean Valerie Bridgeman. “We have a longstanding history of social activism and theological reflection on that activism. MASJ students will learn from activist scholars who aren’t just talking in theory. We have faculty who work for justice in the classroom and on the frontlines beyond this campus.”

MASJ core classes will include on-campus and online learning. All on-campus core classes will meet on Monday and Wednesday evenings. Times of the three elective courses required to complete the degree will depend on the courses chosen.

Among the core courses within the MA in Social Justice program are Theories of Justice and Movements for Social Change; Nonprofit Administration and Leadership; Interreligious Theologies; and Social Justice and the Law. Students may then focus on areas of particular interest by choosing elective courses such as Ecotheology and Global Ethics; Community Organizing and Preaching: Power, Action and Justice; and Race, Religion and Nation: From Black Power to Black Lives Matter.

In earning the MASJ, students will develop skills and strategies for leading, organizing, educating and collaborating in diverse social, political, religious and educational contexts. Potential vocational roles for those with this professional master’s degree include nonprofit administration, community organizing, lobbying, advocacy and activism.

More information about the MA in Social Justice is available at

Feb. 12 and 13

How do you preach a dangerous sermon? Find out at Schooler.

Author, scholar and renowned preacher Frank A. Thomas will offer Schooler Institute on Preaching participants insights from his latest book, How to Preach a Dangerous Sermon, and upcoming book, How to Survive a Dangerous Sermon. The Schooler Institute will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 12 and 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 13 on the MTSO campus.

Thomas contends that a dangerous sermon challenges those listening by activating the four qualities of moral imagination: the embodied presence of the preacher, empathy as a bridge between past injustice and future possibilities, wisdom found in ancient texts, and hope conveyed through artistic, poetic language.

He is the Nettie Sweeney and Hugh Th. Miller Professor of Homiletics at Christian Theological Seminary, where he also directs CTS’s Ph.D. Program in African American Preaching and Sacred Rhetoric. He previously served as senior pastor of New Faith Baptist Church of Matteson, Illinois, and Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Memphis, Tennessee. 

Thomas holds a Ph.D. in communications (rhetoric) from the University of Memphis, a Doctor of Divinity degree from Christian Theological Seminary, Doctor of Ministry degrees from Chicago Theological Seminary and United Theological Seminary, a Master of Divinity from Chicago Theological Seminary, and a Master of Arts in African-Caribbean Studies from Northeastern Illinois University.

Thanks to the generosity of the Schooler Family Foundation, the Schooler Institute is offered to the public without cost, as is lunch both days. Advance registration is required and available here. One continuing education unit is available for a $25 processing fee.

Apply now - the deadline is Jan. 28

Premier Scholarship interviews are slated for Feb. 18 and 19

Promising future seminarians will come together at MTSO Feb. 18 and 19 as the school hosts its 2019 Premier Scholarship interviews. This gathering will change the lives of many prospective graduate theological students by putting their vocational dreams firmly within their financial grasp. 

MTSO offers a wealth of full-tuition and generous partial-tuition scholarships, some of which include additional annual stipends. One in every two full-time MTSO students has earned a full-tuition scholarship. Our students’ average non-loan aid award is $12,000 a year. 

Those who are invited to Premier Scholarship interviews will be considered for MTSO’s top scholarships, get a taste of life on our campus, and meet other bright, motivated individuals who share aspirations of a life of lasting significance.

The deadline for scholarship applications is Jan. 28. The application form and more information about our scholarship offerings are online here.

March 5 and 6

‘From My Lai to Ferguson’: Tran will deliver Williams Institute lectures

Mai-Anh Le Tran, associate professor of religious education and practical theology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, will deliver MTSO’s Williams Institute spring lectures. The first lecture, “To Set One’s Heart in a Violent World,” begins at 7 p.m. March 5. The second, “From My Lai to Ferguson: Militarized Orientalism, Benevolence, and Racism,” begins at 1 p.m. March 6. She also will preach at MTSO’s chapel service at 1 p.m. March 5.

Both lectures and the chapel service are in the Alford Centrum. They are free and open to the public. No registration is required.

Tran’s research focuses on religion, education and violence. Her writings delve into the local and global intersections of race, gender, and class in religious identity and practices. Reset the Heart: Unlearning Violence, Relearning Hope, her latest book, was published by Abingdon Press in May 2017.

An ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, Tran holds a Ph.D. from Garrett-Evangelical, a Master of Religious Education degree from Southern Methodist University and a Bachelor of Science from Texas Wesleyan University.

MTSO’s Williams Institute was begun in 1981 to honor the late Dr. Ronald L. Williams, professor of theology from 1971 until his death in 1981. The institute has featured speakers from many backgrounds, including theologians, ethicists, poets, biblical scholars, historians, pastoral psychologists and Christian educators.


March 18

Fearless Dialogues brings unlikely partners together in conversation

MTSO will host Fearless Dialogues, a public conversation led by Gregory C. Ellison II, associate professor of pastoral care and counseling at Candler School of Theology, at 7 p.m. March 18. The evening conversation is the public portion of a two-day series of Fearless Dialogues events for the campus community.

The 2013 verdict that found George Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder in the lethal shooting of Trayvon Martin raised critical questions about the American legal system. In its wake, Ellison founded Fearless Dialogues to offer unique spaces for unlikely partners to engage in hard, heartfelt conversations that see gifts in others, hear value in stories, and work for change and positive transformation in self and other.

Fearless Dialogues aims to interrupt cycles of marginalization and to foster strong communities for the common good by creating spaces for unlikely relationships to change the way people see themselves and the world in which they live.

Feb. 12

Open house offers prospective students a chance to sample MTSO

MTSO will welcome those considering graduate theological education to campus Feb. 12 for the Winter Admissions Open House. Events run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Highlights include opportunities to sit in on a class; tour apartments and residence halls; explore MTSO’s many financial aid options; and talk with current students, faculty and admissions counselors.

The day promises a useful, efficient and invigorating use of five hours. It is free and open to all. Lunch is provided, and overnight housing may be available. Registration is quick and easy. You’ll find the registration form and more information here.