Doctor of Divinity

Last updated

An Oxford Doctor of Divinity, in Convocation habit, not full ceremonial dress Aquatint of a Doctor in divinity at the University of Oxford, shown wearing convocation dress.jpg
An Oxford Doctor of Divinity, in Convocation habit, not full ceremonial dress

A Doctor of Divinity (DD or DDiv; Latin : Doctor Divinitatis) is the holder of an advanced academic degree in divinity.


In the United Kingdom, it is considered an advanced doctoral degree. At the University of Oxford, doctors of divinity are ranked first in "academic precedence and standing", [1] while at the University of Cambridge they rank ahead of all other doctors in the "order of seniority of graduates". [2]

In some countries, such as in the United States, the degree of doctor of divinity is usually an honorary degree and not a research or academic degree.

Doctor of Divinity by country or church

British Isles

In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the degree is a higher doctorate conferred by universities upon a religious scholar of standing and distinction, usually for accomplishments beyond the Ph.D. level. At the University of Oxford, doctors of divinity are ranked first in "academic precedence and standing". [1] At the University of Cambridge, they rank ahead of all other doctors in the "order of seniority of graduates". [2]

Typically, an academic candidate will submit a collection of work which has been previously published in a peer-reviewed context and pay an examination fee. [3] The university then assembles a committee of academics both internal and external who review the work submitted and decide on whether the candidate deserves the doctorate based on the submission. Most universities restrict candidacy to graduates or academic staff of several years' standing.

United States

In the United States, most doctors of divinity hold a degree conferred honoris causa by a church-related college, seminary, or university to recognize the recipient's achievements as a minister of religion. [4] For example, Martin Luther King Jr. graduated as a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Boston University in 1955 and subsequently received honorary doctor of divinity degrees from the Chicago Theological Seminary (1957), Boston University (1959), Wesleyan College (1964), and Springfield College (1964). [5] Billy Graham, who received honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees from The King's College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was regularly addressed as "Dr. Graham", though his highest earned degree was a Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology from Wheaton College. [6] [7]

Under federal law, a 1974 judgement accepted expert opinion that an "honorary doctor of divinity is a strictly religious title with no academic standing. Such titles may be issued by bona fide churches and religious denominations, such as plaintiff Universal Life Church, so long as their issuance is limited to a course of instruction in the principles of the church or religious denomination". [8] However, under the California Education Code, "an institution owned, controlled, and operated and maintained by a religious organization lawfully operating as a nonprofit religious corporation pursuant to Part 4 (commencing with Section 9110) of Division 2 of Title 1 of the Corporations Code" that offers "instruction... limited to the principles of that religious organization, or to courses offered pursuant to Section 2789 of Business and Professions Code" may confer "degrees and diplomas only in the beliefs and practices of the church, religious denomination, or religious organization" so long as "the diploma or degree is limited to evidence of completion of that education"; institutions "shall not award degrees in any area of physical science", while

any degree or diploma granted under this subdivision shall contain on its face ... a reference to the theological or religious aspect of the degree's subject area ... a degree awarded under this subdivision shall reflect the nature of the degree title, such as "associate of religious studies," "bachelor of religious studies," "master of divinity," or "doctor of divinity." [9]

In a 1976 interview with Morley Safer of the TV newsmagazine 60 Minutes , Universal Life Church founder Kirby J. Hensley professed that the church's honorary doctor of divinity degree was "...just a little piece of paper. And it ain't worth anything, you know, under God's mighty green Earth—you know what I mean?—as far as value." [10] In 2006, Universal Life Church minister Kevin Andrews advised potential degree recipients not to misrepresent the title as an educational achievement to employers, recommending instead that it would be appropriate to list such credentials "under the heading of Titles, Awards, or Other Achievements" on curricula vitae. [11]

As of 2009, 20 U.S. states and Puerto Rico had some form of exemption provision under which religious institutions can grant religious degrees without accreditation or government oversight. [lower-alpha 1] [12]

Roman Catholic Church

In the Roman Catholic Church, a doctor of divinity is usually the holder of an honorary degree, often conferred upon a bishop. [13] [14] In the pontifical university system, a holder of the highest earned degree in Catholic theology is styled "Doctor of Sacred Theology" (in Latin, Sacrae Theologiae Doctor, abbreviated STD).

Contrast with other religious degrees

A doctor of divinity should not be confused with a Doctor of Theology (Th.D.), the holder of a research doctorate in theology awarded by universities and divinity schools. However, many universities award a Ph.D. rather than a Th.D. to graduates of higher-level religious studies programs. A Doctor of Sacred Theology (STD) holds another research doctorate, in particular awarded by Catholic pontifical universities and faculties. A Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) holds another doctorate-level religious degree, which is a professional doctorate rather than a research doctorate. [15]

The Doctor and Student

Christopher St. Germain's book The Doctor and Student (1528) describes a dialogue between a Doctor of Divinity and a law student in England containing the grounds of those laws together with questions and cases concerning the equity thereof. [16]

See also


  1. The places in the U.S. that have some form of exemption provision under which religious institutions can grant religious degrees without accreditation or government oversight are Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. [12]

Related Research Articles

An academic degree is a qualification awarded to a student upon successful completion of a course of study in higher education, usually at a college or university. These institutions often offer degrees at various levels, usually divided into undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. The most common undergraduate degree is the bachelor's degree, although some educational systems offer lower-level undergraduate degrees such as associate and foundation degrees. Common postgraduate degrees include engineer's degrees, master's degrees and doctorates.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Seminary</span> Institution for educating students in theology

A seminary, school of theology, theological seminary, or divinity school is an educational institution for educating students in scripture and theology, generally to prepare them for ordination to serve as clergy, in academics, or mostly in Christian ministry.

The system of academic degrees at the University of Oxford can be confusing. This is not merely because many degree titles date from the Middle Ages, but also because many changes have been haphazardly introduced in recent years. For example, the (medieval) BD, BM, BCL, etc. are postgraduate degrees, while the (modern) MPhys, MEng, etc. are integrated master's degrees, requiring three years of undergraduate study before the postgraduate year.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Toronto School of Theology</span>

The Toronto School of Theology (TST) is an ecumenical consortium of seven theological colleges and is affiliated with the University of Toronto. TST is the largest ecumenical consortium for theological education in Canada. Its seven member schools are Emmanuel College, Knox College, Regis College, St. Augustine's Seminary, University of St. Michael's College Faculty of Theology, Trinity College Faculty of Divinity, and Wycliffe College.

For graduate-level theological institutions, the Master of Divinity is the first professional degree of the pastoral profession in North America. It is the most common academic degree in seminaries and divinity schools.

Licentiate in Sacred Theology is the second of three ecclesiastical degrees in theology which are conferred by a number of pontifical faculties around the world. The licentiate comes with attendant canonical effects in the Catholic Church, specifically granting the holder the right to teach in Catholic seminaries and schools of theology.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Licentiate (degree)</span> Academic degree similar to masters degree

A licentiate is an academic degree present in many countries, representing different educational levels. It may be similar to a master's degree when issued by pontifical universities and other universities in Europe, Latin America, and Syria.

In the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Dublin, Bachelors of Arts are promoted to the degree of Master of Arts or Master in Arts (MA) on application after six or seven years as members of the university, including years as an undergraduate. It is an academic rank indicating seniority and not an additional postgraduate qualification. Within these three universities there are in fact no postgraduate degrees which result in the postnominals 'MA'. No further examination or study is required for this promotion and it is equivalent to undergraduate degrees awarded by other universities.

A Lambeth degree is an academic degree conferred by the Archbishop of Canterbury under the authority of the Ecclesiastical Licences Act 1533 (25 Hen. 8. c. 21) as successor of the papal legate in England. The degrees conferred most commonly are DD, DCL, DLitt, DMus, DM, BD and MA. The relatively modern degree of MLitt has been conferred in recent years, and the MPhil and PhD are now available.

In Western universities, a Bachelor of Divinity or Baccalaureate in Divinity is a postgraduate academic degree awarded for a course taken in the study of divinity or related disciplines, such as theology or, rarely, religious studies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chicago Theological Seminary</span> Christian ecumenical seminary in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.

The Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS) is a Christian ecumenical American seminary located in Chicago, Illinois, and is one of several seminaries historically affiliated with the United Church of Christ. It is the oldest institution of higher education in Chicago, originally established in 1855 under the direction of the abolitionist Stephen Peet and the Congregational Church by charter of the Illinois legislature.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Doctor of Theology</span> Doctoral degree

Doctor of Theology is a terminal degree in the academic discipline of theology. The ThD, like the ecclesiastical Doctor of Sacred Theology, is an advanced research degree equivalent to the Doctor of Philosophy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Saint Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary</span> Orthodox Christian seminary in Wayne County, Pennsylvania

Saint Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary is an Orthodox Christian seminary located in South Canaan Township, Wayne County, Pennsylvania. It is one of three seminaries operated by the Orthodox Church in America, the others being St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, Yonkers, New York, and St. Herman's Orthodox Theological Seminary in Kodiak, Alaska. It is named after Tikhon of Zadonsk.

Divinity is the study of Christian theology and ministry at a school, divinity school, university, or seminary. The term is sometimes a synonym for theology as an academic, speculative pursuit, and sometimes is used for the study of applied theology and ministry to make a distinction between that and academic theology.

The Doctor of Ministry is a professional doctorate, often including a research component, that may be earned by a minister of religion while concurrently engaged in some form of ministry. It is categorized as an advanced program oriented toward ministerial and/or academic leadership. As a terminal professional doctorate, the Doctor of Ministry is primarily concerned with the "acquisition of knowledge and research skills, to further advance or enhance professional practice," and is, therefore, distinct from the Doctor of Philosophy in its aim. Some institutions offer Doctor of Ministry programs which are more akin to the Doctor of Theology, requiring a research component that constitutes the majority of the program.

The Master of Sacred Theology is a graduate-level, North American, academic degree in theology equivalent to ThM requiring two semesters of full time study. The Roman Catholic degree of Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL) typically requires four semesters. An honorary title of STM is also awarded within the Dominican Order.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">University of Santo Tomas Faculties of Ecclesiastical Studies</span> Philippine ecclesiastical schools

The University of Santo Tomas Faculties of Ecclesiastical Studies are the ecclesiastical schools of the University of Santo Tomas, the oldest and the largest Catholic university in Manila, Philippines.

An ordination mill is a religious organization or denomination in which membership is obtainable by trivial means and all members are qualified for self-ordination as a minister of religion, bishop, priest or deacon without any prerequisite training, work, experience, seminary study or other qualification. In some cases, ordination may be obtained online or by mail merely by submitting an application and a nominal fee.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Asian Theological Seminary</span> Theological seminary

Asian Theological Seminary (ATS) is a theological seminary in Quezon City, Philippines.

There are three kinds of Seminaries in India:


  1. 1 2 "Regulations for Degrees, Diplomas, and Certificates". University of Oxford. 26 June 2002.
  2. 1 2 "Order of Seniority of Graduates". University of Cambridge. 2013.
  3., Supported by Eastern Studio. "recently awarded degrees - Faculty Office".
  4. "Doctor of Divinity".
  5. "Biographical Sketch: Martin Luther King, Jr" (PDF). The Northern California Martin Luther King Jr. Community Foundation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 August 2018. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  6. Gibbs, Nancy; Ostling, Richard N. (15 November 1993). "God's Billy Pulpit". Time . Archived from the original on 7 December 2007. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  7. "Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Chronology". Wheaton College . 17 June 2014. Archived from the original on 26 June 2015. Retrieved 20 May 2015.
  8. Universal Life Church, Inc. v. United States, 372F.Supp.770 (E.D. Cal.1 March 1974).
  9. "EDC § 94874". California Code, Education Code.
  10. Jackman 2007.
  11. "ULC Degrees Accredited?". Universal Life Church Online. 2 June 2006. Archived from the original on 18 May 2015. Retrieved 20 May 2015.
  12. 1 2 "Religious Exempt Schools". Oregon Student Assistance Commission Office of Degree Authorization. Archived from the original on 21 February 2011. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  13. "Bishop Saulo awarded Doctor of Divinity degree by Huron College | Diocese of Huron". Archived from the original on 15 January 2021. Retrieved 14 December 2020.
  14. "Doctoral Requirement for Bishops". Catholic Answers Forums. 27 June 2018.
  15. "Doctor of Ministry - Fuller Seminary". Fuller Seminary.
  16. St. Germain & Muchall 1886.