Thursday, 29 July 2010

What is a degree from Cambridge Theological Seminary worth?

Lining up in Christ’s College, Cambridge, for the degree conferring ceremony (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

Patrick Comerford

Last week, while I was in Cambridge, it was delightful to see students robed for their degree conferring ceremonies. And I was reminded how sometimes I have been asked about the Masters of Arts degree, and how it is earned at Cambridge, Oxford and at Trinity College Dublin. After all, an MA hood from Dublin appears to have almost the status of a liturgical requirement in some parishes in the Church of Ireland.

In the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Dublin, the degree of Master of Arts or Master in Arts (MA) is awarded to Bachelors of Arts (BA) of those universities on application after six or seven years of seniority as members of the university – including the years they have spent as an undergraduate – and no examination or study is required for the degree beyond those required for the BA. This practice differs from most other universities, such as UCD and the NUI, where the MA degree reflects further postgraduate study or achievement.In the ancient universities of Scotland, the MA degree is awarded as a first degree to undergraduates in certain subjects.

And so, the Cambridge and Oxford MAs, like an MA from Trinity College Dublin, are based on a system of academic rank rather than academic qualifications. Once someone has been incepted or promoted to MA, one is technically no longer a BA and cannot use both sets of initials at the same time nor wear the academicals pertaining to the BA degree.

All three universities have other masters degrees that require further study and examination, but these have other titles, such as Master of Letters (MLitt), Master of Philosophy (MPhil), Master of Science (MSc), Master of Studies (MSt), Master of Theology (MTh), and so on.

At Cambridge, the MA may be conferred six years after the end of the first term in residence upon anyone holding a Cambridge degree of BA.

At Oxford, the MA may be conferred during or after the 21st term from matriculation, or seven years after becoming a student at the university, on anyone who holds an Oxford degree of BA or BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts). An exception is that someone holds the degree BA and who attains the degree of Doctor of Philosophy may immediately incept as an MA before the required number of terms have passed.

At Trinity College Dublin, the MA may be conferred on anyone holding a Dublin BA or another bachelor degree of at least three years’ standing.

The hood for the MA (Cantab) or Cambridge MA

At Cambridge, having the MA, or a postgraduate masters degree or doctorate, confers membership of the University Senate. This gives the right to:

● take part in Discussions (part of the University’s decision-making process);
● vote in the election of a new Chancellor or High Steward;
● borrow books from the University Library.

Many colleges also offer their senior members the opportunity to dine at High Table on a certain number of occasions each year.

Other Cambridge degrees

Ridley Hall, Cambridge, is part of the Cambridge Theological Federation (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

Of course, there are other Cambridge degree awarding bodies.

The Cambridge Theological Federation is a cluster of teaching and research institutions that includes Westcott House and Ridley Hall (Church of England), Wesley House (Methodist Church), the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies (where I have studied for the past three years, and based at Wesley House), the Margaret Beaufort Institute for Theology (Roman Catholic), the Eastern Region Ministry Course (Church of England and Methodist), Westminster College (United Reformed Church), the Woolf Institute of Abrahamic Faiths (also based at Wesley House), the Henry Martyn Centre, now housed in Westminster College, the Norwich Diocesan Ministry Course, the Norwich Theology Centre, and the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocesan Ministry Course.

Their students usually receive their degrees and diplomas from either Cambridge University or Anglia Ruskin University, which was founded as the Cambridge School of Art by John Ruskin in 1858. It has a campus on East Road, Cambridge, and another in Chelmsford, Essex.

And, of course, across the Charles River from Boston, there is Cambridge, Massachusetts, with such prestigious institutions as Harvard University, MIT, Episcopal Divinity School and Radcliffe College.

Free degrees from Cambridge Theological Seminary

Punting on the Backs in Cambridge ... many miles away from Cambridge, Ohio (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

But did you ever hear of the Cambridge Theological Seminary? If you heard someone had a Cambridge MA or DD, and then heard it was not from Cambridge University, nor Harvard, but from Cambridge Theological Seminary, what would you think of it?

Cambridge Theological Seminary offers free Doctor of Divinity degrees online, along with free ordination of ministers and chaplains, free certification for counsellors, and offers free church charters through its website. Constantly, the website of this Cambridge Theological Seminary asks: “Do you qualify for a ‘Free!’ Doctor of Divinity from Cambridge Theological Seminary?” One page alone asks this question over 50 times.

This seminary claims to have 35,000 students and 111 satellite schools around the world, and to serve ministers in 161 nations, offering full and legal ordination online for all phases of ministry, from Sunday School teachers to singers, deacons and preachers, chaplain’s ordination, for jails hospitals, schools, court police and fire departments, and a free Doctor of Divinity degree “for all genuine Bible-Believing Preachers & Bible and School-Teachers.”

The website of the Cambridge Theological Seminary points out that “Cambridge” is the “World’s Greatest Name in Education!” In other places on their site, they boast that Cambridge Theological Seminary has “the greatest name in education.”

The panoramic image of King's College, Cambridge, used on the website of Cambridge Theological Seminary

The top of one page is decorated with a splendid, panoramic photograph of the Front Court of King’s College, Cambridge, including the chapel, the Gibbs Building, the Gatehouse, the fountain on the Front Lawn, and part of the Wilkins Building. The caption beneath this photograph proclaims: “Cambridge Theological Seminary, Continues the ‘Scholarly Tradition’ of Ancient Cambridge.”

Buried deep down in the webpages, under the heading that screams “Official Notice!” is a disclaimer: “There is absolutely no connection between Cambridge Theological Seminary International and the secular University of Cambridge in England – although we are following the ‘Ancient Cambridge Scholarly Tradition’ into the 9th Century. In fact, we strongly renounce their turning away from a Christio-centric (sic) World-view, and the Infallible Word of God.”

The Seminary Home Office is not in Cambridge, England, nor is it in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The address for its “Global Online Religious Education Headquarters” is at 109 Palmetto Place (Cambridge), Byesville, OH 43723, and says its parent church is the (Global) Churches, United for Christ.

This Cambridge Theological Seminary traces its roots to a Bible Evangelistic Ministry that began in Ohio in 1965. The Cambridge Christian Academy of Ohio was founded in 1973 or 1974, and was incorporated in Ohio in 1977 as a “Non-Profit Educational Institution.” Over time, the Cambridge Christian Academy became the Cambridge Theological Seminary, and since 1982, it has been managed by a corporation or company based in North Carolina, Virginia or Florida, depending on which page of the website you are reading. Cambridge Theological Seminary is now registered with the State of Florida as an Institution of Higher Learning (Number 42), and plans to open two campuses in Florida in the coming academic year (2010-2011). An Arizona Branch is also being considered for the Tucson area, possibly by 2012.

Cambridge Theological Seminary International describes itself as a “Legal Church in the United States of America, Theologically Accredited as a Bible Seminary,” and claims it is fully accredited – by the International Agency of Independent Accreditation (IAIA).

They boldly state that “religious institutions need no secular accreditation because they offer no secular degrees,” and that “the Church need not wait for approval from the secular world. Civil agencies should not be dictating standards of Christian education, any more than a police officer should be directing the worship of God. Theological seminaries should not be accredited by accrediting associations that are ‘recognized’ by an agency of the federal government … Our ultimate authority is God and as such we choose to remain free in our rights to teach degree programs based on the word of God as found in His Holy Bible.”

The website declares “all religious backgrounds – male and female – are fully welcome at all” their programmes. And the programmes are myriad: the other degrees on offer include Doctor of Sacred Letters (D.Litt.), described as an “Honorary Title based on Published Writing,” Doctor of Biblical Theology, Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.), Doctor of Christian Education (D.C.Ed.), Doctor of Pastoral Ministry (D.P.M.), Doctor of Evangelism (D.Evan.), Doctor of Chaplaincy (Ch.D.), Doctor of Christian Counselling for Spiritual Counsellor (D.C.C.), Doctor of Christology, Doctorate in Sacred Music Instruments (D.S.M.I.), Doctorate in Sacred Music Vocals (D.S.M.V.) Doctorate in Praise and Worship (D.P.W.), Doctor of Christian Humanities (DC.H.), described as an “Honorary Degree in the Humanities,” and Doctor of Pedagogy (D.Ped.), which they say is an “honorary degree in teaching.”

Other programmes on offer include two-year, four-year, and masters’ degrees in Biblical Studies, once again “for all genuine Bible-Believing Preachers & Bible and School-Teachers.” They even offer programmes on how to start a new church or ministry that is tax-exempt from the first day, that comes complete with “a Beautiful 33-Page Fill-in-The-Blank packet (With Charter),” and “How to Start an Accredited Bible Institute in your Local Church as an affiliate of Cambridge Theological Seminary (With Charter).”

Their degree and ordination programmes appear to have been so popular this year, that they fell behind in dealing with orders in May and June, and asked customers – sorry, students – to resubmit in July. “We’ve had some glitches with new equipment and adapting to upgraded programs,” they say, “and we know some errors were made, the main one being applicants getting marked ‘completed’ when they weren’t!!!”

But would you want advice, or – worse still – therapy from someone who had completed their “Licensed Christian Counselors Program with Basic Lessons, for fees and income”? And, in their own words, “there is more … from Income Tax Advice and Ministry structure to Evangelism Programs, Estate Planning, Biblical Health Care, and ‘Godly Wealth-Building’ for Ministers … to the very best of our ability.”

They say their Doctor of Divinity degree is available to anyone in a genuine “ministering position” – including pastors, Christian college and Christian day-school teachers, Christian counsellors and psychologists, Christian medical doctors and lawyers, evangelists, missionaries, judges, chaplains, etc.

This self-styled seminary says it is “Non-Denominational, Christo-centic (sic), Absolute [sic] Bible Based … Radically Dedicated to Christ’s Great Commission!” But its degrees are available only for “serious, conservative, Bible-preaching ministers.”

But, sorry, this is not really a free-for-all.

Anyone who wants a DD degree from Cambridge Theological Seminary must sign a “Statement of Faith,” a “Statement of Authenticity,” a “Statement of Call-to-Ministry,” and a “Statement of Experience in Ministry.”

In addition, all applicants must sign a declaration that they “believe the Holy Bible to be the Inspired, eternal Word of God, and the Basic Tenets of ‘First Century Christianity’ as given in the earliest Apostle’s [sic] Creed,” declare their opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage,” and that they “believe the Holy Bible teaches Marriage as Instituted by Father-God in Eden, regardless what is politically correct.”

Why would you want this degree?

But then, why would you want a free degree from Cambridge Theological Seminary?

And if you went around telling people you had an MA or DD from Cambridge, would you be embarrassed when they found out it was a degree from Cambridge Theological Seminary in Ohio … or in Florida … or in Virginia … or in North Carolina … or in Arizona … or in cyberspace, or wherever it’s based at present.

Well, they are “absolutely certain” that a DD degree, “backed up by a ‘Solid Transcript’ – from a well-known and large Bible Seminary with a deeply respected name like ‘Cambridge’” will “be greatly enhanced.”

And they promise prospective applicants their church members “will give greater heed to your teaching,” staff, trustees and business associates “will be more apt to listen to your counsel,” your “Community and City Council will be more respectful,” why, “even your family and friends, will listen a little better, and accept your advice more readily … It will even help your children and grandchildren see you in a new and more powerful light.”

When it comes to my children, perhaps “more light-heartedly” might be more appropriate than “more powerful light.”

How free is a free degree?

In any case, the DD is not free. As you scroll down, they tell you that although all the (unnamed) administrators are volunteers, “to keep this Ministry functioning … we need a $31 offering to cover for our purchase, custom-printing, embossed-stamping, gold-sealing, and double-signing” of the “Standard-Size Degree” and a $21 Offering for additional copies. But, you are told, “It is a Beautiful Degree … You will be so pleased!”

Then, you are also asked for a $39 offering to evaluate your application, “Transcript your Life Experience” into Semester Credits, and to form your “Official Credit-Bank Record” in their records, a $30 offering to make a permanent file and maintain your college transcript and degree records “indefinitely… for your future verification needs,” a $59 offering to “Register your Doctor of Divinity” in three states, Florida, Virginia and Ohio, and a $22 offering for shipping, handling and mailing. In all, this totals $151 for what they call a “Seed-Faith Offering.”

You may debate the traditions and merits of an MA from Cambridge, Oxford or Dublin. But a free degree from Cambridge Theological Seminary is something else. I know when a free degree is really a worthless degree , and I hope never to see a hood for one being worn in the Church of Ireland.

11 comments:

Paul Gilmore said...

have you had a look at the Central School of Religon, London-based. Their last President is someone not unknown to you!!!

Thomas Golden said...

Thanks for this info. I have yet to be drawn in by one of these places, but I can't help but look into them when I see the offer out there. I have a great desire for the too good to be true to actually be true. It never is.

clayton77 said...

A year ago I contacted Cambridge Theological seminary, and I spoke to Mr.Paul who demonstrated interest in me, but when I informed him that I hold a Juris Doctor degree,he immediately stated that he could give my deceased father a Doctoral degree in Divinity. I responded in the affirmative,but when I mailed him the history of my background he did not respond.The degree is worthless an capitalises to promote the program more to hispanics and other minorities.
Congratulations to you for being to explicit.

michael hartl said...

I THINK EACH PERSON SHOULD BE EVALUATED INDEPENDENTLY. I HAVE A FULL 256 CREDITS FROM ACCREDITED INSTITUTIONS AN AND PUBLISHED MY THESIS WITH A VERY NOBLE CHRISTIAN PUBLISHER. YOU SAY WOULD I BE EMBARRASSED IF PEOPLE FOUND OUT I HAVE A DOCTRATE FROM CTS NO WAY. I HAVE ALL MY DIPLOMAS, DOCUMENTS, AND TRANSCRIPTS CERTIFIED BY THE GOVERNMENT AND PROUDLY HAVE INTERNATIONAL RIGHTS TO MY TITLE. JUST BECAUSE MY JOB WAS WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND I TOOK CLASSES AT A LARGE ARRAY OF UNIVERSITIES DON'T MAKE MY DEGREE ANY LESS THAN ANYONE ELSE. EVALUATE EACH PERSON BY THERE ACCOMPLISHMENTS. I AM PROUD OF ALL MY EDUCATIONAL AND PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS. CTS OFFERED ME A WAY TO USE ALL MY CREDITS FROM UNIVERSITY AND USE THE TITLE OF DOCTOR TO SPREAD THE WORD OF CHRIST. MY EDUCATIONAL CREDIT HOURS SURPASS MANY WHO GRADUATE FROM OTHER UNIVERSITIES.

Anonymous said...

Michael, your grasp of spelling and grammatical composition is all one should need to form a valid opinion of CTS. Having visited your web location and seen two examples of your "poetry", I can only most strongly recommend that you not quit your government day job
There is a great difference between being CALLED to ministry and being CAPABLE of ministry. Being capable requires BECOMING capable, and one does not become capable of anything by filling out an online form.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous,
I would like to point out that no one is capable of ministry. The only one that is capable of ministry is Jesus Christ. There is not one preacher in this world that can preach the word of God with out Christ. If they say than can than they are not called of Christ. So to be called into ministry is to be called of God through Jesus Christ his son. the only thing that stands in your way is a legal piece of paper that is worthless to me anyway! a piece of paper cant tell you that you can preach and you could have studied for years. i have seen a preacher a while back that couldnt deliver the word of God if it hit him in the back of the head. but yet he studied for years to get his degree to become a preacher. some one once told me a great statment and it was "the army does not hire the equiped they equip the hired." It sounds like CTS is doing the same. which is great. Spelling and grammatical composition is nothing i know a preacher with no degree and a possible 6th grade reading level that can deliver the word of God because Christ dwells within him and he allows Christ to speak through him. and dont talk down to people its just plain rude. I dont agree that however a title is important in the matter of serving Christ. what is important is that 1 you are called by God for sure. 2 Serving with the right reason. 3 how you approach it is up to you. 4 Being a minister is a life long learning process. Going to school for 4+ years does not mean you know everything about God and the Bible. it just shows you studied it. Billy Graham will have never understood the Bible Completly, no one can not me not you nor anyone. so go on and study at any institution you like because you can go to school for 8 years to be a pastor but it wont matter you will never fully know it. Now i am not knocking schooling. i think it is a great way to grow in knowledge. but so is dedicating your life to grow in the word of God daily reading your bible daily and growing a relationship with God and fellowshiping with others is just as important if you cant afford school go for it because what matters is that your growing with God. God be with us all. and God Bless

Ricky said...

To whom it may concern. In Febuary of this year I paid for a masters degree from CTS and its gong to be October and Im still waiting. The have not come through with there side of the deal. There phone has been out of order for quite some time, so there is no one to speak with. They are a fraud!

Elizabeth James said...

Well said, Anonymous.

Elizabeth James said...

Well said,Anonymous writer!

Anonymous said...

To Ricky,
I dont know if you know for sure but be sure to read about what is needed to quealify for that degree. And to be honest i think you blogging the wrong area. I would email them I have gotten a response immediatly. also be sure that your doing this for the right reason. I understand that it may look good for a bunch of reasons. Not saying your not and it is none of my business. But God should be the only reason. and from the look of your post it seems like your throwing a fit. If this is of God great. so be it. but if not. pray and let God take the wheel. Oh and Elizabeth James. thank you. and to all, God Bless

Kimberly Brown said...

Thank you! This has been very helpful and inspiring. I have spent the better part of my adult life ministering and pouring the life that Christ gave me into others. I went to college and obtained my associates degree and then the work of the ministry took presidence in my life. Sometimes, I think when you have a calling you are not thinking, I NEED TO GO TO COLLEGE AND GET A DEGREE, when so many people are suffering and need salvation. I feel these people are called to do what they are doing and I think it is a good thing. May the Almighty be with me and whoever else feels the call to obtain this degree because I will not be ashamed!