Master of Arts: Theopoetics and Writing

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Searching for Mystery, Metaphor, and Meaning with the Master of Arts: Theopoetics and Writing

Bethany Theological Seminary provides a unique educational experience with its new graduate degree in theopoetics and writing (MATW). The first of its kind at a seminary, this degree enables students to focus study in ways that celebrate mystery, metaphor, and meaning in texts and contexts for expansive reflection, critical engagement, and various forms of writing. The MATW joins theology, poetry, narrative, spirituality, and public conversations together in the pursuit of inquiry and understanding that result in creative production across multiple genres.

Drawing on the strengths of Bethany’s theopoetics curriculum and the Earlham School of Religion‘s Ministry of Writing program, the MATW degree was developed through a collaboration by the schools. The degree is offered independently by both Bethany and ESR and requires 36 credits (twelve 3-credit-hour courses). At Bethany it may be done as a residential student or through our distance education program, Connections, and there is no residency requirement.

The MATW degree is led by the following faculty:

Scott Holland
Slabaugh Professor of Theology and Culture and Director of Peace Studies and Cross-Cultural Studies
Bethany Theological Seminary

Ben Brazil
Assistant Professor and Director of the Ministry of Writing Program
Earlham School of Religion

Although Bethany and ESR represent two distinct traditions—Church of the Brethren and Quaker—they share a common Peace Church tradition. While they have been partner schools since 1994, the theopoetics and writing degree represents a new level of collaboration. If you are interested in learning more about ESR, please visit their website here.

Program Objectives

The master of arts: theopoetics and writing program is designed to enhance students’ ability to write and think at the intersection of creativity, faith, and meaning. Along with academic study, it trains students in various forms of written communication and other media that bring spirituality into public conversation with the whole of life.

Graduates from the MATW program will be prepared to

  1. read, write, and engage in linguistic creativity as formative spiritual practices, both for communities and for individual lives, including their own;
  2. apply intellectual disciplines, skills, and creative processes that empower them to practice their writing publicly in ways appropriate to specific genres, audiences, and purposes;
  3. demonstrate theopoetic understanding of method, meaning and value, with attention to their function in the public sphere and connections to the cultural context;
  4. explore and articulate diverse, lived possibilities of theopoetics, such as literary craft, popular writing, justice advocacy, peacemaking, and community building.


Course Requirements

Summative Exercise (one courses, 3 hours)

  • MATW summative exercise (thesis/portfolio/project in final semester)

Core Theopoetics and Writing Courses (seven courses, 21 hours)

  • Theopoetics
  • Theopoetics, Mythopoetics, Aesthetics
  • Two 200-level writing courses from list below
  • Three other courses from list below

Elective Courses (four courses, 12 hours)

These may come from the list below (other MATW courses) or may be any course offered by either Bethany or ESR.

  • Writing the Story
  • Creative Nonfiction
  • Writing Public Theology
  • Writing for God and God’s People
  • Writing Mental Illness/Writing as Mindfulness
  • Writing Seminar
  • Applied Storytelling
  • Christian Themes in the Gallery: Contemporary Images in the Church
  • Spirituality and Ecology: Sabbath Poetry of Wendell Berry
  • Ecological Theology and Christian Responsibility
  • Theology of Place and the Built Environment
  • Art, Justice, and Peace
  • Science Fiction and Theology
  • Narrative Theology
  • Modernity, Postmodernity, and Belief
  • Peace of the City and Quest for Public Theology
  • Bonhoeffer, War, and Peace
  • Theology and Preaching
  • Preaching, Theopoetics, and Society
  • Preaching, Poetry, and Prophetic Imagination
  • Poetry Writing Workshop
  • Visual Communication and Faith
  • Poetics of Jesus
  • Writing Midrash
  • In Their Own Words: Readings in Christian History
  • Spirituality courses, ESR
  • Christian Ethics
  • Interfaith Dialogue
  • Process Theology
  • Liberation Theologies


For more information about the master of arts: theopoetics and writing at Bethany, refer to Bethany’s Academic Catalog.

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