Director: Craig Ott, PhD

Purpose and Nature of the Program

The PhD (Intercultural Studies) Program seeks to develop the ministry and research skills of leaders involved in a wide variety of missional, cross-cultural, and educational ministries. Focus is upon deepening our understanding of human diversity, contextual realities, and culture change in ways that inform redemptive, gospel-centered ministry in the contemporary world. Theological, historical and social scientific disciplines are integrated at the highest academic level and brought to bear on the global and local mission of the church.

As an academic PhD program, students will strengthen their foundations in theory as the basis for original research and writing to advance missiological understanding and effective leadership. Our mission is to cultivate academic excellence, cultural insight, and spiritual depth enhancing the personal and professional development of program participants. Persons benefiting most from the program are typically engaged at home or abroad in ministries such as cross-cultural missions, multiethnic ministry, missional movement and organizational leadership, higher education, and evangelism.

With a combination of coursework, mentoring, and research students can craft a stimulating, flexible, and individualized course of study suited to their professional goals and life situation. Many of Trinity’s PhD/ICS students participate in the program during sabbatical or other educational leaves from churches, Christian mission organizations, colleges, and seminaries. Some complete the program by commuting to campus from longer distances for modular, intensive courses, or by completing a portion of their coursework remotely through synchronous courses and guided research. Participation in the program links students with a diverse, broad-based international community of scholars and provides tools to promote lifelong learning.

Program Outcomes:

Students completing a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Intercultural Studies will be able to:

  • research original academic contributions to the field of intercultural studies
  • understand major issues, literature, and disciplines related to the field of missiology
  • integrate theological, social scientific, and historical perspectives in the research, analysis, and assessment of missiological issues, realities, and cultural engagement
  • contribute professionally to the academic missiological community
  • understand current issues in theology of mission
  • solve problems and develop strategic plans related to the practice of Christian mission
  • teach missiological subjects in higher education and train cross-cultural workers

Program Values

The PhD/ICS program is committed to the full authority of Scripture and the centrality of the gospel of Jesus Christ. These core convictions must guide the church’s mission as it engages an increasingly complex world of rapid social change, religious pluralism, human diversity, and globalization.  We thus believe that effective and faithful ministry demands more than ever the best integration of deep theological reflection, keen social scientific insight, and broad historical perspective. The ICS faculty represents a wide range of backgrounds, ministry experience, and academic expertise dedicated to working collaboratively with students in a stimulating and holistic learning community. The goal is not knowledge for knowledge’s sake, but academic excellence that addresses contemporary challenges for the greater glory of God and the advancement of his kingdom.

Intercultural Studies Defined

Intercultural studies represents a broad category of scholarly inquiries related to the interface of human diversity and transformative gospel ministry. Human commonalities are understood to be based on the oneness of humankind as bearers if the divine image. The scholarly task in this field of doctoral studies is to grasp with knowledge and wisdom those cultural factors that impinge on human relationships and various understandings of reality. These are evaluated these in the light of biblical teaching. Globalization, migration, religious pluralism, secularization, and other features of contemporary societies add to the complexity of human experience and increase the challenges and opportunities of Christian ministry and gospel faithfulness. Intercultural studies is thus of critical importance not only in the context of historic cross-cultural mission work, but also in virtually every context including North America.

Research integrating theological, historical, and social scientific disciplines seeks to clarify the church's missionary calling and inform its missional praxis. Effective human relationships, communication, Christ-centered personal and social transformation, contextualization of ministry, and engagement with persons of other faiths all require an understanding of culture and social dynamics. The foundation of the program is biblically faithful theology, which provides the basis for the evaluation of the interaction between a given culture, the gospel and the people of God.

Program Design

The PhD (Intercultural Studies) Program is designed as a program of three to four academic years, requiring two years (four semesters) of classroom and seminar studies followed by one to two years of comprehensive examinations and dissertation research. The length of the program can be reduced by enrolling in full-time study during all three semesters (fall, spring, and summer). Part-time students need considerably longer to complete the program. The minimum number of courses and seminars, comprehensive exam and dissertation credit, is 60 semester hours.  A full-time student takes 9 to 12 credit hours each semester. The program operates on a year-round basis, with full-load enrollment available in fall, spring and summer semesters. Program courses are offered in a variety of term-length and modular formats, as well as online synchronous courses, making study accessible to students who do not relocate to Bannockburn. To ensure that students not residing locally participate in the broader learning community, remote attendance at ICS community meetings, academic hearings, and other community is expected. Formal coursework is augmented by peer mentoring, learning cohorts, and close work with a faculty mentor during the dissertation phase.

All PhD/ICS students take a common core of required courses. Each course and seminar is conducted so as to encourage opportunities for a wide range of research interests and needs. Furthermore, the program allows flexibility in the design of a personal program of study that best serves the professional and academic needs of the individual participant. Before completion of 24 credit hours in the program the student should declare the general topic of the anticipated dissertation research. This decision is to be made in consultation with the program director and the anticipated dissertation supervisor. The supervisor will then provide guidance for the student’s further study program and course selection with the dissertation topic in view.

PhD/ICS students with interest in educational ministries may enroll in courses offered by the PhD/EDS program. Similarly, with special approval, qualified ICS students with a more theological focus may enroll in a limited number of PhD/THS courses. For additional information on the design of the program and its requirements, see the ICS Handbook for Participants.

Instructional Modes

The Doctoral Seminar

The core of the formal course instruction is the seminar experience. The interaction of a doctoral seminar is much more than a discussion; it is a mode of learning whereby course participants form a learning community of disciplined inquiry and mutual enrichment. To facilitate dialogue, the instructor may provide for a common base of reading and reference by assigning preparatory work. Seminars may be completed in a variety of formats such as regular semester courses, and modular (one or two-week) or weekend intensive courses, and synchronous online courses. For intensive courses participants are expected to have read the assigned textbooks and complete other assignments before the first class session.

Independent Study Courses

Two kinds of courses may be taken independently under the supervision of an appropriate faculty member: Reading Courses, which are courses listed in the TEDS Catalog but which are not available for students to take in a given semester; and Guided Research Courses, which are non-catalog courses specifically designed to meet the academic interests or professional needs of the participant. Independent studies will be approved for participants who have completed at least 12 credit hours, and who have arranged in advance with a professor the specific requirements and assignments of the course.

Peer Mentoring and Learning Cohorts
During the first 24 credit hours of PhD/ICS coursework all students are assigned a peer mentor with whom they meet regularly for advice, encouragement, and to facilitate the student's successful start in the program.

Upon completion of regular coursework and entering the comprehensive exam and dissertation phase of the program, all students become part of a learning cohort with two or three other students. The cohort meets for dialog related to their research, mutual encouragement, and accountability.

Residency Requirement

At least 24 credit hours of regular coursework must be completed by taking in person courses on Trinity's Bannockburn campus (i.e. not as synchronous, guided research, or reading courses). In academic doctoral programs on-campus presence is essential for students to receive faculty mentoring, participate in the learning community, become immersed in the ethos of doctoral study, and become involved in professional activities.

Students can complete their coursework in either full or part-time status and in either a traditional residential mode, or as a non-resident student who commutes to Bannockburn for intensive courses and other program requirements.

Admission Requirements

Applicants for the PhD/ICS program must fulfill the following requirements:

  1. Have earned a Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree or appropriate master’s degree (totaling at least 48 semester hours) providing significant theological and missiological foundations from an institution maintaining academic standards similar to those of TEDS. Specifically applicants must have, at the graduate level, a minimum of 15 semester hours of Missions or Intercultural studies and 30 semester hours of Biblical/Theological studies, including a minimum of 6 semester hours of Old Testament, 6 semester hours of New Testament, 6 semester hours of Systematic Theology, and 3 semester hours of Church History. Applicants who do not meet these prerequisites may consult with the program director regarding possible removal or waiving of deficiencies (see below under “Admission Deficiencies”).
  2. Present evidence of potential for original academic research at the doctoral level by submitting a sample of published writing or a recent academic research paper if nothing has been published.
  3. Have completed at least three years of vocational ministry experience in areas consistent with the program purposes, with evidence of relevant gifts and abilities.
  4. Present evidence of competence in two languages:
    1. a contemporary field language or research language for bibliographic control; and
    2. one biblical language. (In exceptional circumstances, the biblical language requirement may be waived.)
  5. Give evidence of a superior intellectual ability in all previous accredited graduate studies.
  6. Have earned a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.5 (on a 4.0 scale) in previous graduate studies.
  7. Submit a test score from either the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test or the Miller Analogies Test (MAT), preferably the latter, which will be taken into consideration among other factors in the application. Applicants whose first language is not English should submit scores less than two years old from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) in addition tothe MAT or GRE.

The requirements listed above should be understood as minimal requirements. Faculty select the applicants with the strongest qualifications. Applicants are assessed in terms of their total mix of strengths so that candidates who meet minimal requirements in one area may be accepted if they are exceptional in other respects. All other things being equal, for example, candidates with an MDiv will be given preference over candidates with an MA. However, it is the total mix of strengths that a candidate brings that will be considered in the selection process.

Special Instructions for International Applicants

All international PhD/ICS program students, including students from Canada, are now required to enter the United States with an F-1 visa. PhD/ICS residential students (i.e., living in Bannockburn and registered for full-time attendance) must comply with the same visa requirements as residential master’s-level applicants (see Admissions section). PhD/ICS nonresidential students (i.e., commuting to the Bannockburn Campus for each modular class) must also obtain an F-1 visa. This requirement represents a major change to immigration policy in the United States. Students who enter the United States to pursue the PhD/ICS degree without the F-1 visa potentially jeopardize their ability to complete the degree and reenter the United States. F-1 visas will remain valid as long as reentry into the United States for the purposes of study occurs at least once every five (5) months. A new visa will be required if reentry does not occur within this time period. In order for a Certificate of Eligibility (I-20) to be issued for PhD/ICS nonresidential students, the following conditions must be met:

  1. Applicants whose first language of instruction is not English must demonstrate English language competency as measured by a qualifying score on the TOEFL.
  2. Applicants must be admitted to the PhD/ICS program as a nonresidential student.
  3. Applicants must submit a special PhD/ICS nonresidential Certification of Finances.

Admission Deficiencies

Students whose academic record does not include all the required prerequisite coursework may be admitted with a deficiency of master’s courses. Under exceptional circumstances such deficiencies can be waived. However, the normal means of removing such deficiencies are described in the ICS Handbook for Participants. Deficiencies need not be completed before beginning the PhD/ICS program but must be fulfilled before advancing beyond 18 credit hours. Subsequent to admission, master’s work completed toward the fulfillment of deficiencies must be graded a “B-“ or higher to qualify toward fulfillment of deficiencies.

Advanced Standing and Transfer Credit

Petitions for advanced standing on the basis of previous graduate work should be made at the time of admission. The maximum number of advanced standing hours in the PhD/ICS is 10 semester hours. Petitions made after matriculation for advanced standing, beyond what is normally allowed, must be received by the Academic Doctoral Committee within the first two terms after matriculation. Students should file such petitions only in exceptional circumstances, and they will be considered only in cases where previous coursework has been completed in an academic doctoral program.

Transfer credit is not normally given for PhD doctoral study except as planned in advance in consultation with the director of the program.

Student Assessment

One of the primary tasks in the doctoral program is to assess the development and refinement of competencies and sustainable habits. The assessment of academic competencies and professional development takes place in the following ways:

At determined points in the program each participant is interviewed concerning his or her academic and professional progress. At these times, each participant also has the opportunity to offer input concerning the doctoral experience.

The Comprehensive Examination measures the reasoning and general missiological understanding of the student. It is normally scheduled soon after successful completion of the planned coursework and is divided into two parts: the written and the oral.

The Written Comprehensive Examination consists of two field statements (5,000-7,000 words, exclusive of bibliography) in preparation for the PhD Oral Qualifying Exam. Field statements are bibliographical essays on areas of specialization that are to address substantive areas of missiology or missiologically-related knowledge. Each field statement is a critical summary and analysis of issues and debates in a given field of knowledge.  The purpose of the field statements is for the student to demonstrate expert research skills and mastery of the arguments, issues, and methodologies related to the selected fields of inquiry.

The topics of the field statements are determined in consultation with two faculty members who normally also serve on the student’s dissertation committee. The two topics must be from separate disciplinary domains. The topics may not simply replicate written work already done in another course or guided research. 

Field statements should include both theological reflection and missiological application. See the ICS Handbook for Participants for complete details on the comprehensive examinations.

The Oral Examination is scheduled for a ninety-minute session and is conducted in the form of an interview by two or more faculty members, with an emphasis on matters of missiological philosophy and its basis in theological reasoning. The oral exam explores the student’s ability to verbally articulate their understandings and demonstrate integrative skills relating their field topics to broader missiological issues. See the ICS Handbook for Participants for further details on the comprehensive examinations

Candidacy Requirements

Admission to the PhD/ICS program does not guarantee acceptance into candidacy for the degree. A student must be certified as a candidate for the degree only after:

  1. Fulfillment of all deficiencies and prerequisites indicated as conditions for admission
  2. Completion of 54 credit hours, including all seminars, comprehensive exam, and dissertation proposal preparation, with a grade of “B-” or higher in each
  3. A cumulative grade point average of 3.2 or above
  4. Successful completion of the written and oral comprehensive examinations and conditions (if any)
  5. Acceptance of the dissertation research proposal and revisions (if any)
  6. Acceptance of the Protection of Human Rights in Research Protocol (if required)

Leave of Absence

For extraordinary reasons (prolonged illness, serious family crisis, unusual work situation), a doctoral participant may be granted a leave of absence from the program. Request for a leave of absence is to be submitted in writing to the program director and the ADC for consideration. The letter must include the reason(s) for the requested leave of absence and be submitted during the circumstance, or as soon as possible after the event. A leave of absence may be granted on more than one occasion but not to exceed two years in total. Once approved, the leave of absence will not be counted against the program statute of limitations (seven years). Similarly, the leave of absence will suspend the time related to continuation fees.

The Dissertation

The dissertation is to be a major work based upon original research and careful investigation of a well-defined and significant issue. This important component of the program is to include a substantial review of the research and conceptual literature underlying the inquiry. Courses appropriate to the mode of research proposed for the dissertation are required prior to the open hearing in which the dissertation proposal is presented. Appropriate procedures, based on relevant theological, ethnographic, historiographic, missiological, or social science methodologies are to be used. The research is to focus on a specific relational or conceptual problem in reference to a matter of the theology of missions, missions history, or a field of inquiry dealing with a significant issue in intercultural aspects of the church.

The purpose of the dissertation is to demonstrate competency in research skills, to serve as the culmination of doctoral study, and to make a significant contribution to the field of missiology. Appropriate research need not be universal but may be particular in application. However, findings must have potential value as contributions to the knowledge base in the field of missiology. The student’s approach to the dissertation should be positive and constructive. The student’s Doctoral Advisory Committee must approve the proposal before any data collection may begin.

A final oral examination of the dissertation is conducted by the Advisory Committee. It is in the form of an open hearing, including faculty and peers.

Graduation Requirements

Students pursuing the PhD/ICS degree are required to satisfy the following graduation requirements:

  1. Recommendation by the faculty of eligibility for the degree on the basis of academic stature and evidence of Christian life and character during residence at Trinity
  2. Successful completion of a minimum of 60 hours of approved coursework with a minimum 3.2 (on a 4.0 scale) cumulative grade point average for program coursework, with no grade below “B-” applicable to the degree
  3. Successful completion of specified number of full-time academic terms in residency
  4. Successful completion of the comprehensive written and oral examinations and the dissertation proposal
  5. Successful acquisition of candidacy
  6. Submission of the Application for Graduation form to the Records Office
  7. Successful completion and defense of an approved dissertation that exhibits the student’s ability to do competent research, to think critically, and to communicate effectively
  8. Completion of all requirements for the degree in seven years from matriculation or completion of additional program requirements as outlined under “Statutes of Limitations and Program Continuation”
  9. Settlement of all financial obligations to Trinity and any other ACTS seminaries with the Student Accounting Office

Statute of Limitations and Program Continuation

All program requirements (course work and dissertation) for the degree are to be completed within seven years from matriculation.

An extension beyond seven years is contingent upon the approval of the program director, the dissertation mentor, and the Academic Doctoral Committee. Participants who are convinced that they will be unable to finish in seven years may apply in writing prior to the end of the seventh year for a program extension, which will give up to a maximum of three further years for degree completion. Ordinarily, program extensions will be granted only to students who have completed the comprehensive examination. Such an extension must be approved by the Academic Doctoral Committee and will be granted only if the program director and dissertation mentor (where applicable) agree that the participant is making appropriate progress toward degree completion and that the area of research remains viable. In addition, the program director and mentor may make the extension contingent on specific further academic work. Such work may include but is not limited to

  1. additional reading assignments,
  2. the successful completion of one or more courses,
  3. the successful retaking of the comprehensive examination, and
  4. a new dissertation proposal.

Failure to complete any of the assigned further academic work by the deadline(s) set by the program director and mentor will result in immediate and automatic expulsion from the program.

Continuation fees will be assessed if the student has not achieved candidacy within four years of the first term of enrollment or is a continuing student beyond the seven-year statute of limitation. The continuation fee is assessed for each successive semester not enrolled for courses, excluding summer.

Program Withdrawal

In the rare occurrence of a doctoral student finding it necessary to withdraw from the degree program, he or she must notify both the Academic Doctoral Office and Records Office in writing of the desired change in program status. All fees accrued prior to the program withdrawal are still payable in full.

PhD/ICS Program Minors

Qualified students in the PhD/ICS program will be permitted to take a 9-semester-hour minor in one of the other two doctoral programs. Qualified participants should

  1. demonstrate strong master’s level preparation in their primary field of study and
  2. secure permission for the minor and the courses to be applied toward the minor from their Program Director and from the director of the program in which they wish to do a minor.

The 9-semester-hour minor is completed in the Professional Development component of the degree.

Program of Study

The PhD/ICS program is structured to provide course offerings that will allow flexibility in the light of each student’s academic background and vocational objectives. Once the student’s background and objectives have been reviewed with the faculty advisor, the student may elect appropriate courses in the required areas. Program course requirements are as follows:

Foundational Disciplines
ME 9050Prolegomena: Missiology as a Discipline 12
Select one of the following:4
Theology of Mission & Evangelism
Theology of Religions
Social Science:
Select two of the following:8
Ethnicity: Modes of Inquiry and Analysis
Sociology for Mission and Evangelism
Anthropology for Missions and Evangelism
Religion and Worldview:
ME 8380Religion in the Modern World4
or ME 8390 Gospel, Cultures, and Church in Western Contexts
History and World Christianity:
ME 9400History of the Expansion of Christianity4
or ME 8450 History of Evangelism
Research Methods:
Select two of the following:8
Qualitative Research Methods
Historiographic Research Methods
Quantitative Research Methods
Professional Development
Select one of the following:2
Leadership Development and Culture
Teaching Missions and Evangelism in Higher Education
Designated Electives
Students select, with the approval of the program director and/or dissertation supervisor, two courses offered at or above the 7500 level by faculty in the missions department. 28
Free Electives
Select 8 hours of free electives 38
Comprehensive Exam and Dissertation Preparation
ME 9970Orientation for Comprehensive Exam and Dissertation1
ME 9975Comprehensive Exam Preparation2
ME 9990Dissertation Proposal Preparation3
Dissertation Research 4
Total Hours60