Fully online Master of Arts degree takes off internationally

Henok Mekonin of Nazreth, Oromiya, Ethiopia, an MA: Theology and Peace Studies student and MATGA Ethiopia Assistant, talks with MDiv Connect student Josh Landis of Souderton, Pennsylvania. (Credit: Peter Ringenberg)

Henok Mekonin of Nazreth, Oromiya, Ethiopia, an MA: Theology and Peace Studies student and MATGA Ethiopia Assistant, talks with MDiv Connect student Josh Landis of Souderton, Pennsylvania. (Credit: Peter Ringenberg)

By Annette Brill Bergstresser

ELKHART, Indiana (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) — In April 2019, in response to a growing demand for online master’s degrees, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) launched a new fully online Master of Arts: Theology and Global Anabaptism (MATGA), effectively making Anabaptist theological education accessible to people anywhere in the world with a high-speed internet connection.

The first students to enroll were more than 7,500 miles away. Four graduates of Meserete Kristos College (MKC) in Bishoftu, Ethiopia, began AMBS’s Leadership Education in Anabaptist Perspective (LEAP) orientation course in Semester One; five additional MKC graduates joined the cohort in Semester Two. Together, they’ll complete the degree program entirely from Ethiopia.

The students will fulfill the requirements for a customized version of the 46-credit-hour MATGA that AMBS is providing for MKC graduates who are recommended by college administrators. While MKC offers baccalaureate degrees in Bible and Christian Ministries in both English and Amharic, among other programs, it does not yet offer a master’s-level program in Bible, Theology and Peace Studies from an Anabaptist perspective. The college’s leaders invited AMBS to help them develop a graduate-level program to educate leaders for the Meserete Kristos Church (the Ethiopian Mennonite Church), expressing a need “for trained leaders and other professionals capable of defending the faith and promoting peace by interfaith dialogue, human rights and interethnic peacebuilding.”

The MKC-AMBS partnership was developed by former MKC President Kiros Teka Haddis, MKC Board Chair Kelbessa Muleta (MDiv 2012) and former AMBS President Sara Wenger Shenk, Ed.D., while the new MATGA was being approved by the Association of Theological Schools, AMBS’s accrediting agency. Emebet Mekonnen, Ed.D., MKC Master of Arts program coordinator, and Beverly Lapp, Ed.D., AMBS vice president and academic dean, have been working together on curriculum arrangements for the partnership.

“Students in the MATGA Ethiopia Cohort will take a combination of contextualized courses that will explicitly engage the content within the Ethiopian context, and regular online courses in which they will interact with AMBS students from North America and other parts of the world,” said Lapp. “The general elective courses for the Ethiopia Cohort are carefully selected to also create a focus on peace studies in the curriculum, as requested by MKC leaders.”

Of the 16 courses required for the Ethiopian version of the MATGA, six courses will be offered in a sequence of summer intensive courses held on the MKC campus, to be taught by AMBS professors starting in 2020. These include Proclaiming the Faith; Economic Justice and Christian Conscience; and History of Christianity in Africa. Lapp and Mekonnen anticipate that the first cohort, several of whom are pastors, will be able to complete the degree in three years of study.

Rebecca Slough, Ph.D., AMBS missional leadership development director, led the orientation course for the first Ethiopia cohort with the help of Henok Mekonin of Nazreth, Oromiya, Ethiopia, an MKC graduate who is a current AMBS campus student in the Master of Arts: Theology and Peace Studies program. Mekonin is serving as MATGA Ethiopia assistant to help with communication and intercultural aspects of the program.

MATGA Program Director Drew Strait, Ph.D., assistant professor of New Testament and Christian origins, is the academic advisor for the current Ethiopian students. The Ethiopian cohort is currently taking Anabaptist History and Theology online with Jamie Pitts, Ph.D., AMBS associate professor of Anabaptist studies.

“Anabaptism has grown into a global tradition with adherents in every inhabited continent,” reflected Pitts. “This MA is attuned to the tradition’s global dimensions to help us understand our past, present and future.”


Fast facts: MA: Theology and Global Anabaptism

Who is it designed for? Scholars, teachers, pastors and leaders in North America and across the world

Where will I study? Online, in your context, with online course formats and interactive live-streaming technology

How long will it take me? The program is 46 credit hours. It can be done in four years with part-time study (two courses per semester) and fewer with full-time study.

What will I do?

  • Study the biblical, theological and historical foundations of the Anabaptist tradition.
  • Analyze how Anabaptism developed in Western and non-Western contexts and interacted with other Christian movements.
  • Deepen your faith through spiritual and intercultural formation.
  • Gain skills for engaging in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, communicating the relevance of Anabaptist Christianity today, and leading congregations and other peacebuilding organizations and communities.
  • Design a program that meets your goals for future study or ministry.
  • Access the AMBS Library’s electronic Anabaptist theological resources.

When? Apply now to start in 2020–21! Scholarships and generous need-based financial aid are available.

Learn more


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