Fields of Study
Homiletics and Liturgics

A Ph.D. in homiletics within the context of the broader study of liturgical, ritual, and other religious practices, and within public, cultural, and ecclesial contexts, in service to excellence in teaching for ministry and religious vocation.


1. A Ph.D. in Homiletics… Students will gain expertise in homiletics in a way that encourages interdisciplinary dialogue and rigor. Students will not necessarily be limited to cross-disciplinary methods, or to experiencing homiletics as primarily in the margins of another discipline. Instead, they will be encouraged to place a range of methods from other fields into the direct service of homiletic research and knowledge.

2. …within the context of the broader study of liturgical, ritual, and other religious practices…Students will critically analyze religious practices and incorporate such study into their research, writing, and teaching. A significant portion of course work will engage preaching in relation to ritual, liturgy, and the arts through both course offerings and the general environment of the homiletics program. Special attention will be paid to comparing and contrasting practices within and across different religious traditions, including especially Protestant, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Jewish traditions.

3. …and within public, cultural and ecclesial contexts… Homiletics as an academic discipline will be placed into the closest possible relation to the broader public, cultural, and ecclesial questions impinging on theological and religious studies today.

4. …in service to excellence in teaching for ministry and religious vocation. Students will pursue excellence in teaching through a supervised teaching requirement and through required Graduate Department of Religion course work on pedagogy.


Students applying for admission to the program are expected to have adequate preparation to pursue advanced study in Homiletics and Liturgics. Normally students will have completed professional degree level work (for instance, an M.Div.) including work in homiletics, biblical hermeneutics for preaching, theology, and liturgics. Significant study is encouraged in related fields such as rhetoric, literary criticism, myth and ritual studies, education (especially educational psychology, philosophy of education), philosophy (especially philosophy of language and epistemology), and communication and theatre arts.


Candidates for the Ph.D. in Homiletics and Liturgics must demonstrate a reading knowledge of one of the following modern languages: French, German, Spanish, the student's native language if not English, or another research language approved on petition to the faculty. Working knowledge of both biblical languages (Hebrew and Greek) is also required. Typically, a student can satisfy the biblical language requirements with one-semester introductory courses in biblical Hebrew and Greek with grades of “B” or better.


All students are required to give evidence of a competent grasp of the broad field of critical homiletics. Such competence should include problems of method, history of preaching, homiletic theories, theologies of proclamation, biblical and theological hermeneutics for preaching, philosophies of language and rhetoric in relation to preaching, the relationship between preaching and worship, ethics and preaching, contextual perspectives on preaching (especially feminist and African-American perspectives), pastoral theology and preaching, and pedagogy for preaching. Second in importance is each student’s minor field of study in which a significant complementary relationship to homiletics must be established and articulated. Third, students will be expected to gain a general working knowledge of liturgics, especially as it relates to the practices of preaching. Finally, students will be required to demonstrate the ability to develop consistent research methodologies for effectively integrating theoretical disciplines, the study of ecclesial traditions, and the careful analysis of religious practices.


In addition to the language requirement, the Graduate Department requires 72 hours for the Ph.D. degree at Vanderbilt.

By the end of a student’s third semester in residence the adviser will have made any appropriate recommendations for transfer credit. Students are permitted to transfer up to 24 elective hours of previous work to their transcript. The adviser will recommend electives to compensate any deficit in transfer credits.

In addition to the language requirement and transfer/elective hours, homiletics study in the Vanderbilt Graduate Department will involve two required GDR core courses, 33 hours of required course work, a Homiletics Pedagogy Requirement, Qualifying Examinations, and the Dissertation.


72 hours total

  • 24 hours of transfer or elective courses
  • 33 hours of required H&L course work (24 of which must be formal course work - not directed study)
  • 3 hours for the Study of Religion course or its equivalent
  • Non-credit earning Teaching of Religion course or its equivalent
  • Non-credit earning Homiletics Pedagogy Requirement
  • 12 dissertation hours

Work is spread in the following way:

Course Work

GDR Core Courses. All GDR students are required to take the Study of Religion Course or its equivalent and the non-credit earning Teaching of Religion Course or its equivalent offered by the GDR. Normally, the Study of Religion Course or its equivalent is taken during the first year and the Teaching of Religion Course is begun during the second year, concurrent to working as a Teaching Fellow.

Core Courses in Methodology. 6 hours in Homiletics and Liturgics Ph.D. Methodology Seminars (these courses can be offered as reading courses depending on enrollment). Both seminars, offered bi-annually, are required.

Methodology Seminar in Homiletics, Ritual, and the Study of Religion. In this seminar, led by Homiletics and Liturgics faculty or adjuncts, students will present papers and projects that investigate ways to correlate and integrate the wide variety of methodological partners for doing homiletic research: including, but not limited to hermeneutics, practical theology, rhetoric, communication theories, performance studies, ritual studies, anthropology, philosophy, literary criticism, semiotics, ethics, and history. Papers will explore the importance of homiletic topics to the analysis of religious traditions and to the academic study of religion as a whole. Special attention will be paid to the relationship between homiletic and ritual practices and larger public, academic, cultural, and ecclesial questions about religion in society today.

Methodology Seminar in Homiletic and Ritual Practices. In this seminar, students will present projects and papers demonstrating the ability to analyze critically religious practices - for example, sermons in a specific context, public or private rituals of worship and devotion, forms of sacred speech, or religious speech embedded within ordinary or public discourse, etc. These practices can be studied from a variety of disciplinary angles including history, rhetoric, theology, ritual theory, semiotics, sociology, psychology, and comparative religion. A field work component will normally be required for papers and projects in this course.

Homiletics and Liturgics Courses. 15 hours of course work in H & L Area Courses, at least 9 of which will be in homiletics and at least 3 of which will be in liturgics.Note, the Introduction to Liturgy is recommended for students with little or no background in liturgics, but will not count as one of the required courses for the Area.

Minor Field Courses
12 hours of course work in a minor field within the Graduate Department of Religion (Hebrew Bible, New Testament, Historical Studies, Theological Studies, Ethics, Religion, Psychology, and Culture, History and Critical Theories of Religion, or Jewish Studies) or in another department of the University (by approval). If a student’s minor is to be in Liturgics, all 15 hours of the required Homiletics and Liturgics Courses (above) will be in homiletics.

Minor Field Certification

Competence in the minor field must be certified prior to the
student's moving forward to the H and L qualifying examinations.
Certification (by examination, paper, or other appropriate instrument) will be determined by the faculty in the minor field in consultation with the student and H and L advisor. The advisor will notify the GDR office when the requirement has been satisfactorily completed so that the student may continue on to the Qualifying Examinations.

Homiletics Pedagogy Requirement

In addition to course work, and in addition to the GDR pedagogy requirement, each student will be required to engage in a non credit-earning five-day intensive peer-learning program designed to teach aspects of homiletic mentoring and coaching. Students will coach one another within a peer-group, receiving feedback from experts on their work. Through this feedback, students will learn valuable lessons about preaching, individual supervision, teaching, mentoring, coaching, using video and other media, professional ethics, and group process.

Academic Prospectus

One semester prior to taking the Qualifying Examinations and
(generally) no later then the end of the fourth semester following
matriculation, the student will meet with Homiletics and Liturgics
area faculty to present a prospectus for the remainder of the course
of study. Upon approval of this prospectus by this faculty, the
student will be allowed to continue toward QE's and dissertation
proposal preparation. A copy of the prospectus will be filed in the Area office. The prospectus will include the following items:

1. Course program sheet (showing completion of language
requirements, required coursework including methodology seminars, H and L area coursework, minor area coursework, electives, transfer
courses, and non-credit requirements (e.g., pedagogy requirement).

2. Statement of how the bibliography and perspectives of the minor
area will be integrated into the Qualifying Examinations (although not through a separate exam) and how competence in the minor area will be certified. This statement must be approved and signed by the minor area advisor. Note: student's competence in the minor area must be certified prior to taking the Qualifying Examinations (see discussion under minor area requirements).

3. Identification of which Qualifying Examination will be taken orally.

4. List of PhD committee members (specifying first reader, second
reader, GDR member outside H and L area, and any non GDR member of the Graduate School Faculty). The minor area advisor normally will also be a member of this committee.

5. Preliminary statement of the dissertation topic (approximately
250 words).

6. Reading lists for the Qualifying Examinations.

Qualifying Examinations

Qualifying Examinations will occur within no more than four semesters after the fourth semester following matriculation, and after the filing of the Academic Prospectus. One qualifying examination will be taken orally. All others are written examinations.

Components of the Qualifying Examinations. Examinations will be given in five areas:

1. Homiletic Methodology and Pedagogy
2. History and Theology of Preaching
3. Hermeneutics and Ethics
4. Philosophy, Communication, and Homiletic Theories
5. Liturgics, Narrative, and Ritual Studies

Generally, no sooner than six months after passing the Qualifying
Examinations, the student will present the dissertation proposal to
the PhD committee for meeting and discussion. Upon approval by this
committee, the proposal will be posted on OAK for full GDR faculty
consideration and approval, for no less than two full calendar weeks'
(during the academic term). Once this approval is received, the
student will formally be admitted to PhD status.

Dissertation Proposal

In most cases, the student will present the dissertation proposal to the PhD committee three to six months after successful completion of the Qualifying Exams.


The proposal is prepared in consultation with the primary adviser(s), is then to be reviewed and approved by the Ph.D. Committee, and is submitted to the Graduate Department of Religion faculty for approval. Guidelines for the preparation of proposals are available in the Departmental office. During the writing of the dissertation the student should, as appropriate, consult with members of the committee. For details on submitting the final draft of the dissertation and arranging the defense, consult the Departmental guidelines.

NOTE: This description of requirements supplements The Bulletin of Vanderbilt University Graduate School and "The Guidelines of the Graduate Department of Religion." Students are expected to meet all of the common requirements of the graduate program as described in those publications.

Students in Homiletics and Liturgics are eligible for fellowships in Theology and Practice.


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