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Homiletics and Liturgics


Stephanie Budwey
Luce Dean’s Faculty Fellow Assistant Professor of the History and Practice of Christian Worship and the Arts

John S. McClure
Charles G. Finney Professor of Preaching and Worship

Lisa L. Thompson
Associate Professor and the Cornelius Vanderbilt Chancellor Faculty Fellow of Black Homiletics and Liturgics


A Ph.D. in Homiletics and Liturgics normally concentrated in the study of homiletics, within the interdisciplinary 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, and Liturgics, normally concentrated in the study of homiletics…. Students will gain expertise in homiletics with rigor in practical theological methodology. Students will also study homiletics in the related context of liturgical studies or may focus their work on a germane aspect of liturgical or ritual practice with the approval of the Area.

2. …within the interdisciplinary study of liturgical, ritual, and other religious practices…Students will engage in the interdisciplinary analysis of 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 studying 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 studied in relation to the broader public, cultural, and ecclesial questions impinging on practical theology 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, practical theology, theology, ethics, 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.


Students will have three options to fulfill language requirements:
  1. One foreign language of research (e.g. German, French, Portuguese, Spanish) and biblical Hebrew or Greek
  2. Two modern foreign languages of research
  3. One modern foreign language of research and a graduate level qualitative research course
Typically, a student can satisfy the biblical language requirement with one-semester graduate level introductory courses in biblical Hebrew and Greek with grades of “B” or better.


In order to qualify for dissertation work, students are required to give evidence of competence in Homiletics and Liturgics. Such competence will include problems of method, history, theory, theology, hermeneutics, philosophies of language and rhetoric, performance, the relationship between preaching and worship, practical theology, ethics, diverse contextual perspectives (especially feminist and African-American perspectives), pastoral perspectives, and pedagogy. Second in importance is each student’s minor field of study in which a significant complementary relationship to homiletics must be established and articulated. 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 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 HL Ph.D. Methodology Seminars (these courses can be offered as reading courses depending on enrollment). Both seminars, offered bi-annually, are required.

Practical Theology Seminar I.In this seminar, led by HL faculty or related practical theology faculty/adjuncts, students will present papers and projects that investigate ways to correlate and integrate the wide variety of methodological partners for doing research in practical theology: including, but not limited to rhetoric, communication theories, performance studies, ritual studies, phenomenology, philosophy, literary criticism, semiotics, ethics, hermeneutics, and history. Papers will explore the importance of homiletical and liturgical 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.

Practical Theology Seminar II. 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, anthropology, ethnography, case study, and comparative religion. A field work component will normally be required for papers and projects in this course.

HL Courses. 

15 hours of course work in Area Courses, or courses outside the Area approved by the Ph.D. residence advisor. 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. A course outside the Area must be approved by the student’s residence advisor in consultation with the faculty person offering the course.

Minor Field Courses

12 hours of course work in a minor field within the Graduate Department of Religion (Worship, the Arts, and Contemporary Culture, Practical Theology, 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).

Worship, the Arts, and Contemporary Culture Minor

It is possible for students to do a minor in Worship, the Arts, and Contemporary Culture. This minor is coordinated by the HL Area, Historical Studies Area, and the Religion in the Arts and Contemporary Culture Program, and includes courses that emphasize history of liturgy, art history, aesthetics, cultural studies, and the integration of homiletics and liturgics.

Minor Field Certification

Competence in the minor field must be certified prior to the student's moving forward to 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 HL 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 three-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 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, Area approved 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 projected Ph.D. committee members (specifying first reader, second reader, GDR member outside HL 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.

Normally, the components of the Qualifying Examinations are as follows. Appropriate revisions can be made for those whose work is focused significantly on a liturgical practice other than preaching.

1. Practical Theology and Pedagogy

2. History and Theology of Preaching

3. Homiletic Theory  

4. Biblical and Cultural Hermeneutics and Theological Ethics

5. Liturgics and Ritual Studies

Generally, no later than six months after passing the Qualifying Examinations, the student will present the dissertation proposal to the Ph.D. 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 Ph.D. candidate status.

Dissertation Proposal

In most cases, the student will present the dissertation proposal to the Ph.D. 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 HL are eligible for fellowships in Theology and Practice.