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United Methodist Local Pastors are pre-qualified for admission into a specialized degree program at Northwind Theological Seminary. Northwind is a newly formed seminary focused on supporting postmodern ministry for the neXt church through online theological education for bi-vocational, second career, and lay ministry.

In September of 2015 the United Methodist News Agency reported that:

 “United Methodist elders are declining in number in the U.S., but licensed local pastors are on the increase. “Elders” above includes ordained elders and provisional member elders appointed to churches, as opposed to extension appointments. ‘Local pastors’ includes full-time and part-time local pastors.”

An article on https://www.ministrymatters.com addresses this growing trend:

“There are several annual conferences that now have more local pastors appointed to churches than seminary-educated elders.”

“If local pastors (especially part-time local pastors) are going to become the primary way churches have clergy leadership, do we need to radically rethink how we educate them?”


Northwind is offering a radical new way to provide theological education for UMC Local Pastors. This new educational path is led by three colleagues who served as administrators and faculty in Drew Theological School (one of the official UM Theological Schools). Working together, this team created the first Online Global Doctor of Ministry Degree under the leadership of Len Sweet. Now they are creating the first online Master’s and Doctoral Degree programs in local church ministry designed specifically for UM Local Pastors.

The Master of Divinity has been the defining difference between UM Ordained Clergy and UM Local Pastors. It has also been the ‘gate’ blocking access to a Doctor of Ministry degree for Local Pastors. Northwind provides a path for you to transfer your Course of Study credits toward a Master of Pastoral Ministry degree and then pursue a Doctor of Pastoral Ministry


The Diplomas read:

Master of Pastoral Ministry

Doctor of Pastoral Ministry

Faculty-Mentor Directed

The Faculty Mentor faciliates scheduled video conversations and participates in the portfolio preparation and examination.

Project Portfolio

Students journey through a series of research milestones to generate the final Project Portfolio that addresses a Need or Opportunity in their ministry context.

Online and Flexible

Students set their own schedule and proceed at their own pace. Each course can be completed within 30 to 90 days.

United Methodist Church

Local Pastor Degrees

Courses of Study

Master of Pastoral Ministry - 60 Credits 

(Prerequisite: BA or BS degree)

Two transfer credits per Course from the ‘UM Course of Study’ up to 40 credits

One ministry experience credit per year of local church service up to 8 credits

(NOTE: Total Transfer and Ministry Credits not to exceed 42 credit hours)

Project Portfolio:


Research Course: 
Tutorial with a faculty mentor – 6 credits

Ministry Project Course

with a faculty mentor – 6 credits

Ministry Thesis Course

with a faculty mentor – 6 credits




Doctor of Pastoral Ministry - 30 credits (Prerequisite: Master of Pastoral Ministry)

Christian Traditions  

with Dr. Michael Christensen – 3 credits

neXt Church

with Dr. Carl Savage – 3 credits

Christian Futuring

with Dr. Robert J. Duncan, Jr. – 3 credits


Project Portfolio:

Tutorial Course:

Practice of Ministry in a changing world

with a Faculty Mentor – 3 credits

Oxford-style Research Course

with a faculty mentor – 6 credits

Ministry Project Course

with a faculty mentor – 6 credits

Ministry Thesis course

with a faculty mentor – 6 credits



Life Experience and Ministry Experience can be applied to the course requirements following an evaluation of those experiences.



Robert J. Duncan Jr. DMin    
President & Founder - Professor of Ministry

Retired Elder – Greater New Jersey Annual Conference
Retired President and Professor of Religion at Bacone College
Retired Administrator and Faculty of Drew Theological School
- Director of Institutional Advancement
- Director of Admissions
- Core Faculty and Special Advisor – Doctor of Ministry Program

Michael J Christensen. PhD  
Academic Dean - Professor of Religion

Retired Elder - California-Nevada Annual Conference
Retired Administrator and Faculty of Drew University
- Director of Doctor of Ministry Program
- International Director of Communities of Shalom
- Director of the Center for Prophetic Ministry and Community Development
- Affiliate Faculty in The Casperson Graduate School
- Associate Professor of Spirituality and Ministry

Carl Savage, DMin., PhD  
Associate Dean of Doctoral Studies
Professor of Archeology and Biblical Studies

Retired Elder – Virginia Annual Conference
Retired Administrator and Faculty of Drew University
- Director of Doctor of Ministry Program
- Associate Professor of Biblical Archaeology
Retired Christian Ministry Division Chair at Bacone College