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Ph.D. in Practical Theology

Our Ph.D. in Practical Theology begins with a two year program of coursework designed to train scholar-leaders to work within a diversity of theological specializations which emphasizes

Students learn to engage, produce, and present scholarly work with the relationship between theology and context in the 21st century.

The program offers a collaborative educational approach that seeks to form a community of learners at the highest level, engaging theological and relevant disciplines in critical conversation. You will be trained to produce original research that will launch your careers as scholars, educators and, pioneering leaders.

Designed for Ministry in the 21st Century, This Program Integrates Both:

Orthodoxy

The Right Belief and Worship

Orthopraxy

The Right Action and Practice

Courses Are Paired Each Semester to Develop a Practical Theological Dialogue

Contemporary Practical Theology

Introduces major works within practical theology worldwide together with an exploration of practical theological method and methodology.

Formation and Spirituality in Practical Theology

Examines critical areas of formational practice (marturia), including education and teaching (didache) as well as preaching and proclamation (kergyma), engaging theological reflection and spiritual direction.

Hermeneutics and Methodology in Practical Theology

Presents hermeneutical philosophy and related interpretive fields central to contemporary practical theology. Students will develop philosophical and methodological criticism.

Culture and Ritual in
Practical Theology

Examines contextual theologies and the theology of culture, including intercultural and postcolonial studies, with particular attention to ritual studies in light of the praxis of worship (leiturgia) and the role of symbol in practical theology.

Sources of Practical Theology

Students will acquire an understanding of how scripture, practice, and theological reflection over the centuries provide the foundation on which contemporary practical theology rests within the theological enterprise.

Public Theology as
Practical Theology

Explores forms of public theological reflection, including contemporary political and liberation theologies as well as theologies of reconciliation, in the context of theological ethics and pastoral care (diakonia).

Social Science for
Practical Theology

Examines social research methods and theory as related to the work of practical theology. Students will critically assess and appropriate resources for contemporary practical theology within social science research and theory.

Community Life and
Pastoral Practice

Presents congregational studies and faith community life (koinonia) in light of a practical ecclesiology and theological reflection on pastoral practices in dialogue with organizational theory, leadership studies, and related scholarship.

What Makes Our Program Unique

Our students come from all over the world and represent a wide range of Christian traditions. We are thus both “intercultural and interconfessional.” This creates exciting conversations and leads to new insight for doctoral learning community members while learning from their colleagues. Intercultural and interconfessional conversation is a must for quality scholarly production and this is uniquely part of the seminar experience.

We train our students to present at academic conferences from their very first semester. We run an academic conference at the end of each semester and coach our students for success from the start.

This focus on a theology of action, both as theologizing from the praxis of ministry as well as entering into the entire Christian theological enterprise from the standpoint of praxis, is at the heart of this doctoral program. We seek to provide robust scholarly formation through a community of teaching and learning that embraces spiritual, human, intellectual, and pastoral dimensions.

Core Faculty

Victor A. Copan

Professor of Ministry Leadership and Biblical Studies

Dr. Victor Copan is a professor of ministry, leadership and biblical studies and is also chair of the ministry department.  Under his leadership, the B.A. in Ministry degree has expanded significantly through the addition of six concentrations.  His areas of teaching range from spiritual formation, New Testament, ministry, to missions courses.  His research interests lie in the areas of spiritual formation and Pauline studies.

He received a Th.D. from the University of Vienna in Austria.  His dissertation was titled, “Pauline Imitation and the Contemporary Practice of Spiritual Direction” and explored the Apostle Paul as a spiritual director.  His dissertation was significantly revised and published in Paternoster’s Biblical Monograph Series as St. Paul as Spiritual Director.  His most recent work is a spiritual formation text book, Changing your Mind: The Bible, the Brain, and Spiritual Growth (Cascade Books, 2016).

Dr. Copan has written several articles for scholarly journals.  The most recent one, “Creational Allusions in Romans 8:18-27 and their Interpretive Significance for Understanding Predestination Language in 8:28-33,” is part of a collection of articles on Pauline theology published by Criswell Theological Review (Spring 2015).  He also regularly reads papers at professional societies and is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society, Institute of Biblical Research, and Society of Biblical Literature.

In 2013 Dr. Copan’s online course on Spiritual Formation received the “Online Course of the Year Award” by the Association of Christian Distance Education. In 2010, he also received the “Mentor of the Year Award” from Palm Beach Atlantic University.

Prior to coming to PBA, Dr. Copan served for over 15 years as a missionary in Austria. He partnered with the established Protestant church in Austria and worked as a church-growth consultant, a small-groups specialist, and he also developed training programs and curricula for small group leaders across Austria. Dr. Copan also established a thriving ministry to theology students at the University of Vienna and was an independent instructor at the Protestant Institute of Theology at the University of Vienna. From 1996 to 2003, he was on the steering committee for the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students’ annual European Theological Students’ Conference held at Schloss Mittersill, Austria.

In addition, Dr. Copan has served as faculty advisor to Theta Alpha Kappa, the theological honor society of the university. He is also active in his local church leading small groups, preaching, and mentoring. Dr. Copan and his wife, Kathy, have three children.  His hobbies include walking, tennis, and foreign films.

EDUCATION: B.A., Columbia International University; M.A., M.Div., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; Ph.D., University of Vienna (Austria).

Kyle D. Faircloth

Director of Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies Program, Associate Professor of Intercultural Studies

Prior to coming to PBA, Dr. Faircloth served in intercultural ministry in Southeast Asia for fifteen years. For the first six and a half years he participated in church leadership and community development efforts in Thailand. In 2011, he and his family relocated to Penang, Malaysia, where he directed the M.A. in Intercultural Studies and Doctor of Missiology programs at a local seminary.

He has presented papers at theological conferences in Malaysia and Australia and has published book chapters and articles in peer-reviewed journals such as the Journal of Asian Evangelical TheologyThemeliosNew Blackfriars, and International Journal of Systematic Theology. His research interests are theology of religions, intercultural studies, East Asian religions and philosophy, and studies in world Christianity.

Before moving to Southeast Asia, he worked with an organization that facilitated relief work in Haiti, and also with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Orlando. He and his wife are native Floridians, and they have two children.

EDUCATION: B.A., Palm Beach Atlantic University; M.A., M.Div., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; D.Miss., Malaysia Baptist Theological Seminary; Ph.D., University of Bristol.

Bryan T. Froehle

Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies

Over the course of a career stretching back to the 1980s, Dr. Froehle has served on faculties of five different universities, won over two dozen grants, taught over 50 different courses in religion and the social sciences, and chaired more than two dozen dissertation committees. He is an elected member of the International Academy for Practical Theology and has served on the board of the American Society for Missiology. 

He began his scholarly career with a focus on congregational studies and comparative studies of diverse churches and denominations in Venezuela. From 2013 to 2016, Dr. Froehle was director of research for Asbury Theological Seminary’s Center for the Study of World Christian Revitalization, a project that included original research and consultations in East Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. He also has extensive experience in applied church research over the years, having completed several hundred reports and strategic planning efforts serving church life and religious institutions. His public speaking and workshops address topics such as the future of church life, mission, and culture within the United States and overseas. 

He has published monographs with Orbis and Oxford University Press and has a book forthcoming from Brill. His over 50 scholarly articles and book chapters cover topics ranging from missiology to public theology and sociology of religion. His applied church research work includes several hundred strategic planning projects and his public speaking addresses topics such as the future of church life, mission, and culture within the United States and overseas. Current research interests and publishing focus on practical theological method, contextual ecclesiology, and congregational studies. 

EDUCATION: B.S., Foreign Service, Georgetown University; M.A., Theological Studies, St. Vincent Regional Seminary; M.A., Sociology, University of Michigan; Ph.D., Sociology, University of Michigan.

Wanjiru M. Gitau

Adjunct Professor, School of Ministry

Born and educated in Kenya, Dr. Gitau has extensive pastoral experience in dynamic congregations, as well as research experience in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and USA.

Between 2011 and 2017, she was a researcher with a multi-country project, The Africa Leadership Survey https://africaleadershipstudy.org/, funded by Tyndale House Foundation through eleven collaborating universities. Between 2013 and 2017, she was a researcher, convener, and keynoter with the World Christian Revitalization project, funded by Luce Foundation through Asbury Theological Seminary. More recently she has been co-director of a project researching Spirituality, Pluralism and Progress, funded by the Templeton Religion Trust through St. Thomas University. 

Dr. Gitau is the author of Megachurch Christianity Reconsidered: Millennials and Social Change in African Perspective(https://www.ivpress.com/megachurch-christianityreconsidered/, a “smart and thoughtful analysis of an extraordinarily important phenomenon in contemporary Christianity” (Philip Jenkins). The book won the 2019 Christianity Today’s book of the year award in the Global Missions category. She is co-author, with Dr. Mark Shaw, of the Kingdom of God in Africa: The Kingdom of God in Africa, revised and updated. She has published numerous other articles and is currently involved in multiple writing projects. 

EDUCATION: B.Ed. (Hons.), University of Nairobi; Masters in Missiology, Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology; Ph.D., Africa International University. International University.

Ryan R. Gladwin

Associate Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies

Dr. Gladwin is a second generation native of Palm Beach County, FL, but has also lived and worked in pastoral ministry and community development in urban settings throughout the Americas (Santa Marta and Bogotá, Colombia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Londrina, Brazil; Raleigh, NC; Philadelphia, PA; West Palm Beach, FL) and the United Kingdom (Edinburgh, Scotland). Prior to arriving at PBA in 2014, he was the program director of Messiah College’s Philadelphia campus and an assistant professor of theology and ethics. He has a B.A. in Christian ministries and Spanish from Messiah College, a M.Div. from Duke University Divinity School, and a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. At PBA, he is in charge of the Christian social ministry concentration and minor and teaches a variety of classes in Christian social ministry, theology, ethics, and cross-cultural studies. He is passionate about challenging students and local churches to work for social transformation, peace, and justice. His research interests are social ethics, Latin American and Latino/a religion and theology, practical theology, Pentecostalism, Anabaptism, and ecclesiology. He has published a number of book chapters and is currently reworking his doctoral thesis on Latin American ecclesiology and social ethics for publication. He is married to Natalia, a native of Argentina, and they have two children. He is an avid fan of Argentine soccer and enjoys reading, running, and long walks on the beach with his wife and kids.

EDUCATION: B.A., Messiah College; M.Div., Duke University Divinity School; Ph.D., University of Edinburgh (Scotland).

Josh Malone

Associate Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies

Dr. Malone has written two books which are under review and proposal for publication. He has also written several essays and book reviews all on various topics of theology such as the incarnation, eternal generation, and the trinity. Prior to his appointment to PBA, Dr. Malone was Associate Professor of Theology for Moody Bible Institute in Spokane, Washington.  He has served as a college and young adults’ pastor and has also been on several academic committees.

EDUCATION: B.S., Texas A&M University; Th.M., Dallas Theological Seminary; M.Th., Ph.D., The University of Aberdeen (Scotland).

Kathy Reiko Maxwell

Assistant Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies

Dr. Maxwell’s areas of research interest include New Testament studies, especially literary and rhetorical methodologies; biblical interpretation; and the history of the Christian church. She is currently working on projects that consider the audience’s formation and participation in hearing the biblical story, both in ancient times and the modern world.  She has particular interest in biblical storytelling, and is certified through the Network of Biblical Storytellers.

Her dissertation project, Hearing Between the Lines (T&T Clark, Library of New Testament Studies, 2010), explores the audience’s active role in receiving – and telling – the story of Luke-Acts. Dr. Maxwell has published several articles on performance criticism, interpretive methodologies, and ancient rhetoric. She has presented papers at regional and national meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature on topics of characterization in the gospels, rhetorical features of ancient narrative, performance criticism, and the role of the audience in ancient narratives. She has also presented on topics such as biblical storytelling and oral culture.  At PBA, Dr. Maxwell enjoys visiting with students inside and outside of class, especially mentoring women one-on-one as they seek to mature in their faith. She regularly greets new students and their families when they visit the campus, and she works to make new students’ transition to PBA as smooth as possible. Prior to coming to PBA, she served as the director of undergraduate academic programs at the South Texas School of Christian Studies in Corpus Christi, Texas, and lectured in New Testament, Greek, and church history for programs offered by Howard Payne University and Logsdon Seminary. She is married to Dr. Nathan Maxwell, who also teaches in the School of Ministry.  When not in class or meeting with students, Dr. Maxwell enjoys scuba diving, baking, reading fiction, and playing cars with her two young sons.

EDUCATION: B.A., Hardin-Simmons University; M.Div. Logsdon Seminary; Ph.D., Baylor University.

Dr. Bryan Froehle, Coordinator of Enrollment

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Sample Degree Plan:

Fulltime Degree Plan for

Fall Semester in an Odd-numbered Year

  • THL 8114 Contemporary Practical Theology, 4 credits, Monday OR Thursday, 5-9pm Eastern Time (ET)
  • THL 9114 Formation and Spirituality in Practical Theology, 4 credits, Monday OR Thursday, 5-9pm ET

Spring Semester in an Even-numbered Year

  • THL 8214 Hermeneutics and Methodology in Practical Theology, 4 credits, Monday OR Thursday, 5-9pm ET
  • THL 9214 Culture and Ritual in Practical Theology, 4 credits, Monday OR Thursday, 5-9pm ET

Summer Subterm A in an Even-numbered Year

  • THL 8953, Directed Doctoral Reading, 3 credits, time to be arranged
  • Other options and terms are always available for electives

Summer Subterm B in an Even-numbered Year

  • THL 8993, Directed Doctoral Research, 3 credits, time to be arranged
  • Other options and terms are always available for electives
  • Third Bibliography Drafted

Fall Semester in an Even-numbered Year

  • THL 8314 Sources of Practical Theology, 4 credits, Monday OR Thursday, 5-9pm ET
  • THL 9314 Public Theology as Practical Theology, 4 credits, Monday OR Thursday, 5-9pm ET

Spring Semester in an Odd-numbered Year

  • THL 8414 Social Science for Practical Theology, 4 credits, Monday OR Thursday, 5-9pm ET
  • THL 9414 Community Life and Pastoral Practice, 4 credits, Monday OR Thursday, 5-9pm ET
  • Third Bibliography Approved 

Summer Subterm A in an Odd-numbered year

  • THL 8514 Advanced Practical Theology, 4 credits, time to be arranged 

Summer Subterm B in an Odd-numbered year

  • First Candidacy Exam (Course Design or Publication), August 1

Fall Semester in an Odd-numbered Year

  • Second Candidacy Exam (Written), First Saturday After Labor Day
  • Third Candidacy Exam (Oral), Week Following Written Exam
  • THL 9613 Prospectus Seminar, 3 credits, Tuesday 6-9pm ET

Spring Semester in an Even-numbered Year

  • THL 9713 Dissertation Seminar I, 3 credits, Tuesday 6-9pm ET
  • Prospectus Defense
  • Clearance for Human Subjects Protections, PBAU Institutional Review Board 

 

Fall Semester in an Even-numbered Year

  • THL 9813 Dissertation Seminar II, 3 credits, Tuesday 6-9pm ET
  • If the prospectus has not been successfully defended, candidates enroll in THL 9951, Prospectus Writing

Spring Semester in an Odd-numbered year

  • THL 9913 Dissertation Seminar III, 3 credits, Tuesday 6-9pm ET
  • Dissertation Defense
  • Format Check by PBAU Library Director or Designee
  • Publication of Dissertation by ProQuest, the Dissertation Publisher of Record
  • Conferral of Degree
  • Graduation
  • If the dissertation has not been successfully defended by the fall semester, candidates enroll in THL 9991, Dissertation Writing
  • Graduation may occur before this term if the above items are completed sooner.

Fulltime Degree Plan for

Fall Semester in an Even-numbered Year

  • THL 8314 Sources of Practical Theology, 4 credits, Monday OR Thursday, 5-9pm ET
  • THL 9314 Public Theology as Practical Theology, 4 credits, Monday OR Thursday, 5-9pm ET

Spring Semester in an Odd-numbered Year

  • THL 8414 Social Science for Practical Theology, 4 credits, Monday OR Thursday, 5-9pm ET
  • THL 9414 Community Life and Pastoral Practice, 4 credits, Monday OR Thursday, 5-9pm ET
  • Third Bibliography Approved 

Summer Subterm A in an Odd-numbered Year

  • THL 8953, Directed Doctoral Reading, 3 credits, time to be arranged
  • Other options and terms are always available for electives

Summer Subterm B in an Odd-numbered Year

  • THL 8993, Directed Doctoral Research, 3 credits, time to be arranged
  • Other options and terms are always available for electives
  • Third Bibliography Drafted

Fall Semester in an Odd-numbered Year

  • THL 8114 Contemporary Practical Theology, 4 credits, Monday OR Thursday, 5-9pm Eastern Time (ET)
  • THL 9114 Formation and Spirituality in Practical Theology, 4 credits, Monday OR Thursday, 5-9pm ET

Spring Semester in an Even-numbered Year

  • THL 8214 Hermeneutics and Methodology in Practical Theology, 4 credits, Monday OR Thursday, 5-9pm ET
  • THL 9214 Culture and Ritual in Practical Theology, 4 credits, Monday OR Thursday, 5-9pm ET

Summer Subterm A in an Even-numbered year

  • THL 8514 Advanced Practical Theology, 4 credits, time to be arranged 

Summer Subterm B in an Even-numbered year

  • First Candidacy Exam (Course Design or Publication), August 1

Fall Semester in an Even-numbered Year

  • Second Candidacy Exam (Written), First Saturday After Labor Day
  • Third Candidacy Exam (Oral), Week Following Written Exam
  • THL 9613 Prospectus Seminar, 3 credits, Tuesday 6-9pm ET

Spring Semester in an Odd-numbered Year

  • THL 9713 Dissertation Seminar I, 3 credits, Tuesday 6-9pm ET
  • Prospectus Defense
  • Clearance for Human Subjects Protections, PBAU Institutional Review Board

Fall Semester in an Odd-numbered Year

  • THL 9813 Dissertation Seminar II, 3 credits, Tuesday 6-9pm ET
  • If the prospectus has not been successfully defended, candidates enroll in THL 9951, Prospectus Writing

Spring Semester in an Even-numbered Year

  • THL 9913 Dissertation Seminar III, 3 credits, Tuesday 6-9pm ET
  • Dissertation Defense
  • Format Check by PBAU Library Director or Designee
  • Publication of Dissertation by ProQuest, the Dissertation Publisher of Record
  • Conferral of Degree
  • Graduation
  • If the dissertation has not been successfully defended by the fall semester, candidates enroll in THL 9991, Dissertation Writing
  • Graduation may occur before this term if the above items are completed sooner.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must have at least a master’s degree in theology or a closely related field from a regionally accredited institution in the United States or the recognized equivalent, if the degree is from outside the United States. Applicants without a graduate degree in theology or a closely related field may be considered if they hold a recognized master’s degree and have 15 graduate credits in theology. Applicants in the process of completing the master’s degree at the time of admission will be considered if they can demonstrate the likelihood of completing that degree on or before the start of doctoral study. Official transcripts of all studies in institutions of higher education must be sent directly to the Office of Admissions from the institutions attended by the applicant. The most recent degree is generally the most important to document. Applicants should arrange for transcripts to be sent to Palm Beach Atlantic University, ATTN: ADMISSIONS, 901 South Flagler Drive, PO Box 24708, West Palm Beach, FL 33416. Official electronic transcripts may be sent to Data_Team@pba.edu or Beth_Ross@pba.edu

Applicants who have completed graduate level coursework at an institution outside of the U.S. that is not accredited by a U.S. regional accrediting organization or the equivalent must have a course-by-course and GPA equivalent evaluation conducted by an accredited member of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES). PBA is a corporate client of Spantran, a NACES member. PBA can directly provide Spantran copies of the official transcripts received by PBA. Applicants can request a Spantran transcript evaluation form, which includes payment information for Spantran credentials review, and return that form as part of the application process. The typical processing time for credentials review is 10 business days.

Applicants are urged to submit an academic-style curriculum vitae following a generally accepted format of their choosing. Such formats ordinarily include a listing of a person’s educational history, experience, and honors or awards. Entries should be given in descending chronological order. Any publications or conference papers presented should also be listed, ideally in a format following the Chicago Manual of Style. A traditional resume is acceptable in lieu of a formal curriculum vitae.

The writing sample should demonstrate the applicant’s readiness to embark upon scholarly research and writing. It will ideally be theological in nature and reflect an area of the applicant’s current scholarly interest. It may consist of one or more papers but must include no fewer than twenty pages. Applicants are encouraged but not required to follow the Chicago Manual of Style in their writing sample.

Applicants should request at least three recommendations that give evidence of scholarly potential as well as personal skills for the applicant as a self-motivated and peer learner within a scholarly community of teachers and learners together. These letters should mention how long and in what capacity the recommender has known the applicant, offer some specific observations about the applicant’s personal qualities and readiness to proceed to a Ph.D. in practical theology, as well as scholarly interests, if known, and potential to learn effectively at a distance, if is something about which the recommender feels competent to comment. At least two of the three letters should be written by a scholar holding the doctoral degree, ideally a theologian, who should specifically attest to the readiness of the applicant for theological scholarship. Recommendations should be in the traditional form of a letter on letterhead and should be sent as scanned attached files to the Program Director directly from the person writing the letter of recommendation.

Applicants from a country where English is not the primary language of instruction are required to submit the results of an English language proficiency exam, such as the TOEFL (minimum 79), IELTS (minimum 6.5) or Duolingo (minimum 105). This is not required for applicants holding an undergraduate or graduate degree from an institution in the U.S. or for applicants who have completed a course of study in the English language outside of the U.S

This is a 3-5 page articulation of the applicant’s background and aspirations sufficient to understand why the applicant seeks a Ph.D. in practical theology. The applicant should show understanding of the approach and design of the Ph.D. program, including particular course requirements as appropriate to the applicant’s interests. Specifics regarding an applicant’s intellectual interests, including potential dissertation research, should be included. Headings should be used. Some find it helpful to address three major questions: “Why a Ph.D.?” “Why practical theology?” “Why PBA?” Applicants who desire to participate on a distance basis (synchronous only, courses meet on Mondays and Thursdays from 5-9pm Eastern Time) should include a brief request to pursue pre-candidacy studies on a distance basis, noting sufficient computer equipment, internet access, and online experience to facilitate participation from a distance. They should also note their acceptance of the requirement to participate in person for the opening weekend and end-of-semester academic conference in every fall and spring semester of pre-candidacy. 

This is the single most important part of the process. It occurs after all other required documentation has been submitted by the deadline, which is ordinarily January 31. Because faculty are collectively responsible for admission decisions, the personal interview is before core doctoral faculty. Interviews are organized and scheduled by the director of the Ph.D. program, ordinarily for late February. They are to take place via videoconference using an Internet-based video connection with the applicant. Applicants are responsible for ensuring the quality of their signal and equipment