Doctor of Divinity

Aquatint of a Doctor of Divinity at the University of Oxford, in the scarlet and black academic robes corresponding to his position. (The doctor appears here in his convocation habit, rather than his full ceremonial dress.)

Doctor of Divinity (DD or DDiv; Latin: Doctor Divinitatis) is an advanced or honorary academic degree in divinity.

Contrast with other religious degrees

Doctor of Divinity should not be confused with the Doctor of Theology (ThD) degree, which is a research doctorate in theology awarded by universities and divinity schools, such as Duke Divinity School and others.[1] However, many universities award a PhD rather than a ThD to graduates of higher-level religious studies programs. Another research doctorate in theology is the Doctor of Sacred Theology (STD) which is in particular awarded by Catholic pontifical universities and faculties. The Doctor of Ministry (DMin) is another doctorate-level religious degree, but is a professional doctorate rather than a research doctorate.[2]

Doctor of Divinity by country or church

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the degree is a higher doctorate conferred by universities upon a religious scholar of standing and distinction for accomplishments beyond the PhD level.

Typically, the candidate will submit a collection of work which has been previously published in a peer-reviewed context and pay an examination fee.[3] The university then assembles a committee of academics both internal and external who review the work submitted and decide on whether the candidate deserves the doctorate based on the submission. Most universities restrict candidacy to graduates or academic staff of several years' standing.

United States

In the United States, the degree is generally conferred honoris causa by a church-related college, seminary, or university to recognize the recipient's ministry-orientated accomplishments.[4] For example, Martin Luther King Jr. (who received a PhD in systematic theology from Boston University in 1955) subsequently received honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees from the Chicago Theological Seminary (1957), Boston University (1959), Wesleyan College (1964), and Springfield College (1964).[5] Billy Graham (who received honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees from The King's College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) was regularly addressed as "Dr. Graham", though his highest earned degree was a Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology from Wheaton College.[6][7]

Under federal law, a 1974 judgement accepted expert opinion that an "Honorary Doctor of Divinity is a strictly religious title with no academic standing. Such titles may be issued by bona fide churches and religious denominations, such as plaintiff [Universal Life Church], so long as their issuance is limited to a course of instruction in the principles of the church or religious denomination".[8] However, under the California Education Code, "an institution owned, controlled, and operated and maintained by a religious organization lawfully operating as a nonprofit religious corporation pursuant to Part 4 (commencing with Section 9110) of Division 2 of Title 1 of the Corporations Code" that offers "instruction... limited to the principles of that religious organization, or to courses offered pursuant to Section 2789 of Business and Professions Code" may confer "degrees and diplomas only in the beliefs and practices of the church, religious denomination, or religious organization" so long as "the diploma or degree is limited to evidence of completion of that education"; institutions "shall not award degrees in any area of physical science", while

any degree or diploma granted under this subdivision shall contain on its face ... a reference to the theological or religious aspect of the degree's subject area ... a degree awarded under this subdivision shall reflect the nature of the degree title, such as "associate of religious studies," "bachelor of religious studies," "master of divinity," or "doctor of divinity."[9]

In a 1976 interview with Morley Safer of the TV newsmagazine 60 Minutes, Universal Life Church founder Kirby J. Hensley professed that the church's honorary Doctor of Divinity degree was "...just a little piece of paper. And it ain't worth anything, you know, under God's mighty green Earth—you know what I mean?—as far as value."[10] In 2006, Universal Life Church minister Kevin Andrews advised potential degree recipients not to misrepresent the title as an educational achievement to employers, recommending instead that it would be appropriate to list such credentials "under the heading of Titles, Awards, or Other Achievements" on curricula vitae.[11]

As of 2009, 20 U.S. states and Puerto Rico had some form of exemption provision under which religious institutions can grant religious degrees without accreditation or government oversight.[12]

Catholic Church

In the Catholic Church, Doctor of Divinity is an honorary degree denoting ordination as bishop.[citation needed]

The Doctor and Student

Christopher St. Germain's 1528 book The Doctor and Student describes a dialogue between a Doctor of Divinity and a law student in England containing the grounds of those laws together with questions and cases concerning the equity thereof.[13]

See also



  1. ^ "Doctor of Theology". Duke Divinity School. Duke University. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  2. ^ "Doctor of Ministry - Fuller Seminary". Fuller Seminary.
  3. ^ www.eastdesign.net, Supported by Eastern Studio. "recently awarded degrees - Faculty Office".
  4. ^ "Doctor of Divinity". degreedirectory.org.
  5. ^ "Biographical Sketch: Martin Luther King, Jr" (PDF). norcalmlkfoundation.org. The Northern California Martin Luther King Jr. Community Foundation. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  6. ^ Gibbs, Nancy; Ostling, Richard N. (15 November 1993). "God's Billy Pulpit". Time. Archived from the original on 7 December 2007. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  7. ^ "Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Chronology". wheaton.edu. Wheaton College. 17 June 2014. Retrieved 20 May 2015.
  8. ^ Universal Life Church, Inc. v. United States, 372 F.Supp. 770 (E.D. Cal. 1 March 1974).
  9. ^ "EDC § 94874". FindLaw.com. California Code, Education Code.
  10. ^ Jackman 2007.
  11. ^ "ULC Degrees Accredited?". ulc.net. Universal Life Church Online. 2 June 2006. Archived from the original on 18 May 2015. Retrieved 20 May 2015.
  12. ^ "Religious Exempt Schools". osac.state.or.us. Oregon Student Assistance Commission Office of Degree Authorization. Archived from the original on 21 February 2011. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  13. ^ St Germain & Muchall 1886.


External links

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