Seminary starts programs for change agents

New master's degree, climate justice certificate at PLTS

In fall 2020, PLTS became a certified Green Justice Seminary and began offering students earning master’s degrees the option to pursue a climate justice concentration. 

Photo: Brittany App

(BERKELEY, Calif. — March 2, 2022) California Lutheran University’s Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary (PLTS) is offering new programs to prepare religious leaders and laypeople to work for social and environmental change with online options.

PLTS will launch a master’s degree program in spirituality and social change in September to address the need for educational programs for Lutheran deacons while also serving those interested in ministering in other roles and Christian faiths. The seminary developed the program in response to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) designating a new ordained position of deacon with specific requirements for theological education and internships. Deacons can serve as chaplains or lead social and environmental change efforts in congregations, institutions or communities. Students can choose a residential program in Berkeley or one that is a mixture of online learning and occasional gatherings in Berkeley for orientation and intensive courses.

In September 2021, PLTS launched a one-year, online Certificate in Climate Justice and Faith for lay and ordained leaders. The inaugural certificate class includes 30 people from 12 countries ranging in age from 21 to 70. In addition to pastors and other church staff, there are teachers, a farmer, a therapist, a journalist and a range of other professionals. At the end of the program, each of them will develop a “sacred action project” to serve their communities. 

In fall 2020, PLTS became a certified Green Justice Seminary and began offering students earning master’s degrees the option to pursue a climate justice concentration. PLTS also launched a Center for Climate Justice and Faith designed to empower leaders to cultivate moral, spiritual and practical power for the work of climate justice in communities of faith and in collaboration with others. The center collaborates with Lutherans Restoring Creation, The Lutheran World Federation, and ELCA World Hunger. 

Also in fall 2020, in another effort to evolve to meet the needs of today’s world, PLTS launched an online option that fortuitously had been in the works two years before the COVID-19 pandemic. Fifty percent to 60 percent of incoming students have been choosing this option, in which they view and participate in classes on their own schedule and gather together in Berkeley three or four times during the course of the program.  

Enrollment has grown significantly in the 45-student master’s degree program since the launch of the climate justice concentration and the online option. The size of the 2020 and 2021 incoming classes — 16 students each year — was 78% larger than that of the one in 2017, which was nine students. The size of the incoming cohort increased 33% from 12 students in 2019 to 16 students in 2020, the year that these programs launched, and new enrollment was the same in fall 2021.

The only ELCA seminary in the western United States, PLTS also offers master’s degrees in divinity and other certificates. It participates in combined programs offered through the Graduate Theological Union. For more information, go to