ThM IIS - Master of Theology in Indigenous & Inter-Religious Studies

The purpose of this specialization within the ThM post-graduate degree is to provide students with the opportunity to engage in advanced research and writing at a singular nexus where two major monotheistic faith traditions meet Indigenous traditions of the Americas and other locations. It will make available VST’s unique resources in the Inter-religious Studies Program and the Indigenous Studies Program (ISP). These assets, combined with VST’s core faculty, offer a distinctive academic experience, both intellectual and spiritual. The degree will provide students the opportunity to develop research methods and resources which could lead to further study at the doctoral level in this emerging field and prepare them to teach and/or minister in an increasingly pluralistic world. A student in the specialization will be able to accomplish the research competencies of the degree in depth for two of the three traditions and with some degree of familiarity for the other.


Program Length
Distance Learning

Length of Program

This degree is a 24-credit hour program. Due to course scheduling and the necessity of meeting a number of course requirements during the ISP summer school, it is anticipated that this degree will be delivered on a part-time basis.  Most of the program can be completed either on-campus or via distance, although certain courses or degree expectations may require a student to come to VST for intensive courses and/or evaluations.

Normally, all courses required for this degree must be completed in five years from the date of first registration. Students admitted may be credited for courses of up to 50% of credits already completed elsewhere in satisfaction of the core requirements.


  1. To enhance advanced theological academic expertise that is interdisciplinary in nature, cross-cultural in expression and engages with a world of religious complexity.
  2. To foster innovative theological research, transcending comparative study, to develop integrative faith-based knowledge and skills which address critical local and global needs in such areas as ecology, conflict, colonialism and globalization.
  3. To further develop or become conversant with Indigenous methodologies and epistemologies.
  4. To acknowledge the historical and contemporary role of the Indigenous spiritual and intellectual traditions of the Americas and other locations as world religions.


The specialization will enable students to study the largely unexplored interface among Indigenous religions, Judaism, and Christianity. Through course work and integrating seminars, students will treat pedagogically matters which cross a number of spiritual, cultural and intellectual boundaries. 24 credit hours will be allocated among:

  • Advanced textual or oral narrative study – 3 credits
  • Language – 3 credits
  • Indigenous epistemologies – 3 credits
  • Integrating Seminar – 3 credits
  • Senior electives, including independent study options – 6 credits
  • Culminating assignment – 6 credits

All electives must be in related fields.

In the case of language studies, if a scriptural language is chosen, credit will be given only for courses that involve reading of texts (second year of study or greater). For the study of an Indigenous language, one year of study of the language within its cultural context is expected.

Each candidate must demonstrate a sufficient mastery of the Indigenous, ancient or modern language required for the Culminating Assignment before that assignment is undertaken.

All work for any course undertaken as a part of the ThM program must be completed within one month of the end of the term in which the student registered for the course.

Distinctive Resources Needed

In addition to its own core and adjunct faculty, VST has available the necessary resources for the specialization. VST and the Inter-religious Studies Program offer expertise in the Abrahamic traditions* and will bring visiting scholars, post-doctoral fellows and other specialists to the degree courses. Through the Indigenous Studies Program, VST’s partnership with the Centre for Indian Scholars, the Native Ministries Consortium and Wilp Wilxo’oskwhl Nisga’a Institute makes available a number of traditional and academic educators in the field of Indigenous knowledge. Proximity to Simon Fraser University, the University of British Columbia and other Vancouver-area post-secondary institutions provides other research interactions.

Educational Evaluation

Students will have three options for their culminating evaluative exercise:

  • A Directed Studies project and oral examination
  • A 90- to 120-page thesis (22,500 to 30,000 words)
  • A publishable article

*At present courses, course units, and lectures on Islam are offered regularly at VST and nearby institutions. Given that currently we do not have a full-time faculty member specializing in Islam, however, we are not able at this time to offer a specialization in Islam within the ThM degree program.

Information Literacy and Research Skills

All degree and diploma students are required to complete six hours of non-credit, no-fee research modules in Information Literacy. The modules will engage students in hands-on as well as theoretical work intended to develop knowledgeable, disciplined and critically astute researchers.

See the Research Skills Module Schedule for further information.


Admission requires a Master of Arts or Master of Divinity degree from an accredited institution that shows competence in one of the religious traditions of the Indigenous & Inter-religious Studies (IIS) concentration and academic or equivalent work that shows some familiarity with at least one of the other two religious traditions of the IIS concentration.

Distance Learning

The ThM concentration in Indigenous and Inter-religious Studies can be completed either on-campus or via distance.  Certain courses or degree expectations may require a student to come to VST for intensive courses and/or evaluations. It is anticipated that students will also be engaged in learning and research projects at offsite locations which have the appropriate instructional, research and peer community resources consistent with and supportive of the student’s course of study.