FLORENCE, Ala. (BNc) — Heritage Christian University announced today that the Association for Biblical Higher Education approved the request to offer the Master of Divinity beginning with the Fall, 2011, semester.

The MDiv is widely considered the first professional degree for ministers.

HCU Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Bill Bagents noted of the approval,

“In an ever more educated society, expectations for ministers constantly rise. It’s not a matter of education for the sake of education. Rather, it’s about increasing the breadth and depth of our skills and knowledge so that we can serve more effectively in an ever more complex world.”

The 75-hour degree will allow HCU to serve many congregations of varying size by preparing church workers in theology, ministry, and pastoral counseling.

The MDiv at HCU will also include a spiritual formation track, aimed at assisting students to learn and practice the essentials of spiritual growth.

For nearly 40 years, HCU has been preparing men and women to become effective communicators of the gospel, the university website says.