The Black Church Studies Program at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary will host a day-long minister’s institute on August 31, 2010, for the 140th West Kentucky Annual Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie, presiding prelate of the Thirteenth Episcopal District, and a group of thirty pastors and ministers from across the state of Kentucky will attend the event that will focus on “The Black Church in Transition.”
Louisville Seminary Professors Johnny Hill and Elizabeth Walker will lead discussions, along with Dr. Lewis Brogdon (MDiv ’05) who directs the Black Church Studies Program at the Seminary. Other members of the Black Church Studies faculty, including Professors Scott Williamson and Dianne Reistroffer, will participate, and Dean of Students The Rev. Kilen Gray (MDiv ’02) and President-elect Rev. Dr. Michael Jinkins will also be in attendance.
“This is a unique opportunity for the Black Church Studies Program to serve as an educational partner to African American denominations and churches in the region. I am excited to welcome a distinguished church leader like Bishop McKenzie and AME pastors to this minister’s institute as we think about the multifaceted dimensions of change underway in the Black Church. I hope that through our time of thinking and sharing, leaders will feel supported and prepared to address challenges in the Black Church through their own preaching, teaching, church ministries, and public advocacy,” said Brogdon, adding that he is hopeful this will be the first of many institutes.
The Black Church Studies Program was officially launched in the fall of 2009 with a cohort of 18 students. The program, which is fully integrated into the curriculum of Louisville Seminary, introduces students to the history and thought of the Black Church, utilizing the wealth of knowledge available from its faculty members and administrators, whose scholarship and experience include the academic study of Black religion and the Black Church. The new program offers three tracks of study –a concentration in the Master of Divinity and Master of Arts (Religion) degree programs; a concentration in the Doctor of Ministry degree program, and a certificate program, taught over eight weekends, for students not enrolled in a degree program.
In addition to the preparation of students for ministry, the program is connecting with academic and clergy leaders from the region, including the contiguous states of Ohio and Tennessee and as far away as Virginia, North Carolina, and Michigan, in an effort to define the role of the Seminary in preparing men and women to address the challenges facing the Black Church. On February 26, 2010, more than twenty leaders from several predominantly African American denominations and institutions met on the LPTS campus for a Black Church Studies Consultation focused on the State of the Black Church. Like the AME Institute, such consultations are contributing toward the renewal and cultivation of partnerships between the Seminary and leading African American churches and institutions across the region.
Currently, 220 students are enrolled at Louisville Seminary, of which 24% are African American.