August 10, 1998

Contact: Lew Harris

(615) 665-2465

Kelly Miller Smith Institute inaugurates certificate

in Black church studies


NASHVILLE-The Kelly Miller Smith Institute at the Vanderbilt Divinity School will launch a certificate program in Black church studies this fall that is open to pastors, lay leaders and students.

The two-year program in Black church studies requires participants to complete 24 hours of continuing education units. Courses begin on Thursday, Sept. 17. All other seminar courses will be taught on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings. Tuition for the program is $365 per semester.

"This program brings together the academy and the African American church as partners for the training of clergy and laity and for theological reflection on the practical application of liberation ministry," said Forrest Harris, KMSI director.

The program was created to prepare clergy and laity for the challenges of modern church life and to broaden their understanding of the nature of theology and ministry in the Black church. Persons enrolled in the program will give attention to:

-- Biblical materials focusing on justice and prophetic ministry

-- Theological problems arising out of the African American experience

-- Contemporary ethical dilemmas faced by African American persons in church and community

-- Practical experience in designing and implementing social crisis ministry

"We are so accustomed to the familiar tools that have served us in the past that we fear new ways of doing things," said Angela Davis, a Vanderbilt Divinity School student who is helping to coordinate the program. "I see the KMSI program addressing new models of ministry and practices needed for the social crises that congregations now face."

Harris says the Black church remains a powerful institution with an extraordinary legacy. He adds that the Black church has served as a life-giving and life-saving vehicle for the African American community and that it will continue to do so in the 21st Century.

"The commitment of this program in Black church studies is transformational ministry," Harris said. "It recognizes the crucial need for theological and ministry responses to the social crises that congregations confront in the community."

Requests for applications or further information about the program may be made by contacting the KMSI office at 615-343-3981 or by writing the office at 221 Divinity School, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn. 37212.


Vanderbilt University is a private research university of approximately 5,900 undergraduates and 4,300 graduate and professional students. Founded in 1873, the University comprises 10 schools, a public policy institute, a distinguished medical center and The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center. Vanderbilt offers undergraduate programs in the liberal arts and sciences, education and human development, engineering and music, and a full range of graduate and professional degrees.

For more news about Vanderbilt, visit the News and Public Affairs home page on the Internet at

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Document updated August 31, 1998.