The Certificate in Faith-based Organizing, Advocacy, and Social Transformation is for students seeking to engage in campaigning and advocacy work, community organizing, community development, and related forms of social, political, and economic witness from a Christian basis. Such work can either be a part of congregational ministry; local, national, or international nonprofit work; social justice activism; or involve the delivery and governance of public education, health, welfare, or housing. 

The certificate provides a pathway to the kinds of learning and formation needed for this work, builds connections with others with a similar sense of vocation, and provides expertise and learning opportunities in the Divinity School, the Ormond Center, the broader university, the surrounding community, and with alumni all over the world. In short, the certificate provide a framework for students seeking to learn how to address the political dimensions of cultivating thriving communities.

This certificate is for those seeking a path to explore their interests with more flexibility and with a less time-intensive and financially demanding commitment than a formal joint-degree program. Students can earn this certificate as a part of the M.Div., M.T.S., or M.A. in Christian Practice programs.

Drawing on the resources of Duke Divinity School and Duke University, students have specific coursework requirements, internship and spiritual formation opportunities (M.Div. only), as well as extra-curricular leadership training.



  • One core course:
    • XTIANETH 813: Listen, Organize, Act! Christian Responses to Politics and Poverty
    • PASTCARE 761: Introduction to the Ministry of Social Work
    • PARISH 792: The Church and Thriving Communities 
    • WXTIAN 850: Conflict Transformation: Theology, Theory and Practice
  • One elective course in the Divinity School from the following list of courses (Other elective courses can be negotiated with the certificate directors as long as they meet the following criteria: they must identify and further develop theological frameworks for conceptualizing the relationship between the social, political, economic dimensions of faithful witness):
    • XTIANETH 841: Political Theology
    • XTIANETH 814: Christianity and Capitalism: A Theological Exploration
    • BCS 763: The Life and Thought of Martin Luther King, Jr
    • PARISH 809: Restorative Justice, Prison Ministry, and the Church
    • PREACHING 802: Principalities, Powers, and Preaching
    • WXTIAN 803: Beyond Borders: Latin American, Latino, and Hispanic Theologies
    • WXTIAN 764: God’s Ministry of Reconciliation: Missiology and Ecclesiology
    • AMXTIAN 807/REL 854/SOC 776: The Social Organization of American Religion
    • Black Social Gospel (new course, forthcoming by Patrick Smith)
    • XTIANTHE 812: The Doctrine of Creation and Theological Anthropology
    • XTIANETH 842: Womanist Theological Ethics
    • XTIANTHE 843: Theologies of Liberation in the US.
    • XTIANETH 811: Happiness, the Life of Virtue, and Friendship
    • WXTIAN 811: Journeys of Reconciliation
    • XTIANEDU 713: Christian Formation in Congregations and Communities
    • RELIGION 890: Facing the Anthropocene
  • One elective course outside the Divinity School: Electives external to the Divinity School should be drawn from the Sanford School of Public Policy, Nicholas School of the Environment, Global Health Institute, Kenan Institute for Ethics, Political Science, or other subject areas that have a clear and identifiable focus on some aspect of social, political, and economic theory, policy, and practice and be taught at a master’s level. Examples of relevant course range from courses such as “Collective Action and Social Movements” (POLSCI 281S) and “Space, Place and Power” (CULANTH 306S) to “Politics, Policy, Process” (PUBPOL 814), “The Politics of International Aid” (PUBPOL 383E), “Global Health Challenges” (GLHLTH 701), and “Environmental Politics” (ENVIRON 577).
  • Independent civic engagement or social action project or appropriate Field Education placement that involves some aspect of social, political, or economic witness.
  • Listen to all episodes of the first series of the "Listen, Organize, Act!" podcast (available from the Ormond Center website) and write a 500-word reflection of key points of learning from the podcast to be submitted to the faculty directors.
  • Participation in designated spiritual formation group and leadership training: Students will be required to participate in the already established “Sustaining Practices for Work on the Margins” spiritual formation group for at least one year. This group currently draws in those undertaking the Certificate in Prison Studies. Participation is negotiable for those whose denominational requirements make this requirement impossible.
  • It is recommended, but not required, that students undertake a version of the Industrial Areas Foundation’s five-day training (or equivalent with parallel networks such as Faith in Action). Access to this training can be arranged (and is free) via a church or organization in membership with an organizing network.

M.T.S. Requirements

M.T.S. students will take three courses as listed above. Additionally, students will focus the thesis on a topic related to the certificate as negotiated with faculty directors and Listen to all episodes of the first series of the Listen, Organize, Act! Podcast (available from the Ormond Center website) and write a 500 word reflection of key points of learning from the podcast to be submitted to the faculty directors.

M.A. in Christian Practice Requirements

  • Complete at least 2 electives in the certificate area. Relevant M.A. in Christian Practice electives: Black Church Studies: Leadership and Justice in Communities of Faith; Listen, Organize, Act!; Cultivating Thriving Communities; Conflict Transformation: Theology, Theory and Practice 
  • Complete an assignment related to the certificate in a third course (arranged with instructor).
  • Listen to all episodes of the first series of the "Listen, Organize, Act!" podcast (available from the Ormond Center website) and write a 500-word reflection of key points of learning from the podcast
  • Complete a 500-word summary of how the student’s current vocational work integrates with the specific concerns and focus of the certificate.

Forms and information for current students »

For more information about the certificate, contact the certificate co-directors:

Luke Bretherton
Robert E. Cushman Professor of Moral & Political Theology
(919) 660-3497

Nina Balmaceda
Consulting Professor; Associate Director for the Center for Reconciliation