The Office of Black Church Studies (OBCS) enriches the work and witness of Duke Divinity School with theological and spiritual resources from Black Church contexts. We teach, research, publish, and create experiences to nurture effective leaders for the church, the academy, and the world. Drawing from intellectual and empirical resources of Africa and the African Diaspora, we strengthen the vocation of the school and the mission of the university to impact congregations, organizations, and societies locally and globally.
OBCS helps to form good and faithful leaders through curricula, lectures and relationships with congregations, denominations, organizations and networks. Priorities include:
- Course offerings to increase theological and ministerial capacities of Divinity School and University students
- Lectures to expose the Divinity School and University to seminal and transformational leaders in the church and academy
- Resources to support advanced research and the nurture of new generations of ministers and scholars
- Networking to enrich ministerial formation and vocational discernment through service learning and relationship cultivation
- Conversations to explore impacting approaches to transform churches, organizations and communities
Initially formed in 1972 as the Divinity School’s Office of Black Church Affairs, OBCS has sought to serve the Divinity School and Duke University for nearly five decades. Approaching its semicentennial, the Office of Black Church Studies is preparing to enhance further its contribution to the theological project of Duke Divinity School by expanding field education opportunities, building library collections, and developing a next generation of scholars for the church.
Fall and spring preaching and lecture series provide frequent opportunities to hear outstanding black preachers. The Gardner C. Taylor Lecture Series and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Lecture Series are sponsored by the Office of Black Church Studies in conjunction with the Black Seminarians Union and a local church. These lectures expose seminarians, faculty, staff, alumni, and local congregations to our nation's most outstanding African American preachers. The Pauli Murray/Nannie Helen Burroughs Lecture is intended to feature women theologians and religious scholars whose work and ministry emphasize the critical intersections of race, gender, and class, as they relate to the transformative uplift of church and society.
Black Seminarians Union
The Black Seminarians Union is a student group that works to develop theological perspectives that are relevant to the needs of Black seminarians and the Black church. Its goal is to improve the quality of life theologically, academically, spiritually, politically, and socially for the entire Divinity School community.
Certificate in Black Church Studies
The Certificate in Black Church Studies, which can be earned as part of the M.Div., M.T.S., and Th.M. degrees, offers the opportunity for critical reflection, dialogue, and practice for students who are interested in the intersection of race, faith, and Christian witness, particularly in the tradition of Black churches.
Duke Divinity School is the first school in the nation to have a course requirement in Black church studies for all of its M.Div. students. The school also offers courses open to all its master's and doctoral students.
Black church studies is an intensely interdisciplinary, ecumenical, and intellectually inclusive endeavor. The faculty members who teach courses in Black church studies are not simply faculty of African descent but also include other Divinity School faculty members with interests that intersect this interdisciplinary field. This includes faculty members with primary research interests in history, biblical studies, theology, ethics, spirituality, congregational studies, pastoral theology, preaching, sociology of religion, and postcolonial/de-colonial studies.
Here is just a sample of the courses offered on a rotating basis by the Divinity School related to the Black Church:
- Theology in the Black Church Traditions
- The Black Church in America
- Christian Identity and the Formation of the Racial World
- The Life and Thought of Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Suffering, Evil, and Redemption in Black Theology
- Introduction to Womanist Theology
- Womanist Theological Ethics
- Black Women, Womanist Thought, and the Church
- Theology and the Black Activist Tradition
- Christianity, Race, and the American Nation
- Deep River: Howard Thurman, Spirituality, and the Prophetic Life
- African Americans and the Bible
- The Most Segregated Hour: Churches, Race, Caste, and Class