In a partnership with Sojourners and two faith-based groups, Duke Divinity School has launched a non-degree certificate program to equip North Carolina-based Latinx and African American pastors, ministry leaders, and their congregations to respond effectively to immigration and racialized policing issues.

The 10-week cohort program, “The Church, Immigration, and Racialized Policing Non-Degree Certificate Program,” began Jan. 14 with 26 participants. It seeks to develop ecclesial imagination and equip participants to respond effectively on multiple levels to the pastoral crises occurring in their communities, particularly on immigration and racialized policing issues.

Along with Sojourners, a Christian social justice mobilizing and media organization, the other partners are the Christian Community Development Association and Matthew 25/Mateo 25, a coalition of national faith-based groups, local churches, clergy associations, grassroots activists, heads of denominations, seminaries, and Christian colleges.

“Immigration and policing in the United States is historically and presently problematic because of racist ideology, policy, and practices,” said the Rev. David Emmanuel Goatley, Ph.D., associate dean for vocational formation and Christian witness at Duke Divinity School, director of the Office of Black Church Studies, and research professor of Christian theology. “This program will help to equip church leaders to lead more effectively in action and advocacy to bring light and hope amid darkness and despair. The shared journey of black and brown pastoral leaders in learning, sharing, and growing together can lead to good and faithful witness to Christ Jesus in the world.”

The cohort kicked off with a virtual retreat to encourage relationship building among participants and will be followed by 90-minute virtual instructional sessions throughout the spring semester that are rooted in theology and practice. Session topics will include: biblical and theological foundation, historical foundation, multiple marginalizations, psychological and spiritual impact of oppressive systems, current context and strategic response, community partners, advocacy and media skills, preaching and teaching resources, and engaging in joint action.

This faith-rooted, faith-inspired initiative will include Duke Divinity’s Office of Black Church Studies, the Hispanic House of Studies, and the Center for Reconciliation, with eight African American pastors and seven Latino pastors choosing to participate in the program to help them tangibly follow the biblical admonition of “doing justice and walking humbly” as they seek to transform their local communities.

Alma Tinoco Ruiz, director of the Hispanic House and a lecturer in homiletics and evangelism at Duke Divinity, said that immigrants, especially undocumented ones, and Black people in the U.S., share a similar journey of oppression, marginalization, persecution, and racism.

“The Church, Immigration, and Racialized Policing Certificate provides participants with the opportunity to learn from each other’s experiences, lament together, share strategies to support their communities, create bonds of unity, and participate in joint action,” Tinoco Ruiz said. “The participants will also learn from and engage in conversation with experts on systemic racism, immigration, and racialized police brutality, who will provide the cohort guidance for working together in advocacy ministries with our immigrant and Black communities in North Carolina.”

The new certificate program partnership and cohort with Black and Latinx pastors and church leaders is part of Duke Divinity School’s anti-racism efforts led by Dean L. Gregory Jones as well as Duke University’s anti-racism efforts led by President Vincent E. Price.

The Theology and Racialized Cohort Program is currently not accepting new applications but information on future cohorts is available through Sojourners. Scholarships are available for the program.