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Divinity Launches Program to Strengthen Leadership in Black Church and Beyond

Five-year multidisciplinary collaboration will bring together scholars and pastoral leaders

Duke Divinity School will launch a five-year multidisciplinary collaboration that will bring scholars and pastoral leaders together to identify and develop models for strengthening leadership in the black church and beyond, school officials announced Tuesday.

The Duke Divinity: Black Pastoral Leadership Collaboration will draw on original research in black church traditions and historical examples of effective black church leadership to train and build networks of effective leaders for the black church of today and the future. The collaboration will be led by the Rev. David Emmanuel Goatley, research professor of theology and black church studies and director of the Office of Black Church Studies at Duke Divinity School.

“This initiative can nurture and facilitate networks of high-quality leaders who cultivate thriving churches that foster flourishing communities, which can both contribute to the United States becoming a more just country -- where none have too much or too little -- and inspire faith networks working for the good of humanity across the country and around the world,” said Divinity School Dean L. Gregory Jones, who is also the Ruth W. and A. Morris Williams Jr. Distinguished Professor of Theology and Christian Ministry.

The initial research phase will bring together teams of scholars in theology, history, sociology and the practice of ministry to study black pastoral leadership during the Reconstruction era, 1865-1877; the civil rights era, 1945-1967; and the megachurch era, 1984-2008; ultimately resulting in the publication of a book on black pastoral leadership.

A teaching component will bring pastors across the country to Duke Divinity School for the Black Pastoral Leadership Network, a continuing education program that seeks to:

-- Understand and contextualize black oppression and how it relates to race, class and gender;

-- Help people facing oppression understand its causes and the systems that support it, and

-- Learn how to design strategies, build partnerships and execute programs for sustainable change and reconciliation.

The Black Pastoral Leadership Project will also host biennial conferences to discover and disseminate applied pastoral theology, with the goal of publishing a Duke Black Pastoral Leadership book series on effective and practical knowledge-based pastoral leadership practices.

Goatley’s experience in applied and thought leadership includes serving as an urban missionary, denominational leader, congregational pastor, global missional executive, justice advocate, author and teacher. Of the opportunity the project offers, he said, “Launching this effort at Duke University means this important work will be done in a top-tier research environment where we can focus on deep and multidisciplinary research that will produce substantial learning and forward-leaning framing for leadership needed for thriving.

“In the 400th year of the arrival of Africans in what has become the United States of America, the Black Pastoral Leadership Collaboration demonstrates Duke and the Divinity School’s commitment to equity and opportunity by investing in leadership development for the 21st century,” Goatley said.

To learn more about the Duke Divinity: Black Pastor Leadership Collaboration, visit