Institute for Black Church Studies

Recent events in our country have demonstrated the critical need to repair the racial breach that divides us. This is also the work of the church.

BSK receives Baugh Foundation grant to start Institute for Black Church studies

The institute will offer continuing education for Black church leaders and a graduate-level certificate program in Black church studies. 

It will provide related library resources in a digital format and will serve White congregations and their leaders through a program of racial justice education.

To make the institute’s resources widely accessible, much of its programing will be offered virtually, said BSK President David Cassady.

The institute will offer continuing education for Black church leaders and a graduate-level certificate program in Black church studies. It will provide related library resources in a digital format and will serve White congregations and their leaders through a program of racial justice education.

The institute will receive $187,500 per year over a four-year period from the Baugh Foundation, which is based in Jersey Village, Texas.

“We are grateful to the Baugh Foundation for this grant and for its commitment to a more racially- just world,” Cassady said. “This institute will give an exponential boost to BSK’s racial justice work, which is one of the seminary’s top priorities.”

At the invitation of Simmons College of Kentucky, BSK in 2017 began offering a full M.Div. degree at this historically Black institution in Louisville. Last year, the National Baptist Convention of America International, Inc., a predominantly Black denomination, designated BSK as its official seminary.

A portion of the grant will go to a scholarship fund for American Descendants of Slavery established by BSK four years ago in honor of Kevin Cosby, president of Simmons College of Kentucky, and his wife, Barnetta.

“I believe this institute holds great promise for the work of the Black church and the cause of racial justice, and Simmons College of Kentucky is eager to partner with BSK in this venture,” Kevin Cosby said. “In an age when the presidents of the six Southern Baptist seminaries are undermining efforts to address racial inequities, it is refreshing to see a seminary founded by White Baptists take seriously the pursuit of racial justice.”

The grant also will fund research aimed at benefiting the Black church and the African American community.

The Institute will be housed at NBCA headquarters in Louisville. The denomination’s offices are now at Simmons College, but the group is looking for new space near Simmons.

In the institute’s outreach to White congregations, it will rely on BSK’s partnerships with Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Global and CBF affiliates in Kentucky and Virginia. “BSK through this institute will help White congregations grapple with the difficult issues surrounding racial justice and be advocates for change in their communities and beyond,” Cassady said. “Recent events in our country have demonstrated the critical need to repair the racial breach that divides us, and we are hopeful BSK and our partners can play a role in this important work.”

Interview with Lewis Brogdon

First Director of BSK’s new Institute

Lewis Brogdon, who will direct BSK’s Institute for Black Church Studies, currently holds faculty appointments at both BSK and Simmons College of Kentucky.

What makes BSK particularly suited to establish such an institute?

BSK has been making steps toward this for years.

Its establishment of a BSK campus in Black space at Simmons College of Kentucky, its involvement in the work of Empower West and the Angela Project, its advocacy work among churches in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and its recent changes to its curriculum convinced the (predominately Black) 3.4-million-member National Baptist Convention of America, International (NBCA) to make BSK its official seminary. The Institute for Black Church Studies is a natural next step in the evolution of BSK and the work we feel called to take up.

How does the institute’s purpose intersect with your personal sense of call?

I am a product of the Black church.

I grew up playing drums in church and entered ministry at the age of 19. I have pastored churches. In 2009-2010, I entered a new phase in my work. I was privileged to lead Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in the launching of a Black Church Studies program. That program is still going strong today. I also completed my Ph.D. and took up the ministry of teaching and scholarship. Those two things opened the door to a decade of work in many places and different roles, being a bridge between the Black church and the academy. In a sense, this institute is my call and work coming full circle.

What are some of the needs of Black church leaders the institute will be addressing?

One thing I am excited to bring to the institute is contextual ministry and theological training.

So many Black church leaders have studied in institutions steeped in Eurocentrism. Courses and readings in Bible, theology, history, preaching, worship, ethics, and pastoral care often reflect White Western thought. What we assume is a standard seminary or divinity school education is really “White church studies.” Black seminary and divinity school students will often say things like, “I take what I learn and dip it in chocolate,” or they say, “I have to chew the meat and spit out the bones.” What these expressions get at is the failure of institutions to provide contextual theological training. Black church leaders need Black church studies, and so we are going to fill in those gaps as we equip current leaders in Black churches across the country, especially those in the NBCA, and seminarians at BSK.

 

Why is it important for the White church to engage in the cause of racial justice?

White churches have to take up the work of racial justice.

One of the main reasons we cannot make substantive progress on issues of race and racism is because White churches—their leaders and institutions—refuse to do their part. Black churches cannot solve these problems alone, and, for too long, that’s been the paradigm. ¬Black church leaders have been speaking out and taking up this work with only a few courageous White leaders standing in solidarity. This has to change.

We need a paradigm shift in America, and BSK is one of the institutions that will help the country make this shift. We are going to train White church leaders how to engage the history with honesty. This means looking at the past through different lenses. We are also going to teach them how to work toward change. This important step is the constructive work of community building, advocacy, partnerships, and public policy.

Institute Director: Dr. Lewis Brogdon

Dr. Lewis Brogdon has served in numerous positions in undergraduate and graduate institutions as a professor – Research Professor of Preaching and Black Church Studies at BSK,  Assistant Professor of New Testament and Black Church Studies at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary and Religion and Biblical Studies at Claflin University, and an Associate Professor of Christian Studies at Bluefield College.

He also served those institutions as an administrator – the founding director of Louisville Presbyterian Seminary’s Black Church Studies Program, Provost at Simmons College of Kentucky and Dean of Institutional Effectiveness and Research at Bluefield College.

Brogdon is the author of several books including A Companion to Philemon (Cascade 2018), The Spirituality of Black Preaching (Seymour Press 2016) and others.

Dr. Brogdon is also a popular preacher, lecturer, and panelist. He has lectured at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, the Interdenominational Theological Center, the University of Chicago Divinity School, Claflin University, and Radford University on nihilism in black America.

He was the keynote speaker at a city wide Martin Luther King dinner in Dayton OH, and received an invitation to the White House in 2014.

Brogdon is an ordained minister of twenty six years and has pastored churches in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio.

Fast Facts On New Institute

Name

Institute for Black Church Studies

Launch

Fall 2021

Purposes

Equip current and future Black church leaders; resource racial justice education efforts; support relevant research; fund scholarship opportunities

Director

Lewis Brogdon, current professor at BSK and Simmons College of Kentucky; New Testament scholar; ordained minister for 29 years

Location

National Baptist Convention of America International, Inc. headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky

Funding

$750,000 grant from the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation spread over four years

BSK’s Institute for Black Church Studies continues a legacy of bold initiatives

By Dr. David Cassady, President, BSK

Since our beginning, Baptist Seminary of Kentucky has not been intimidated by bold initiatives. In fact, the founding of the seminary itself was an audacious move.

When BSK began classes in 2002, several Cooperative Baptist Fellowship-aligned seminaries and divinity schools already had established themselves as capable providers of theological education. We lacked deep financial resources, and the nearby CBF constituency, while supportive, was less numerous than in other regions.

However, founding President Greg Earwood and other visionaries plunged forward committed to BSK’s mission and undeterred by those who said BSK was not needed. Nearly 20 years later, scores of called and committed individuals who have been well-trainedat BSK are serving faithfully in Kentucky and beyondas pastors, chaplains, Christian educators, pastoral counselors, and missionaries.

BSK achieved accreditation from the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), and last year ATS reaffirmed our accreditation for 10 years, the maximum period that accreditation is extended. This is a testament to the quality of our academic instruction and our financial stewardship.

In 2017, the boldness that has shaped BSK since its founding joined hands with the innovative leadership of Simmons College of Kentucky.

At the invitation of Simmons, we began offering a full M.Div degree at this historically Black institution in Louisville. From BSK’s perspective, it required both a measure of self-assuredness to believe we could be successful in this endeavor and a degree of humility to learn how to be a White seminary functioning in Black space.

Three years after our Simmons partnership began, we were asked tobe the official seminary of the National Baptist Convention of America International, Inc. (NBCA), a predominately Black denomination.

Because of our partnership with Simmons and the NBCA, we are a more diverse and a more faithful seminary.

We are listening to voices in Christ’s church to whom we had not paid enough attention.

I believe BSK was launched in the providence of God, and the providence of God continues to open doors for us. At our beginning, who would have thought BSK would be a leader among U.S. theological schools in efforts to repair our country’s racial breach? Our new Institute for Black Church Studies is another step in our calling to pursue racial justice.

God has placed a bold calling before our seminary. BSK’s Institute for Black Church Studies will address some of the most pressing issues before both church and society. We can engage in this mission thanks to the insightful support of our partners, the creativity and dedication of our faculty, the pioneering spirit of our board, and the generosity of the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation.

You can join this effort through your prayers, your giving, and your commitment to work for racial justice in your community. Together, we can make a faithful and effective stand for the kind of world Christ wants, a world where inclusion and justice prevail.

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