Brite program supplies unique course materials

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    The first textbook in black church studies, based on a course taught at Brite Divinity School, will be released this year.Brite’s black church studies concentration under the Master of Divinity degree was established in spring 2005 under the care of its founding director Stacey Floyd-Thomas, associate professor of ethics and black church studies.

    The textbook, set for release in November, will be based on the introductory course under the program, which happens to be the only black church studies program offered west of the Mississippi River.

    Floyd-Thomas wrote in an e-mail that the new textbook is “destined to be a standard text used in the core curriculum of seminaries throughout the nation.”

    Forrest Harris, director of the Kelly Miller Smith Institute on Black Church Studies at Vanderbilt University, said the Vanderbilt program plans to use the text.

    While the program has about 20 students participate in coursework each semester, nine have declared a concentration in the program and five have graduated with the degree, according to student services.

    Cynthia Cole, who is finishing her degree under the concentration, celebrated the 110th anniversary of her church, Johnson Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, on Sunday. She is the first female pastor there.

    “I am excited to be at the program,” Cole said. “It has been a privilege and opportunity to learn under Dr. Floyd-Thomas.”

    Events are offered through the program during the school year to educate the public in the realm of the black church, including the international Power of Black Preaching Forum, the State of the Black Church Studies Summit and the B.L.A.C.K. Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence Series, Floyd-Thomas said.

    The executive board of the Black Religious Scholars Group, an organization that Floyd-Thomas said she, her husband, Juan Floyd-Thomas and a colleague in Philadelphia co-founded in 1996, co-authored the new textbook. Brite also houses the BRSG headquarter.

    Although the program currently has only one permanent full-time faculty member, Floyd-Thomas said she has high hopes for the program’s future.

    “Once additional faculty are hired and extra funding is established for programming,” Floyd-Thomas said, “I believe that it will be the top-ranking black church studies program in the nation within the next five to 10 years.

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