Black Church Studies

Black Church Studies

Candler’s Black Church Studies program prepares men and women to provide learned, prophetic and compassionate leadership in Black and multiracial churches; and educates the entire Candler community about the origins, development and contemporary diversity of the Black church tradition.

The program also explores religious traditions among peoples of African descent across Africa and the diaspora. The program seeks to integrate Black church studies into foundational courses at Candler and to expand and deepen Black church studies courses. The program also seeks to respond to the need for literature in Black religion, in particular the need for primary field research on Black congregational life.

The Black Church Studies program also sponsors chapel worship, orientation and support events, as well as an annual series of lectures on Black religious life that includes the Howard Thurman Lecture, the Anna Julia Cooper Lecture, and the Annual Sankofa Lecture.

In 2020, Candler launched the Candler Black Excellence project, a multi-year initiative to celebrate the school’s Black faculty, alumni, and students through videos, podcasts, interviews and articles. Learn more about the Candler Black Excellence project.

For more information on the program, email The Rev. Dr. Nichole R. Phillips, Associate Professor in the Practice of Sociology of Religion and Culture; and Director of Black Church Studies.

Certificate in Black Church Studies

The BCS certificate program provides an opportunity for students in Candler’s Master of Divinity (MDiv) and Master of Theological Studies (MTS) programs to expand their knowledge of the Black church, blending theory and practice. Elective courses offered toward the certificate span a wide range, from anthropology and ethics to worship and music. Students maintain a portfolio of papers and projects demonstrating their development throughout their time at Candler. For a list of courses, visit the link for your degree program above.

The Sankofa Scholar Program

In the Akan language of the West African nation of Ghana, sankofa means “reach back and get it.” It means one’s future is stronger if one is aware of one’s past. In that vein, BCS has developed the Sankofa Scholar Program, which allows Candler students and faculty to engage in intensive study of local, national, historical and contemporary Black religiosity using interdisciplinary methods.

Each year, Candler welcomes a Sankofa Scholar, a distinguished visiting professor who provides a course relevant to the research of students enrolled in the BCS certificate program. Recent Sankofa Scholars were Katie Geneva Cannon, womanist and Black liberation theology expert, and Obery Hendricks, respected New Testament professor and influential public theologian.

The Rev. Dr. Nichole R. Phillips, Associate Professor in the Practice of Sociology of Religion and Culture; Director of Black Church Studies

Dr. W. James Abbington, Associate Professor of Church Music and Worship

Dr. Musa Dube, Acting Professor of New Testament

The Rev. Dr. Gregory C. Ellison, II, Associate Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling

The Rev. Dr. Noel L. Erskine, Professor of Theology & Ethics

Dr. Walter Earl FlukerDean's Professor of Spirituality, Ethics, and Leadership

The Rev. Dr. Robert M. Franklin, Jr., James T. and Berta R. Laney Professor in Moral Leadership

Dr. Marla F. Frederick, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Religion and Culture

The Rev. Dr. Teresa L. Fry Brown, Bandy Professor of Preaching

Dr. Jill B. Hamilton, Associate Professor in the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, Affiliate Faculty at Candler

Dr. Jehu J. Hanciles, D.W. and Ruth Brooks Professor of World Christianity

Dr. Joel B. Kemp, Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible

The Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Y. Lartey, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Pastoral Theology and Spiritual Care

The Rev. Dr. Kevin Murriel, Assistant Professor in the Practice of Practical Theology and Black Methodist Seminarians Program Director

The Rev. Dr. Damon Williams, Assistant Professor in the Practice of Practical Ministry; Co-Director of the Baptist Studies Program

The Rev. Dr. Khalia J. WilliamsAssociate Dean of Worship and Music; Associate Professor in the Practice of Worship; Co-Director of the Baptist Studies Program

Two annual lectures and special events throughout the year offer depth and context to the Black Church Studies experience. The Howard Thurman Lecture and the Anna Julia Cooper Lecture, named for two influential Black theologians and scholars of the 20th century, bring in renowned guest speakers to present on relevant topics. The annual Elders Send Off for graduating seniors has become one of the most meaningful and memorable traditions of the BCS and all of Candler as a whole.

The Black Church Studies program celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2020-2021, with a series of public events honoring the program’s ongoing impact and legacy. Find the recordings on Vimeo.

Lectures and events are open to everyone, unless otherwise noted. For the full list of events at Candler, view the calendar.


Candler has established a scholarship endowment in honor of three of the school’s first African American faculty—Noel Erskine, Luther Smith and Romney Moseley—to provide students of the Black Church Studies program with scholarships and stipends to support their theological education. For more information, contact the office of Admissions & Financial Aid.

Web Resources

Institute of African Studies, Emory University

Sub-Saharan African Art, Carlos Museum, Emory University
Learn about African artistic expression in its various forms, functions and cultures of origin. A majority of the objects come from West Africa, with an emphasis on Nigeria, Benin (formerly Dahomey), and the Cameroon Grassfields, but also includes art from the Equatorial Central region of the continent, located mainly in the modern state of Zaire.

Graduate Division of Religion

Women, Theology, and Ministry Program

Religious Education Program

For all admissions-related questions, or to receive admissions materials, please visit Admissions. If you have additional questions regarding Black Church Studies, please email The Rev. Dr. Nichole R. Phillips.

Why a certificate in Black Church Studies?

A critical component of a student's theological preparation is contextual. Not only must today's student be prepared for leadership in the church and in the academy, but also on street corners, classrooms, community centers, holding cells, crackhouses and AIDS clinics. The task of Black Church Studies is to bear witness to the disinherited and to help prepare a leadership of hope.

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Does the Black Church offer a significant witness for all persons?

Yes. There has never been a time in the history of this country when leadership from the African Diaspora has not significantly and instructively spoken to the human condition transcending the arbitrary lines of race. What is true for the black faithful is no less true for others - for all of our political and social struggles are rooted and grounded in the crucible of the spirit.

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Is a certificate the same as a degree?

No. Students who desire to earn a certificate in Black Church Studies do so in conjunction with the Master of Divinity (MDiv), Master of Theological Studies (MTS), or Master of Theology (ThM) degree. The certification process provides students with an opportunity to expand their knowledge of Black Church traditions and scholarship.

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"The task of Black Church Studies is to bear witness to the disinherited and to help prepare a leadership of hope."
-Teresa Fry Brown, Bandy Professor of Preaching