ABSW & PICO Team Up to Launch A New Program that Teaches the Art of Active Public Theology

May 2, 2017 ~ Meagan Wood

Berkeley, CA – For the first time, The American Baptist Seminary of the West (ABSW), in partnership with the PICO National Network, will launch this summer a Public Theology Certificate Program focused on societal issues.  ABSW and PICO will seek to recruit clergy, non-ordained congregational leaders as well as faith based community leaders to be part of this exciting new program.  Applicants can learn more at www.absw.edu/publictheology.

ABSW Marching Crop
Berkeley clergy – including members of the ABSW community – march in support of Black Lives Matter

The 5-course 18-month program is designed to fill the gap between what current seminary curriculum offers and the need for activist clergy to bring their spiritual perspective to the most pressing issues of the day.  Classes will cover issues ranging from morality & society to community organizing.  Ministers will also be expected to participate in a placement at a community organization working to expand opportunities for justice.

From the Black Lives Matter movement to the challenges of the current political climate, the country is witnessing dynamics that will shape the next decade or more of our nation’s political and social debate. That’s why ABSW and PICO have launched this effort.

“America is facing a dramatic new set of ethical and moral challenges for which traditional training/formation of clergy has found itself to be inadequate.  These challenges are played out not just inside the church but also in the community.  In order for contemporary clergy to be effective there has to be a new awareness on how to engage community concerns.  This is why the seminary has chosen to partner w/PICO,” said LeAnn Snow Flesher, VP of Academic Affairs at ABSW.

Tension is growing in communities across our country.  There is ever-increasing frustration and anger over promises made and promises broken by those in positions of power. Sadly, faith leaders have been hard-pressed to help their congregations understand and respond to these changes.

“The events of the last decade have made it clear that our society yearns for courageous prophetic leaders who are prepared to inspire, speak out, and help organize their congregations, their peers, and their communities in ways that not only shape the debate, but the outcome of the critical moral and ethical issues of the day,” said Michael-Ray Mathews, Director of Clergy Organizing, PICO USA. “Unfortunately, few seminaries are currently structured to prepare clergy for this type of leadership,” he added, “but ABSW has stepped forward and they are uniquely equipped as one of the most diverse seminaries in the US.”

The ABSW/PICO partnership for the creation of a program in Public Theology has been made possible by a generous grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.

Classes will begin this summer.  All clergy interested in applying can go to www.absw.edu/publictheology.  Scholarships are available.

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About American Baptist Seminary of the West

ABSW is a laboratory for building communities of Christian hope, justice, and reconciliation. We gladly welcome students from other faith traditions. Our mission is supported by a faculty that is representative of the constituencies we serve, competent in scholarship, skilled in teaching, experienced in ministry, and dedicated to the work of  social justice.


About PICO

The PICO National Network has a 44-year track record of equipping grassroots faith leaders and those most impacted by injustice with the tools to organize their communities to make concrete policy change that advances racial and economic justice in the United States.