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3rd Annual

Black Theology and Leadership Institute
July 11-18, 2015

A Balm in Gilead:
Toward a Theology of Healing and Wholeness

We are no longer accepting applications for the 2015 Black Theology and Leadership Institute. Please email to be added to our mailing list and check back in Fall 2015 for information about next year's program.

 Adobe icon Please download a program overview and brochure.

BTLI 2015 main pageThe Black Theology and Leadership Institute is a weeklong intensive continuing education event for clergy and laity for training, worship, and fellowship. The institute is designed for clergy and lay leaders who would like to deepen their thinking and preaching by learning from preeminent scholars of theology and religion. All are urged to apply, including those who may not have formal theological training. This year's theme is A Balm in Gilead: Toward a Theology of Healing and Wholeness for the Black Church and will explore topics on health, healing, and wholeness for both the congregation and the pastor’s development and self-care. BTLI will be held on the Princeton Theological Seminary campus, July 11-18, 2015. All are urged to apply, including those who may not have formal theological training. The Institute is limited to 50 fellows.

Fellows will have a week to think deeply about theology and leadership through robust academics and thoughtful discernment. The demanding schedule includes:

  • In-depth Orientation of the week
  • Plenaries on key theological doctrines on social justice
  • A one-day immersion on Leadership
  • Access to Princeton Seminary’s world-renowned libraries and generous study time
  • Daily Q&A
  • Guided discussions in cohort groups
  • Worship and intimate mentorship experiences

Particular to the Black Theology and Leadership Institute is an emphasis on direct mentorship from outstanding church, civic, and academic experts. Time will be set aside for one-on-one appointments as well as deliberate moments in the schedule for networking and fellowship.


Deborah Blanks BTLI

Deborah Blanks serves as Associate Dean of Religious Life and of the Chapel at Princeton University. She came to Princeton in 1997 after having served at Brown University as an Assistant University Chaplain (1994-1997). Prior to entering the world of university chaplaincy, she served as an active duty United States Navy Chaplain for providing pastoral ministry to military service members. Theologian-in-Residence


Leslie Dowdell Cannon is Acting Senior Minister at historic Peoples Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, DC, where she has served since 1997. She serves on several boards and is on the planning committee of the African American Women in Ministry Retreat for the United Church of Christ. Dedication to both the pulpit and the community have been two cornerstones of her career. Theologian-in-Residence

Monica ColemanMonica Coleman is the Associate Professor of Constructive Theology and African American Religions at Claremont School of Theology and Associate Professor of Religion at Claremont Graduate University. She is currently one of the co-directors of the Center for Process Studies as well as an ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Her research interests include mental health and theology. Faculty

William Coleman (b)

William E. Coleman, Jr. is an Associate Minister at Shiloh Baptist Church in Trenton, NJ and an Interim Pastor at Second Baptist Church in Asbury Park. He also serves as a chaplain at St. Francis Hospital. A retired NYC police detective, he is a crisis counselor and conflict resolution specialist. He is married to Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, the first black woman in Congress from New Jersey. Theologian-in-Residence

Michael Lee CookMichael Lee Cook Cook is a licensed marriage and family therapist and pastoral counselor in private practice at Micah Counseling Services, a parish-based counseling center at St. Andrew’s in the Pines Episcopal Church. Michael serves as an adjunct professor in the area of pastoral theology, care, and counseling at Columbia Theological Seminary and Chicago Theological Seminary. Faculty

Charles Fischer, III (b)Charles Fischer, III is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta, GA. Prior to this, he served parishes in the Diocese of Washington and the Diocese of Maryland. As well, he was Director of Alumni at Virginia Theological Seminary, leading two of VTS’ highest grossing annual fund campaigns. Rev. Fischer is a fellow of the Inaugural Black Theology and Leadership Institute. Theologian-in-Residence


Tony McNeill is Minister of Worship & The Arts at Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church (Atlanta, GA). Prior this appointment, he was Guest Lecturer in choral music at Appalachian State University. He has served on the Advisory Board for the National Religious Music Week Association and as a member of the Community Advisory Board for the Community School of the Arts of Charlotte. He is a fellow of the Inaugural Black Theology and Leadership Institute and second time worship leader for BTLI. Artist-in-Residence

Ruth Perry, MD

Ruth Perry is the executive director of the Trenton Health Team in Trenton, NJ. Before that, she was an emergency room physician and corporate administrator. In her current role, she blends her physician background with corporate leadership experience to confront the health and wellness challenges of Trenton’s neediest residents and ensure better care in pursuit of holistic change. She is also a gifted musician, photographer and gardener. 2015 Betsey Stockton Lecturer on Theology of Leadership

Pierce2014 BTLI

Yolanda Pierce is the Director of Black Church Studies and Associate Professor of African American Religion and Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary. She is the author of Hell Without Fires: Slavery, Christianity & the African American Spiritual Narrative, and a forthcoming book titled “Religious Ecstasy & African American Cultural Expression.” Convener


Kenneth L. Samuel is Pastor of Victory for the World Church (United Church of Christ) in Stone Mountain, GA. He has served as an Adjunct Professor in the Religion and Philosophy Department at Clark Atlanta University and as a Teaching Assistant in homiletics at the Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He is also founder of Victory Outreach In Community Empowerment (VOICE), Victory's community development corporation. Pastor/Preacher-in-Residence

Patrick Smith 2015 (b)

Patrick T. Smith is Associate Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Patrick has specific interests in the areas of ethical theory, end-of-life medical ethics, hospice palliative care, religious epistemology and analytic philosophical theology. Patrick also works professionally as the Ethics Coordinator for Angela Hospice Care Center in Livonia, MI. Faculty

Simeon Spencer 2014Simeon Spencer is the Senior Pastor of Union Baptist Church in Trenton, New Jersey, where he has served for thirteen years. He led Union Baptist in founding of Trenton HOPE, a community development corporation that is partnering with government and private entities in the revitalization of the city of Trenton. Trenton HOPE has been instrumental in efforts to build housing, open new neighborhood businesses and develop a wellness program targeting urban communities. Theologian-in-Residence

Emilie Townes (b)

Emilie M. Townes, a distinguished scholar and leader in theological education, is dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School. She is also the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society. She is the author of the groundbreaking book, Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil, among other publications. As well, Townes is an ordained American Baptist clergywoman. Townes is also an active blogger on religion. Faculty

Please check back regularly as we continue to add leaders.

Application Process

We are no longer accepting applications for the 2015 Black Theology and Leadership Institute. Please email to be added to our mailing list and check back in Fall 2015 for information about next year's program.

Registration information will be included with acceptance notifications.

The Black Theology and Leadership Institute is currently limited to fifty applicants who meet the selection criteria. Priority will be given to first time applicants.


The program fee for 2015 Black Theology and Leadership Institute is $745.00, which includes program and meals. On-campus residence is required during the duration in the Institute and is paid separately (approximately $455 for the week). Participants should make their travel arrangements to arrive on Saturday, July 11 and depart on Saturday, July 18.

Partial scholarships are available. Please inquire about scholarships at [email protected].

 Adobe icon Please download a program overview and brochure.

For more information or for questions, please contact:
Sushama Austin-Connor
Program Director, Black Theology and Theology Leadership Institute (BTLI)
(e) [email protected]
(p) 609-497-7990
(f) 609-497-0709

BTLI large banner 2015