Black Theology and Leadership Institute (BTLI) Webinars - Part I

July 13

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COVID-19 has focused us to rethink and reimagine the meaning of worship and the experience of engaging in worship without physical community. Join us as we delve deeper into these reimaginings and look at artistic practices; innovative theologies; and critical, ethical questions about worship during this critical time of health crisis and racial upheaval.


Monday, July 13, 2:45–4:00 p.m. EDT
Leader: The Rev. Dr. Alisha Lola Jones

“Tragedies are commonplace, all kinds of diseases, people are slipping away, economies down, people can't get enough pay,” are timeless gospel lyrics by Bishop Walter Hawkins that point to the complexity of our times. Hawkins’ gospel song “Thank you, Lord” (1989) provides an opportunity for us to reflect on the ways in which our worship leadership must be both artful and just. Taking into account the current sociopolitical climate, believers and seekers need music that equips them to face structural issues in everyday life. This webinar introduces and reorients thinking around justice-minded worship leading that takes into account the local and international sociocultural climate. Using ethnomusicological tools, participants will examine the question: What does justice sound like in worship?

Wednesday, July 15, 2:45–4:00 p.m. EDT
Leader: The Rev. Dr. Brad Braxton

The COVID-19 pandemic compels religious leaders to rethink the role of preaching and worship in times of significant social turmoil. Personal and communal suffering, significant economic dislocation, and an acute sense of anxiety constitute serious “public health” threats to the body politic. In the face of such threats, there is an urgent need for competent “doctors of the soul” who dispense healing balm through careful and courageous religious rhetoric and imaginative religious rituals. This webinar will explore the impact of preaching and worship on personal and social transformation. It also will offer perspectives for constructing a more effective public ministry of healing and justice.

Friday, July 17, 2:45–4:00 p.m. EDT
Leader: The Rev. Dr. Eboni Marshall Turman

How ought our worship of the Creator compel responsibility to creation? Is there an integral connection between piety, preaching, and Black protest? What constitutes worship in a pandemic? This webinar will interrogate these critical questions, among others, toward consideration of prophetic worship and the contemporary crisis. Emphasis will be placed on the moral problem of the Black body and worship as theorized through the origins of the Black Church as slave religion, the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, and the more recent massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church. Consideration of the theo-ethical trajectory of African American social Christianity and its varied rhetoric, practices, and protest in the long movement toward Black freedom will deepen participant understanding of the radical doing of worship, which is a distinct inheritance of Black faith in the U.S.


Jones Alisha

Dr. Alisha Lola Jones is an assistant professor in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, and an adjunct in the Religious Studies and the African American and African Diaspora Studies departments at Indiana University (Bloomington). Jones is a graduate of University of Chicago (PhD), Yale Divinity School (MDiv), Yale Institute of Sacred Music (ISM)
, and Oberlin Conservatory (BM). Jones is a council member of the Society for Ethnomusicology’s (SEM) and the American Musicological Society (AMS). She is also a co-chair of the Music and Religion Section and the SEM liaison to the American Academy of Religion (AAR). Dr. Jones’ forthcoming book Flaming: The Peculiar Theo-Politics of Fire and Desire in Black Male Gospel Performance (Oxford University Press) breaks ground by analyzing the role of gospel music-making in constructing and renegotiating gender identity among Black men. Additionally, as a performer-scholar, she consults seminaries and arts organizations on curriculum, programming, and content development. For more information, you may visit her website DrAlisha.com.

Brad Braxton

Dr. Brad Braxton is the chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer at St. Luke’s School, a coeducational independent school in New York City. He also is the curator for living religions in 21st century America at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in Washington, DC. He holds a PhD in New Testament studies from Emory University, where he was a Woodruff Fellow, a master’s degree in theology from the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and a BA degree in religious studies from the University of Virginia, where he was a Jefferson Scholar.

His publications, which include three books and numerous essays, explore the intersection of religion and social justice. Braxton’s expertise in religion, diversity, and inclusion has made him a highly sought-after public speaker. He also is a seasoned educator who has held professorships at Southern Methodist University, Vanderbilt University, and Wake Forest University, as well as lectureships at Georgetown University, Harvard Divinity School, and McCormick Theological Seminary.

Braxton’s leadership has extended beyond the academy to the arenas of museums, philanthropic organizations, and faith-based communities. He formerly served as the director of the Center for the Study of African American Religious Life at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC; the program officer for religion in the Public Sphere at the Ford Foundation in New York City, and the senior minister of the Riverside Church in New York City. In 2011, Braxton founded The Open Church of Maryland, a culturally inclusive congregation in Baltimore. He continues as a visionary pastoral leader at The Open Church amid his duties at St. Luke’s School and the Smithsonian Institution.

His wife, Lazetta Rainey Braxton, is a nationally recognized certified financial planner and co-founder and co-CEO of 2050 Wealth Partners, a firm that provides wealth management and comprehensive financial planning. They are the proud parents of a daughter, Karis, an inquisitive high school student who loves to dance and draw. The Braxtons also enjoy the company of Sampson, their Labrador retriever/terrier. Learn more about Braxton at bradbraxton.com.

Eboni Marshall Turman

The Reverend Dr. Eboni Marshall Turman is the assistant professor of theology and African American religion at Yale University Divinity School in New Haven, CT. A first-career concert dancer and ordained National Baptist preacher, her research interests span the varieties of 20th century U.S. theological liberalisms, most especially Black and womanist theological, social ethical, and theo-aesthetic traditions.

An author, minister, professor, and public theologian, Turman is a refreshing addition to our most pressing national discussions of faith, race, and gender. With a decidedly womanist point of view, hers stands out as one of very few scholarly millennial voices offering moral perspective on issues facing the Black community.

At a time in our history when the Black church and Black lives are once again under constant siege, Dr. Turman has committed her research, scholarship, and platform to a nuanced exploration of the most marginalized among us. Learn more about Turman at marshallturman.com.

Cost and Registration

Cost: $25 per webinar, $60 for all three
BTLI fellows can use a promotional code. Please inquire about the promotional code at btli@ptsem.edu.

Registration is open until 12 p.m. EDT the day of each webinar.


Educating faithful Christian leaders.

Associate Pastor, Faith Lutheran Church, Bismarck, ND

Sylvia Bull, Class of 2015

“My field education placements lifted up my gifts for ordained ministry, and the dual-degree program helped me develop the skills for ministry.”