$50,000 Grant made to PLTS to Fund Creation of New Certificate in Racial Equity

Reverend Dr. Donna Allen, Reverend Lenny Duncan

The Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary (PLTS) has received a $50,000 grant from the Lily Foundation to develop a BIPOC certificate program to address the challenge of racism in the church and society by providing theological education and spiritual formation that deepens understanding of and appreciation for the spiritual experiences and theological perspectives of black people, indigenous people, and people of color (BIPOC).

This non-degree certificate program will offer modules in theology, spirituality, history, liturgy, social issues, other areas of interest from BIPOC perspectives, and will be taught exclusively by BIPOC people. “It is our hope,” said Raymond Pickett, who is spearheading the project for the Seminary, “that this new focus in theological education and spiritual formation will deepen the understanding of and appreciation for the spiritual experiences and theological perspectives of black people, indigenous people, and people of color (BIPOC).”

Using the funds from the Lilly Endowment, Inc., the Seminary will create the Certificate Program in collaboration with the Reverend Dr. Donna Allen and the Reverend Lenny Duncan, two black pastors and theologians. Together, they will introduce students to the views and voices of people who have been marginalized by church institutions dominated by white voices and experiences. The non-degree Certificate Program will be virtual and is designed to create a diverse online community of teachers and learners and other people committed to racial equity and inclusion. “A big reason mainstream churches are not more inclusive is because they have been shaped by a white Eurocentric cultural and theological heritage, they simply have not valued or incorporated the experiences, perspectives and religious and cultural heritage of BIPOC people,” said Pickett. 

Reverend Dr. Allen and Pastor Lenny Duncan both have significant experience with creating spaces of belonging, especially for people from under-represented communities and people who have been marginalized by predominantly white institutions. Reverend Dr. Donna Allen is an adjunct faculty of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and the Graduate Theological Union. She is a Board Certified Chaplain and the Manager of Chaplain Services at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center and the pastor of New Revelation Community Church, Evangelical Lutheran Churches of America (ELCA).  

Reverend Lenny Duncan is a prominent African American pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Churches of America denomination. He is also the author of the bestselling book, Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the US, which has been widely discussed throughout the ELCA and beyond. His new book, United States of Grace: A Memoir of Homelessness, Addiction, Incarceration and Hope will be published on May 18. The virtual event will be held at PLTS. Reverend Duncan is an important leader in the church who is effectively engaging people within the church and beyond around issues of racism and queer identity.

The consortium to which the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary belongs, the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) includes eight seminaries and eleven research centers in partnership with the University of California Berkeley, all where students can take courses with ecumenical, interfaith and secular emphases. 

The new Certificate will join those currently offered by PLTS: Certificate of Theological Studies, Certificate of Advanced Theological Studies, Certificate Education for Emerging Ministries (TEEM), and Certificate in Climate Justice and Faith.


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