Study of Black Faith & Life

The Center for the Study of Black Faith and Life (CSBFL), founded in 2007, is the first Center within a denominational seminary to seek connection with the larger Black Faith community inclusive of a variety of Black religions. The CSBFL is dedicated to inspiring and encouraging religious leaders committed to addressing the forces of oppression and dehumanization that plague the African American community and the world.

Degree & Non Degree Concentrations

The CSBFL participates in ministerial and professional formation by offering Master of Divinity, Master of Sacred Theology, and Doctor of Philosophy degree concentrations in the Study of Black Faith and Life. All degree candidates are required to take Introduction to the Study of Black Faith and Life. The number of electives required to fulfill the concentration requirements are determined by the degree program. In addition to the courses offered at CTS, a candidate may work toward the fulfillment of elective requirements by taking ACTS courses pre-approved by the CSBFL director.


  • MDiv: Introduction to the Study of Black Faith & Life and 3 CSBFL electives.
  • STM: Introduction to the Study of Black Faith & Life and 3 CSBFL electives.
  • PhD: Introduction to the Study of Black Faith & Life and an approved Program of Study.
  • Certificate: Introduction to the Study of Black Faith & Life and 4 CSBFL electives.


  • Martin, Malcolm & Civil Religion: Explores the structures and parameters of civil religion in America by studying responses to its presence and influence found in the speeches, articles and addresses of significant Americans.
  • African American Religious History: Surveys the history and development of the variety of religious experiences of African Americans from 17th to 21st centuries.
  • African American Religion, Theology & Spirituality: Explores the religious beliefs of African Americans, with attention on the spirit of accommodation that has inspired works of freedom and justice.
  • The Theology of the Body: How has Christianity come to be associated with the denigration of the body? What are resources in tradition for a theological re-appropriation and celebration of the body?
  • Feminist Theologies in Multicultural Context: Examine some feminist and womanist strategies for understanding and thinking critically about intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and class with an eye toward their impact on ministry, social action, and public theology.
  • Psychology of the Oppressed & Liberation Theologies: Considers the experiences of race, class, and gender oppression. Phenomenological positions will be critiqued psychologically to understand liberative theological motivations. Works from Latin American, womanist, feminist, and black theology.
  • The Black Church & the Nation of Islam: Analyzes love and rage as rhetorical theological imperatives as responses of the church and the Nation of Islam to systemic racism and political disfranchisement of African Americans. Examines the role of women in each institution.
  • Dialogue Among Religions: Investigates the possibility of interreligious dialogues and their practical consequences.
  • Augustine, Niebuhr & Malcolm X: Reviews the ideas of these three highly influential thinkers about the nature of sin in human existence and those qualities of human beings requiring redemption, giving special attention to the theme of sin as pride and sensuality.
  • Womanist & Feminist Christologies: A seminar examining servanthood vs. surrogacy, the Black Christ and the historical Jesus Christ and Christa and atonement and abuse.
  • Theology & Cultural Analysis: The course will first examine different theologies of culture in terms of how they see the relation between theology and culture and then examine different ways of reading the contemporary Western culture theologically.
  • Ritual, Sacred Space & Healing: An examination of the role of ritual leadership in healing. Both religion and psychotherapy will be examined. Victor Turner’s work will be considered.
  • The (De)construction of Homophobia: A critical history of the construction of homophobia within Christendom and an analysis of concomitant deformations in doctrine and church life lays the foundation for counter-homophobic practice.
  • Approaching Islam: This seminar will provide an introduction to another Islam through selective study of sacred texts and theologies in order to build understanding as a basis for interreligious dialogue.
  • Africentric Christian Education: Explores the historical, theological, biblical and pedagogical foundations of Africentric Christian education and the implications they have on ministry in African American congregations.
  • African-American Pastoral Psychology: We will consider the African American approach to human nature, personality, theory and key concepts. Biblical texts will be woven with the psychological theories to encourage a pastoral approach to psychotherapy.
  • Preaching and Pastoral Care: Focuses upon the sermonic communication of God’s love and hope in times of crisis. Students will be challenged to develop homiletical skills, ministerial sensitivity, and a vision of congregational life.

Lectures & Events

Each year the Center for the Study of Black Faith & Life sponsors the C. Shelby Rooks Lectures. Named for the first African-American to serve as president of a predominately white theological school, the C. Shelby Rooks lecture launches a series of programs, open to the community, that invites individuals and communities, lay, clergy, and scholars to engage in religious and theological reflection on issues relevant to African-American faith, freedom, and justice.

Affiliated Faculty

Affiliated Faculty of the CSBFL are scholars with expertise in the full range of religious studies and theological disciplines and have a fundamental commitment to research and reflection upon all aspects of African and African American life. They support the Mission, Vision, and Commitment Statements of the CSBFL, which is dedicated to nurturing and mentoring a new generation of activists who will engage in ministries of liberation and justice. They are available to consult with and offer thesis direction to Master of Divinity, Master of Sacred Theology, and Doctor of Philosophy students who are committed to earning a degree with a concentration in Black Faith & Life. On occasion, a CSBFL Affiliated Faculty may be invited by Chicago Theological Seminary to guest lecture, teach a course as an Adjunct Faculty, write and evaluate a comprehensive exam, and/or examine a PhD dissertation.