Black Church Studies Consultation to address challenges, resources for rural African American communities

Church growth and decline, race relations and community influence among topics to be discussed during consultation at Louisville Seminary

by Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary | Special to Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — Throughout the summer of 2019, researchers from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary began an intensive study of African American rural ministry. Seminary professors and alumni, in partnership with congregational leaders from Bardstown, Hopkinsville, and Eminence, Kentucky, examined the issues that ministers and congregants address to effectively provide spiritual, social and personal guidance to the rural communities they serve.

Results of their findings and plans to move forward on further research will be presented at Louisville Seminary’s annual Black Church Studies Consultation, which will take place Feb. 19-21 on the seminary’s campus at 1044 Alta Vista Road in Louisville, Ky.

The event, a staple of the seminary’s Black Church Studies Program, will provide theological training to rural ministers to help them thrive. Church growth and decline, race relations, business and government concerns, and community influence are among topics to be discussed. Attendees will receive online and printed resources for use in their ministries.

“Ministry in rural spaces is understudied and under-resourced,” said Rev. Dr. Angela Cowser, Louisville Seminary’s associate dean of Black Church Studies and Doctor of Ministry programs. “We want to build relationships with rural clergy, learn from them and provide resources that will enrich their ministries and communities.”

This year’s Black Church Studies Consultation builds on the topic of African American ministry in rural contexts, which was introduced at last year’s consultation. Cowser said that the feedback and interest in further exploration on the issue following last year’s consultation prompted researchers to take a more in-depth look at the issues in communities throughout Kentucky.

Rev. Roscoe Linton, pastor of St. John AME Zion Church in Bardstown, was part of the field study team and will be among the presenters at this year’s consultation.

“This was a great opportunity for our congregation to consider the many roles we play in the life of our community and the roles the community plays in the life of our church,” said Linton.

The consultation’s special guest presenters this year are Rev. Riley Edwards-Raudonat, who is pastor of a German-speaking congregation in Abuja and Lagos, Nigeria, and Dr. Gerald Taylor, adjunct professor for the Doctor of Ministry Program in Community Organizing and Ministry at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.

Representatives from Louisville Seminary as well as Baptist Seminary of Kentucky, along with several ministerial leaders in rural churches throughout Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana are also among the presenters.

This year’s Black Church Studies Consultation preacher is the Rev. Dr. Kilen Gray, Louisville Seminary’s dean of student engagement and pastor of New Mount Zion Baptist Church in Shelbyville, Kentucky.

Alison Stabler, a third-year Master of Arts (Religion) student at Louisville Seminary, is the consultation’s artist in residence.

African American ministers, statewide moderators, lay leaders, and seminary students who are either currently serving or who will be serving in a rural context are encouraged to attend. General admission is $50, while student tickets are $25. Registration fees include meals for both days of the consultation. The registration deadline is Friday, Feb. 14. For details and to register, see

Founded in 1853, Louisville Seminary offers an inclusive and diverse learning community, welcoming students from wide ecumenical backgrounds while maintaining its long, historic commitment to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). Louisville Seminary is committed to building bridges across the world’s religious, racial and cultural divides. It is distinguished by its nationally-recognized marriage and family therapy and field education programs, the scholarship and church service among its faculty and a commitment to training women and men to participate in the continuing ministry of Jesus Christ. For more information, call (800) 264-1839 or log onto

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