A multiple-case study of distance education as a paradigm for theological education to enhance Black church leadership

James Terry Roberson, Fordham University


Theological education in the Black Church has been problematic since its inception. Most practicing clergypersons have no seminary training; rather, persons who can articulate their "call" are nurtured in the tradition. In addition, the demographic changes within the African American community, brought on largely by the effects of the "Information Age," are making new demands on this institution. To cope with both dilemmas, African American scholars have called for an alternate approach to traditional seminary education for future leaders of the Black Church. A new education delivery paradigm was examined as a potential tool for providing this education to church leaders. An Online class was designed using Computer-Mediated Communications as the method of interaction in a virtual classroom as a model of Distance Education. Conducted in the Mid-Hudson Valley of New York, using non-seminary, Black Church leaders of the Empire State Missionary Baptist Convention, the class used a multiple-case study methodology to mentor six participants, for six months. All Participants used a personal computer with a modem as the principal means of communicating with fellow students and professors. Findings indicate that although not all participants successfully appropriated the technology, all expressed an ongoing interest in utilizing it to further their formal education and leadership aspirations. The level of participation varied from very high to non-participatory. However, those who used this system were able to do so satisfactorily, depending on their level of interest, perceived need for knowledge, allocation of sufficient time, and engagement in the "intra-learner" dialogue this technology makes possible. The study has shown this method has significant potential for theological education for the Black Church in the 21st century. The epistemology of this paradigm coincides with the "intra-community training" that has been the historic educational philosophy within the African American community, particularly the Black Church. This delivery paradigm offers another option in "alternate education." The results suggest that African American clergypersons interested in improving their ministerial skills through seminary-level education can use this delivery paradigm profitably.

Subject Area

School administration|Religious education|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Roberson, James Terry, "A multiple-case study of distance education as a paradigm for theological education to enhance Black church leadership" (1993). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9412145.