Founded in 1980 as a program designed to provide new theological education opportunities for African American church leaders, the Urban Theological Institute (UTI) at LTSP is expanding its horizons under the leadership of new director the Rev. Dr. Quintin L. Robertson (at right, Dr. Robertson teaching at Mt. Airy Church of God in Christ).
Dr. Robertson, who hails originally from Newark, NJ, and is an ordained elder of the Church of God in Christ, describes the UTI as an umbrella program administering the Black Church Concentration within the MDiv degree program and the Black Church Specialization in the Master of Arts in Religion degree program. The concentration and specialization are aimed at professional church leaders and focus on Black Church issues. The UTI also oversees a certificate program in Church Leadership available to all lay leaders of the church. Dr. Robertson sees his efforts as continuing and expanding upon the vision of the Rev. Dr. Stephen Ray, his immediate predecessor, who created the Black Church Concentration within the LTSP curriculum. (at left, Dr. Robertson teaching a UTI Certificate Program class)
“I hope to also be more involved as well with students here who are pursuing Advanced Level Degrees – the Master of Sacred Theology and Doctor of Ministry – especially in instances where these scholars are focusing on Black Church issues,” Dr. Robertson says.
When the UTI was founded at LTSP 30 years ago by the Rev. Dr. Andrew Willis and the late Rev. Dr. Randolph Jones, the program was reaching out to many African American clergy (and others) who did not hold graduate degrees but aspired toward earning one part-time while continuing to work as a professional leader or in some other capacity. (In addition to working church professionals, candidates in the program also included lay leaders seeking to become pastors, Christian educators or outreach coordinators.)
Dr. Robertson notes that many black denominations have not historically required their pastoral leaders to attend seminary, but theological education is increasingly valued by them. A new goal of Dr. Robertson’s is to expand the UTI’s current Certificate initiative to include a Certificate in Christian Ministry to reach a population of church leaders who do not meet the current requirements for seminary admission but who are already serving as pastors of congregations. “These leaders, we think, could both benefit from and enrich the community at the seminary,” Robertson says.
Another goal of the UTI is to expand the public programming aspect it has always valued. Throughout most of its existence, the UTI has sponsored each March a Preaching with Power initiative, inviting nationally noted African American preachers to pulpits throughout the Philadelphia community. The guest preachers conduct workshops related to their preaching style and content after each worship service. Preaching with Power annually attracts thousands of attendees. Dr. Robertson hopes to add quarterly seminars, both academic and practical in nature, working with various African American religious communities in the area. “Through this type of effort we want to cultivate a deeper understanding, appreciation of and respect for African American theological inquiry and religious history,” Dr. Robertson explains. “It’s a way we can develop opportunities for intellectual inquiry, practical insights faithful to our goal of inclusivity for the sake of enriching the church and the seminary community,” Robertson notes. Over the years, seminarians from the traditional “day” degree program have described the value to their perspectives of participating in UTI classes, which customarily have been held evenings and Saturdays to benefit UTI seminarians who hold regular jobs.
Dr. Robertson earned his Bachelor of Business Administration Degree from Howard University in Washington, DC, and his Master of Business Administration Degree from Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, GA. He was awarded his M.Div. and D.Min. degrees from the Charles Harrison Mason Theological Seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) in Atlanta. He formerly served as director of admission and recruitment at ITC and directed campus ministry at Atlanta University Center for a time as well. He is a member of the Board of Directors for All Saints Bible College in Memphis, TN, and has mentored many students in ministry throughout the U.S.
(LTSP MAR student Rozella Poston contributed to this article. Ms. Poston wrote an original piece for the LTSP student publication The Seminarian.)