SommervilleJanice_PacificSchoolOfReligionThis program of special courses and seminars provides progressive, accessible Christian theological education year-round for clergy, laity, and spiritual seekers from diverse racial/ethnic communities. TEL is multicultural in its design and focus. It may be engaged at the level that works for you—for personal spiritual formation, lay leadership training, professional growth, or continuing education.

Using PSR’s “flexible learning” approach, TEL fosters a strong and supportive community environment while enabling participation at a distance through online learning. A carefully selected curriculum of online experiences may be engaged individually, or as part of a non-graduate-level certificate.

We hope that you will join our growing TEL community. Check us out on Facebook here.

Rev. Janice Sommerville
Program Coordinator, TEL and Community & Continuing Education
510/849-8284 /

Meet Carla: Certificate of Gender, Sexuality, and the Bible from Pacific School of Religion on Vimeo.

cottieSheldon_DavidVasquezLevy_2015TELCommencement_PacificSchoolofReligion “I had a wonderful TEL experience. I began in the middle of the TEL year (January’s ‘I’m Gonna Preach’) but I’m glad I didn’t wait to get started! You can really begin at any point and still get the full TEL experience.

“I met new friends and came to love each professor and the way they interacted with us both in class and online. I was sad every time we said our goodbyes in our final class. The sharing can be very intimate as well. Beyond just discussing the material, instructors gave us opportunities to pray for one another, to offer praises and discuss side topics like how we were affected by world politics. Aside from meeting people from around the world, you have the opportunity to learn from Doctor-level professors and all at a very affordable price for each class.

“The TEL experience could be all you are looking for in your work as a leader in your faith community, or it could be a jumping off point into deeper theological study.”

—Scottie Shelton, Certificate of Theological Education for Leadership (CTEL), 2015

TEL Learners

TEL learners come from many different faith communities and backgrounds, creating rich opportunities for in-depth dialogue. The minimum age for enrolling in TEL courses is 21.

Spiritual Seekers & Laity

Individual courses and certificate programs are open to all adults who seek to increase their knowledge of theological principles. You are invited to dip your toe into the water of spiritual education and formation, or immerse your whole self. Courses are affordable, compact, and expose you to a range of exciting progressive theological ideas. You may engage in a year of study to complete the CTEL certificate; take seven months to study Gender, Sexuality & the Bible, or simply take a seminar or course that interests you. A bachelor’s degree is not required.

TEL provides high quality adult education programming for individuals and groups from congregations. It also provides focused ministry formation for individuals seeking positions of congregational leadership.  Those who earn the CTEL certificate get exposure to a broad range of theology and ministry skills that can deepen biblical understanding, and build new skills.

Lay Ministers & Alternate Paths to Ministry

PSR is working with a number of denominations to provide learning experiences appropriate for ministry preparation. We are in collaboration with UMC’s California Nevada Conference CLayM lay ministry program and the Metropolitan Community Churches’ L.E.A.D. program.  Consult with your local denominational representatives to see how TEL can be a part of your formation.  See the TEL Certificates page for information about the CTEL and other ministry preparation programs.


TEL offers CEUs for clergy and other professionals.The course offerings are fully accessible online, affordable and engaging for clegy looking to deepen their skills in targeted areas. The instructors are PSR and GTU professors and occasional guest instructors providing opportunities to discuss and explore current global topics.

Those Considering Seminary

Faith seekers and prospective ministers who are discerning their call to serve God in their churches or faith communities and want to explore theological studies will find riches in the program. In TEL you get to know and learn with PSR and Graduate Theological Union (GTU) faculty. Completion of the CTEL certificate entitles graduates already possessing an associate’s degree or above to apply three elective credits toward PSR graduate programs.

Congregational/Regional Groups

Learning in community is rich. We encourage groups to gather together to share a meal and engage with TEL courses and seminars. Perhaps part of the TEL program may serve your congregation’s adult education needs. Or perhaps there are a number of people in different churches in your area who want to move more deeply into progressive Christian ministry. The TEL Program Coordinator can help you form a group in your community.  Congregations are invited to consider becoming a TEL Host Site.

Host Sites

Becoming a TEL Host Site is more than simply providing space and access to a virtual classroom experience.  As a host site, your congregation can become a community center for gathering adult learners who want to deepen their theological and spiritual knowledge, and explore new avenues of learning and sharing a progressive perspective of Christian faith and practice. Our hope is that TEL host sites will build a community of learners within a regional cohort context.

TEL Host Site FAQ

The TEL program includes courses and seminars in a variety of lengths and formats. All courses are open to any learner, and are available entirely online. They may be taken individually, or as part of a certificate. Because courses are not taught at graduate-level intensity, TEL courses do not count toward graduate-level academic credit (see Credit for exception/details).

Courses provide in-depth, introductory explorations of topics that comprise the core of theological understanding and ministerial competence. Each course includes twelve hours of learning over eight days, including two live online seminars surrounding a week of self-paced online learning.

Seminars address a wide variety of topics in one- to three-hour live interactive sessions. Some seminars are offered occasionally, some annually. For professionals seeking certification of continuing education, CEUs are available.

Aug. 9: The Great Story of Your Faith: Defining Moments in Christian History

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Dr. Jim Lawrencewith Dr. Jim Lawrence
Tuesday, August 9 – 16, 2016

By focusing on fateful events that decisively shaped Christianity the immense landscape of Christian history can be brought into view. Using a lens of progressive Christianity, we will engage four such defining moments in the two thousand years of the world’s largest faith tradition: the first-century expulsion from synagogues that launched organized Christianity; the fourth-century Council of Nicaea that inaugurated Christianity as a world empire religion; the sixteenth-century Protestant breakaway that created entrepreneurial religion; and the 1974 Lausanne Conference that still seeks global evangelization.

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Nov 8-15: Biblical Interpretation: An Ancient Text for Today’s World

By | Certificate of Theological Education for Leadership, Community and Continuing Education | No Comments
Dr. Katy E. Valentine
 With Dr. Katy E. Valentine
November 8 – 15, 2016

Course Description

This course will introduce learners to the basic tools and strategies for interpreting the Bible.  The Bible is a huge book—or rather collection of books—that shapes our religious communities, our political landscapes, as well as our personal lives; therefore, learning strategies for interpretation is important.  The course will build on what you already know concerning the Bible and give you constructive tools and strategies for expanding your understanding of the Bible. In our time together we will focus specifically on historical interpretation (who wrote it, when, where and why) and literary and metaphorical interpretation (what is this story about? what are its features?).  We will also take into consideration our own social locations to see how our own lives, and those of our communities, become part of our interpretations. By the end of the course, you will have a toolbox for doing Biblical exegesis, which will lead you to your own interpretation of Scripture.

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January 2017: I’m Gonna Preach: Finding Voice in Church and World

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January 10-24, 2017

The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) records words of the prophets who spoke challenging and hopeful words to the people of Israel and Judah. In the New Testament Jesus  teaches in the synagogues and preaches to the masses who gathered around him. Early church leaders like Peter and Paul proclaim the good news to the crowds. And, as the early church developed, teaching and preaching the word became an important and formative part of Christian worship.

In our differing traditions and denominations preaching has developed in sometimes unique and interesting ways. What is a sermon in your tradition? Are sermons based on scripture – why or why not? What do you hope for when you listen to a sermon?  What is a good process for sermon writing?  What forms do sermons come in and why does it matter?  What does your tradition think about prophetic preaching that engages community, social and political concerns?

Together we will explore these historical and contemporary issues related to proclamation in worship.

(this course approved for the MCC L.E.A.D. program)

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January 2017: Gender, Sexuality & the Hebrew Scriptures

By | Certificate of Gender Sexuality and the Bible, Community and Continuing Education | No Comments

Rabbi David Dunn Bauerwith Rabbi David Dunn Bauer
January 2017

So many of our foundational understandings of identity, gender, and sexuality derive from Hebrew Scripture. The stories of Creation, the commandments and laws given to Moses, the passionate visions of the Prophets, and the poetry of the Song of Songs all leave an imprint on contemporary life and consciousness. Some of these texts instantly bring us comfort. Others have been used (occasionally by ourselves) to intimidate or shame us and may awaken anxiety within us. Honoring these texts and learning from them does not mean taking them literally. It means trusting in our own strength as readers and interpreters to find in them what is inspiring and edifying and to address forthrightly those passages we find most challenging. We will make space in this class both to be compassionate to our concerns and fears and to be open to new inspirations and inquiries.We will study texts that convey both the force and nuance of Hebrew Scripture as we focus on themes of identity, desire, and power. Who are humans meant to be? Whom and how are we meant to love? What rights do we have over our own sexuality and what rights do we have over others’?

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February 2017: Wells of Living Water: Spiritual Practices for the Journey of Life

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Rev. Dr. Christy Newtonwith Rev. Dr. Christy Newton
February 7-14, 2017

All around us, there are messages of scarcity that claim there is simply not enough. Not enough time, energy, or money. Not enough creativity, intelligence, beauty, hope, wonder… Not enough to share. These messages deplete our spirits on multiple levels and leave many of us as faith leaders trying to quench our spiritual thirsts with the dust of dry wells. This course will introduce a selection of spiritual practices capable of replenishing dry wells and quenching the deep spiritual thirsts of individuals and communities of faith. Students will engage in experiential spiritual practices and critical reflection on those practices. Together we will explore why certain spiritual practices resonate with us and how these spiritual practices might be incorporated into the life of a community of faith.

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February 2017: Called to Lead: The Care and Administration of Church

By | Certificate of Theological Education for Leadership, Community and Continuing Education | No Comments

with Rev. Barbara Essex
February, 2017

Every religious community or church requires management and administration. Management that is deeply rooted in the church’s vision of ministry and the church’s understanding of its own calling, moves beyond paper and numbers becomes a ministry itself.  This course is designed to help participants discern their own community’s vision and how it directs and impacts the various acts of administration, including finances,personnel, planning, volunteer management and leadership. Sensitivity to culture and context are critical as pastors and leaders create a theological and spiritual basis for the work of church management.

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February 2017: For the Bible Tells Me So? An Introduction to Christian Ethics

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Rev. Dr. Carol Manahanwith Rev. Dr. Carol Manahan
March 14-21, 2017


Early in our lives we begin to discern right from wrong, fair from unfair. As we grow up, we discover the complexity and ambiguity that accompany our lives in the church and the world. When we can no longer find simple answers, we turn to ethical reflection, the spiritual practice of bringing life and faith together for making difficult choices.

“For the Bible Tells Me So?: an Introduction to Christian Ethics” will introduce learners to the tool and methods for choosing action in unfamiliar or controversial situations. Drawing on the Bible, Christian tradition, experience, and reason, we bring our own lives into the ongoing conversation about how to live as Christians in our families, churches, and communities. This course will allow students to explore methods of ethical reasoning which can help us act compassionately, wisely, and faithfully.

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March 2017: Loving God by Loving Ourselves: Self-Care for the Selfless

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Rev. Dr. Toni Dunbarwith Rev. Dr. Toni Dunbar
March 2017


How can we love our neighbor if we do not love ourselves?  Recent studies of religious professionals have found that Protestant clergy have the highest degree of work-related stress.  In another study, Lutheran clergy and lay leaders (ELCA) have self-reported problems with depression, relations with family and friends, finances, and personal devotional life.  Can we, the pastoral leaders in our churches, learn to love ourselves and care for ourselves as we love and care for our neighbors?  A topic not just for clergy – lay leaders who are concerned about the well-being of their pastors can benefit.

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Certificates offered online through the TEL program provide recognition of achievement in general or focused areas of study.  If you wish to use a TEL certificate as part of a formal ministerial development plan, check with your denominational office first.  Because courses are not taught at graduate-level intensity, TEL courses do not count toward graduate-level academic credit (see Credit for exception/details).

CTEL: Certificate of Theological Education for Leadership

CTEL Brochure   A broad program of theological, spiritual and practical ministry topics for lay and clergy leaders, representing a progressive Christian perspective.
[1 year, 13 courses]

CLayM/TEL: United Methodist Church, California-Nevada Conference Certified Lay Minister program

The CTEL certificate program plus customized UMC content helps prepare you for certified lay ministry.
[1 year, 13+ courses]

CGSB: Certificate of Gender, Sexuality & the Bible

CGSB Brochure   A substantive exploration of sexuality and gender from a progressive theological perspective.
[6 months, 6 courses]

That They May All Be One: UCC Identity Series: United Church of Christ, Northern California Nevada Conference

Study UCC theology, polity, history and ethos from NCNUCC clergy.  With approval from your conference, may apply to
[4 courses offered by request.  email with inquiries]

Credit for TEL Courses


TEL courses may be taken for continuing education units (CEUs). One CEU is awarded for each ten hours of contact and study. Foundations courses award 1.6 units and seminars award 0.3 units.

TEL courses do not provide academic (college or graduate school) credit, with one exception, as noted below.

CTEL Students

CTEL graduates who already possess an associates degree or higher may petition to transfer up to 3.0 credits toward a PSR graduate certificate or degree program by the end of their first semester at PSR. CTEL graduates must apply and be accepted to PSR graduate programs separately from the TEL program. Request transcripts here and follow credit transfer procedures to apply CTEL credits to your PSR program. Credits must be transferred in students’ first semester of PSR graduate study. The maximum time allowed to complete the CTEL is seven years from program admission.

CMS Students

Certificate of Ministry Studies (CMS) graduates who wish to pursue further education at PSR may transfer up to 7.5 elective credits toward a PSR graduate certificate or degree program by the end of their first semester at PSR. No prior degree is required for credit transfer. Use the links above to request transcripts and indicate on your petition whether the program is CMS or CTEL. CMS students must complete their CMS by May 2016. After that period, the CMS program will be closed.

Denominational Recognition

Some denominations or conferences may recognize TEL courses or the Certificate of Theological Education for Leadership (CTEL) as fulfilling requirements for certification or other needs. For the Certified Lay Minister (CLayM) program of the California Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, and the Metropolitan Community Churches’ L.E.A.D. lay leadership program, CTEL is a provider of online coursework. Speak with your conference ministers if you wish to see TEL become a formal part of ministerial or lay leadership formation in your area.


Instructors include Pacific School of Religion and Graduate Theological Union (GTU) faculty, PSR and GTU doctoral students, and qualified professionals from a range of Christian denominations. These excellent instructors represent a variety of racial/ethnic backgrounds and many come from the same communities as TEL students.


TEL courses are about learning and community, not about technology. We want people across the country and around the world will have access to PSR’s excellent faculty, progressive theology, and a broad community of learners and ministry experiences. In keeping with our desire to make high quality theological education highly accessible, TEL technology requirements for individuals are very simple. As an additional means to remove potential technology barriers, we encourage churches to become a TEL Host Site for community and regional cohorts, taking on a large portion of the technical concerns.

Required technology

  • computer.  Most computers purchased within the past three years will meet all technical requirements.  Your computer should have:
  • high speed internet connection
  • webcam
  • computer headset with microphone
  • email account

See the TEL Technology Guide for details.

New TEL students are offered one-on-one tutorials from TEL staff, and step-by-step instructions through the TEL Technology Guide and within each course in order to smoothly access the simple learning technologies.

TEL staff will send students necessary instructions, web addresses, usernames and passwords in advance of the course start date.


Tuition costs are set as low as possible in order to encourage broad participation.  Although no scholarships are available from PSR for TEL, students may find support from their congregations or denominations.

Students registered for TEL certificates receive a 40% discount on registration costs, as indicated above.


  • $20 – 40 for certificate & PSR students
    $30 – 60 for the general public


  • $120 for certificate & PSR students
  • $200 for the general public

Processing Fees

Non-refundable processing fees of approximately 6% are charged in addition to the base cost.

Certificate Costs

To complete the twelve-month CTEL program, online course registration costs total $1260 plus approximately $75.60 processing fees.  The cost of books is not included in the tuition total.  Students can anticipate spending $150 – $200 for required reading materials. There is a $30 CTEL application fee.

To complete the Gender, Sexuality & the Bible certificate program, online registration costs total $820 plus approximately $49 processing fees.  Students can anticipate spending approximately $140 for required reading materials.

Refund Policy

You may request a refund for the cost of a TEL course or webinar, not including processing fees, one day (24 hours) before the start time of the course or webinar.  Processing fees are determined by the vendor engaged to manage online sales and are not set by PSR.  No refunds are available within 24 hours of the start of the course or webinar, and no refunds are available after the course or webinar begins.  Requests must be made in writing and emailed to

TEL program application fees are non-refundable.

CTEL Missed Course Policy

Certificate of Theological Education for Leadership

“The scope and vision of Christian educational ministry is opened up by online possibilities. This has significance for the ownership of theology, formerly the preserve of the university, seminary, or specialist theologian. It suggests a different sort of theology, not derived from academics or church hierarchy but emerging from within the ordinary people of God.”

—Dr. Ros Stuart-Buttle, Journal of Education & Christian Belief, 2014