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 /

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.

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 CTEL below for exception).


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.

For professionals seeking certification of continuing education, CEUs are available.

Courses offered annually:

  • June: Old Testament Survey
  • July: New Testament Survey
  • August: Church History & Theology
  • September: Christian Education
  • September: Thinking Theologically
  • October: Christian Worship
  • November: Biblical Interpretation
  • January: Preaching
  • February: Christian Spirituality
  • March: Christian Ethics
  • April: Pastoral Care


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.

Seminar offered annually:

  • February: Theology of Church Management (3 hour seminar)

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

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Rev. Dr. Dorsey Blakewith Rev. Dr. Dorsey Blake
January 2016


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Course Description

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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. . . . . .Jan. 11: Gender, Sexuality & the Bible: 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 11 – 18, 2016


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Course Description

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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. . . . . .Feb. 8: Gender, Sexuality, and the New Testament: Texts, Controversies, and Interpretation

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

Dr. Yii-Jan Linwith Dr. Yii-Jan Lin
February 8 – 15, 2016

Course Description

What is feminine vs. masculine? How should Christians understand sexual orientation? What about divorce or remarriage? For centuries, people have drawn on certain infamous texts from the New Testament to answer these questions for Christian communities and in philosophical and theological debates. In this course, we will be focusing on these texts and the debates they have sparked while considering the complicated issues of interpretation including language, historical context, and authority/agency.

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

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with Dr. Jim Lawrence
August 2016 (exact dates TBD)

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

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with Rev. Dr. Christy Newton
February 9 – 15, 2016

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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Called to Lead: The Care and Administration of Church

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with Rev. Barbara Essex
February 2016 (exact dates TBD)

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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For the Bible Tells Me So? An Intro to Christian Ethics

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with Rev. Dr. Carol Manahan
March 2016  (exact dates TBD)

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

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with Rev. Dr. Toni Dunbar
March 2016 (exact dates TBD)

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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Still Waters and Streams:  An Introduction to Pastoral Care

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with Rev. Dr. Horace Griffin
April 2016 (exact dates TBD)

This course is a brief introduction to pastoral care.  Students will be introduced to the history of pastoral care and the Church’s tradition regarding the “cure of the soul.”  Drawing from readings, class lectures and a case study, students will develop skills for pastoral conversations and spiritual care.  This course will provide a special focus on assisting others in crises, such as illness, troubled relationships, loss, death and dying.  Students will understand and observe pastoral care as a spiritual undertaking involving lay members as well as clergy within a faith community.  Pastoral care will be explored in the context of theological issues such as theodicy (problem of evil in a “good” world),  God as a benevolent being, and sin.

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Certificates offered 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 CTEL for exception).

CTEL: Certificate of Theological Education for Leadership

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

CGSB: Certificate of Gender, Sexuality & the Bible

UCC Identity Series: United Church of Christ, Northern California Nevada Conference

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