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. Learn more under the “Credit” tab.

Explore our upcoming courses:

Politics, Sexuality & the Bible

March 13, 2017
March 20, 2017

Bishop Yvette Flunderwith Bishop Yvette Flunder

Bishop Yvette Flunder is an international leader working to destigmatize human sexuality and recognize everyone as a child of God.  Her politics and her ministry are one and the same whether she is keynoting at the White House’s World AIDS Day, speaking out for LGBTQ equality, supporting orphanages in Zimbabwe, or speaking from the pulpit.

This unique eight-day experience will give you the chance to deeply consider the Biblical context of political activism and the Biblical imperative to act for change.  You will explore ways – large and small – to make a difference via the public square.  You will have the opportunity to find or amplify your own political voice and learn from the experience of Bishop Flunder and others sharing the journey.

Politics, Sexuality and the Bible will include two live, interactive webconference sessions with Bishop Flunder, as well as a week of guided learning with online Facebook-style conversation.  Reading, reflection, participation in online forums, and some writing is expected, as well as active presence in opening and closing live online sessions.  1.6 CEUs are awarded for full participation.


Opening live seminar: Monday, March 13, 5:30 – 7:30 pm PST
Closing live seminar: Monday, March 20, 5:30 – 7:30 pm PST
This course will feature live online opening and closing seminars.
The interim section of the course will be self-paced.


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About the Instructor

Rev. Dr. Flunder is the Founder and Senior Pastor of the City of Refuge United Church of Christ and the Presiding Bishop of The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries. She describes herself as, “disciple and proponent of the radically inclusive Christ, who has raised her voice for justice from the church house to the White House and steps of the Supreme Court.”

Ordained in both the United Church of Christ and the Metropolitan Community Church, Bishop Flunder has served her call through prophetic action and ministry for justice for over thirty years. Her call to “blend proclamation, worship, service and advocacy on behalf of those most marginalized in church and in society” led to the founding of the City of Refuge UCC. Based in San Francisco for 22 years, the City of Refuge grew into a thriving inter-city congregation with influence stretching from the local to the international. In 2013, City of Refuge relocated to Oakland, continuing to preach a message of “extravagant welcome, restoration and action within God’s “Beloved Community.””

In June 2003, Rev. Dr. Flunder was consecrated Presiding Bishop of The Fellowship (renamed The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries in 2011), which is a multi-denominational coalition of over 100 primarily African American Christian leaders and laity representing churches and faith-based organizations from across the US into Mexico, three African countries, and in Asia.

Bishop Flunder is dedicated to responding to the needs of the AIDS epidemic. Bishop Flunder with her staff founded the Hazard-Ashley House and Walker House in Oakland and Restoration House in San Francisco through Ark of Refuge, Inc., a non-profit agency providing housing, direct services, education and training for persons affected by HIV/AIDS in the US and three African countries. The Ark of Refuge transitioned into the Y.A. Flunder Foundation, which contributes to the work of social justice exemplified through service and public advocacy, including collaborative partnerships to support the Mother of Peace Orphanage in Mutoko, Zimbabwe.

She has served on numerous boards including as Chair of the National Sexuality Resource Center, Chair of San Francisco Inter-religious Coalition on AIDS, Chair of the Black Adoption Placement and Research Center, Founding member of the African American Interfaith Alliance on AIDS, and Co-Chair of the Religious Advisory Committee of the National Black Justice Coalition.

Bishop Flunder served as a Trustee of Pacific School of Religion for nearly ten years, and is an Adjunct Professor and speaker at PSR and at numerous other seminaries and universities including Auburn, Brite Divinity, Chicago Theological, Columbia University, Drew, Duke, Eden, Howard, Lancaster, New York Theological and Yale. She is a graduate of the Certificate of Ministry and Master of Arts programs at PSR, and received her Doctor of Ministry from San Francisco Theological Seminary.

In December 2014, Bishop Flunder served as the keynote speaker for the White House observation of the 26th Anniversary of World AIDS Day. She was named the 2015 Spiritual Hero in the January edition of the Science of the Mind, produced by the Centers for Spiritual Living. In 2011 she received the Robert C. Kirkwood Community Leadership Award from the San Francisco Community Foundation.

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

March 14, 2017
March 21, 2017

Rev. Dr. Carol ManahanEarly 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.


Opening live seminar: 5:30 – 8:00pm PST, Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Closing live seminar:5:30 – 8:00pm PST, Tuesday, March 21, 2017
The interim section of the course is self-paced.

About the Instructor

Rev. Dr. Carol Manahan, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, received a B.A. in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic, an M.A. in Art from San Francisco State University, and an M.Div from Pacific School of Religion. An interdisciplinary scholar in green studies who draws on the fields of environmental and agricultural ethics, religious studies, art, and geography, Carol teaches environmental ethics and natural history at California College of the Arts in Oakland And San Francisco.

She completed her PhD in Interdisiplinary Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in 2006, where she brought together environmental ethics, biblical studies, and ecology. Her dissertation on the ethics of genetic engineering in agriculture considered the scientific, economic, political and ethical concerns raise by the introduction of genetically modified corn.

Rev. Manahan also served for five years as associate conference minister for the Northern California Nevada Conference of the UCC, and she continues to consult with congregations on transition issues and to lead workshops and retreats.


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Still Waters and Streams: Introduction to Pastoral Care

April 4, 2017
April 11, 2017

LatishiaAVJamesThis 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.


This is a course.
Opening live seminar: April 4, 2017, 5:30 – 8:00 pm PDT
Closing live seminar: April 11, 2017,  5:30 – 8:00 pm PDT
The interim section of the course is self-paced.

About the Instructor

Latishia AV James is a healer, activist, and scholar who has worked as a certified rape crisis counselor, youth counselor, and volunteer chaplain with Sojourn Chaplaincy of Zuckerberg San Francisco General. She uses pastoral care techniques in conjunction with the Reproductive Justice framework to address the micro- and macro-level trauma that has been inflicted on women and people of color, the LGBTQIA community and youth. As an activist she has spoken out against injustices from Palestine to the steps of the Supreme Court. Ms. James previously earned a BA in Human Services from Villanova University and earned her Master of Divinity degree with a Certificate of Sexuality and Religion from Pacific School of Religion.

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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. Learn more under the “Credit” tab.

Explore our upcoming seminars:

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

March 7, 2017

Rev. Dr. Toni Dunbarwith Rev. Dr. Toni Dunbar

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.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017, 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM PST


About the Instructor

Toni Dunbar is a long-time resident of the Bay Area. She is an Associate Pastor of City of Refuge United Church of Christ in San Francisco and a former Associate Conference Minister of the Northern California Nevada Conference. She earned her Doctor of Ministry degree from Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, California. Toni is the author of Blessed! Sermons from the Edge, and believes that the voice of faith has a prominent place in the public discourse. She is a member of several alliances, boards and consortia promoting the role of communities—including communities of faith—in the reclamation of their most marginalized and highly at-risk members.

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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]

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