Spiritual Formation for Pursuing Justice

Justice Ministry Education (JME) is a 300-hour leadership and spiritual formation program designed for organizers, seminarians, clergy, activists, and nonprofit staff.

The JME program combines 150 hours of field work with 150 hours of small group theological reflection and learning in a multifaith environment.

Participants who complete the program will be awarded a Certificate of Justice Ministry Education (1 Unit) from Auburn Seminary. Six pilot groups are launching in 2016-17 in Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis, Nashville, and NYC.

Join a Justice Ministry Education Group 2016-17

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN: The Justice Ministry Education program uses the action-reflection-action form of learning. Participants will engage in intense hands-on field work and reflect on their experiences with a supervisor and a small group of peers.

Small groups will explore suffering caused by injustice, practical skills for leading communities in social change, the spiritual nature of public capacity, personal reflection on one’s role in pursuing justice, self-care for prophetic leadership, and the religious or theological grounding of justice work. Participants will leave the program spiritually activated and practically prepared. The small group structure of the program will ensure that each participant will be challenged to focus their learning in the areas they most want to grow.

WHAT TO EXPECT: Justice Ministry Education groups are expected to have between 4-12 participants. Six pilots are being launched in the fall of 2016 and spring of 2017. The participation fee for the entire program (300 contact hours) is $600. For additional details about a particular group, email the group supervisor (linked below).

Region Details
ATLANTA Applications open. Supervised by Rev Melissa Browning, PhD, Asst. Professor of Contextual Ministry, McAfee School of Theology. Application Deadline for the Atlanta group is December 10, 2016, and the program begins in January 2017. Seminary credit is available.
CHICAGO Group launched in late November 2016, though there may be room for additional members. Supervised by Rev. Dr. Barbara Wilson, Community Organizer, Presbytery of Chicago, ordained A.M.E. Church, and former professional in the criminal justice system. 
MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL Applications open. Supervised by Rev. Dr. Rebecca Voelkel, Director, Center for Sustainable Justice. Application Deadline for the Twin City group is December 31, 2016, and the program begins in January 2017. Seminary credit available to United Seminary students.
NASHVILLE Applications open. Supervised by Micky ScottBey Jones, Director, Director of Healing Justice Initiatives, Faith Matters Network and Activist in Residence, Scarritt Bennett Center. Begins January 2017.
NEW YORK CITY Applications open. Supervised by Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper, Senior Minister, Judson Memorial Church. Group expected to launch in January 2016. General Seminary students may be able to receive credit.


Is there a story behind the program?

Auburn Seminary started the Justice Ministry Education (JME) program when The Beatitudes Society joined Auburn in January 2016. The Beatitudes Society has been equipping entrepreneurial faith leaders who are pursuing justice and the common good since 2005. In 2013 Auburn released Educating Religious Leaders for Faith-Rooted Justice Work, a state of the field report exploring education programs based in nonprofits and seminaries around the U.S. The Justice Ministry Education program, as the future work of The Beatitudes Society at Auburn, is an attempt to support and shape the larger field of equipping leaders to engage in social justice leadership from a faith-rooted perspective. After a pilot year in 2016-2017, JME will launch in additional regions.

This sounds a lot like CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education)!

The JME program marries intensive field work with small group theological reflection, a combination that is inspired by CPE’s pedagogy. JME is not an accredited CPE program and is not currently pursuing a relationship to CPE.

Who is the program for?

Anyone who is interested in deepening their approach to faith-rooted justice work, especially community organizers, clergy, seminary students, and staff or board members of issue-based nonprofit organizations.

Who is leading the Justice Ministry Education program?

Each JME group is led by a supervisor (listed above). Rabbi Justus Baird, Auburn’s dean, oversees the program. An Advisory Board of 20+ leaders in the field guide the program, including Hilary Allen (Unitarian Universalist Association), Rev. Dr. Lindsay Andreolli-Comstock (Convergence), Jeannie Appleman (JOIN),  Rabbi Joseph Berman (cofounder, Ruach Guild), Alia Bilal (Inner-City Muslim Action Network), Sung Yeon Choimorrow (National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum), Rev. Ronald David, M.D. (Beatitudes Society), Elizabeth Denlinger Reaves (Sojourners), Joy Friedman (Just Congregations, Union for Reform Judaism), Rev. Pat De Jong (Beatitudes Society), Rev. Frances Hall Kieschnick (Beatitudes Society), Rabbi Mordechai Liebling (Reconstructionist Rabbinical College), Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews (PICO), Rev. Wayne Meisel (McCormick Seminary), Daniel May (Princeton University), Rabbi Lev Meirowitz Nelson (T’ruah), Rev. Steve Newcom (Kaleo Center at United Seminary), Charlene Sinclair (Center for Race, Religion and Economic Democracy), Rabbi Stephanie Ruskay (Jewish Theological Seminary), Rev. Alexia Salvatierra (author of Faith-Rooted Organizing), Rev. Chris Scharen, PhD (Auburn), Sister Barbara Sheehan (Urban CPE, Chicago), Rabbi Nancy Wiener, DMin (Hebrew Union College-JIR).

How do field placements work?

Each participant will work in a field placement site as part of the program. The selection of field sites will be negotiated between participants and their supervisor. Field placements may include nonprofits, community organizing, congregations, and related sites. Participants who are already working in the field may be able to use their current place of employment as the field site for the program. If you are not applying to the program but would like to recommend a field site, please contact one of the supervisors above.

What are the logistical details of the groups? When do they meet?

The schedule for small group time will be developed in conversation between the supervisor and the group. Your supervisor will reach out to you about the schedule after you apply.

Can I get academic credit for completing a unit of JME?

Auburn is unable to offer academic credit for JME participation. However, Auburn is happy to work with participants to receive credit at their home educational institution (such as through an independent study). Some JME groups have partnerships with local seminaries that may offer credit. JME participants who complete the program will receive a certificate of completion of 1 unit of Justice Ministry Education from Auburn Seminary.

Are scholarships available?

We do not currently have scholarships available for this pilot year. If you are strongly interested in the program and are unable to identify sources to cover the tuition fee, let us know and we will explore options with you. Currently employed individuals may be able to use professional development funds from their organization.

I have other questions. Who do I talk to?

Contact one of the group supervisors listed in the chart above (click a name to email), or click the contact button below to email Auburn’s dean, Rabbi Justus Baird.