New graduate certificate in faith-based peacebuilding to launch in fall 2022

Eastern Mennonite Seminary announces a new Graduate Certificate in Faith-Based Peacebuilding, launching in fall 2022.

The certificate is designed for faith community leaders who want to more effectively respond to social conflicts, as well as those who seek faith-informed social engagement in the complex justice issues of their communities.

The 18-credit program, a collaboration with Eastern Mennonite University’s world-renowned Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP), blends skills and practices for leading communities in times of conflict with reflection on the theological commitments that are embodied in these practices.

“In recent years, we’ve heard an urgent call from current graduate students and church and nonprofit leaders for tools to lead communities in the midst of intense, pervasive and polarizing conflict,” said The Rev. Sarah Bixler, seminary associate dean. “Leveraging our combined excellence in theology and pastoral leadership and peacebuilding theory and practice creates a new cutting-edge leadership education to meet these urgent challenges.”

Recent external validation supports this claim: Last week, the seminary was awarded a $1M grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. to develop a new pastoral leadership institute to offer workshops, trainings, and courses on conflict transformation. 

Jill Heine, a current graduate student in CJP’s MA in Restorative Justice program, will integrate certificate coursework beginning in fall 2022. The Lancaster County, Pa., resident is involved in several community and faith-based anti-racist initiatives; she is also a co-facilitator with a local chapter of the national racial justice group Coming to the Table. She sees the value in equipping herself more broadly with tools and the capabilities to grow new dialogue spaces at the intersections of peacebuilding and theology. 

“Whether at work, with my faith community, with family, or with friends, Christian beliefs and narratives are all around me,” Heine said. “So I wanted analysis tools to view peacebuilding through a Christian lens while also helping me to see the blind spots of Western Christian theology.”

The graduate certificate program begins with three core classes exploring conflict analysis, formation for peacebuilding practice, and faith-based social transformation. 

Students choose an equal number of electives in theology and peacebuilding. Theology courses taught by seminary professors focus on racial healing, race and religion in America, missio dei in the cultural context, and Christian ethics, among other offerings.

The certificate offers unique opportunities to explore interdisciplinary intersections, for example, combining a course in theological reflections on trauma with a Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR I) training.

The peacebuilding electives are taught by CJP professors. Topics include mediation and negotiation, facilitation, circle processes, restorative justice and nonviolent mobilization.