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Bishop T.D. Jakes Announces Launch of Divinity School, Draws Backlash from Others in Academia


Dallas megachurch pastor and televangelist Bishop T.D. Jakes has announced plans to launch his own online Jakes Divinity School next January.

The school will begin enrolling students early next year.

Jakes, the senior pastor of The Potter's House, will serve as chancellor. Former Regent University Professor Dr. Antipas Harris, a Yale-trained theologian, has been named as president.

According to the school's website, "Jakes Divinity School prepares leaders for the future through academic rigor with experiential-learning, spiritual formation, and creative innovation necessary to minister in the Church and society."

The online school will offer accredited degrees through partnerships with Southern California's Vanguard University and North Central University, a Christian college in Minnesota.

"As the potter forms the clay into a vessel of purpose, the vision at JDS is to form leaders for ministry in the church and society. Throughout more than 40 years of ministry, Bishop TD Jakes, our founder, and chancellor has poured of himself into millions of people around the world. He has a passion for equipping others to do the same," Harris said in a video announcement shared on Instagram Saturday.

"There remains much more mission work, pastoral care, leadership and thought leading to be done. The moral decay of our world is leading a generation on a spiritual search. The Holy Spirit sends out a clarion call for us to study deeper, understand more, bear witness greater, lead better and go further. For theological education and spiritual formation, we can meet the complexities of ministry for the 21st century," he added.

The school will offer four Bachelor's degrees in the areas of ministry leadership, anti-human trafficking, Hispanic Ministry and Leadership, and Humanitarian Leadership. Master's degrees will be offered in two areas: Leadership studies and theological studies.

The school will also offer an advanced Doctor of Ministry program. 

Some academics are questioning Jakes' new venture. 

"I have ONE question ... who is their accreditation with? I looked and did not see one!! ***All right, y'all can enroll in this school if you want to, invest all that money in a degree for it not to count for anything, other than you went to Jakes Divinity School!," Quincy James Rineheart, a theologian and historian of African American religion, wrote in a Facebook post.

"Lastly, as a person who graduated from two accredited theological schools, Candler School of Theology (Emory University) and Chicago Theological Seminary, I have serious concerns about their curriculum," Rineheart continued. 

But others are applauding Jakes' efforts to leave a lasting legacy. 

In a Facebook post, Marquez Ball, senior pastor of Uplift Church in Maryland, wrote: "So ... Jakes Divinity School. I'm far, very far from a Jakes follower however some of us need to calm down. The hate we give our own is sicking (sic). It's true Jakes doesn't have an earned degree and I know how we educated black, colored, negro preachers can be. Spurgeon didn't have a degree and he started a school, John McArthur started the Masters Seminary and he doesn't have a doctorate. So is it ok for white people to start schools but black people must first have 17 PhD's etc in order to start a school?" he asked.

"Jakes has a major scholar leading the school and that's great. Some of y'all who are hating on Jakes haven't built a small group much less a school so.... CALM DOWN. He's a black man trying to leave a legacy and as a black man I don't have to agree with him on everything to celebrate a black man leaving a legacy. Maybe some black scholar who keeps getting overlooked by white schools can find a home and funding at Jakes school... let's fight for advancement and stop hating on each other. If you don't think he's worthy ... YOU START A BETTER SCHOOL or... shhhhh," Ball added.

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