The Samaritan Institute of Sunshine Cathedral
The Samaritan Institute (TSI) at Sunshine Cathedral
Church of the Holy Spirit MCC was founded in Fort Lauderdale in 1971. Eventually, the church bought property on 2nd Court, and later purchased another building on SW 27th Street, in time changing its name to the Sunshine Cathedral. Another property was finally purchased and in 2001 the Sunshine Cathedral moved to its current location in Fort Lauderdale on SW 9th Ave. After taking residence in the new facility, the Cathedral started a new religious education program called Light University.
Light University offered religious education classes as well as classes in the arts, fitness, languages, and LU became the venue for training Cathedral deacons.
Academic Deans of Light University were: Rev. Gay Lynn Williamson-Grigas, M.A. (Unity minister), Rev. Keith Riddle, D.Min. (Presbyterian minister), Rev. Ronald Maguire (a public school teacher who had been ordained by a local, independent ministry), Chris MacLellan (a Roman Catholic seminarian), and Rev. Robert Griffin, D.Min. (an MCC minister). Rev. Griffin eventually took the title Director of Religious Education, and as such continued as the de facto Academic Dean of Light University. Rev. Michael Diaz, M.Div. (MCC minister) followed Rev. Griffin as the Director of Religious Education, and as such, the de facto Academic Dean of Light U.
Under Rev. Robert Griffin’s leadership, Light University became authorized by the state of Florida to award religious degrees. The first degrees granted were the Associate of Applied Religious Studies (A.A.R.S.), the Bachelor of Theological Studies (B.T.S.), the Master of Religious Studies (M.R.S.), and the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters (D.H.L.).
In order to continue improving the quality of education, Light U. stopped offering degrees in 2009 and offered instead Certificate and Diploma programs. In 2010, LU reinstituted its degree programs.
In 2010 Light University changed its name to The Samaritan Institute at Sunshine Cathedral with Rev. Michael Diaz serving as its new Director of Academic Programs (formerly the “Academic Dean” position). In 2011, the Chancellor, Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins, became the Acting Director of Academic Programs. In 2014 Dr. Watkins took the title of Dean of the Institute.
The programs offered by the re-organized and re-named religious education school (now known as The Samaritan Institute at Sunshine Cathedral) were the A.A.R.S., the B.T.S., the M.R.S. In 2014 the M.R.S. was changed to M.T.S. (Master of Theological Studies) and the A.A.R.S. was discontinued. In 2016 the degree offerings were changed once again. The degrees the Institute offers are now the Bachelor of Ministry (B.Min.), the Master of Religious Studies (M.R.S.), the Master of Religious Education (M.R.E.), and the Doctor of Divinity (D.D.). The honorary degree that may be offered is the Doctor of Humane Letters (D.H.L.).
TSI educational programs are meant to train and equip Sunshine Cathedral deacons, Divine Science practitioners, Divine Science ministers, as well as to provide religious education to the laity, offer continuing education for clergy of various denominations, and allow adults to study religion for personal enrichment. TSI’s programs are not used for training those who wish to become ICCC or MCC clergy.
Why the Name “Samaritan”?
The denomination known as Metropolitan Community Churches was founded in Los Angeles in 1968 (several months before the Stonewall Riots in New York) by a de-frocked Pentecostal minister, Rev. Troy D. Perry. MCC was started by and for LGBT persons and their allies. As MCC grew into a multinational organization of congregations, it obviously became increasingly structured to meet the developmental needs of the new denomination. One of the institutional needs was training for gay-friendly and gay sensitive clergy. MCC’s own ministerial training school was born. The MCC ministerial school went through a variety of names, but finally became known simply and powerfully as Samaritan College.
The biblical parable of the Good Samaritan shows Jesus insisting that the person of spiritual integrity will love his or her neighbor and will realize that All People are his or her neighbors! In the story of the Good Samaritan, a traveler is attacked and robbed. Religious people (relying on narrow interpretations of scriptural texts) refused to give aid or comfort to a man who had been left for dead. But a Samaritan (a person who many of the original hearers of the story would have had a profound prejudice against) shows compassion to the person in need and saves his life. Who was neighborly in the story? Not the self-righteous, hyper-religious types, but the one who (even though a victim of prejudice himself) simply showed kindness to his fellow human-being. What a powerful story for same-gender loving and gender variant people! What a perfect name for the MCC clergy training school.
Eventually, Samaritan moved its headquarters from California to Texas. It changed its name to Samaritan Institute for Religious Studies and was part of a consortium of three Samaritan schools…SIRS in the United States, Australian Samaritan Education, and Samaritan College in Europe.
As more and more seminaries started allowing gays and lesbians to matriculate, fewer students enrolled in Samaritan. Finally, the school was closed and MCC students were required to go to older, more established seminaries. But before seminaries welcomed LGBT students, MCC had a commitment to liberating education and it offered that education through Samaritan College/Institute.
When it came time for Light University to change its name, the leaders of LU decided that it would pay tribute to MCC’s educational legacy by adopting the erstwhile ministerial school’s name: Samaritan. So, as something new, and while being very grateful for the pioneering efforts of those who paved the way in MCC’s early days, Sunshine Cathedral’s religious education school is now known as The Samaritan Institute at Sunshine Cathedral.
In 2014 The Samaritan Institute was approved by the Board of Directors of the Divine Science Federation International as a Divine Science ministerial school, one of only three currently approved by DSFI.
Metaphysically, “the good Samaritan is ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’…The parable of the good Samaritan teaches that the body is being robbed of its life by ignorant, lawless thoughts, and that that life will be restored by Christ if we exercise…healing love” [Charles Fillmore, Metaphysical Bible Dictionary].
It was decided that the parable of the Good Samaritan remains relevant and appropriate for the healing, uplifting teaching of Divine Science and New Thought. The Good Samaritan remains a symbol of the life-giving power of love shared, of the common person allowing the Inward Light to shine to bless and heal others. And so, we remain The Samaritan Institute.
In 2014, Sunshine Cathedral & The Samaritan Institute became organizational members of the Divine Science Federation International. In 2016, Sunshine Cathedral also became a partner organization of the Global Justice Institute and joined the International Council of Community Churches. Former affiliations include the International New Thought Alliance and the Center for Progressive Christianity.
Sunshine Cathedral is a post-denominational and trans-denominational church teaching the Omnipresence of divine Love, the sacred value of all people, and the power of positive thinking and affirmative prayer. The Samaritan Institute remains the educational arm of the Sunshine Cathedral.
TSI is the educational arm of Sunshine Cathedral.
TSI is approved by the State of Florida to grant religious degrees.
TSI is recognized by the Divine Science Federation International as a Divine Science ministerial school.