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In 1997, under the visionary leadership of Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Sr., Senior Pastor, Allen Temple Baptist Church, a brainstorming meeting was convened with a group of concerned, caring Christian individuals to share his vision to start an Institute for Christian Ministry. The Institute's mission would focus on educating women and men for responsible Christian leadership in the church and society. It was officially decided that the name of the Institute would be called the Allen Temple Leadership Institute. Dr. L.P. Lewis was appointed to the position of Dean.

In Fall, 1998, the Institute grew from a vision into reality when forty-five students enrolled in the Certificate in Ministry Program. The first class came to be known as the Alpha Class. On May 20, 2000, the Alpha Class, consisting of sixteen persons, graduated. Commencement exercises were held in the Family Life Center auditorium. The American Baptist Seminary of the West, a charter member of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA awards the Certificate in Ministry jointly with the Leadership Institute at Allen Temple.