(RNS) Jan. 1--The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice has launched anew project designed to encourage seminaries to prepare African-Americanclergy to discuss sexuality issues in the black religious community.

Under the program, seminaries will offer courses addressing issuessuch as AIDS and teen pregnancy and fellows will be involved in relatedresearch.

United Theological Seminary, a United Methodist-related school inDayton, Ohio, will be the first to offer the program, beginning inJanuary. Six clergy in the seminary's doctor of ministry program will becalled "Reproductive Choice Fellows" and will work with the coalitionfor three years after receiving their degrees by giving lectures, takingpart in workshops and promoting dialogue on sexuality issues in theblack religious community.

"African-American and other seminaries often do not addresssexuality issues such as teen pregnancy, sexuality education, HIV/AIDSprevention and education, and youth and sex," said the Rev. Carlton W.Veazey, president of the Washington-based coalition, in a statement.

"African-American churches also are often silent on these subjects.The Religious Coalition's Seminary Project will prepare clergy to dealwith issues that are having a major impact in African-Americancommunities."

The project is part of the coalition's Black Church Initiative,which was created in 1997 and has included national summits ofAfrican-American religious leaders addressing sexuality.

The Rev.

Kendall McCabe, vice president for academic affairs atUnited Theological Seminary, welcomed his school's participation in theproject.

"Reproductive health is one area where people need to makeresponsible choices, and they need training and support to do so," hesaid. "This is an issue not only for African-Americans, but for everyonein the 21st century."